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Makoto resented this soulmate business.

 

 

 

 

According to nearly anyone you asked, nothing mattered before you turned eighteen. Not hobbies, not school, not even a future career. The world revolved around finding one person you were supposedly most compatible with - the name first, etched onto your chest in tiny letters, and then the colors, when you looked into their eyes for the first time. Everyone gushed over how romantic it was, speculating and dreaming about their future soulmate. It was a nice idea, he supposed, when taken at face value.

 

Though, he had discovered that some people had a better understanding of themselves. They never bothered to find the one fate had ordained for them, and instead stuck with someone who they loved just as much, uncaring of the difference. Some asexuals and aromantics chose to ignore the whole thing and stick with friends. Love triangles, A loves B but B loves C and C loves A, were meant to be, in a twisted fashion, and ended relationships rather than began them, unlike the movies. And some people...

 

Some people just never got lucky.

 

Personally, Makoto didn't mind the idea, as a concept. It was romantic in a way, if it worked out in your favor, but the problem was that it often didn't. One woman might accidentally bump into another on a train, and look up in apology, and suddenly realize that that was the color blue, and had been all along.

 

And then the train would leave the station, and they'd never see each other again.

 

Plus, it had become commercialized, like Valentine's Day. There were other, more important things in life, like learning and cats and best friends. No one could really do anything about their soulmate, so why bother?

 

Makoto sighed and looked down at his notes as the rest of the class muttered among themselves. Someone's birthday had been yesterday, and the person had googled their partner's name in the surrounding area, trying to meet up with people and compare names. It made him think of in movies, when some heartbroken individual went to a bar and asked for something strong, gulping it down in one go and slamming it on the counter. Very cliché.

 

He smiled wryly. His own birthday was coming up soon - his eighteenth birthday. It was difficult, but he tried not to think about it too much, because that would only lead to anxiousness. People he didn't even know would be asking him invasive questions...It would be awful! Even if he'd (maybe) done the same thing, when Rin and Haru finally decided that yes, they would officially go along with the decision of the fates. Haru had told him that Rin's eyes were "red."

 

What on earth was red like?

 

The professor dismissed them, and Makoto stood and patiently waited for the first rush of people to push their way out the door. As the flow subsided, he hoisted his bag over his shoulder, but the motion caused an unzipped pocket to unleash its content all over the floor. With a sigh, he bent down to retrieve the pencils and sticky notes.

 

As the last stragglers walked by Makoto, one pair of shoes stopped in front of him, and two hands appeared as well, picking up a stray highlighter.

 

"Are you okay?"

 

"I'm fine," Makoto stuffed the writing utensils he held back into the pocket and reached for the highlighter. "Thank you, by the way." He glanced up, only to come face with a boy he had never seen before. The boy's eyes were-

 

Oop, he looked away. Nevermind. Makoto smiled and zipped up his backpack, straightening. 

 

"It's no problem. People are rude to not even give you a glance." 

 

Perhaps he was simply from a different class period, and had a question to ask the teacher, but Makoto was positive he'd never seen this boy before. He definitely would have remembered someone with shoulders almost as broad as his own.

 

"Well, most everyone had left already anyway. I don't mind picking up my own things, heh." His smile widened as the boy looked at him, eyelids lowered in a rather sleepy, analytic fashion, but it turned into a puzzled frown when the boy's mouth slanted downwards and his eyebrows furrowed. "Something wrong?"

 

"What?" 

 

"You just, um, your face." One thick eyebrow lifted, and Makoto chuckled nervously, adjusting his backpack strap with one arm.

 

"Is there something on my face?"

 

"No, no, your face is fine, never mind."

 

"Fine, huh?" Now the second eyebrow joined its brother, and the mouth curled into a smirk. Makoto felt his stomach drop and immediately felt his face warm in the presence of such teasing. Nagisa was bad enough, but this stranger made him uncomfortable in the kind of way that makes your clothes feel unfitting and your mind fast forward to rest on your tongue.

 

"I, uh, I just meant-!"

 

"It's fine." The smirk softened into a gentle smile, and the boy took a step backwards, only to have his heel wedge up against the door. He faltered, making a frustrated face for an instant before righting himself, and Makoto made no effort to hide a grin as he attempted to distract from the action by opening the door and holding it with one arm. "Here."

 

Makoto cheerfully thanked him again, before suddenly remember the bus. He was going to be late! Ren and Ran would be at home, wondering where their older brother was, and Ren might suggest they go looking, and if they took just one wrong turn...

 

"I'm sorry, I've got to go!" He nearly tripped over his own two feet getting going, and when he glanced back over his shoulder at the boy, there was a distinct change in the shade of his cheeks. "Thank you again!"

 

The boy merely stuck one hand in his pocket and waved with the other, slowly, like through water, or some other metaphor. It was a pleasant image, and Makoto held onto it tightly between his fingertips as he sat on the bus, idly watching out the window. He'd have to tell Haru about it at some point.

 

------

 

Ren and Ran were well behaved, but they still took a great deal of energy and attention, especially when accounting for all of the potential problems Makoto imagined. First someone needed help with their math, then someone wanted to know why the pencil sharpener wasn't working, and after a few instances of having to ask for questions to be repeated because the first time just hadn't digested, Makoto got fed up with them and let them watch TV.

 

He sat down heavily on his bed, rolling onto his back and watching ceiling fan spin. 

 

It wasn't that he was thinking specifically about the boy, exactly. And if he was, well, that wasn't a problem. Makoto didn't really consider himself "gay" or "straight" or any orientation between or outside the two. He'd never had any serious crushes, besides Haru that one time, and when Haru had let him kiss him they had immediately decided never to speak of it again and remain best friends. Unfortunately, Nagisa had found out, and one thing had led to another, but in the end Nagisa knew what kinds of secrets to keep and which ones wouldn't result in a damaged relationships. Though, being with Rei now, who knew what kind of conversations they had? Nagisa might forget, in passing, and-

 

Anyway. He wasn't wondering specifically about the boy, physically, or aesthetically, exactly. Or romantically. It was more logistics, as in Who was he, to be at the school at that time? Why was he there, if not a student? There were several possibilities to think about, after all. No harm in pondering them, right? 

 

The fact that his nearing birthdate suddenly held a smidge more importance did not necessarily imply a connection between the two.

 

It was definitely because the boy had specifically spoken to him, Makoto decided. He wasn't the outgoing type, though certainly capable of carrying out conversation if invited into it. But it hadn't even been half a semester yet, and he still had no real friends that went beyond acquaintances, so someone who actually stopped beyond a mere polite gesture naturally caught his attention.

 

Or was it even beyond a mere polite gesture? 

 

Makoto rolled over and buried his face in his arms. This was getting ridiculous. He probably wouldn't see the boy again, since he hadn't actually been there for the class period. There wasn't any point in really thinking it over.

 

He reached for his laptop and began working on homework.

 

------

 

The boy, however, had other plans. He was persistent, and continued to appear. Makoto decided he wished he wouldn't, but then wondered if he only was trying to make himself think he wished that, which was double the problem because it pointed to denial, which was a problem because he didn't even know this person-

 

- and consequently was not paying attention when the boy leaned back against the same section of chain link fence as Makoto and prompting a sudden loss of balance. The fence dipped backwards, and in his efforts to regain equilibrium, Makoto thrust himself forward, only to overcompensate and pinwheel his arms. Luckily, no part of his body, except for his feet as they were still far more grounded than his thoughts, actually hit the pavement.

 

And the boy had the audacity to chuckle quietly beside him. He had one foot propped up on the fence as well, looking the perfect image of "too cool for school" in a leather jacket. And for a second, Makoto hated him with all the hatred of those who see us at our most embarrassing moments where we fail to even function as human beings.

 

Then the moment passed, because it really must have looked funny, and laughter was a bit of a defense mechanism anyway. Besides, the chuckle opened up the boy's face and showed his very evenly spaced teeth.

 

"You okay?" he asked, crossing his arms high on his chest, and tilting his head forward. "I didn't mean to startle you."

 

Makoto smiled and nodded, pushing himself up, looking at the boy, then at the ground: rinse and repeat. "It's not that you startled me, I actually saw you, it was just that I didn't expect the fence to do that. You know, object permanence and all that." He laughed awkwardly, and was relieved at the slight sound of an amused exhale through one's nose coming from his right.

 

"Sorry. I just wanted to ask you about this school. Teachers, homework, you know."

 

These kind of topics Makoto would be prepared for in his sleep, and he beamed. 

 

"Of course!"

 

They talked school for a few minutes. Each time a lull threatened to break through, Makoto quickly brought up another aspect of college life, commuter version, and kept it going. The other boy clearly was not much of a talker, and though friendly and willing to play his part, he did not want this two time friendship to wither due to social discomfort. 

 

The bus pulled up soon, and Makoto stepped up, in line with routine, without hardly thinking about the change that would occur once he got on and sat down and returned to comforting reality, where his parents and Ren and Ran and his friends waited. 

 

A hand caught his arm.

 

Makoto whirled, the hook holding the strap of his backpack to the rest of it hitting the door with a disconcerting clang. Five fingers branded their heat into his skin even through the sweater, in a grip that tightened and loosened intermittently. He looked up, into the boy's face, and some inexplicable feeling of disappointment squatted in the pit of his stomach.

 

The hand quickly disappeared again, stuffed into the boy's pocket, and Makoto could tangibly feel his mind splitting into thinking about the expression on the bus driver's face, the other students watching from their seats, and if the retracted hand had felt the same searing heat as his arm had.

 

"Sorry, I just had a question."

 

Makoto smiled an encouraging smile, even if the boy's sleepy eyes were averted. 

 

"Are you eighteen yet?"

 

His heart stuttered in his chest.

 

"Not yet, I'm afraid, aha."

 

The boy's expression went through the same shifts that the grip of his fingers had, twitching and changing as if he couldn't decide what emotion to display on his face. It's endearing, and frustrating, and a bit confusing in some other ways, but Makoto can't quite bring himself to focus on it just yet, with his mind still jumping all over the implications of the initial question while at the same time struggling to perform socially acceptable motor functions.

 

"Okay. Just wondering." The boy glanced at Makoto and nodded. "See you tomorrow."

 

"You don't even go to this school!" Makoto laughed, covering up his nerves shakily.

 

"Mm, not yet."

 

The boy waved slowly as the bus pulled away. Makoto waved back.

 

------

 

The routine continued throughout the rest of the week. Makoto would leave class and find the taller boy waiting for him. They'd lean against the fence together, waiting for the city bus, talking and laughing and sometimes not saying anything, which was surprisingly easy. Apparently the boy would be joining school the next semester, and didn't see the point in doing anything besides getting acquainted with the campus and people beforehand. For now, he worked and worked out at a nearby gym to pass the time (heh).

 

Wednesday revealed that he was from a place very near to Makoto's hometown, was still recovering from a frustrating shoulder injury, and hadn't really decided what he was going to do yet. 

 

In turn, Makoto described his family, who had insisted that he keep the small amounts of money he earned to spend on textbooks and fun things instead of sending it back to them. He spoke of his best friends, the swim club, and the stray cat that had been appearing outside his science classroom for the past two weeks. The boy smiled at that, and even chuckled when Makoto shyly told him its tentative name: Hikaru. 

 

He could even swear that the boy's face was changing shades. It was difficult to tell - no doubt it would be more visible with color - but he was sure he had blushed at least once. It was a subtle darkening around the ears and cheekbones, and it had made Makoto's face heat up as well. Because surely it wasn't just an embarrassed blush, right? This boy didn't seem to even feel embarrassment. What a useful ability...

 

The bus pulled up.

 

Makoto smiled unseeingly out the window. It had become so easy, somehow, to speak as easily even though they weren't much more than strangers. He wondered if it was the idea of not knowing each other well, not seeing each other in normal situations. It was if they were suspended in limbo, like intruding into the everyday aspects of life would cause them to disappear in a cloud smoke or fade into the background like a mirage. 

 

He turned his face into his hand, the smile broadening despite himself. For the first time since moving to Tokyo, he was truly happy.

 

----

 

Makoto told him about his favorite songs the next day. The boy described his favorite video games, and they discussed the pros and cons of 8-bit music. Then the conversation turned to movies, and then to anime, and then to swimming, because they could agree on training methods there.

 

They shared a bag of Skittles, reaching in without turning or looking over, and their pinkies brushed at least three times. The leaps Makoto's stomach made each time frightened him in their elation. The boy even let him take the last one, pretending he didn't notice, and Makoto had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep the leaps from taking flight and pushing his face into a huge, goofy grin.

 

He boarded the bus with his insides a horribly wonderful mix of warm goop.

 

Okay, so maybe there were some feelings there. Nothing deep or life changing, but a seed of interest. And fondness. And Makoto wanted so badly to give into them, even if he had proved himself an utter failure at flirting or anything of the sort in the past, but at the same time, there was his birthday to think about. It loomed closer, a mere weekend away, and as much as he tried not to think about it there was a decision there, waiting.

 

And if his intuition was right, the boy recognized it, too.

 

------

 

Friday was quiet. The sun was hidden behind hazy clouds, and both boys were quiet, with only small fillers to substitute conversation. The ups and downs of Makoto's heart echoed his mood, because on one hand, the silence might indicate boredom, in which case he might as well give up now because there wasn't much more to be shown. Or, it might indicate sadness, which would be bad in itself but even more so because they were not at the point where the boy would feel comfortable confiding in him - probably. Or, the same anxious thoughts in his own head were echoed in the other boy's.

 

He peeked over through his bangs.  The boy's eyes were downcast, eyebrows drawn forward in a thoughtful frown. Suddenly, he glanced up, and Makoto nearly saw stars in the adrenaline rush of nerves that followed. Heart pounding, he immediately averted his eyes, but it was too late. His face was burning, and he couldn't stop himself from rolling the edges of his sleeves between his fingers.

 

Once the coast felt clear again, he chanced another look. 

 

And had to forcibly shove his heart back down.

 

The boy was desperately trying not to smile, but his thin lips curved upwards and pushed into his eyes. His long lashes were clear from this angle, and a slight flush of darker shades dusted his cheeks. One foot was jiggling nervously, stopping intermittently before beginning again, as though he was trying and failing to control his muscles. 

 

He looked like that because Makoto had looked at him.

 

At this point the consequences weren't even a part of Makoto's mind. His gut fluttered like mad, and his palms were sweating. It was a triumphant and terrifying and exhilarating feeling, like something was going to happen. Now. Today. After all, why not? Couldn't the boy feel it as well? That last minute delight, the time ticking down before the weekend? There was something precious in those last few minutes.

 

Why shouldn't something take a chance this one time?

 

The bus pulled up.

 

Nothing happened. Hands shaking and heart falling, Makoto waved, as usual. The injustice and unfairness of being deprived of what he had been programmed to look forward to and want his entire life built up, and the words accumulated on his tongue and leapt out of his mouth.

 

"You never told me your name!"

 

The bus started to move.

 

The boy smiled, just barely, and didn't wave back. Makoto had to lean out the window to hear his reply.

 

"I wasn't sure I wanted you to know."

 

-----

 

Makoto hated this soulmate business.

 

People weren't allowed to just pop into your life and change it within a matter of seconds. That kind of thing didn't happen outside movies and manga, and it definitely didn't happen to him! They weren't supposed to take root, and they weren't supposed to have an ambiguous value assigned to them by some omnipotent deciding force! It wasn't fair!

 

For the second time that week, Makoto dive bombed his bed, prompting a complaint from his roommate, to which he apologized sullenly. He'd thought he understood why people did what they did, why they settled down with someone who worked as well as they could understand to work, but what about those people who got shut down before they could even begin? What about those people who knew, and still chose differently? And it wasn't even that the boy held that personal value to him, exactly, at this point. It was the potential, and how it could be shut down.

 

Next semester would be too late. The magic would be gone. And the boy's words were still tumbling around his mind. Sure, it had barely been a week, and Makoto had definitely had short term crushes before, but there was a connection. Hadn't he felt it? Or was he just trying to convince himself? 

 

Well. What did it matter now, when inevitability had won?

 

He tried to swallow the lump of frustration and hurt in his throat. Now he was just being irrational. His birthday was in just a few days, and he was taking Monday and Tuesday off school. He had never regarded it with so much anticipation before in his life. And why should he have? People traveled through towns and cities and continents to find their soulmate, only to bump into them on the street outside their house, or on the tube, and never see them again.

 

And if even he somehow found out the boy's name the following semester, and it happened to match, that didn't necessarily mean something. How were you supposed to bring that kind of thing up? This was his first time seriously considering the subject, and he had no idea what to do with all the hypotheticals and anxiety piling up.

 

He really needed to talk to Rin.

 

-----

 

"You're staying with us for four days and two nights."

 

Makoto smiled fondly down at his phone. There wasn't even a question in the tone of Haru's voice. "I'm getting on the train now."

 

"Is it on time?"

 

"Yes, and it actually smells pretty nice. I think the woman that just walked by sprayed some, it's very flowery."

 

Haru remained silent, which wasn't unusual for him, but it hinted at something unsaid, and something unsaid from Haru that Makoto could not already guess meant it was something he was worried about revealing what he was thinking.

 

"What is it?"

 

A slight puff of air from the other end. 

 

"Rin's friend is staying with us, too."

 

Makoto faltered. He had met Rin's former swim captain, and his assistant from work, but this didn't sound like someone he already knew. That meant awkward introductions, and eating together, and possibly making sleeping arrangements because Haru and Rin's apartment wasn't very big-

 

"He's sleeping on the couch."

 

His train of thought brought to a halt, Makoto's normal instance for the comfort of others kicked in. "It's fine, he can have the spare room."

 

"No, he can't." Haru's flat voice held a strange note of aggressiveness. Hopefully he and Rin hadn't had too big of a falling out over this. 

 

"Look, we'll sort it out when we get there. Don't worry about it," Makoto reassured him, despite the nerves beginning to roll around in his gut. The hypocrisy of not taking his own advice was not lost, but he knew it would only serve to make his nerves worse, and brushed it off. "See you both in a few hours?"

 

"Yeah. Rin says hi."

 

"Hi, Rin!" 

 

An elderly man frowned at him for raising his voice, and he awkwardly smiled back, ending the conversation with a quick farewell and press of a button. His birthday was tomorrow. There would probably be gifts, if he knew either of his friends, but hopefully no surprises. The whole trip would be a nice distraction from that name that was scheduled to appear.

 

------

 

"Hey, birthday boy!"

 

Rin, aware of the hierarchy that existed in their circle of friends, let Haru hug him first before bounding over and joining in. The two pairs of arms were warm and unbelievably comforting in filling the hole that Makoto had hardly realized he had. All it was missing was Rei and Nagisa.

 

"I missed you both so much," Makoto chuckled. "We should Skype more when you two aren't dead tired from training."

 

"You wouldn't believe the regimen the coach has us on-"

 

Haru stepped back, forcing Rin to stumble backwards as well, and scrutinized his best friend. He narrowed his eyes at Makoto. Despite the time apart, his blue eyes held just as many messages as before, and Makoto knew just what he was asking.

 

He smiled - and it wasn't forced, he was genuinely delighted to be there, hopelessly happy to see these two again - and blinked, slowly. He and Haru could talk later, if it became worthwhile.

 

Haru lifted an eyebrow, but turned his body slightly, to include Rin again. The redhead was making a show of tapping the toe of his shoe on the ground, arms crossed.

 

"Yeah, that's one thing I didn't miss."

 

A shrug from both offending parties, and Rin grinned again, wrapping an arm around each of them.

 

"So! Makoto, break it to us. How's Tokyo?"

 

"Well..."

 

They made it home with much bustle and chatter from Rin, and plenty of ill-disguised inquisitive questions from Haru. The pleasant sensation of their company only grew, filling the space of the taxi and settling into the depths of his stomach. Only the slightest nervous discomfort kept it from filling his entire body, and he accidentally interrupted Rin in voicing it.

 

"Where's your friend?"

 

The couples' shoulders stiffened in unison (and wasn't that funny, that Haru had picked up such a visible tell of emotion from Rin?), and Makoto's stomach dropped in anticipation of some kind of bad news. 

 

"He's out," Haru said tersely. 

 

"He went to the gym," added Rin, with a smile that showed too much teeth. "Probably won't be back until late tonight, so you might now meet him until tomorrow. And he's my best friend so if he seems- if he's weird, or something, it's just him. He's a cool guy."

 

The snort Haru let out was surprisingly loud.

 

Rin scowled and elbowed him. 

 

"He and Haru just bitch about each other over me."

 

Haru rolled his eyes, prompting a laugh from Makoto. The tension drained away, and he relaxed into the seat, enjoying the small bickering and supposedly aggressive excuses the pair made to touch each other. Rin's friend was probably one of those people that didn't make a great first impression, but was really a decent person. There were definitely still some nerves of anticipation, but he could deal with it.

 

And he would have to sleep on the couch, so the least Makoto could do was be friendly.

 

----

 

"Wow, your apartment is really nice!"

 

"This coming from the guy who shares a room with three other college kids," Rin chuckled, tossing a pillow onto the spare bed. "The reason we have a spare bedroom is because the landlord doesn't know we share a bed."

 

Makoto dropped his bags to the floor and slipped off his shoes. "He doesn't know you're together?"

 

"I didn't say that."

 

They had takeout for dinner, because not even Haru really wanted to cook, and then only talked for a short time afterwards. Makoto's internal clock was screaming for him to get in bed, and Rin and Haru still had one more day of training, bright and early. Rin promised to show him all the sights of Sydney as soon as the coach let them go the next day, and Haru listened quietly, adding his two cents when necessary. Makoto's replies gradually became punctuated with yawns, and soon retired to his room after a brief tour of the bathroom.

 

He crashed as soon as his head hit the pillow.

 

Only a few hours later, however, the front door slid open with a soft rattle and squeak. Murmuring grumpily, Makoto rolled over onto his side, squeezing his eyes shut as though that would keep the sound away. It must be the cousin. Wasn't he supposed to sleep on the couch?

 

A startled sound reached his ears anyway, and he blinked as the dark, broad-shouldered shape approached, pulling something to cover him. It was a warm. His blanket? It must have fallen down. How nice.

 

"Go back to sleep," a vaguely familiar voice whispered to him, and Makoto wholeheartedly agreed. "We'll talk in the morning..."

 

His eyes fell closed again as he snuggled farther under the blanket, tucking one leg under the other.

 

"...Makoto."

 

----

 

He woke up to the smell of mackerel and low voices.

 

"...the hell were you thinking, not telling me?! It's his birthday today, y'know, what kind of wake up call is that?"

 

"I didn't know, okay, we never told each other-"

 

"Can you see any colors? It's been long enough."

 

"...Kind of, but it's still pretty dark. Just forget it, I'll talk to him myself."

 

Makoto groaned and stretched, kicking the sheets off. The clothes from yesterday felt grimy against his skin, and he grimaced. Really should have showered before climbing into the spare bed, especially when it turned out to be so uncomfortably warm. Sydney weather wasn't what he was used to.

 

The muted conversation from the kitchen stopped as he pushed open the door, rubbing his eyes, and walked in. The first thing he noticed was Rin, hair tied back for a morning jog, gripping a piece of toast tightly. Haru had probably claimed the bath, or was still asleep. Then, to his left, was-

 

Makoto froze. The boy from the bus stop was there, staring back at him, with a serious case of bed head and a strange darkened shade across his cheekbones. His face held the most skittish, startled expression Makoto had ever seen on him, and he had absolutely no idea what to do with this new information. 

 

Face rapidly heating up, Makoto tried to smooth out his wrinkled clothes. Every little feeling that had been piling up and shifting around in his chest for the past week - had it really only been a week? - rushed back, and he suddenly found it difficult to breathe, much less form any coherent words.

 

"Uh-"

 

"Hi." The boy shifted uncomfortably, eyes on the ground. Once again, Makoto was reminded of their similar heights, and it flashed across his brain that he almost seemed to be trying to make himself smaller.

 

(Everyone told Makoto how he hardly seemed his height, the way he was always scrunching himself down to other people, and the other boy was the complete opposite, radiating confidence and filling the space. So wasn't that funny? That they had traded places? Except Makoto wasn't any better this time around, he felt even more uncertain than ever-)

 

"Hi."

 

"I'm Rin's friend," the boy said. His hands were large and smooth and too big for the pockets he was trying to shove them into. 

 

"So, Makoto." Rin didn't seem to know what expression to use. He stepped forward, as if to put an arm on Makoto's shoulder, but then glanced back, and ended up just shifting his weight awkwardly between his friends. "Happy birthday, Makoto. Sorry about the...the confusion, and-"

 

"Makoto."

 

He jumped at the sound of his name from the other boy's lips. It was the sound of possibility, of reciprocation, of-

 

In an attempt to keep his voice from cracking, Makoto swallowed, only to choke on his own spit, prompting the sudden proximity of both Rin and the boy. It lasted several seconds, and made his eyes water and nose run, so he insistently pushed them away to get some space, red in the face.

 

"You're sure you're okay?"

 

"God, Makoto, I didn't think it was that bad-"

 

"He's choking!"

 

"Because of you!"

 

"Guys!" Makoto thumped his chest and laughed sheepishly. "I'm fine. Just...fine."

 

"Right." The boy's expression morphed back into the one he was familiar with, serious and droopy-eyed. "Anyway. What's the name?"

 

Of course! One little look. Eye coloration could be mixed up, feelings went all over the place, but the name on your chest told no lie.

 

He glanced up at the boy, who blinked slowly and inclined his head, before turning his face away. Somehow, it reminded him of Rin. Clearly they had known each other for a significant amount of time. And while it was more amusing on Rin's face, especially in Haru's presence, Makoto felt an uprising of fondness for seeing it there.

 

"Right, right. Okay."

 

He turned to the side slightly, unbuttoning his collar and peeking down.

 

S o u s u k e 

 

The figures were tiny and difficult to read upside down, but there they were, etched into the skin above his left lung. The name didn't evoke any emotion in him, and he had to resist the urge to feel let down. He didn't know anyone named Sousuke, no one with an emotional connection woven into their name. There was no significance in this name, but then...

 

There was still one person he didn't know the name of.

 

He rebuttoned his shirt, slowly, trying very hard not to think about what would happen in either possible scenario. Turning to face the other two, Rin was gnawing on his lip in what looked very to be a very painful manner. The tall boy still wasn't looking at him.

 

Well, only one way to find out now.

 

Makoto took the two and a half strides over to him, leaning forward just enough to make it difficult to look away. The boy stared evenly at the space approximately above his left shoulder.

 

"Sousuke?"

 

The boy jumped and finally, finally made direct eye contact.

 

And the world flooded with color.

 

It was disorienting, but not. It was like everything settled into its own place, forward and backward and up and down and like Makoto was taking his first breath of fresh air. He wanted to run his hands over everything, wanted to touch and relearn it all, but the reason for those colors was right in front of him and hadn't moved a muscle. 

 

Sousuke's eyes were teal. This Makoto knew instinctively. And his shirt was a pale green, and his hair dark brown, and that pink color across the tops of his cheekbones was blush, because-

 

He was blushing because of Makoto. And he never blushed. Oh, god, Makoto's blushing too, he can hardly think with all of the blood in his face.

 

Somewhere in the background, he heard Rin sniffing and moving away to give them privacy, but most of his attention was focused on the tiny twitches Sousuke's mouth was making, how there was a small but sincere smile that revealed his teeth, how the pink was spreading to the tips of his ears, how he was looking straight down, almost toe to toe, at Makoto, only at Makoto, and-

 

"You, uh." He cleared his throat, and Makoto felt his face stretch into a huge grin. "You look amazing."

 

The heat filled his face, and the flip flopping in his stomach increased its pace as Sousuke tentatively reached for his hands. His grip was far to loose at first, and a bit sweaty, and he tried to withdraw them immediately, but Makoto squeezed his fingers shakily and they stayed.

 

"I mean." Sousuke nodded, mostly to himself, and squeezed the fingers holding his almost uncomfortably tightly. "It's a pleasure to finally know your name."

 

"Me, too. Hi, Sousuke."

 

"Makoto."

 

They both laughed, going in for a hug and suddenly discovering how close in height they actually were - both went in low with their arms, but Makoto beamed and rearranged his arms to go around the taller boy's neck, and Sousuke shrugged and looped his arms around Makoto's waist. A door creaked, and the pair shuffled around to glance behind them.

 

Rin and Haru were both watching. Rin rolled his eyes, but the proud grin belayed any annoyance he might try to portray.. Haru was still dripping water everywhere, but he nodded his head and gave Makoto a smile that said everything.

 

Sousuke laughed and ducked his head into Makoto's shoulder. The face he made was hidden from Makoto's view, but the scoffing sound Rin made was enough to tell him it was a smug one. He smiled and inhaled the scent of Sousuke's hair - Sousuke. He could get used to saying that name.

 

"This soulmate thing is awful."

 

"Oh?" Sousuke leaned back and raised his eyebrows, a playful grin doing sinful things to Makoto's gut. "Seems to be doing you a favor right about now."

 

Makoto flushed. "I just meant- Shoosh! We were- I was so worried, when we would have seen each other again in a few weeks. It probably would have worked out anyway."

 

"Don't jinx us before our one hour anniversary, Tachibana."

 

Rin snorted and moved forward to punch Sousuke's shoulder. "Okay, okay, we're going to eat breakfast, and actually have a normal day, kapeesh? Everyone knows each other's names now, everyone's cuddly, it's great. No fondling at the dinner table."

 

"That goes for you, too, Rin," Makoto grinned.

 

The redhead sputtered, and yelped when Haru pinched his arm. 

 

"I'm making mackerel."

 

He and Rin moved into the kitchen in tandem, bumping and moving around each other with practiced ease. The clatter of the frying pan and various condiments to make the fish taste less like fish for those who wanted them filled the background. Rin nudged the back of Sousuke's knee. "Cue your line?"

 

Sousuke smirked and tilted his head to rest his lips near Makoto's ear. The shorter boy shivered.

 

"Happy Birthday, Makoto."