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the ocean was built in his eyes

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He had been a ball that was always rolling along the fine lines, never able to cross them. Just a ball that rolled normally and no one would pay mind to. No one cared for that ball. His parents, as far as he recalled, were always gone. He assumed this because he didn’t have much of a clear memory of them, and in every clear recollection he had, they weren’t there. It was always him in a lonely, quiet, and cold home. He had no one. All he had to do in that life was roll along that line, unnoticed, and he’d be okay. It was no big deal, especially not to him.

      His friends had been scarce and any other family members weren’t easy to remember, which led him to believe that perhaps he didn’t have many of those either. The memories of anyone in his life during that time were beyond distant. They were more like fuzzy pictures than memories. Nothing would be made out of it, and only rarely could the basic structure of it could be outlined but not much else otherwise. That was what his memories were like.

       There was loneliness in those memories. There was a feeling of absolute isolation from the world, and the desire for the presence of another being to rid of that loneliness. That was what his memories were clouded up with, too, but perhaps that was the result of not being able to recall anything from the past.

      All he knew was that something significant happened in that life, that almost miserable existence. Something that made him decide to give up his life for something, maybe someone, and become one of those creatures… those shinigamis.

      They were the creatures with the large wings, that dark attire and the scythes. They sometimes reeked of death and were known to have little to no empathy for life. Those were the shinigamis, and that was who he was now. Not like whomever he was now had much significance in his mind anyways, because he had no memory of who he used to be. He was one of the death gods now, so whatever he was before doesn’t matter. He was just who he was now, period.

      He was Haruka Nanase, one of the more indifferent shinigamis, more indifferent than sadistic like some of the others he worked with. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about people at all, though. He tried to disassociate himself from them when he had to complete his job, but sometimes he still had shreds of sympathy for them when the news of their upcoming demise would overwhelm them with emotions. He just didn’t have an interest in people and was otherwise good at disassociating himself, was all.

      Although he was like any other of his kind, one thing that stood out about him was his eyes. They were deep blue orbs very closely resembling the ocean. They reflected his thoughts and emotions so clearly; they were the epitome of the belief that eyes were the opening to the soul. It was because of those eyes that Haruka was suspected to have been a fisherman, maybe even a mermaid in his past life before he decided to become one of the shinigami. However, Haruka always shot down the idea. Whenever he tried to collect the blurred fragments of the memories, they never seemed to be exciting bits. Haruka felt like he could safely infer that he lead a fairly normal life… whatever that could be.

      One person’s definition of normal could be someone else’s definition of strange. For example, Haruka thought it was normal to follow people around for a month. His victims, however, found it to be atrocious and they absolutely hated him for it.

      Although humans detested him and his work, Haruka found his job to be fairly simple and even somewhat fulfilling. He’d be assigned a human, make them aware of their death that was soon to come, and stay with them for about a month or so until they died. The amount of time it took for their death to come along was not a set number, but on average the humans would die about a month after their death was announced to them. The point in following them around was simple. After the humans died, their souls would be freed from the physical barriers of their bodies. The shinigamis would have to collect it quickly, or else another would come along and steal the person’s soul and claim it as their own. They’d end up not being able to complete their quota. Therefore, shinigamis typically followed their victims around.

     They were like scavengers, in a sense. Feeding off of and only desiring the dead.

      ****

      It was the beginning of the month. It was on this day that they’d all be assigned a new human to gather the soul of. All the shinigamis were lined up in a neat row while the head of their group gave them the name and location of their next victim. Haruka listened closely as the steps became closer, the commanding voice louder.

      He felt nothing. His chest was still, unlike for most of the shinigamis who were in that line. He wasn’t excited to hear who his next victim was, nor was he dreading to hear who they would be.

      “Yamazaki Sousuke, you are assigned to Matsuoka Rin. He resides in Sydney, Australia. You can pick up some more information when the meeting is over.”

      Hearing the name makes a part of Haruka feel disgusted. He hoped the bastard was assigned to a whiny obnoxious human who would always be on Sousuke’s back for wanting to take their life. He deserved it, Haruka concluded. Sousuke always made chills run down Haruka’s back and made his stomach churn.. They weren’t rivals. This wasn’t a competition, after all. They just were not on friendly terms.

      “Nanase Haruka.”

      Haruka’s gaze rose from the dark smooth ground it had been fixed on. He looked at the tall dark form before him, conscious as always. He waited patiently for them to make sure that they were reading from the correct column.

      “You are assigned to Tachibana Makoto. He resides in Iwatobi, Japan. You can pick up some more information when the meeting is over. “

     So that was it. That would be his human for the next month or so. It didn’t seem too difficult. It would just be another normal month, he thought.

      The meeting ended sometime later, and right away Haruka headed to a small office-like place with receptionists who would have all living humans’ information stored on their computers for the use of the shinigamis. The wait was long since many of them were excited to see whose life they would be taking, but thankfully for Haruka he had a knack for waiting long periods of time in patience. Especially now, since, as a shinigami, he didn’t age.

      It was about an hour that had passed when he heard his name being called out by a nice young man who worked diligently at his desk. This time of the month was always busier than any other day, seeing that it was the day they were all assigned humans and they all tended to want to have some background information on the human. “Nanase Haruka, right?” he asked in a gentle tone, awaiting the nod of approval from Haruka before continuing. “You were assigned a human named Tachibana Makoto… He’s 27 and lives with a pet cat. We don’t have any spouses or children on his record. His occupation is a swimming instructor for the youth. That’s about all we have for him. Is that all you need for now?”

      ****

      Haruka was human once. He knew that was true. His memories of parents in his past life were clear, and as far as he could remember, his parents had been humans. Also, he recalled experiences of emotions that humans typically would feel. Therefore, he must have been a human. The idea that this was his truth wasn’t surprising and Haruka accepted it with ease.

      Yet the thought always kept him up late at night, particularly on the first days of the month when they were assigned their humans. He didn’t feel remorse for doing what he did. That wasn’t Haruka’s problem. His problem was that he thought of it too much.

     He used to be human, too, yet here he was, killing other humans. It just settled in him as peculiar.

     Maybe it had to do something with his past life, but Haruka didn’t know.

     That suspicion never quite stopped him from doing his job, though, and it never really did faze him to a great extreme. It was just a recurring thought that would come to him as ironic and unusual.

      ****

      Haruka had taken some time to first look at the town and observe it so he could become familiar with it.

      The first day was slightly overcast. The town of Iwatobi was not as modern as the bigger cities of Japan, he had noticed. It held a more traditional touch to it and lacked the overall busy feeling that big cities had. It was also by the coast of a captivating ocean. It looked like a peaceful and pleasant town, much better than the towns Haruka had to work in where life was always active and everything felt so crowded.

      Flying over Iwatobi was of some relief. He hadn’t stretched out his wings in a while and they hadn’t been in a lot of use since his last human had passed away only a couple of weeks after Haruka was assigned to them. Makoto was set to die exactly 28 days from then, which added up to a total of 29 days, so Haruka was sure that his wings would be getting some more exercise this month.

      When Haruka had finished up his tour of the town of Iwatobi, he set out to start his mission. Using a map installed onto his watch, which also contained the exact time and date on which Makoto would die, Haruka located his victim’s location.

      It was a Friday afternoon. It was getting to be late, so Haruka hadn’t assumed Makoto would be at work. He wasn’t, in fact, his watch told him that he was currently at home.

       As his wings took him through the skies, across that town, Haruka looked at the people down on the ground that were going about their daily activities. They couldn’t see him, so they resumed their lives normally. The contrast in their daily activities and the tasks of those who lived in bigger metropolitan areas was interesting.

      There were so many stairs, people, and closely linked houses that Haruka flew across until his watch began to beep, telling him that he was right above the location where his human was in. The watch was signaling at a small yet comfortable looking home. Since the overcast sky was starting to become dark, Haruka could notice that there were lights coming out of the home. Therefore, someone had to be home.

      He landed safely on the ground at the front of the door. It appeared to look like any other traditional Japanese home. There were various plants and flowers on the front porch, giving the house a decorated look that was fairly simple yet appealing to the eyes. There were also a few cats at the house’s front that appeared to be happy and well fed, although they quickly scurried away when Haruka came near.

      Haruka hadn’t expected any less.

      The shinigami took in a deep breath, and without any further hesitation he knocked on the brown wooden door. A soft “Coming!” sounded through the door’s wood, and only a few moments had passed before the door opened. Haruka was greeted by a young man.

      He was a tall, very well built, and kind looking brunet. He greeted Haruka with a welcoming smile, one that spoke purity and no malice at all. “Oh.. Good evening. Can I help you with something?” There was something a bit odd about his voice. Haruka didn’t know what exactly it was, but he noticed that something with Makoto’s voice didn’t match his smile. It was almost like if the sight of Haruka had caused for something different in Makoto to stir. Regardless of those thoughts, Haruka had to continue on with his original intentions.

      “Yeah. You’re going to die in 28 days from today.”

      The look on Makoto’s face was one Haruka had never quite seen before.

      ****

      Makoto spent the entire weekend crying in bed. His cat curled up by his side while it cuddled him and tried to console him, meanwhile Haruka would look to the side and try to not pay any attention to Makoto’s crying.

      They were heart wrenching cries. They were loud, agonizing wails of sadness and almost never ending tears, usually interrupted by hiccups. The cries were definitely something else, but the interesting thing that Haruka noticed was that Makoto was not crying because he was going to die, but because he was worried of the effect it’d have on those who knew him. He pleaded to Haruka that he wanted to be spared, not because he was too young or just didn’t want to die, but because he had the kids he had to teach swimming to. He had friends he cared about, visited, and hung out with whenever he had the time. He had family, too, and younger siblings who adored him. If he died, it’d absolutely devastate them and Makoto didn’t want their lives to be affected.

      In short, Makoto had selflessly put everyone above himself. Haruka assumed that if he didn’t have people in his life who cared about his existence or who needed him, Makoto would be okay with dying.

      What was also interesting was that Makoto hadn’t gone through the stage of denying that Haruka was actually a shinigami. Once shown the wings, Makoto did not have a single doubt that Haruka was not a human being. It was like he was gullible, although Haruka wasn’t quite ready to say such a thing like that out loud just yet.

      Haruka had explained very clearly that he couldn’t do anything about saving Makoto. He was a shinigami, but he didn’t get the decision of who was picked each month to die. Haruka’s only job was to set out and complete orders to collect the souls of the dead. Despite Haruka trying to give himself a professional vibe to his human so that he’d hopefully understand the circumstances and stop being so emotional, Makoto didn’t want to hear it. He kept crying and he continued to beg for mercy. He didn’t want anyone to suffer because of his death.

      In response, Haruka would do nothing but turn his head and ignore the loud human.

      For the first two days, Makoto was crying too hard to interact with the shinigami. Haruka couldn’t remember a time in the first two days where Makoto would look at him straight in the face for more than two seconds, which only added to the discomfort of the entire situation.

      ****

      Makoto was definitely ignoring him.

      Whether Makoto was going to deny he was ignoring Haruka or not didn’t matter. It was way too obvious. Haruka followed Makoto around as he would with any of his other victims. Makoto would always look to the side, turn his nose, or try to pretend that Haruka wasn’t there. It could be that he was denying Haruka’s existence and would tell himself that the shinigami was nothing more than a hallucination. That was certainly a possibility.

      It was fine. It wasn’t like Haruka hadn’t been ignored before. His parents in his past life had practically neglected him, so it was like he was he was already accustomed to it.

      It wasn’t like Haruka needed Makoto to talk to him or pay attention, anyways. That wasn’t a part of his job. He didn’t have to socialize with Makoto.  Anyways, even if Makoto wasn’t going to talk to him and would instead ignore the shinigami, Haruka was able to collect a lot of information about Makoto as he went through the day.

      Makoto went to work early in the morning. He was really passionate about working with the kids and appeared to be happy to work with them, despite the fact that he now had the knowledge that he was going to die in about a month. Anyways, the kids really loved him too. Haruka couldn’t deny that Makoto was a very loving coach and was talented at his work.

      He also learned that Makoto was popular with young girls. That wasn’t a surprise to Haruka, because to be honest Makoto was attractive and from the way he treated the children, he was also very kind and a gentle spirit. Of course he’d be popular among others, it was only common sense.

      The young girls would stop by to pick up their younger siblings or come with their mothers too, and they’d always run up to Makoto and thank him for the lesson. Even from a distance, Haruka could notice the way their cheeks would become a rosy pink when Makoto would give them a timid smile and say it was his pleasure. That was something else that Haruka had noticed too, that Makoto was a really nice guy. He always smiled at everyone and spoke to them all in a respectful manner. Haruka couldn’t imagine how a person could smile so much for no apparent reason, even if it were for seeming friendly.

      He liked literature. When he got home from a long but fun day at work, he’d open up a book and read a few chapters out of it after he had taken a shower. Makoto always appeared to be engrossed in whatever it was he was reading.

      It wasn’t until then that Makoto spoke to Haruka for the first time in a few days. Without lifting his eyes from the book, he asked in a dull and numbed tone, “So I guess I’m the only one that can see you, right?”

      Apart from Makoto’s decision to finally speak up, there was something that stayed on Haru’s mind as the nighttime rolled about. The shinigami sat down tired in Makoto’s room, resting his back against the white walls. He had hoped to get some sleep even if he were going to sleep sitting up, but again his thoughts were way too active for him get any rest. To make matters worse, this time around his thoughts were successfully pestering him.

      Makoto loved cats. The cats that were outside of the house were fed by him, but didn’t go into his house. They stayed outside. The only cat that was in his house at nearly all parts of the day unless Makoto let her out was a chubby white kitten, with bright green eyes resembling Makoto’s eyes. She was a much older cat, and it showed in the way that she meowed to comfort herself each time she moved around the house for long periods of time.

      Makoto had named the cat Haru-chan.

      ****

      They felt like they were dragging along. Usually the days didn’t drag on so. The months were actually kind of short whenever Haruka had to watch over a human until they died. Not this time. Even if it was only the first week, Haruka could feel the way that the weight of the days pressed on him more than they normally did. The sun would rise in a way that was so slow that it felt painful. It would set in a similar fashion. The shadows would grow and shrink so slowly that Haruka could feel his chest become heavy with desperation and anxiety.

      The simple routine of following Makoto around felt so long that Haruka sometimes felt it was overwhelming him with stress and tension.

      Then there were the nightmares. During the first few days, Haruka wouldn’t get much of a break during the daytime or the awaited nighttime where he expected to get some rest. He’d have vivid dreams of a darkness surrounding him and it would give him a feeling of being choked.  He felt suffocated in a small space too, it wasn’t just the sensation of being grabbed from the neck and having the air squeezed out of him.

      It was followed by immense pain. At first it was just a few pangs at his back, but then his entire back would be lit with excruciating pain. Slowly it’d run down the line of his spine until he felt like his ribs were being crushed and that his back would split in half at any moment.

      He could smell gas; the horrendously disgusting stench of carbon monoxide would fill his senses and cause his throat to feel raw. It joined in on choking him and making him lose his air.

      Yet when he was sure that it wasn’t a vivid dream but a real life event and that he was going to die, Haruka would wake up. He would immediately begin gasping for breath as he relived the fear of not being able to breathe.

      He could hear stirring from Makoto’s bed when he’d wake up and gasp for air.

      His main focus, though, was that there’d be a lingering throbbing at his back, and extending his wings became a bit painful. Haruka then decided that he’d hold off on using his wings too much; after all the walk he’d take with Makoto to his work wasn’t long and Makoto typically never went anywhere else anyways, aside from the short walks he’d take to the grocery market to buy whatever he needed. His wings weren’t entirely necessary.

      In the end, Haruka concluded that sleeping upright against the wall would cause his nightmares and the pain that had started at his back.

      ****

      By the end of the first week, Makoto was finally talking to Haruka. It was nothing too special, though. It was sudden at first, as Haruka had not expected for Makoto to talk to him at all that morning. He hadn’t been talking to him all week, so why should he start then?

      “Do shinigamis eat?” Makoto had asked that morning as he prepared his breakfast. He didn’t look behind at the shinigami who watched over Makoto as he cooked.

      “Not really,” Haruka answered bluntly. His voice was flat and low. At the time, he wasn’t at all fazed by Makoto finally talking. It only surprised him when he considered it later.“Eating isn’t a necessity for us… It’s more of an occasional treat if we want to taste food or something.”

      Makoto nodded in response and resumed his cooking. For a while, it was silent again and Haruka didn’t expect anything else to be said.

      About an hour passed, and Makoto started getting ready to go to work. He packed his uniform and wallet with him while Haruka stayed close by his side. They were in the room, the same place where Makoto had been crying his eyes out the previous weekend. The cat stayed far away from Haruka and decided to curl up on Makoto’s bed and sleep while Haruka watched Makoto.

      Makoto started heading out the door to go into the bathroom when his wallet fell onto the floor. The brown wallet fell open, therefore causing some pictures and money to spill out of it. Makoto looked back in alarm, and then picked up the wallet first.

      “I’ll get it,” Haruka mumbled, going for the pictures that had fallen out of Makoto’s wallet. His blue eyes hadn’t meant to do anything more than just gaze over the pictures that had fallen. However, they caught a glimpse of something specific and stayed locked on one of the images.

      A picture of a little boy had caught his gaze. The little boy had black hair and deep blue eyes that were the color of the ocean, even if the picture’s colors were slightly faded. His face was serious. The resemblance was so striking that if Haruka hadn’t noticed it, he would easily be called dense. A million questions popped up into the shinigami’s head at once, but before he could question Makoto, the brunet snatched the pictures from Haruka’s hand.  Haruka didn’t say a word when the pictures were swiped right out of his hand. All he could do was look up at the human and notice the expression he had. It was one full of hurt and discomfort. There was so much overwhelming emotion present in just his eyes.

      Then… Makoto’s eyes had shifted to the shinigami’s face, then back to the picture. For a moment, his bottom lip trembled. It looked like he was going to say something, to state what Haruka had just noticed, but that wasn’t the case. He stuffed the pictures into his wallet, along with the money, and said, “I’ll be late if I don’t hurry up. If you’re going to follow me, then let’s go.”

     His voice was full of grief, even thought he tried to disguise it behind a calm demeanor.

     Haruka decided to save the questions for another time, if possible. Aside from the sadness from Makoto’s voice, Haruka was discouraged from clearing his questions because of the buzzing going on in his head. He couldn’t think straight, so it wasn’t like his questions would be clear enough to answer anyways.

      Yet, even when he was distracted by watching Makoto play with the kids, the image of the boy in the photograph remained engraved into his mind. No matter how hard he attempted to go back into that initial state of indifference, the image was haunting.

      ****

      The days felt blurred. They still had a feeling of dragging him along, but sometimes Haruka felt completely withdrawn and couldn’t make sense of too many things that were going on. He couldn’t remember the early morning conversations of no importance with Makoto, if there were any.

      The sounds of children at play plagued his mind. Cheerful laughter, playful teasing, and stumbling as they would run across grass and dirt were the sounds most prominent to his mind.

      Then sometimes the image of a hand would come up in his thoughts. It was a hand that would hold itself out as if waiting for Haruka to grab onto it. Surely, it was a hand of support. The shinigami could feel himself reaching for that hand so it could pull him out of the darkness of his mind.

      When he’d felt himself awakening and being yanked out of that deep sea of dark imagination, the hand would disappear and Haruka would be plunged right back, deep into the depths.

      He’d curl up by his place by the wall miserably as that nightmare repeated itself several times in the day. He wasn’t quite sure if there was a meaning to derive from those thoughts or if it was hinting towards something. Honestly, he didn’t want to find out.

      He didn’t fight against the truth that those pictures he’d seen the other day in Makoto’s wallet were the cause of his dropping mood, and what felt like his lowered amount of sanity.

      ****

      On the tenth day, a Monday night, Makoto let Haruka sleep in his bed.

      “I mean, obviously not with me,” Makoto said. His hand rubbed at the back of his head. Although he was suppressing an obvious smile, Makoto’s eyes still remained away from the shinigami’s face. “You can take naps while I get ready to go to work, and when I come home to shower. That kind of stuff.”

      The shinigami gave Makoto a look of curiosity, although Makoto wouldn’t have seen it. It resulted from both the hints of a smile coming to Makoto’s face and the offer. “Really? Are you sure you want to do that?”

      Makoto waved his hand at the shinigami, as if shooing him off. “Yeah, it’s fine. Even... even if you’re going to kill me in a few weeks… You deserve a place to sleep comfortably, don’t you? I don’t have a bunch of space in my home, so my bed is the only way to go.”

      To be honest, Haruka was still dizzy from the picture incident and couldn’t quite digest the reason that Makoto gave him for letting him sleep in his bed. How did Haruka deserve a place in the first place? If anything, Makoto should be denying Haruka of any basic things he could desire. Then again, Makoto was naturally amiable and generous.

      Haruka would never understand him.

      “Well, thanks, Makoto,” he responded with a shrug of his shoulders. He didn’t have much else to say in response other than that.

      There was a long pause of silence before Makoto sighed. “You know, I can’t go on and call you shinigami… This isn’t a forever thing, I know, but I should at least have something to call you by for the next few weeks. Shinigamis have names, don’t they?”

      Haruka nodded. “They do. My name’s Nanase Haruka. Just call me Haruka for short, I guess.”

      When he spoke those words, something at the pit of his stomach churned and he felt sick.  Before he could get to the root of the sensation, he felt eyes on him and immediately Haruka felt alarmed. He looked upwards and found, to his surprise, that Makoto was staring at him.

      Makoto’s eyes were wide, and it wasn’t until Haruka paid close attention to them that he noticed that his eyes were filling up with tears. Makoto’s face had gone pale. Haruka was going to ask if he was okay, but Makoto ran out of the room before Haruka got the chance. Even when Makoto was out of the room, Haruka could hear Makoto’s crying and the sounds of him vomiting in the bathroom.

      Naturally, Haruka sunk back into his shell of indifference.

      ****

      The next day, while resting on Makoto’s bed while he took a shower, Haruka’s watch began to beep. He sighed, and read over the notifications knowing that they wouldn’t really be of much of his own interest.

      The notification informed them that the first death of the month had been recorded, and it belonged to Sousuke’s victim. As Haruka read over the information, it appeared that the human had died of a kind of heart illness.

       “Bastard got lucky…” Haruka had mumbled under his breath. Typically, when the humans were sick with a heart disease or any other disease that could result to be a terminal illness, they’d be one of the first to die during the month. There was only so much that modern medicine could for them. Therefore, Haruka wasn’t impressed by Sousuke being the first to complete his quota that month.

      Not like it mattered to him, anyways. The only upside to having a victim die first was that the shinigami that was assigned to collect their soul would get a lot of temporary recognition and respect at work at the end of the month when all of the shinigamis reunited. Haruka couldn’t seriously care less for such a thing.

      Before he could get any deeper in his thoughts, Makoto walked into the room. There was a towel on his hair, taking the water out of his wet hair, and he was wearing his pajamas with a cow print. It was the first time in about day that the younger boy had made eye contact with the shinigami. “Hey, Haruka.  You’re not looking that great. Is everything okay?”

      He found it odd that his wellbeing suddenly mattered to Makoto. If anything Haruka should have been more concerned over Makoto, since he had been throwing up and crying the day before, but then again Haruka was still indifferent to Makoto, or at least Haruka liked to believe that. Anyways, he nodded in response to Makoto’s question and sighed. “It’s nothing. Just something at work…” Haruka hadn’t been planning to speak more than those few words, but it spilled out of his mouth. “Yamazaki’s guy died quick, his name was Matsuoka whatever I guess, and so he’s going to have his ass kissed this month.”

      Makoto seemed to freeze. “Yamazaki and Matsuoka..?” Just like yesterday, his face went pale and Haruka saw him lick his lips. They must have felt dry. “You... You don’t happen to know their given names, do you?”

      Haruka raised an eyebrow at Makoto. This guy was definitely weird. Why would he want to know their first names? “Sousuke Yamazaki and I’m not sure about his victim. Started with an R, I think.”

       Haruka couldn’t tell what came first, the gasp or Makoto’s sudden vomiting resembling that of the day before, the vomiting that would pause between the cries that wrecked his body and made his large form shiver like a wet, weakened dog. The gasps for breath followed each time the streams from his mouth stopped.

      Whatever came first didn’t matter, however, as Haruka didn’t want the human’s vomit on him. “Keep that shit to yourself!” he exclaimed. The shinigami couldn’t help but feel disgusted. He supposed it wasn’t odd for humans to become so upset or shocked that they vomited, but it was gross, and he didn’t understand why Makoto had reacted in such a way.

      When it stopped, Makoto’s eyes normally calm eyes looked up from the puddle of waste and locked themselves on Haruka’s calm pair of blue orbs. Makoto’s eyes were full of absolute loathing. It appeared that he was going to lash out at the shinigami, and Haruka was prepared to fight back, but suddenly there was rough and frantic knocking at Makoto’s door. It was ignored for a while, until cries rang out from outside.

      “Makoto-senpai! Please open the door!” the voice of a young girl cried. Since it was outdoors it was a muffled cry, but it could be heard from Makoto’s room.

      For a moment, Makoto only stood there without responding to the knocking or cries. It wasn’t until he noticeably calmed down that his gaze left Haruka, and without cleaning up the vomit on the floor, he left the room while wiping his mouth.

      Haruka let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. Although he had prepared himself to fight, seeing Makoto in such an angry state just then... It was kind of threatening.

      There was about a minute in silence before Haruka could hear the girl’s voice again, crying, “My big brother… Makoto… we just got a call that Rin passed away…”

      It was followed by the sounds of her crying, and soon after, Makoto’s crying too.

      ****

      Makoto didn’t go to work the next day, even if it was a Wednesday. He wasn’t at home that day either, and Haruka didn’t follow him to wherever he was going. Makoto left early that morning, before the shinigami had gotten up out of bed to check in on him. His uniform was still in his room, folded neatly on his dresser.

      Haruka used it as an opportunity to look around the town of Iwatobi, mostly to get some fresh air instead of just being in Makoto’s house and only going outside to follow the young man to his work place and back home.

      The town had a different feeling to it than it did the first day. The first day, everything was calm and serene. There was a feeling of peacefulness that Haruka had picked up, and he had really enjoyed it.

      This day, it was still calm. However, there was a sense of heaviness that Haruka was able to detect from everyone. They all seemed sorrowful. It wasn’t until Haruka closed in on a small group of women that he understood why they were so upset.

      “Remember Matsuoka’s son? His name was Rin, wasn’t it?”

      “Oh, yes! He was a prodigy when it came to swimming, wasn’t he? He tried to follow after his father. What happened to Rin?”

      “Well, yes he was definitely a prodigy... Don’t you remember the last Olympics? He was there. He placed silver, gold the Olympics before that… But there’s news that he just passed away. He had a condition he’d been fighting for a while apparently, and yesterday, even after they told him he would make it, he passed away in the hospital. All of his professional swimming friends were there by his side, and his sister and mother were told that before he died, he said he was glad he was able to accomplish all his dreams and he would go feeling successful...”

      “Oh, no! That’s horrible! The family must be so devastated…”

      “Yes, and his friends didn’t take it so lightly. You know Tachibana-kun, the young man who teaches the kids how to swim? I was up early to water my plants, and I saw him. He was running to the Matsuoka’s place in the early morning with Ryugazaki and Hazuki-kun… They both had to support Tachibana-kun, so in a way he wasn’t running. I remember seeing Tachibana-kun’s face, and it was so pale. I thought that maybe Tachibana-kun had turned into a ghost.”

      “It seems like a curse, doesn’t it?… Yamazaki-kun too, he had died of a heart condition. He used to swim too, and he was extremely talented… And.. Nanase-kun.”

      A chill ran through Haruka’s body. A part of him began to shut down by force, as if telling him that hearing that much was enough and that he needed to stop paying attention. His heart told him to take off, to spread his wings and just fly away while he still had the chance. Yet his feet stayed glue on the ground and his hearing was as acute as it had ever been.

      “Oh, Nanase-kun..! The poor boy… He was also a prodigy. Everyone knew he’d end up being something great in life, and yet…”

      “Tachibana-kun hasn’t gotten over it, hasn’t he?”

      There it was. Haruka couldn’t bear to hear a single word more. He tuned out completely, and without wasting a moment more, his wings extended and he took off.

      His heart felt like it was being stepped on. His head was throbbing and his mind was clouded with blurred recollections of scenes he wasn’t familiar with at all. He could hear children’s laughter ring throughout his thoughts, the image of fuzzy boys dancing in joy around him in unrecognizable swirls throughout his mind…

      All he wanted to do was go back to Makoto’s home and sleep. He wanted to see Makoto again and get the images of anyone else’s faces out of his head.  He needed to hear that voice to remove the poisonous voices of the women from his mind.

      ****

      It was early morning on Thursday when Haruka woke up from his place on the floor. There was crying coming from Makoto’s bed.

      Makoto had come home late Wednesday evening. His friends, the ones that the women had been talking about, had brought him home. Once home, he immediately went to his room and crawled into bed.

      Haruka looked to Makoto’s bed to see that the young human had his eyes on Haruka. There were tears streaming down his face. For a moment, the only noises between the both of them were the almost inaudible sounds of Haruka’s breathing and the sobs coming from Makoto.

      “Why… Why? Why are you doing this… Why are you killing my friends…?” Makoto said between his cries. Haruka assumed that Makoto wasn’t putting the blame on him, and that by ‘you’, Makoto was referring to his kind. However, Haruka was unsure. “We never did anything to you…! Why do you have to do this to us?”

      Haruka looked away. His eyes were glued on the floor. His only response was a shrug of his shoulders.

      In all honesty, if Haruka had a choice, he wouldn’t kill humans. Yet he’d chosen the lifestyle out of necessity, a necessity he wasn’t quite sure of yet.

      ****

      Yamazaki Sousuke was resigning from the job.

      The notification came on a Friday while Makoto was cooking his breakfast. Haruka had to read the message several times to make sure he had read it correctly. Still, even when he was absolutely positive that he had read it correctly, he was in disbelief.

      Further information told them that Sousuke was resigning because it was far too much for him to handle now, and he could no longer keep the apathetic composure.

      Haruka couldn’t help but wonder if that was the truth. It hadn’t been long at all since they’d all been assigned their human. What could have he witnessed in a matter of a few short days? What could be so horrible that Sousuke was going to resign? It wasn’t like it could just be any little thing… Resignation didn’t just mean that Sousuke would lose his position as a shinigami and live as a powerless spirit. It meant he would give up his position and die.

      He remembered that Sousuke would mention that the memories of his own past life weren’t too blurry and he could make out a lot of it. Maybe he had seen something that revealed his entire past to him, but Haruka wasn’t at all certain.

      It wasn’t until later into the morning that Haruka received another notification on his watch. It was a message from Sousuke.

      I’m sure you’ve heard that I’m giving up my job. Good riddance for you, huh? Well, listen up, Nanase. You’re going to get fucked soon. And if you don’t, I hope you suffer for the rest of your time as a shinigami because you would be the biggest asshole there is.

      In watching over that guy, Rin, I found the truth… I found out the truth about our previous existences. It’s far too long for me to put into one of these messages so I’m telling you now that while you have the chance, you better fucking take it. You better find out the truth. You’ll see what I see, and you’ll realize that doing this is wrong. You can’t stay behind that shell of indifference; you’re not capable of doing that.

      Goodbye, Nanase. I’m going to join Rin and be there for him, because I haven’t been there for the person who meant the most to me. I missed out on the past ten years.

      Haruka was dumbfounded. He read over the message several times too, like if it would reveal a special code that he had missed. However, that message had been as straightforward as it could be and there was nothing to analyze from it.

      Rin had been someone to Sousuke in his previous life. Sousuke was connected to Rin then, right? Then… Makoto knew Rin, too. So perhaps Sousuke, Rin, and Makoto were also all connected.

      So… could that mean that Haruka…?

      A feeling of numbness passed over Haruka’s body while his mind tried to process the new information. No, he couldn’t think of it. He shouldn’t have been thinking about it at all. Once again, he shut himself down and refused to feel anything or think about anything that had been said. He slipped back into that shell of indifference and refused to feel anything.

      Makoto noticed that the behavior from Haruka had changed greatly and questioned if everything was okay. In a weakened tone, one that greatly mirrored resignation, Haruka answered that he was okay and was only tired.

      Before Haruka fell asleep that night while sitting against the wall, one final notification came to his watch.

      Sousuke had died.

      ****

      It was Saturday, the fifteenth day. It was four days after Rin Matsuoka has passed away.

      Every chance Haruka would get during that Saturday, he would be asleep on Makoto’s bed. He didn’t want to be awake since it would cause his thoughts to stir up again. He needed a definite break from all those thoughts.

      For most of the day, he went undisturbed. While sleeping, he was enveloped in a welcoming blanket of darkness. None of his thoughts bothered him there. For this reason, Haruka wanted to be asleep forever and was glad that his sleep went undisturbed.

      He didn’t get to sleep forever, though, and was woken up by a soft shaking of his shoulder. He grumbled when his sleep was disturbed and looked up in annoyance, just to see Makoto above him. His expression was full of concern.

      Was Makoto actually worried of him? … Man, Haruka would never be able to actually understand this guy…

      “Haruka, let’s go outside, okay? You’ve been sleeping all day…” he whispered. His tone was gentle and so caring…

      Haruka couldn’t say no to a voice like that, indifferent or not.

      The night sky that surrounded them as they sat down outside at Makoto’s front porch was nothing short of captivating. The stars were all visible and for the first time in a while, the sky was clear. The sight cleared up many of the pestering thoughts in Haruka’s mind, and for a while the shinigami was at ease.

      The wind made Makoto’s plants rustle together, and made the nighttime air feel cool. The cats played to the side, too, and they all seemed happy. It was truly a pleasant evening. Haruka was glad that Makoto had brought him outside, although he wouldn’t actually admit it.

      “Do you fear me, Makoto?”

      The question that came out of Haruka’s mouth was sudden. It didn’t take much time for him to regret saying anything at all, or for him to be wishing that he hadn’t said anything. It was fruitless to wish for such things, though, as words couldn’t be taken back and there was nothing that Haruka could do at that point.

      There was a period of silence between the both of them before Makoto could answer the shinigami. “I feared you at the very beginning… I denied your existence, Haruka. Although, now I know the truth.”

      Haruka perked up. He listened carefully, although that feeling at the pit of his stomach told him that he shouldn’t.

      “… You’re Haru. Your eyes... They're like the ocean. Only Haru's eyes could resemble the ocean like that... You're Haru.”

      Maybe it was a cold wind that made Haruka’s entire body shiver just then.

      ****

      Everything was still unclear to Haruka the following day.

      While Makoto went out to work, Haruka stayed home and slept in bed again. Nothing he did could help him slip back into that shell were he felt nothing and didn’t think about anything at all. There were so many emotions, way too many, flowing through him freely. He didn’t know what to do with them. It was too overwhelming.

      Yet, at the same time, he felt numbed.

      He wanted the month to be over. He didn’t like this feeling of confusion, that feeling of emptiness, the sensation of missing something, or any other of the emotions he was feeling. He just wanted all of it to be over and done with so he could back to his normal life of a shinigami who didn’t care for anything.

      At one point while he found himself constantly and inconsistently crossing the borders of being awake and asleep, Makoto’s cat jumped onto the bed. It made itself comfortable next to Haru, and then curled up by his side. Then the cat fell asleep. It was like a feeling of nostalgia washed over Haru at once, temporarily curing all the bad emotions that he was experiencing. With the cat sleeping by him, suddenly he found that staying asleep did not come with any sort of difficulty. That being said, Haruka fell and stayed asleep until the morning.

      It was on the morning of the eighteenth day that the shinigami woke up to see Makoto sleeping peacefully by his side. The cat was between them. The only unpleasant emotion that arose from that was that Haruka felt bad that he had taken up part of Makoto’s bed, but since Makoto hadn’t woke him up and told him to get off the bed, Haruka didn’t think he minded.  It wasn’t like Makoto to care, anyways. Haruka’s sleepy thoughts told him that Makoto must have been happy to come home and see the shinigami sleeping in such a relaxed state.

      Makoto was just strange like that, Haruka concluded.

      With that thought in his mind, Haruka slipped back into sleep. Oddly enough, he felt a sensation of warmth that he hadn’t felt in a long time.

      ****

      It was on the nineteenth day that questions were finally asked.

      It wasn’t intended to happen, but of course accidents are never intended. They just happen, whether they were unpleasant or not.

      It was really only one question, but a single question could bring up various awaited answers.

      During the nighttime of that day, Haruka and Makoto were sitting on the front porch together again. They were both silent as they took in the pretty scenery of the night. It was partly cloudy outside that night, but they could both see the stars just fine. Haruka was lost in counting the stars; there were so many of them that he knew he could spend a lifetime counting them.

      “Don’t you remember me?”

      It was an unusual question to say in the least. Haruka looked to Makoto as if Makoto’s expression would hold the answer to the question. Of course it didn’t and Haruka was left to actually think of an answer, even if it came easily.

      “.. No.”

      It was no question. There was no doubt about it now. It had to be true that he and Makoto were connected somehow. Although Haruka could still feel that he was in the state of denial over it, he tried to force himself to understand and accept it.

      Truthfully, the reason why he wanted to overcome the denial was because Makoto overcame his. He accepted that this shinigami, the one who was planning to take his life, was Haru. He had become more gentle and caring to Haruka once he accepted that as true… So if Makoto could do it, Haruka could do it. Not really because he cared about Makoto and wanted to reciprocate those feelings of caring for someone, but because it could get Makoto to open up and talk about Haruka’s past life.

      In response to Haruka’s answer, a frown settled on Makoto’s features and he stayed silent.

      Haruka thought of the women from a few days ago, the ones that were talking about how Makoto had never overcome the death of ‘Nanase-kun’. It made him wonder what kind of relationship he had with Makoto before that made him become so affected by Haru’s death. He was going to ask, but Makoto spoke before he got the chance.

      “I prayed every night that I would get to see you again,” Makoto started slowly. “Every day… For the past twenty years. I knew it was impossible, though, because you had died. That didn’t stop me though…” Makoto then began to laugh softly, sparking Haruka’s curiosity. “I would have never believed I would see you again, you know. I hoped, but I knew from the bottom of my heart that it was a long shot.”

      Haruka watched cautiously, noticing that Makoto’s expression of silent agony had switched to a soft smile.

      “Even if you came back to me as a being that was planning my death, it’s okay...” Makoto’s eyes were welling up with tears but that smile stayed on his face. “I denied it was you. I denied that I’d die by your hands, but oh, God, Haru. You came back for me. You’re back and that’s all that matters.

      “And honestly… If it’s you who ends my life, I won’t mind.”

      Those words made emotions stir in Haruka; emotions that he didn’t ever experience before.

      ****

      The following day, Makoto was up early. He had gotten a call from Rin’s sister that the funeral for her brother would be held in nine days. Haruka rested on Makoto’s bed as he heard the serious and sorrowful exchanges Makoto had over the phone with the girl, who Makoto called Gou-chan.

      After their talk, Makoto was stirring in bed beside the shinigami and Haruka knew that he couldn’t fall asleep. Haruka wouldn’t have expected him to, anyways.

      Ever since the previous day, Makoto had let Haruka sleep in his bed with him. Haruka found that it was a strange way of opening up, but he wouldn’t protest against Makoto’s kindness… After their talk last night that resulted in Makoto’s acceptance over everything that had occurred in the past twenty days, Haruka assumed that it was a reasonable way of opening up…

      “Stop trying to go to sleep,” Haruka mumbled. He watched as Makoto rolled onto his side, so that they were both facing each other on the bed. When Haruka knew he had Makoto’s attention, he continued. “If you can’t sleep, then you can’t... Don’t fight against that.”

     There was silence, but in the way that Makoto kept his droopy emerald eyes open, Haruka knew that Makoto was going to stay awake. It was a pointless attempt to try to go to sleep anyways.

      For a while, it was quiet. All there was between them was that peaceful silence in which Makoto’s eyes would occasionally cross Haru’s face, stay there for a moment, and then go back to staring into space. To distract himself from Makoto’s wandering eyes, the shinigami would stare down at the cat between them and count the breaths that the small creature would take as it napped.

     “What happens after someone dies?” Makoto asked out of the blue as his eyes were stuck on Haru’s calm expression. When Haruka turned to see Makoto’s facial expression, he was kind of surprised to notice that Makoto didn’t seem scared. It was a first. Usually the talk of death would make Makoto cry and vomit judging by what had happened in the past days that the shinigami had been living with Makoto.

      “I’m not really sure,” Haruka replied with a shrug of his shoulders.

      “You don’t?” Makoto asked, but then he paused. It appeared that he was tentative to continue on and say what was on his mind, but finally it came out of his mouth. “Yeah.. I guess you wouldn’t remember, huh? You don’t even remember me, and…”

       Makoto’s voice was cracking, and Haruka lifted his head in a sudden feeling of alarm. He realized his actions a moment later, and later lowered his head.

      Huh. That was strange. He actually felt concerned over Makoto for a second there. It must have been because it sounded like he was… going to start talking about Haruka’s past. That must of his the reason for Haruka’s concern.

       Makoto sat up in bed. Haruka followed after him, too, because he thought that if he stayed on Makoto’s bed like that, it’d seem like he wasn’t listening and was being disrespectful.

      “You’d think that… Even if that was like twenty years ago… That because we were best friends… You’d think that you’d remember.”

      So that was his connection with Makoto… Although Haruka recalled not having many friends at all, it made sense that out of the few he did have, he’d have one that was his best friend. Makoto being his best friend in his past life must have been why Haruka felt that concern from earlier… and why such concern and other feelings arising from lack of apathy had been becoming more frequent in recent days.

      “I don’t,” Haruka said in a soft voice, looking down in feelings of discomfort. He felt a bit of guilt over not knowing this. “Makoto… how did I die?”

      The look on Makoto’s face caught Haruka completely off guard. His entire face had gone pale again, and his bright green eyes appeared more dull than usual. Tears gathered at the edges of his eyes. Haruka could see that the human was shaking, too.

      Something in the shinigami broke just then.

      “You don’t have to talk about it if it’ll make you cry.”

      Yet Makoto shook his head in a display of determination. For a moment his teeth were biting at his bottom lip to still himself and gain some composure before he ultimately began to talk.

      “I… I try so hard to forget about it… I still remember it, though…” he began slowly. Already his voice was faltering. “… I love cats, you know that don’t you? Well… when we were younger, I was kind of reckless. I wasn’t as careful as I am now… I would chase cats around the neighborhood without really focusing on anything else. I would stare at those cats for so long, mesmerized at their beauty and cuteness.

      “One day… I remember there was a newborn kitten in the middle of the street! I got really worried about it because a car could come at any moment and run it over… So dumb me, the stupidest person in the world, decided to run after it without looking at the street first.

      “All I remember was… Your screaming, and the gasps of people who may have been nearby at the time. Then a body covered up mine. It was yours because I remember hearing your breathing in my ear, the way you had called out my name and the familiar way you hugged me and squeezed me. Then I felt like I was being crushed, and everything went black for a long time… I woke up in the hospital, my parents were crying and the doctors told me that had it not been for you, Haru, I would have died for sure… I mean, I think I should have died…! Partially because the doctors said I shouldn’t have survived anyways, the impact of that delivery truck was so great that your body was completely contorted and mangled… With that kind of impact, I should have been affected, but I escaped without a scratch.”

      It was like the world had drained Haruka of the little energy he had. The shinigami stared in disbelief as Makoto revealed all of that right before him.

      Unlike before where Haruka wanted to reject any type of notion that he and Makoto were connected in any way, this time he accepted everything Makoto said. He’d be stupid to believe that Makoto was lying and that any part of the revelation was false. The only reason why his look was of disbelief was because of how easily that information registered as true in Haruka’s mind; how quickly all those memories crashed back onto him like relentless waves of the ocean during a storm.

      Besides… Haruka could just feel it in him that it was true; that he and Makoto clicked in some way. From the very beginning where Haruka had all those nightmares about children or the dreams of the car exhaust, to just recently when Haruka could feel all those emotions in his chest begin to stir whenever Makoto was upset or when something bad came up. Makoto had admitted he went through a state of denial too; that’s why he hated Haruka at first. Haruka went through that denial too… It was all just so clear to him now.

      This was what Sousuke meant, this was what he had warned Haruka about…

      “I shouldn’t have lived!”

      Makoto’s abrupt cry brings Haruka out of his thoughts. It was followed by the sound of choked sobbing and hiccupping. Haruka wanted to say something, but Makoto continued. “I shouldn’t have lived, Haru… I killed you! My carelessness killed my best friend… Nothing has been the same after you died! I’m 27 fucking years old and here I am, crying over this! You meant so much to me and I killed you!” Makoto was at the border of screaming and having a raised voice. The thing keeping him on the raised voice side of the border was his crying and his gasps for air. “I’m scum! I’m worthless is what I am!”

     The shinigami didn’t want to hear it.

      He grabbed Makoto by the opening of his shirt where his head came through and yanked him forward. He let go and instead wrapped his arms around Makoto’s shoulders… It was then that Haruka realized how broad Makoto’s shoulders were. It was in that moment where Haruka could feel how warm Makoto felt; how that warmth practically radiated off of him.

      His best friend was crying in his arms.

      “I don’t want to hear that from you ever again,” Haruka said lowly. Makoto’s crying continued as Haruka continued speaking in a low and calm tone. “Listen to me. I know the truth now and I want you to know it, too…

      “You were saved that day because I decided to give up my life for you… In return for saving you I had to be reborn as a shinigami.”

      ****

      Please, save Makoto…! He’s my only friend… He’s been so nice to me and everyone loves him…! He has a lot to give!

     I don’t want my only friend to die… and if I have to pay for that with my life, then..!!

     That final thought was once so blurry, and even onto the 21st day it haunted Haruka’s thoughts. It was all so clear now.

      Haruka could feel himself slipping back into that darkness that he had been experiencing on the first days, but when Makoto was playing with the kids during their swimming lesson, the young human turned to look at the shinigami.

      The shinigami could never recall a smile so bright that it outshone any darkness and cleared up the cloudiness in his mind.

      Then it was then that he knew for sure that the hand he had seen in previous nightmares… It was Makoto’s hand. It was his hand that would always selflessly offer Haruka a form of support and stability. It would offer the shinigami help and advice. The hand was always there for him, just so he could grab on and be led whenever he needed the extra support to keep pushing on.

      His denial caused him to lose hold of that hand in his dreams, but the denial was no more.

      ****

      On the 22nd day, Haru-chan died.

      When Haruka woke up early the morning of the 22nd day, Haru-chan was motionless between the both of them and the shinigami was concerned. He shook Makoto softly until the young man woke up with a light yawn. Immediately, Haruka told him that Haru-chan wasn’t moving and Makoto placed a hand on the cat only to find that she was cold.

      They buried her in the backyard. Makoto gathered some flowers from the front of his house to decorate the spot where Haru-chan’s hole was. There were no words exchanged between Haruka and Makoto during the time that they were decorating her grave with colorful flowers and various other plants.

      “Aren’t you sad?” Haruka finally asked. He was referring to the fact that Makoto hadn’t cried and had taken the situation quite calmly. Of course he was sad, Haruka could feel the sadness coming off of his best friend.

      “I am, of course,” Makoto said with a sure nod of his head. “I do feel sad.. She’s been there for me ever since the day I lost you. She’s the cat I tried to save from that delivery truck that day. Since mom let me keep her as a way to keep my depression in control, I named her after you because you’re the reason I got the chance to live and keep her…” A smile came to Makoto’s lips. It had traces of sadness. “She was old, though, and a few years over the average lifespan of a cat and so I knew she could pass away at any day.

      “I guess it’s okay anyways… I loved her, but she there to fill the void that you left when you passed away. But now I have you back…!”

      There was a pain at Haruka’s chest when Makoto said that. It was like Makoto had forgotten about…

      When they were squatting in front of her grave, sensing a heavy cloud of sadness from Makoto, the shinigami put his arm around Makoto’s shoulder in support. He made sure to hold Makoto tight.

      ****

      Everything came back to him.

      All those memories of his childhood came rushing back to Haruka. The only reason they weren’t overwhelming the first time they came was because Haruka hadn’t let them process in his mind.

      It was a Saturday afternoon when Makoto and Haruka were sitting on the couch of Makoto’s small living room. Makoto’s hand held Haru’s tightly, and Haru’s hand was holding Makoto’s with a grip like no other. His head rest on Makoto’s chest and Makoto’s hand was placed firmly on Haruka’s back.

      All the memories came back to Haruka as they sat there, and they played in his head in bright vivid flashes of color and pain. He had insisted to Makoto that it was okay if he stayed in bed and had his moment there while alone, but Makoto refused and said that it’d be less painful for Haruka to relive any and all the trauma if he had someone there to at least hold his hand.

      It returned in harsh waves of emotions. Sometimes he could feel himself groan out at the actual pain he felt, but he was too engrossed in reliving the memories that he didn’t bother to clamp his mouth shut. Makoto wouldn’t worry too much anyways, since he knew that it was only a normal reaction.

      Haruka’s other hand gripped at the bottom of Makoto’s shirt tightly. His breath was heavy and labored.

       Makoto. Rin. Nagisa. Sousuke. Those names, the faces, and the voices of all those boys flashed through his mind. The years they spent together and the days of swimming they had together all flashed before his eyes. Conversations rang through his ears, and the sight of all of them playing together and just being happy with one another caused Haruka to feel extremely tense.

       He remembered the rivalry he had with Rin, the strained but otherwise almost nonexistent connection he had with Sousuke, the big brother figure he was to the younger Nagisa… and then he remembered Makoto’s good-natured smile, his insistency to stay by Haruka’s side, a snowy day together where they had become ill after falling asleep in an igloo Haruka had made..

      He didn’t know how long the memories played through his head, but it felt like a lifetime. The amount of time that he was grabbing Makoto’s shirt for felt unreal, it felt like years passed by.

       The memories indeed ended with Haruka feeling suffocated, and then with the feeling of his body being bent out of shape.

      By then, Haruka had broken into a cold sweat. When his hand slowly lessened its grip on Makoto’s shirt, Makoto knew it was because it was over.

      “It’s okay, Haru. I’m here. You’ll be fine,” he whispered fiercely. He voiced sounded as sincere as ever. His hand held Haruka’s securely. “That sounded painful… Do you need anything?”

      “No.. I’m okay… I’ll be just fine…” The shinigami responded, barely able to speak through the short breaths and gasps.

      He was too shy to admit that all he needed at the moment was Makoto to hold his hand tightly and hold him in such a secure way like he did when they were younger; a way that made him feel protected and wanted. It was a hold, a gesture, a simple touch that spoke more words in it than one could even begin to explain.

      ****

      Sunday was full of Makoto’s smiles and his benevolent voice. Haruka followed Makoto to the grocery store to buy some produce for the week, and the entire time Makoto was smiling and talking to Haruka.

      It had surely been quite some time since Makoto had smiled so much and appeared so happy. Yet, Haruka couldn’t help but feel a bit uneasy as he knew that only Makoto could see him, and there were people around them. Makoto must have seemed crazy to them when they noticed that it looked like he was smiling, laughing, and talking to nothing.

      Then again, Haruka could care less. All that mattered was hearing that gentle tone, the one he hadn’t heard for so many years.

      It was when they were in the grocery store that Makoto noticed Haruka looking off to the to the fish section. Haruka snapped out of that reverie when he heard Makoto’s sweet voice bring him out of his thoughts.

      “Are you looking at the mackerel, Haru?”

      Haruka faced Makoto and nodded. The human smiled widely and even laughed a little bit, making something in Haruka’s chest stir.

      “You haven’t changed at all, Haru. Don’t worry; I’ll make you some grilled mackerel tonight.”

      It could have been because Makoto had offered to make his favorite dish, but Haruka could swear that the fact that Makoto remembered such a small thing about him made a small smile curve his own lips. There was a sparkle in his eyes as he willingly followed Makoto to the fish section of the market.

      ****

      The week felt full of bliss. The first few weeks Haruka had closed himself off, but now that he knew the truth…

      It wasn’t like his life had been a bunch of fairytales come true. Of course, Haruka had a lot of things to overcome and he felt pangs of loneliness whenever he remembered his past life. He remembered many times he experienced grief. His life hadn’t been perfect.

      However, ever since he had become a shinigami he felt apathetic and, quite honestly, empty. He knew something was missing and had always assumed that it was just the lack of knowledge of who he was before becoming a shinigami that made him feel that way.

     It wasn’t until recently that he figured out what he truly felt was missing, and it was no other than that warmth that just radiated off of Makoto. Haruka had unknowingly missed his best friend, the support that his friend gave him, all the laughs and love… Everything.

     Now he couldn’t help but notice every little thing about Makoto and cherish it, like the way he smiled when Haruka told him that his sleep was fine, or the way his eyes sparkled when the weather was nice outside, or the way he laughed and played so happily with the little kids at work. Then there were other things too, like the sincere concern Makoto would show just because Haruka said he felt a bit tired. Everything about Makoto just registered in Haruka’s mind as so precious and pure.

      Haruka was not just a ball to Makoto. He did not just have to roll around, unseen, when he was with Makoto. Makoto appreciated Haruka’s existence in any form and paid attention to every little thing he did, and tended to any need Haruka felt. Not because Makoto felt like he needed to do it, but because he truly cared about Haruka and he cherished the shinigami.

      That was why Haruka needed to cherish Makoto, too… because this was only a temporary thing, after all.

      ****

      It was Thursday night.

      Haruka was fixing the bed and its pillows, since it was nighttime and Makoto must have wanted to go to bed already. That wasn’t the case, though, as Makoto had come into the room and taken the blanket completely off of the bed, much to Haruka’s confusion and even his dismay.

      “Take the pillows with you, too, Haru. The night sky is so beautiful tonight and I don’t want to miss it, nor do I want you to miss it,” Makoto said with a bright smile at his lips. Even if he hadn’t been given Makoto’s explanation of why he took the blanket away, Haruka believed that smile could speak thousands of words for him and he could get a reason with the smile alone.

      So Haruka took the pillows with him as they went to Makoto’s backyard. They set the blanket down in an area where the ground wasn’t made of cement and they rested together on the blanket, the pillows on their necks. It was comfortable.

      Haruka was mesmerized by the sky. The sky appeared to be crystal clear and the stars were so bright. They twinkled in the sky, lighting up the black sky with beauty.

      “They stars are twinkling the way your eyes do when I offer to cook mackerel. Your eyes stop being so dull and you can practically see the blue come to life, like the waves of the ocean. That’s what the lights remind me of,” Makoto partially joked. He chuckled sweetly afterwards. Haruka didn’t laugh, though, because he found it embarrassing that his friend had noticed such a thing.

      The air was cool, and it was slightly windy outside but the wind wasn’t cold so it was a nice breeze. Haruka could be in such a place forever and it wouldn’t bother him, as long as the stars were shining and Makoto was by his side to watch them with him.

     “I bet the stars shine for you…” Haruka mumbled. At this point his thoughts and the words he said were quite mindless. “They’re trying to outshine you, but your mere presence will always shine brighter than the stars can ever hope to do… Just you being here with me right now fills my soul up with happiness, and that’s proof of your bright light…”

      The blush on Makoto’s face was priceless.

      They spent a long time pointing out constellations to one another, and making up their own arrangement of stars. They teased each other when the arrangement made no sense, or when the arrangement was so creative that it was funny.

      They were holding hands while they pointed up at the sky and smiled with one another. Sometimes, Makoto’s hand would give Haruka’s a reassuring squeeze and Haruka would return it with a smile on his face.

      In the middle of pointing one constellation out to Makoto, Haruka’s watch made a sound. He had to pause to look at his watch. It hadn’t made a sound in several days so it must have been important.

      Your target, Makoto Tachibana, is set to expire in 12 hours.

      Haruka was so shocked that it was like the air had been punched out of him and he couldn’t break the silence he had caused. It wasn’t until Makoto became worried and asked him if he was okay that Haruka was knocked back to his senses.

      “Yeah… I was just shocked at how fast time passes by when we’re here together.”

      All good things come to an end.

      ****

      It was the morning of the 29th day, also a Friday.

      Makoto woke up early that morning to shower and dress formally. He wouldn’t go to work that day and therefore wasn’t planning to work until Monday.

      That was the day of Rin’s funeral as his body had finally come from Australia and had been prepared properly, and Makoto did plan to get there early to help arrange a few flowers and such before it came time for the actual funeral.

      “Does my tie look okay?” Makoto asked as he stood in front of Haru. The shinigami stood in front of the human and inspected him, before approaching him and grabbing hold of his tie. He fixed it properly, and when he was satisfied he stepped back.

      “Otherwise, you look very handsome,” Haruka muttered in a low voice, earning Makoto’s happy smile and a light touch of pink to his cheeks as a response.

     “I guess I just want to look my best for Rin… It’s the least I can do.”

      He and Makoto left the human’s home a few hours before noon. Haruka could feel the weight at his chest and cloudiness return to his mind. He couldn’t even listen to Makoto’s kind chatter about the pretty blue sky and the morning birds as they walked and Haruka would only nod mindlessly at whatever the human would say.

      They held hands again, and Haruka couldn’t help but notice how strong Makoto’s grip was… It was strong but in a pleasant way. It made Haruka feel… secure and needed.

      As they made their way deeper into the town of Iwatobi, Haruka found himself becoming lost in his thoughts of Sousuke and Rin.

      Rin had really meant the world to Sousuke. Even though they were friends that fought a lot and could be considered more as rivals than friends, Sousuke would hardly be seen without Rin. Haruka didn’t understand their relationship completely, but he knew that was true. He also knew that Sousuke dreamed of reaching a place on the international stage of swimming with Rin, to celebrate that sort of victory with him. His dream in life was to be with Rin in that sense at least... Yet Sousuke’s dream was cut short because of his heart complications.

      Rin had been Sousuke’s entire world. He was devastated to see Rin reach the same end as him and couldn’t continue on as a shinigami with that knowledge in his head. In a way, he had been left traumatized… So, if there was an afterlife, Sousuke decided to join him there.

      Those thoughts brought Haruka to wonder if Makoto meant that much to him, too… It was a topic that was painful to think about, especially at this time.

      His thoughts became fuzzy as he tried to think about how much Makoto meant to him.. All he could really make out was the human’s smile, his warmth, his everlasting kindness… That he was selfless and felt the most sincere worry for people and animals. It was a purity that was so striking that Haruka was always left shocked at how such a person was even possible.

      Makoto had so much to give, still. He had a job he loved and he was still so young. He had a personality so beautiful that even someone as cold as Haruka had been mesmerized and warmed by it. A hopeless voice in Haruka’s head cried out while he thought of it, and it asked if Makoto really deserved to have his life cut short.

      In the midst of his thoughts, Haruka heard a woman cry out, “Tachibana-kun, watch out!”

      Haruka didn’t have to look. He didn’t want to look.

      The memories of almost twenty years ago played in his head like a movie. The actions replayed in real time, too.

      He could hear Makoto’s gasp, and before Makoto would turn helplessly to see what was wrong, Haruka pushed him down onto the ground. His arms wrapped around Makoto’s waist and his wings wrapped around the human’s body. Haruka rested his head on Makoto’s back without thinking.

      … That heartbeat was so strong and steady. Even at a time like then, Haruka felt calm by it. He couldn’t imagine how he could ever let that heartbeat and security go to waste.

      “Haru!” Makoto whimpered in horror. He knew what was going to happen, and he was scared. He wasn’t scared of dying anymore and would honestly do it willingly now. He was scared of losing Haruka a second time because of his own carelessness. He had already gone through the horror of it once, he had promised to never be careless ever again, and he didn’t want to go through it again, but it was too late by then. Haruka had done this once, and he was going to do it again.

      Haruka wanted to hear that voice again. He wanted to hear that gentle, sweet tone call out his name once more, the best voice in the world. He didn’t want it to be the last time he’d hear Makoto’s beautiful voice ring through his ears…

      He was thankful for given the last few weeks to see Makoto again. He was thankful he had opened up to the human and got to experience the beauty and blessing that was Makoto’s existence.

      Then there was the sensation of being crushed again, but instead of feeling his limbs get torn apart all he could feel was himself disappearing. As he felt himself disappearing, he couldn’t hear the heartbeat or feel Makoto’s warmth anymore. Even if he smiled when he thought of the time he got to spend with Makoto, the lack of Makoto’s comfort made tears build up and spill out of his eyes. Haruka was losing himself and was slowly fading away.

      But he knew Makoto would live on, and that brought him peace.