Rin wasn’t sure quite how he didn’t notice before. He and Ai had been Skyping at least twice a week for the past few months, so really, Rin should have noticed a long time ago. Sure, he’d known Ai’d let his hair grow out a little (“Between swim club, student council and Morimoto-sensei’s homework, I’ve barely got time to sleep, let alone cut my hair!”), and yes, he’d lost a little of his baby fat (“Have you found the time to eat, at least? Don’t work yourself too hard.”), but just how much he’d changed had somehow escaped Rin’s notice until one fine Saturday afternoon, in the middle of their usual Skype call…
“Oh, Momo-kun forgot his keys again,” said Ai, sighing. “I have to open the door for him, be right back.”
Rin chuckled, because why Ai agreed to room with him for another year when the kid was so annoying escaped him–
And then Ai stood up, and Rin’s grin gave way to a slack jaw.
Fuck, when had Ai grown that tall? He’d never really noticed it before, since Ai was always sitting down, but the kid must’ve grown like ten centimetres.
Holy shit. That meant Ai was the same height as Rin?
Distantly, Rin could hear Ai chiding Momo and Momo’s whining in response, but his mind was reeling. He hadn’t really noticed, but thinking back at the Ai he’d last seen at the airport, the boy had really changed. His face was sharper, his shoulders broader, his hair now artfully messy from all the times Ai swept it out of his face. And of course, he was taller now. Rin could just see him, watching over Samezuka swim practice with a stern eye, commanding respect in a way the tiny first-year Ai could never have done.
Wow. His shota boyfriend had become his bishonen boyfriend while he wasn’t looking.
“I’m back, Rin-senpai,” Ai’s voice suddenly sounded in Rin’s ears, startling him. He met Ai’s eyes briefly before looking away, rubbing his neck awkwardly.
“I told you, I’m not your senpai anymore,” he grumbled, trying to compose himself. How could he be normal when his world had been tipped upside down?!
Ai laughed, and oh god had his voice always been this rich and warm? “Sorry, Rin-san, I keep forgetting,” he said, smiling, but Rin frowned. It had been bothering him for a while now, but he hadn’t wanted to get too serious…
“It’s just Rin,” he said, before he could lose his nerve.
“E-Eh? Y-You mean…?”
“It’s just Rin,” he repeated firmly, trying not to blush. “When I first went back to Japan, I was… a huge dick. You... You put up with my shit, and you never gave up on me. And you’re like the best boyfriend ever, so… you’ve earned the right to drop the honorifics.”
Ai’s smile grew bashful, his face tinged pink, as it always did when Rin managed to get past his embarrassment and say the stupid sappy shit that always floated about in his brain. He was getting better at letting his lo– fondness for Ai spill out into words, if only because Ai got really happy and smiled that special adorable lip-biting smile and looked at Rin like he couldn’t believe his luck.
Idiot. It was Rin who’d gotten lucky.
“If you say so, R-Rin,” Ai managed shyly, grinning. Rin nodded in satisfaction, unable to keep his own dopey grin off his face. It felt like he and Ai had just passed a milestone in their relationship. It felt good.
“Riiin-senpaaiiii~!” cheered Momo’s voice as he popped into the shot, stealing one of Ai’s earbuds. “How’s your training going?!”
“Momo-kun!” Ai complained, his glare more effective coupled with his sharper face, but he still somehow seemed more like an angry kitten than anything else. He yanked the earbud back, much to Momo’s protests. “I told you not to interrupt!”
“Ehh?! But, but, Nitori-senpai, you were both just staring at each other, I wasn’t interrupting anything!”
“Just because we’re not saying anything doesn’t mean you’re not interrupting!” Ai returned sharply. “If you don’t leave us in peace I’ll make you run laps instead of swimming for the whole of next practice!”
Momo gasped in horror, eyeing Ai with dread. “You wouldn’t,” he breathed fearfully, drawing back and dramatically pressing a hand over his heart.
Rin expected Ai to cave and stammer apologies; but captaincy seemed to have hardened Ai’s heart. He merely raised his eyebrows coolly, the bright blue eyes Rin was used to seeing full of tears now fearless and confident. “Wouldn’t I?” he challenged Momo.
...Rin had to admit, seeing Ai this way was making his heart pound. When had Ai become so cool?
“Power has changed you, Nitori-senpai!” wailed Momo, disappearing off-screen with over-dramatic tears streaming down his cheeks. Rin could hear the door slam shortly after with a loud thud.
Ai’s shoulders slumped. “I hate doing that,” he sighed. “I feel like I’m being so mean when I give orders.”
Ah, there was his roommate, the boy who refused to blow-dry his hair after eleven at night for fear of waking their neighbours, who literally couldn’t kill a fly, who once ran back to campus from the station in the pouring rain because he’d left his umbrella over a box of abandoned kittens.
Rin couldn’t keep himself from smiling. At least puberty hadn’t bitchslapped the nice out of Ai.
“You’ve really changed a lot, haven’t you?” Rin sighed, resting his chin on his hand. “Tall, cool, confident… Where’s the little brat I roomed with, huh?”
Ai was almost shining, he was so red. “I-I haven’t changed that much!” he protested.
Rin laughed, and wanted so badly to ruffle his hair. “I was just joking,” he assured Ai, who looked so flustered Rin was almost worried he might pass out. “You’ll always be a little brat to me.”
“Ha ha,” Ai replied sarcastically, but looked pleased.
“But seriously, how tall are you now?” Rin had to know. Was the height rule still a thing? Did they have to follow it? Makoto and Haru never cared about the height rule, did they? Well, with those two, it was difficult to say…
“Um, the last time we measured heights I was… 175cm.”
Rin couldn’t help the fist he punched into the air in triumph. “I’m still taller than you, yes!”
“I’m amazed I grew taller at all,” Ai replied with a chuckle. “I was sure I’d be the same forever.”
“Good job, Ai. I’m proud of you,” Rin teased, surprised at how much he meant it. Ai had really grown up since they’d first met. It was amazing to see how far he’d come.
Ai, as usual, could somehow read Rin like an open book. “Thanks, Rin,” he said with a shy smile. “This doesn’t– I mean, like you said, I’ve changed since– but you still…?” He trailed off uncertainly, like he was worried Rin wouldn’t lo- like him anymore since he’d grown seven centimetres. What an idiot.
“Of course I still, dummy,” Rin replied fondly, rolling his eyes. “If… If you still, I mean.”
Ai positively beamed. “Yes, of course!”
“Good. Now, there’s something else I really need to know.”
“What is it?”
Rin grinned slyly. “Well, I know you had a growth spurt, but…” he leaned in close to the screen, “did that apply to all of you?”
Ai, as expected, turned bright red and buried his face in his hands. “Oh my god,” he squeaked, sounding like he was going to die of embarrassment. “Rin, why.”
“Well, I mean, I’m not complaining, but you might need to buy a new swimsuit to accommodate your–”
“Rin!” Ai cut him off hastily, flustered, but Rin was too busy laughing to care.
As long as Ai kept the good heart Rin had fallen in love with, it didn’t matter what else changed.