Actions

Work Header

3 Words from Falling

Chapter Text

For Matsuoka Rin, most mornings began the same: wake up, go for a warm-up run, take a shower, cook a hearty breakfast, and read the newspaper.  Sometimes he’d vary it up in what he ate (traditional rice and fish versus a carbo load) and drank (orange juice or coffee), or in the order in which he read the paper (sports first or last).  But otherwise, in his age, he was becoming a creature of habit.  Routine was his comfort during the rigorous training season, just as it was his rock during the off-season.  Preparation was key, as were habits and patterns, making sure he was always in top shape, on form, and ready for competition.

Unfortunately, there were a few things that had little regard for routine: accidents, the weather, and his seven-year-old son.

Which is why he found himself jumping in surprise, nearly spilling his hot tea all over himself, when that very same son slammed a piece of paper down onto the table.  Setting his mug down, Rin wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and turned is attention from the article he was reading to his son, Taki, who was beaming up at him as if he didn’t just shave a year off his father’s life.

“Can I join?  Please please please?” he begged, and Rin sighed as he slowly dragged his eyes to the flyer.  It was light blue, and in a large, garish font, it read: Interested in learning how to swim?  Want to compete?  Come join the newly renovated Iwatobi Swim Club!!  Group and private lessons available to all age groups.  Year-round pool access with membership.  Call Today!  Underneath the flyer had been tear-offs with a (horrifying) Iwatobi-chan icon and phone number, but apparently, Taki had thought it better to tear off the entire flyer and bring it with him instead.  Honestly, Rin wasn’t even surprised.

Arching an eyebrow at Taki, he folded the newspaper and set it down on the table as his son hoisted himself up onto his own seat, eyes bright, gleaming, and silently pleading.

“You wanna take lessons?” he asked.  “What?  Practicing with your dad not good enough?”

Taki paused mid-eager nod and pouted up at him.  “That’s not true!  I just need to get a trainer too, if I wanna be as fast as you someday.”

The thought made Rin’s chest swell with pride.  Being an Olympic swimmer himself, he’d taught Taki a thing or two when he wasn’t busy with practice, but he’d never been able to give him proper lessons.  Not when his practice schedule was rigorous, and when Taki spent his free time either with his friends or with Gou.  He knew his son could hold his own in a pool, but it never occurred to him that he’d be interested in actual swimming lessons; in learning how to do more than just swim from one end of the pool to the other, or “race” his dad after practice was over.

But, being a twenty-five year old single parent, sometimes a lot of things don’t occur to him.

He couldn’t fault Taki for wanting to be as cool as his dad though.

Drumming his fingers on the newspaper, Rin feigned a thoughtful look, humming for added emphasis.  “I dunno,” he said, glancing at Taki out of the corner of his eye.

“Please, dad?  Please please pleaaaaase?”  Looking down, Rin saw his pleading look evolve tenfold, and he let out a long-suffering sigh and let his head roll back.

“Fine!  Fine.  We’ll go check it out tomorrow.”

Taki jumped up and cheered, his grin stretching across his face.  “Thanks dad, you’re the best!” he said.  “I can’t wait!  I can get lessons and get my own trainer and then I can swim all the time too—“

“—Yeah, yeah, I know,” Rin mumbled, though he couldn’t help a smile from appearing on his own lips.   “Now go finish getting dressed so we can go.”

“Okay!” Taki shouted as he bounded through the kitchen and toward his bedroom.  After he had left, Rin looked over at the flyer again, noticing the terrifyingly hideous Iwatobi-chans drawn all over it, as well as a few black and white photos of the new facilities.  They looked nice, he had to admit.  He remembered seeing the Iwatobi Swim Club back when he was a kid; he had gone once or twice when visiting his grandma, but that was all.  It looked like it had been remodeled, and since they were going to be living there for a while, he might as well go check it out, maybe for more than just his son.  After all, if he wanted to swim on his off days, it would be easier than taking the train into the city.

 

 

What little Rin remembered of the former Iwatobi Swim Club paled in comparison to the newly renovated facilities.  The exterior was polished and modern, glass ceiling allowing the light to stream in.  Fancy lettering and signage made the place look seductive, a far cry from its former self.  For a town as old and traditional as Iwatobi, the swim club looked out of place, which is exactly why it attracted former city-dweller Matsuoka Rin.

He gripped Taki’s hand as they walked through the automatic doors, looking around once they were inside.  The lobby was nice, clean tiles and a round receptionist’s desk greeting them at the entrance, with a small sports shop off to the side, swimming gear hanging in the window.  Taki made a move to run toward it, but Rin’s grip kept him from straying too far.

As they approached the desk, two eerily similar-looking receptionists, a boy and a girl, both smiled at him cheerfully.  “Good morning!  Welcome to the Iwatobi Swim Club,” said the girl - her name tag read Tachibana Ran (as did the boy’s though the name read Ren).  The innocent way in which she tilted his head said that she didn’t recognize Rin, which helped him relax.  “Is this your first time here?”

“Yeah,” Rin said as he finally let go of Taki’s hand, who took off like a bullet toward equipment store.  “I’m looking into a membership and lessons.  For him.”  He jerked his head in his kid’s direction.

Tachibana Ran’s smile widened as she clapped her hands together.  The boy next to her shifted a bit and propped his chin up on the palm of his hand, watching Rin eagerly.  “That’s great!” she said and then cleared her throat, managing to calm down.  “I mean, I would be happy to get you in touch with one of our instructors and get you a tour of the facilities.”

“Sure, sounds good,” he said, turning his head toward the shop, where Taki was tugging at different pairs of swimsuits while the clerk watched him nervously.  “Taki.”  His son’s head shot up to look over at Rin and he hustled over, stopping when he got to the receptionist’s desk.  He placed both hands on the counter and pushed himself up on his toes so he could watch the Tachibanas with an excited smile.

“Hi,” he said finally, just as Tachibana Ran was picking up the phone.

She beamed down at him.  “Hello there!  Aren’t you just adorable,” she said as she dialed a number and cradled the phone between her head and her shoulder.  Taki grinned sheepishly and looked up at Rin, who rolled his eyes playfully and ruffled his son’s hair.

Tachibana twirled around in her seat, waiting for someone to pick up on the other line.  When no one did, she hung up and tried again.  It took two more tries and three rotations on her chair before she finally stopped spinning, perking up and speaking into the receiver.  “Haru-chan!  Are you free at the moment?” she asked, and then went silent.  “…Hmm, okay, what about Mako?”  Another pause.  “Great!  Can you send him down to the lobby?  Thanks.”  She hung up the phone and beamed.  “One of the instructors will be down in a second.”

“Great,” Rin said, turning his attention back toward the lobby.  It seemed relatively empty for the weekend, but, then again, it was Sunday morning.  He could hear the evidence of activity further in, quiet splashing indicating that the pool was in use.  The sound alone was enough to ignite the desire to swim, but he smothered it in favor of conceding to this tour.  Maybe he should’ve packed his gear with him…

Meanwhile, his son was still staring at the two receptionists almost invasively.  “Are you two twins?” Taki asked.  Ren seemed to flush in embarrassment while Ran giggled to himself.

“You’re so observant.  I’m Tachibana Ran, and this is my brother Ren,” she said, gesturing toward them.  She looked up at Rin.  “We’re only working here part-time.  Our brother’s one of the coaches.”  He nodded, pretending as if he cared.

“Ren and Ran,” Taki repeated, pointing to each one respectively.  Ran clapped her hands together and congratulated him on his excellent memory.  Rin suppressed the urge to roll his eyes; she didn’t need to talk down at him like he was a child.  He was seven, not three.  (Taki seemed to soak up the praise like a sponge though.)

Finally, footsteps filled the hall as a particularly tall man jogged into the lobby and smiled.  “Hi,” he said, and while it looked like he was going to say more, he was almost instantly interrupted by Taki.

“Makoto-sensei!” he exclaimed, running up to him.  

The man - Makoto, apparently - widened his eyes in shock before his features softened.  Crouching down until he was eye-level with Taki, he laughed.  “Taki-kun, I didn’t know you were interested in swimming.”

Taki placed his hands on his hips and puffed out his chest in a way that made Rin snort back a laugh as he approached the two of them.  “Of course!  My dad’s an olympic swimmer, you know.”  Makoto’s head shot up and his eyes widened when they locked with Rin’s.

“Matsuoka Rin?!” he exclaimed, and Rin’s hand immediately went to the back of his neck to rub at it sheepishly.  “I had no idea Taki-kun was your son!  Wow, it’s such an honor to meet you.”  He smiled and straightened up before bowing in front of him.  “Tachibana Makoto.  I’m such a big fan.”

Rin felt his face flush, though any embarrassment was immediately cut by the pride that swelled in his chest.  As a two-time Olympian with eight medals for Japan, he still found it hard to believe that he was someone worth recognizing or idolizing.  But still, people sent him letters from across the country to cheer him on and support him.  Coming from Kyoto, where the crowds meant he had little place to hide, it had been nice moving to Iwatobi and having a small paece of mind.  But he certainly couldn’t hate meeting a fan; not when their support had carried him this far.

Recovering quickly, he threw Tachibana a half-smile-half-smirk as he straightened himself up.  “It’s a pleasure,” he said, before ruffling Taki’s hair.  “I’d be happy to talk professional swimming another time though.  I’m here to look into lessons for him.”

Tachibana’s eyes widened as he seemed to remember himself.  “Oh, yeah— of course!  I’d be happy to give you both a tour around the club and then discuss lessons and rates.”

“That would be great.”

Tachibana smiled and turned on his heel, walking back into the club in the direction that he came from.  “So, the newly renovated swim club was finished a few years ago.  The old one was shut down in 2012, torn down in 2016, and then rebuilt in 2020.  We’re coming up on the third year anniversary.”  He smiled back at Rin and Taki before continuing on.  Walking through the lobby, they first entered a lounge filled with couches, large TVs playing local sports channels on low volume, and day lockers.  There were a glass cases on the wall showcasing a large variety of trophies, banners, and photos.

“This is our lounge.  It’s a nice place to hang out after practice and watch sporting events.  Sometimes we have socials here during national swimming tournaments and the Olympics.”  He smiled as Rin almost knowingly as he approached the glass case and looked inside.  “Those’re our trophy cases.  We’re slowly filling them up.  A lot of the ones in there are from the old swimming club and the local middle and high school.” 

Rin nodded as he glanced through.  There was a small section of the trophy case dedicated to dusty old photos and trophies surrounding the picture of a rather bored-looking child.  Next to those were trophies and certificates awarded from local and national swimming events dating as far back to his own elementary and middle school days.  “We host a lot of swimming competitions here, and a lot of our kids are involved in the middle school and high school teams.”

Makoto’s voice snapped Rin back to reality and he glanced over at him.  He nodded and meandered back over to Taki, whose attention was fixated on a cat food commercial.  He rolled his eyes and smiled down at him before nudging him.

Makoto pressed forward and Rin fell into step behind him.  “So, are you Taki’s teacher?” he asked sheepishly, slightly ashamed that he didn’t actually know.  Makoto glanced back at him and smiled.

“Not yet.  I teach fourth grade, but I do see Taki-kun around school often.  He’s very active during the lunch hour.”

Taki grinned up at his dad.  “I saw Makoto-sensei posting the swim club fliers and now we’re best friends.”

Makoto let out a deep, roaring laugh.  “That we are,” he said kindly and Rin shifted next to them.

After the lounge was the pool, which was larger than Rin would’ve expected.  The glass ceiling allowed the light to come down and sparkle off the surface of the water, which was broken up by splashing as people pushed through the lanes.  “This is our half-Olympic sized pool, the biggest one here.  This one is available to the general public during most hours.  This is also where we host our lessons, child and adult.  Group lessons get dedicated pool hours and private lessons usually don’t have any problems grabbing a lane or two.”  He smiled at the two of them.  “We have another five lane pool that the local swim teams use during off-season to train in.  We’ll host group and private lessons there as well, depending on whether or not it’s in use.”

He led them into the locker rooms, which were spacious and nice - used by both the local swim teams, the members, and those taking lessons.  He showed them the smaller pool as well, which was just as nice as the larger one, as well as a small gym with just enough equipment for basic land-based training.

“It’s for some of our more serious members.  Not a lot of people use it,” Makoto explained.

After that, he showed them the rest of the facilities that the swim club had to offer (an outdoor patio for summer events, a second-floor viewing area for parents, and more) before returning them to the lobby where Ren and Ran were quietly arguing over something near the phones.  They straightened up when Tachibana cleared his throat and smiled at them.

“So, what’d you think?” he asked, looking at Rin expectantly.

Rin opened his mouth to answer but was beaten to it by Taki.  “It was so awesome!  I mean, it was almost as cool as where dad trains in the city, but it’s so much closer,” he said, grinning up at Rin.  “I could walk here after school if I took lessons and then I could swim and then we could come here together on the weekends and swim together and it would be so awesome!  Please, dad, please, please, please can I take lessons?”

Rin wiped his mouth with the back of his hand to hide the smile and laugh that threatened to break out.  Sometimes he had to put his foot down and be the stern father, but in all honesty, the swim club seemed up to par.  It would be a good place for Taki to come after school for lessons, considering its proximity to the elementary school, as well as their house (and Gou could drop him off or pick him up, given her schedule).  Depending on the monthly rate, he could also purchase a membership for himself — it’d be a good place to train on his days off.

“Let’s talk rates,” he said after a moment of silence, and Taki threw his hands up with an excited shout.

 

 

It was after a long, private discussion in Tachibana’s office that Rin finally conceded to signing up for group lessons for Taki and a membership for himself.  The rates were a little on the steep side, but nothing compared to the fees he payed for his own personal trainer and for his membership at the pool in the city.  He was making enough through sponsorships and advertisements to pay for their apartment and afford this as well.

Taki was more than excited as he looked up at the photographs of the swim coaches who taught at the club, hanging neatly behind the receptionist’s desk.  They had relocated themselves after Rin had signed the contracts, as Tachibana had to pass them off to his siblings to file away in the computer.  “Am I taking lessons with you?” he asked, looking up at Tachibana as he loomed over his sister’s shoulder, watching as she input the data.

“Sorry, Taki-kun,” he said, and his apologetic tone was genuine, as far as Rin could tell.  “You’ll be taking lessons with Haru, who teaches the beginning classes in all age groups.”

Both Rin and his son looked up at the rows of photos to find ‘Haru,’ both stopping on the picture of a rather dour-looking black haired adult. He was expecting a woman, but was surprised when “Nanase Haruka” turned out to be a man.

“What’re his qualifications?” Rin asked half-heartedly.  Tachibana had, after all, gone on at a small length about his own background in swimming, which started at the original Iwatobi Swim Club and continued on into high school and, eventually, university.

“Haru?  He and I swam through to high school together,” Tachibana said with a rather fond smile.  “He’s an amazing swimmer, placed first in almost every event he competed in.  Now he’s teaching here.”

Rin was impressed and while he did have questions lingering on his tongue - what’s an “amazing swimmer” doing teaching beginning classes only - but he decided to swallow them.  It didn’t really matter, and he was sure Taki was going to surpass his age group soon anyway.

Taki, on the other hand, crossed his arms over his chest and grinned challengingly.  “We’ll see how he holds up,” he said with a nod and both Rin and Tachibana laughed.

After being presented with his membership key fob and a print out of the paperwork, Tachibana and his siblings sent Rin and his son off with hearty and happy welcomes and ‘can’t wait to see you again soon’s.  As they left through the doors they entered in, Taki tugged at Rin’s hand impatiently.

“But why can’t we swim today?  I wanna dive into that pool, it was so big,” he said, gesturing wildly with both hands.

“You’re starting group lessons tomorrow, you know,” Rin said.  “We can go to the beach today, if you want.”

His son’s excited cries answered for him, and the entire walk back to their apartment he blabbered on and on about how badly he wanted to swim with sharks.

Chapter Text

It was a month into the new school year (and two weeks into swimming lessons) when Taki brought home his first letter.  Rin had come home that night after practice to find his son laying on his stomach on the couch, handheld gaming system in his hands.  He tapped at the buttons wildly, tongue poking out past his lips in concentration.  When Rin closed the front door with a mumbled “I’m home,” he looked up, only briefly, before glancing back down at the screen.

“Welcome home, dad,” he said, punctuating his greeting with added sound effects.

Rin toed off his shoes and set his gym bag by the front door as he walked into the living room.  “You look productive,” he teased as he sat down next to him and ruffled his hair.  Taki made a strangled noise in the back of his throat, but his attention was unwavering.  Looking around, Rin noticed Taki’s textbooks sitting on the coffee table, untouched, and a blue slip of paper poking out between two of them.

“What’s this?  A love letter?”  He arched an eyebrow and reached for it, expecting Taki to throw his handheld to the side in an effort to cover up whatever it was he was half-heartedly hiding, but he didn’t even bat an eyelash.

“It’s from the swim club,” he said, before his eyebrows furrowed and eyes narrowed.

Rin feigned an exaggerated sigh.  “Already?  What’d you do this time?” he asked, yanking it from between the books and opening it up.  In neat handwriting was a curt message addressed to him.  He cleared his throat and read it aloud, “Matsuoka-san.  Please see me after group lessons sometime this week.  It’s in regards to your son.  Nanase Haruka.”  He arched an eyebrow as he read it over again.  Well, that didn’t tell him much.  “What’d you do to your coach, kid?”

“I didn’t do anything!” Taki protested, closing his handheld when he finally seemed to beat whatever it was that was giving him trouble.  He sat up and crossed his legs, looking up at Rin.  “I swear!”

“Oh yeah?” Rin asked, arching his eyebrow higher and looking down at him.  “Well, this note seems to say otherwise.”  He waved it in front of his face, yanking it out of reach as Taki attempted to grab at it.

“Haru’s the best, I wouldn’t do anything to him!” he huffed, eventually giving up the fruitless pursuit of paper.

“On a first name basis with him already?” Rin teased, lips stretching into a grin.  He reached down and ruffled Taki’s hair again before pulling him into a headlock.  “Guess I’m gonna have to come see how great Haru is this week.”

Taki puffed out his cheeks and struggled halfheartedly against his dad.  “Just you wait, he’s the coolest.  And his swimming’s so beautiful, he’s like a mermaid!  Or a dolphin or maybe even a manta ray—“

As his son prattled on about how amazing Nanase’s swimming was, Rin listened with a warm smile.  It was nice, sharing his life’s pursuit with his son.  He’d shared swimming with his father as well, but only in the brief time that he was alive… Losing him to the accident had been hard for the entire family, but Rin especially.  Seeing Taki get worked up about swimming in the same way he did when he was a kid - in the same way he still did now - warmed him from his head to his heart.

He just wished he could be more involved.  His practice schedule kept him from visiting during his lessons, though it’d only been two weeks since his son had started.  Still, he was usually gone just after Taki left for school and back just in time to prepare dinner.  His morning began at 5am with his daily run, and as soon as Taki was off to school, he was jogging down to the train station to commute to the city to meet his coach and team for a full day of swimming, weight lifting, and exercise.  By the time he got home, he was thoroughly worked over and exhausted, leaving him just enough time and energy to cook dinner, look over his son’s homework, and then crawl into bed to pass out.

His schedule has seen very few changes since he graduated high school and started training with his team.  He had enough wiggle room for the occasional exceptions, like going to parent-teacher conferences, vacations, and, now, seeing his son’s swimming coach after practice…  But with the Olympics only a year and a half away, he didn’t have much time for distractions; he’d have to make up for it later.

“Dad?”

He blinked and looked down at Taki, who was staring up at him questioningly, brown eyes wide and searching his face.  Rin relaxed against the back of the couch and smiled.

“Sorry, I was thinking about practice,” he answered honestly, and Taki’s face lit up.

“Can I come with you to the pool on Saturday?” he asked.

Rin inhaled deeply and feigned a contemplative look.  “Only if you get your homework done.”  His answer was met with a long, drawn out groan and he laughed, getting up from the couch so he could get started on dinner.

 

 

True to his word, he did show up to the Iwatobi Swim Club on Friday afternoon, close to the end of his son’s group lesson.  Taki had lessons three days a week - Monday, Wednesday, and Friday - which took up a large portion of his afternoons after school.  While Gou walked him to school, she was usually too busy to walk him to the club - which was fine with Rin, given its proximity to Iwatobi Elementary - but she did pick him up after practice, considering Rin’s practice schedule kept him away from home for most of the afternoon.  Today, however, it was his turn.  And it was a first.

Walking into the lobby, he nodded to the Tachibana twins and let them scan his key fob before he sauntered in and toward the pool.  He was immediately met with the overwhelming sound of splashing through water as he came to stop near the doors to the locker rooms.  The large pool was full of people of all-ages.  There was a group of high schoolers using up two lanes on the end, a couple adults swimming laps off to the side, and four middle lanes being taken up by elementary schoolers.  Standing near those lanes, arms crossed, was a rather bored, dark haired man who looked to be about his age.  When he turned his head to the side to examine one of the lanes, Rin immediately recognized him as Nanase Haruka, Taki’s swim coach.

Though they’d never formally met in person, he’d heard enough about him from Taki’s stories.  Apparently he was a stoic man whose only passion in life was swimming and the water.  He also only swam the front crawl, which was probably why he only taught beginning level classes.  Rin wasn’t sure why someone who only swam free was “so amazing,” but then he remembered Tachibana Makoto mentioning him winning multiple awards when he used to compete.

He was toned, at least.  As Rin’s eyes swept over his body, he noticed that he was actually very toned for someone who was just a swim coach - though he knew better than to dismiss someone who no longer competed.  His own coach was ripped and a complete hardass, but, then again, she was coaching national athletes, so it was hardly surprising.  He wanted to see Nanase in action though, just to see if Taki’s stories held any truth to them.

Looking back up at Nanase’s face, he noticed that he was looking right back at him.  As he felt himself flush, he could’ve sworn he saw Nanase’s eyes widen just a bit before settling back into his bored expression, but Rin’s heart was racing and he was pretty sure his eyes were playing tricks on him.  Either way, Nanase looked past him, probably toward the large clock hanging over the entrance to the locker rooms, before glancing back at the pool.  He crouched near it just as the last of the kids were approaching the wall, and started to talk to them - whatever he said, Rin could hardly hear it over the sounds of the other swimmers.  He looked back at the clock himself before crossing his arms over his chest.

Finally, the kids started to pull themselves out of the pool, Taki included.  When he noticed Rin, he grinned and started to run over to him before Nanase called out to him.

“Matsuoka.  Two more laps,” he said, stepping aside.  Taki paused and grinned before jumping back into the water.  As he fastened his goggles over his eyes and pressed them in with the palms of his hands, he reached back and snapped the rubber against the back of his head, and Rin couldn’t help but laugh and smile.  And then he took off like a bullet from the wall, pushing off and speeding down the lane.  He knew his kid was a good swimmer — of course he knew — but he’d more than just improved in the two weeks since he started.  His front crawl was impressive for his age.

He was called back to reality when he was approached by Nanase, who stood in front of him waiting patiently.  “Matsuoka,” he said, and Rin glanced over at him, attempting to mirror that cool demeanor, as if he wasn’t just checking him out moments before.  “I’m Nanase Haruka.”

“You wanted to talk?” he asked, holding up the blue slip of paper he had received earlier in the week.  Nanase’s eyes darted toward it and then back to his face before he nodded.

“It’s about your son.”

“What’d he do this time?” Rin asked.

“I think he needs to be moved up to the advanced level for his age group,” Nanase said, flicking his hair out of his face with a quick shake of his head.  “He’s a fast learner and is progressing at a steady rate.  There really isn’t much more I can teach him at this level.”

Rin nodded.  In all honesty, he wasn’t surprised.  He’d taught Taki how to swim himself at an incredibly early age, and before he was in elementary school, there were days when he’d have to take him down to the pool to train with him when Gou couldn’t look after him.  His coach had been more than happy to entertain him, teaching him advanced swimming techniques while Rin took breaks or paused to stretch or do laps.

“When are the advanced lessons?” he asked.

“6 to 7PM on weeknights,” Nanase answered and Rin inwardly swore.  He was usually home by 6:30 and dinner was on the table by 7.  The beginning lessons were right after school, which gave Gou plenty of time to finish up at work and pick him up.  There was no way she’d be able to come get him that late in the evening.  Even if Rin stopped by the pool on his way home, they wouldn’t be eating dinner until late.

But he could make sacrifices for his son, especially when his son had to make so many sacrifices for him.  If advanced lessons were what he wanted, then he would make them happen.  Unless…

“What about private lessons?” he asked.

Nanase sighed and looked off to the side.  He seemed like he was getting impatient with Rin’s questions, or maybe he had something better to do.  Rin resisted the urge to roll his eyes; it was a pity that such a gorgeous face was wasted on so severe a person.  “Private lessons can be set up at the front desk.  There are a variety of instructors who you can set your son up with, many of them very competent.”

“Any recommendations?” Rin tried.

“Makoto,” Nanase said without missing a beat.  Tachibana seemed alright; he was tall, he looked strong.  Taki seemed to like him enough from whatever interactions they had at the elementary school.  Rin opened his mouth to respond when he was interrupted.

“Haru, dad!” Taki said as he bounded over, dripping wet and panting happily.  “Did you see that?  I think I beat my old time!”

Nanase glanced over at the clock and looked down at Taki and Rin could’ve sworn he saw a ghost of a smile on his lips.  “Looks like it,” he said, and the way that his son beamed up at him made him almost jealous, until he turned that smile on him.  

“On Monday, I was a whole two seconds slower.”

“Is that so?” Rin asked with a smile, ruffling his son’s wet hair until it was sticking up from all sides.  As he reached up to smooth it down, he laughed.  

Nanase shifted awkwardly between them before taking a step back.  “Thank you for coming,” he said stiffly, before looking down at Taki.  “Keep practicing.”

Taki beamed up at Nanase as he fastened his goggles over his eyes and approached the starting block.  Rin watched anxiously as his son bounced on his heels whispering excitedly, “Just wait until you see him!  He swims so beautifully!”  Rin was half-sure he wasn’t going to believe him until Nanase dove into the pool with practiced grace and stole his breath away the second he plunged into the water.

He found himself watching with bated breath as Nanase swam his first lap through the pool, his legs breaking the water and arms cutting through it like nothing he’d ever seen.  Everything from his form to his kicks were perfect; the timing in between his breaths held the sign of years of practice.  As he dove under the water and flip turned, kicking off and speeding down the lane again, it was absolutely mesmerizing, and one glance at the clock showed just how incredibly fast he was - maybe even faster than Rin himself…

As Nanase hit the wall and turned again, Taki broke him out of his reverie with a grin and a loud, “Isn’t he awesome?

Rin looked down at him, hoping that his face wasn’t as flushed as it felt.  “Yeah, yeah,” he said, steering him toward the locker rooms and away from the pool with a final glance at Nanase over his shoulder.  But just that was enough to cause his heart to leap up into his throat, where it stayed as it thumped too loudly for comfort.

Goddamnit.

 

 

After Taki had showered and changed (and Rin had spent an oddly long period of time watching Nanase swim laps around the pool), they headed toward the lobby.  Taki was recounting the day’s lesson, gesticulating wildly and going on and on about “Haru this’ and “Haru that,” who Rin had a suddenly new appreciation for.

Just as they got to the receptionist’s desk, Rin stopped and turned toward his son, hands on his hips.  “Alright, kid.  I’ve got good news and bad news,” he said with a nod.  “Which first?”

Taki tapped his chin in thought before answering, “Good news.”

Rin smiled and rolled his eyes. “Alright, the good news is you’re so awesome that they’re bumping you up to the advanced class.”

His son’s eyes widened before he broke out into a grin.  “Whoa, the advanced class?!  That’s so cool!” he said, pumping his fists in delight.  Eventually, he stopped.  “—What’s the bad news?”

Rin let out a long, exaggerated sigh.  “No more Haru.  He only teaches beginners.”

Taki’s look of excited pride immediately fell.  “Then I wanna stay a beginner,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Rin frowned.  “You’ll never improve that way.”

“Yes I will.  Haru’ll teach me.”

He rolled his eyes.  “You’re gonna have to go up a class if you want to get better, you know.”

“Then maybe I’ll never get better!”

Now Rin was starting to frown.  “Taki,” he warned, holding his scolding, disapproving stare for as long as he could before sighing.  “I can keep you in the beginner class, but Nanas-—uh, Haru thinks that you’re good enough to be bumped up.  Do you want to disappoint him?”

Taki gave it some thought before he sighed.  “No,” he said with a pout.  “…Fine, I’ll move classes.”

“That’s my boy.”

Leading him toward the receptionist’s desk to set him up with advancing classes, he finally remembered something.  “There’re also private lessons,” he noted.  “Makoto-sensei or whatever teaches.  You like him, right?”

Taki nodded before his eyes lit up.  “Does Haru teach private lessons?” he asked.

Rin shrugged before looking over at the Tachibana twins helplessly.  The two of them shared a look.

“Technically, he has time free for private lessons,” Ran supplied.  “But he’s never taken a student on before…”

Rin wasn’t at all surprised to hear that.  From his stoic face to his refusal to teach anything but the front crawl, he probably wasn’t all that popular as a private coach, despite how breathtakingly beautiful his style of swimming was.  He wasn’t sure how he’d feel signing up Taki for private lessons with him either.  While his front crawl had improved significantly and his times were also improving at an exponential rate, he wouldn’t be a well-rounded swimmer, which he’d need if he wanted to start competing—

Rin inhaled sharply when he caught on to the line of thought he was pursuing.  His son said he wanted swim lessons, not that he was ever going to compete.  He felt his stomach sink at the realization that he was starting to become one of those parents, a role he had strictly avoided since his son started to show interest in things.  This wasn’t about what he wanted, this was about what his son wanted.

“What’re his available slots?” Rin asked, and Ran started typing away at her computer.  Taki grinned up at him happily.

“He has Monday, Wednesday, and Friday open from 5 to 6PM,” she answered with a nervous smile.  Rin looked down at his son.  Those hours worked for him, though he wasn’t sure if they’d work for Gou.  Regardless, if he left his own training early enough, he could pick Taki up from practice at 6, maybe even a little later.  That was a lot more manageable than the hours the advanced lessons were at.

“Well, what do you think, kid?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest and cocking an eyebrow.  “Three days a week with Nanase, or do you wanna get bumped up to the advanced lessons?”

He wasn’t even surprised when Taki’s grin widened and he shouted, “Private lessons with Haru!”

Ran’s nervous smile continued as she proceeded with setting up the arrangements.  She had even phoned her older brother at one point to alert him that Nanase would be getting his first private student and to ask if it was alright to slot him for three days a week.  Judging by the half of the conversation he could hear, Tachibana was encouraging it.

As they left the Iwatobi Swim Club, Rin couldn’t help but feel weirdly excited, both for the prospect of his son continuing swimming lessons, but also at the idea of interacting with Nanase more.  He was intrigued by him in a way he had never experienced before, and he was interested in not only seeing his swimming again, but getting to know him as well.

Maybe this wouldn’t be a terrible arrangement, especially if Taki seemed to enjoying himself.

Taking a deep breath, he tried to shake the mental image of Nanase (and his perfectly toned body) diving into that pool as he looked down at his son.  “Ice cream after dinner?” he asked, and Taki cheered.

Chapter Text

Haru’s evenings after closing were routine — his solace after long days of interacting with others.  In the dim lighting of the natatorium, he always swam laps before he cleaned the pool, shaking off the day’s stresses with each kick of his leg and stroke of his arm.  It relaxed him, and it was half the reason he agreed to work at the newly reopened swim club.  He liked the peace and quiet, almost as much as he liked the water.

Usually, he was alone after work, but that day, Makoto was waiting for him.  He’d noticed him two laps in, standing near the starting block with his hands in his pockets and a smile on his face, but being as obstinate as he was, Haru swam at least three more before he touched the wall and pulled off his cap and goggles.

“Sometimes I think you’d live in here if you could,” Makoto pointed out as he held a hand out for him.

Haru reached for it, rolling his eyes as he let Makoto hoist him out of the pool.  He wasn’t wrong; if Haru could, he’d never leave the water.  He’d float in it endlessly, letting it carry him as long as it wanted, without worry or care for anything else.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t a viable option - or so his friends told him.

Snatching the towel that Makoto tossed his way, he began drying his hair, tucking his cap and goggles into the back of his jammers.  

“What’re you still doing here?” he asked, only half-interested in the actual answer.  As involved as Makoto was with the swimming club, he was only a part-time instructor, considering he already had a full-time job as a teacher.  Usually he left well before the pool closed so he could look over homework or work on his lesson plans.  He never once offered to help Haru close the pool, knowing full well how much he enjoyed being able to do that at his own leisure.

Makoto’s smile didn’t waver as he slid his hands back into how pockets again, though the way that he tilted his head to the side made Haru’s stomach churn.  “Something wrong with wanting to stay and talk with my best friend?” he asked.

“When you put it like that, yes,” Haru mumbled, heading for the benches near the entrance to the locker room, where his bag was waiting.

Laughing, Makoto followed.  “It’s about Matsuoka,” he started, and Haru glanced over at him.

“Taki?” he asked.  There was always a chance he was talking about his father, but Haru was almost certain it was about his now ex-student.  He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t at least interested in what Taki had decided to pursue after leaving his class that afternoon.  For a kid as young as he was, he was very good.  Makoto’s smile was still setting him on edge though.

“Yeah, Taki,” Makoto confirmed.  “After going over the options with him and his dad, we decided to put him into private lessons.”

Haru hummed, rifling through his bag until he found his club jacket.  “That’s good.”  Though his tone sounded disinterested, he meant it.  Private lessons would help bring out Taki’s potential, and his demanding personality could probably use some one-on-one instruction.  The other students in the beginning class had taken quite a shine to him, as boisterous and loud as he was, but a private instructor would give him the amount of attention he needed.  “Who’s he going to be working with?  You?  Sasabe?”

Glancing over at Makoto again, he didn’t like that weird glint in his eye or the way the corners of his lips pulled up.  “Haru-chan, expressing interest in a student?” he teased.

“I care about my students,” he quipped, arms crossing over his chest.

“Good, because he was pretty determined to have you as his instructor,” he said, his smile widening.  “So, he’s signed up for lessons three days a week in between your evening classes.”

Though Haru was hardly one for quips or retorts, he found he couldn’t say anything to that news.  In fact, he wasn’t even sure how to feel.  The first emotion that came was shock - never in his three years at the swim club had he been asked to teach private lessons.  Then he was annoyed - Makoto knew there was a reason he didn’t teach privately (he only Swims Free and Teaches Free).  Finally, he was Not Happy - he had a distinct feeling that Makoto had a hand in this.  And in all the years they’d known each other, Makoto rarely pushed him to do anything he didn’t want to do.

And yet, there hew as, wearing a smile that Haru might’ve mistaken for a shit-eating-grin if he didn’t know him any better.

After a minute of stunned silence, “I don’t do private lessons,” was the only reply Haru could come up with.

“It is in your job description, you know,” Makoto pointed out, and for a brief moment, he almost looked serious.  “As well as in your contract.”  If Haru didn’t know Makoto, he might’ve mistaken that for a threat.

There was little Haru could do at this point outside of digging in his heels and outright refusing, but, as stubborn as he was, he knew that wouldn’t do any good.  It was printed in his contact that he had to have availabilities for private lessons if he was requested, but in the years he’s been working here, no one had even tried.  He was well-liked and his classes were popular enough, and many people had expressed interest in private lessons with him, but few actually went through with it when they were informed with what came with the package.  Unless they were interested in swimming Freestyle only - which the serious ones weren’t - there was no use in taking private lessons with him.

Because of that, he’d gotten used to a certain kind of lifestyle over the past few years; one that didn’t involve teaching or interacting with students one-on-one.

So, as much as he wanted to fight Makoto on this - to put his foot down and be the stubborn man that everyone knew him as - he knew he’d just be blowing smoke.  Makoto was right, he was contractually obligated to teach Matsuoka Taki.

But still, it didn’t make sense to him.  Why would Matsuoka Rin, Olympic Gold Medalist, sign his son up for classes when he clearly knew that he’d only learn free?  There were plenty of well-rounded instructors working at the club, Makoto included, so why him?

“He’s quite taken with you,” Makoto cut in, as if reading Haru’s mind.  The way Haru’s eyes widen made him laugh and wave his hands in front of his face.  “Taki, I mean!”

Haru’s shoulders finally slumped and he sighed, reaching for the pool net.  “Fine,” he said, giving into the inevitable.  He was sure it wasn’t going to last long anyway - he gave Matsuoka a week before he found his son a new instructor.

 

 

A week and a half passed and still Haru was teaching private lessons to an energetic seven-year-old Matsuoka Taki.  It wasn’t like it was a terrible job - there were very few differences between group and private lessons - but it still frustrated him to think that maybe this was a waste of Taki’s potential.  (Makoto laughed when he brought that up, but even though Haru, himself, didn’t care about competitions or times, that didn’t mean he couldn’t care about his students.)  He was almost positive that Matsuoka had his own coach and could do the job himself, so part of this felt like a glorified babysitting service, especially when Taki liked to follow him around, prattling on and on about his dad, school, and how “cool” he thought Haru was.

“How was that?” Taki asked after hitting the wall and taking a few gulps of air.  He was looking up at him, grin wild and eyes shining, as he awaited his feedback.  In the lane next to them, an older man swam laps while Makoto taught the intermediate children’s class at the other side of the pool.

Haru glanced down at Taki.  “Your form is improving, but you need to pick up your elbow more when you pull your arm out of the water.  It’ll give you more strength later,” he said.  Taki watched him, enraptured and eager.  Haru resisted the urge to sigh, feeling himself drained by Taki’s over-eagerness, especially now that their hour was coming to an end.  “Here, let me show you.”  He held out his hands and Taki placed his on top.  Haru gently eased him into the water so he was laying on his belly.

“Turn your head to the side,” he instructed and Taki complied.  Supporting him with one hand underneath, he used the other one to draw his arm out of the water, stopping at the perfect angle for his elbow to be at.  “You want to be around here.”  He moved his arm back and forth gently, so he could get a feel for where his limb was at.  “And then here.”  He followed through on the stroke, leading his arm back into the water.  “Like that.”

Taki popped back up and grinned up at Haru.  “Okay.”

“Another lap then,” Haru said, and he nodded, grabbing onto the walls.  He took three breaths, each one deeper than the last, before he pushed off toward the other side of the pool.  Watching him go, Haru noticed the way in which he easily adapted the suggestions Haru made on his swimming style; how his elbows were coming up at almost the correct angle most of the time.  He didn’t need to glance at the clock - and he rarely did - to know that the change was making him faster, though he lost any speed gained on the flip-turn.

“How was that?” Taki asked again, grin even wider than before.  The way in which he looked so eager for praise reminded Haru of a younger Nagisa.

“Better,” he said, a ghost of a smile playing on his lips when Taki pumped his fist in victory.  “Though your flip-turn still needs some work.”

The victory pose turned sheepish, hand reaching back to rub his neck.  “Yeah, sometimes I get water up my nose when I flip.”

“We’ll fix that on Friday.”

“Deal.”

“Two more laps and we’ll call it a day.”

 

 

As Rin pushed through the door to the swim club, he waved to Ren when he greeting him with a “Good afternoon, Matsuoka-san.”  He didn’t stay to chat, instead heading toward the pool where he knew his son was still having his private lesson with Nanase.  As much as he encouraged Taki to do what he wanted and tried (very hard) to be one of “those parents,” he still had his reservations about putting his son into lessons with someone who only taught the front crawl.  “He might not even go into swimming,” he mumbled to himself.  But the way that Taki talked about his private lessons and the water reminded Rin of himself when he was younger.  He was almost positive his son was going to attempt to follow in his footsteps, which meant he needed to provide him with all the support and facilities a budding swimmer could need, right?  And Nanase Haruka wasn’t one of them.

“He could only swim in free events,” he mumbled again, but the thought made him groan.  No, this wasn’t the time to think about this.  They could breach this subject the deeper Taki got into swimming lessons.  For now, he was going to let him be a kid and enjoy something that clearly made him happy.  The last thing he wanted was for Taki to go through what he did when he was young…

When he got into the pool area, he scanned the lanes, immediately spotting Nanase and his ever-present dull expression.  Taki was racing down the lane as Nanase watched, arms crossed over his chest angrily or thoughtfully (he couldn’t tell).  Rin beelined for them, standing a few feet away so he could watch as well.  He couldn’t believe how much time he was gaining after just a few weeks of work.  His form was improving incredibly and even though his flip-turn needed a little bit of work, he was still doing well.  He was improving at a rate Rin didn’t think was possible, and he thought he knew his son well enough.  …Right?

“Dad!”  The shout pulled Rin out of his reverie and he noticed Taki was next to Nanase now, grinning widely and panting as he waved.  Rin couldn’t help but smile as he approached the pool, reaching out to hoist his son out of the water.  He spared Nanase a passing glance, trying not to stare for too long, especially when his heart rate was already working its way up to aerobic levels.  It was enough to notice Nanase was staring back with those intense blue eyes of his, though he quickly looked away the second they locked eyes.

Rin looked back at Taki as he gripped his hand and helped pull him up.  “Did you see how fast I was?  Did you?

“Yeah, you were are something,” he said, ruffling his wet hair once he was out of the pool.  “In a few more weeks, you might even be able to take me in a race.”

Taki rolled his eyes, still grinning.  “I’m not that good, dad,” he said, before looking down at Nanase, who was still sulking in the pool.  “You should race Haru though!  I bet it’d be super close, you’re both so cool.”

Rin grinned down at Haru, who was looking up at him again.  “Oh yeah?” he asked, quirking an eyebrow.  Haru met his gaze this time and Rin felt his heart leap up into his throat.  He hated how striking and handsome he was; but most of all, he hated how beautiful his swimming was.  When Nanase said nothing, however, Rin just smiled and looked back at Taki.  “Maybe another time.  Go get changed, you.  I’m starving.”  He nudged Taki toward the locker rooms and he took off without any complaints.  Rin glanced back down at Haru again, his gut twisting at the thought of making conversation.  It was just the two of them now - what should he say?  Should they talk about Taki?  Should they talk about him?  But Rin’s fears were unfounded as he found Haru swimming laps instead.

Now that was the perfect form.  The way he glided through the water at an incredible speed — the way he made it look so beautiful and effortless — took Rin’s breath away.  He couldn’t help but stare as his heart pounded against his chest, fluttering there in the most awkward and fantastical way.  Nanase Haruka was something, that was for sure.  Something incredible…

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” someone asked and Rin nearly jumped out of his skin.  Glancing over, face flushed, he noticed it was Tachibana, all knowing smiles and amusement.

His first instinct was to deny it, to hide his thinly-veiled ogling under a critical gaze, but he couldn’t lie, especially when it’d be so obvious.  “Yeah,” he sighed.  “He’s amazing.”

“I know,” Tachibana said with that warm smile of his as he slipped his hands into the pockets of his swim club jacket, still dripping wet from teaching his own lessons.  The two of them looked back out at the pool and Rin felt something twist in his gut.  As much as Nanase’s swimming made him feel like a preteen boy again, there was another overwhelming feeling that he couldn’t quite shake: annoyance.

If Taki was “wasting his potential” in lessons with Haru, then Haru was wasting his potential teaching swimming lessons instead of competing nationally.  He’d be amazing on the Japanese olympic team and would dominate the freestyle events for sure.  “So, what’s he doing here?” he asked, taking his eyes off of Haru long enough to glance at Tachibana again.

“Haru?” Tachibana asked, eyes widening.  “Doing what he loves.  Swimming.”

Rin knew it wasn’t his place to press the issue.  He’d picked up on how close Tachibana and Nanase were in the past few weeks, if only from the sheer volume of times that Tachibana talked about him. He probably shouldn’t criticize Nanase too much; he probably shouldn’t try to pry into his personal life either.

“He could swim at the national level though,” Rin pointed out.  “He could swim in an Olympic stadium if he wanted to.”

Tachibana was silent for a while after that, and the longer he took to respond, the more dread Rin felt for even asking in the first place.  But his smile remained, nostalgic and warm all the same.  “You know he only teaches freestyle, right?  That’s because he only swims freestyle.”

Rin had picked up on that, especially having never seen him swim anything but his signature stroke.  “Yeah.  Why?” he asked.  Why would someone with so much talent waste it on just a single stroke?  Sure, he had his specialties as well - the fly and the crawl - but at least he swam the others if he had to; at least he knew how and could do it proficiently enough (he was an Olympic swimmer, after all).

“I can’t explain it as well as he can,” Tachibana said, “But to him, existing in the water is like some kind of freedom or release.  He doesn’t care about times or competitions, he just really wants to swim.”  He nodded.  “He’s happy like this.”

While that answered Rin’s question, it didn’t satisfy him.  He opened his mouth to speak - to debate - but closed it, instead opting with,  “Well, his form is amazing.”

Makoto laughed.  “It really is.”  He glanced over at Rin and then began to look a little sheepish.  “So, how’s training going?”

“For me?” Rin asked, eyes wide.  “Pretty good.  Competitions are coming up, the Olympics are fast approaching, and I’m working my ass off.  Same old.”

“You’re an amazing swimmer!  I’m pretty sure you’re a shoe in for the Olympics,” Makoto said.  His eyes were shining too and he was looking a little excited.  “—I mean, at least I hope so!”

Rin laughed off his embarrassment.  “Yeah, well.  You never know when some hotshot eighteen-year-old is gonna come usurp me.”

“But you’ve won so many gold medals for Japan!” Makoto said.  “They’d be mad not to have you for a third time.”

Rin rubbed the back of his neck.  “Well, either way, I can’t let up on my training if I wanna keep winning gold next summer.”

“True,” Makoto said with a nod.  “Well, you can always come practice here.  We’re happy to have you.  And not just because you’re a big name.”  He grinned.  “I’m super excited for next summer’s Olympics though.”

“Oh yeah?” Rin asked with a sheepish grin.  “I am too.”

“You know, Haru and I always watch the Olympics together!  We have ever since we were kids,” he’s started and then paused.  “Actually, the two of us went—“

“Makoto.”  Rin’s head turned when he heard Nanase’s voice, cutting through the noise of the poolside so easily.  He was standing near them, silently and sullenly, still dripping wet and looking vaguely annoyed (an expression Rin had come to know as his default).

Makoto clamped his mouth shut and raised an eyebrow at Haru.  The two of them stared at each other for quite some time before Makoto smiled (somewhat coyly, if Rin’s eyes were to be believed).  “Right, I should go check on the towels,” he said and turned to Rin.  “See you on Friday!”

Rin watched Makoto run off before finally turning to look at Haru.  The two of them stood there for quite some time, staring each other down, before Rin couldn’t bare the silence any longer.  “You, uh… You swim beautifully,” he said, the words tumbling from his lips after getting caught in his throat.

Haru’s eyes widened for a split second - just long enough for Rin to catch - before he looked off to the side.  “I should go,” he said.  “Lessons.”  And then walked off to talk with a small group of adults that were looking at him rather expectantly.

…What the hell was that?

“…Fucking.  Fuck,” Rin said, as eloquently as ever, before smacking his forehead with the heel of his hand.

Did he really just say that?  Did that really just happen?

Just barely resisting the urge to scream into the nearest pillow, cushion, or article of clothing, Rin dragged his sorry ass to the bleachers so he could cradle his head in his hands and pretend the last five minutes of his life never happened.

“Fucking shit.”

When Taki finally emerged from the locker room, ready to go, Rin was still sitting there, cursing silently to himself and attempting to will the flush off his face.

“Uh, dad?  You okay?” Taki asked, poking him repeatedly on the shoulder.

Rin could only groan.

Chapter Text

Three weeks.  Haru had been instructing Matsuoka Taki for three weeks and there was absolutely no sign of that changing.

He wasn’t sure how to feel about that.  So he didn’t.

It was a Wednesday afternoon and Taki was swimming cool down laps, his unending energy and good form carrying him fast and far.  Haru didn't need to look at the clock on the wall to know that it was almost time for his father to show up, but a quick glance was enough to confirm it: 6PM on the dot, right about the time when Matsuoka usually showed up to pick up his son. 

It seemed like so long ago when it was Taki’s aunt who was picking him up from lessons, giving Haru a simple smile and nothing more.  He appreciated that.  Now it was Taki’s father who was ambling in every day with an easygoing smirk and strangely aggressive attempts at making conversation.

He didn’t understand it.  But Matsuokas, Haru had come to learn, were a persistent lot.

As Taki's hand touched the wall and he popped up from the water with a gasp and a grin.  His eyes immediately landed on Haru, who was sitting on the ledge of the pool, feet dragging through the water.  "How was that?"

"Good," Haru said, and even though his response was clipped, Taki seemed overjoyed.  "Try to use more force in your legs on your turns."

Taki nodded.  "Yessir," he said, and he almost strapped his goggles back on before he spotted the clock.  Haru noticed the way his eyes darted around the room, as if searching - it was a look he was all too familiar with, being a teacher of many children - and he almost said something, but Taki was quicker.

"I don't see my dad," he said.  Haru hummed in response, kicking his feet through the water.  Taki's eyes widened and then he grinned.  "Can I swim more laps?"

"If you want," Haru offered.  He felt a thrum of excitement at his student's eagerness to stay in the water.  It reminded him of himself, if he were more talkative and excited.  "But I have lessons."

The crestfallen look that Taki gave him could hardly be enough to deter Haru away from his adult classes.  He sighed as he pushed himself up from the ledge of the pool, stretching in his jammers and Iwatobi Swim Club jacket.

"Can I watch?" Taki asked.

Haru glanced over at the far end of the pool, where the adults he taught were beginning to gather.  He didn't suppose there was anything wrong with Taki watching him teach lessons.  But he’d been teaching him long enough to know that he was more of a hindrance than a help when it came to holding a class' attention.  (The beginner class had been amused by Taki's antics; Haru less so.)

"You should probably hit the showers.  Your father will be here soon," he said and took off toward the other end of the pool, nodding in greeting to his students.

His adult classes were an interesting bunch.  They lacked the playful fire that his younger students had, but that didn't mean they were any less dedicated.  All of his classes were different in their own way: the younger students were usually learning so they could swim proficiently, the high schoolers were trying to pass gym or find some way to exercise, and his adults were a little mix of both.  What united them all was the simple fact that they were all beginners, which meant Haru didn’t have to teach them anything other than free.

And he preferred it that way.

Students came and went, graduating to the next level or halting lessons altogether once they've learned enough to feel satisfied.  Haru wasn't the type to get attached, so there was little feeling beyond a muted sense of pride seeing them leave.  No sadness - no attachment beyond teacher and student - and he was happy that way.

Which was what frustrated him about Taki, who didn't seem like he was going anywhere anytime soon.  Haru hadn’t spent so much time one-on-one with another student before, and he wasn’t oblivious to the light attachment he’d already begun to form.  But Taki had a lot of potential, which meant once he decided to become even more serious about swimming, he’d be gone.  And Haru wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

So he didn’t feel anything at all.

He was halfway through coaching his class through a their warm-up when he ventured a glance over at the clock.  6:15PM.  Taki was probably gone, his father passing another awkward chance at stilted conversation.  Which Haru could only be grateful for; as arrogant as he looked, he was severely lacking in eloquence.  He seemed to be verbose only when speaking to Makoto and his son, which made no sense to him.  But, then again, he was a man of few words himself.

It was only until his eyes landed on Taki, seated on the benches, dressed and hugging his backpack, that he paused.  Taki waved when he noticed Haru watching him and he raised a hand as well before turning back to his classes.

Odd for his father to be so late, though it was none of Haru's business.  He'd show up soon.

 

 

At 7:05, he was nodding to the last of his students, giving them final feedback as they headed toward the locker rooms.  The swim club was closing soon, the pool was empty save for one last swimmer on the other end.  The only noises echoing through the domed natatorium were that of his students, conversing amongst themselves happily as they headed toward the showers, and the quiet, comforting sound of splashing.  As Haru turned around to begin the process of cleaning the pool, he noticed Taki again.

He was still seated on the bench near the locker room entrance, gripping his backpack in his lap, legs swinging back and forth.  He was looking at Haru listlessly, but when their eyes connected, he perked up and smiled.

Where the hell was his father?

"Hi Haru!" he said cheerfully as Haru wandered over to him, lips set into a thin line.  "Guess my dad's running late."

Running late was an understatement.  It’d been an hour, and Matsuoka was usually five minutes early to pick up his son.

"Why?" he heard himself ask.

Taki shrugged.  "Maybe the trains’re running late?  He goes to the city to practice,” he said with a smile.  "I would've walked home, but I didn't want to miss him if he came here."

Haru sighed, glancing around the pool.  The last remaining swimmer was hoisting herself out of the water, padding toward the locker room without acknowledging them.  Once she entered, silence filled the natatorium again, occasionally broken by a Taki's shoe scraping the tiling, echoing throughout the building without a population to muffle it.

"I'll wait with you until he shows up," he said, albeit a bit begrudgingly.  Normally he spent the last half hour of closing hours swimming laps alone in the pool, basking in the moonlight shining through the glass ceiling.  After that, he took his time cleaning and covering the pool before he locked up and headed home.  He could still do that, he thought, but Taki's large, doleful eyes were watching him expectantly and he’d already showered and changed.

"I can get my swimsuit on again if you wanna swim!" he said, as if somehow able to read Haru's mind, but Haru answered him with a shake of his head.

"No, it's fine," he said before pausing.  "Do you want to help clean the pool?"

Taki sat up, eyes wide and a smile pulling at his lips.  "Yeah!"

 

 

The items that Haru usually found at the bottom of their pool was bordering on obscene: necklaces, rings, spare goggles - there was a whole plethora of items in the lost-and-found and most of them came from the pool.  Tonight was no different.  As Haru scrapped the bottom of the pool with the net, Taki followed him around carrying a plastic bag and babbling on and on about school, friends, and his dad.

"When he dropped me off at a friend's house last weekend, they said he looked scary and mean!  But he's not mean at all.  He's the coolest, they're just too dumb to see that.”  He huffed indignantly as Haru dropped another necklace into the bag.

"It's his teeth," Haru mumbled, dipping the net back into the pool.

"Well, I think they're awesome," Taki huffed.

Haru glanced back at him.  "Are they genetic?"

Taki paused before opening his mouth as wide as he could, showing off tiny, blunted pearly whites.  "Nope!  I wish though," he mumbled.

Haru scoffed.  "Maybe when your adult teeth grow in."

This seemed to satisfy Taki, who spent the next five minutes strutting around with his chest puffed out going on about how “awesome it would be” to have teeth like his father’s; about all the things he'd do with them.

This is exhausting, Haru thought to himself.

When they were finished cleaning the pool, Taki helped him take the lane dividers down and cover the pool with the tarp.  It usually took Haru a lot longer to finish cleaning, and he wasn't sure if it was the help or the company that sped things up.  Maybe he just liked to work slower when he was alone.  It wasn’t as if he had places to be.

Still, it was 8PM when they finished, and there was still no sign of Taki's father.  Haru wasn't worried; of course not, what was there to worry about?  Still, it was time for him to lock up (where was Makoto?  He usually stopped by before he left) and he couldn't just leave the kid outside in the dark for his dad to come find him.

He opened his mouth - to ask if Taki wanted to be walked home - when he was stopped by the sound of sneakers running toward the natatorium.  Glancing behind him, he saw Matsuoka, standing in the entrance, panting quietly and looking incredibly flustered.

"Hey, I'm sorry I'm late," he said, reaching out to lean against the wall.

"Dad!"  Taki immediately ran over to him, jumping up and clinging to his neck with a gleeful laugh.

Haru walked over to the two of them as they laughed together and embraced.  "You're late," he said, lips turned down into a rather annoyed frown - because while it was no problem to watch Taki, it was still incredibly irresponsible of Rin to leave him there.

Rin at least had the decency to look sheepish.  "I'm so sorry about that.  There was a visiting coach who wanted to see the team today and he kept me after to work with me on my fly," he said, and then paused.  "Didn't you get my texts?"

Haru paused.  What texts?  The last time he had seen his phone was a few days ago, before he’d accidentally kicked it under his bed.  "I don't have my phone on me," he said, as if it was obvious that the best way to reach him was through Makoto or the front desk.

Rin's sigh was long and exaggerated, but he smiled.  “Well, that answers it, I guess,” he said.  “Still, I appreciate you staying here with him."  He ruffled Taki's hair.  “I tried to get Gou to come pick him up, but she was tied up at school and then had, uh, plans.”

Haru glanced away.  “It’s fine.”

Taki grinned up at his father as he tugged on his hand excitedly.  “Dad, it was so fun!  We cleaned the pool together and we found all kinds of stuff.  Like this curvy butterfly earring and a pair of goggles, and even some lady’s red nail!”

“It was fake,” Haru offered, noticing Rin’s twisted expression.

As Rin opened his mouth to reply, Taki reached into his pocket and pulled out a coin, thrusting it out toward his dad’s face.  “And the best treasure of all, this 100 yen coin!” he said, beaming with pride.  “I can buy an popsicle with it tomorrow after school.”

Rin was silent as he stared down at Taki, his expression flat and unreadable.  After a moment, however, his lips twitched and he burst out laughing.  Pulling his son in for a half-hug, he grinned.  “That’s quite the treasure!” he said.  “With that much money, you could pay for dinner tonight.”

Taki huffed, squirming in his father’s arms, though he was still smiling.  “This isn’t enough to afford dinner, dad!  You eat too much,” he said, elbowing him in the stomach. 

“You’re the one who always goes for seconds,” Rin said, leaning his elbow on Taki’s head.

Haru, who’d had enough of this (adorable) display of paternal affection, cleared his throat.  Both Taki and Rin looked at him, wearing similar expressions of confusion and curiosity.  Haru’s frowned deepened.

“Thank you for finally showing up to pick up your son,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest.  “But I need to close up soon.”  He left the rest unsaid, and while Taki continued to stare up at him curiously, Rin’s expression turned sheepish again.

“Ah, right,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck.  He looked down at Taki and offered him a small smile.  “You up for a late dinner?”

Taki glanced back at his father and stroked his chin thoughtfully.  The gesture only lasted a few minutes before his smile turned devious.  “Only if it’s sushi,” he said.

Rin looked like he was about to protest, but he sighed instead, a small smile gracing his lips.  “Alright, fine.  We can get sushi,” he said and Taki pumped his fists in victory.  Turning to Haru again, he offered him a quick and awkward bow.  “Thanks for looking after him today.  I won’t be late again.”

“It’s fine,” Haru said.  Though he was still annoyed at Rin for not finding another way to reach out to him, he didn’t have the energy to argue with him.  He just wanted him to leave.

But apparently Rin had other plans.  Though he’d turned around and was leading Taki toward the exit of the natatorium, he stopped and looked back, throwing a grin Haru’s way.  “You, uh… You want to come with us?”

Haru hesitated.  The last thing he wanted to do was go out to dinner with the energetic student he just spent the past hour and a half entertaining and his awkward father.  The last thing he wanted to do was make conversation with two people after spending such a long day around others.  He had his routine: go to work, swim, come home, eat, bathe, sleep.  There were occasions when that routine was broken, but they were few and far between; and he wasn’t going to let this night be one of them.

As if sensing his hesitation, Rin smiled and added, “I really owe you, Nanase.  So it’s on me.”

Taki seemed excited by the prospect, bouncing on the balls of his feet as he watched Haru with wide, expectant eyes.  “Haru’s coming to dinner with us?” he asked.  “This place is so good, we go there aaaaall the time!  Their eel’s my favourite, though last week I tried the mackerel sushi and I also had salmon roe and it was sooo good.” 

And though Haru opened his mouth to outright refuse - to brush the invitation off with the very real excuse of having mackerel fillets at home to eat - he found himself muttering another word instead. 

“Fine.”  He looked off to the side with a huff, agreeing against his better judgment.  But the promise of mackerel sushi was enough of a draw for him to say yes.  As Taki cheered, Haru spared a glance over to notice the small smile on Rin’s lips.  “But I have to lock up first.”

“Ah, yeah.  Of course.  We’ll meet you outside then,” Rin said, putting on arm on Taki’s shoulder so he could steer him away.  Taki’s animated, one-sided conversation could be heard echoing through the halls as they headed toward the exit, their voices getting quieter the further along they got.

Once Haru could no longer hear them, he sighed, his shoulders slumping as he leaned against the wall and looked out at the tarp-covered pool.  What was he getting himself into?

 

 

Some people have a tiny voice in their heads that sounds alarms when they’re about to make a bad decision.  Some might even have louder alarms than others.  Nanase Haruka, at no surprise to anyone, was lacking one altogether.  It wasn’t there when he stripped to jump into a public fountain two weeks prior and it certainly wasn’t there that time he tried to dive into a koi pond at a public garden.

He’d never lamented his lack of self-control before.  But now, as he walked next to Taki, away from the swim club and toward downtown Iwatobi, he honestly wished he had some.  At least then he’d be on his way home and not crowded off to the edge of the sidewalk as Taki gesticulated wildly, recounting the day’s lessons to his dad, who listened intently with a grin plastered on his face.

He could be eating mackerel fillets in the comfort of his own home right about now.  But no.

Swallowing the sigh on his tongue, he spared a glance down at Taki, who seemed to notice and grinned up at him.  “Right, Haru?” he asked.

“Right,” he responded, though he had only an inkling of what he just agreed to.

Rin looked over at him, smile still wide on his lips, a little laugh bubbling past them as if they were sharing a secret.  A secret Haru wasn’t privy to.

“So, how’d the visiting coach go, dad?” Taki asked, finally settling down enough to slip his hands into the pocket of his jacket.

“Oh, you know,” Rin supplied.  “It was Kurosawa.  You remember him right?”  Apparently Taki did, judging by the way his grin widened.  “He’s still a hardass.  Which, of course, meant he wanted to keep me after hours since I won’t be seeing him for a while.”

“Of course,” Taki said with a sage nod.

“He worked me like a dog, as always.”

“Then why swim with him?”  Taki and Rin’s heads snapped up to look at Haru, both sets of eyes widened in surprise.  Haru frowned and looked forward again, pressing his lips together until they formed a thin line.

“He’s a great coach,” Rin said after a while, his expression softening, though Haru didn’t miss the strange, unreadable look passing through his eyes.

Whatever, Haru wanted to say, but he kept his lips closed as he trudged on.

It wasn’t long until the three of them reached the restaurant, Rin holding the door open until they were all inside.  He asked the waitress for a table for three and she seated them in the corner near the sushi bar, so Taki could watch the chefs cut up the last of the fish.  Apparently it was his favourite part.

“Do you like fish?” Haru asked.

“I love fish!” Taki said happily.  “Especially sushi.”  He grabbed the menu from the center of the table and spread it open, hardly mindful of the water glasses the waitress had provided them.  His finger traced the laminated surface as he contemplated his options.

“What’s your favourite?” Rin prompted, glancing up at Haru as he asked.  Their eyes locked for a brief moment before Haru looked away and then down at the menu, ignoring the heat creeping up his neck.

“Salmon and tuna are the best and sweet shrimp is so good,” Taki continued, pointing to each one on the menu as if Haru needed some kind of visual.  Looking up, he flashed a toothy grin.  “But my favourite sushi of all time is fatty tuna.”

“Of course it is,” Rin sighed, nudging Taki with his arm, ripping his attention away from Haru and onto him instead.

“Can I get a few, dad?  Please please please?” he asked, putting his hands together as the look in his eyes became pleading.

Rin raised an eyebrow, leaning one of his elbows on the table so he could prop his head up in it.  “I dunno, kid.  That’s for pretty special occasions.  And judging by your latest test scores…”

“You did leave him at the swim club for almost two and a half hours,” Haru pointed out, finally opening his own menu so he could hide his face behind it.  Peeking over the top, he noticed Rin looking over at him with both of his eyebrows raised.  Haru’s eyes flicked back down to the list of drinks.

“Yeah, dad,” Taki said and Haru heard Rin let out a long, drawn-out sigh.

“Fine, but only two max.  You’re gonna break the bank,” he said and Taki let out a quiet cheer.  Glancing over from the menu again, Haru’s eyes locked with Taki’s and he couldn’t help the subtle, straight-faced look he gave him, breaking it only with a twitch of his eyebrows.  Taki’s eyes widened before a grin bloomed across his face.

Rin sighed again as he ran his hand through his hair.  “I saw that!  My own kid and his coach conspiring against me?  I can’t believe this.”  But Taki was too busy laughing to take his father seriously, and Haru might’ve had to cough to hide the small smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

 

 

Their walk home from the restaurant was filled with silence, Taki too wiped out from the excitable and fast-paced dinner conversation between himself and his father.  Haru couldn’t blame him, however, considering he was fighting to keep his own eyes open after what was probably the longest day of his entire month.  As the three of them walked down the street, their path lit only by the dim street lamps, they let the blissful silence envelope them.

Taki was beginning to stumble, his feet dragging from exhaustion.  Next to Taki was Rin, who was holding his hand tightly, gentle tugs and nudges his only guide every time he came close to passing out.  As Haru relished in the silence, he continued to look for opportunities to finally take his leave back to the safety of his own home, but every turn down each street only brought him closer to his usual path.  It wasn’t until they turned down his street that he gave up searching for a moment to say good-bye; it seemed he was trapped, at least until they got to the staircase leading up to his house.

When they did, Haru stopped, unsure of what to say as Rin and Taki stopped with him.  Taki looked at him with sleepy eyes and an even sleepier smile while Rin regarded him with a look he couldn’t quite place nor understand.

“This is my stop,” Haru said and Rin nodded.  There was a moment of silence between them and unlike the comfortable air they were basking in earlier, this one seemed to draw on forever.  There was only so much of Rin’s staring he could take before he had to speak up.  “Good night.”

Turning on his heel, he started his ascent up the stairs, but was stopped by a voice behind him.  “Wait.”

Haru put his hand on the railing and turned around to look down at Rin, who was one step closer to the stairs than earlier.

“Nanase, uh—”  He looked off to the side, took a deep breath, and then looked at Haru again.  It was annoyance that tempted Haru up the stairs, but it was curiosity that kept him rooted to the spot.  “So, I’m having a dinner.  On Saturday.”  The look he was giving Haru was completely unreadable and Haru was tempted to respond with something like “That’s great” but he only tilted his head in curiosity.  

It took Rin another deep breath before he could apparently get the last part of his declaration out.  “You should come.”

Haru almost didn’t believe what he was hearing, but he supposed that, despite being tired enough for hallucinations, he was still mostly in charge of his faculties.  (He’d only had water at dinner.)  But it took him a second to full register Rin’s request.  And what could he say to that?  No?  As standoffish as he could be, he wasn’t rude, but he’d also never been invited over to dinner, even by his students’ parents as thanks - which is what he assumed this was.

So, what else could he say but “Sure.”

Rin’s eyes widened before a smile blossomed on his lips.  “Great!” he said, suddenly full of energy he was lacking only moments before.  “I’ll send this guy here with the address on Friday.”  He tugged gently on Taki’s hand, held within his own.

Haru nodded, his own exhaustion setting in even further.  “Okay,” was all he could supply.

“See you on Friday then,” Rin said, still blooming with renewed energy.  “Good night, Nanase.”  He paused.  “And thanks again for today.  Really.  It was, uh—  Thanks.”  Turning on his heel, he nudged Taki with him and Haru couldn’t help but watch them go.

“Good night,” he finally whispered to the empty street long after Taki and Rin had left.  Taking a deep, quiet breath, he finally turned toward the stairs again so he could head into his home and get the bath he knew he deserved.

Chapter Text

Haru hummed under his breath as he set the dinner dishes on the low table in his sitting room.  It was a simple spread, one he’d seen thousands of times before in his life but could never tire of: grilled mackerel, rice, and miso soup.  This was the same meal he ate every day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner - barring those evenings when he was dragged out with friends or had someone else prepare the meal for him.  But, regardless of that, Haru was a creature of habit and tried to eat as much mackerel as he could as often as he could.

He didn’t miss the twitch to Makoto’s smile as he sat down across from him at the table, his hands folding together on the lacquered wooden surface as he examined the spread.  They’d been trading Friday night dinners since they started working together at the swim club, and while Makoto’s meals tended to have a little bit more of a balance to them, Haru appreciated the lack of grief over his choice of meal — as it never changed.  And it never would.

“Thank you for the meal,” Makoto said as he took his chopsticks and stirred his miso soup.  Haru followed suit, mumbling his own thanks underneath his breath before heading straight for the mackerel - he was never a firm believer in saving the best for last, after all.  (No, he was far too impatient for that.)

For a moment, the sitting room was filled with little more than the sound of chopsticks against plates; of quiet slurping and the sounds that accompanied the enjoyment of a meal.  But, of course, Makoto broke it only moments later as he set his bowl down gently.

“So, this Saturday, I promised to take the twins to the city to go to this new water park.  You should come,” he said, turning his gentle smile on Haru.

As much as Haru couldn’t say no to the prospect of visiting the water park — especially when it was new — for the first time in his life, he had other plans.  “I’m doing something on Saturday,” he said, passing it off as nonchalantly as possible as he reached for his tea.

Makoto, however, didn’t seem as blasé about this information as Haru did.  “You have plans?” he asked, smiling in that way that said he knew more than he was letting on.

“Yeah,” was Haru’s curt response before he sipped at his tea.  “Dinner plans.”

He knew it’d be too much to ask for Makoto to drop the topic, so he shouldn’t have been surprised when Makoto set his chopsticks down and leaned into the table, his smile widening.  “Really?  With who?”

Haru was reluctant to fork over the information, but he knew that Makoto would get it sooner or later, so there was really no sense in beating around the bush.  As much as he wanted to.

So it was around the lip of his mug that he mumbled, “Matsuoka.”

“Matsuoka?!”  It seemed like Haru was going to get a bothersome response regardless as Makoto sat up in his seat, now leaning over the table.  “You have a date with Matsuoka Rin?

“It’s not a date,” Haru pointed out, setting his mug down.  “It’s just dinner.”

Makoto gave Haru a long, searching look before he asked, “Where’s he taking you?” as if he knew something that Haru didn’t.

Haru frowned.  He didn’t like that look at all, and he knew Makoto well enough to know that he shouldn’t.  “His apartment.”  When Makoto’s eyes lit up like fireworks, Haru cut in before he could say anything else.  “It’s a family dinner.  Taki will be there, and so will his sister and her boyfriend.”  Or so Rin told him earlier that evening when he came to pick up Taki, providing that information along with his address.

“Haru,” Makoto said gently.  “That sounds like a date.”

A huff left Haru’s lips as he picked at the bowl of rice.  He wasn’t sure why Makoto was pushing this as hard as he was.  Normally, any kind of personal news (not that there was much) earned him a sunny smile and a comment like “That’s great, Haru-chan” or “That should be fun.”  But now, when those were the responses Haru wanted, Makoto was insisting that Matusoka Rin had asked him out on a date.

Hardly.

“It’s not.  He’s just trying to make up for Wednesday,” Haru pointed out, and he couldn’t believe that he was actually defending himself against Makoto, his best friend, who’s known him long enough to be able to read him like an open book.  He shouldn’t have to say anything, Makoto should just know.

Maybe Makoto sensed his growing anxiety and irritation, because his smile seemed to soften as he picked up his chopsticks again.  “That’s kind of him,” he said, and though Haru was glad that Makoto had dropped the subject, he was still unconvinced that his mind had been changed.  He knew that look well.

There was nothing date-like about attending a family dinner, especially when Haru hardly knew Rin’s family.  He knew Taki, of course, and knew Matsuoka enough from their stilted interactions and one singular dinner together.  He also knew the younger Matsuoka Kou, who’d been the one to pick up Taki those first few weeks back when he was in beginner lessons.  He’d also heard of her through Makoto, as they both worked at the elementary school together.  It made no difference to him that her boyfriend would be there, especially considering he had no idea who he was.

But apparently Makoto wasn’t beyond one final, “playful” jab at him.  “Well, if you get nervous, I can always come with you,” he said as he set his now-empty rice bowl down.

“I can’t,” were the first words out of Haru’s lips before he could even begin to think.  “He told me not to bring anyone.”

As Makoto’s lips wrapped around a piece of mackerel he had finally risen to them, he began to choke - once, twice - before pounding his chest and swallowing the lump stuck in there.  “Definitely a date,” he mumbled around small coughs and gags.

“What was that?” Haru asked, lips pulled down in a frown.

“Ah, nothing!”

As Haru grabbed his rice bowl again, he frowned around his chopsticks, completely unconvinced.

 

It was Saturday morning when Rin decided to break the news to Gou.  They were seated outside a small cafe, Rin in his running shorts and black zip-up and Gou in a sundress and a wide-brimmed hat.  As she poked at her croissant and sipped at her tea, Rin fidgeted with his paper napkin over the table, twisting it in his hands and picking little bits off every so often.

“I invited someone over for dinner tonight,” he said just as Gou was reaching over the table, probably to brush the napkin bits off onto the pavement underneath them.

“Really?” she asked, hand hesitating before coming to rest on the table.  The wide-eyed look she gave him should’ve irritated him - he had friends - but in the years since high school, especially after Taki came into his life, he’d never had anyone over, friend or otherwise.  Even back when they lived in Kyoto, when he and Gou shared a place, he never brought anyone over.  Not even his teammates.  His home’d always been a sanctuary to him — a place for his family, a place to retreat — and while he’d never been opposed to spending time with his team, it’d never been at his place.

There was a time when bringing someone back to his place had been a possibility, but that time had long since passed.

So, maybe his sister’s shock wasn’t completely unfounded.  (And maybe his list of friends could use a little bit of work.)

“Yeah, is that cool?” he asked, feigning nonchalance with a shrug as he leaned back into his chair and crossed his legs.  His hands continued to twist the napkin, though its state was currently bordering on tattered.

Gou finally swept the tiny, torn remains of the napkin off of the table before leaning back.  As she tapped her chin thoughtfully, her lips twisted up in a smile that Rin could only describe as “devious.”  “Who is it?” she asked, and for once, Rin wished she would just go with the flow instead of poking her nose into every little thing.

But, then again, he would’ve just texted her about this if all he wanted was her blessing.

The long, drawn out sigh that passed his lips was exceedingly overdramatic, but he didn’t seem to care.  Looking around, he locked eyes with everything in the immediate vicinity that wasn’t Gou: a young woman walking six dogs, a passing motorcyclist with a guy wrapped around his back, a pair of joggers, and a old couple walking side-by-side, carrying their groceries under their arms.  Finally, as he looked back over at Gou, he twisted the napkin in his hands, hard enough to tear it in two.

“Nanase.”

“Nanase?”  It took her a few seconds before her eyes lit up.  “Taki’s swim coach?”

“Yeah,” Rin said as he dumped the remains of his napkin into the empty water cup he’d once been drinking from.

Again, Gou’s eyes were wide with excitement and confusion.  “Why’d you invite Taki’s swim coach to—“  She hesitated mid-sentence before her smile curled up around the corners and her eyebrows rose.  “Oh.”

Rin sat up a little straighter.  “No, no, it’s not like that—“

“He is pretty cute,” Gou offered, finally lifting her croissant so she could take a bite out of it.  “And really toned.  I’d rank him a seven or an eight.  Could always use more definition.  But he has a really nice bu—”

Rin groaned, just barely resisting the urge to run his hands down his face.  “Oh my god, Gou.  It’s not like that.”  Though he would be the first to admit that Nanase was gorgeous, with his soft-looking hair and his incredible blue eyes and that toned form that only came from years of swimming.  (He could use more muscle though, it was obvious he didn’t do any sort of land training.  What a waste of potential.)  “I just owe him.  That’s all.”

“Owe him?” Gou asked around another mouthful of food.

“He watched Taki for me on Wednesday.  When I was late.”

“Oh yeah, Taki mentioned that,” Gou said, coy smile returning.  “He said the three of you went out to dinner.  I’m pretty sure your debt’s repaid.”

Rin huffed.  “I was two and a half hours late to pick him up and I didn’t pay him for it.  I’m pretty sure I still owe him.”  He drummed his fingers on the empty water glass, the last of the condensation still dripping down the surface.  “So, I invited him to dinner.”

“Honestly, Rin, do you really need a flimsy excuse like that to invite your son’s hot swim coach out?” Gou asked, and in that moment, Rin hated how well she knew him.

Rin wanted to pull his hair out over how fucking beautiful Nanase was.  From those stupidly gorgeous (and expressionless) eyes to the way he slipped through the water as if he belonged there.  The second he saw him dive into that pool, Nanase had stolen his heart away, along with his breath and any other coherent thoughts regarding making an attempt at being a semi-intelligent human being.  He could count the number of times he’d attempted to make conversation and failed miserably on two hands and at least one foot.

But that was it.  It was just a crush, brought about by Nanase’s incredible swimming technique, and it would never go beyond anything but that.  Besides, Rin couldn’t even hazard a guess as to what his sexuality was (but the way he looked at the pool gave him some indication).

“To answer your question though, I don’t mind him being there.  I’m sure Sei and Taki won’t either.”

Rin sighed and nodded.  “It’s weird, isn’t it?  Inviting him over.”

“A little,” Gou said, pinching her fingers around the last bit of croissant so she could pop it into her mouth.  Rin felt his shoulders begin to slump.  “But I’m sure it’ll be fine!  I mean, he agreed to come, right?”

“Right.”

Glancing around, Rin made a point of avoiding eye contact with Gou for a few minutes as he watched the world carry on around them.  When he turned back to her, his lips were pulled up in a grin that made him seem much more confident than he felt on the inside.  

“I’d probably rank him a nine and a half though,” he said.

It was with a giggle that Gou returned the smile and Rin thought that everything might be okay, in some weird way.

Chapter Text

If Haru had a watch, he’d probably be checking it as he stood at the door to Matsuoka’s apartment, hand poised above the door as if to knock.  He was late, though punctuality had never been a strong point of his, but he wasn’t sure if Matsuoka was going to mind or not.  It was just dinner, after all, despite Makoto’s “subtle” attempts to convince him otherwise.  Lowering his hand with a sigh, Haru looked out across the apartment complex, glancing at each of the doors as if that would give him some insight as to why he was here.

For an olympic swimmer, the apartment building seemed more modest than he would’ve expected.  Matsuoka’s boisterous and showy personality clashed with the simplicity of the building, though Iwatobi, being as small as it was, didn’t have the kind of expensive lodgings that a city might have.  He was almost surprised Rin didn’t own a house.  But the location was close enough to the train station and the elementary school, only a short walk back from the swim club; maybe those details were more important than something rich and grandiose.

Haru couldn’t even presume to know, nor was he sure why he even cared.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, he sighed and knocked on the door, shifting from foot to foot as he waited for an answer.  He heard muffled laughter inside, becoming louder as the door finally opened, light shining onto the balcony.  Matsuoka was standing in the doorway, dressed in a white collared shirt, slightly mussed with the sleeves rolled up, smiling with lips parted as he leaned against the door.

“Nanase,” he said breathlessly.  “Hey.”

“Hey.”

The silence stretched on between them for longer than it should have, Matsuoka staring at Haru and Haru staring back.  Behind Matsuoka, Haru could hear a conversation going on between two people, occasionally interrupted by a cheerful voice he recognized as Taki’s.

“Here,” he said, holding up the bottle of sake he’d been holding.  Matsuoka raised an eyebrow before his eyes widened with his grin.

“Thanks,” he said, taking it in his hands before stepping to the side, door opening wider.  “Come in.”

Haru nodded and stepped inside the apartment, immediately toeing his shoes off and leaving them neatly by the door.  As Rin stepped further into the apartment, Haru noticed the pair of house slippers already set out, facing into the hallway as if they were waiting for him.  He wasted no time in stepping into them before he followed Rin inside.

He couldn’t help but look around, curiosity getting the better of him.  He could count the number of homes he’d been in the last few years on one hand alone: Makoto’s apartment, the Tachibana’s house, still down the steps from his own, and Rei and Nagisa’s apartment, which he had visited only a small handful of times since they moved to Kyoto together years ago.  He didn’t get out enough, apparently.

Unlike the understated appearance of the building, the inside was rather nicely done, the lighting warm and the light wooden floors new and polished, slippery even underneath the rubber soles of his slippers.  The hallway turned in from the entrance, doors to either side that he assumed were bedrooms and bathrooms.  Just past them, he could see the even warmer lighting of a living room and a large window belonging only to a balcony overlooking the ocean.

When the two of them entered the living room, its occupants turned to look at them.  He recognized Rin’s sister, Kou, but the man seated next to her on the couch he didn’t - not immediately, anyway.  Taki was flopped, stomach-first, on the opposite couch, handheld gaming device in his hands as he tapped away at the buttons rather aggressively.  His head shot up as soon as Haru stopped just shy of the living room entrance, his mouth widening into a characteristically large grin.

“Haru!” he said happily.

Rin shifted on his feet.  “Guys, this is Nanase Haruka, he’s Taki’s swim coach,” he said.  “Nanase, this is my sister Gou, she teaches at Iwatobi elementary—“ 

Kou waved, smiling cheerfully, “Nice to see you again, Nanase-kun!”

“—and this is Mikoshiba Seijuurou.  He’s a member of my team and an Olympic swimmer.”

“Yo,” Mikoshiba greeted, his grin equally as cheerful as Kou’s next to him.  It was then that Haru’s eyebrows rose in the slightest as he remembered where he recognized him from - the Olympics.  Though he spent more time staring at the pool than the actual swimmers, it was almost hard to miss that fiery orange hair, especially when he’d won quite a few medals for Japan.  He was probably Kou’s supposed boyfriend too, considering how close he sat to her, his arm thrown over the back of the couch, fingers grazing her shoulder.

Haru inclined his head in a small bow before he glanced over at Rin, his look almost helpless as he wasn’t sure what to do next.  He didn’t do social gatherings — even small, intimate ones like this — especially when he didn’t know anyone there.  But he felt like he knew the Matsuokas enough to know that they wouldn’t let him sit in the corner quietly.

His question was half-answered when Taki shot up from the couch, leaving his game behind as he grabbed onto Haru’s hands.  “I’ll give you the tour!” he said and then promptly dragged him down the hallway again.

As he passed Rin, he glanced over at him and their eyes connected.  “I’ll be in the kitchen,” Rin said with an unhelpful smile.

Haru repressed a sigh, letting himself get dragged off to see the apartment in full.  Just as Taki tugged him around the corner, he caught sight of a large glass case in the corner of the living room, near the balcony and his breath caught in his throat.

 

 

It took Haru a large amount of patience and a lot of pacifying to satisfy Taki’s overwhelming desire to show him around.  After getting the full tour of the apartment - down to a very detailed guide to the ofuro and bathroom - Taki had finally dragged Haru off to his bedroom so he could show it to him.  While Haru liked his room — the walls were painted a light blue, aquatic themed posters and toys scattered around (“from all the different aquariums my dad’s taken me to!”) — the last thing Haru wanted to do was sit on the foot of Taki’s bed and watch him show off each and every one of his possessions.

But Taki wouldn’t take no for an answer, not that Haru found it easy to deny him.

After prying himself away with an excuse to visit the bathroom, Haru finally slipped through the hallway and into the kitchen, sighing once he cleared the entranceway.  From there, he could hear light conversation going on in the living room, Kou and Mikoshiba discussing training menus from their shared position on the couch.  It wasn’t interesting enough to draw him in, so he looked around the kitchen, nicely decorated and well-kept, until his eyes fell on Matsuoka, standing at the counter dicing tofu over a cutting board, red apron fastened around his neck and waist.

“Nanase, hey,” he said, sparing him a glance.  “Where’ve you been?” 

Haru was barely able to contain the sigh that threatened to escape his lips, but he couldn’t stop the flat look that crossed his face.  “Getting the full tour.”

Rin paused for a second before he laughed, his knife slicing through the blocks of tofu until they were nothing but small cubes.  “Oh?  Did Taki show you his sand dollar collection yet?”

“…No.” 

“Don’t worry, it’s coming.”  He laughed to himself again, scraping the tofu into a small bowl before turning to a pot boiling over the stove.

Great.  Haru was quiet as he watched, feet rooted to the ground instead of carrying him further into the kitchen.  His arms moved to cross over his chest before they slid into his pockets instead, feet shifting in what could only be described as a nervous gesture.  He was wildly out of his element here.  

“Haruka,” he finally said, and the single word in the silence of the kitchen was enough to command Rin’s attention, his head snapping in Haru’s direction as he raised an eyebrow.

“What?”

“Haruka,” he repeated.  “You can call me Haruka.”

It took a few seconds for the words to sink in, but when they did, Rin’s eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up.  There was a second in which he fumbled with a wooden spoon, almost dropping it on the kitchen floor but grabbed it at the last second.  Straightening up, he set it off to the side and leaned into the kitchen counter like the whole thing never happened.

“How about Haru?” he asked with a teasing grin.  “You can call me Rin, if you want.”

Haru sighed, looking off to the side.  “Whatever,” he mumbled.  When he glanced back over at Matsuoka— no, Rin out of the corner of his eye, he noticed his smile had widened, stretching as if to reach his eyes.  The look he’s giving Haru was confusing and made his stomach twist all the same.  As he turned toward Rin again, he tilted his head and stepped a little bit further into the kitchen.

“Can I help?”

“—What?”  The smile faltered from Rin’s face and he sat up a little straighter.

“With dinner,” Haru supplied and Rin relaxed.

“Yeah, sure.  Could you cut these up for me?”

Rin handed Haru a knife and the cutting board before sending a whole slew of vegetables his way.  Rolling up the sleeves of his cardigan even further, Haru made quick work of dicing them up, handling the knife with the expert care of someone who’d spent most of his life cooking for himself.  He enjoyed cooking, found it to be relaxing and somewhat liberating.  He shined in home economics in school because of it, and even now, even if he’s helping prepare a dish he’s never made before, he never had problems prepping the food.

Rin seemed to take notice, letting out a low whistle as he looked over as Haru brushed each vegetable into a different bowl on the counter when hew as done.  “You’re good.”

“It’s fine,” Haru mumbled, and not out of false modesty.  He may have been complimented for most of his entire life (“Haru-chan, you’re such an amazing artist.” “Haruka-kun, you’re so independent.  Did you do your laundry all by yourself?” “Nanase, your form is beautiful.  Have you thought about swimming professionally?”), but he still didn’t do well with them, happier to brush them off than to attempt to accept them.

Next to him, Rin cleared his throat as he opened his fridge and pulled out a plate.  “You also look…good tonight…” he said, words coming out of his mouth as if they were forced.

Haru glanced over at him, his expression impassive before he looked down at his outfit.  It was nothing special: light green pants, a thin black v-neck, and his tan cable knit cardigan thrown on top.  He wasn’t the most fashion-forward person, really, just buying whatever was comfortable or looked semi-decent on him.  He spent too much time in his jammers or wearing his swim club uniform to bother with planning other outfits anyway.

“Oh,” was all he could really say in response.  “I just threw this on.”

“Ah,” Rin mumbled, busying himself with grabbing the skillet from underneath the stove.  “Well, it’s working…  For you, I mean.”  He laughed, nervously.  “I don’t think I’ve seen you out of your swim club uniform.”  Setting the skillet on the stove with more force than necessary, Rin turned the flame on high and added a pat of butter to the surface before busying himself with the meal of the night: hamburger steaks.

Was Haru supposed to return the compliment?  Very few people had commented on his appearance before, especially to his face.  Giving Rin a once over, he supposed he looked good too, his shirt artfully rumpled, his pants nice but not too formal.  His hair was even tied up into a little ponytail in the back, bangs swept away from his face and tucked behind his ears.

Rin glanced over at him in the middle of his contemplation, his face flaring up as he went rigid.  “What?” he asked, eyes impossibly wide as his hand gripped the handle of the skillet.

“Your apartment.  It’s nice,” Haru said after another moment of contemplation.  It might not have been a nod toward Rin’s appearance, but at least it was returning the sentiment.  Right?

If Rin’s eyes could widen any more, they would’ve.  Instead, his features softened and he raised a confused eyebrow.  “My apartment?”

“Yeah.”  Haru scraped another pile of diced carrots into the bowl, watching Rin out of the corner of his eye.

Rin was silent for a moment as he glanced down at the skillet, the butter burning on the surface with quiet pops and hisses.  “Thanks, I guess,” he said, sparing Haru another glance before looking over at the plate of hamburger steaks next to them.  Picking them up, he placed them one by one on the skillet until they were all burning beautifully on the surface.  Underneath them, the flames licked the bottom of the pan as they ran on high, dying down once Rin turned the knob.

Haru turned back to his vegetables with a quiet sigh, dicing them up with practiced ease.  When he was done, he turned to Rin, watching him for a moment as he flipped the steaks with a spatula.  “I’m done.”

Rin jumped a little bit before looking over at him.  “Oh,” he said, eying the diced vegetable bowls.  “Great, thanks.”

“Is there anything else I can do?” Haru asked, moving the cutting board and knife into the sink so he could wash them.

“No, it’s fine,” Rin said, pressing the spatula onto one of the steaks.  “Thanks.”

Haru nodded, putting the knife and the cutting board onto the drying rack when he was done.  Sparing Rin another glance as he reached the entrance of the kitchen, he opened his mouth to say something before deciding against it.

Was it something he said?

Shrugging it off, he slid his hands into his pockets as he returned to the living room, a coiling feeling in his gut letting him know just how much he dreaded social interaction.  Which was why it was with a deep breath that he re-entered the living room.

As expected, Kou and Mikoshiba hadn’t moved from their positions on the couch, though they seemed to be sitting closer than they were last time, Kou leaning up against Mikoshiba’s side as they talked, occasionally calling out comments to Rin, none of which he replied to.  Taki had returned to his position on the couch, this time resting against the arm, his legs drawn up to his chest as he stared at the screen of his handheld.

Between his two options - a mature adult couple or a child - it was obvious which one he was going to choose.

Taking a seat on the couch next to Taki, he relaxed next to him as he looked over at his screen.  “What’re you playing?” he asked, though, truthfully, he wasn’t all that interested.

Taki looked up at him and beamed before flashing the screen in Haru’s direction so he could see it better.  Deep Sea Crossing: New Reef.  It’s this super cool game where you get to make a character and you get to live in this undersea town full of aquatic creatures!  And you get to be the mayor too and plant kelp and coral everywhere—“

“I used to play that game when I was younger,” Haru said, interrupting him before he could ramble anymore.

Taki’s eyes widened at that.  “Really?” he asked.  “Which one did you play?”

“The first one.”  He hummed thoughtfully.  “My town was Saba City.”

Laughter bubbled up from Taki’s lips as he scooted over to Haru.  “My town’s called Pool Town.”  Which, of course, didn’t fail to make Haru significantly more interested in seeing it, especially when Taki held his handheld up a little higher so he could watch him run around, planting bits of coral and occasionally talking to one of his aquatic villagers.

“You have a nice town,” he said finally, his eyes shimmering with interest as he watched.  This game brought back memories of playing all night with Ren and Ran in Makoto’s bedroom, stopping only because they were too tired to stay up any longer.  They used to be so young, back when he and Makoto were in high school.

“Do you wanna join my town?” Taki asked, handing over the handheld once he’d saved.

Haru took it from him hesitantly before looking down at the start screen.  >Continue >New Game >Settings loomed before him and it was with some hesitation that he started a new game.

Taki watched over his shoulder, leaning into him as he went through the tutorial, the adorable seagull from the first game returning to ask him questions about his new move to “Pool Town.”

Just as he started entering his character’s name, Taki cut in, “You can’t name your character Mackerel.”

“Why not?”

“There’s already a Mackerel in my town.  What if she never moves out!!”

Haru sighed, looking down at the screen.  “Alright, how about Mackerel2.”

The sigh that left Taki’s lips was as long-suffering as he could muster.  “Why not Haru?

“Sanba.  Saba Samba.  Smackerel,” Haru tried, punching different names into the game, a small smile tugging at his lips with each of Taki’s cries.  It didn’t take much convincing, however, before he finally settled with Haru, and it wasn’t long before he was being welcomed to Pool Town by Mayor Taki’s personal assistant, an adorable and scatterbrained jellyfish named Clara.

He went through the motions of playing with ease, selecting the plot for his first house (with the help of Taki, who was worried about the placement of his coral reef), becoming an official resident through the Mayor’s office, and then earning the 10,000 Shells to turn his undersea seaweed bed into a real home.

As he was wandering around the town, Taki leaning up against him and watching over his shoulder, he talked to the different villagers who were out and about, floating through the town and commenting on Haru’s new move.  He spent the most time making conversation with Mackerel, whose peppy chatter was nothing, if not, adorable.  (Haru remembered her from Ran’s town.  He’d been the most excited when she moved in and Ran tried her best to keep her around for as long as she could.)

“Whose house is this?” Haru asked, maneuvering his villager to one of the deep sea houses.  Taki had given him the complete tour of his own home (halfway to fully upgraded), but there was a tiny house near the kelp forest that Haru recognized as belonging to another villager.

“Oh, that’s my dad’s,” Taki explained as Haru entered.  It was the first upgrade after the kelp bed, empty except for a bed and a lamp.

“That’s so…him.”

Taki shifted next to him.  “He doesn’t have as much time to play as I do, so his house is still empty.”

Haru hummed, running in circles around the tiny, empty home.  “I’ll have to build a better house than him then,” he said, and when he looked over at Taki, he noticed his grin was so wide it looked like it was going to split his face in half.

“Dinner’s ready,” Haru heard Rin say from the entrance to the living room, and his head shot up to look at him.  Their eyes connected and he opened his mouth to speak - to offer to help bring the food in - before Rin continued.  “Gou, could you set the table for me?”

The two of them shared a long look, some kind of unspoken conversation happening between them, before Kou got up from her spot next to Mikoshiba and sauntered into the kitchen.  Haru passed the handheld back to Taki so he could save his game, getting up to wash his hands before they ate.

It wasn’t long before the table was set and Rin was laying out the dishes on the glass table nestled behind the couches in the living room.  Haru took his seat next to Taki, sitting across from Kou near the head of the table.  Rin brought out the bowls and plates one at a time, placing miso soup, rice, hamburger steaks, and salads in front of everyone at the table.  Haru was the last to receive his, his spot at the table empty save for the bowls of soup and rice placed off to the side.  As Rin left the kitchen with the last of the plates balanced on his arms, he placed Haru’s in front of him and another one at the seat next to him - at the head of the table.

Haru glanced down and his eyes widened when he saw pan-seared salmon in front of him.  He’d be lying if he said he was dreading having to pick through a steak for dinner.  After all, when the only thing he tended to eat was mackerel - or another type of seafood if he was being forced out - then steak was last on his list of favourite foods.

“You like fish, right?” Rin asked, picking up chopsticks and looking down at his meal.

Haru remained silent for a moment before he picked up his own.  “Yeah.”

After the five of them had said their thanks for the meal, they dug in, most beginning with their soup while Haru dig into his salmon.  As his lips wrapped around the chopsticks and he took his first bite, a small sigh escaped his nose and he hummed quietly as he swallowed.  It wasn’t mackerel, but the glaze brought out the flavor of the salmon beautifully, a small hint of seasoning on the skin making his tastebuds dance.  As he reached for a second bite, he noticed Rin looking at him expectantly, his soup bowl cradled in his hands.

“It’s good,” Haru said slowly before taking his second bite.  Rin smiled.

“So, Nanase-kun,” Mikoshiba said from the other end of the table.  “You teach at the Iwatobi Swim Club, right?  You’ve been in Iwatobi for a while?”

Haru nodded, taking a bite of salad in between enjoying his salmon.

“I knew I recognized you from somewhere!” he said, swallowing his own mouthful of salad.  “You won a bunch of tournaments in grade and middle school.  I still remember racing against you at the Iwatobi Regional.”  His grin widened and his laugh was nothing if not loud.  “You kicked my ass in the 100m free and took first.”

“That was a long time ago,” Haru pointed out, reaching for another bite of salmon.

“You two competed?” Rin asked, looking up at him again.

Mikoashiba cut in before Haru could even think about answering.  “You don’t remember?  Iwatobi High School competed in the same tournaments as us,” he said, waving his chopsticks around.  A quick gesture from Kou got him to at least set those down before he continued gesticulating.  “Nanase took first in the 100m and 500m free in my last year.  He kicked my ass at prefecturals, but I made it through on the 200m.  He's pretty fast, you know.”  He grinned.

Rin’s eyes widened as his head snapped over to Haru, who continued eating his salmon.  The two of them locked eyes and Rin continued to stare until he sat up a little straighter.  “Holy shit, that was you?

Mikoshiba laughed.  “Remember now?”  He grinned.  “You really were something, Nanase-kun.”

It took all of Haru’s willpower not to frown.  If he weren’t at a dinner party, he probably would’ve excused himself from the table and left.  All eyes on him, the spotlight shining down on him - he felt his stomach twist and his hands tighten around his chopsticks.  That was a long time ago.

“I’m surprised you didn’t—“ Mikoshiba began.

“—So you teach swimming at the Iwatobi Swim Club now?” Kou cut in, placing a hand on Mikoshiba’s forearm.  “That’s great!  Taki talks so much about you.”  The smile she gave him was knowing and judging by the trajectory of the conversation, Haru knew where it as headed before she jumped in.  He hoped the look he gave her was less annoyed and more grateful.

“Haru’s the best!  We swim together all the time and he’s so fast and he swims like a mermaid,” Taki said and the entire table (save him and Haru) burst into laughter.

“How are swimming lessons going, Taki-kun?” Kou asked, deflecting the attention onto him.  As Taki raved on about his improvements in freestyle, Haru released a quiet sigh he hadn’t known he’d be holding and finished off his salmon.  

As he reached for his glass of water, his eyes locked with Rin’s, who was staring directly at him, his chopsticks poised over his plate.  Haru stared back for as long as he could before Rin turned away, looking back over at his son.

 

 

After dinner, Mikoshiba helped Rin clean the plates off of the table while Taki recounted a particularly embarrassing moment in his first grade class to Kou.  Haru had made an attempt to get up and help with clearing the table, but Taki somehow managed to drag him into the conversation.

As soon as they were done, Mikoshiba and Rin brought out the plates for dessert: slices of strawberry shortcake that Kou had prepared.  As Haru poked at it idly, Rin took his seat at the head of the table again, with a small bowl of coffee jelly instead.  

He seemed to notice Haru's curious stare and met it with a smile.  “I don’t like sweets,” he said before wrapping his lips around his spoon.  Haru looked away and took a bite of his cake.

As the evening began to wind down, so did the conversation.  While the talk over dinner had been boisterous and lively, dessert was minimal: Kou discussing her students while Mikoshiba and Rin talked about practice and their swim team.  Haru’s contribution was close to none, only speaking up when the rest of the table stared at him expectantly.

By the time his shortcake was gone and he had finished the decaffeinated coffee, Haru was exhausted.  He didn’t go out often and when he did, it was never for this long.  He’d spent long days with Nagisa, Rei, and Makoto, but he knew them and they knew him; they knew that his silence wasn’t always a bad thing, that he preferred the quiet from time to time, and that being around people for too long was sometimes just too much.  Which was why he pushed his plate away from him and covered a yawn, keeping the gesture understated, not wanting to draw attention toward himself.

“Tired?” Rin asked over his own cup of coffee as Taki and Kou listened to Mikoshiba recount some story about Rin.

Haru nodded.  “I should probably head home,” he said, though he ad no excuse to offer regarding why.  Rin didn’t seem to question it, only nodding his head and gathering their plates.

“I’ll walk you back.”

Haru’s eyebrows knitted together as Rin stood up, making for the kitchen.  “It’s fine, I can walk on my own,” he said, inwardly cursing when he realized the two of them had an audience.

“I insist,” Rin called.

Haru barely repressed a sigh and the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose.  Instead, he stood up and said his good-byes, thanking Kou and Mikoshiba for their company and giving Taki a nod.  He let Taki follow him to the front door, chatting his ear off about their upcoming lesson on Monday and how he’d have to come back to play more Deep Sea Crossing.

As soon as he finished tying his shoes, Rin appeared, wearing a light sweater and a stilted smile.  Sliding into a pair of slip on shoes, he hit the toes against the floor to adjust them as he called out into the apartment, “I’ll be back in a bit.”

He ruffled Taki’s hair and opened the front door as Haru looked down at him and nodded.  “See you on Monday,” he said, a smile pulling at his lips when Taki nodded enthusiastically.

The walk back to Haru’s house was awkward, to say the least.  Though Haru himself felt fine in the silence, Rin's fidgeting and occasional attempts to start up a conversation were making the environment feel even more oppressive than it did at dinner.  Haru had half a mind to tell him to shut up and enjoy the quiet peace of the evening — the sound of the ocean waves roaring in the distance, the quiet breath of the wind — but he wasn't that rude.  (Anymore.)

Rin cleared his throat from beside Haru, but it didn't draw his attention like it had the first two times.  After a moment of silence that stretched on for an eternity, he spoke, "You're great with him.”  This time, Haru did look over, eyebrow raised questioningly.  "Taki, I mean."

"Hm?" was all he could manage in response.

"Not that the others aren't or anything!  But you know, the way you were playing that game with him?  It was great."  Rin's smile looked strained.

Haru looked back at the street.  "Oh. Yeah."

Again, the silence stretched on.

"He likes you a lot," Rin said and Haru felt warm and it wasn't from his cardigan shielding him against the cool spring evening.

"He's a good kid."

Rin chuckled quietly.  "He is, isn't he?"

As they walked in step next to each other, Haru spared another glance at Rin, noticing the way he had his hands stuffed into his pockets of his pants, how he was looking forward, occasionally sparing sideways glances in his direction.  When he noticed Haru staring, he seemed to stand up straighter before looking away.  He cleared his throat again.

"So," he started, and Haru braced himself for another awkward attempt at conversation.  "I heard you were gonna try to build a better house than me?"  He glanced over at Haru again, his eyes alight with challenge, lips pulled up in a haughty grin.  "I'd like to see you try."

It took all of Haru's willpower not to roll his eyes, but a scoff left his lips regardless.  There was only so much he could do, really.  "Sure," he said, looking at Rin again, hoping to convey the small spark that his provocation ignited.  It was half the reason he said it anyway.

But Rin only stared at him, searching his face before he looked toward the street again.  His shoulders bunched up a little bit, lips parting to sigh, and his hands were back in his pockets again.  Haru continued to watch him as the silence enveloped them once more, but not even the sound of the waves crashing upon the shore could distract him from the way Rin looked as if he were withdrawing.  Was he angry that he made that kind of assertion around his son?

After a moment, Haru found his lips parting so he could mutter, "Should've named him Smackerel."

It only took a split second for Rin's head to snap in his direction before he burst out laughing, head thrown back and shoulders shaking as laughter slipped past his lips in hearty guffaws.  "You're such an idiot," he managed to get out, with some difficulty.  Haru found the beginnings of laughter forming on his own lips, though they left in quiet sighs and a surprisingly soft smile.

As Rin calmed down and wiped away at the tears forming at the corners of his eyes, Haru couldn't help but notice the way his smile seemed like it was going to split his face in half; the way it reached his eyes and stayed there, almost making them sparkle.  His mind flashed back to Taki's comment about his friends being afraid of his father's smile, but when he smiled like that, it was almost as if the whole weight of the world was off his shoulders.  He looked younger, happier, prettier.  "You have a nice smile."

“—Huh?!"

"You should smile more," Haru said and he didn't miss the way Rin's face turned red, even in the dim lamplit streets.

The rest of the walk was spent in silence after that, Rin occasionally glancing at Haru before mumbling something under his breath and looking away.  Haru never questioned it, never asked, never attempted to figure out what was happening with Rin.  He only found himself relishing in the obvious embarrassment he managed to pull out of him after an awkward evening of family dinners and stilted conversation.

When they got to the stairs leading up to Haru's house, he lingered near them, turning to face Rin who kept his distance.  "Thanks for dinner," he said, and he genuinely meant it.  Despite all of the awkward tension at dinner and having to spend the evening in someone else’s home, surrounded by strangers, he had a good time.  Maybe he’d do it again, if pressed. 

His lips turned up in a small smile and he managed an even smaller wave of his hand before he moved to head up the stairs.

Rin stepped forward.  “Wait!”  And Haru hesitated.  

Spinning around again, he faced Rin with an eyebrow raised and his lips parted.  “Yes?”

Just as Haru was starting to get used to Rin’s awkward, stretched out silences, he had to throw another one at him, this one heavier than the last.  Haru shifted underneath Rin’s occasional stares as he looked at everything but him.

Finally, he turned to face Haru again, though it felt like his eyes were on his collar instead.  “I have a favor to ask.”

“What is it?” Haru pressed, tired and wanting to crawl into the bath before bed.

Rin fidgeted.  “My coach wants Wednesday sessions to be a regular thing.”  His hand came up to rub at the back of his neck.  “In preparation for the Olympics this year.  I think it’s a good idea, but— Could you…babysit Taki on Wednesdays?”

Haru remained silent, the question hanging over his head like the first drops of rain, still too far away to hit him.

The silence only seemed to make Rin fidget more.  “I would pay you!  I just… If he could just stay at the club and I could pick him up the same time I did this week, that would just be—  Well, it would mean a lot.”  He finally met Haru’s eyes.  Haru couldn’t help but look away.

The rare smile on his lips was replaced by a frown and his heart felt strangely heavy in his chest, as if it was his first time noticing it was even there in the first place.  Was that what this whole dinner was about?  Buttering him up for babysitting duty?  But before he could refuse, he turned toward the stairs again and began climbing them.  “Sure, whatever.”  He hoped he didn’t sound as bitter as he felt.

He heard footsteps then, fast approaching, before a warmth wrapped itself around his wrist and tugged.  Haru turned around, his face an inch away from Rin’s, eyes wide and curious.  Rin’s face was flustered and red, eyebrows drawn together in what he perceived as annoyance.  His mouth opened and closed like a fish’s as he likely struggled the find the words, but it was done.  Haru didn’t even need any more convincing.

Until Rin’s head leaned even closer and Haru felt his heart leap into his throat.  All he could see were Rin’s wide, terrified eyes as his grip on his wrist tightened.  What was he doing?  Standing so close like this, making that heavy heart of Haru’s rise up into his throat until it felt like it was all he could hear.

“What are you—“ he started.  Apparently that was all it took to break whatever trance Rin was under and he backed away quickly, releasing Haru’s wrist as if his hand burned.

“Sorry, I just— Thanks,” he said as the hand returned to the back of his neck.  “It— It means a lot to me.”

Haru stared at Rin for what felt like forever.  “It’s fine,” he said, before turning back toward the stairs and climbing them.  This time, there were no interruptions.  

This time, he didn’t look back.

As he closed the door to his house behind him, he leaned up against it, shoulders sagging and heart sinking into his stomach again.  He was tired, exhausted from spending so much time around so many new people.  All he wanted to do was strip down and take the longest bath he could before crawling into bed.

So, why couldn’t he stop thinking about the terrified look in Rin’s eyes; of how close he remained despite it.

Why couldn’t he stop thinking about his own heart hammering in his throat like it was trying to break free; of the warmth still lingering on his wrist where Rin’s hand had gripped.

Why couldn’t he stop thinking about him?

Chapter Text

Rin regretted the sigh almost as soon as it left his lips, heavy and dragged out, escaping into the cool air of the park.  As his head hit the back of the park bench, he felt Gou’s hand slap his shoulder a little harder than it should’ve, but he couldn’t find it in himself to sit up or even react behind a low, pathetic moan of pain.

“Oh my god, Rin, if you don’t tell me what’s going on, I’m gonna drag it out of you,” she said, leaning back in her chair, turning to face Rin so she could fasten the meanest glare she could possibly manage.

As Rin lolled his head in her direction, he felt his heart sink into his chest just thinking about it.  But he knew Gou would drag it out of him eventually; there wasn’t even a point in fighting it.  “I fucked up,” he groaned, letting his head drop back so he could stare up at the sky and pretend that maybe if he looked long enough, it would open him up and swallow him hole.  That’d be nice, right?

But Gou wasn’t going to let that happen.  She smacked him once more, for good measure, before tugging him over to look at her.  “What happened?” she asked, her voice oddly sympathetic despite the two blows she’d delivered to his arm.  If he didn’t work out so much, it’d probably hurt.

“I fucked up, that’s what happened,” Rin said, finally pulling himself up so he could look at her.  He spared a glance out at the park, watching Seijuurou push a laughing Taki on the swings, a grin stretched on his own face as he agreed to Taki’s demands to go higher.

“Nanase-kun, right?” Gou asked and Rin’s head snapped in her direction.  She smiled, though it was more sympathetic than it was coy.  Maybe she felt bad for him, but he couldn’t blame her - he felt pretty bad for himself right about now.  “Don’t think I didn’t notice how depressed you looked when you came back last night.  As if I’d believe you ‘wore yourself out’ during the walk.”

Rin flushed, despite himself.  “I just— everything was going fine.  No, fuck that, everything was going terribly.  The whole night was a goddamn mess.”

“I thought it went well,” Gou cut in.  “I mean, sure he was quiet, but he was super sweet with Taki.”  Her smile softened.  “It was pretty cute when they played that game together.”

The last thing Rin wanted to be reminded of was how cute Haru looked playing that video game with his son.  How he made that dumb joke on the walk home that sent him to tears because hew as laughing so hard.  Smackerel.  What an idiot…

His heart throbbed and another heavy sigh dragged itself from his lips.  “I shouldn’t have walked him home.  It was a mistake.”

“What happened?”

Rin hesitated for a moment.  “Everything was going alright, he talked a little bit and he made a stupid joke and then said I had a nice smile—“ He didn’t miss the ‘Awww’ as it left Gou’s lips, but he did choose to ignore it, “—but then I was a fucking idiot and asked him to babysit Taki and it was just like…  He just shut down.”

Gou was silent for a while as Rin watched Taki laughing on the swing.  The silence stretched on so long that he actually looked over at her, noticing her stunned and confused expression.  “What?”

“You asked him to babysit?” she asked incredulously and Rin felt his face flush.  “I thought we agreed he’d come stay with me after lessons on Wednesdays.”

“I panicked!  He was leaving and I didn’t want him to and I didn’t know to say, so I panicked,” Rin said, dragging his hands down his face as he tried to wipe away the flush stained onto his cheeks.  He also tried to ignore the look Gou was giving him, but it seemed both feats were equally impossible.  “He looked so mad.”

“Well, yeah,” Gou said, finally giving Rin’s arm that third smack it was so obviously waiting for.  “You invited him over to an intimate dinner and then asked him to babysit!”  She sighed, shaking her head as she pinched the bridge of her nose.  “Sometimes I have no idea how you even made it this far.”

Rin elbowed Gou in the side, leaning against her as he frowned.  Inhaling deeply, he couldn’t help the third (and millionth) sigh that left his lips.  “I just— I wouldn’t mind being able to see him on Wednesday evenings again.”

“Rin, if you’re telling me that you’re using your son as an excuse to spend time with a hot guy, then I swear…”

“I’m not!” Rin said, sitting up again.  His face felt hotter the longer he thought about it.  He really liked Haru a lot.  He liked the way he made such stupid jokes with straight faces, the way he only smiled on rare occasions (and how beautiful they made him look), even the way that he picked at the food he obviously didn’t like.  He was adorable and gorgeous and extremely hot and Rin had it bad.  He had it so fucking bad.

“It’s fine,” he said as the realization hit him.  As much as he liked him, Nanase Haruka was not and would not ever be interested him.  Right?  Gou peered over at him curiously as his heart sunk into his stomach and twisted.  “He’s not interested.”

“What makes you say that?” she tried.

“I told him he looked good, and he complimented my apartment,” he mumbled.

“That doesn’t mean anything!  He’s just awkward.”  Rin sighed.  Gou didn’t see what he saw; the lack of reaction in his eyes, the way he looked down at his own clothes as if inspecting them to see if what Rin was saying was true.  There wasn’t any blush, no widening of his eyes to show that he was surprised or even flattered.  Just an “oh” in return.

But then, when they were walking home, Haru’d complimented his smile.  Just thinking about it made Rin’s face light up, his cheeks burning in embarrassment.  His heart, which had sunk low enough in his stomach to feel digestible, leapt back up into his chest, fluttering there as light as a feather.  He’d told him he should’ve smiled more.  And it looked like he’d meant it too.

But the look in his eyes when Rin had stopped him, when their faces were so close together, close enough to bring their lips together in a kiss.  He’d thought about it - wanted it, even - but he wasn’t a complete dumbass when it came to reading the signs.  He knew it would’ve been a bad idea, especially when Haru looked so bitter and annoyed over being asked to babysit—

He should’ve kept his big mouth shut.

Rin sighed, letting his head hit the back of the bench.  Somewhere in the near distance, he heard Taki and Seijuurou laughing.  “I fucked up.”

Next to him, Gou sighed and probably shook her head.  He knew the exact look she’d be giving him right now, a mix of sympathy, frustration, and sadness.  “Yeah, you really did.”

What the hell was he supposed to do now?

 

 

Makoto was there as soon as Haru’s hand touched the side of the pool, his head popping up above the water with a gasp.  Usually it was just him in the late hours after the pool closed, content to take his time locking up before he wandered home, but Makoto looked down at him and smiled, his legs dangling over the ledge of the pool as his feet dipped into the water.

“Hey,” he said, leaning forward and swinging his legs so they created waves in the water, disturbing the peaceful calm that had settled after Haru had broke the surface.

Haru hummed in response.

The corners of Makoto’s eyes crinkled as he looked down at Haru, leaning forward a bit, his smile widening.  “So, how was the dinner?” he asked, the teasing lilt more than evident in his voice.

Haru, at least, had the decency to stare at Makoto for a minimum of two seconds before he dipped underneath the water and pushed off again.  As he broke the surface and turned his head to breathe, he heard Makoto shout his name, drawing it out in a long whine.

He swam six more laps before he stopped again, hand slapping the wall, goggles ripping off as he shook the water from his hair and off his face.  When he looked up, Makoto was still there, barely a change from his previous position.  He was still smiling, though he looked significantly less amused than he did six laps ago.

“Well?”

“It was fine,” Haru said, sinking under the water to his nose.  He wanted to look away, to glance to the side and not at Makoto, but he knew that would draw his attention, so he stared up at him instead.  Hopefully that would fool him into believing him.

Unfortunately for Haru, it didn’t stop him from probing.  “Fine?” he asked, leaning back on his hands.  “What happened?”

Haru sunk lower into the water, tilting his head up after a moment so he could respond.  “Taki gave me a tour, we played video games, Rin walked me home—“ he saw Makoto’s eyebrows shoot up at this and his own frown deepened, “—and then he asked me to babysit once a week.”

Makoto’s eyes widened as he sat up quickly.  It took him only a second to compose himself, but Haru had seen the look and it only made him sink lower into the water.  He itched to swim another lap, and just as he reached for the side of the pool to push off, Makoto’s voice stopped him.  “Is that a bad thing?”

It was Haru’s turn to look at Makoto with wide eyes.  Was that a bad thing?  —Yes, of course it was.  He might’ve been Taki’s private swim coach (a role he was fitting into, but one he still had some lasting bitterness about), but he was not his babysitter, nor his nanny.  He was sure Rin was doing well enough to afford someone to watch his son, not to mention he had his sister in the same town as him.  Why did that mean he had to play babysitter for a kid who was nothing more than a student to him?

But even he couldn’t deny how fond of Taki he’d become, especially in so short a time.  He was energetic and playful, with an energy that pulled him under like a strong current.  Watching him the previous week had been exhausting, but it certainly hadn’t been a terrible experience.

When he glanced up at Makoto, he realized his friend’s eyes were wide too, likely a result of the deep scowl he just noticed on his own face.  Dipping underneath the water again, he sighed, his breath bubbling up to the surface of the water.  When he lifted his head for air, he frowned at Makoto again.

“You know, Haru.  It doesn’t have to be,” he said with that easygoing smile that said he knew almost exactly what was going on in Haru’s mind.  Which he probably did, even after they years apart they’d spent.

“Think of it this way,” he started, nudging Haru’s shoulder playfully with one of his feet, still dipped in the water, “If anything, he trusts you enough with his kid to ask you to watch him.”  He dipped his foot back in the water, kicking them back and forth like they did when they were restless children.  “He’s old enough to walk home after lessons, and yet Matsuoka-san always comes to pick him up.”  He leaned back on his hands.  “Did you know Gou walks home with him after school most days?”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Haru asked.  Why was he even having this conversation when there was a beautiful expanse of pool in front of him?  He should be swimming, and even if Makoto was his best friend, this was the last conversation he wanted to be having.  Especially right now.  (Especially when it was Sunday night and he’d have to see Rin again in less than twenty-four hours.)

“It means that he’s protective of his kid, and he’s trusting him with you.”  Makoto paused and then smiled.  “Among other things.”

Haru opened his mouth - other things? - but promptly closed it before the question could leave this lips.  Behind those guileless smiles of Makoto’s, he knew he was laying some kind of emotional trap for him, and the last thing he was going to do was walk into it.  Instead, he let himself sink into the water again, glaring up at Makoto from its safety.

Makoto laughed.  “C’mon Haru, what’s so bad about babysitting an Olympic swimmer’s son?” he asked and Haru sighed again, his breath leaving his nose in a snort that formed bubbles under the water.

Popping up above the water, he fastened his goggles over his eyes before grabbing onto the ledge of the pool.  “Why don’t you do it then?” he asked before he pushed off down the lane again.

As he lifted his head out of the water, he caught bits and pieces of Makoto’s sing-song response.  “Because…doesn’t have…on me!”  But he ignored him, pushing his words and this conversation to the back of his mind where it could wait until he was ready to deal with it.

Until then, he had his swimming, his pool, and his job, and that was all he ever needed.

Chapter Text

It seemed a day and a half wasn’t enough to soothe away the lasting bitterness that Haru felt about Matsuoka Rin and his awkward, poorly timed favors.  It was a challenge trying to rein in those feelings as he coached Taki, guiding him through his routine with the most impassive expression he could muster.  If Taki noticed anything, he certainly didn’t say, seemingly content enough to keep grinning up at him throughout the lesson, eyes sparkling and laughter bubbling up from his throat as if he knew a secret.

When Taki popped his head out of the water, grinning at him, goggles still firmly secured around his head, Haru couldn’t help but huff out a quiet laugh.  It was really hard to be mad when this kid was around, though a quick glance at the clock confirmed that lessons were over.

Taki pulled himself out of the water and sat down on the ledge of the pool, looking down at Haru as he swished his legs back and forth.  “So, dad said I get to stay late with you every Wednesday,” he said, and the smile on his face betrayed his untempered excitement.

Haru sighed.  “Looks like it,” he said, diving under the water so he could swim a few laps before he had to switch over to his adult lessons.

Four laps later, and he lifted himself out of the pool to see Rin standing with Makoto, chatting with a small smile on his face.  Mid-sentence, he looked over at Haru and when their eyes connected, he saw him tense and look away, wringing his hands as he likely waited for Taki to finish up in the locker room.

Haru didn’t approach, not at first.  Especially when he thought that Rin would be the one to approach him.  What, after countless times being subjected to his awkward attempts at conversation, his stilted compliments, and his endless stares, he was almost used to it by now.  But Rin never came, and four more laps as the last of his adult class filed into the natatorium confirmed it.

He finally pulled himself away from the water, walking toward the bench next to where Makoto and Rin were chatting.  He saw Rin tense again, but he ignored it, instead reaching for his towel so he could dry himself off before grabbing his swim club jacket.

Though he only had a few minutes left on the clock before his lessons would begin, he still rounded on Rin and Makoto, stopping their conversation short.

“So, tomorrow then?” he cut in, sliding his jacket on as he stared down Rin. 

“About that,” Rin started, and his eyes finally met Haru’s, but the glance was only brief.  His lips twisted up in a strained smile and it made Haru’s frown deepen.  “You don’t have to… Uh.  It’s fine.”  His hand came up to rub his neck.  “Gou’s just going to pick him up and take him back to her place until I get back from the city.”

Oh.  Haru’s frown slipped and his eyes narrowed.  Finally, an out.  He should’ve been relieved, right?  Now that he was free of the responsibility he’d been so bitter to receive?  But then he’d agreed to it, even though he was still mad about Rin having the gall to ask him for such a favor.

Why did Rin backing out make him even angrier?

No, he knew why.  He wasn’t debating this with himself anymore.  But before he could express his relief (preferably with a verbalized “oh” before he turned on his heel and headed to his lessons), he huffed and said instead, “It’s fine.”

“What?”  Rin’s eyes widened.  Haru was asking himself the same question.

“It’s fine,” Haru repeated.  “I can watch him.  It’s— fine.”

“Oh.”  Rin shifted from foot to foot and next to him, Makoto lifted his hand to his lips, pretending to wipe at them.  Haru knew better, and knew to avoid his gaze at all costs, especially in this moment.  “Are you sure?  I- I mean, I’ll pay you.  Double on Wednesdays, you know, since you’ll be watching him.  I can comp you for the time—“

“I said it’s fine,” Haru said, slicing through Rin’s words like a sword.  “You don’t have to pay me, I don’t need it.”  He was technically working then anyway, but he didn’t say that.

The look on Rin’s face, if Haru had to guess, was a mixture of concern, relief, and nervousness.  It didn’t suit his countenance well.  “Seriously?” he said, a small smile finally appearing on his lips.  “Great!  I mean, uh.  There’s gotta be a way to repay you, but.  Thanks, Haru.  I mean it.”

Haru shrugged one shoulder.  “It’s nothing,” he said, and finally turned around to head over to the other end of the pool, where his students were waiting.  He didn’t hear another peep form Rin nor Taki, save for a cheerful good-bye.  It seemed the annoyance had subsided, at least for the time being.

When he glanced over at Makoto, after Rin and Taki had left, he flashed him a thumbs up and a warm smile, both of which Haru brushed off.

 

 

---

 

 

It was his first Wednesday (of the indefinite amount to come) with Taki, and Haru was already ready to throw in the towel.  When he pulled himself out of the pool and began to walk toward his adult lessons, Taki attempted to follow, still dripping wet, towel forgotten.

“Can I swim with them?” he asked, eyes pleading, and Haru shook his head as he rubbed his hair dry.

“You can swim as much as you like in your own lane,” he said, and Taki immediately bounded over to the one next to the two he had reserved for his lessons.  “Not that one.”  Taki glanced over at him before stepping over to the next lane over.  “Not that one either.”

Taki sighed, rolling his head back and then plopping down onto the starting block.  “Why not?”

“You’re a distraction.  Take the last lane,” Haru said, shooing Taki over to the opposite end of the pool, as far away from his own lessons as possible.  Sure, he was supposed to be “babysitting” him, but he also had a job to do, and that job was teaching adults how to swim freestyle with some level of competency.

Taki let out another long, drawn out sigh as he trudged over to the other end of the pool, diving into the water once he got there.  Haru had to hold in a sigh of his own as he turned to his students, all looking at him curiously and expectantly.  “Line up for warm-ups,” he said, and they complied.

Though Haru longed to swim in the water with them, he took his place at the end of the lane, watching as his students lined up and practiced with kick boards.  They talked amongst each other as they waited their turn to go, giggling and laughing with each other before pushing off the wall to swim down the lane.

For a fleeting moment, Haru wondered what they were talking about.

Though lessons proceeded without much difference than they usually did, he spared the occasional glance in Taki’s direction to see how he was doing.  And each time, he was one lane closer to Haru and his students.  He had half a mind to swim over to him and drag him back to the other end, but he didn’t, instead turning to one of his students so he could give her pointers on the angle of her stroke, advice which she took with determined nods and small smiles.

It was only a matter of time before Taki was swimming laps in the lane next to Haru’s.

“Hey,” came a hushed whisper from the lane divider, and Haru pretended not to hear it as he put his hand on one of his students’ backs, giving him instruction and guidance as he gripped the wall and kicked.

“Hello,” was the cheerful reply from Tamako, one of his more elderly students.

Haru glanced over out of the corner of his eye to see Taki grinning and leaning on the lane divider, arms crossed and chin propped up on them as he kicked his legs to stay afloat.

“You know, if you keep your feet straighter when you kick, you’d get more power out of your legs,” he said and Tamako laughed.

“Is that so?” she asked.  “I’ll have to try that then.”  And then she pushed off, gripping her kick board and taking off down the lane.

Taki’s eyes followed her as she swam, looking up only when he seemed to notice that Haru had stopped instructing and was staring him down instead.  He gulped and slipped into the water.

“Don’t you have homework to do?” he asked, and Taki replied by grinning and pushing off the wall so he could speed down the lane.  But it didn’t change the fact that he was right: Tamako-san needed to straighten her feet.

 

 

That evening, they found ten items at the bottom of the pool, only four of which were of interest: a single emerald earring, a stubby number 2 pencil, a water torpedo, and a lollipop still in its wrapper.  Though Taki took each and everyone of them as if they were a treasure (especially the pencil, for some unknown reason), but the lollipop he snatched up quickly, unwrapping it and making to stick it in his mouth before Haru grabbed it from him and threw it in the trash.

“Haru—!” he shouted, disappointment written all over his features.  Haru could only stare back, his face deadpan and expressionless as he crossed his arms over his chest.  Taki’s pout intensified, his eyes going wide in some kind of silent demand for answers and maybe another piece of candy as tribute.

“It was at the bottom of the pool,” he finally offered.

“So?”

Rolling his eyes, Haru took the net from him and used put it back in its usual place so they could turn the items into the lost and found.

At exactly 8:00PM, Rin walked through the door.  Though the way he had his snapback low over his eyes and his hands slipped into his pockets, he was actually slinking, but what did Haru know.

Stopping in front of Taki and Haru, he turned a small smile on his son and ruffled his still-wet hair.  “Ready?” he asked and Taki nodded, running off to get his backpack from the benches near the locker room.  He watched him go, hands returning to his pockets as his shoulders slumped.  Haru stared, waiting for Rin to look at him or say something, but it never came.  It wasn’t until he cleared his throat that Rin snapped his head toward him, a small grimace passing over his features for only a fleeting moment.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hi,” Haru replied, arms crossing over his chest.

Rin removed his hand from his pocket so he could rub at his neck, eyes glancing around at everything but Haru.  Finally, they settled on him and he shifted from foot to foot.  “Thanks.  For today.”

“It was nothing,” he said, feeling his stance relax.

“Good.  Great.”

Haru hummed.

Silence stretched between them, broken up by Taki’s hums echoing through the natatorium as he rifled through his backpack.  Haru watched Rin unabashedly as he continued to look around as if he’d never seen the swim club before.

“So, I uh—“ Rin started, but was interrupted as Taki bounded over, backpack slung over his shoulder and smile on his face.

“Ready.”

Rin looked at him again, his expression softening into the smile he seemed to reserve just for his son.  “Let’s go then,” he said, nudging his shoulder until he was walking toward the exit.  “Hungry?”

“Yeah!”

After three steps, Taki stopped, glancing back at Haru before looking up at his dad.  Something about this entire scene made his stomach twist in a discomfort he couldn’t place, and he couldn’t help the small frown from tugging at the corners of his lips.  Rin hesitated before looking back at Haru too.

“Haru, do you—“ Rin started, but Haru never let him finish.

“Sure,” Haru answered, the word leaving his lips easier than he thought.  His arms dropped to his sides and he wanted to look away, but he didn’t.  The brief flash of annoyance had passed and he questioned its presence altogether, wondering what it was doing there in the first place.  It’s not like it mattered, it was just dinner and he was still annoyed at Rin.  Right?

“Oh uh, great!” Rin said, looking weirdly relieved.

“I’m soooo hungry!” Taki said, grabbing his dad’s hand as Haru moved to pull his sweat pants on over his damp jammers.  “Especially after Haru took away my lollipop.”

“Oh, he did, did he?” Rin asked, amusement laced into his words.

“It was at the bottom of the pool,” Haru said, throwing his shirt and jacket on before grabbing his equipment bag and trailing after the two of them.

Rin huffed.  “Taki, what did I tell you about eating things from the pool?”

“…That I could do it sometimes?”

“No, wrong.  So, so wrong,” he said, and Haru felt something like a smile tugging at his lips.

 

 

Fuck.  Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.  Fucking fucking fuck fuck shit fuck fuck.

Rin’s mind was a mess of panicked swears and nervous sweating as he sat across from Haru at the dinner table.  The restaurant was a small, quaint seafood place that Taki had pointed out on their way through downtown Iwatobi, admiring the colorful koinobori waving out front.  As he opened his menu, his head ducking behind it, he thought he should be happy that Haru had agreed to go to dinner with them - that he had agreed to even babysit in the first place, despite Rin offering him an out after his major complete awful terrible fuck up (putting it lightly).  And while he did feel a sense of relief that maybe Nanase Haruka didn’t hate his guts for making him into his personal babysitter, he was still knee deep in Mixed Signals.  —No, he was at the bottom of Mixed Signal Valley with no way out except to climb the canyon of Understanding Nanase Haruka, the only items in his bag being a swimsuit and two feet of rope.

Fuck.

Rin felt as if his mind was running laps around his head, exhausted from overuse and the burn of muscle and yet too restless to stand still.  He wanted to tap his foot against the floor impatiently, maybe even get up and pace around in circles until he could get it together, but he was trapped behind a menu as their waitr stared them down curiously, asking them for their order.

“Steak,” Rin stammered out and it’s with some embarrassing urging that he actually specified what kind and how he’d like it cooked.

When he took the menus back with him, Rin realized that he had nothing left to hide behind except a napkin holder and a small bottle of soy sauce.

Neither did a good job at covering how flustered he looked.

Haru didn’t seem to notice, however; either that or he was being courteous.  Rin wasn’t sure which one he preferred, so he attempted to ease the tension of the evening (probably purely imagined by himself) by asking his son about practice.

Being regaled with stories about Haru’s swimming, watching his adult lessons, and the strange things they found at the bottom of the pool helped significantly, though Rin found himself fading in and out of the conversation every time he glanced at Haru’s face.  He looked so, so  Rin wasn’t even sure!  He looked so bored, but at the same time serene.  He looked irritated all while looking interested.  His face was an unreadable mask of mixed emotions and it was driving Rin up a goddamn wall.  Either he needed some kind of Nanase Decoder Ring or he needed to start falling for people who wore their hearts on their sleeves (like him).

When their food came and Rin was cutting into his steak, chopsticks occasionally slipping as he tried to rein in his obviously out of control emotions, he reached for his water only to find Haru staring at him.  When their eyes locked, his breath caught in his throat and his hand knocked into the glass.  Apparently Haru had the reflexes of a ninja (it would explain so much), because he caught the glass before it could tip over, his eyes never leaving Rin’s.

“How was your day?” he asked, and Rin felt like dying on the spot.

“Great,” he managed, and it was with another bout of urging that he actually managed to elaborate on the subject.

The longer he talked about practice - about his coach working him twice as hard, about staying after, about rewatching videos of his laps and making minor adjustments to lessen his time - the more relaxed he became, until dinner, as awkward as it was, became something a little bit more pleasant.

Until Rin paid for the check and the three of them stood up to leave.  “So, how was it?” Rin asked Haru as he took Taki’s hand.

“I’ve had better,” Haru said with a gentle shrug.

Rin’s first instinct was to be annoyed, considering he’d just treated him to a meal.  But his second instinct kicked in instead - the more competitive one.  

Next time, he’d have to do better.

 

 

---

 

 

The following Wednesday, when Taki attempted to insert himself into Haru’s adult class, he was significantly less subtle about it.  He didn’t ask, only grinned up at Haru from the pool as he mentioned swimming more laps.  Haru could only hum in half-interest as he left to teach his next class, sparing only a passing glance at Taki’s lane as he dove back under the water to swim.

It only took Taki fifteen minutes to make his way over to the last two lanes of the pool, the ones Haru was using for his adult students.

This time, however, instead of sitting in the neighboring lane and occasionally whispering words of encouragement to Haru’s students, he sat at the end of the last lane instead, his feet in the water as he leaned forward and watched.

Haru stepped up behind him, crossing his arms over his chest and looking down at the little hellion, whose only response was to tilt his head back and grin.

“I’m not bothering anyone, I swear!” he said and Haru had half a mind to push him into the pool with his foot (gently, of course).

Instead, he gave him a look that said, ‘If you do, you’re done here.’

Rather than quake in fear, as was the intended reaction, Taki’s grin widened and he leaned over the pool again.  “Tamako-san, your kicks are looking better!” he said, waving cheerfully.  When Akira, one of Haru’s quieter students, stopped just shy of Taki’s feet, he looked down at her and smiled.

“Akira, Akira, your stroke is so beautiful!” he said, kicking his legs to create waves in the pool.  Haru could see the blush staining her cheeks as she slipped underneath the water, only her eyes visible above the surface.  “If you pick your head up just a little bit more, you’ll be able to swim even farther.  And be even more beautiful!”

“O-okay,” she stammered, her eyes seeking out Haru’s.  When they connected, a small sigh passed his lips and he nodded.  He’s right, he wanted to say, but that gesture seemed to be enough to bring a small smile to her lips as she pushed off from the wall again.

If Haru were a more affectionate person, perhaps he would’ve ruffled Taki’s hair, but he settled for bumping his back with his foot gently.  He earned a grin for his efforts.

 

 

That evening, while cleaning the pool, they found three hair elastics, a friendship bracelet, and a child’s speedo.  Though they were fortunate enough not to fish up any food at the bottom, Taki had attempted to make claim on the speedo as it “looked his size.”  Haru snatched it away before he could and shoved it in a plastic bag to be turned into the lost and found.

When Rin showed up not even twenty minutes later, he was smiling, hoisting Taki up on his shoulders so he could carry him out of the swim club.  Their combined height made it hard for them to get out of the front door, so Rin had to duck, threatening to drop Taki because he was “too heavy.”  The two of them laughed and Haru could’ve sworn he saw tears at the corners of Taki’s eyes from the force of his giggles.

That evening, Rin invited Haru out to dinner unprompted.

Haru accepted.

 

 

So, while the sushi restaurant had been a mild success, the kitschy seafood place with the koinobori was a definite no.  And while it would be easy to go back to the sushi restaurant that Taki loved so much, Rin was fiercely determined to find a place that Haru liked.  —Because the three of them had to enjoy their dinners together, right?  And not because Rin’s crush on Haru was getting worse by the day.  Definitely not that reason at all.

This time, when Rin opened up the menu and hid his face behind it, it was less of an excuse to use it as a shield and more of a need to actually figure out what he wanted for dinner.  As his eyes immediately gravitated toward the meat dishes (though there were few), he saw Taki move out of the corner of his eye, leaning over the table so he could look at Haru’s menu, despite having his own.

“What’re you getting?” he asked.

“Mackerel.”

“You got mackerel last week!”

“So?”

“So, you should try something new.  Like shrimp tempura.”  Taki pointed to the picture on the menu.

“How about this?” Haru asked, pointing to something else.

“Haru, mackerel tempura is still mackerel…”

Rin choked down a laugh, earning him a look from both Haru and Taki.  Clearing his throat, he ducked his head back behind the menu.

After another rousing conversation of practice, lessons, and work, their food finally came and Rin immediately dug into his hamburger steak.  One bite was enough to know the meal was subpar, but he wolfed it down anyway, hungry after a long day of physical activity.  Next to him, Taki was munching away at his shrimp and vegetable tempura, occasionally stopping to slurp down his miso soup.  As he reached for a piece of sweet potato, he paused and looked up at Haru.

“Everyone in Pool Town’s been asking about you, Haru!”

“Have they?” Haru asked, picking up another piece of grilled mackerel.

“Yeah, they haven’t seen you in weeks!  They’re getting antsy, I think they might overthrow me as mayor.”

“Is that so?” Haru looked amused, despite the flat tone of his voice.  It was doing things to Rin’s heart.

Taki huffed.  “Yeah!  So you better come back and play, you know.  I mean, I planted a coral reef in front of your house and everything.”

Haru paused, food halfway to his mouth, before he looked up at Taki.  “All right, I will.”  A small smile appeared but it was gone as soon as he wrapped his lips around his chopsticks.  When he swallowed, he added, “Just so you don’t get impeached.”

Taki cheered and Rin wanted to sink into his chair until he was swallowed up by the earth.  Nanase Haruka was fucking adorable.

(Unfortunately for him, it seemed Haru wasn’t fond of his meal there either.)

 

 

---

 

 

Two Wednesdays later and Taki had graduated from sitting at the end of the lane to standing next to Haru.  His students had already seemed to adjust to Taki and his incessant advice, finding it “adorable” how he tried to mimic Haru or help them with their forms.  Most of them had seen some improvement, but Haru was almost positive they would’ve gotten there without the Little Matsuoka’s presence.

Still, having him around wasn’t too much of a pain.  (At this point, he was just giving Taki a hard time whenever he crossed his arms over his chest and stared him down.)

As his students swam laps and Haru watched, Taki stood next to him, clutching a clipboard to his chest and holding a pencil tightly in his hand as he mimicked Haru’s every movement.  Every instruction that left his lips was repeated as if he had his own personal parrot, though his students didn’t seem to mind.  In fact, most of them were giggling to themselves or each other each time Taki repeated Haru’s words, but with his own dramatic flair.

Turning his head toward the boy next to him, Haru sighed and eyed his clipboard.  “What’s that for?” he asked, considering he didn’t carry one himself.

Taki hugged it tighter to his chest before peeking down at it.  Finally, he turned it toward Haru so he could see.  He half-expected doodles or drawings all over the papers clipped to the board, but instead, written in pencil was a column with each of Haru’s students’ names, and he was writing times along each of the rows.  “I’m recording them,” he said.

“Why?” Haru asked.  They were beginner level students.  They cared more about being able to swim than how fast they were swimming.  They weren’t Olympians like Matsuoka Rin.

“Dad says it’s a good way to tell if you’re getting better!” Taki explained, clutching the clipboard to his chest again.  “And I thought they might want to know if they were getting better.”

“The pool will tell them if they are,” Haru said and Taki paused before he burst out laughing.

Later, as Taki continued to write numbers down in the rows next to his students’ names, Haru glanced over at him again.  “Where’d you get that anyway?”

“Makoto-sensei!” Taki said, and somehow Haru wasn’t surprised, both from the way in which Makoto seems keen on interfering with his personal life (for whatever reason) and from the faded whale stickers on the back of the clipboard, placed there by the twins when they were both ten.

After practice, Haru’s students crowded around Taki as they looked at their times.  Though they were far from something Taki’s father would produce, every single one of them pointedly excitedly at their own and each others’ rows.  That day, each one of them left with a smile.

(Haru was no exception.)

 

 

That evening, they found a toe ring, a money clip (which Taki had attempted to sneak into his pocket before Haru noticed), a plastic dinosaur (which Taki did sneak into his pocket), and the same speedo from the two weeks ago.  Or so Rin heard as the three of them walked from the swim club to downtown Iwatobi.

In his continued search for the perfect restaurant, Rin took them to a small ramen shop he’d seen on his walk back from the station the previous week.  Though the food was good, it didn’t seem to impress Haru.

In a town as small as Iwatobi, there had to be a place that Haru would love, right?  (He wasn’t sure.)

 

 

Over drinks at dinner, Rin turned to Haru with a grin as Taki went on and on about Haru’s swimming.  “Hey Nanase, if you’re so fast, we should race,” he said.

“No,” was Haru’s easy response as he took another sip of his broth.

No amount of begging or pleading could get him to change his mind.  Not that Rin had reduced himself to that.  (Much.)

 

 

---

 

 

The following week found Taki standing beside Haru again during his adult lessons, mimicking him significantly less and recording significantly more.  He had his face buried into his clipboard, pencil scribbling furious notes, probably egged on by the response he got from the students the previous week.

This week, they’d taken to calling Taki “Little Coach.”  Every time he would run over to the side of the pool and crouch down to give a pointer or two to a student, they would smile up at him and call him by his new name.  This seemed to make him happy, as he couldn’t wipe his smile from his face during the entire practice session.

As his pencil stopped scribbling, he turned that smile up at Haru.  “What’s that whistle for?” he asked, gesturing to the one wrapped around Haru’s neck.  

Touching it, he turned it around in his hands before taking it off and handing it to Taki.  “Want to try it?” he asked.  It wasn’t as if he used it much himself.

Taki nodded enthusiastically, wrapping his lips around it and blowing as hard as he could.  Though it garnered the attention of the entire swim club, Haru’s students in particular all seemed to stop what they were doing and looked over at his end of the pool.

“Everyone, huddle up!” Taki shouted and soon, every single one of them was making their way over from wherever they were in their practice routine.

Flushing, Haru snatched the whistle away from Taki with more force than necessary and raised his hand.  No, go back to what you were doing,” he said, and they hesitated before continuing their regimen.

Glancing down at Taki out of the corner of his eye, he was met with a sheepish, guilty grin as he rubbed the back of his neck with his hand.  “Oops.”

“Too much power,” Haru said, putting the whistle back around his neck.  “You aren’t ready.”

 

 

When cleaning the pool that evening, they didn’t find much of interest except for a set of keys, half a plastic ship, and a piece of paper with a note on it.  At Taki’s urging, they opened it together, only to find it was a shopping list.  (“What are kon-dams?” “Don’t ask.” “Is it a candy?” “No.”)

They still had plenty of time before Rin was expected to show up, so Haru dove into the pool to swim a few laps while he could.  When he came back up, fifteen minutes later, he expected to find Taki in the pool with him, but instead found him sitting at the edge, feet in the water.

The way he kept looking from Haru to his feet signified that he likely wanted to talk, and while it would be easy for Haru to ignore the signs, he found himself pulling up onto the ledge so he could sit next to him.

“Do you have a best friend?” Taki asked, wiggling his toes underneath the surface of the water.

Haru reached back to grab his towel, draping it around his shoulders.  “Makoto.”

Taki beamed.  “I thought so,” he said and then hesitated.  “Mine’s my dad.”

“Is that a bad thing?”

“No!  —I just wish I had more best friends, I guess.”  Taki pouted, sloshing his feet through the water now, creating waves in his wake.  They faded the further out they got.

“You only need one,” Haru pointed out.  That’s what close friends were for, right?  Not that he knew much about the different tiers of friendship, or friendship at all, really.

“I know.”

Haru was silent for a while before he glanced over at Taki.  “What about your mother?”

“I don’t have a mom.”  Taki didn’t hesitate, nor did he sound at all sad.  He stated it as if it were a fact, like how he’d say that his hair was red and his eyes were brown.  Or that his dad was an Olympian.

“Oh.”  It made sense to Haru, he supposed.  He never saw a mother around, nor a ring on Rin’s finger.  The only woman in Taki’s life seemed to be his Aunt Kou.  There wasn’t even a name on his emergency contact list that wasn’t his aunt’s.  Part of him felt like he’d just treaded on a minefield of information, but Taki’s smile was unwavering, the hesitation coming from something other than the topic of his absentee mother.

He didn’t press the subject further.

“Do you have any other friends?” Taki asked, leaning back on his hands.

“Best friends?”

“No, just friends.”

What a weird question to ask, Haru thought, but he shrugged his shoulders.  “Do you want to see?”

Taki nodded enthusiastically.

Getting up, Haru led Taki out of the natatorium and into the lounge.  Trophy cases lined the walls of the room, filled with achievements from various swimmers affiliated with the Iwatobi Swim Club, past and present: individual swimmers, local swim teams, and even the club’s youth team all had trophies or certificates of some kind in the cases.  Walking to one particular corner, Haru pointed to a picture sitting low in the case, surrounded by a couple trophies.

“Right here,” he said, and Taki shuffled closer to get a better look.  It was an old photo, but not too old - Iwatobi High School Swim Team 2015 was written on a small placard near the bottom.  There were four people all squeezed into the photo, each holding small medals of their own from the National Competition.  Makoto had his arm looped with Haru’s, smiling and flashing a peace sign to the camera.  Haru was near the middle, staring straight at the camera almost as if challenging it, though the boredom was evident in his eyes.  Next to them were two new people: Hazuki Nagisa and Ryuugazaki Rei, the other formative members of the Iwatobi Swim Team.  Two of his closest friends.  They were holding hands, Nagisa pressed up against Rei’s back as he clung to him and smiled like nothing else mattered.

“Them,” Haru said again, gesturing to Nagisa and Rei.

Taki regarded them thoughtfully, his finger tracing the outline of the photo through the glass.  “Are they best friends?” he asked, gesturing to Rei and Nagisa.

“No, they’re together.”

Taki looked up at Haru and tilted his head.  “Like, together-together?”

“Yes.”

“Like, dating-together?”

“Yes.”

Taki’s eyebrows rose.  “Like, boyfriends-together?”

It took every ounce of willpower not to pinch the bridge of his nose.  Yes, they’re gay.”

“Oh, like my dad!”  Taki said with a smile but quickly clamped his hands over his mouth, his eyes widening like saucers.  He looked between Haru and the photo repeatedly.  “Nothing, I didn’t say anything!  Oh my god, dad’s gonna kill me.

Rin was gay?  That was…unexpected.  Though the more Haru dwelled on it— Which was low priority compared to the panicking boy next to him.  Haru wasn’t sure what to do - he wasn’t good at this.  Should he touch Taki’s shoulder out of comfort or keep his hands to himself?  He wasn’t sure why he was making such a big deal out of such a simple fact.  Though he wasn’t sure why such a simple fact was making his heart race…  “Taki, it’s fine—“

Please don’t tell my dad I told you,” Taki said, quickly and quietly.  It was then that Haru noticed tears brimming at the corners of his eyes, threatening to fall as his lower lip quivered.

Leaning down just a little bit, Haru looked Taki square in the eyes.  “I’m not going to tell your dad.  It’s fine.”  No one said he was good at this comforting thing.

Taki still looked doubtful.  “I can’t believe I told you,” he said, tears slipping down his cheeks.  “It’s me and my dad’s deepest secret.”

“I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

“Really?”  Taki looked up at him, unconvinced but hopeful.

“Really.”

“Okay.”  He nodded to himself, reaching up to scrub the tears from his eyes.  “It’s just— he told me I had to help him keep this secret.  That no one knows and if anyone found out, they’d say bad things.  About me and about him.”  Taki sniffed.  “I don’t get it though!  Why is that so bad?”  He looked up at Haru, as if searching for an answer.

“It isn’t.”  Because what else could he say?

“I know…”

The two of them were silent, Taki rubbing at his eyes and Haru looking at him helplessly.  Finally, he sat up a little bit straighter and pointed to the picture again.  “Those two.  Everyone knows about them.”

This seemed to get Taki’s full attention again.  “Do people say bad things about them?”

“Sometimes.  But people mostly say good things.  Because they’re good people.”

“My dad’s a good person,” Taki whispered.

“I know,” Haru said, confidently and privately.  He wasn’t sure where these comforting words were coming from, as he’s never been much of a sympathetic person.  Crying friends always received a curious stare and a hesitant pat on the shoulder.  “So, when he’s ready to tell people, he will.  And you won’t have to keep it a secret anymore.”

Taki wiped at his eyes again, gathering up the fresh tears that had begun to spill.  “He told me that when he told people, I’d have to be strong.”

“Yeah.”

“But I just want him to be happy.”

Haru looked down at Taki, who looked up at him and smiled that sunshine smile as if everything in the world was right and perfect.  And to his eyes, it probably was.

“Does this make us best friends now too?”

Haru paused.  “Huh?”

“My dad says best friends know each others’ secrets!  And now you know mine, so that makes us best friends.”

“I guess so,” Haru said, hesitantly.  He wasn’t sure he could have a seven-year-old best friend.  Besides, wasn’t that technically Rin’s secret?

Taki pumped his fists in victory, seemingly happy with this answer.  When he was done, he looked around and leaned closer to Haru before whispering, “So, what’re your secrets?”

Haru sighed.  Part of him knew that this was coming.  After all, judging from what Taki had just shared, he’d have to at least share one thing about himself.  So bothersome.  But, after the panic and the tears, he was willing to play along.

It took him a few seconds to think of something though, as he wasn’t a secretive person.  Taking a deep breath, he crouched near Taki so he could whisper, “Once, when I was younger, I came to my swim club and said ‘I’m home.’”  Taki giggled at that and Haru continued.  “And once, my friend-“ he pointed to Nagisa’s face through the glass, “his sisters replaced his bathing suit with one of theirs.  So I wore a girl’s suit at practice so he wouldn’t have to.”

Taki giggled harder, all evidence of tears gone from his eyes.  “Do you wanna hear more of my secrets?”

“Are you sure?” Haru asked.

“Well, they’re all mine!  So it’s safe.”  He nodded, resolutely, before leaning in close and whispering, “I wet the bed when I was younger.  Once, I stuck a tamago sushi-shaped eraser up my nose and my dad had to get it out with a pair of tweezers.”  Haru snorted.  “When we lived in the city, I stole my neighbors cat.  Dad was so mad.”

At that one, Haru laughed quietly, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips.  Taki’s started giggling too, his laughter dying down to quiet silence as they sat in front of the trophy case together. 

After relishing in the silence, Haru ventured to ask, “Does anyone else know?  About your dad.”

“Aunt Kou and Sei do,” Taki said.

“Guess that makes them your best friends too, huh?”

Taki paused, looking up at Haru with wide eyes before his expression faded into a happy smile.  “Yeah!”

 

 

After Haru swam a few more laps, as the two of them waited for Rin to show up, he broke the surface of the water and tugged his swimming cap off.  “So, why the sudden interest in best friends?” he asked, eying Taki.

Taki continued sloshing his feet through the water, looking significantly less conflicted than he did the first time around.  “Oh.  Dad and Aunt Gou were wondering,” he said with a smile.  “I heard him asking her about you and Makoto-sensei.”

Haru slowly sunk into the water until it was up to his ears, though it didn’t help hide the sound of his heart thumping in his throat.  What?

“He was wondering if you were best friends or something more!”  Taki grinned.  “Whatever that means.  Bestest best friends?”

As Taki pondered this, Haru found himself pushing off the wall to swim five more additional laps.

 

 

That evening, Rin picked a seafood restaurant where you could pick your own lobster from a tank.  Though Haru ordered mackerel (again) and picked at it disdainfully, sniffing every piece as if it were toxic, he still listened to Taki when he went on and on about the aquatic animals they were learning about in science class.  He was smiling too, or at least it seemed like he was smiling to Rin, though it was small and barely visible.  Almost a ghost on his lips, barely there and yet all he could focus on.

It mostly shone in the depths of his eyes, which were like reflecting pools if you looked hard enough.  God, Rin was hopeless...

But something about him seemed softer, quieter and yet more expressive.  Especially the few times he looked over at Rin.  When their eyes connected, he could feel his heart jump, doing flip turns in his throat as Haru quirked his eyebrows and then looked away, that ghost of a smile still playing on his lips.

It was like he was trying to make Rin fall even harder for him.  (It was like he was succeeding.)

 

 

When they reached Haru’s house that evening, Rin wasn’t sure if it was a trick of the light or a mild hallucination, but he could’ve sworn that Haru's eyes lingered on him for a moment longer than they usually did as they said their good nights.

Maybe it was a little bit of both.

(Or maybe he could want to hope.)

Chapter Text

On Monday afternoon, Rin came to pick up Taki a little bit earlier than usual (not that Haru had noticed or was counting).  As his overenthusiastic student bounded out of the locker room, Rin crouched down enough to let Taki jump onto his back, wrapping his arms around his father’s neck and his legs around his waist.  Rin stood, grinning and laughing as he gripped Taki’s legs underneath his arms.

“What’re you doing?” Haru heard himself asking, only noticing the words had left his lips when both Rin and Taki were staring at him openly.

“We’re running home today!” Taki explained, leaning his head on his father’s shoulder.

“For training,” Rin explained.  It was only then that Haru noticed that Rin was wearing what he’d come to recognize as his running outfit.

This time, when they tried to leave the swim club, they didn’t have to duck as much to get through the doors.

Haru watched them go before he turned back to his students.  He attempted to ignore their giggling and their questions about “Little Coach.”

 

 

On Wednesday, Taki pushed Haru to clean the pool quicker than he usually did.  He liked the relaxing pace of sweeping the bottom of the pool with the net, but Taki gave him occasional, incessant shoves in the back to get him to speed up.

“Why?” he asked.

“I brought Deep Sea Crossing!  So you can play.”

While this didn’t make Haru want to work any faster, he did it anyway, especially when Taki was being so aggressive in his determination.  After successfully retrieving a 1000 yen note, an engagement ring, and a woman’s tampon, clean but removed from its applicator (Taki had snatched it up, to which Haru told him to immediately drop it), the two of them showered, dressed, and sat on the bench near the entrance to the locker rooms so they could play Deep Sea Crossing together.

Though Mayor Taki’s villagers didn’t seem as antsy to overthrow him as Taki made them out to be, they were still happy to talk to Haru after his month-long absence.  They gave him gifts and asked him to run errands, to which he complied willingly.

Taki had indeed planted a coral reef in front of his meager house, leaving bags of shells buried underground so he could afford his next house upgrade as well.  (Coupled with a few pieces of mackerel-themed furniture.)

It was fun and relaxing, and the two of them got lost in playing together, Taki occasionally stealing his handheld back so he could show Haru a new mechanic or Haru wasting time following Mackerel around so he could make conversation with her.  Repeatedly.  In the time since Haru had last played, Northern Stoplight Loosejaw had moved into Taki’s town, and though Taki found him terrifying, Haru was happy to see an old friend.

 

 

That evening, when they went to dinner, Rin watched as Haru picked up his piece of mackerel, took a bite, and then made a face.  It was a small face, the tiniest hint of an expression bordering on distaste.  It could’ve been worse, he supposed, because when really Haru disliked something, it was made very apparent.  Though he rarely said anything unless asked, Rin thought he could see it in his eyes; in the quick expressions that passed over his face when he took his first, second, and third bites.  The faster he ate, the more he hated it; the more hesitant he was in letting his tongue touch his meal, the more repulsive he found it.  If he devoured his meal within a reasonable pace, he thought it was okay.

Rin wondered what he looked like when he ate something he truly enjoyed.

Which was a hundred percent of the reason why he was dragging Haru (and Taki) around town every week.  So that he could find a place that Haru liked.  (He’d long since given up trying to pretend that wasn’t the case.  He was too far gone to even pretend anymore, as Gou so aptly pointed out a few weeks prior.)

As Haru took small sips of his water, Rin watched him until their eyes connected, until he felt the familiar flush creeping up his neck.  “So, when’re you finally gonna race me, huh?” he asked, a confident smile sliding onto his lips, though his twisting stomach and hammering heart betrayed him.

“In your dreams,” was Haru’s retort, though it wasn’t explicitly a no.  Not like the other seven times he’d asked.  (Little did he know.)

When they said their good nights again at the base of the staircase near Haru’s house, Haru’s eyes lingered on Rin’s three whole seconds more than they usually did.  Rin felt his heart stop and his breath catch in his throat.

It didn’t start beating again until he shut the door of his apartment.

 

 

On Friday, Haru ran home from work.  Though he stretched before and after, he still felt the burn in his thighs and calves on Saturday morning, a dull reminder of the unfamiliar use of muscle from the night before.

Maybe he needed to run more.

 

 

---

 

 

It had been seven weeks since Rin had asked Haru for “the favor,” and watching Taki - like everything else in his life - had finally become routine.  Though he resisted it for so long, he eventually adopted his new regime into the monotonous schedule that was his life, even if Taki had the tendency to break up the peace.

As he dove into the water that Wednesday, he looked out at the pool before looking back at his eager student, who was treading water beside him.  “Warm-ups and then we’ll focus on your diving today,” he said.

This was usually the moment in the script where Taki would nod vigorously and then push off the wall so he could swim his warm-up laps.  He loved the water almost as much as Haru did and never wasted a second when he was in it.  This time, however, he hesitated, treading water in silence and watching Haru with eager eyes.

“Can you teach me breast stroke today?” he asked.

Haru didn’t even need to think about it.  “No.”

“Why not?”

“I only teach free.”

Taki pouted, his eyebrows drawing together in a scowl.  “So?”  He kicked a little bit harder, as if venting his frustration on the water.  “I want you to teach me breast stroke.”

“No,” Haru repeated.

“But Haruuuuu!”

“No.”

It was with incredible urging and a strong will that Haru eventually got Taki to swim his warm-up laps.  He thought he was safe after that, but he should’ve known better - it had been two and a half months since he started teaching Matsuoka Taki, after all.

And that was enough to know how unfalteringly persistent he was.  (A Matsuoka trait, unfortunately.)

“What about now?” Taki asked after his warm-ups had been completed.

“Still no.” 

After four laps of kick board practice, Taki shucked the board over the ledge of the pool and looked up at Haru.  “Now?”

“Still no,” Haru repeated.

Two laps with a pull buoy later and Taki was standing on the starting block, pulling his goggles over his eyes with a smile.  “Now?”

“No,” Haru said, wanting nothing more than to dive into the water and swim away.  But he knew that would only make it worse.

“There has to be a way,” he heard Taki mutter, before his eyes snapped open.  “I challenge you to a race!”

Haru raised one eyebrow, his expression a mask of casual indifference.  “A race?”

“What, you chicken?” Taki asked with a grin.

There was no way he was going to lose a race against a seven-year-old boy.  He had no idea what Taki was playing at, but if it would get him to shut up about learning breast stroke, then fine, he’d race him.  And not because he called him chicken.  Definitely not that.

He let a long suffering sigh escape his lips for show and he crossed his arms over his chest.  “Fine, one race.  But if you lose, you’re practicing your dives.”

“Fine,” Taki said as he reached behind his head to snap the band of his goggles against the back of his head.  Leaning down, he gripped the starting block as Haru hopped onto the next one.  His own goggles were secured around his head and he leaned down as well, shifting the majority of his weight to his shoulders and feet.

He let Taki call it, giving him the single second head start before he dove into the water.  Though he didn’t push himself incredibly hard, he still raced him seriously enough.

He won by a considerable margin.

Taki pulled his goggles off and smashed the water with a frustrated sigh.  “Whoever can hold their breath the longest!” he said, and took a big gulp of air before submerging himself under the water.  Haru watched him for a moment before joining him, his expression far from amused.

Haru won that contest as well.

This continued for the rest of the day.  Throughout their lesson, they had multiple contests for the prize of learning breast stroke: a back floating contest, a diving contest, a belly floating contest, a bubble blowing contest, a hand stand contest, a summersault contest, a water gun contest, another freestyle race, a doggy paddle race, a mermaid race, and a dolphin kick race, but Haru drew the line at the water spitting contest (Taki ate too many weird things out of the pool as it was).

Haru won them all.

Taki looked increasingly more defeated as the day went on.  He tried to make a race out of cleaning the pool, but Haru just continued at the pace he was going at instead.  That evening, they found a tube of lipstick, a locket with no pictures inside, an old orange peel, and the same Speedo they had already found at the bottom of the pool twice.  (“Again?” Haru had asked.  The two of them had reached the conclusion that whichever kid this belonged to apparently preferred to feel the water naturally.)  Though Taki followed Haru around and chatted his ear off as always, he seemed significantly more put out than usual.

As they hung up the pool net, Haru glanced over at Taki.  “Pool ring catching contest?” he asked and Taki’s eyes widened.

“So, you’re challenging me now?” he asked, grinning wide.

Haru rolled his eyes.  “Hurry up before I change my mind,” he said and went to grab the rings.

Taki dove into the water as Haru took a seat on the ledge, holding six pool rings in his hands.  “You have to get all six in one go,” he said while Taki adjusted his goggles.  When he gave him the thumbs up, Haru tossed each ring as hard as he could down the lane.  After the sixth one had plopped into the water, Taki pushed off the wall and went to grab them.

After failing the first try, he shoved the rings back into Haru’s hands.  “Again, again!” he said, and Haru complied.

 

 

It had been seven weeks since Rin had asked Haru to babysit his son, and he was now used to the sound of splashing and animated chatter reverberating around the pool as he entered the empty swim club.  Walking through the lobby and the lounge, he hesitated near the entrance to the natatorium as he peeked in, spotting Haru sitting on the ledge of the pool and Taki splashing around inside it.  Usually they were dressed and ready to go by the time he arrived, but that day was definitely not the case.  He crept closer, hands the pockets of his jeans as neither Taki nor Haru seemed to notice him.  It wasn’t until he got closer that he realized Haru was holding pool rings, chucking them into the pool one-by-one as Taki watched them.  There was a smile on his face - not the small, ghostly smiles that he seemed to be present more often than not as of late - but a real, honest to goodness smile, tugging at the corners of his lips and making his eyes shine.

Rin swallowed the strangled sigh caught in his throat and watched.  Something about this scene was so beautiful and so warm and he knew exactly why.

Glancing around, Rin took out his phone and pointed it at Haru as he grabbed the last ring.

When Rin crouched down next to him moments later, Haru’s eyes widened as his head snapped to attention.  “Hi,” he said.

“Hey.”

Taki popped up right at Haru’s feet, holding all six rings in his hand and waving them in front of his teacher’s face.  “One more time!” he said before noticing Rin was crouching there too.  “Hi dad.”  He smiled.

“Hey kid,” he said, watching as Haru grabbed the rings.

“One more time and then we’re leaving,” Haru said and then started to throw them.  As he got to the last two, he looked down at them before glancing over at Rin.  It was with some readable hesitation that he handed them over and Rin couldn’t help but smile, winding up to toss them.

Whatever it was they were doing, Taki was sorely disappointed when he brought the rings back to Haru.  “It’s no fair, you keep throwing them too far apart,” he said with a pout as he pulled himself out of the pool.  As he looked over at the locker rooms, Rin saw his eyes light up.  “Shower race?” he asked and Haru sighed.

Rin watched them walk briskly toward the locker room and he couldn’t help but feel like he was missing something.

 

 

Despite Taki and Haru’s newfound rivalry, Rin knew that tonight was going to be great.  —No, tonight was going to be awesome.  Because tonight was the night that he was going to give Haru the best bought meal of his goddamn life.  Tonight he was going to finally see what Haru looked like when he was eating a meal he actually enjoyed.  To say he was excited was an understatement, but he did a good job (or so he felt) of hiding that under the coolest mask he could muster.

When they arrived at the restaurant, a nondescript and almost literal hole in the wall, they were greeted by a friendly waitress and were almost immediately seated.  Rin looked around as they walked through the small restaurant.  It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was still nice: a fish tank lined one of the walls, painting the restaurant an ethereal, undulating blue, the tables were nicely lacquered, the kids menus had adorable sea creatures to color on it, and there was even a candle on the table while gentle, soothing music played in the background.

Not bad, he thought, making a mental note to thank Makoto later for the recommendation.  Though Makoto’d prefaced the entire thing by mentioning that it was a great place to go if he liked seafood and Rin preferred meat, he thought it was worth a shot if it meant seeing Haru smile or cry when biting into good mackerel.

A guy could dream, right?

Opening his menu, Rin was almost relieved to see that they had some basic meat dishes as well as a wide selection of sushi.  It wasn’t long before they had ordered their meals and handed over their menus to the cheery waitress.

“Let’s race home after,” Taki said abruptly, turning to Haru with a hopeful smile.

Rin raised an eyebrow as Haru sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Haven’t you had enough races for the day?” he asked.

Rin laughed, earning Haru’s attention.  “What, so you’ll race my kid and not me?” he asked, amusement dripping from every word, possibly to hide the small pang of jealousy.  (He was definitely not jealous of his son.  Definitely, absolutely not.)

“Your point?” Haru asked.  The nerve!  He didn’t even deny it.

“He’s a kid!” Rin said.  He was no contest.  Himself, on the other hand…

Haru’s eyes locked with his, doing that annoying thing where they stole his breath away, making it seem like time itself had frozen around them.  They lingered there for a while and then, for a small second, Rin saw the corners of his lips twitch up in a smile.  Haru broke eye contact and shrugged, looking away as his lips thinned in a straight line again.

Rin wasn’t sure if he wanted to smack his head against the table or prop his chin up in the palm of his hand and stare dreamily at Haru for the rest of the evening.

He settled on staring at his son instead.

When the food finally came, Rin didn’t even look at his meal.  He was too focused on Haru and his plate of grilled mackerel, the same thing he ate every time.  It looked significantly more appetizing than some of the others he’d tried over the course of the last seven weeks, but Rin was too worried to hope, just in case it turned out to be as big of a disappointment as some of the others were.

As Haru picked up his chopsticks, Rin gripped his, oblivious to the words coming out of his sons mouth as he continued to chat on about school, digging into his rice voraciously.  Rin’s eyes followed Haru’s every movement as he cut a piece of the mackerel off with his chopsticks, picked it up, and raised it to his lips.  He tried not to be too distracted by the simple act of Haru wrapping his lips around his chopsticks, instead focusing on his expression as he took the first bite.

Across from him, Haru hesitated, mouth closed around the tips of his chopsticks and the piece of mackerel, before his eyes widened as he chewed and swallowed.  Raising his hand to his lips, his eyes seemed to shine as he looked down at the plate and then up at Rin.  “It’s good,” he whispered, and Rin’s heart stopped beating.

In the eight times that Rin’d taken Haru and Taki out to dinner, he’d never once commented on his food unprompted.  His reactions were always carefully hidden under small tells that Rin had begun to recognize.  And yet, there he was, giving his uninhibited opinion of the meal he’d just been served.  

And he liked it.

If Rin were prone to exploding, he’d be pieces on the walls and floor of the restaurant by now.  Instead, he settled for blushing furiously as he chewed on his lower lip and tried not to think about how fucking adorable Haru was when his eyes sparkled like that, giving Rin the same look he saw him give the goddamn Iwatobi Swim Club pool.

“Great,” he heard himself say before he finally dug into his own meal.  Though his food was good as well, he could hardly concentrate on the taste when he was so thoroughly distracted by the cute expressions Haru made as he savored his mackerel.

When they left the restaurant at the end of the night, Haru glanced over at Rin as they walked through the entrance.  “We should come here again,” he said, and Rin could only nod dumbly.

There was no way in hell he was NOT coming back here, especially after that show at dinner.  Note to self: give Tachibana Makoto whatever the hell he wanted because he owed him big for this one.

As they began their walk home, it was shortly interrupted, not even two steps from the door, when Taki noticed a gashapon machine nestled in between the restaurant and the post office next to it.  Rushing over to it, he pressed his face against the picture advertising aquatic sea life cellphone charms.

“Dad, dad, dad!  Can I get one?  Pleaaaase,” he begged, turning to Rin and pressing his hands together.

Rin opened his mouth to protest but was cut short by Haru reaching into his pocket and handing three 100 yen coins to Taki.

“One for each of us,” he said as Taki hurried back and put the money in, turning the crank three times and bringing back the three opaque capsules.

Rin took the furthest one from Taki’s hands and opened it slowly.  Out popped a sizable dolphin charm, blue with a white belly, its eyes big and cute.  Plucking it from the capsule, he dangled it in front of his eyes to get a better look in the dim lighting of the lamplit streets.

Glancing over at Haru, he noticed him holding up a pink shark with a white belly of its own, its teeth bared in a way that was surprisingly adorable.  When their eyes connected, Rin noticed Haru’s eyebrow raise and he smiled.

“Trade?” he asked and Haru nodded.

When he was finally in possession of the shark charm (which had a fleeting warmth from being gripped tight in Haru’s hands— holy fuck he was hopeless), he finally looked to see what Taki got, only to find him gripping a green sea turtle with both hands and smiling like New Years had come early.

“I love it!” he said and then peered up at Rin’s.  “Dad, aren’t you gonna put yours on your phone?”  He didn’t wait for him to respond before he reached in and grabbed it out of Rin’s pocket.

Sighing, Rin snatched his phone from Taki and looped the strap through the charm hole on the corner of his phone.  He was about to stuff it back into his pocket when he noticed Haru doing the same thing (he could’ve sworn he never carried his cellphone on him, he was almost impossible to reach via text).

“We match,” he heard himself say with a confident smirk, holding his own phone up next to Haru’s.

Haru smiled this time, more than just a fleeting upturn of his lips, as the dolphin bumped up against the shark.  “Yeah.”

 

 

As they walked Haru back to his house, Taki’s sea turtle securely fastened on one of the zippers of his backpack, Rin felt like he was walking on air.  —No, even better; he was walking on clouds.  Every step felt as light as if he were soaring.  If he weren’t holding onto Taki’s hand, perhaps he’d even float away like a balloon.

If that wasn’t the cheesiest thought he’d ever had…

But as Haru walked next to them, glancing off in the direction of the ocean, Rin felt happy.  Happy and desperately head over heels for this weird, quiet, mackerel-loving swim coach.

The blissful peace was broken, however, when Taki bounced up, letting go of Rin’s hand.  “Ugh, I can’t let it end like this,” he said as they finally approached the stairs to Haru’s house.  “I’m challenging you to a thumb war!”

Haru looked over at him and quirked an eyebrow, stopping at the foot of the stairs.  “Are you sure?” he asked.

“Positive,” Taki said, thrusting his hand out.  Rin couldn’t have been more confused, but he could only stand there and gape as his son and his coach gripped hands and duked it out with their thumbs.  The match went on longer than Rin had thought it would and it ended with Haru’s thumb pinned under Taki’s as he counted to three.  Leaping back, he pumped his fists in the air and cheered too loud for the time of the night.

“Finally, I won!” he gloated with the widest grin possible.  “You have to teach me breast stroke now.”

“Wait, what?” Rin heard himself asking.  He thought Haru only swam and taught the front crawl.

Haru scoffed.  “Technically, that agreement was broken the first time you lost to me,” he said.

“We never shook on it!”

“Which means it doesn’t stand now,” Haru pointed out.

Taki pouted.  “Haruuuu!  A deal’s a deal, you have to teach me breast stroke.”

Haru sighed, long and ragged as Rin glanced between the two of them.

“You know, if you wanted to learn breast, you could’ve asked me,” he pointed out.  Considering he was a two-time Olympic swimmer and gold medalist and all.  That had to count for something, right?

Both Haru and Taki finally looked over at him.  “Dad,” Taki whined, drawing it out longer than usual.  “I want Haru to teach me breast stroke.”

“But—“ Rin started, but was interrupted by Haru.

“It’s fine, I’ll teach him,” he said and Taki cheered.  Rin wanted to feel conflicted, but instead he felt something else.  A lightness in his chest as well as the idea that something was different.  Something had changed.

That evening, when Haru said good night, he nodded to Taki first before turning to Rin.  When their eyes connected, his gaze lingered like that for a while, a surprising softness in Haru’s expression that made Rin want to do stupid, embarrassing things like smile or blush or maybe even kiss him.  (God, he really wanted to kiss him.)  In the end, he settled on a smile and a good night of his own.

Haru turned and walked up the steps and Taki tugged on Rin’s hand, eager to get home and crawl into bed.  But Rin couldn’t help but watch Haru as he got to the top and looked back at them before retreating to his door.

When Haru was out of sight, Rin finally let Taki drag him home, a stupid, loopy grin plastered to his face.

 

 

---

 

 

The following Wednesday, after Haru’s adult lessons were done, the pool was cleaned, and everyone was gone, Haru taught Taki how to swim the breast stroke.  Though he didn’t swim it himself, not even to show Taki what to do, he instructed him through it, putting on an air of unwillingness as he took Taki’s hands and led him through the pool while he worked on his frog kicks.

In the end, watching Taki’s exhilarated smile every time he pulled himself out of the water or completed a lap made it worth it.  It made it not as bad as it should have been.

Chapter Text

After their second visit to what Haru had dubbed “the mackerel place,” Rin wasn’t sure if he regretted the decision to take him there or not.  On one hand, he was happy they’d found a place Haru liked enough to request a second time.  On the other hand, he was almost positive the three of them would never eat at another restaurant again.

But he wasn’t conflicted enough to give it more of a second thought as he watched Haru eat his mackerel as if the gods themselves had prepared it for him.

It never failed to make Rin’s heart feel like it was going to beat out of his chest.

When they walked home that night, Rin stopped Haru before he could make his ascension up the stairs, even after their eyes locked for longer than necessary and they’d both said their good nights.  “Wait,” he said and Haru stopped, turning around.

“So, uh,” Rin started, shifting from foot to foot as he gripped Taki’s hand, his son leaning against him as he fought off sleep.  “I won’t be picking him up on Friday.”  He nudged him with his leg, but this didn’t seem to rouse him.

Haru tilted his head to the side.

“His grandma - my mom - is taking him for the weekend, so she wants to pick him up at practice,” Rin explained, though he didn’t really need to.  Didn’t mean he didn’t want to though.  “He’ll be with her until Sunday night.”

“Oh,” Haru said, looking at Rin before glancing off to the side.

“Yeah,” Rin offered, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly.  A brief silence stretched between them, broken up by the low, evening song of the cicadas.  Summer was fast approaching.

“What’re your plans on Friday then?” Haru asked and Rin’s head snapped to look at Haru so fast, he was surprised he didn’t get whiplash.  (Or break his neck and die.  What a way to go, right?)

“Huh?” was the first word to leave his lips, rushed and confused, but he clamped his mouth shut before he could mutter anything else stupid and unnecessary.  Taking a deep, quiet (and hopefully subtle) breath, he tried to think of an answer.  He couldn’t just say “nothing” because that sounded pathetic, but he couldn’t make up plans, because there was a small, minuscule chance that Haru was curious for a reason and Rin didn’t want to ruin that.

So, instead, he collected himself and shrugged.  “Oh, you know,” he said, as if that was actually a good enough answer.

It didn’t seem to satisfy Haru though, whose eyebrows drew together in what looked like confusion.  “Oh,” he said, pausing again.  “Do you want to swim?”

“What?”

“In the pool, after closing?”

“Uh…”

“We can race.”

For the second time that night, Rin’s eyes widened in shock.  “Yes,” he said, so fast it hardly even sounded like a word.  He’d be embarrassed about it later, when his heart wasn’t beating wildly because Nanase Haruka, known for not giving two shits about racing, was asking Rin to do just that.  Alone.  At the pool.  After closing.

What else could he say but yes?

(That night, he felt like he was floating as he walked home.  He’d been feeling that a lot lately.)

 

 

Friday evening, when Rin stepped in through the Iwatobi Swim Club doors and walked through the dimly lit, empty lobby, he couldn’t help but feel a quiet excitement bubbling in the pit of his stomach.  Sure, there was always some kind of excitement that came right before he saw Haru, brought about by his ridiculous and hopeless crush on him (one that he couldn’t quash, no matter how hard he tried), but this was different.  For the first time, he was entering the swim club by himself; for the first time, he wasn’t there to pick up his son.

For the first time, Haru had asked him to meet him there so he could race.

That thought alone is enough to make his heart hammer up against his chest and force a smile on his lips.

His hand tightened on the strap of his gym bag, slung over his shoulder and stuffed with his equipment from practice that day.  He wore his track suit as always, the black and red pants of his club’s swim team coupled with a new edition - his Tokyo 2020 Olympic team jacket.  The red and white of their nation’s colors were complimented well by slick streaks of black and a flurry of cherry blossom petals dancing along one side.

He liked his Tokyo 2020 jacket much better than his Rio 2016, though Rio 2016 had meant the most to him, finally realizing his father’s dream.  His own dream.  (There was something incredible about winning at Tokyo 2020 though, being in his home country, only a short distance from his father’s grave overlooking the sea.  “Watch me, dad,” he’d said for a second time in four years as he entered the Olympic stadium, in his home country, to bring home Olympic gold.)

Though he kept his team uniforms tucked away in his closet, there were occasions when he broke them out - in moments of weakness, when he needed to remember who he was and where he came from, when he wanted to soak in the memories of his victories and the trials that took to get there, or when trying to impress Nanase Haruka, apparently.

What if Haru thought he looked ridiculous?  He worried his bottom lip between his teeth as the thought crossed his mind, his feet carrying him through the darkened club.  Though Makoto had mentioned they watched the Olympics together every time… Maybe he’d like it?

As he walked through the lounge on his way to the pool, he paused, glancing over at the trophy cases that lined the walls as all self-conscious thoughts about his jacket died in his mind.  He’d passed through this room many times in the past few months, always sparing it a passing glance but nothing more.  He’d always been in some kind of hurry, after all, quick to pick his son up or to shepherd Taki and Haru to dinner.  (Or to get to the pool, on the few occasions that he came here on his weekends off.)  Now wasn’t any different.  He could hear the distant, quiet splashing of Haru swimming laps in the pool and it tugged at him, but when he remembered Seijuurou mentioning Haru’s accomplishments as a younger swimmer, curiosity kept him from rushing from the room.

Besides, it was more coy to make Haru wait, right?  (As if he knew the first thing about flirting or courting with another human being.  Especially one like Haru.)

Dropping his equipment bag off on one of the couches, he walked along the glass cases, admiring the certificates and trophies that lined them, pictures and plaques complimenting them.  The local high school and middle school had their own cases, and there was one dedicated to the swim club in its earlier form, before it had been torn down and rebuilt.

When he finally spotted Haru in the mess of certificates, he smiled.  He remembered these from their first day, noticing a particularly bored-looking child surrounded by countless certificates, trophies, and medals in freestyle events.  He now recognized that child as Haru and a small laugh caught in his throat as he thought that nothing had changed much.

(Except now he looked warmer.  And he had no idea why.)

He was half-surprised that Haru seemed to own most of the awards in the case, having almost two shelves dedicated to himself.  He imagined Haru rolling his eyes at them every time he saw them or asking Makoto to take them down.  He imagined Makoto not budging on the matter, disarming him with those pleasant smiles.  (Something twisted in his gut at the thought, but he smoothed it down as he cleared his throat.)

When he saw a picture of the Iwatobi High School team - a small team of four - he smiled at Haru in the middle, disgruntled and holding two medals from the 100m and 500m free events.  Memories came flooding back, buried behind years of training regiments and familial duties.  He’d swam butterfly that year, determined to enter the Samezuka relay team.  He’d taken home medals of his own, but his fingerprints weren’t on the relay trophy that sat at the Samezuka pool.  What would it have felt like to swim against Haru during Nationals that year, if he’d swam free?

He did remember him though, that stoic-looking boy with the beautiful stroke.  He’d wiped the floor with his competition, finishing seconds before everyone else - seconds before some of the best swimmers at Nationals.  It’d taken Rin’s breath away - he’d taken his breath away - but it only lasted a moment as the next event’s swimmers filed onto the pool deck.

He remembered his last year at Samezuka.  He remembered pushing through to Nationals, so concentrated on swimming butterfly, but he’d wanted to swim free - just to swim against someone lightyears ahead of him, to feel that thrill of competition.  But he hadn’t made it past prefecturals, his time slower than the rest by a second, and he never got to have that race.

A laugh bubbled past his lips as he glanced toward the entrance to the pool, hearing the splashing of Haru’s stroke.  Funny how things turned out, wasn’t it?  Though Haru hadn’t crossed his thoughts after Nationals that year, it was almost weird how he’d found him, years later.  That he was coaching his son.  That they were going to race now.

Unable to stall any longer, Rin grabbed his bag and entered the pool, tossing it onto a bench as he pulled his clothes off.  Either Haru remained oblivious to his presence or he just didn’t care, because he didn’t cease swimming until Rin walked over and crouched near the end of his lane, his goggles on his forehead and wearing his practice jammers, damp like his hair from his quick pre-pool shower.

“Hey,” Haru said as he ripped his goggles and cap off, shaking excess water out his hair.

“Yo,” Rin said with a grin as he slipped into the water.

Haru didn’t back up to give him much space, leaving Rin crowded against the side of the pool.  His skin prickled, goosebumps rising on his arms and legs, but he wasn’t sure if it was from the cool temperature of the water or the lack of space between them.  Their eyes remained locked and Rin felt his heart lurch, body tingling in a way that was definitely unnatural.  He crossed his arms over his chest to hide any signs of betrayal from his stupid body in an attempt to look cool, collected, and flirtatious.

He wasn’t sure how well it was working.

“Prepared to lose?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow.  Maybe if he acted confident, he’d become confident.  (When did that mentality ever work?)

Haru just shrugged his shoulders, making no move to back away from Rin, though the lack of discomfort in his features (as well as a lack of flirtatiousness, competitive or otherwise) meant he was either okay with this, unaware of what he was doing, or both.  “Whatever,” he mumbled, and brushed past Rin to pull himself out of the water.  Their arms touched, shoulders bumping for a brief moment before Rin felt the slide of Haru’s jammers against him.  It took all of his willpower not to turn his head to the side and watch his ass as he hoisted himself out of pool.  All of his willpower and the burning need to drown himself right then and there.

Ducking into the water once Haru was out of the pool, Rin swam one full lap before he joined him on the deck, feeling at least a little warmed up, despite having swam all day.  His skin was tingling, body humming as he stood on the starting block and glanced over at Haru.  Part of him was hopelessly and needlessly excited, his body reacting in ways that embarrassed him.  The rest of him was ready, feeling the shifting air of competition between them, despite Haru’s best efforts to look calm, composed, and uninterested.

“Ready?” Rin asked as he adjusted his goggles over his eyes, snapping the band against the back of his head as he always did.  Haru adjusted his as well before he crouched over to grab the end of the block, looking out at the pool in a way that screamed “yes.”

Rin joined him, gripping the starting block and learning his weight forward, maintaining the perfect balance that would translate to a flawless dive, perfected over years of practice.  A quick glance out of the corner of his eye saw that Haru was too.

“Go,” he shouted and took off like a bullet from a gun, pushing all off his weight forward as he arced his arms together and dove into the water.  Everything went silent in the brief moment he was submerged, feet kicking an an attempt to gain the most distance he could before he had to break for the surface.  When he did, it was a gasping breath, head turned to the side enough to catch a glimpse of Haru beside him.  Their eyes connected and Rin felt a fire begin to burn inside of him, one he hadn’t felt in years.

Rin sped down the lane as he pushed himself hard, focused almost entirely on the objective in front of him - the end of the pool.  He couldn’t help but be aware of Haru beside him, causing waves in his wake as he pushed himself just as hard.  He’d seen him swim plenty of times from the sideline, back in high school, and countless times in the past few months, but swimming next to him was something else. Rin buzzed with an energy he’d only ever felt in fierce competition, especially at the Olympics, and it left him dizzy and breathless as he flip turned and pushed off the wall to head toward the other end of the pool.

He could feel Haru pulled ahead of him and he knew when he was falling behind, and in that moment, their race felt like an eternity, almost as if the pool stretched on endlessly before them.  Rin was half-convinced they’d be swimming forever, unable to reach the end, and as the thought crossed his mind, he found he wouldn’t care.  Because swimming with Nanase Haruka was like running through fire, terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

If only his younger self had a chance to experience this.

Despite his wishes to continue going, Rin felt his hand slap the wall abruptly, pushing all of his thoughts of fire to the back of his head.  Even through his distraction, through his wandering mind in the wake of Haru’s waves, he’d known, without a shadow of a doubt, that he had lost.

Pushing up against the wall with a deep gasp, he ripped his goggles and swim cap off before looking over at Haru.  He was gripping the wall, panting quietly, his own goggles around his neck as he stared at his hand.  There was only a brief moment of silence before he looked over at Rin and their eyes connected.

Without even thinking, Rin reached over the lane divider and grabbed Haru by the goggles, dragging him close enough for their foreheads to brush as he panted against his face.  He felt his lips pull back in a snarl and saw Haru’s eyes widen, but the facade was broken as laughter bubbled up past his lips, quiet at first until he was left gasping.  “You are… Holy shit, Haru.  You’re amazing.  You’re fucking— amazing,” he panted against him as he looked down at him, holding him close.

“I haven’t raced like that in years,” he said.  I haven’t felt like that in years.

Haru stared up at him, blinking quietly and lips parted.  He said nothing, confusion written on his features but mixed with an emotion Rin couldn’t place.  Excitement, delight, elation?  He couldn’t tell, though he could see the telltale signs of competitive fire burning in the depths of his eyes, usually such an icy blue that they could freeze Rin in his spot.  But now there was that spark of victory and—

Rin thought it was sexy as hell.

“You’re incredible,” he heard himself whisper again as he leaned into Haru, his grip on his goggles relaxing as he felt his face tilting forward.  He watched Haru with half-lidded eyes, almost feeling as if he was drowning in him, as if he could just fall forward and lose himself in his own reflection, hazy in the depths of Haru’s eyes.

As he felt himself begin to close the distance between the two of them, he knew, without a doubt, that he wanted to kiss Nanase Haruka.  That he was going to kiss Nanase Haruka.

And that was enough to snap him back to reality, like the strap of his goggles against the back of his head.  Straightening up, he pushed away from Haru and back into his own lane, submerging himself in the water as if that would cover up the fact that he had almost kissed Haru.  He could feel the warmth on his face caused by an embarrassing flush and he could feel his heart beating up against his chest as if it were trying to escape and swim away.  He wanted to swim with it.

“Rematch?” he asked, almost too quickly and high-pitched for his own liking.  “Can’t let you win with just beginner’s luck!”

Haru watched him from his lane, pulled up against the lane divider as if he hadn’t moved an inch.  His eyes, widen and curious, searched Rin’s face until he felt like he was being examined underneath a microscope, and it made him feel small and flustered.  Finally, he sighed, straightened up, and pulled his goggles on over his eyes.

“Fine,” he said and pulled himself out of the pool to step onto the starting block once more.

They raced two more times and Haru won both of them.  And Rin - Matsuoka Rin, two-time Olympian with gold medals to his name - couldn’t bring himself to care.  All he knew was that Haru was incredible, he almost kissed him, and he wanted to swim against him again.  Just as much as he still wanted to kiss him.

 

 

After they had finished racing, Haru got out of the pool so he could reel in the lane dividers.  Rin was almost sure that he was going to close down the pool, but as soon as they were gone, he dove back in and floated through the water, silently and gracefully.  Rin, who’d been swimming laps until then, hesitantly joined him, floating around as he stared up at the sky through the domed, skylit ceiling.  He could see the stars, faint dots in the darkness, hazy in the dim lighting of the natatorium and the iridescent blue of the water.  Something about this was peaceful and serene.  As the water enveloped him, and as he floated along on his back, he felt both wound up and at ease and it was driving him crazy.

Finally, after he’d had his fill of floating, when he felt the exhaustion sink in from a long week of practice and an even longer day of swimming, he pulled himself out of the water and grabbed his towel out of his gym bag, draping it over his head and turning to watch Haru.

“Hey,” he called, but Haru didn’t respond.  He’d be convinced he was dead if he didn’t see him occasionally kick his legs or move his arms.  But he was definitely adrift at sea out there, lost to the water and the stars above.

Sighing, Rin grabbed the pool net off the wall and dragged it through the water until he’d captured Haru’s feet.

“What’re you doing?” Haru asked as he pulled himself out of the net with a powerful kick of his legs.

“Trying to catch a mermaid,” Rin answered, unable to contain the laughter on his tongue and giddy grin on his lips as he attempted to chase Haru with the net.

 

 

It took an unnatural amount of time to drag Haru out of the pool, though Rin was hardly surprised.  He wondered how Haru was ever dressed and ready to go when Rin came to pick him and Taki up for dinner on Wednesdays.  Maybe Taki had a secret that he could share, or maybe he had more respect for his seven-year-old son than he had for him.

Either way, he managed to get Haru out of the water somehow, either by sheer force of will or because he’d finally gotten bored.  Rin wasn’t exactly sure.

He’d been planning on throwing his tracksuit on over his wet jammers and taking a shower at home, but when Haru wandered into the locker room with his towel, Rin ended up following him, dragging his gym bag behind him.  Throwing it onto one of the benches, he grabbed the shampoo and conditioner he kept on him and immediately sought out the showers.

The showers at his club in the city were nice; they were meant for more than just washing off before and after a swim.  Individually sectioned off and cleaned regularly, Rin used those showers to their fullest before going home after practice.  It was a rare occasion that he even used the bathroom in his house for anything other than an occasional soak, they were that nice (and convenient).  The showers at the Iwatobi Swim Club, however, weren’t really meant for stripping and scrubbing down.  Rows of shower heads lined the walls in the back of the locker room, no curtains nor dividers sectioning each one off.  Rin was reminded of his days before he went professional, showering off with the guys after practice each day, no one caring who saw what or when.  It was the same now, but he still appreciated the privacy.

Still, it shouldn’t be problem now, right?  As he watched Haru take the shower at the end, turning on the water and holding his hand underneath it until it was just right, he thought that, this isn’t anything he hadn’t seen before.  Even if Haru was showering in his jammers, Rin should be totally and completely unaffected by the possibility of seeing Haru naked.

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves.

Rin spent an inordinate amount of time deliberating over which shower to take (the end opposite of Haru was too far away to look natural, whereas the shower directly next to him was way too close, considering how empty the room was).  He finally settled on the middle, adjusting the water and stepping underneath when it was done.  He tried not to look over at Haru as he showered.  Though he couldn’t help sparing occasional glances in his direction out of the corner of his eye as he washed the chlorine out of his hair.  He was still wearing his jammers, so there really wasn’t anything there that he hadn’t already seen, but there was something so distracting about the way the water traveled down his chest, lean but still toned.  The way that it pooled in the waistband of his jammers, collecting there until it overflowed and continued its path downward.

Suddenly, the hazy air of the locker room felt too thick, the silence between them too unnerving.  Clearing his throat, Rin did the only thing he could do and decided to fill it.

“So, how’s it feel?” he asked, his words echoing through the empty locker room.

Haru looked up at him.  “Hm?”

“Kicking the ass of an Olympian,” Rin teased.

Haru shrugged, looking back toward the wall.  “It doesn’t feel any different,” he said as he ran his fingers through his hair, washing out the shampoo.  “Probably because you haven’t forked over your medals yet.”

Rin’s eyebrow shot up.  “Huh?”

Haru shook his hair out, eyes still focused on the spray of water in front of him.  “Isn’t that how it works?  If I beat you, they must be mine by now.”

Scoffing, Rin turned toward Haru as he brushed his hair out of his eyes.  He was certain he was serious, especially considering the inflection of his voice almost never changed, but when he looked at him - really looked at him - he saw that gentle shining in his eyes that he got only when he was teasing, and noticed the ghost of a smile on his lips as he ran conditioner through his (beautiful, touchable-y soft, gorgeous) hair.  The words he’d planned died on his lips and he scoffed again.  “Get your own medals, Nanase.”

“But I won yours,” Haru said.

Rin sighed, drawing it out in the most exaggerated way possible.  “Fine, winning against me gets you one, and I repeat one, ten minute wearing of my gold medal from the Tokyo 2020 one hundred meter free,” he said, smirking over at Haru.

“Fine,” Haru answered and Rin felt his heart flutter in his chest.  Fuck.  Fuck fuck shit fuck shit damn he had it bad.

Silence filled the locker room again as they finished their showers, though it was significantly less tense than it had been previously.  Rin did his best to keep his eyes to himself, especially when the fear of getting half-hard in a public shower with the guy he had the biggest fucking crush on could become a reality.

After washing the conditioner out of his hair, Rin hopped out of the shower and grabbed his towel, patting his hair dry as he made his way back over to his gym bag.  He thought Haru would be standing underneath the water for another forty minutes at least, but was pleasantly surprised when he followed him.

Though, he realized, he’d actually been hoping he would spend those extra forty minutes away from Rin when he remembered that they’d both be getting changed.  Which meant stripping their last articles of clothing.

Which meant getting naked.

Shit fuck shit damn fuck fuck fuck he was not ready to see Nanase Haruka naked.  Except he totally was.  He was ready with every fiber of his fucking being because he’d been pining over this guy since the day he set eyes on him.  He was gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous, and more than just that - he was adorable, surprisingly sweet (when he wanted to be), funny (in a way he probably didn’t intend), and Rin wanted to date him.  Badly.

But he was almost positive Haru either wasn’t interested or didn’t bat for the same team (swim for the same team?).  Maybe he was poolsexual, Rin had no fucking idea because Haru was a closed, locked, sealed, and unreadable book that he couldn’t decode.  Not to mention out of his league, and even if none of that were true, there was still the matter of him having a son, which seemed to be a deal breaker with most guys his age.  (Seven years, he thought.  It had been seven goddamn years since his last failed relationship.)

Just as Rin felt his heart begin to slowly sink into the pit of his stomach, he heard the telltale slap of Haru’s jammers hitting the tile floor.  Picking his head up, he felt sweat collecting at the back of his neck from how hard he was trying not to look over at him.  Haru had his back to him, facing a row of lockers, one open where he apparently kept his belongings.  Rin was facing the other way as he grabbed his clothes out of his gym bag.  He wouldn’t notice if he glanced over, right?  It wouldn’t be a big deal, right?

Except it was a big deal.  It was a big fucking deal because he wanted his first time seeing Haru naked to be when he’s stripped off all of his clothes himself after making out heavily and tumbling into his bed.  Or on their wedding night.

—Holy shit, Matsuoka, you need to get your head on straight before you give yourself a goddamn boner and ruin everything.

Taking a deep breath through his nose, he yanked his own jammers off and rung them out over the tile floor before throwing them over an open locker.  He wasted no time in slipping a fresh pair of boxer briefs on before plopping down on the bench so he could dry his legs.  Safe.  Sort of.

Until he knocked into his gym bag and sent his goggles to the floor.  Sighing, he bent down to pick them up and it was then that he was met with a face full of Nanase Haruka’s ass.

Apparently Haru was taking his sweet time ringing out the water from his jammers as he looked off to the side.  But Rin’s eyes were definitely not on Haru’s face, especially when he had a really incredible, really nice butt.  His fingers twitched and his face flared up in a tangible heat, his breath caught in his throat as if he were drowning.  When Haru shifted on his feet, he immediately grabbed his goggles and sat up again so he could pull his pants on and try to concentrate on something else, something other than Haru’s naked butt right behind him.  (His current times at practice, Taki’s recent test scores, the average pace of his morning 10ks, anything—-)

Standing up, Rin fastened the buttons on his pants and yanked his shirt on before he could complete the look with this Tokyo 2020 jacket, which he zipped all the way up in an attempt to hide how red his neck was.  Maybe the color of his hair would off-set the now red color of his face.  (He seriously doubted it.)

After stuffing his things into his bag, including his damp jammers, he zipped it up and shouldered it as quickly as he could without being totally suspicious.  It took every ounce of willpower and a drop of self-restraint not to run screaming through the locker room until he was outside breathing in the fresh air, really, along with a little bit of self-respect.

“I should head out,” Rin said as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

Haru finally looked back at him, pausing halfway through getting his pants over his legs.  Rin’s eyes stayed firmly on Haru’s face and he almost patted himself on the back.

“Oh,” was all Haru said and Rin was ready to shrug it off, but he could’ve sworn he almost detected a hint of disappointment in his voice.  (It must’ve been his imagination, because Nanase Haruka was nothing if not unflappable and stoic.)

Either way, it was enough to get him to pause.  Whenever they were together this late, he usually walked Haru home.  Usually Taki was there too, but still.  Did Haru want him to…?  The thought sent another red hot spike of warmth up his spine and into his face.  “Well, uh…  I guess I could wait for you, you know, if you stopped being slower than a goddamn turtle.”

Haru rolled his eyes and looked away, tugging his pants up and fastening his belt before grabbing for a shirt.  “If you want to leave, by all means,” he said, waving a hand toward the entrance of the locker room.

Rin sighed.  What, was he trying to make Rin dig his heels in and refuse to leave without walking him home now.  “It’s fine,” he said.  “I mean, what’s another ten years of waiting for you to get dressed, right?  I’m still young.”  He grinned as cheekily as he could, the gentle banter enough to help ease him back into some semblance of comfort.

Haru glanced over over at Rin and he could’ve sworn he saw a smirk on his lips.  “And miss the Olympics?  Yeah, sure.”

Rin paused and laughed, feeling more at ease as he reached over and slapped Haru’s arm lightly.  “Better hurry it up then!  My fans’ll be heartbroken.”

 

 

Luckily for Rin, it had only taken Haru ten more minutes to finish getting dressed, though he was half-convinced he really would miss the Olympics just to walk him home.  Still, it took Haru a little bit of time to cover the pool and lock up the rest of the swim club before they were on their way, but Rin helped him to speed the process along.

“So, you don’t own the place, right?” he asked, sliding his hands into the pockets of his jacket again as they walked the familiar path from the swim club to Haru’s home.  The scent of approaching summer and the breeze from the sea mixed with the chlorine still wafting off of them like a permanent fixture.

“No, but I manage it,” Haru answered, looking ahead as he gripped the strap of his swim club bag.  “Coach Sasabe owns it, but he made me the manager because I like locking up more than he does.”

Rin paused and then burst out laughing, though it only lasted for a few seconds.  “That’s the most thinly-veiled excuse to keep swimming after hours I’ve ever heard,” he said.  Not that he’d ever heard any excuses like that in his life.

Haru glanced over at him, giving him that curious, wide-eyed look that he always seemed to be throwing his way whenever Rin did anything more than purely exist.  “I guess so, huh,” he said, and the tiniest smile appeared on his lips, just enough to send Rin’s heart up his throat and then rocketing into space.

They didn’t talk about much else as they walked back.  Though Rin could appreciate a good bout of silence, he’d long-since learned that he didn’t always have to fill the void between him and Haru; that Haru actually preferred it when it was quiet and he had time to think.  He’d learned that he was pretty introverted (no surprises there) and that he had a rather large personal bubble that he surrounded himself with.  And while Rin was happy to give him his silence and space, that knowledge wasn’t enough to stop him from invading that any chance he could, through casual touches and engaging conversation.

That and he just really, really, really liked Haru and wanted to show him in any way he could.

He was surprised Haru obliged him most of the time.  From what he picked up from talking with Makoto, Haru didn’t really put up with anyone’s shit.  And yet…

Rin was pulled out of his reverie when he noticed Haru had come from a stop.  His feet stuttered and he turned around so he could look at him, finally noticing that they’d reached the bottom of Haru’s staircase.  So soon?  He almost felt disappointed.  —No, he definitely felt disappointed.  After all, it’d been a nice night, all complications and embarrassments aside.  Besides, it was the first time Haru had ever invited him to do anything.

It was the first time they’d done anything just the two of them.  Alone.

“I had a good time,” Rin said as he shifted from foot to foot, trying so hard to keep still and keep his embarrassment under wraps.  “It was fun.  Racing you.”  He grinned.

“Yeah, same,” Haru said and Rin felt his smile widen.

“Next time, we’ll race at my pool,” Rin said and Haru’s eyes widened for a split second.

“Okay.”

And that was it, wasn’t it?  It was time to say good night, to turn on his heel and walk back to his home to spend his weekend catching up on everything he didn’t get the chance to do over the week.  Even if his home was empty and Taki-less.  Still, it was their routine, wasn’t it?  Even if today was Friday instead of Wednesday, this was still the same way all of their outings together ended.

But he didn’t want this to end (not that he ever did).  He wanted to see Haru again and not just on Wednesday evenings when they had dinner.  He wanted to see him again soon, but how soon was too soon?  He did have plans over the weekend, even if Taki wasn’t going to be around.  He had things to take care of with his sponsors, a shoot that they wanted him to do in Kyoto for the day on Sunday, not to mention a couple meetings and one magazine interview.  He couldn’t think of a single time where he could squeeze Haru in, and the last thing he wanted to do was delegate him to some slot in a busy schedule.

Even if they weren’t dating.  Even if he wasn’t interested.  Even if they never dated…

But the next weekend— No, he was busy then.  He had another interview and a meeting with another potential sponsor on Sunday and he was taking Taki to the aquarium on Saturday—

“Next Saturday,” Rin said and Haru glanced over at him, raising both of his eyebrows questioningly.  “What’re you doing?”

Haru’s eyes widened again as he tilted his head curiously.  “Nothing,” he said so frankly and it made Rin smile.  “Why?”

That smile was seconds away from slipping as he felt a flutter of nervousness in his stomach.  Was it sad that he was half-hoping that Haru would be busy so he could at least say he tried?  Definitely, incredibly.  Not to mention he hadn’t even asked his son if this entire thing was okay— God, there were so many things wrong with this situation.  “Taki and I, uh.  We’re gonna go to the aquarium,” he said, just barely resisting the urge to shift on his feet or rub the back of his neck.  Play it cool, Matsuoka.  “Wanna come?”

Haru’s head tilted to the other side as if he were rolling the idea around in his mind.  He didn’t seem to deliberate on it for long before the tiniest smile appeared on his lips.  “Sure.”

“Really?” Rin stammered, closing his mouth tight before he could say anything else stupid while in his state of shock.  Haru snorted and he felt himself flush, grateful for the semi-cover of darkness to hopefully mask it.

“Yeah.”

“Cool,” Rin said and he wanted to laugh, cry, and smile all at once.  He didn’t know why he was so goddamn nervous about the entire thing, except he did.  This was Haru, who he was pretty much crazy about at this point, whose stupid little smiles practically knocked him dead every time, and who just gave him the best goddamn race of his life.  And he’d just asked him out to the aquarium with his son.  This wasn’t dinner after practice and this wasn’t dinner at his house either.  This was something else entirely.

Memories of their evening together came flooding back to him in that moment: of him gripping Haru’s goggles and pulling him, their lips so close to touching, of him watching Haru bathe, of him seeing Haru’s ass, of the playful and almost flirtatious banter between the two of them.  His face flushed immediately and his heart began to race as he laughed and rubbed the back of his neck.

“See you on Monday then,” he said as he started to move in the direction of his apartment, his legs carrying him backwards.  “Good night!”

“Good night, Rin,” Haru said, almost gently, and started ascending the stairs, one at a time and at an almost languid pace.  When he reached the top, he looked down at Rin, smiled, waved, and then took off.

If Rin had any less self-control, he would’ve skipped home.  (Though that didn’t stop one or two appearing every so often.)

Chapter Text

The week came and went surprisingly fast, and Haru was reluctant to admit that maybe it was because he was looking forward to going to the aquarium with Taki and Rin on Saturday.  (That would be admitting that Makoto was right, after all.)  The days leading up to it felt endless and brief all at once, like they dragged on forever and yet passed in the blink of an eye.  It was a disconcerting feeling, especially when he lived by routine, when every day was almost exactly the same as the previous one.

It was undeniable that Matsuoka Rin (and son) had that effect on his life: disturbing the peace like a heavy stone in a still pond.

That day, they met at the train station instead of the swim club.  And for the first time since his dinner at Rin’s, Haru was dressed in something other than track pants and his swim club jacket.  Sliding his hands into the pockets of his pants, he looked around as he waited on the platform, both for the train and for his company.  He hadn’t been standing there long, maybe ten or so minutes amongst a young couple holding hands and a mother and her son standing together, her checking her phone and her son playing a game on his handheld.  He wasn’t sure why he’d arrived so early, though he was convinced it wasn’t  because of the butterflies launching an assault against his stomach.  Because Nanase Haruka didn’t have butterflies, nor any kind of nerves whatsoever.

It was right as the train pulled up to the platform that he heard the telltale sound of shoes slapping against pavement in a run as Rin and Taki jogged up to Haru, both wearing identical smiles.

“Haru!” Taki said excitedly, bouncing once he reached him.  The train slowly came to a stop, sighing as the doors opened and a small handful of people stepped out.

“Yo,” Rin said as he leaned his elbow on his son’s head, his grin widening and his eyes twinkling.

“Hey,” Haru said in return, before turning a small smile at Taki.  This seemed to make him happier, which wasn’t really much of a feat considering it was his default state of being.

They didn’t have time for much talk after that, with the train doors threatening to close at any moment.  Hurrying them inside, Rin leaned up against the doors when they had closed, looking around as if searching for a seat.  For a Saturday afternoon, their particular train car wasn’t too crowded, though Haru hardly ever took the train out of Iwatobi, so he didn’t have much to compare it to.  Still, it seemed as if almost every chair was taken, except for one near the back.

“This way,” Rin said, leading them toward it, urging Taki to take the seat once they got there.  He did, of course, swinging his legs as he smiled up at his did, who took one of the hanging handlebars before glancing over at Haru.  He smiled too.

The butterflies continued their relentless siege.

Reaching up, Haru held on as well as the train took off from the station, Rin bumping into him from the force of the start.  As he straightened himself out, Haru’s side felt warm where their shoulders had brushed.

The train ride wasn’t long, though Taki talked through most of it, his feet swinging incessantly, occasionally knocking into Haru or Rin’s shins on accident.  As he gripped the bag his father had been carrying, he talked non-stop about a variety of topics, from that week at school, to Makoto sharing some of his bento with him after he’d dropped his on the walk to class, to how he hoped the aquarium had dolphins so he could touch one “for real this time!”

“What’re you looking forward to seeing them most?” Haru asked as he watched Taki.  Next to him, he could feel Rin’s eyes on him.  He shifted.

“I dunno,” Taki drawled, gripping the bag closer to him.  “I really wanna see the penguins, but the sharks are soooo cool!  I love how cute they are.”

Haru snorted.  Not very many people would use ‘cute’ to describe sharks, but he supposed not many people were Matsuoka Taki.

“But dad says they have a string ray touch tank!”

“Oh?” Haru asked, instantly curious.  “Do you get to reach in and touch them?”

“Yeah!  Dad said they’re in this huge pool and you can reach down and pet them as they float by.”

“Pool?”

Next to him, Rin stiffened, head snapping toward Taki as if he were just now joining the conversation.  “We weren’t supposed to mention that, remember?”

Haru scoffed.  “You act like I’ve never been to an aquarium before,” he said, his expression flat, a frown tugging at the corners of his lips.

Rin only offered him a cheeky grin in return.  “I was told you’d be wearing your jammers,” he said as he leaned in closer to Haru.  “And to be wary around anything you could potentially dive into.”

Makoto, Haru thought as he gripped the handlebar a little bit tighter.  Though he wasn’t wrong, he was wearing his jammers underneath the loose fabric of his beige pants.  It was the pair with the single purple stripe running up both sides as it curved along his thighs.  One of his favorites, and certainly one of the most comfortable.

He was half-tempted to challenge Rin - just try and stop me - but he settled for giving him the most withering glare he could muster before looking over at Taki.  “Whatever,” he mumbled.

Rin shifted next to him as Taki gripped the bag in his arms.  “I wanna swim with the sting rays too,” he said and Haru felt his expression relax into something akin to a smile.

“Yeah.”

 

 

When they arrived at their stop, it was only a short walk until they were at the aquarium.  Though Haru’d been once or twice before, the area was still largely unfamiliar to him, and had changed since his last visit.  The aquarium, which he remembered as small and somewhat underwhelming on the outside, had been renovated into something much more beautiful, enticing with its glass ceiling and modern infrastructure.  What had once just been unwelcoming concrete slabs had become a small park, grass, trees, and flowers bringing life to the area.  Haru immediately started heading toward the ticket booth, but was stopped by a small hand on his wrist.

“This way, Haru,” Taki said as he tugged him toward the direction of the grassy park.  

Haru’s eyebrows knit together in confusion.  “I thought we were going to the aquarium,” he said, feeling almost as if he’d been tricked.

“Lunch first,” Rin said, lifting the bag in his hand with a small smile.  “Hungry?”

It was only then that Haru realized that yes, he was hungry.  It was almost noon and he hadn’t eaten since eight in the morning.  His breakfast might have been hearty, but it was still time to eat.  Though he hadn’t thought to pack anything…

Letting himself get dragged over to the grass, Rin set his bag down on one of the various picnic tables in the area before taking a seat.  Haru sat across from him and Taki took the seat next to him, smiling up at Haru as his legs bounced excitedly.

“Settle down, kid,” Rin teased as he opened up his bag and started pulling bento boxes out.  The first one, he handed to Taki and the next one he set in front of himself.  Haru watched curiously as he pulled out a few cups and a bottle of barley tea.  Though that seemed like all they’d packed, Rin reached in one last time to pull out a third bento box, which he set in front of Haru.

“You didn’t have to,” Haru said, though he was grateful, considering his hunger.  That didn’t mean he wasn’t wary of what was inside.

“It’s fine,” Rin said, waving it off.  “I like cooking.”  The toothy grin he flashed Haru caused his stomach to flip, so rather than return it, he grabbed for the bottle of tea so he could pour the glasses.

When Rin and Taki opened up their boxes, Haru glanced over at them.  Rin’s was significantly larger than Taki’s, almost twice the size, but he supposed that made sense given his size, build, and athletic lifestyle.  Their food was mostly the same, perfectly balanced into a variety of fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, and protein.  Curiously, he glanced down at his before pulling the lid off.

The first thing he noticed was the mackerel fillet nestled in a bed of rice.  Around it, little nori shapes had been cut out to form waves in the rice.  The fillet had a nori fin and a face cut out and placed into the center.  The artist had attempted to make it look like a shark, apparently.  Next to that, a small section had been sequestered off for a few cherry tomatoes and strawberries.  …All of which had nori faces placed on them too.

When Haru glanced up, both Rin and Taki were watching him silently.  Looking down at his lunch, he finally looked up again and felt a small smile on his lips.  “Cute.”

Rin laughed a little too loudly.  “I cooked, but Taki was the artist,” he said.

“Look, I made the strawberries into pandas!” Taki said, reaching over so he could point out the panda-esque faces that were more suitable for onigiri than strawberries.  

Picking one up, Haru examined it before biting into it, strawberry, nori, and all.  As he chewed, the salty ocean taste of the nori mixed with the sweet freshness of the strawberry came together to create an…incredibly abhorrent taste.  He didn’t spit it out, nor did he even gag as he swallowed and set the stem in his lunchbox.  “It’s good,” he lied and Rin gave him the most incredulous look he could muster while Taki sat back, pride written on his face.

“I told you they would taste good together,” Taki said, glancing up at his dad in smug satisfaction.

Rin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, though his look of annoyance was cut by the smile on his lips and the softness of his voice.  “Wrong, Taki.  You are so wrong.

 

 

As for the mackerel, it was surprisingly delicious.  For someone who claimed not to like it (“it’s okay,” were Rin’s exact words), he sure knew how to cook it well enough.

 

 

“Let’s go see the penguins first!” Taki exclaimed as he peered over Rin’s arm to get a better look at the map.  Haru stood behind them, his eyes scanning the new layout of the aquarium.  It seemed they added a few things since he’d last visited.

“That’s all the way in the back,” Rin said as he pointed to it on the map.  “Then we’d have to go all the way around just to see the sharks.”

“So?”  Taki pointed to the penguin exhibit again.  “They’ll be worth it.”

“We should start from the beginning and work our way around.  That way we don’t miss anything,” Rin said, lifting the map so it was just out of Taki’s line of sight.  His son pouted and smacked his arm.

Dad!

“What does Haru think?” Rin asked, looking over at Haru with a teasing smile.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he mumbled.  As long as they got to see everything in the aquarium, he’d be happy.  There was an outdoor dolphin show he was particularly interested in, as well as the stingray touch tank that he was apparently not allowed near “without adult supervision.”

“Penguins it is!” Taki said, grabbing his dad’s arm and trying to drag him off in that direction.

Rin laughed, not budging despite Taki’s valiant attempts.  “Alright, alright, I’ll cut you a deal,” he said, and Taki stopped, immediately interested.

Though he then brushed it off by crossing his arms over chest chest and tilting his chin up in a way that was…so Matsuoka.  (It was the only way Haru could describe it.  He looked so much like his father at that moment, not that he didn’t already.)  “I’ll hear what you have to say,” he said, nodding once.

Rin swallowed, probably to keep down a laugh.  Haru watched the entire exchange silently and curiously.  “Okay.  If we do it my way - if we start from the entrance and go around - I’ll get you the biggest shave ice, with as many flavors as you want mixed in.”

“As many as I want?” Taki asked, the facade of his stern skepticism broken.

“As many as you want.”

Taki seemed to contemplate this, stroking his chin as he shifted from foot to foot.  Finally, he looked back up at Rin and grinned.  “That and one souvenir when we’re done.”

“A shave ice and one keychain,” Rin tried.

“One stuffed animal, small to mediums-sized.”

Rin laughed, holding his hand out.  “Deal.”

Taki grabbed it and shook it forcefully.  “Deal.”

Haru snorted and the two of them looked over as if remembering he was there.  Taki seemed unfazed by this, his smile blossoming on his face as he bounced on the balls of his feet excitedly.  Rin, on the other hand, seemed to be blushing.  Haru wasn’t sure why.

As they set off toward the entrance of the aquarium, Taki grabbed his dad’s hand, tugging him as if they were in a hurry.  As Haru kept up, Taki finally looked back at him, smiled, and took his hand too.  As those little fingers grasped his, Haru couldn’t help but smile.

 

 

They saw a lot of different sea creatures that afternoon.  Haru had almost forgotten how big this aquarium was, though he was almost certain it had gotten bigger with the renovations.  He didn’t remember the large collection of freshwater fish, floating around in their beautifully murky waters.  He didn’t remember the puffin enclosure, which had excited Taki despite not being penguins (though they would come soon).  Most of all, he didn’t remember the jellyfish wing, where their bioluminescence inside their blacklit tanks made the entire darkened room glow in an ethereal purple.

“Look, it’s Clara!” Taki said as he pressed his face against one of the tanks, a lone jellyfish circling around as its tentacles floated behind it.  It puffed its body to propel itself forward, making it seem as if it were dancing.

As Haru walked over to the tank, he settled in next to Taki and smiled as he watched the jellyfish sway.  “Have you asked her about your citizen satisfaction?”

Taki glanced up at Haru and laughed.  “She looks kinda busy,” he said, touching the tank with one hand, the other one seeking out Haru’s.

“Yeah, another time,” he said.

When Rin settled on Taki’s other side, he took his dad’s hand as well, squeezing it before he swung both their hands and smiled.  “Let’s go see the little fish!” he said, and dragged them off again.

 

 

They were only halfway through the aquarium when Taki proclaimed that he was hungry again and ready to bank on his promised shave ice.  Though they still hadn’t seen the sharks, the penguins, or the dolphins, Rin obliged and Haru didn’t put up much resistance.  After some consultation of the map, they found where the snacks were located, in a small food court with a variety of options and an area for seating.  Flanking one end of the food court was a large tank that stretched up to the ceiling, manta rays and schools of fish swimming around it happily.  Haru found himself unable to look away from that sight as they stood in line for shave ice.

When it was their turn, Taki ordered three different flavors in his: strawberry, mango, and peach.  Rin made a face as the young woman behind the stand crafted it without any judgment nor comment.

When it was done, he handed Taki his shave ice monstrosity.  He immediately took a bite, yelping that it was too cold.  

Rin laughed, reaching out to take it from him.  “Patience is a virtue, you know,” he said, before he looked at Haru.  “Do you want one?”

Haru’s eyes widened as he looked over at Rin.  “Sure,” he said with little hesitation.  He liked shave ice enough to have one of his own, though not as large as Taki’s.  Glancing over at the stall, he took in the wide array of different flavors.

“I don’t think they have mackerel,” Rin said, and Haru didn’t even need to glance at him to know he was teasing.

He almost wanted to frown, but he didn’t.  “I know,” he said, though mackerel shave ice didn’t sound like such an awful idea.  There was a market for that.  “Pineapple.”  The girl nodded and made one for him as well, smaller and covered in a sweet yellow syrup.

“And I’ll have matcha,” Rin said as he handed her a wad of money.  She nodded and produced that as well before handing Rin his change.

Together, the three of them found a small table seated close to the large tank, which immediately drew Haru’s attention.  As his eyes followed a lone manta ray while it glided along the bottom, Taki went on and on about how beautiful the jellyfish were and how he wished he had a pet octopus.

Haru could hear the begging lilt to his voice as he pleaded with his father for a fish tank of his own.

“You can’t have a pet octopus,” Rin said and Taki sighed.

“You never let me do anything cool,” he mumbled and Rin reached over to ruffle his hair with a quiet laugh, mumbling something about “ungrateful kids not appreciating their cool dads.”

A brief silence fell over the table as Haru assumed Taki went back to eating his shave ice.  He was spooning his own into his mouth slowly as he kept his eyes on the water, wishing that he could dive in and swim with the school of fish, floating in his back on the top of the water or gliding on the back of the manta ray.

The peace could only last so long, however, as Taki finally spoke up again, his spoon still in his mouth.  “Hey dad.  Are you two on a date?” he asked.

Haru’s head immediately snapped over to Taki as Rin choked on his shave ice and spoon.  After a few pounds against his chest, he swallowed and gasped.  Haru couldn’t tell if his face was red from a lack of oxygen or embarrassment.

“W-what do you even know about dates, kid?” was Rin’s response and Haru felt a small twinge of disappointment at his lack of a definitive answer.

“A ton of stuff!” Taki said, puffing out his cheeks.  “I watch romantic movies with Aunt Gou and Sei all the time.  Last week, we watched this movie called Ever Blue about this cop and this chef falling in love, but the chef was really a merman—“

“Okay, that’s—“ Rin started.

“And Sei and Aunt Gou are dating!  And they do stuff all the time, like rub their noses together and hold hands and kiss a lot.  Sei always does this thing with his tongue when they do,” Taki said, licking his spoon aggressively as if to demonstrate.

Haru could’ve sworn Rin was turning redder.  “Okay, okay, I believe you.  That’s enough,” he said, barely choking down oxygen, let alone another bite of his ice.

Taki tilted his head to the side and looked up, as if in contemplation.  “Is it normal for people to lick each other on the mouths?” he asked and Rin wheezed.

“Yes,” Haru answered with a nod.

Oh my god.”

“I thought so,” Taki said, his smile proud.  Rin looked like he wanted to sink down into his chair or maybe drown himself in the large tank.  Haru wasn’t sure.  Maybe both.

“Finish your food, you two,” Rin snapped, though there was little bite to his words.

“But you didn’t answer the question, Rin,” Haru said, enjoying the way Rin’s eyes widened as his head snapped toward him.  Haru couldn’t help the small smile from appearing on his lips, nor could he help the teasing tone of his voice.  Just as much as he couldn’t seem to keep his ears from heating up nor his heart from ramming up against his chest.  He’d thought this was a date when Rin had asked him, not that he had a lot of experience in the matter.  But he almost wanted to hear it from Rin’s lips, and not only just to watch him get flustered and flounder like he was currently.  It was…endearing.  “Is this a date?”

“Uh…”

“Yeah, dad.  Are you and Haru on a date?” Taki asked, shoveling more syrupy ice into his mouth.

Uhhh,” Rin stammered and Haru leaned forward to prop his chin up in the palm of his hand, his eyebrows rising curiously, head tilting to the side.

“Well?” he prompted.

Rin’s face almost matched the color of his hair.  If it weren’t for how well Haru knew the features of Rin’s face, he might’ve lost his hairline where it blended in with the color of his skin.  Rin’s eyes remained wide, despite his best attempts to regain control of himself, and finally he looked off to the side.  “Yes,” he mumbled.  “Is that a problem?”

“No,” Haru answered as he took another bite of his pineapple ice.  Rin’s wide eyes were on him again and Haru was trying his best to mask his own embarrassment: the way his ears turned red, the rapid beating of his heart against his ribcage as if it were trying to escape, the gentle shaking of his fingers as he raised his spoon to his lips.  He was completely undaunted, not nervous in any way.  Because he didn’t get nervous, not for anything.

—Except for dating Matsuoka Rin, apparently.

“Really?” Rin asked quietly, and the way he clamped his mouth shut afterwards told Haru he probably hadn’t meant to ask the question at all.  Watching him take a deep breath, he exhaled in a quiet sigh as a smile replaced the nervous, shocked look that had found its home on his face.

“Uh, I mean.  Of course!” Rin said, puffing out his chest and Taki giggled in response.  He deflated a little bit after that, turning a surprisingly  gentle expression Haru’s way.  “Yeah.”

 

 

After they finished their shave ice, they disposed of the trash and picked up where they’d left off.  Taki took both of their hands again, dragging them through a few of the exhibits, speeding up as they got closer to the penguin enclosure.  Though Taki made a point of saying that his favourite aquatic animal was the great white shark, he mentioned that he’d never seen penguins before and was excited to see what they were really like “in person.”

Apparently, “in person,” they were much more exciting than cartoons made them out to be.  According to Taki, anyway, who enjoyed watching them run around the plastic iceberg inside their enclosure, waddling from foot to foot and holding their wings out for balance.  He pressed his face to the glass - as he did with every exhibit they’d spent more than five seconds at - and laughed as one dove into the water and zipped from side to side almost as if it were made for the sea.  Every so often, he would tug at Haru’s hand and point at a large, sleepy penguin in the back, noting that he “thought it moved” or wondered if it was protecting an egg.

“I don’t think it’s mating season,” Haru answered, and for some reason, Rin tensed next to him.

From the penguin exhibit, they moved toward the shark tunnel, which Taki was especially excited to see.  “I hope they have a great white!” he said as he swung both Haru’s and his father’s hands in his own, smiling the entire way.

On their way to the entrance, however, Haru paused as he glanced off to the side and noticed a large gathering of children around a small pool.  A sign nearby advertised the Stingray Touch Tank and Haru felt his throat tighten.

“Let’s go there,” he said, wasting no time in tugging Taki and Rin in that direction.

Rin, apparently, had other plans.  Digging his heels into the slippery concrete as best he could, he dropped Taki’s hand so he could grab onto Haru’s wrist.  “Oh no you don’t,” he said.

Haru stopped in his tracks.  “I just want to touch them,” he stated, tugging at Rin as he tried to get him closer to the pool.

“Then why are you loosening your collar?” Rin asked, and it was in that moment that Haru realized his other hand was indeed at his neck, tugging at the collar of his shirt.  Almost as if he was preparing to tug it clean off.

Force of habit, he wanted to say, but he kept his mouth shut.

“Are you seriously wearing your jammers under there?” Rin asked, giving Haru a rather significant once over.

Haru scoffed and Rin rolled his eyes, his expression looking significantly more flustered than he did previously.  “Alright, you can touch the stingrays, but only if you keep your clothes on.”

“Fine,” Haru mumbled.

They did touch the stingrays, the three of them pressed up against on side of the tank, Haru and Rin kneeling while Taki stood.  They were careful to observe the two finger rule as the stingrays glided along the bottom, unbothered by the hands along their slimy spines.

As Taki went on and on about how cool they felt and how his dad should totally buy him an awesome aquarium, Haru felt Rin’s hand brush against his as they both reached for the same ray.  Haru glanced over at Rin, catching him staring long enough to glance away and at his son with a nervous laugh.

This happened two more times before they finally got up and left.

 

 

The shark tunnel was everything Haru needed it to be: a long, deserted walkway, surrounded by a dome of water.  As the sharks, rays, and schools of fish swam around them, the light from the water refracted, casting an ethereal, undulating glow about the room and making it seem as if they were underwater.  Haru felt at peace in this room, surrounded by the comfort and beauty of water, glowing blue as watery reflections danced on his skin.  If only he were truly underwater, then he would close his eyes and let the current drag him, caressing him and leading him gently through the open ocean.

Unfortunately, they were still on dry land, but Haru was less disappointed by that fact than he thought he’d be.  Especially when Taki was perched on Rin’s shoulders so he could get up higher and see the sharks from a “better view.”  Rin sidled up next to him as Taki nudged his feet against his father’s chest and directed him over toward the wall.

“It’s so beautiful,” he whispered, in awe, his eyes taking on a shine that Haru more than recognized.  As they approached one side of the tank, Haru settled in next to Rin so he could look at the sharks that Taki was pointing out, his face pressed into the glass, nose squished into it as his eyes darted about wildly.

“Look, it’s a hammerhead,” he said, and then pointed to another.  “And a nurse shark!”

Haru felt a small smile tugging at his lips as he glanced up at Taki, momentarily distracted from the water.  It was then that he noticed Rin staring at him again, only this time, when their eyes connected, he didn’t immediately look away.

“Beautiful,” Rin whispered.

Haru hesitated for a moment before nodding.  “It is,” he said, his hand reaching out to touch the glass.   Above them, Taki’s hands had joined his face in pressing up against the glass as he continued to talk.  A large shark - a great white, apparently - passed overhead, but Haru’s eyes were trained to Rin’s as he slowly closed the distance between them.  As their lips brushed almost hesitantly, like hushed whispers in the dim lighting of the tunnel, Haru felt his eyes flutter closed and his breath hitch in his throat.  A warmth settled in the space between his chest and his heart, sticking to him even as they pulled apart.  It was hardly a kiss at all, just a mere brush of lips, but still.  There was something about the way their eyes opened and sought each others’ out against the hazy blue of the shark tank, something that made Haru’s heart flutter.

Though he could tell Rin was making to pull away, probably to look back at the water and laugh at the fact that Taki was now counting the number of visible fish out loud (a daunting task, Haru had to commend his efforts), but Haru didn’t let him.  Instead, he pushed forward and kissed him again, pressing their lips together firmly as the quietest hum left his throat.

He could feel Rin stiffen, but the gesture was only momentary before he relaxed and kissed him back, leaning into him just enough for Haru to notice, but not enough to interrupt his son’s quest.

The shuddering breath that left Rin’s lips as they parted again made the tips of Haru’s ears feel warm.  Inside his chest, his heart hammered against his ribcage regardless of his feelings on the matter, a reminder that he was human; that he’d liked that kiss a lot and that he would be perfectly fine with another.  But Rin only grinned at him, sheepishly and wolfishly, before turning to look back at the shark tank again.

“Dad, let’s go to the other side!” Taki said, pointing further into the tunnel, and Rin pried himself away from the wall and from Haru so he could head in that direction.  He didn’t make much of a show of it, nor did he hurry, turning toward Haru as Taki pointed at a shark passing overhead.  

“I was talking about you, you know,” he said, and then started walking again.

As Haru watched him go, he couldn’t help but let a quiet huff of a laugh pass his lips.  It was cute how Rin was trying to be so suave, especially when he was blushing as hard as he was.

Hurrying to catch up, they walked side-by-side down the shark tunnel together.  As Taki continued to point out the different sharks passing around them, Haru felt Rin’s knuckles brush up against his, too deliberate to be an accident.  While part of him almost wanted to make a show out of ignoring Rin, just to tease him, he found himself linking their pinkies together instead.

Their hands stayed like that for a while, before one finger became two, two became three, and eventually all of their fingers were laced together completely, hands warm in the places where they connected.  Haru never knew that holding someone’s hand could feel this comforting, this good, but he supposed he’d never held hands with Matsuoka Rin until this moment.

 

 

That evening, when they finally returned to Iwatobi by train, Taki could barely keep his eyes open as he clung to Rin’s back, arms wrapped around his neck and legs around his waist, clutching the giant shark toy his father had bought for him.  Rin held on tightly to his legs as carried him home, occasionally turning to smile at the face fast asleep against his shoulder.  Haru walked beside them, only making the occasional comment as their idle conversation dwindled out in the exhaustion of the long day spent together.  He almost envied Taki for being able to sleep the entire way back, and getting the chance to be transported home without disturbance.  He was exhausted, tired out by the day’s events, by the constant socialization and excitement.  Part of him couldn’t wait to get home and crawl into bed, where he’d be allowed a day to recharge before seeing Rin again.  The other part of him found that he didn’t mind this feeling every once in a while.

The conversation was minimal as they approached Haru’s house, Rin staying quiet for Taki’s sake and Haru answering in the shortest way possible as he felt his eyelids droop and his feet begin to drag.  When they stopped in front of the stairs to Haru’s house, he turned toward Rin, now used to the fact that they had to at least make some kind of conversation before he ascended, even if it was only just a “good night.”

The silence between them dragged on for a bit as Rin shifted Taki on his back and avoided looking at Haru.  Though he thought he should feel nervous by this, the flush on Rin’s cheeks, barely visible in the dim lamplit streets, told him otherwise.

“So,” Rin started after a while, finally daring to look Haru in the eyes.  “How was that for a first date?”

Haru tilted his head.  “I thought this was our second date.”

Rin paused, eyes widening.  “Eh?”

“Last weekend at the pool,” Haru offered, half-amused by the bewildered expression on Rin’s face.

“Wait, what?”

Another laugh bubbled on Haru’s lips, but he swallowed it down with a bemused smile.  Was Rin really that clueless?  “I thought I made it pretty clear that I’d asked you out then.”

“W-What—“ Rin stammered.

This time, Haru did laugh, a quiet scoff leaving his lips almost like a huff.  Though he managed a roll of his eyes as well, he couldn’t help but feel endeared to Rin’s stammering and stuttering, to his complete obliviousness.  “You must be dense.”

“—Shut up!” Rin huffed, and now his face was bright red, obvious even now at night.  Haru thought it was a good look on him.  “Fine, how was that for a second date?”

“It was good.”  It was great, though he, himself, didn’t have any prior dates to base it off of.  But he had a great time.  He hadn’t enjoyed himself with someone other than Makoto, Nagisa, or Rei in a long time.

“Good,” Rin mumbled, though now he was smiling, doing a terrible job at masking it behind a feigned scowl.

“My first kiss wasn't bad either,” Haru said, unable to help himself at another jab at Rin.  It was worth it, to see the way his face bloomed red and his eyes widened.

“Huh?”

But Haru shut him up with another kiss as he leaned in and captured his lips, applying just enough pressure to stop any further words from leaving Rin’s mouth.  Again, he felt Rin tense and then relax against him, applying just enough pressure in return.  He could’ve sworn he heard him sigh, his breath leaving his nose as one of his hands let go of Taki’s leg so he could cup Haru’s cheek.  Haru returned the gesture, his thumb swiping Rin’s cheeks as he gripped both sides of his face in his hands, surprised at how much he liked this feeling of closeness, of holding someone else in his palms.

They shared multiple kisses, some of them long, some of them short with little hints of suction between their lips.  Haru felt that the longer they did this, the more he wanted to kiss him everywhere his lips could reach.  It was a foreign, embarrassing feeling, he found, wanting to kiss someone as much as wanted to kiss Rin.  But he could hardly complain, not when it made his heart flutter like it did; not when it made him feel weightless, almost like he could float away with the tide if he let himself go completely.

Unfortunately, all good things had to come to an end and Haru knew they couldn’t keep kissing like this forever.  Not when he could hear a stifled yawn from Taki, shaking him out of this dream and pulling him back into reality.

Finally pulling back, he found himself sighing as his hand moved from Rin's cheek to Taki's head, ruffling his hair as a smile tugged at his lips.  When he looked at Rin again, he found him smiling and blushing as well.

"So, uh.  Let's do this again sometime," Rin said as he shifted from foot to foot, Taki settling down again with a final yawn.

Haru nodded, his hands moving to his pockets.  "Yeah."  He couldn't help the smile that lingered on his lips, despite how easily he was usually able to reign in his expressions, to keep himself collected.  "Taki can come too."

Rin laughed, his smile widening until it stretched the corners of his lips.  Haru thought, in that moment, if he smiled any wider, his expression might become a permanent feature.  It was a good look on him.  “G’night, Haru."

"Good night, Rin."

This time, before he turned to ascend the stairs, he and Rin shared one final, lasting kiss.  As he walked up the steps and entered his house, it clung to his lips, tickling his skin, and keeping his heart racing long after he’d fallen asleep.

Chapter Text

"So, how'd it go?" Makoto asked as he grabbed a bite of salad with his chopsticks.  He munched away happily as he stared across the table at Haru, seemingly unperturbed by the way Haru gave him the most deadpan stare he could muster.  It was obvious how unamused he was by Makoto's attempts to strike up a conversation about his recent dates with Rin.

Fortunately for Makoto, however, Haru just so happened to be riding the wave of happiness that came with those recent dates being successes.  Not that he was ready to say that out loud.

“How’d what go?” Haru asked as he took a bite of his mackerel, glancing up at Makoto in an ill-advised attempt to make this look as casual as possible.  Maybe if he asked as confidently and calmly as he could, Makoto would drop it.

“Haru,” Makoto said, raising both of his eyebrows and tilting his head in a way that said “Don’t be stupid.  A long-suffering sigh left Haru’s lips as his chopsticks dove in for a bite of rice.  

Of course he wouldn’t.

“It was fine.”  Maybe if he continued to stuff his face full of food, he’d wouldn’t have room to talk.  Though he’d run out of food eventually, in which case he’d have to excuse himself and bolt as quickly as he could from the restaurant, leaving Makoto with the check.  Perfect escape plan.

But he’d still see him the next day at work…

(And he was still his best friend.)

Makoto smiled.  “Yeah?  Was it a date?”  He took another bite of his salad, munching away as if Haru wasn’t shifting uncomfortably across the table.

Operation: Dine and Dash was seeming more viable by the minute.  Taking a sip of miso soup, Haru dragged his metaphorical feet as long as he could before he finally set the bowl down and looked up at Makoto.  He felt the edges of resignation creep in as the events of his date rested on the tip of his tongue.  He’d never been very forthcoming with details regarding his own personal life, even with Makoto, but the fact that it was a struggle to keep the smile off his lips told him something: that he was incredibly satisfied by the date, that he had just had his first kiss and it was amazing, that he had the biggest crush on Matsuoka Rin.

“It was,” he said finally and Makoto’s face erupted into the widest grin.  Haru thought of Rin smiling after their kiss, how it made his heart swell and flutter, and he had to wipe his smile off with his napkin under the guise of getting food off his face.

“I knew it,” Makoto said with an unfamiliar air of self-satisfaction.  His grin widened and he laughed.  Was that so hard?  He didn’t have to say it for Haru to hear it.  Setting his chopsticks down, he folded his hands on the table.  “You know, you don’t sound all that thrilled for your first ever date.”

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Haru said, shrugging his shoulders and digging back into his mackerel.

“You’re lying.”

The ease in which Makoto’s voice cut through him made his face flare up in embarrassment.  His head snapped up and his lips fell open as his eyes searched Makoto’s face.  Though he had expected a smirk, he was smiling, looking at him with that gentle expression that reminded him that, years later, he could still read Haru like an open book.  Maybe not all the time, maybe sometimes things were lost in translation, but he still knew Haru better than anyone else; knew him enough to know when he was lying.

And maybe in the past, Makoto would’ve nodded, smiled, and dropped the subject.  But they weren’t teenagers anymore, clinging to each other because they’re all each other had.  They’re adults, both grown and shaped by the years they spent apart, Makoto at a university in Tokyo and Haru working with Sasabe to rebuild the Iwatobi Swim Club.

“When did you get this nosy?” Haru asked, a frown tugging at his lips.

Makoto’s smile widened, calm and infuriatingly understanding.  “When you went on your first ever date with an Olympic gold medalist.”

Haru snorted, glancing off to the side.

Makoto laughed again, picking up his chopsticks once more so he could grab the last bite of his salad.  “What?  Am I not allowed to be excited when you’re finally showing interest in something other than a pool of water?”

Looking back at Makoto, Haru gave him the most unamused look as his lips set into the thinnest line they could.  Just to show him how much he didn’t appreciate Makoto’s casual ribbing.

“You never tell me about your dates.”

Makoto’s eyes widened almost imperceptibly, but Haru caught the gesture with practiced ease.  He could see the hint of a blush on his cheeks and it was almost enough to make him feel victorious.  “You never ask.”

That’s because I never want to know, Haru almost said, but in the spirit of fairness and teasing, those words should be the last ones to leave his lips.  “Well, I’m asking now.”

“Haru…”

“Well?” Haru offered, gesturing at Makoto with his chopsticks.

Makoto swallowed.  “Well, if you want to know…”

I don’t, Haru almost said, but he almost felt bad for thinking it, especially when they’d gotten the conversation this far.  He had a feeling Makoto knew that though; there was a reason they didn’t talk about these kinds of things, and that reason wasn’t the fact that Haru had never had any kind of romantic pursuits in his life until now.

As if sensing his hesitation, however, Makoto smiled.  “I have a date next weekend.  She’s a florist.”

“Oh.”  Haru shifted in his seat, unsure of how to respond.  Come to think of it, he had no idea what Makoto’s love life was like outside of the fact that he had one.  (That was all he ever needed to know, wasn’t it?)

Makoto nodded.  “Yeah.  She seems nice.”

Haru had no idea how to respond to that too.  Not only had they never discussed these kinds of things, he’d never discussed these kinds of things ever, nor did he really want to.  There was a reason he rarely wanted to talk about Rin, but if anyone should know about what was going on in his life, it had to be Makoto.

Makoto’s smile softened, as if sensing Haru’s hesitation.  “We should double date,” he said teasingly, and the laugh that passed his lips makes Haru roll his eyes and smile.

“I’m not making any promises.”

Makoto only laughed harder. “You would’ve liked my first girlfriend, you know.  In Tokyo.  Sachiko.”  He hummed.  “She was studying to be a marine biologist.”

“Yeah?”  Haru didn’t know much about Makoto’s first girlfriend, only that they met and dated for two years in college, that Makoto had sent him occasional photos of them together (on dates at the zoo, at tourist spots around Tokyo), and that their breaking up had hurt Makoto immensely.  He wasn’t sure how much he wanted to know now, if his prying would dredge up old memories that Makoto had long since buried.

Makoto leaned back in his seat and smiled.  Haru searched his expression for any hint of pain, but he couldn’t find anything.  It had been a long time ago, he thought; maybe time truly healed all wounds.  Makoto’d dated plenty of people since her, perhaps Haru was wrong to worry.  “I think she works at an aquarium now.  Taking care of penguins or sea otters or something.  She was always really good at that.”

Haru nodded.  A silence stretched between them as he picked at the last of his food.  His mind wandered back to Rin, back to their aquarium date and the feeling of their lips pressed together in the dimly lit shark tunnel.  He found himself smiling as he sifted through the memories, thinking back on Taki’s embarrassing outbursts and questions, about the penguin sleeping in the back of the enclosure, and the way his and Rin’s hands sought each others’ after an entire day of dancing around the truth of their outing.

This didn’t seem to escape Makoto’s notice.  “So, back to your date,” he said, and Haru stiffened.  “He totally kissed you, didn’t he?”

Haru’s face immediately flared up, a blush heating up his cheeks and making his heart flutter.  He opened his mouth and shut it just as quickly, unsure of how to respond except for embarrassed gaping and flustered, garbled words.  But he didn’t need to, because Makoto’s smile said it all.

“I take it you’re seeing him again?” Makoto asked, propping his chin up in the palm of his hand as he leaned against the table and gave Haru that look that said he knew almost exactly how Haru felt about Rin.  (He probably did.)

“Probably.”  Haru shrugged and looked off to the side.  He really wanted to see Rin again, and not just at swim practice when he was picking up his son…

“You should invite him over to your place!  You could make him diner.”  Makoto smiled.  “Probably something other than mackerel…”

Haru rolled his eyes, but the idea wasn’t half-bad.  He’d been to Rin’s house already, but Rin hadn’t seen the inside of his.  He could invite Taki, but he could also invite just Rin.  He liked the sound of both, really.  He just wanted to spend more time with him, a concept that felt so foreign in his mind but so warm in his chest.

Makoto smiled as he sat up and reached for his water.  “So, tell me about it.  Your date.”

Haru sighed, looking around before settling his gaze on Makoto.  He’d probably have to say something other than “good” if he wanted to satisfy Makoto.  He was trapped, but his heart still felt light and his smile still remained. “Fine,” he mumbled, finally setting his chopsticks down.  “To start, it was actually our second date…”

 

---

 

Emotional Crisis Number One: Rin had never wanted to run out of his house, across town, and kiss someone as much as he wanted to kiss Haru right now.  Even seated in his sister’s living room, it took every ounce of willpower not to get up and bolt from the door so he could see Haru again.  

Every.  Single.  Ounce.

As well as his sister’s gaze, settled heavy on him, pinning him down to the couch as she sipped at a glass of wine.  “So.”

“So.”

Gou sighed, raising an eyebrow at Rin as she set her glass down on the side table.  Folding her hands in her lap, she leveled Rin with the most teasing smile she could muster.  Clearly she thought she had to be coy to tease information out of Rin.  “So, how was—“

But the words exploded from Rin’s mouth before she could even finish.  “It was amazing.  It was— incredible.  Holy shit, Gou, Haru is so, so…adorable?  Amazing?”  If his hand wasn’t gripping the stem of his wine glass like his life depended on it, he’d probably he burying his face into his hands, or perhaps the decorative throw pillow next to him on the couch.  Was he blushing?  He couldn’t tell, only that he was smiling so wide it might crack his face in half.  He didn’t even need to wait for a vocal cue from his sister to continue.  “He held Taki’s hand practically the entire time and every time we’d get to a new tank, he’d read the little placards to him.”

Gou was smiling at him, grabbing her wine glass so she could sip at it again.  “Is that why he’s been going on and on to Sei about jelly fish?”

Rin laughed, glancing over in the direction of the kitchen, where they could hear the telltale signs of dinner being prepared, coupled with the carrying voice of his son, who was rambling on and on about the different things they’d seen in the aquarium only a day prior.  “Yeah.”

“That’s so cute,” Gou said, though she was looking at Rin, that mischievous look in her eye that said she clearly had opinions on the matter.  Rin was pretty sure he shared them, at least in some way.

“Yeah,” he said, a wistful sigh leaving his lips as his head hit the back of the couch.  He’d never felt so, so— lovestruck in his entire life.  It was like his heart had sprouted wings and had taken off into the clouds, like it was buoyant, floating in his chest as if it were as light as a feather.  Even he noticed the spring in his own step, how he’d almost skipped through his run that morning because he could barely contain the giddy smile and the way his lips still tingled from the kisses they’d shared the night before.

Emotional Crisis Number Two: Rin couldn’t stop thinking about Haru.  It took every bit of self-control in his possession not to text Haru with stupid little messages when he woke up.  He wanted to so badly, his phone weighing heavy in his pocket all day.  But he still wasn’t sure if Haru would see them, even if he noticed him carrying his phone around more often than not.

“So, Taki had a great time.  I’m assuming you did too?” Gou asked, and Rin was almost positive it was goddamn obvious how he felt about his date with Haru, but when he looked up at her, he noticed that significant look again, the one that said she wanted less details about how cute Haru was with his son and more details about how cute Haru was with him.

“Yeah,” Rin said again, biting his lips in an attempt to keep his smile from exploding.  “Yeah, I did.”

“So, what, you aren’t going to tell—“

Again, Rin could hardly wait for Gou to finish.  “He was— I dunno.  I was so nervous, the entire time I kept wondering if this was actually a date, like if Haru knew that I was taking him out on a date, but I think he did.  Because Taki asked, of course he asked.”  Rin took a swig of wine and sighed, embarrassment flaring in his face at the memory of that particular conversation.  It figured that the universe wouldn’t be kind enough to let him have one cool moment that day.  “That kid’s too perceptive for his own good.”  

He laughed, though there was a nervous, excited edge to it that even he could hear.  “But Haru said it was, even though I was the one who asked him.  And get this— the race we had last weekend?  Apparently that was a date too.”

“I told you so,” Gou said, and Rin both hated and loved the sing-song lilt to her face.

“Shut up,” he said, nudging her leg with his foot.  He laughed again and she giggled around the rim of his glass.

“So, what?  Are you guys going out again?  Are you dating?  Are you in a relationship?” she asked, taking another sip as she leaned in close, her smile secretive and teasing.

Rin felt the flush on his face deepen.  “I dunno.  Not yet,” he mumbled.  A pang of anxiety shot through his chest, but he brushed it off as quickly as it came.  The date went pretty well, Haru had kissed him multiple times, and had even mentioned going out again.  There was no way this was a one time thing, right?

Though he didn’t think Haru was an incredibly flighty person, there was still always a chance that he’d change his mind…  But would Rin blame him?  After all, he had a kid and they were a package deal.  He wasn’t here to fuck around, he wasn’t looking for someone to date casually; he was looking for a relationship.  Because he couldn’t afford anything less.

Because he didn’t want anything less.

“Third date’s a charm,” Gou said, nudging Rin’s foot with hers.  When he looked up at her, she smiled and he felt his shoulders relax.

“Yeah.”

Setting her now-empty wine glass down, she inched in closer to lean up against Rin.  “I’m so excited for you!” she said, her head coming to rest on his shoulder, her smile barely containable.  “It’s been so long!  You deserve someone.”

Rin laughed quietly and softly, resting his head on top of his sister’s as he draped his arm over her shoulder and pulled her closer.  “Seven years…”

“Almost eight,” Gou pointed out as she looked up at him.  “It sounds like he’s perfect for you though.”

Rin had the decency to blush.  “You know what he said?  Before I left?”

“What?”

Taking a deep breath, Rin let his eyes flutter closed as he smiled.  “I said we should do this again sometime, and he said Taki could come too.”  He felt something close to tears prickle at the corners of his eyes at the thought, his heart fluttering in his throat like it belonged there.

Gou sat up and looked over at Rin.  “Really?” she asked and he nodded.  “Marry him.  Now.

Rin laughed, pretending to rub at his eyes to mask the fact that he’d teared up.  “Alright, that’s definitely jumping the gun.”

Gou sighed, nudging Rin playfully.  “Well, after Takeru or Takeo or whatever the hell his name was—“

“Takeshi.”

“—Takeshi, whatever.  After that asshole, you deserve someone like Haru in your life,” she said, looking at him with those wide, beautiful eyes of hers.  And Rin felt like crying all over again.  “Someone who cares about you and Taki.”

Laughter bubbled up from his lips and he reached over to pull her closer.  “Yeah, I know.”

“Good.”

After a moment of silence, Rin spoke up again.  “I’m happy for you too, you know,” he said, and she looked up at him again, eyes wide and shining.  “You and Seijuurou.  I’m happy for you both.”

Gou’s smile softened and after a moment, she leaned up to place a kiss on Rin’s cheek.  “Thank you,” she whispered and leaned in to hug him close.  He returned the gesture, squeezing her tight and relaxing with a quiet sigh.

He felt bad.  His feelings regarding Seijuurou and his sister’s relationship had always been conflicted.  Seijuurou’d been flirting with her since high school, but she never showed any interest until just a couple years ago, when they started dating.  He’d been opposed to the whole thing from the start, and it took months of convincing just to get the three of them to have dinner together.  But he was glad that he felt differently now, because when he saw how Seijuurou looked at Gou - how she looked at him back, how she smiled and laughed around more him - and he couldn’t help but love them both.

Especially after all she’d done for him,.  After all they’d done for him and Taki.

“When’s the wedding date?” Rin asked and Gou rolled her eyes and elbowed him hard in the side.  He rubbed the sore spot between peels of laughter, her glare unable to hold up for long.

When he looked up, he noticed Seijuurou standing in the entrance to the kitchen, Taki beside him.  They both looked confused, if not a little bit frightened.  Seijuurou was the first to recover, however.  “Wash up, you two!  Dinner’s ready,” he said with that characteristically wild grin of his.

Rin smiled and nodded, standing up so he could stretch and head for the sink to wash his hands.  Just as he did, he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, twice to indicate a text message.

He almost dropped the thing has he scrambled to pick it up, and when he unlocked it, he noticed the text was from Haru.

His breath caught in his throat.

Dinner next weekend? It read.  My place.

Rin couldn’t keep the smile from his lips as his excited, shaky hands texted a reply.

Wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Emotional Crisis Number Three: Rin might’ve been seriously contemplating marrying Nanase Haruka.

Chapter Text

Standing in front of the door to the Nanase house, Rin couldn’t help but stew in the anxiety building in the pit of his stomach.  He had no reason to be nervous, really, when last weekend had been such a major success and Haru had been especially cute with him that week when he’d stopped by the swim club to pick Taki up.  He was pretty sure that Haru had sent him at least one flirtatious glance over dinner, but that could’ve also been a trick of the light — he wasn’t entirely sure.  It didn’t hurt to hope though.  But still, nothing had exploded in his face that week, Haru had actually texted him again just to confirm their plans for dinner, and had definitely not tried to cancel at any point.

So, why was he so nervous?

Oh, right.  One, because this was the third date.  Apparently, according to Gou, the third date was the most important when deciding the fate of the relationship, and he really wanted to start a relationship with Haru.  

Two, this was his first time at Haru’s house.  And he was alone.  

Three, he was alone.  

As much as he wouldn’t have minded bringing Taki along (of course he wouldn’t have minded, his son was the most important thing in his life), he was still excited for the chance to spend time with Haru alone.  But with being alone came privacy and with privacy came the opportunity for kissing and…

Let’s just say Rin had no experience with this kind of stuff.  At all.

But he wanted it.  Oh god, did he want it.

Sucking in a deep breath through his lips, Rin finally rang the doorbell as he exhaled in a sigh, forcing his shoulders to relax and the rest of his body with it.  He pressed a second and third time, just in case, before he sat back and waited, gripping his bag in one hand and a small bouquet of flowers in the other.  He held his breath as he waited, listening for the telltale sounds of footsteps nearing the front door.

When Haru eventually opened it, Rin exhaled quietly and smiled at him, trying to keep his grin under some semblance of control.  As Haru’s gaze switched between the flowers, Rin’s bag, and him, Rin laughed and leaned in, putting on the most confident smile he could despite how much of a mess his insides were; despite how hard his heart was beating up against his throat.  (It would take a whole team to untangle the knotted mess that was his stomach.)

It was a wonder he could even string a sentence together at this point.

“Hey,” he said, all but thrusting the flowers toward Haru, whose eyes widened in surprise (causing Rin’s heart to give a triumphant flutter).  “For you.”

Haru hesitated before he took the bouquet into his hands, cupping them around the stems and lifting the flowers to his face.  Rin watched as he buried his nose into it, his eyes fluttering closed as he inhaled deeply.

The words caught in Rin’s throat as he felt his cheeks grow hot.  He wondered then if he should’ve said something, like about how he thought Haru would like sunflowers, about how they reminded him of summer - which was fast approaching - but more importantly, how they made him think of Haru.  Maybe about how flowers sometimes had meanings and sunflowers meant adoration (among a few other things).  Or even about how he’d eyed every rose bouquet at the florist, but the second he saw the bouquet he was currently holding, he knew it was the one.

But what could he say?  Especially when Haru sighed into the flowers, the paper crinkling between his fingers as he lowered the bouquet and smiled.  An honest-to-goodness, genuine smile.  And it was the most beautiful thing Rin had ever seen.

Flowers could never compare.

“They’re beautiful,” Haru said, holding them close to him, the petals tickling his chin.

You’re beautiful, Rin thought.

“Thank you.”

Somehow, Rin found his voice.  “It’s nothing,” he said, hoping it didn’t sound as hoarse as he thought it did; that his face wasn’t as hot as it felt.

Haru nodded, looking at the flowers again.  “I was just about to start dinner,” he said, turning to walk further into the house.  Rin hesitated in the doorway before following him in, shutting the door behind him and toeing off his shoes.

“What’s on the menu?” he called after him as he sought out the guest slippers.

“Mackerel,” was Haru’s response, and Rin found himself laughing.

“Why do I even ask?”  He stepped through the foyer, looking around the house curiously.  It was pretty big, especially for someone who lived alone.  He couldn’t see any signs of roommates or even family, though the decorations he could see looked old and not exactly Haru’s style.  (Then again, what did he know?)

As he made his way toward what he thought was the kitchen, Haru appeared in the doorway, the sunflowers now free from their wrapping and placed in a beautiful vase, which Haru cradled in his hands.  He gave Rin a flat look, though it was cut by the lingering warmth Rin could still see in his eyes.

His heart leapt up in his chest again.

“Don’t I get a tour?” he asked as Haru brushed past him to walk into another room.  Rin followed.  Stopping in the doorway of what Rin could see was the living room, Haru moved the vase to one of his hands.

“Living room, front yard, kitchen, bathroom, bath, upstairs,” Haru said, pointing to each one as he listed them off.  Gripping the vase again, he entered the living room.

Rin couldn’t help the aggressive roll of his eyes as he trailed after Haru.  “Wow, so thorough,” he said, sarcasm dripping from every word.  Haru ignored him as he set the vase down on the low table, positioning it directly in the middle.  Though the room itself was hardly dreary, the presence of the flowers seemed to brighten it considerably.  (Or maybe Rin was just imagining things, but he could hardly care if he was.  Especially when it made his heart flutter like it did.)

Straightening up, Haru glanced over at Rin and sighed, defeated.  “Fine,” he said, though there was something playful in his expression that made Rin smile instead of doubt his own teasing start to the evening.

 

 

“And this is the bathroom,” Haru said, opening the door to the ofuro.  Rin poked his head in, glancing around at the tiled room with its comfortable bath.  His own bathroom hardly compared, the tub not even enough space to fit him and Taki together.  There was something nice about this bathroom; perhaps it was the calm blue coloring or the way it was organized.  Or it was the way it felt so Haru, with the cute little dolphin toy perched on a shelf with his shampoos and every corner spotless, just like the rest of his house.

“And you’re showing me the bathroom because…?” Rin asked, unable to help a teasing jab in Haru’s direction.  (It helped calm himself down, really.  If he filled the space between them with dumb comments, he wouldn’t have to think about how badly he wanted to kiss him.)

“I spend a lot of time here,” was Haru’s deadpan answer and Rin couldn’t help but laugh in response.

“I’m not surprised.”

Haru’s second attempt at giving Rin a tour of his house was faring much better than his first, mostly because he was taking the time to show Rin each of the rooms that made up his downstairs.  He showed him the living room, which was so wonderfully old fashioned with its tatami mats and shrine, knickknacks collected that were both his and his family’s (swimming trophies and medals, pictures of him and his friends, next to family photo albums that pre-dated Haru, weird statues and items that looked more like a grandmother’s taste than someone of Haru’s age).  He showed him the front porch, which was old and wooden, reminding Rin of summer days spent with his grandmother and mom, eating watermelon and running around on the grass.  And then Haru showed him his bathroom, which Rin was inclined to think was odd, but this was Haru - water-obsessed and weird Haru - so it didn’t seem so strange at all.

As Haru led him through the house again, Rin followed, watching his back in a way that could only be described as “lovingly” (or perhaps “embarrassingly loving”).  When they entered the last room on the downstairs floor, Rin slid his hands into his pockets and allowed himself a smile.

“Finally, this is the kitchen,” Haru said, turning to lean against the countertop.

“Don’t I get the see the upstairs?” Rin ventured to ask and Haru tilted his head to the side, almost thoughtfully.

“If you’re well-behaved,” he said, straightening himself up and walking over to the fridge.  Rin could’ve sworn he was dreaming, that Haru’s lips just quirked up in the tiniest, most playful smirk, but even delirious, daydreaming, romantic Rin couldn’t have imagined that.  Nanase Haruka was definitely outwardly flirting with him, about taking him upstairs if he “behaved himself.”

For a few seconds, he forgot how to breathe.

“I’ll start dinner,” Haru said, pulling Rin from his thoughts before he started choking on air altogether.  Opening the fridge, he began gathering items up in his arms, seemingly unbothered with how flustered Rin was getting in the entrance to his kitchen.  As he set items on the counter, he spared him a glance.  “Want to help?”

Finally, Rin found his voice.  “Sure.”

 

 

Dinner prep was as uneventful as it usually was, but there was something really nice about standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Haru as he grilled mackerel fillets.  Mackerel wasn’t high up on his list of favourite fish and the stench coming from the grill pan definitely tickled his nose in all the wrong ways, but Rin found himself unable to care, especially as he got to watch Haru’s deft hands turn and flip the fillets with a practiced ease.

Next to him, he finished cutting up vegetables after prepping the miso stock and getting that started on the stove burner behind the one Haru was currently using.  They’d been working in silence together for quite sometime, comfortable and enveloping instead of stifling and awkward as it should’ve been.  Maybe it was because Rin was preoccupying his mind with cutting up and preparing foods, or maybe it was because this felt so unnaturally natural, like a scene they’ve been repeating for years.  One they were meant to be in together.

Shit, if Rin kept thinking these embarrassing thoughts, he was going to end up exploding all over some part of Haru’s house.  (And judging by how pristine he kept everything, he probably wouldn’t be happy about having to clean that up.)

Of course, there was only so long the peaceful silence could last, especially since Rin wanted to make conversation with Haru.  There were things he wanted to know - how his week went, how work was coming along - and things he needed to know - the state of their relationship, how Haru felt about him.  He decided to stick to the former rather than the latter.

“So, how was your week?” he asked as he scooped the vegetables into a bowl so he could toss them together in oil.

Haru glanced over at him, his expression both thoughtful and surprised.  After a moment, he flipped the fillets on the pan.  “It was good,” he said.

Rin found himself smiling.  “Yeah?”

Haru hummed.  “Yeah.”

Again, Rin resisted the urge to playfully roll his eyes, though he couldn’t help the smile sticking to his lips.  He was probably going to have to work a little bit harder if he was going to get any information out of Haru, apparently.  “Anything exciting happen?”

Haru flipped a fillet, letting it sizzle and crackle before he answered.  “One of Makoto’s students hit his head doing laps after their lessons.  He blacked out, but I dove in just in time.  He’s fine now,” he said.  “I wouldn’t call that exciting though.”

Definitely not, but the image of Haru diving into the water and pulling some guy out, water cascading down his chest in all the right ways certainly was.

Shaking his head, Rin tried to will the blush from the tips of his ears as he tossed the salad.  “Yeah.  Good thing you were there.”

Haru hummed again.

“How’re your lessons?” Rin ventured to ask.

Again, Haru was silent for a moment as he focused on cooking.  “Good,” he said.  “Most of them will be over soon, and then I’ll have a new batch of students.  Except for one, of course.”

Rin laughed.  “Yeah, I don’t think Taki’s going anywhere, especially since you started teaching him breast stroke.”

Haru sighed, though Rin could see that familiar ghost of a smile on his lips that betrayed his true feelings.  It made Rin’s smile widen, his heart settling in his chest with a familiar warmth.

“Your first mistake was giving in to his demands.”

“I know.”  Haru flipped the fillets again.

Rin’s hands hesitated as he took a deep breath through his nose.  “Though I uh, haven’t seen him happier than when he finishes lessons with you, so…”  If he weren’t busy helping with dinner, perhaps his hands would be free enough to drag them down his face, or cover the heat in his cheeks.  Instead, he focused on what he was doing, hoping that it was enough of a distraction to miss the way Haru looked at him, curious and genuine.

It wasn’t.

“He’s a gifted swimmer,” Haru said.  “The water accepts him completely.”

As embarrassed and awkward as Rin felt in that moment, it wasn’t nearly enough to keep him from bursting out laughing.  Turning toward Haru, he leaned against the counter and smiled at the pseudo-annoyed expression he was now sporting.  “He’s something, all right.  If he keeps it up, it won’t be long before he’s kicking my ass.”

Haru gave him a look - one that probably said “finish cooking.”  “Do you think he’ll follow in your footsteps?”

As Rin turned back to doing just that, he paused.  That was a question he constantly asked himself, and one he’d attempted not to pressure.  Taki was seven, going on eight - he didn’t have to decide on his future yet.  Or so Rin continuously told himself.  “I don’t know,” he answered honestly.  “If he does, then I’ll get him all the support he needs.”  He paused, looking down at the bowl in his hands.  “But if he doesn’t, then I’ll still support him one hundred percent.”

Haru was quiet next to him, poking at the mackerel fillets with his full attention.  Rin fell into silence as well, finishing up his own task with cooking.  The stillness between them, despite how tense the atmosphere felt at times, was oddly comfortable.  Even if there was some awkwardness thrown in, probably his own fault.  But he didn’t push it, only continued to cook as he remained acutely aware of Haru next to him.

Finally, Haru stirred, turning to look at him.  He remained silent as Rin felt his eyes roam the length of his body.  He couldn’t help the blush that flared up on his cheeks as Haru made no attempt to hide the clear once-over he was giving him.

After a moment, he finally spoke.  “You look good tonight,” he said, deadpan despite his words, though Rin could almost hear a clear tone of nervousness hidden in the depths of his voice.  Not that he was paying much attention to Haru’s tone, when all he could think about was the fact that Nanase Haruka had just complimented his appearance.

Fuck, he was so cute.

Of course, Rin put a little too much work into his appearance that night.  He spent at least an hour in the bathroom looking at his hair, Taki sitting outside and barraging him with questions about his relationship with Haru.  He’d picked out one of his nicer outfits, all while trying to look as casual as possible.

At one point, he even banged on Gou’s door asking her for advice.

So, the compliment was definitely appreciated.  Though it brought back a familiar sense of deja vu.

Flashing Haru the most confident smile he could muster, though his cheeks felt as if they were stained a permanent pink, he said, “Thanks.”  And then cocked an eyebrow.  “Your house…  It’s nice.”

Haru stared Rin down for what felt like a solid minute before the corners of his lips turned up in the smallest smile. “My house?”   As they locked eyes, Rin felt his heart stir in his chest for the thousandth time that night.  “Thanks, I guess.”

And Rin couldn’t help but laugh.

 

 

Everything on Rin’s plate - even the mackerel - looked absolutely delicious.  As he eyed the plates and bowls set out in front of him, his stomach rumbled and his mouth began to water.  It occurred to him then that he’d never tasted anything Haru’d made before, aside from the side dishes he helped with at their last dinner together.  And, from the looks of it, Haru was quite the cook.

“This looks amazing,” he said, after the two of them gave their thanks for the food.  He wasted no time in digging in, sighing around his chopsticks at the first bite.  “I didn’t know you were so good at this.”

Haru shrugged off the compliment like he usually did, going straight for his mackerel.  “I’ve been cooking since I was young.”

“Really?”  Rin couldn’t remember when he started cooking for himself.  Maybe a little bit when he’d come home from school, if he was hungry, but others tended to do a lot of the cooking for him.  It wasn’t until he was finally living on his own that he needed to learn; when he and Gou were living together and she was balancing university with helping him raise Taki.

Haru hummed in approval, but Rin was curious to know more.  Would Haru get annoyed if he were to prod into his personal life?  Probably.

But he pressed anyway, ready to back off at the slightest hint of irritation.

“Why?”

Haru looked up from his food, as if he’d never been asked that question before.  He probably wasn’t used to explaining himself or his life to others.  But Rin was a new presence in his life, and he certainly wasn’t going to learn anything without asking, right?  (Though he supposed he could ask Makoto…)

“I lived here with my grandmother when I was younger.”  That explained a few things.  “And when she passed, it was just me.  My parents lived in the city, for my father’s job.  So, I had to take care of myself.”

Rin’s eyes widened, but he quickly turned his gaze down to his food.  He couldn’t imagine leaving Taki on his own for months at a time, possibly even years.  Sure, Taki was old enough to watch himself or be home alone for a little bit while Rin had to take care of business, but still.

As his heart clenched, he cleared his throat and smiled.  “Well, the food’s amazing,” he said.  “Even the mackerel, I’ll admit.”

The corners of Haru’s lips pulled up in a small smile before he returned to eating.  “How was your week?”

“Mine?” Rin asked, after swallowing a mouthful of rice.  “It was good.  Things are, you know, busy.”  He reached for his water.  “Practice with the team is consuming, but on top of that I have to maintain my sponsorships, do interviews, charity work, stuff like that.”

“What does that entail?” Haru asked, and Rin thought it was cute that he looked kind of curious.

“Oh, you know.  Photoshoots, dinners, meetings.  Boring stuff like that.”

Haru nodded.

“Do you ever have to do any business-related stuff for the swim club?”

Haru shook his head as he polished off the last of his mackerel.  When he glanced up, he was definitely eying Rin’s.  “No, Sasabe handles all of that.  I just manage the facilities.”

Rin hummed, his chopsticks dancing over his mackerel almost teasingly.  “When did you start working at the swim club?  Straight out of high school?”

Again, Haru shook his head.  After taking a sip of his miso soup, he set it down and reached for his water.  “No, the swim club didn’t reopen until three years ago.  It was torn down while I was in high school.”  He took a sip of his water and looked up at Rin.  “I was a lifeguard until they reopened.  Sasabe brought me on to manage the pool.”

Rin grinned.  Wow, this was the most he’d heard Haru talk about himself in a while.  He was kind of amazed.  Maybe it was the familiar comfort of being in his own home, or something more.  (Rin could hope for something more.)  “When did you start coaching?”

“About eight months later.  I took the position under the promise that I would only have to teach free.”

Laughing quietly, Rin pushed his rice around his bowl and smiled at Haru.  “That sounds like you.”

Again, it seemed that Haru was smiling back, if only for a moment.  “What about you?”

Rin blinked.  Really?  Haru wanted to know more about him?  Unprompted?  He thought he knew Haru well enough to know that he wouldn’t ask out of formality; Nanase Haruka was nothing if not blunt and to the point.  “I went straight to the Olympics after high school.  I worked my ass off, got scouted, and then pushed myself.  I just barely made it in, I swear,” he said, shaking his head.  “And the rest is history.  I moved to Kyoto, Gou moved in with me a year later.  I had to juggle practice, competitions, and raising a baby, but it was worth it.”

This seemed to satisfy Haru, who nodded and returned to eating.  After a moment of silence, as they consumed their meals, Haru looked up again.  “Do you think you’ll make it again this year?”

Rin paused mid-chew.  “Yeah.  Maybe.  I hope.”  He swallowed.  “I’m a lot better than I was when I was 18, but so’s everyone else.  But I want to go again.”  He needed to go again.

“Are you aiming for a forth?” Haru asked, too casually for the weight of the question.  Rin paused again, his chopsticks tapping the lip of his rice bowl.  Was he?

“Of course,” he said, though he wasn’t even sure how confident he was.  After two Olympic runs - and possibly a third - he wasn’t sure if he had another four years in him.  Or if he needed to retire, and finally be there for his family.

While he finished his food, that particular question sat in the pit of his stomach, making each swallow just a little bit difficult.  Though, as he sat there next to Haru, his burning questions regarding him and the nature of their relationship easily buried his feelings about his own future.

 

 

When the food was finished, Haru brought out dessert - scoops of green tea ice cream.  It paired nicely with the Castella cake that Rin brought with him, something he picked up from the bakery down the street.  Mugs of piping hot decaf coffee sat at the table with them, cream and sugar nearby just in case Rin liked his coffee anything more than black.  (He didn’t.  But Haru did.)  The silence weighed over Rin as he pushed his ice cream around in the bowl, his stomach a series of untamable knots as he amped himself up to finally ask the question: What are we?

“Hey,” he finally said, forcing the word out of his throat.  Haru looked up at him, intrigued.  “I was— Could I ask you something?”

“Yeah,” Haru answered.

Rin nodded, as if psyching himself up.  The words felt caught in his throat, almost trapped there as he tried to think of the best way to ask Haru the burning question.  Should he be more direct, or did he need to dance around it just in case he made Haru nervous?

He wasn’t sure what the best call was, so he just said the first thing that came to mind: “So, uh.  Where do we go from here?”

Apparently, it was just vague enough to have Haru tilt his head in confusion, eyebrows drawn together.  “Well, you could help me do the dishes after dessert,” he supplied, and it was just cute enough to make Rin laugh.  Though it did little to calm his nerves.

“No, I mean, with us.  You know, since this is our third date and all.”

Again, Haru looked confused.  “Third date?”

Rin swallowed, taking a bite-sized piece of the Castella cake, but not daring to eat it.  “Yeah.  Usually the third date is, uh, when you decide where you’re going.  In the…relationship.”  He felt his ears burning in embarrassment, but promptly ignored them in favor of pushing the cake around his plate, nervously avoiding Haru’s gaze.  “Like, if you want to keep dating or not.  —Or so everyone says.”  Not that he would now.  He’d never really made it past date two in his adult life.

“Oh.”

Silence swallowed the room as Rin poked at his cake and Haru stared him down, his eyebrows probably knitted together in that adorable way.  It took everything Rin had not to start shoveling cake and ice cream into his mouth, just to give him an excuse not to speak anymore.  But, part of him worried that if he didn’t bring this up now, no one would.

Not that Haru wasn’t surprisingly aggressive.

Taking a deep breath, Rin forced himself to look up, his gaze resting on Haru’s chin.  (It was a start.)  He could feel his cheeks getting hotter and hotter as his heart pounded against his throat.  “I like you.  A lot.  And I’d like to date you.  More.”  He swallowed thickly.  “Like, in a relationship.”

Again, Haru remained silent, but Rin couldn’t bring himself to look up at his face.  Especially after that embarrassing admission.  What if he was reading the signs wrong?  What if Haru wasn’t interested in anything serious or committing himself to a relationship?  What if—

“I’ve never been in a relationship before.”

Haru’s words caused Rin’s head to shoot up, their eyes finally locking.  “Huh?” he asked, surprised more at Haru talking than at his actual response.

“I’ve never dated before,” Haru said with a gentle shrug, looking too calm and collected against Rin’s increasing embarrassment.

“Yeah, I figured,” Rin said, laughing just a little bit.  Fuck, Haru was so goddamn adorable.  He really wanted to kiss him, but later.  Maybe.  If this conversation went well.  Reaching up to rub the back of his neck, Rin looked away.  “Uh, me neither.  Kind of…”  He laughed again.  “I mean, I guess I have, but not really?  If that makes sense.”

“It doesn’t,” Haru said, but Rin could see a ghost of a smile playing on his lips.  Rin felt himself relax then, unwinding the knot in his stomach enough to let him breathe.  He’d explain himself later, probably.  The last thing he wanted to do tonight is unload the details of his past two failed relationships.  Especially when he was trying to start a new one with Haru.

But he could explain himself in a different way.  Taking a deep breath, Rin wetted his lips and felt himself smile, just a little bit.  “What I mean is that I’ve never met someone that I like as much as you.  And I, uh— I like you a lot.”  Even with his short burst of confidence, he was still as ineloquent as ever.  Why couldn’t he be cool when he needed to the most?  Fidgeting just a little bit, he continued.  “And I really want to date you.  …A lot.”

Again, Haru was silent, but Rin couldn’t see anything but open curiosity in his face.  As Haru’s eyes searched Rin’s face, he felt the faintest flicker of hope ignite deep within him.

“I’ve never dated anyone before,” Haru repeated, “So I don’t know the first thing about what it means to be in a relationship with someone.”

Rin felt himself deflate, just a little.  “Oh.”

But Haru continued, “But I still want to try it with you.”

“Oh…”  As Haru’s words sunk in, Rin could feel himself smiling almost too widely, his heart beating up against his throat and warming him to the tips of his toes.  He could probably cry, to be honest; in fact, he feels tears burning in the corners of his eyes.  “Me too.”

 

 

Rin felt as if he were floating on air as he carried the last of their dishes into the kitchen.  He couldn’t believe he’d just finished enjoying dinner with Haru.  His boyfriend.  The word felt so foreign in his mind and on his tongue, something he’d been thinking about for so long; something now a beautiful reality.  But the fact that it was even happening at all was something he couldn’t even believe.  Was he dreaming?  Would he wake up from this at home, alone?  As he set the dishes in Haru’s sink, he couldn’t help but sneak a small pinch to the inside of his wrist, just to be sure.

And nothing had ever stung so good.

Next to him, Haru was scrubbing the dishes with a soapy sponge, a small smile on his lips as well.  Just seeing that made Rin’s stomach flip, his heart returning back to his throat to pound against it.  It was unreal how cute Haru was, and how much he really liked this.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Haru in the kitchen as they cleaned and dried the dishes from dinner felt so natural, in a way that made Rin’s heart flutter.  Sure, there was a level of elation that came with their recent relationship status change, but being with Haru had a way of both exciting him and calming him.  Maybe it was Haru’s soothing disposition, or the way that nothing seemed to faze him, but Rin had a feeling it was just him.  Nanase Haruka.

And how much he really, really liked him.  A lot.

Feeling his cheeks heat up in another wave of happy embarrassment, Rin snuck a glance at Haru, noticing then that Haru was doing the same.  His own smile, small and understated, developed tenfold then, stretching up to the corners of his eyes.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hi,” Haru said back, almost too quietly as he passed Rin a dish.

Rin took it in his hands and began drying it off before setting on the rack.  “So…”  He wracked his brain for something to say; something smooth and not tally embarrassing.  As excited as he was, he was also just as nervous, if not more so.  Just because they were now “official” didn’t mean that they were secure in any way.  Haru could still change his mind if he thought Rin was too much of a giant, embarrassing dork, or something.  (Not that Rin could see Haru doing that.)

“As much as I still don’t understand your obsession with mackerel, it wasn’t bad,” Rin said, his grin turning cheeky.

Haru rolled his eyes and smiled.  “Thanks,” he said, as Rin dried off the last of the dishes.  Opening his mouth to retort - to tease Haru about his unbalanced dietary habits - he found his mouth otherwise preoccupied as Haru leaned in to kiss him.

And then his mind short circuited as he felt his cheeks flush a whole new shade of red.  If he were any less composed, he’d probably start choking on his own spit out of shock, but he wasn’t that embarrassing.  Nor any less eager to kiss Haru back.

Snaking his arm around Haru’s waist, he pulled him closer and finally returned the kiss, tilting his head at just the right angle to apply a little suction to his lips.  He remembered this feeling almost vividly from their time at the aquarium, but his memories, as technicolor as they were, couldn’t even hold a candle to the real thing.  The feeling of Haru’s incredibly soft lips, the overwhelming scent of water, soap, and chlorine (probably a permanent fixture with how much time he spent in the pool), the sweet way in which he sighed into Rin’s mouth.  It was all so much and yet not enough, driving him to want more but satisfying him in all the right ways.

Rin really liked kissing Haru.

And he really wanted more.

Apparently Haru had a similar idea as Rin found himself pressed up against the kitchen sink, Haru pinning him there as their kiss grew more intense.  Gentle presses of lips turned into suction and tongue.  Rin gasped quietly, as he wound his fingers through Haru’s hair, relishing in the feeling of his lips against his and Haru’s hands on his face.  Moaning quietly, he parted his lips to whisper a quiet breath of pleasure against Haru’s lips, only to find the opening an invitation for Haru’s tongue to slip into his mouth.  And he groaned again.

They kissed like that for what felt like forever, no family obligations or encroaching sleep to interrupt them or hurry them along.  The languid pace of their kisses was just what Rin wanted and needed, despite his clear desire for more.  To push Haru against the nearest surface and return his affections tenfold.  But he was content with the slow, exploratory pace they were setting, because it really had been seven years since he’d done something like this.

And it was definitely worth the wait.

The spell was broken when Rin felt a buzzing in his back pocket followed by the ring of a bell, indicating a text message.  Flushing in embarrassment, he pulled away from Haru just enough to look at him.  Slowly, Haru opened his eyes and looked back, that beautifully deep hue of blue dragging Rin out to sea like a riptide.  As he leaned in for another kiss, he remembered his son, back at his apartment with Gou and Sei, and leaned back again with a sheepish grin.

“Gotta check that,” he mumbled.  “You know, just in case.”

Haru nodded in understanding, but made no move to pull away.  Not that he was complaining; he liked the closeness, and found himself leaning into Haru just a little bit as he grabbed his phone from his pocket and looked at it.

It was a message from Gou.  “So, how’s it going?!?  Update me!!

His phone buzzed again as he got another message.  “Taki’s fine btw.  Watching TV with Sei.  :)

And again.  “What time are you coming back?  Not to interrupt.  ;)

Checking the time on his phone, it read 7:58PM.  Damn, it was late.  Taki’s bedtime was at 9:30 and he’d have to be home in time to tuck him in and relieve Gou of her babysitting duties.

But he still had time.

Clicking his phone off, he slid it in his pocket and smiled at Haru.  “Where were we?” he asked, before leaning in for another kiss.  Haru answered him with a quiet sigh and an even quieter moan as he kissed Rin back.

 

 

It didn’t take them long to leave the kitchen and move into the living room, and then onto the veranda.  Sitting down on the old wood overlooking the front yard, they faced each other and kissed, burying their fingers in each others’ hair, hands touching every inch of skin they could through their clothes.  Every time one of them pulled away, the other yanked them back in for another round of intense kissing.  Rin’s mouth was beginning to feel dry, his lips chapped from Haru’s, but he couldn’t care to stop.  Not when everything felt so overwhelmingly good.

It wasn’t until Rin felt Haru gently push him down onto his back that he even thought about stopping.  Were they moving too fast?  Would he eventually push Haru into a panic if they kept going at this pace?

Pulling back from the kiss, Rin buried his face in Haru’s neck with the excuse of kissing it.  Haru hummed quietly, burying his nose in Rin’s hair and sighing.  Pressed together like this, Rin couldn’t help but feel so warm and comfortable.  Who cared if they were moving too quickly?  Their pace was their pace, and it was the only one they needed to care about.  Right?

Plus, he was sure Haru would at least say something (or give some indication) if he were uncomfortable.

And, right now, he seemed pretty comfortable.

(Or so Rin hoped.)

Moving to kiss Haru on the lips again, Rin smiled against them and sighed.  “This is nice,” he whispered, and Haru nodded with a hum.

“Yeah.”

Rin felt his heart flutter in his chest at that.  He’d spent so much time wondering if Haru was interested in him, it still amazed him to know that he was.  By some weird twist of fate.

Kissing Rin again, he felt Haru smile against his lips as he pulled back just enough to rest their foreheads together.  “Do you want to stay?”

“Huh?” Rin heard himself blurt out as his eyes shot open and he looked up at Haru.  Did he want to stay?  Like, stay the night?!

“If you wanted to,” Haru whispered, kissing Rin’s lips again.

Oh, Rin really wanted to.  Taking things slow be damned, he was pretty turned on just from kissing Haru, and the last thing he wanted to do was stop.  Maybe he wasn’t ready for sex yet - as much as he really liked Haru, especially now that they were boyfriends (just the thought made his heart flutter) - but he couldn’t.  Not tonight.

“Shit, I uh— I can’t,” Rin mumbled against Haru’s lips, feeling his cheeks flush a deeper red.  Haru pulled back to look at him curiously and Rin felt excuses rising to the back of his throat like bile.  “I mean, I really want to!  But Gou’s babysitting Taki right now and she has plans tonight and I don’t think I could find an overnight sitter at this hour.”  He shifted underneath Haru, feeling his cheeks burn and getting all the more embarrassed because of it.  Did it sound like he didn’t want to?  Would Haru interpret this as an excuse to stop kissing?  “I’d ask her to stay, but—“

Haru silenced Rin with another kiss.  Their lips pressed together like that until Rin felt himself calm down, just enough to relax underneath Haru.

Finally, Haru pulled back.  “Rin.  It’s okay,” he said, and Rin might not have believed him if it weren’t for the beautiful smile on his lips.

Relaxing even further, he nodded and felt himself smile too.

 

 

As much as Rin really wanted to stay, especially to continue kissing Haru in various locations around his house, he really had to go.  He had a bit of a walk ahead of him and his son was waiting for him back at his apartment.  And he knew he really had to gush about this Gou before he ended up exploding again.

But that didn’t stop him from furiously kissing Haru in the entranceway of his house.  The door was open, Rin leaning against it as he stood half-in and half-out of Haru’s house, his arms wound around him as they kissed passionately, noisily, and maybe a little bit sloppily.

This wasn’t helping Rin’s current state of arousal, but he really didn’t care.  Haru was surprisingly good at this, at least at making Rin’s knees feel like jelly and making his stomach do continuous backflips until he felt faint.  It was a wonder he could even stand, with just how good and gooey Haru made him feel, just with simple kisses, small smiles, and simple words.

If Rin thought he had it bad before, then dating Haru only made everything worse (in all the best ways).

Pulling back, Rin grinned wolfishly at Haru as he squeezed him close.  “I should go.”

“Yeah,” Haru mumbled with a distracted little nod that made Rin’s stomach twist in excitement.  Leaning in, Haru captured his lips again as they resumed their passionate tangle of tongues, Haru’s thigh slipping between Rin’s, their bodies pressing together.

When they pulled apart again, it was Haru who spoke first, “It’s late,” he said, clearly distracted.

And Rin nodded, just as distracted.  “Yeah…” 

And then they were kissing again, so wrapped up in each other that even the prospect of untangling seemed undesirable.  Which only made Rin tug Haru even closer as he sucked on his bottom lip.  The quiet moan that passed Haru’s lips caused his stomach to twist itself up into a knot and his heart to beat even harder than it currently was.

He really, really, really liked kissing Haru.  And he really didn’t want to stop.

Feeling his heart twist in his chest at the idea, he finally pulled back, resting his forehead against Haru’s as he panted for breath.  “Wow,” he let himself mumble, his cheeks heating up at his own honesty.

Haru laughed, a quiet, breathy puff of air, as his eyes slipped closed.  His only vocal response was a hum and they stayed like that, wrapped up in each other in a surprisingly tender moment, until Haru finally pulled back.

Though the late-spring evenings were warm and pleasant, Rin felt oddly cold without the comfort of Haru’s body heat.  But he knew he had to get home and see his sister and son, and that certainly wasn’t a terrible alternative.

He couldn’t keep the grin off his face as he slowly slipped from Haru’s embrace, walking backwards away from the front door to the Nanase home.  “I had fun tonight,” he said, oozing more confidence than he knew he had.

Haru nodded, leaning against the door in that cool, comfortable way.  “Me too,” he hummed.  “I’ll see you on Monday, Rin.”

Rin laughed, taking a few more steps backward as he moved toward the street.  “Y’know, I didn’t get to see the upstairs,” he called, feeling braver with every word.

And Haru actually laughed, quietly and understated and so adorable.  “That’s because you didn’t behave.”

If Rin weren’t already blushing furiously, he would be now.  As much as he wanted to retort, he knew if he did, it’d only keep him there longer.  So it was with a half-salute and a grin that he finally shouted, “G’night, Haru!”

And then he turned and sauntered off, hearing Haru return the sentiment behind him.  It wasn’t until he was descending the staircase to the street - when he knew he was out of view - that he heard Haru’s front door close.  Now that he knew he was alone, he let himself leap up into the air with a quiet shout, and it took everything he had not to break into a victory dance not unlike one he’d do after placing at a swimming competition.  Because Nanase Haruka was amazing, adorable, sweet, sexy, and a great kisser.  And he was his boyfriend.

As Rin practically skipped home that evening, he felt lighter than air, buoyant at sea, and like he was flying all at once.  But all of that came crashing down the second realized he had no idea how he was going to explain this to Taki.

Shit.”

Chapter Text

Haru’d be lying if he said he wasn’t feeling particularly elated after his dinner with Rin on Saturday.  Even after being grilled about it by Makoto and several of the other instructors at the swim club, he found he couldn’t feel any embarrassment over how emotional this was making him.  Even if it meant wearing a constant smile throughout the day (which should be incredibly embarrassing on its own).

Even some of his students noticed, going as far as to ask him what was wrong when they saw him that week, taking his happiness as a sign of illness or worse.  Others congratulated him, even though they didn’t know the news - in fact, only Rin and Makoto did (besides anyone else Rin had told).  Some even gave him knowing smiles, as if they had an inkling of what was going on in his personal life.

(He really doubted they did.  But what did he know?)

What it boiled down to was this: Haru wasn’t really sure how to feel about it.  The attention wasn’t well-received; the last thing he wanted was to draw notice to himself or his new relationship status.  But while the attention was nothing if not bothersome and annoying, it still couldn’t take the edge off the fact that he had a boyfriend.

A boyfriend.

Haru had never wanted a relationship before in his life.  Even when he was young and the kids around him were falling in and out of love every other hour, he always thought romantic feelings were bothersome, annoying, and a distraction in his pool-centric life.  He had two confessions from fellow classmates, but turned them down for multiple reasons and was never confessed to again.  Most of his peers thought he was cold and unfeeling, and he preferred it that way; his warmth and friendship was reserved for his friends and no one else.

But now, everything was different.  Rin came into his life like a tsunami, pulling his barriers down and making him feel things he was hardly comfortable expressing.  He found himself with a “crush” for the first time in his life, both because of Rin’s unending, embarrassing feelings and because he couldn’t help but be charmed by him.  And now they were dating, a completely foreign concept to him.

His first relationship.  He’d never been in one before and he had nothing to compare it with, or even any inkling of how to proceed.

But he found that, surprisingly, he didn’t care.  Even if he’d been fully prepared to live out the rest of his life alone - even if all of this was new and a little annoying and a strain on his perfectly balanced independence - he found himself ready to accept this strange turn of events.  And that puzzled him the most, but he tried not to question it.  Especially when that made it even harder to deal with.

Not that he had time, considering he was currently in the middle of a private lesson with one Matsuoka Taki.

A quiet splash and a gasp for air shook him out of his reverie as Taki’s hand hit the wall at the end of the lane, where Haru was currently sitting.

“How’d I do?” he asked, blinking up at Haru curiously.

“…Not sure,” Haru admitted.  The last ting he was going to do was lie to Taki.  He was positive Taki’d catch on to it almost immediately; he was too perceptive for his own good.  “Go again.”

Taki nodded and pulled his goggles over his eyes.  The gesture, performed by someone else, would’ve meant nothing to Haru, but the lack of comment, teasing or exasperated, made him pause.  As Taki dipped under the water and took off toward the other end in the lane, Haru couldn’t help but notice his slow strokes and the way the water pulled at him, as if he were fighting against it.  A glance at the pool’s clock confirmed what he already knew: his time was terrible.  And even if he didn’t care about times personally, he knew Taki did.

When Taki’s hand hit the wall again, he gasped for air and looked up at Haru expectantly.  “Better?” he asked.

And Haru shook his head.

Taki’s shoulders dipped as he sighed and looked down at the water.  “Again then,” he said with a resolute nod, making to pull his goggles over his eyes.

But Haru stopped him.  “Don’t fight the water so much,” he said, gently touching the top of Taki’s head.  “If you accept the water, then it’ll accept you back.”

Taki paused, glancing up at Haru before his hands dropped in the water.  He looked around the pool for a little bit before he looked back up with a grin.  “Yeah, you’re right!” he said, and then took off down the lane again.  Though his next lap was much less of a struggle than his previous one, Haru couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.  And that Taki was putting on a show with those smiles of his.

 

 

Wednesday afternoons had become routine by then.  After his session with Taki, he’d move on to his adult lessons.  Even though Taki’s efforts were better served doing homework or practicing his front crawl, he always insisted on helping Haru teach.  And even though Haru didn’t need any assistance with his beginner level students, he found it near impossible to turn him down.  At that point, he’d given in to the inevitable fact that, as long as Taki was around the swim club, he’d become Haru’s “teaching assistant.”

By then, “Little Coach” had become Taki’s new name and he wore it with pride.  Most days, he carried a clipboard, a barely-audible child whistle, and wore one of his dad’s various club jackets, touting himself as if he were a certified coach or an Olympic hopeful.  He liked to walk up and down the side of the lane, critiquing Haru’s students and helping them improve their strokes and kicks.  And he loved helping them compare their times, keeping record of their personal bests and charting their progress with crayons and colorful graphs.

And Haru’s students loved it.  Word even began to spread to the other members of the swim club about Matsuoka Rin’s presence, and the accomplishments of his adorable son.  Haru could’ve sworn they had an audience on more than a few occasions.

That day, however, Taki was a little bit quieter.  Though he sat at the end of the lane and took “notes” on his clipboard (still the borrowed one from Makoto, though he’d probably gifted it to him at that point) and only making the occasional comment.

It bothered Haru.  More than he’d like to say.

And apparently he wasn’t the only one who noticed.

As one of his students popped up at the end of the lane during warm-ups, she waved Haru over after pulling herself out.  “Is Taki okay?” she asked Haru quietly.  “He seems a little down.”

Haru glanced over at Taki, who was dipping his feet into the pool and hugging his clipboard to his chest.  “I don’t know,” he said honestly.  But now that she mentioned it, he seemed more than distracted and definitely a little down.  The problem was, he wasn’t sure what to do about it.

“I’m sure he’ll bounce back,” she said with a small smile.  “Maybe he’s just having a rough day.”

Haru nodded distractedly, his eyes still on Taki as he chewed on the end of his pencil.  Maybe he was…

It took him half the lesson to figure out a way to help Taki, even just a little bit.  While his gloomy, forlorn presence wasn’t so obvious as to draw much attention, he could tell his students were taking notice, going out of their way to interact with him in some attempt to get him to smile.  And while Haru wasn’t sure how he could help himself, he knew he could at least try.

Which meant having to give in to at least one of Taki’s ridiculous demands.  (And he had many.)

Walking up to Taki, he crouched down and touched his shoulder.  “I have a job for you, Little Coach,” he said, and Taki’s head shot up, eyes curious and wide.

“What?” he asked.

“I want you to organize a race for them,” he said, waving toward the pool, where his students gripped kickboards and swam up and down the lanes.

Taki picked up even more.  “Really?” he asked, lowering his clipboard.  “But you said—“

“I know,” Haru said, waving Taki’s complaint off before it even left his mouth.  “I think they’re ready.”

Taki finally grinned at that.  Standing up, he gripped his clipboard close again.  “Okay!” he said, pumping his fist.  “I’ll give them the best race ever!”

And Haru couldn’t help but smile.  While Taki was right - he didn’t ask his students to race - he could see how much Taki’s charts, graphs, and focus helped them improve, and helped them see their own accomplishments.

And he wasn’t against racing.  So he’d give this one to Taki, especially if it meant seeing him smile.

And that thought embarrassed him much more than the knowledge he had a boyfriend did.  (Especially when Taki was that boyfriend’s son.)

So began the first official race of Nanase Haruka’s beginner class.  After they were done practicing their kicks, Taki lined them up and explained the rules of the race.  He split the class into two teams, telling them that they’d be competing in a freestyle relay.  While it wasn’t what Haru had in mind, he stood aside, arms crossed, as he let Taki take the reins.

“When the racer on your team hits the wall, then the next person can go!  The first team to have all their racers go wins,” Taki said with a grin.

To make the race even easier, Haru split each team in half, sending them to opposite sides of the pool so they only had to swim half a lap instead of a full one.  Haru thought that was smart, something he signified with an approving nod once Taki looked up at him.

He even leant Taki his own whistle so he could signal the beginning of the race.  And it was with a hearty blow and an even happier grin that it began.

 

 

After the race, as his students filed into the locker rooms, Haru couldn’t help but notice the wide grins and exhilarated smiles on their faces.  While it was no Olympic run, the relay had been a close one, each of his students pushing themselves in an attempt to win.  And even though there was no prize except for the satisfaction of victory, Haru noticed how satisfied they were indeed.  Giggling and laughing and recounting their way into the locker rooms, Haru looked back over at Taki to notice his exuberant smile.

And he gave him another approving nod in return.  Which Taki responded with an even wider grin and a happy bounce.

Turning back toward his students, he watched as the last of them entered the locker rooms.  Summer was fast approaching, and with it came the end of his old classes and the start of his new ones.  Like the changing of the seasons, it was routine, something that had never bothered him before.  Soon, his students would graduate with the knowledge he gave them, sometimes moving on to intermediate lessons, others satisfied with what they learned.  And then he’d have all new students to teach, starting from the basics once again.

He’d never cared before.  After all, they were just passing people in his life.  Sometimes he’d see them around the pool again - sometimes they’d say hello - but often times, they’d fade from his life, as was expected.

But, for the first time, he almost felt a twinge of regret that these students he’d become to know just a little bit better, would be leaving him soon too.

 

 

Unfortunately for Haru, Taki’s happiness didn’t seem to last long.  As they cleaned out the pool that evening, Haru couldn’t help but notice Taki getting quieter and quieter.  What began was a typically cheerful cleaning session quickly devolved into something much more solemn, until Taki was dragging his feet as he pulled the net through the water.  Normally Haru would relish in the silence, but he knew Taki well enough to understand when something was wrong.

Not that things were ever really wrong.

Taki’s sadness was made even more obvious when Haru pulled the infamous child’s speedo out of the pool and Taki said nothing.  No jokes, no comments, not even a laugh.  He only gave Haru a small smile and took it, carrying it over to their makeshift pile for the lost-and-found.

At that point, Haru knew that talking about this was inevitable, but just as he made to finally ask, Taki beat him to it.  As always, that kid was always a step ahead.

“Haru?” Taki asked after they’d finished covering the pool.  He was wringing his wrists nervously, looking out at the water as he waited for Haru to respond.

“Yes?” Haru asked, cocking an eyebrow, trying to appear less callous than he usually did.  He wasn’t sure if it was working.

Taki sighed and looked over at him.  “Could I ask you for your advice?” he asked.  “I have a problem.”

Normally, Haru would remain silent, continue with what he was doing, and let Taki speak at him until he exhausted himself or found the answer on his own.  It was a frequent tactic, one that worked well with Taki in the past.  It also brought him success with Makoto when he was stressed out, Rei when he was feeling particularly passionate about beauty and aesthetic, and Nagisa all the time.

But he knew that now, something was different.  Now, Taki had a problem; one that’d been bringing him down all afternoon, and one that was bothering him enough to ask for advice.

He couldn’t think of a time in the months that he’d been teaching Taki where he’d ever complained about anything.  Other than how cool his dad was or how much he hated cabbage.

So, what else could he say but, “Yeah.  What’s wrong?”

This seemed to satisfy Taki, at least enough to get him to relax.  Shifting from foot-to-foot, he nodded and looked around the natatorium.  “There’s this girl at school,” he started.

Haru immediately swallowed a sigh.  Right off the bat, this sounded like something he had no idea how to advise, but he couldn’t back out.  Not when Taki looked so lost.  “Let’s go sit down,” he said, and steered Taki toward the bleachers.  A quick glance at the clock told him they had some time before Rin usually showed up, which means he had more than enough time to listen.

When they’d made themselves comfortable, Taki turned to look at Haru again.  Haru watched him patiently, but when he started fidgeting instead of speaking, he spoke up, “What about this girl at school?”

“She’s really nice,” Taki blurted out.  “She really likes cartoons and she has this awesome action figure that she keeps in her backpack!  And we’re in the same class together.  And I wanna be her friend.”

Haru nodded.

“But…”  Taki trailed off, looking down at his feet.  “But kids at school are really mean to her.”

“Does that make you not want to be her friend?” Haru tried.

“No!” Taki said, looking up, a blush rising to his cheeks.  “I just… I just wanna help her, but I dunno how.”

Again, Haru nodded.  “So, why are the kids at school mean to her?” he asked.  He’d never really dealt with bullying before, but this seemed too serious to just brush it off with some placations and fake advice.

Taki looked down at his feet again.  “She has two moms.”

And suddenly, everything made sense.  As Haru’s heart twisted in his chest, he reached out to pat Taki on the head.  When Taki looked up again, there were tears brimming at the corners of his eyes, in typical Matsuoka fashion.

“She’s really nice and smart!  But her moms are gay and everyone makes fun of her for it,” he said, voice wavering.  “They push her around and take her lunch sometimes.  I think they leave mean notes in her desk too.”  He reached up to rub at his eyes vigorously.  “But mostly they just laugh at her!”

“That’s not nice,” Haru said.

Taki nodded vigorously.  “I wanna help her and I wanna be her friend,” he said, turning to look at Haru.  “But mostly I just want her to know that it’s okay!”

“She probably knows that,” Haru said.  “But I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to help her remember.”

Taki sniffed.  “Yeah.”

Haru sighed, moving his hand to Taki’s shoulder.  “Does anyone know this is happening to her?” he asked.

“I dunno,” Taki said.  “Everyone’s really nice to her when the teacher’s around.  And I don’t think she’s told anyone.”

Haru tried to think of what Makoto would say if he were the one giving Taki advice (a better choice, in his opinion).  He’d probably say something about how bullies are just scared by things that they don’t understand.  That they have low self-esteem and tear down others to make themselves feel better.  How the best way to beat them is to hold your chin high and not let them get the better of you; to take the wind out of their sails.  But all of that sounded so trite.  And he wasn’t Makoto.

“Then what’re you afraid of?” Haru asked honestly.  “You should be her friend.”

Taki sniffed again, rubbing at his nose.  “But every time I try to talk to her, she just runs away!  What if she doesn’t like me?”

“She’s probably just nervous,” Haru said.  “Besides, when have you ever given up?  You annoyed me into teaching you breast stroke, remember?”

Taki cracked a small smile at that, and the quiet laugh that left his lips made Haru’s heart feel lighter.  “Yeah.”

“You’re right.  There’s nothing wrong with having gay parents, or with being gay.  But being bullied isn’t okay.”  Haru offered Taki the smallest smile.  “So, you should tell Makoto too, okay?  And maybe your Aunt Kou.  They’ll know what to do about those bullies.”

“Yeah!” Taki said, nodding resolutely.  “Thanks Haru.”  As he turned toward Haru and grinned, Haru could see a visible difference in his demeanor.  He looked like the old Taki again, and while Haru knew the problem wasn’t fixed, it was certainly a start.  And something about that warmed him at his core, knowing that he was the cause of that.

Of course, however, Taki feeling better only meant one thing: that he was going to tackle Haru into a hug, right on the bleachers.  Regardless of how Haru felt on the matter.

“You’re the best!” he said as he squeezed Haru close.  And, after the initial shock had faded, Haru sighed, swallowed his awkwardness, and hugged Taki back.

 

 

When Rin showed up at the swim club that evening, something seemed different.  Maybe it was the fact that this was his and Haru’s first Wednesday together as a couple; maybe it was the fact that they hadn’t kissed since they’d seen each other at Haru’s house on Saturday.  Or maybe it was because he still hadn’t talked to Taki about all of this.  Or even told him about his and Haru’s change in relationship status.

Swallowing thickly, he greeted Haru and Taki with a smile and a wave, crouching down just in time to catch his son as he ran in for a hug.  “Hey kid,” he said, squeezing him affectionately.

“Hey dad!” Taki said with a smile.  “You’ll never guess what me and Haru did during lessons today!”

“Oh yeah?” Rin asked, looking up at Haru, who was standing three feet away, arms stiff at his sides, looking surprisingly (and adorably) awkward.  “You’ll have to tell me about it on the way to dinner.”  Setting Taki down, his eyes never left Haru’s.  “You in?”

“Yeah, let me get my stuff,” Haru said, turning on his heel to head to the bleachers and grab his bag.  Taki, meanwhile, didn’t hesitate before launching into a very excited, very detailed account of his coaching Haru’s students through their first race.

A story which took the entire walk to dinner to get through.  Partially because Haru kept interrupting Taki to correct his account (Taki was over-dramatizing), and partially because Taki had a knack for rambling.

As they sat down at their usual table at “the mackerel restaurant,” Taki continued rambling on about school that day in an attempt to catch Haru up on the details of his curriculum.  Rin let him, seating himself across from Haru, their feet accidentally bumping as he got comfortable.

And he couldn’t help but blush.

It was kind of criminal how much he wanted to kiss Haru right then.  He almost wished they were alone, just so he could ask him how his week was, all while gazing deeply into his eyes and occasionally kissing him on the mouth or cheeks.  He wouldn’t mind picking up where they left off last time either.

After all, Haru was his boyfriend now, right?  And he really wanted to kiss his boyfriend a lot…

What a date!  He wondered when they’d have an opportunity like that again.

“Your order, sir?”

Their waiter’s voice shook him out of daydreams, causing his head to snap up and a blush to spread on his cheeks.  “What?  Uh… The steak.  And a small salad, dressing on the side,” he mumbled, as he fumbled with his menu.

Taki laughed and Haru gave him a questioning look, one that was clearly amused and showed he knew more than he was letting on.

Which, of course, only made Rin blush even more.

After their orders were placed, a silence fell over the table as Taki drew on his child’s placemat with crayons, his tongue poking past his lips in concentration.  Haru was fiddling with his cup of water as he stared down at it, looking more absorbed than he did awkward.  But Rin couldn’t let the silence hang between them, especially when he was eager to catch up.

With his boyfriend.

(Was he ever going to get over that?  Maybe in twenty years.)

“So, how was work?” he asked with a grin.

Haru looked up.  “Good,” he said.  “How about you?”

“It was great,” Rin replied.  “Rigorous and intense, as always.  But rewarding.”

Haru opened his mouth - likely to respond - but was interrupted by Taki, who picked up his drawing and held it up.  “Look, I drew you!” he said proudly.

And indeed he did.  Though the drawing wasn’t exactly the most artistic rendering of his face, Taki definitely drew him and Haru.  Staring at each other.  Kissing.

Oh my god—“

“It’s beautiful,” Haru said nonchalantly, taking the drawing from Taki, likely to inspect it.  Meanwhile, Rin wanted to bury his face in his hands and die.

Taki was grinning.  “I drew you kissing like you did at the aquarium!”

“You saw that?!”

Haru nodded.  “Looks accurate,” he said, handing the drawing back to Taki, who took it happily.

How could Haru be so nonchalant about everything?!  Rin had to admire his ability to stay cool even in the most awkward, terrible, embarrassing situations.

“Aunt Gou said when people date, they kiss a lot.  Do you kiss a lot??” he asked Haru, tilting his head.

Rin’s forehead hit the table, rattling their cups.

Haru snorted quietly.  “I guess so.”

“Why?”

Rin looked up, just in time to see Haru smiling at his son.  “Well, when two people care for each other, they show that by kissing.”  And then his eyes flicked to Rin’s, causing his face to flare up ten new shades of red.

Taki nodded, thoughtfully tapping his chin.  “That makes sense,” he said, and then went back to coloring.  Haru, on the other hand, continued to stare at Rin from across the table, looking at him in a way Rin couldn’t even describe.

One day, Taki was going to be the death of him.  Unfortunately, that day wasn’t today.

 

 

After dinner was over - and after Taki asked a million more embarrassing questions about romantic feelings and expressions - the three of them walked to Haru’s house.  This time, rather than dragging his feet in exhaustion as he usually did at the end of the day, Taki remained animated and cheerful, walking between him and Haru and holding both of their hands.  As he swung their arms, he talked about the approaching summer vacation and how much he couldn’t wait to swim at the beach.

Rin was thankful for Taki filling the silence.  Because as much as he liked Haru and as comfortable he was starting to feel around him, he was still…lost.  He’d never had a boyfriend before, not really.  And his previous relationships - all two of them - were’t really anything to go off of.  For many reasons.

Was he supposed to act differently?  Did Haru expect him to be more physically or emotionally affectionate?  Were they expected to see each other more?

While Rin really wanted all those things, he wasn’t sure what Haru wanted or expected.  Especially when Haru’d never dated anyone either.  He was just as new at this as Rin was.

And maybe that helped calm him down a little bit.

When they finally reached the steps to Haru’s house, as they always did, Rin dropped Taki’s hand so he could look at Haru.  Opening his mouth to say something - his usual good nights - Taki interrupted him to run up the stairs and after a stray cat.

“Taki—“ he started but Haru shook his head.

“Let him,” he said, and the way in which he looked at Rin told him that maybe he wanted some privacy between them.

Rin swallowed.

“Uh—“

“I don’t know if this is important,” Haru started, silencing Rin again, “but Taki was a little distracted today.”

Rin stopped, sliding his hands into his pockets.  As his eyebrows knitted together, he thought back on Taki’s behavior throughout the day.  Nothing seemed off with him and he was usually good at telling.  Taki was pretty obvious with his feelings; he wore his heart on his sleeve, like a true Matsuoka.  “Yeah?” he asked.

Haru nodded.  “Yeah.  He came to me with a problem.  And asked me for advice.”

And Rin paused.  While Taki was incredibly forthcoming with the details of his life, he knew Taki only talked to him about the (rare) problems in his life.  He didn’t even approach Sei or Gou with his problems.

But the fact that he trusted Haru enough to ask for advice was important.  In fact, it was huge.

His son trusted his boyfriend.

“Wow, that’s big,” Rin said.

“Is it?” Haru asked, eyebrows knitting together in confusion.

Rin couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face.  “Yeah, it means he trusts you,” he said.  “Sure, he’s a pretty trusting kid already, but.  This is good.”

Rin has been worried about what to tell Taki about his and Haru’s relationship, and something about this put him at ease.  Not that he ever doubted how much Taki adored Haru, because he couldn’t even put words to how obsessed his son was with him.

“Well, I just thought you should know,” Haru said.  “I’ll let him tell you about it.”  But you should talk to him.  Rin knew Haru was leaving that part unsaid, and something about that meant something to him.

Nodding, he leaned in to press a gentle kiss to the corner of Haru’s lips.  “I will, thanks,” he said, leaning back again.

But Haru followed him, kissing him on the lips and cupping his face.  They kissed like that for a moment, keeping it chaste and innocent, in case Taki’s attention wandered from the cat.  When Haru finally pulled back, Rin couldn’t keep the grin off his face.

“So, let’s do something this weekend,” he said.

And he couldn’t miss the small smile on Haru’s lips.  “Okay.”

“Alright kid, let’s go,” Rin called up the stairs, grin stretching across his face.  Stepping back from Haru, he waved to him as Taki bolted back to his side.

“Good night, Haru,” he said, slowly walking backward, unable to take his eyes off of Haru’s.

“Night Rin,” Haru said, giving him a final, beautiful, sweet smile before he ascended up the stairs.

And as he and Taki walked home, he couldn’t stop smiling.

 

 

When they finally got home, Taki toed off his shoes and made for his bedroom.  “Hey, not so fast,” Rin said, playfully grabbing the neck of Taki’s shirt.  “We need to talk.”

A stone sat in the pit of his stomach as Taki looked back at him, confused and slightly nervous.  “Okay,” he said.  “Am I in trouble?”

Rin couldn’t help but laugh.  “No, of course not,” he said, ruffling Taki’s hair.  “There’s just something we have to talk about.”  After a beat, he fidgeted.  “About me.”

Taki nodded and smiled again.  “Okay!” he said, and bounded toward the living room instead, so he could make himself comfortable on the couch.  As Rin followed, he couldn’t help the way his heart pounded against his chest or the nervousness rising in him with his temperature.

It wasn’t that he was worried Taki would be upset that he and Haru were dating - he knew he already had Taki’s meddling stamp of approval - but he was worried that Taki didn’t fully understand what it meant for him to be dating Haru.  Sure, he saw Gou and Sei all the time, saw their relationship first hand, the love they shared for each other and they way they interacted (hell, he saw them decide to move in with each other in the last year).  But this was different.

Because Rin and Haru were a gay couple.  Because Sei and Gou had been dating for almost Taki’s entire life.  Because Rin had never brought someone home before, let alone wanted to spend a considerable amount of time in a relationship with them.

And he wanted Taki to understand that, so they could go into this together.  Because they were a package deal, and as much as Rin liked Haru (and he liked him a lot), Taki was the most important person in his life.

Sitting down next to Taki on the couch, he turned to face him, folding his hands in his lap.  Taki was already seated with his back against the arm rest, hugging his legs to his chest as he rested his chin on his knees and looked at Rin with wide, curious eyes.  Rin’s heart twisted in his chest and he cleared his throat.

“I want to talk about Haru,” he said slowly, lacing his fingers together in an attempt to keep from nervously fidgeting.

Taki perked up, eyes widening as he smiled.  Haru had that effect on him, and it only made Rin slightly jealous.  “Is it about you and Haru being boyfriends?” he asked.

Rin almost choked on air.  “H-How’d you know?!” he asked.  They weren’t that obvious, though they did technically take Taki on their second date.  And he did see them kiss.  And probably saw them kiss again.

“Dad,” Taki started, narrowing his eyes at his father.  “I’m seven, not stupid.”

Scarily true, Taki was too perceptive for his own good.  Where’d he even pick that up?  Television?!  Because he sure as hell didn’t get it from him.  “Yeah, well, Gou needs to stop letting you watch all those movies with her,” he said.

But Taki was only grinning, squeezing his legs closer to himself in a hug.  “Now that you and Haru are boyfriends, does this mean Haru’s my dad too??  Do I get to call him dad or do I just call him Haru?” he asked.  Rin blinked at him, mouth dropping open.  “Is Haru gonna move in with us?  Are you two getting married?  Do I have to give him my room, ‘cause I could live in the living room!  Makoto-sensei said he’s a good cook, but are his pancakes as good as yours?  Are you two gonna ‘do it’ a lot—“

“Whoa, kid!  Slow down.”  Rin’s face was so hot, it felt like it was gonna melt off.  These were definitely not the kinds of questions he wanted to be asked, nor the ones he wanted to answer.  Especially the last one.  “No, Haru’s not gonna be your dad, just call him Haru.  He’s not moving in with us, we definitely aren’t getting married—“ Though he certainly thought about it.  A lot. “—And you get to keep your room.  No idea about the pancakes, but no one makes ‘em better than me, and that detail is…definitely none of your business.”

Taki sighed, though Rin’s answers seemed to calm him down.  “Can I call him big brother?” he asked with a grin.

Much worse than calling him dad,” Rin said with a shake of his head.

“Why isn’t he moving in with us though?  In the movies, people move in together when they’re in love,” he said, tilting his head curiously.

Rin’s face flared up.  In love?!  Well, that was certainly a word he hadn’t vocalized yet.  “Well, because Haru and I just started dating.”  He looked around the living room and then sighed.  “I’m… Alright, Taki, listen up, ‘cause I’m only giving you this talk once.”

Taki nodded, sitting up and watching Rin with eager eyes.  He couldn’t help but sigh again.  He really didn’t want to be having this conversation, but he supposed it was better than talking about “the birds and the bees.”

Oh god, he was going to have to do that soon, wasn’t he?

“When you have strong, romantic feelings for someone, sometimes you end up dating them,” he explained.

“Sometimes?”

“Yeah.  Sometimes.  Maybe it’s a bad time in your life to be dating or they don’t like you back, but sometimes you might end up dating.  It’s a commitment that you share with one other person.”

“I know this, dad!” Taki groaned.  “Sei and Aunt Gou are dating.”

Rin flushed.  “I know!  Just let me explain,” he said, and then turned to face Taki even further, crossing his legs on the couch.  “Haru and I are dating.  That means, yeah, we’re boyfriends, and we’re committed to each other.  But it doesn’t mean that we’ll end up getting married or moving in together.”

“Why not?” Taki asked, drawing his eyebrows together.

“Because sometimes dating doesn’t always work out,” Rin said.  “Dating someone is kind of like… Er, well, you could end up dating someone you really care about, but you might not always want to marry them!  Doesn’t mean you can’t date them though.”

Taki nodded, though Rin could tell he was confused.  “So, it’s like…growing apart from a friend?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Rin said with a nod of his own.  “It’s like that.  Except more, y’know…romantic.”

“That’s confusing,” Taki admitted, scratching his cheek.

And Rin laughed.  “Yeah, it’s really confusing.  It always feels like your heart’s gonna explode and sometimes it’s uncomfortable and weird.  And you have to share your time with someone, you can’t just do your own thing anymore.  But, it’s worth it.”  And he couldn’t help the small smile on his lips as he thought about all the weird ways in which Haru made him feel.  Like he was flying, floating, like he was on a rollercoaster with no way off.

Definitely worth it.

When he looked at Taki, he noticed his son was smiling at him too, beaming as he hid his smile in his knees.  “Dad loves Haru, dad loves Haru,” he sang.

Rin choked on air again, his face flaring up in a flash of heat.  “That’s— That’s beside the point!” he said, though it wasn’t.  “Anyway, Haru and I are dating now.  Which means that he’ll be in our lives more.”

To which Taki cheered and Rin rolled his eyes.

“It also means that he and I will be spending time together.  Y’know, just the two of us,” he mumbled.  “But he’s also kinda part of our family.  But not your new dad.”

Taki nodded enthusiastically.  “Then like an uncle?” he asked.

And Rin had to swallow a groan.  “Definitely not!”  But it didn’t take him long to realize Taki was joking.  Reaching across the couch, he grabbed him and pulled him in for a headlock, so he could muss up his hair until Taki was laughing and begging him to stop.

Leaning back, the two of them sat side-by-side as Taki leaned against him and the two of them laughed.

“So,” Rin finally started, “how do you feel about all this?”

And Taki was silent for a while, drawing his legs up to his chest.  “Happy,” he said, after a moment, looking up at his dad with a warm, genuine smile.  “I like Haru, he’s the best!  But so are you.  And Haru makes you happy, so that makes me happy too.”

As Rin nodded, he could feel the tears prickling at the corners of his eyes.  He was so incredibly lucky to have Taki in his life.  What had once been a panicked decision after a huge, unfortunate mistake, easily became one of the best things that ever happened to him.  Even though he struggled for so long trying to raise Taki while maintaining the schedule of a professional athlete - even though he had a lot of help along the way, and that help struggled too - it was all worth it.

Just to have the best son in the world.

Just to be a dad.

Throwing his arm over Taki’s shoulder, he dragged him in for a half-hug as he squeezed his eyes shut and let the first of his tears slip down his cheeks.  He was so lucky, and he wouldn’t trade this for anything.

“I love you,” he whispered into his son’s hair.

And he could feel Taki smile into his shoulder.  “I love you too, dad.”

When Rin finally managed to compose himself, he pulled back and the two of them sat on the couch together, Rin finally recounting the more innocent details of his dinner date with Haru.  Of course, he left out all the kissing and Haru’s invitation to stay the night (something that still embarrassed him), but he told Taki about Haru’s cooking and his house and the beautiful dinner.

By the time he was done, it was late and well past Taki’s bedtime.  “Alright, kid.  Go get some rest,” he said, though he knew he’d be following him shortly after.  He had his own early schedule to stick to, but he had to make his and Taki’s lunches first, and prep everything for breakfast before he could sleep.

As Taki got up and stretched, heading toward his bedroom, Rin remembered the moment Haru and Taki apparently shared earlier in the day.  “So I heard you got a little emotional today,” he called out, stopping Taki in his tracks.

Taki turned around, looking at him curiously before he likely remembered and blushed.  “Oh yeah.”

“Wanna talk about it?” Rin asked.  Of course he wanted to know what was going on with Taki, especially if it was big enough for him to go to Haru for advice.  He didn’t want to get left out of Taki’s problems!

Which made it all the more embarrassing when Taki grinned and said, “Nope!  Haru helped it with me earlier,” and then skipped off to his bedroom.

Rin could only stare at Taki’s closed door, mouth agape.  Maybe Haru was becoming Taki’s new dad…

(Not that he saw a problem with that.)

Chapter Text

One month.

Haru’d been dating Rin for one whole month.

How he lasted more than a week in a relationship absolutely boggled him.  He could barely last 48 hours around his friends with no breaks, let alone an entire month with one person (and his son).  Granted, he only saw Rin four days of the week out of seven, and only for a few hours each time, but that was still a lot to spend around one person, especially in a romantic sense.  They were more than just friends, they were a couple.  This wasn’t like the close, deep friendship he had with Makoto, this was different, because he was expected to go out with Rin (and Taki); to kiss Rin, to share his life with Rin.  At the end of the day, when they both parted ways, they weren’t just Haru and Rin, two separate people living entirely different lives.  They were Haru and Rin, boyfriends.

Some days, Haru could hardly believe it.

Most of his friends believed him asexual.  In fact, he once heard rumors of a small betting pool started by Nagisa on whether or not he’d end up living alone with a horde of cats.  Haru didn’t know what he was and, frankly, he didn’t quite care, but there he was, dating Matsuoka Rin.

Rin was loud, adventurous, and extroverted.  He liked going out in the evenings, taking Haru out to various spots around Iwatobi.  He liked asking Haru questions, probing him for even the tiniest details of his life.  They seemed so insubstantial, but Rin treasured that knowledge like priceless jewels and it was nothing if not kind of adorable.

The way Rin looked at him would’ve scared Haru if it were anyone else.  But that warm, soft look that Rin seemed only to reserve for him and Taki was more than welcome.  It made his heart flutter in really embarrassing ways; made him smile like it was an easy feat that anyone could accomplish.  It made him feel like mush, powerless and malleable in Rin’s strong hands, and he knew he should hate that.

But, strangely enough, he didn’t.  In fact, he almost liked, it in some weird way.

He was fitting into the role of “boyfriend” nicely, as Makoto teased him earlier that month.

Hardly.

Next to him, at the swim club, Rin sighed, snapping Haru back to reality.  His hands were behind his head as he stretched and looked out at the pool.  Haru hummed thoughtfully and questioningly, just to prove he was listening, even if he was a little more than distracted.  It happened a lot around Rin, especially when they were this close, unable to touch in the presence of so many other people.  While their closest friends knew about their relationship, Rin wasn’t exactly out in society, and Haru had no desire to attract the attention of others.

That didn’t mean he didn’t want to kiss Rin any less when they were together.

(So, so embarrassing.)

“I can’t believe summer’s almost here,” Rin said with a grin.  “You know what that means.”

“School’s out?” Haru tried.

Rin sighed again.  “Yeah, and my practice is getting more intense.  Taki’s gonna be home from school and I’ll be at the club all week!”

“Kou’ll be off work though,” Haru offered, his hands slipping into the pockets of his damp swim club jacket.

Rin nodded.  “Yeah, true.”  His smile turned a little bit more relaxed as he looked over at Haru.  It was then that his entire look softened, something that Haru’d come to expect whenever Rin stared at him for any period longer than one second.  It caused his cheeks to heat up and his eyes to wander.  “It also means, uh, less time with you…”

Haru hummed, glancing out at the pool.  It did mean that, and while he was never opposed to the idea of more blissful solitude, he liked spending time with Rin.  It was nice.  He was good company, not that he’d say that out loud (even if they were dating).

“If you need any help watching Taki during the break, just ask,” he said, after a moment of silence.  Looking back over at Rin, he relished in the quiet, surprised look he wore.  The one that usually accompanied some moment of shock regarding Haru’s behavior.  “I don’t work on the weekends.  And he can always come swim here.”

Rin’s face blossomed into a smile.  “Yeah.  That— That’d be amazing.  Thanks,” he said, and he leaned forward in a way that showed he wanted to kiss Haru.  But he stopped just short of doing so, laughing sheepishly instead.  “I’ll make it up to you.”

“No need,” Haru said, waving it off.  Spending time with Taki wasn’t the worst thing in the world.  (He liked it, of course he did.)

Rin laughed again.  “He’s been talking about his summer vacation for weeks.  I think he’s already planning on spending most of his time here stalking you,” he said.  “I swear, that kid needs friends.”  He paused.  “Not that he doesn’t have any!  He just spends way too much time with you.”

Haru looked over at Rin and cocked an eyebrow.  “Jealous?”

“And what if I am?” Rin asked, his smile morphing into a more playful smirk that made Haru’s heart beat up against his chest awkwardly and excitedly.

Instead of answering, Haru let his embarrassment get the better of him as he looked over at the clock.  Taki should’ve been finishing up in the locker room and his adult lessons were starting soon.  Which meant his time with Rin was limited.  Soon, the two of them would be taking off toward their apartment, and Haru’d be here until the late hours of the night, cleaning up and closing down.

Why did that suddenly sound so unappealing?

Looking back over at Rin, he shrugged.  “What’re you doing this weekend?” he asked.

After some hesitation, Rin answered.  “Surprisingly, not much.  Nothing major, anyway.”  He smiled knowingly.  “Why?”

“Do you want to come over?” Haru asked quietly.  “…Just you.”

He could see the blush on Rin’s cheeks as he swallowed thickly.  “Yeah— Yeah, of course,” he said.  “I can get Gou to watch Taki for the night—“

“You could stay the night.  If you wanted,” Haru cut in, and Rin’s blush grew even darker.

“Yeah.  Okay,” Rin stammered, his face almost the same shade of red as his eyes.  It brought Haru some joy; embarrassing Rin was surprisingly fun and even more rewarding.

“Okay,” Haru said just as Taki came running up to them, fully dressed, still wet, and wearing the biggest grin.

“C’mon dad!!  You promised to make dinner tonight,” he said, grabbing Rin’s hand and tugging at it.

Rin nodded more than dumbly as he let Taki drag him toward the lobby.  “Um, see you on Wednesday,” he called, waving and trying to look composed.  It wasn’t working.

And Haru couldn’t help the quiet laugh that passed his lips as he waved back.

“Bye Haru!!” Taki shouted, thrashing his arm back and forth until Haru couldn’t see him anymore.

“Bye,” he said, more to himself than anyone else, before he took off toward his adult lessons, pointedly ignoring the looks he was getting from all of his students.

 

 

As Haru waited for Rin to come over that Saturday evening, he found himself feeling restless.  The last time he felt this way, it was winter and the outdoor pool was closed and the ocean was too cold to swim in.  He’d usually spend a longer-than-average time in his bathtub just to make up for not being able to swim.  But that period of his life had long since passed since the Iwatobi Swim Club reopened and he had access to a pool year-round.

So this feeling was nothing if not a little foreign.

Which, of course, meant that he had to busy himself to keep sane.  He started with an extended bath, sitting in the cool waters until his heart felt a little bit less trapped in the tightness of his chest.  After that, he cleaned his house thoroughly, vacuuming the floors, scrubbing every surface he could find, and, finally, cleaning his sheets.  If Rin was going to spend the night, then he’d have to clean those (not that he didn’t regularly).  Unless Rin wanted to stay in the guest bedroom.  —Would he?

Haru had no idea, so he cleaned the that room as well.

By the time he was done with the entire house, it was still hours before Rin was slated to show up.  Which gave him more time to kill and to fill.  Perfect.

Maybe he could clean his house again.

Just as he started going through every nook and cranny of his living room, looking for any signs of dust, he noticed he had a guest in the backyard: one of the neighborhood cats.  Setting his duster down, he walked onto the veranda and sat down, just as the cat approached with a quiet meow and an even louder purr.

“Hey there,” Haru said, unable to help the small smile that appeared on his lips as the cat crawled onto his lap and curled up into a ball.  He was pretty friendly with both the strays and the outdoor cats in his neighborhood, feeding them on the occasion and giving him attention when he could.  Especially after Makoto moved into his own place, someone had to take care of the cats in his stead.  He didn’t own any himself, however, perfectly content with caring for the ones here.  That was more than enough responsibility for him.

As he scratched the cat behind the ears - Michi, if he remembered correctly - he felt himself begin to unwind, soothed by the soft rumbling in his lap.  Laying back, he sighed and stared up at the blue, cloud-spotted sky and let his eyes close as he finally found some peace that day.

He wasn’t sure how much time he spent laying there, though he did doze off for a while.  He was awoken much later to the sound of his doorbell ringing, enough to scare the cat off his lap and into the brush, and to wake him from his light nap.  Glancing over at the clock on his living room wall, he sighed and realized that the wait was finally over: Rin was there.

Standing up, he dusted the fur from his pants before he headed to the foyer.  As soon as the door was open and Rin was in view, Haru felt his heart leap up into his chest as another tiny smile graced his lips.  “Hi.”

“Hey,” Rin said, giving Haru a once-over as he grinned.  “Did I wake you up from a nap?”

Haru reached up to soothe his hair, his ears turning red in a quiet blush.  “Yeah, but it’s fine,” he said, moving aside.  “Want to come in?”

Rin’s grin widened, bordering on teasing.  “Yeah.”

Stepping inside, Rin nudged his shoes off and looked around.  It was then that Haru noticed the gym bag slung over his shoulders, likely containing everything he needed for an overnight stay.  It’d been a long time since Haru had anyone over to spend the night.  His place wasn’t exactly a popular spot for sleepovers when he was young, given the lack of parental supervision.  He was at Makoto’s house more often than the other way around.

And this wasn’t a traditional sleepover either.

The tension had been building between the two of them since they started dating.  They’d shared quite a few kisses over the past month, when they could get them, but the opportunity to be alone and go much further than that had never presented itself.  Most of their dates involved Taki, or had to be cut short because of Rin’s obligations to his family and career.  Haru didn’t blame him, nor did he find the situation annoying, but he was curious to go further.  He’d never been “intimate” before, and kissing Rin felt so good.

Which meant everything else had to feel that way too, right?

But he had no idea what he was doing, so he only let Rin into the house, gave him a pair of guest slippers and a gentle kiss before he headed into the kitchen.

“Do you want to start dinner?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Rin called back.  “What’s on the menu?”

“Mackerel.”

Rin laughed as he followed after Haru, his grin wide despite the groan that passed his lips.  “Why do I even ask?”

As Haru opened the fridge to gather the ingredients, he couldn’t keep the small smile off his face.  “I might have something else in here for you,” he said as he rummaged, gathering up foods and passing them off to Rin.

“Oh yeah?  Non-fish related things?”  Rin laughed.  “I didn’t know you had it in you!”

“Mackerel isn’t just fish.  It’s perfection.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Rin said, and Haru could practically hear him rolling his eyes.  It was cute.

“How does ginger pork sound?” Haru asked, pulling a package of pork out of the fridge last, holding it up for Rin to see.

And the way his eyes lit up - the same way his own did whenever he was looking at a pool - was totally worth it.  Even if he had no interest in preparing or consuming pork.  “Really?” Rin asked, almost as if he didn’t believe what he was looking at.

Which only made Haru smile.  “Yeah,” he said.  “I found the recipe online.”

Rin laughed.  “Wow, you’re so out of touch, I wasn’t sure you knew what the internet was.”

And as Haru shut the fridge closed with his hip and moved to the counter to start preparing dinner, he rolled his eyes.  “Watch it, or I’m tossing this out,” he said, waving the package of pork threateningly.

Rin sighed, but he couldn’t wipe the smile from his face.  “Yes sir.”

 

 

Dinner prep was, as always, comfortable.  

Haru’d rarely cooked with someone else in the kitchen before.  Sure, the swim club loved to have dinners at his place, and he often had Rei or Nagisa poking around the kitchen, asking to help or tasting the dishes well before they were ready.  Once, he even tried teaching Makoto how to cook, though that ended up being incredibly unproductive.  But, aside from the times where he would help his grandmother cook - back when he was first learning and had to stand on a stool to reach the counter - he never shared his kitchen space like this.  Not in the same way he did with Rin.

And it was nice.  It was domestic, of course, and almost too much at times, crowding the small space of his tiny kitchen.  But Rin was a good sous chef, he thought.  He was talkative, of course, but in a way that didn’t make Haru feel pressured to respond.  He often just talked about himself or his week, complaining about practice schedules or interviews or working with sponsors.  Occasionally, he’d ask a question, but when Haru was deep into preparing a dish, Rin was perfectly okay with a minimal, non-verbal response.

It was almost freeing, in a way, just as it was nice.

Haru liked having Rin around.

He found that he really enjoyed the company, and while he was always happy to be alone, when the silence seeped into his bones and relaxed him in a way that only swimming could, he didn’t mind the way that Rin filled up the empty spaces of his heart and his head, making him comfortable, happy, and warm.

Dinner was similar.  Aside from the sound of chopsticks on ceramic, the noise was sparse.  Rin looked tired, exhaustion creeping into his voice and face in subtle ways as they sat on the floor of his living room and ate.  He talked about competitions and the Olympics and training; about the men he was competing against and the things he did to give himself an edge.  Haru talked too, about his work and his students, and classes finally coming to a close.  About how Taki was the only “old” student he’d still be teaching, and how, starting Monday, he’d have a whole new batch of people to teach free to.

This was nice.  It reminded him of his level of comfort with Makoto, only much different; only much more intimate.  Because every time their fingers touched or their feet or legs brushed under the table, they’d both stop mid-sentence and look at each other, cheeks a healthy shade of embarrassed red.  Haru thought he was too old to be flustered by something as simple as the grazing of fingers, but apparently, Rin had a way of changing that.

Just like Rin had a way of making him smile more.  And as they cleared the table together and moved to the kitchen to do dishes, Haru thought that he’d never smiled so much in his life.

“So, what do you wanna do tonight?” Haru asked as he rinsed a dish off and handed it to Rin.

Rin hummed thoughtfully.  “We could watch a movie.  Or TV.”  He tapped his chin as he set the dish aside.  “Or we could make some tea and sit on the veranda.”

“Sounds nice,” Haru said, handing Rin another dish.  Honestly, he didn’t care what they did, just as long as it wasn’t too wild.  They could lay on the grass or try and catch fireflies and he would be perfectly fine with it.

Of course, kissing was still on his mind, even though they’d swapped quite a few of those in the time since Rin arrived.

As silence settled between them, Rin broke it up with a laugh.  Haru glanced over at him curiously, one eyebrow cocked as he ran his skillet under the water.  Rin looked over at him and grinned.  “Who knew you’d be so good at cooking meat,” he said.  “I was starting to think you really were a fish.  Or a mermaid.”

“What?”  Haru felt his cheeks heat up as he looked back down at the sink, scrubbing the skillet just a little bit harder.

“Taki’s convinced you turn into one on the full moon,” Rin said, nudging Haru with his elbow.

“Isn’t that werewolves?”

Rin shrugged.  “Let him dream.”

 

 

When the dishes were done, the two of them moved back into the living room so Rin could turn the TV on.  They decided against a movie, and Haru had little preference for TV channels, so he let Rin decide.  He wasn’t surprised at all when he put on a sports channel and settled in next to Haru to watch.

Curled up together, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to read a book.  The volume of the TV was low enough to be heard, but just quiet enough to be background noise.  Rin’s warmth was comforting next to him, and Haru felt as if he could doze off or get lost in his latest read (not that he read much).  Just as he moved to stand up and cross over to his bookshelf, Rin slowly wrapped his arm around his waist and pulled him close.  The way he was looking intently at the TV said he was paying the utmost attention, but Haru could see the blush on his cheeks, so he settled in instead, watching baseball game recaps as commentators talked about the outcome.

“Do you like baseball?” Haru asked.

Rin shrugged.  “Not particularly.”  He looked over at Haru with a small smile.  “But I respect the hell out of most athletes, so.”

Haru nodded and fell silent again.

As the program cut to a commercial, Haru found himself yawning, just a little bit.

“Bored?” Rin asked next to him, and Haru looked up at him.

“No.”  Maybe a little.  Outside of swimming, he wasn’t really into sports.  They were water-less and boring.

Rin laughed, a quiet rumble in his chest that Haru could feel against his shoulder.  “Well, I could think of a way to make it more interesting,” he said, and just as Haru was about to ask how, he leaned in and captured his lips.

Haru immediately sighed and relaxed against Rin.  The two of them shifted together, getting comfortable until they found a position that made their kisses ideal.  They started slow, chaste presses of lips, gentle suction as they pulled apart, but it didn’t take long for things to heat up.

In the background, Haru could hear the program returning from its commercial break, but neither he nor Rin made any attempt to turn their attention back to the show.

Who were they kidding?  This was what they wanted to do all along.

As the kisses grew more intense, Haru found himself getting more flustered, pressing up against Rin as he threaded his fingers through his hair and pulled him closer.  He relished in the little moans that passed Rin’s lips every time their tongues touched or there was just the right amount of teeth, just like he treasured the breathy sighs that left his lips as their breath see-sawed between them.

The program began and ended as the two of them truly lost themselves in each other.  As some new show started, Haru couldn’t even be bothered to reach for the remote and shut the TV off.  All he could care about was the feeling of Rin’s soft lips against his and the noises he was making as they shifted closer to each other.

He never knew kissing could feel so good.  It always looked so sloppy and unappealing, an intimacy he was never really interested in.  But what may have grossed him out when he was younger only served to turn him on now: Rin’s tongue in his mouth, the occasional sloppiness of missed lips, the warm wetness of Rin’s mouth.

As Rin pulled away, Haru could feel himself instinctively chase after his lips, which only made Rin giggle in the cutest way possible.  In his chest, his heart wrung itself out like a wet towel.

“We should, uh… Go upstairs maybe,” Rin said, his voice far breathier than it had any reason to be.

Haru felt his cheeks heat up as he nodded.  “Yeah.”

“Have I finally behaved myself?” Rin asked, his grin turning wolfish.

Haru hesitated before he rolled his eyes.  “Barely,” he said, getting up so he could shut the TV off.

After grabbing his bag from the foyer, Rin met Haru at the foot of the stairs.  They stood there, staring at each other in silence, before Rin motioned for Haru to go up first.  “After you.”

Haru did, his heart strangely heavy in his chest.  This felt intimate, like it was a bigger step than it probably was.  But, then again, there was nothing stopping them from going as far as they wanted with this once they were in Haru’s bedroom, right?

Unless Rin wanted to sleep.  Which would also be acceptable.

When they got to the top of the stairs, Haru looked around.  The second floor wasn’t anything exciting, but he supposed he needed to do more than just point Rin toward the various rooms.  He remembered how unsatisfied Rin was last time he tried to do that.  “This is it,” he said, turning to Rin.  “Not that exciting.”

“I beg to differ,” Rin said, grinning over at him, his eyes almost half-lidded in a way that made Haru’s heart jump up into his throat.  Swallowing it back down, he started walking toward the guest room.

“This is the guest room,” he said, sliding the door open so Rin could look inside.  As the master bedroom, it was the largest one in the house, though it wasn’t much bigger than his own.  It was clean and spotless, still filled with a lot of his grandmother’s knick knacks.  There was no trace of his parents in this room, but they hadn’t stayed there in quite some time.  It looked undisturbed and mostly untouched, mostly that’s because it was.

“Nice,” Rin said, poking his head in.  As he looked over at Haru, he was smiling in a way Haru couldn’t quite interpret.

“This was my grandmother’s room before she passed,” he said, and then backed out to close the door.  Walking toward his room next, he heard Rin follow, each footstep echoed by the pounding of his heart.

“And this is my room,” he said, glancing over at Rin as he slid the door open.  It was clean, and the open window blew in a nice breeze from outside, bringing with it the salty scent of the sea.  His room hadn’t changed much since he was young.  It was a bit more “adult” now, his posters replaced with prints, his desk devoid of any textbooks or notebooks from school.  But it still had the same charm that it did when he was younger, mostly because him and his life rarely changed, a fact which he was happy to acknowledge.

“I like it,” Rin said, stepping further into the room.  As he dropped his bag onto the floor, Haru’s heart gave another annoying thump against his throat.  Guess that answered his question of where Rin was planning on sleeping that night.  He wondered what Rin’s room looked like in his apartment.  He didn’t get the chance to see it, Taki conveniently leaving it off his tour last time he was there.  Judging by how the rest of the apartment was decorated, it was probably minimally decorated and populated, with just a hint of western style.  He doubted Rin spent much time in it, given his schedule and lifestyle.

“It’s not much,” Haru said, following Rin into the room.

Rin shook his head.  “No, it’s so you,” he said, turning toward Haru with a grin.  “It’s cute.”

Haru felt his ears heat up as he looked off to the side.  He really didn’t think it was much, but apparently Rin had differing opinions.  Then again, he seemed to take joy in a lot of the things Haru did.  It was strange, and he didn’t entirely understand it.

Haru stayed quiet as Rin looked around the room, running his fingers across the surface of his desk, touching the pictures and posters on his wall, and eventually coming to stop at his bed.  After some hesitation, Rin sat down on it and patted the spot next to him with a grin.

It was with an embarrassingly accelerated heartbeat that Haru joined him.

“So, you’ve lived here your whole life?” he asked.

Haru nodded, sweeping his gaze across the room before looking over at Rin.  “Yeah,” he said.  “I inherited the house, so I’m still here.”

Rin smiled.  “I can almost imagine you as a kid here, working at that desk.  Or putting up that weird dolphin poster.”  He gestured toward it with a quiet laugh.

Haru snorted.  “It’s not weird.”

“Alright, cute then.”

Nudging Rin with his knee, Haru leaned back on his hands.  “Makoto’s family lives next door,” he said.

“Explains why you two are so close,” Rin said with a soft smile.  Haru expected a small amount of jealousy, but he couldn’t detect any.  For some reason, that made him happy.

“I kinda wish I grew up here with you,” Rin blurted out.  “It’s stupid, but uh, then I would’ve known you longer and we could’ve been doing this a whole lot sooner—“

But Haru didn’t give Rin the chance to finish.  Leaning in, he pressed his lips against Rin’s and silenced him with a kiss.  He wasn’t sure if Rin really meant that - growing up here might mean not having his son - but he appreciated the sentiment nonetheless.  Briefly, as he kissed Rin and Rin kissed him back, he wondered what his life would’ve been like if he’d known Rin a lot sooner.  Would he be a different person, in a completely different place?

He reached the conclusion that it didn’t matter.  They were there now, and they wouldn’t know a life different than this one, so there was no sense thinking about it.

Especially when they were making out.

Pressing closer to Rin, Haru resumed the pace they’d set downstairs.  It didn’t take their kiss long to escalate, the simple suction and the delicious press of lips giving way to something heavier and much more intimate.

Haru really, really liked kissing Rin.  It made him feel light and buoyant, and yet, at the same time, like his body was so heavy he couldn’t think to leave the earth, even if he wanted to.  It was a feeling a lot like diving into the water after a long winter and swimming off the chill with a lap.  Only it was, in a lot of ways, better.

(Blasphemous.)

As Rin laid back down on the bed, he pulled Haru with him until they were laying there together, Haru half on top of him, pinning his arm under his weight.  “Am I squishing you?” Haru asked against Rin’s lips, mumbling each word between kisses.

“Kinda,” Rin said, and Haru pulled back to adjust himself.  Rin moved further back on the bed and Haru followed, unable to keep the small, embarrassed smile off his lips.  Meanwhile, Rin was grinning like a loon, laughing quietly and making Haru’s head spin.

“You’re so goddamn cute,” Rin said before he pulled Haru on top of him again so they could pick up where they left off.

“Shut up,” Haru mumbled back, before he slipped his tongue into Rin’s mouth with a quiet sigh.

 

 

Gasping as he came up for air, Haru pressed himself closer to Rin as the two of them tangled their legs together.  There wasn’t a single inch of skin that wasn’t touching, and every so often, Haru would shift only to find his thigh pressed up against something hard between Rin’s legs.  His face was flushed each time, though he had similar problem of his own.

Rin took the opportunity to extract his hand from up the back of Haru’s shirt, where he was currently raking his nails along sensitive skin.  Grabbing the hem of his shirt instead, Rin started to pull at it as he nipped at Haru’s lips and moaned.  “Off,” he mumbled, and Haru pulled back, sitting back on his legs as he lifted his arms over his head and looked down at Rin with half-lidded eyes.

Rin sat up with him, tugging at his shirt until it was over his head.  There was some fumbling, especially when Haru’s head caught on the collar and his arms got a little more than lost, but the moment passed with quiet laughs and sloppy kisses.

“You too,” Haru mumbled as Rin tossed his shirt onto the floor, reaching for the hem so he could tug it swiftly over his head.  There was much less fumbling on his end, but he did finally notice the way his fingers shook in the slightest in between their kisses.

Once they were both shirtless, Haru pushed Rin back down on the bed so he could resume kissing him.  Their tongues clashed and they breathed quiet moans into each others’ mouths, each one traveling down between Haru’s legs like the strike of lightning.  His entire body felt like it was slowly being engulfed by flames, and he couldn’t stand it.  He wanted nothing else and more at the same time; his clothes felt stuffy and he felt naked and exposed.  He wasn’t sure how to deal with it, so he just kept kissing Rin until his mind went numb and his body complied.

His hands traveled down Rin’s sides as Rin’s explored his back.  As his fingertips brushed over his hips, Rin pulled back from the kiss to laugh, squirming underneath Haru.

“What?” Haru asked breathily, confusedly.  Leaning his forehead against Rin’s, he watched him through hazy vision.

Rin squirmed a little bit more.  “Tickles,” he breathed, pulling Haru closer.

Haru smiled and brushed that same spot again, relishing in the giggles and laughs that left Rin’s lips.  It was cute in a way he didn’t expect, but, then again, so was Rin.  He was built and strong, well-kept and handsome.  He had the smile of a shark and over-confident personality of a professional athlete.  But he was sensitive and sweet; he embarrassed easily, was tender and gentle, especially with his son.

Haru liked it, much better than the person he thought Rin was when they first met.

Taking the open opportunity that came with their break in kisses, Haru dipped his head down to kiss Rin’s neck instead.  At first, he only planted gentle kisses on the exposed flesh of his neck, but soon he started sucking instead.  Rin moaned quietly, pressing up against Haru as he did, his hands reaching up to bury themselves in his hair.

“Ahh, Haru,” he whispered.

Haru pulled back, his eyebrows drawing together.  “What?”

Rin looked at him, his grin giddy, his eyes sleepy.  “Feels good,” he said, and rolled his hips up into Haru’s thigh.

Shuddering against Rin, Haru leaned down to kiss his neck again, this time sucking just a little bit harder.  Rin moaned louder at that, bowing his spine and tugging at Haru’s hair in a way that he really liked.

And that was how Haru discovered how much he enjoyed sucking on Rin’s neck.

Trailing kisses and bites down to Rin’s collarbone, Haru ignored the angry red marks his mouth left in its wake, instead focusing on getting Rin to moan that way again.  As he nipped at his collar, Rin hissed and laughed, reaching down to grab Haru’s ass through his pants.

Haru hissed and buried his face into Rin’s skin.  “Is this okay?” Rin asked hesitantly, panting between each word.

Haru nodded into Rin’s neck, his cheeks flushed as Rin squeezed his ass again.

Kissing his way back up to Rin’s mouth, he pressed him down into the bed as their kiss turned heated and passionate within seconds.  Grinding down against Rin, he relished in the feeling of Rin’s hand on his butt as he slipped it into his back pocket.  His other hand made itself busy tangling his fingers in Haru’s hair so he could tug him closer and moan into his mouth.

Haru’s entire body was feeling hot.  They’d been going at this for a while now, the sun long since set, the crickets outside serving as the background music to their moment.  And the longer they continued with this, the more wound up Haru felt.  His entire stomach was a coiled knot that he couldn’t quite untangle, and every touch from Rin only seemed to make it worse.

Until Rin started tugging at the waistband of his pants.  Haru’s heart stopped cold in his chest, his skin, once sweaty and hot, now feeling clammy.  Their lips were ghosting over each others’, but they weren’t kissing anymore.

“Haru,” Rin whispered.  “Is this…?”

“Yeah.”  Haru swallowed hard.  “—Yes.  Yes.”

And then Rin’s fingers were on the button of his pants, popping them open so he could attempt to pull them down.  Haru could hear his heartbeat in his ears as he shifted against Rin, helping him tug his pants off.  Like his shirt, they were not easy to remove, especially with Rin underneath him, but they managed.  Even though it took two pairs of hands and Rin’s feet just to get them to his ankles.

They were laughing breathily against each others’ lips as they struggled, but the second Haru was free of his pants, kicking them off the bed and onto the floor, he felt exposed.  The warm summer air felt strange against the skin of his legs, especially when Rin was staring at him so intently.

“What?” Haru asked, tucking his legs underneath him as he moved to straddle Rin’s thighs.

Rin swallowed thickly.  “You’re uh—“  He fidgeted.  “You’re beautiful.”

Haru felt his face flare up in a moment of embarrassment.  Few people ever complimented his looks, but beautiful wasn’t a word he’d ever heard used to describe himself.  Rin was definitely more traditionally beautiful, with those gentle eyes and that nice, soft hair.  As he opened his mouth, his first instinct was to deny it, especially in some attempt to quell his embarrassment, but instead, he clamped his mouth shut and leaned in to kiss Rin.  The easiest way to deal with his feelings was, obviously, not to.

Their kiss was as hot and passionate as the others, with the added feeling of being almost-naked in his own bed, Rin still pinned underneath him.  Despite the embarrassment, Haru felt excited, the feeling bubbling up in his chest with every kiss and touch.  Rin couldn’t keep his hands to himself either, letting them roam across Haru’s back before dipping down to grab his ass again.  And as he ground down against Rin, he couldn’t help the shudder that ripped up his spine or the moan that passed his lips.

Rin’s fingers found their way to the waistband of his boxer briefs, tugging at it before slipping the tips of his fingers underneath.  Haru shivered in response, moving his lips to Rin’s neck so he could bite down gently.  His head felt like it was swimming now, his heart ramming up against his throat as Rin tugged at his underwear.

“Haru,” he whispered, pushing at Haru’s hips until he lifted them from the bed.  Rin’s hand slid around to the space just underneath his bellybutton and Haru gasped and shuddered, his eyelids fluttering.  He couldn’t help the moan that slipped past his lips as Rin’s fingers dipped down to trace over the visible outline of his cock, his touch gentle, exploratory, and nervous.

Rin,” Haru whispered back, almost choked in the back of his throat as he pushed his hips up against Rin’s hand.  His stomach was doing flips, twisting itself into pretzels as his skin jumped underneath Rin’s touch.

Rin’s touch remained, but Haru didn’t want it to go anywhere, not when it felt so new, so good.  He’d touched himself before, but it’d never felt like this.  Even though Rin’s fingers were barely there and there was a layer of cloth separating skin from skin, each graze sent a new wave of heat rolling through him until he was gasping against Rin’s neck.

His fingers itched to return the favor.  Scrambling for Rin’s pants, he started unbuttoning and tugging at them, impatient enough to make Rin stop and laugh.  Haru tilted his head up and pressed a kiss against Rin’s lips as the two of them shucked his pants, crashing together again and again like waves as they struggled to get Rin’s clothes off.

And soon, the two of them were equally undressed, wearing nothing but their underwear, exposed to each other in the dim lighting of Haru’s bedroom.  There was a quiet moment between them, where their eyes locked and searched each other’s, as if asking for permission, before they were kissing again, their hips grinding together as hands sought to touch and rub every inch of skin they could.

As good as this felt, Haru knew he wanted more, just like he knew he wanted to touch Rin badly.  In the split second that their bodies separated before they crashed together again, he slipped his fingers inside Rin’s underwear and grasped his cock in his hand.

Rin gasped, breaking their kiss to press himself back against the bed.  “Shit, Haru,” he whispered, cracking his eyes open so that he could look up at him.  His lips were red and swollen, his cheeks flushed, and he was panting, just from such a simple touch.  Haru squeezed his hand experimentally, causing Rin to moan and buck back against the bed again.

“Is this okay?” Haru asked hesitantly, extracting his fingers so he could trace Rin’s length, if only just to feel him.  And he felt so good, in a way that embarrassed Haru much more than it should.

Rin nodded almost distractedly.  “Yes,” he whispered, leaning up to kiss Haru.  “Fuck yes.”

Haru snorted against Rin’s lips before wrapping his fingers around him again, giving him a gentle squeeze.  He relished in Rin’s moan, squeezing him again before he realized his hand was a little too dry to start jerking him off.  Pulling his hand out of Rin’s underwear, he reached over toward the bedside drawer where he knew he had some kind of lotion.  It took some amount of rummaging, made even harder by Rin kissing and sucking at his neck, but when he found it, he tossed it onto the bed with a triumphant sigh.

Only to have Rin get to it first.  “Thanks,” he teased, before squeezing some onto his hand.  Before Haru even had time to react, Rin’s hand was down his underwear and his fingers were wrapped around his cock.  Crying out in a quiet moan, Haru threw his head back as his hips twitched into Rin’s grip.  It didn’t take Rin long to start stroking him, pumping him slowly until he was straining against his hand.

He’d never been this hard in his life.  But he’d also never felt this good in his life.

As soon as Rin started kissing him, Haru found the cognizance enough to reach for the bottle himself.  Getting just enough into his hand and warming it up, he joined Rin, slipping his hand into his underwear so he could start pumping him as well.

It was a little awkward, the way they were both pressed together in the bed, and perhaps it’d be just a little bit easier if they were completely naked, but the last thing Haru wanted to do was attempt to remove more clothing when he was this turned on.  He could barely focus on what he was doing when all he could think about was Rin’s hand on him and how amazing it felt.

“Rin,” he whispered against his lips as they traded sloppy, distracted kisses in between moans and pants of breath.  “Rin.”

“Haru, you’re so—“ Rin started, but was cut off with a sharp moan as he bucked his hips into Haru’s hand.

Picking up the pace in his own wrist, Haru started stroking Rin faster and faster, tightening his hand just enough to drive Rin wild.  Each sigh, moan, and twitch only encouraged him, showing him what Rin enjoyed the most so he could do it over and over again.

But Rin was so good at this, his hand knowing exactly what to do to turn his own legs into jelly and his belly into liquid fire.

His heart was ramming up against his throat then, causing him to choke on his moans as he started thrusting into Rin’s hand gently, rocking down into him as Rin started to do the same.

It didn’t take long for his stomach to start tightening and the beat of his pulse to increase.  Just the feeling of Rin’s warm, soft hand around him was more than enough to drive him wild, but the ceaseless pumping, only growing faster and faster, was bringing him to the edge at a more-than-embarrassing rate.  He countered that by stroking Rin harder and faster, relishing in the sounds that came out of his lips, drinking them up with his own like water.

Dipping his head toward Rin’s neck, he bit down on his shoulder roughly, causing Rin to cry out.  He couldn’t help but leave a few new hickeys behind as he sucked on Rin’s neck even harder, his hips rolling into his hand as his body grew closer and closer to his release.

When it came, it hit him like a tidal wave, taking him by surprise even though he could see it coming a mile away.  “Rin!” he cried out as goosebumps erupted on his arms and legs, waves of pleasure rolling up from his stomach and overtaking him until he was gasping and moaning.  As much as he wanted to give in to the pure feeling of pleasure that came with Rin bringing him to orgasm, he wanted to achieve the same reaction too, and continued to bite down on Rin’s neck s he pumped him just as hard.

Rin’s last long moan was choked, stuttering out with his breath as he thrust up against Haru and tilted his head back to hit the pillow.  “Fuck, Haru—“  The two of them rode out their orgasms together, their wrists pumping each other through it until they both collapsed on the bed in a heaving heap.

Holy shit,” Rin whispered as Haru rolled off of him so they were laying side-by-side.  Haru flushed as he echoed the sentiment with a quiet moan, his eyes fluttering closed, his body heavy and limbs turned to jelly.  He couldn’t even think about moving, but the messiness of their post-orgasmic state was more than undesirable.  Together, the two of them moved at a pace slower than molasses, stripping off their underwear and cleaning themselves off on Rin’s discarded shirt.  Just as they were settling back into bed, Rin started laughing, quiet giggles turning loud and uninhibited.

Haru’s eyebrows knit together as he looked over at Rin, confused and a little lost.  “What?”

Rin held his stomach as he laughed himself back down to quiet giggles once more.  “That was just so…amazing.”  Rin paused, turning his head to look at Haru, his grin goofy and loopy as if drunk.  “You’re amazing.”

Haru’s face flushed, his cheeks hot as he turned to face Rin.  “Really?” he asked.  It was just a handjob, not that Haru’d ever given or received one to anyone other than himself.  He knew Rin didn’t have much experience, but that couldn’t have been the best.

It was so awkward and fumble-y, and he had no idea what he was doing…

“Yeah,” Rin said with a nod, leaning in to kiss Haru on the lips.  “The best I’ve ever had.  —I mean, you were only competing against me, but still.”  His grin turned goofy, especially when he realized that he just admitted Haru was better at him at something.

The two of them laid side-by-side like that for a while, both catching their breath and soaking in the post-orgasmic glow.  Of course, Rin was the one to recover the quickest, but he continued to lay there as Haru closed his eyes and allowed his breath to even out.

He’d never been so aware of every limb and muscle in his body before.  Even after an intense swim at the pool, he’d never felt this exhausted nor satisfied before.  But just one orgasm from Rin and he felt satiated in a way he couldn’t explain.  And it was amazing.

He wanted to do it again.

When the two of them finally came down from their highs together, Haru turned to Rin, snaking his arm around his waist.  He was curious: Rin had mentioned his past affairs before, only in that he’d technically never dated anyone before, but Haru knew that wasn’t the full story, and he was kind of wanted to hear it.

Was it weird to admit that he wanted to know more about Rin and his life before they met?

“Have you ever dated anyone before?”

Next to him, Rin tensed before looking over at him.  He looked sheepish and embarrassed as he turned on his side to face Haru.  “Kind of,” he mumbled, slipping his arm around Haru’s waist as well.  “There were a few others.  —Two, to be exact.”

Haru nodded.  “Who were they?”

Rin shifted.  “The last one was Takeshi.  He was kind of a dick, so we didn’t last long.”

Haru looked at him curiously, tilting his head until Rin got the message and sighed.  

“Alright, fine,” he said, reaching up to flick Haru’s nose.  “He was a track and field runner at the Rio Olympics.  He won Gold in his event, so he was kind of a ‘big deal.’  I medaled too, so we, uh, bonded over that in the Village.”  His cheeks flushed a deep shade of red.

“—Not sexually, I mean!  He definitely wanted to, but I was eighteen, it was my first Olympic run, and I’d just kinda figured out I was gay, so I wanted to take it slow,” he explained.  “Is this making you uncomfortable?”

Haru shook his head.  “No.”

Rin took a few deep breaths as he shifted next to Haru again. “Okay,” he said with a nod.  “Well, I uh.  I kinda wanted to date someone first before doing…stuff, so we ended up seeing each other a few times after we got home.  He was okay, nothing that great, but he understood what it was like to be a professional athlete.  And that meant something to me back then.”

“What happened?” Haru asked.

Rin reached up to rub at his neck as he tangled his legs together with Haru’s.  “Well, we kissed a few times.  And as things started to get a little more serious, Taki came into my life.  And the second he did, Takeshi was out of the picture.  He didn’t want to deal with my ‘baggage.’”

Haru winced, his lips screwing up into a frown.  “He sounds like an ass.”

Rin paused and before he started laughing, leaning in to kiss Haru’s cheek.  “He really, really was,” he said.  “Gou still hates him.”

Haru couldn’t help the small smile that appeared on his lips as he moved closer to Rin, enjoying the warmth coming off his body.  Was this cuddling?  Because, if so, it was kind of nice.  He’d never cuddled before.

“So, you’ve really never done this before?” Haru asked, reaching up to brush Rin’s hair behind his ear.

Rin flushed.  “Um, I made Taki, didn’t I?  But no, not really,” he said, and then paused.  “I mean, not with a man.”

Haru hesitated and then nodded.  He didn’t know anything about Taki’s mother, other than the fact that she existed.  Maybe.  She wasn’t a presence in Taki’s life, to the point where Taki didn’t even acknowledge that he had a mom.  What happened there?  He was curious, but it seemed like a sore spot.

“So, Taki’s mother…”  Haru trailed off, not sure how to properly ask.  He didn’t go around prying into other peoples’ lives, after all, but this was a little different.

Rin seemed to understand what he was getting at, responding with a small smile that was neither pained nor sad.  “That’s…a long story.  Another time,” he said, but there was something off about his answer that didn’t sit right with Haru.  Oh well, it wasn’t his business to pry, so he only answered with a nod, leaning in to brush his lips against Rin’s.

They kissed like that for a while, wrapped up in each other, completely exposed.  As much as Haru wanted to pull back and admire Rin, he let himself enjoy this instead as he wove his fingers through Rin’s hair and kissed him slowly and more passionately than he knew himself capable of.

After a moment, Haru pulled back from the kiss to look at Rin, his eyebrows knitted together as he tried to think of how to phrase the question burning at the front of his mind.  Rin looked at him expectantly, tilting his head to the side in confusion.  Haru took a deep breath and asked,  “Does Taki know about his mom?”

Rin paused, smiled, and then shook his head.  “Nah, every time he asks where he came from, I tell him something different,” he said and then laughed to himself.  “His favourite story is the one where I found him in the forest and stole him from a witch.”  He laughed even harder, his grin sheepish.  “I think the last one I told him was that I rescued him from an ogre in the mountains.”

And Haru couldn’t help but snort as he thought about Taki listening to those tall tales, likely not believing them but loving them all the same.  Sighing, he leaned in to kiss Rin again.

They stayed like that, kissing until Rin finally flipped Haru over onto his back and crawled between his legs.  “So, uh.  As amazing as that was, I wanna try something else.”

“Yeah?”  Haru tilted his head, looking up at Rin questioningly and excitedly.

“Yeah, I wanna…go down on you,” Rin said, his cheeks heating up until they matched the color of his hair.  “That cool?”

Haru felt heat rising in the pit of his stomach as he squirmed underneath Rin.  Nodding distractedly, he reached up to brush Rin’s hair out of his face.  “Yeah.”

Rin’s grin was wolfish, almost shark-like, as he bared his teeth and descended on Haru’s neck.  “Great,” he mumbled, “‘cause I can definitely make you come harder this time.”

And as Rin kissed his way down his body, leaving tiny marks in his wake, Haru couldn’t help but think that maybe he could.

And maybe he wanted him to.

 

 

Later that evening, as they laid together underneath Haru’s sheets, completely naked, legs tangled, arms wrapped around each other, Haru couldn’t help but think that this night, in so many was, was kind of perfect.  Though he was a solitary creature, prone to his introversion, he liked this a lot.  He liked Rin a lot.  And all of this - the stress, the flirting, the embarrassment, the exposure - was worth it.  Because what they had, as awkward and strange and new as it was, was amazing, in a way he’d never experienced.  In a way he never thought.

And it made him weirdly excited, in a completely new way, for the future.

Especially when Rin and his son would be in that future with him.

—What an embarrassing thought, but even his own muted sense of pride couldn’t keep the smile off his lips as he fell asleep in Rin’s arms that night to the sound of his gentle breathing and the chirping chorus of crickets outside.

But, then again, Rin was pretty embarrassing himself, so it evened out.

Maybe.

Chapter Text

That morning, Rin awoke to the muffled sound of shouting, coming from somewhere just outside of his dreams. It took him time to even register the noise - his subconscious quite happy to incorporate it into his restful sleep - the cries fading into encouraging cheers as he ripped through the water on the Olympic stage.  It all seemed so natural and comfortable, but when his coaches started yelling a name that wasn’t his own (“Haru-chan!!”), he finally found himself being pulled from the deepest, most satisfying sleep in ages.  Which, of course, made him more than a little cranky.

Slowly opening his eyes, his lips set into a frown as his body, heavy and satiated, refused to move more than an inch.  As he blinked himself into wakefulness, he found his surroundings just unfamiliar enough to punch his heart up into his throat.  He turned his head quickly, coming face-to-face with Haru laying next to him, still fast asleep and dreaming, a small smile on his otherwise relaxed face.  And then Rin relaxed too, the memories of the previous night flooding back to him and causing his heart to race for completely different reasons.

Last night, he and Haru had sex.

(Kind of.)

Last night, he and Haru exchanged sloppy and satisfying blowjobs before falling asleep in each others’ arms and it was kind of amazing.  They also made out a lot, got each other off multiple times with their hands, and kissed some more before passing out in a comfortable cuddle.

As his face burned in a happy embarrassment, Rin could barely resist the urge to do a small victory dance in bed.  Sure, he and Haru had been dating for a little bit over a month and this was bound to happen, but it did.  And that was the best part.

Next to Haru and him being boyfriends, of course.

As a wide smile blossomed on his lips, he reached out to brush Haru’s hair away from his face.  And what a beautiful boyfriend he had.  Haru looked so serene when he was sleeping, wearing a similar expression to the one Rin saw whenever he spotted water in the distance or floated in a pool.  He was so, so— Amazing?  Incredible?  Wonderful?  Rin wasn’t sure he could pick just one word to describe Haru, so he didn’t.

Laughing quietly to himself, he leaned down to kiss Haru on the forehead, but found himself stopped when he heard more muffled shouting outside of Haru’s cracked window.

“Haru-chan, wake up!” called one voice, desperate and whining.

Nagisa-kun, Haruka-senpai’s probably asleep.  We’ll come back later.”

“Then let’s just break in through the back, like old times!”

Drawn toward the sounds by his own curiosity, Rin sat up and moved toward the window, opening it just enough to poke his head through.  He found himself holding his breath as he peeked down at the street, hoping he was quiet enough not to draw the attention of whoever was currently harassing Haru’s house.  But when did he ever have that kind of luck?

“He’s awake!” someone shouted as Rin looked down, seeing a small group of three standing just below Haru’s window and watching it expectantly.  One of them he recognized as Makoto, but the other two were complete strangers.  Though he could’ve sworn he saw their faces somewhere.  Maybe in photos at the swim club?

As Rin locked eyes with Makoto, he saw him turn three shades paler, reaching up to cover his face a little too quickly.  Oh my god,” Makoto groaned.  “We should—”

“—Who’s that?” the short, blond one asked, his expression twisted in confusion.  It only took him a few seconds before his face lit up, a grin stretching his lips and cheeks.  “Wait, is that Matsuoka Rin?!”

And the tall one with glasses had the decency to blush.  “Nagisa-kun, don’t be rude,” he chided, but paused to look up at Rin, who was staring down at the group, lips parted, face flushed.  He knew he should’ve been ducking back into the bedroom, but he found himself rooted to the spot, unable to look away from the slow, painful train wreck that was his own life.  “It can’t truly be…”

Makoto continued to groan, face behind his hands in an attempt at giving Rin some decency.  The blond - Nagisa, apparently - was beaming as he looked up at Rin.  “It is!  We have his poster in our bedroom, I’d recognize him anywhere.”  This seemed to make the tall one blush even harder as he cried out, but Nagisa was having none of it.  “Wow, what’s Matsuoka Rin doing—“  He paused, eyes widening before his grin followed suite.  “Holy crap, Haru-chan!  Get it!!”

It was then that Rin remembered just how naked he currently was, and even though they couldn’t see him from the waist down, this was not the impression he wanted to leave on Haru’s friends.  Ducking behind the window just enough, both of his hands flew to his face so he could hide just how hard he was blushing.  Oh my god—“

“I’m so sorry, Rin!  I didn’t know—“ Makoto called up from the window, and Rin might’ve appreciated his apology if the current situation were any less mortifying. 

“Mako-chan, you didn’t tell me Haru was dating!”

“I’m sorry!”

Peeking through his fingers, Rin noticed that Makoto was still covering his face, probably to keep from openly staring at the naked spectacle currently poking out of Haru’s window.  At least they couldn’t see the rest of him, but that wasn’t comforting enough as Rin flopped back on the bed, knocking into Haru’s feet and groaning into his hands.

He’d never get a cool introduction to any of these people, would he?  Except maybe Makoto.  At least Makoto thought he was cool.  Maybe these other two thought so as well, considering they had a poster of him on their bedroom wall.  (Maybe that wasn’t such a great thing.  Rin didn’t really have the mental capacity to think about it.)

Just as he started to pray for Haru’s bed to swallow him whole and never release him again, he felt Haru shift underneath him, pushing the covers aside until he was sitting up and rubbing at his eyes.  Looking over at him, Rin couldn’t help but think that he was ridiculously adorable when he was sleepy, his hair a little mussed and his eyes half-lidded.  Covering a yawn, he looked at Rin and smiled this amazing, endearingly soft smile, before he crawled over Rin and toward the window.

“Wait, your friends are outside—“ Rin tried to warn, but it seemed Haru was having none of it, as he shamelessly poked his entire (naked) upper body out the window to look down at the shouting masses below.

“Hey,” he said, leaning against the window frame.

“Haru-chan!” Rin heard Nagisa call.  “Why didn’t you tell me you were seeing someone?!  You should’ve called.”

“Sorry,” Haru mumbled.

“Nagisa-kun, leave Haruka-senpai alone,” Glasses chided.  “Didn’t we come here to—“

“Shut it, Rei-chan.  You’re just mad ‘cause you lost the bet,” Nagisa teased, and Rin found himself crawling toward the window again.  And not just because he wanted to admire Haru’s naked ass up close.

“I’m so sorry, Haru,” Makoto called, embarrassment evident in his voice as he apologized for what felt like the millionth time.  Rin would’ve bet a lot of money that he was probably still covering his face, especially with Haru shamelessly displaying his naked torso and making no move to cover up.  “I didn’t know Rin was over!”

“Holy shit,” Nagisa cut in before Haru could respond.  “Are those hickeys?!  Oh my god, Haru, you’re covered in them!

Next to him, Haru looked down as if noticing them for the first time.  Rin’s face turned a healthy shade of fire truck red as he admired his own handiwork; there were an excessive amount on his neck and chest and they were pretty noticeable.  His eyes widened as he remembered the marks Haru’d left on him and his hands flew up to his neck before he sought out a mirror.  Only to find Haru’s bedroom had none.

Damn, how did Haru get dressed in the morning?!

Haru, as cool and collected as ever, only peered out the window as he rested his hands on the ledge.  “I didn’t know you were in town,” he said.

“Oh, right!”  This seemed to distract Nagisa, or so Rin assumed, as he finally changed the subject away from Haru’s sex life.  (Later on, after he could put this embarrassment behind him, he knew it’d amuse him just how astonished Haru’s friends were at the fact that he was dating.  And flattered that they were even more surprised it was a famous Olympic athlete.  Who they all had posters of in their bedrooms…)

“Rei-chan and I are on vacation.  We wanted to come home!” Nagisa called up to the window.  “But it seems like you’re busy—“

“We were planning on going to the beach today.  You wanna come, Haru?” Makoto called, and Rin never felt more appreciative for him in his entire life.  (He really owed Makoto a lot, didn’t he?)

Pulling away from the window, Haru looked down at him, his brow raised.  “You wanna go?” he asked.

Rin looked back up at Haru, swallowing the lump forming in his throat.  Honestly, he was looking forward to this rare moment of freedom, when he knew Taki was safe and being cared for by his sister.  And he was looking forward to using it to spend time with Haru, in an emotional, physical, and sexual sense.  He definitely wouldn’t mind a repeat performance from last night…

But he was interested in getting to know Haru’s friends, and the weather outside was beautiful.  He hadn’t lived this close to the beach in a while, and he knew Taki would enjoy going out.  Nodding, he swallowed again and allowed himself to smile.  “Sure.”

Looking back out the window, Haru called down to his friends below, “Yeah.  We’ll be down eventually.”

Rin was almost positive Nagisa was grinning like a loon.  He could practically hear it in his voice when he called back, “Sure, we’ll go hang out at Mako-chan’s!  Have fun you too.”  He wouldn’t be surprised if Nagisa even threw Haru a wink.

He probably should’ve appeared in front of the window again, at least to wave to them as they left.  But Rin knew he needed more than just a shower and some time before he could face those three again.  Especially Makoto.

Crawling over the bed, Rin grabbed for the phone still laying in the back pocket of his pants.  “Mind if I invite a few others?” he asked, looking back at Haru, who was making himself comfortable in bed again.

“Sure.”

 

 

It took Haru and Rin an embarrassing amount of time to get ready.  In between swapping kisses on his bed, showering off their stickiness from the night before, and making breakfast, it was well-past morning when the two of them finally regrouped with Haru’s friends.  It was then that Rin finally got a significantly less embarrassing introduction to Ryuugazaki Rei and Hazuki Nagisa, Haru’s high school and childhood friends respectively.

“They’re living in Kyoto now,” Haru explained as the five of them stood in front of Makoto’s old house, dressed and ready for a day at the beach.  “They’re both working in a hospital together.”

“Rei-chan’s doing his residency right now,” Nagisa explained.  “I’m training to be a nurse.”

Rin nodded, impressed.  Though he knew little about Nagisa, that surprised him.  He seemed like more of the television personality type, really.  Though Rei seemed like a smart, scientific nerd, if his outward appearance and general seriousness said anything.  “Sounds like a lot of work.”

Rei nodded.  “True dedication to the scientific and doctoral arts is required when pursuing such a passionate field,” he said, smirking as he reached up to adjust his glasses.

Nagisa rolled his eyes, smiling up at Rei in a way that seemed comfortably familiar to Rin now that he’d been dating Haru for almost a month.  “He means yes,” he explained, and Rei turned a few shades pinker as he cleared his throat.

Finally, the five of them took off toward the “usual spot,” heading in the direction of the beach together.  The conversation focused heavily on Nagisa and Rei’s life until that point, as it seemed that Makoto and Haru hadn’t seen either of them in some time.  Rin was eternally grateful for this, hanging at the back of the group and walking side-by-side with Makoto, who continued to look over at him and mouth “I’m so sorry” every five or so minutes.

“Let me tell you, the training nurses at the hospital?  They have it out for me,” Nagisa said, nodding as he crossed his arms over his chest.  “Maybe they’re just jealous ‘cause I’m dating a hot doctor.”

Rin snorted as Rei blushed.  “Hardly,” he said.  “And one of them was mean to you once, Nagisa-kun.  They don’t have it out for you.”

Nagisa shrugged as Makoto laughed.  “So, have you two thought about what you’re going to do after you’re done?”

Both Nagisa and Rei shook their heads.  “We’re still figuring it out,” Rei offered.

“So, Haru!” Nagisa started, changing the subject as he sidled up to Haru. “I wanna hear all about you and Rin-chan.”  Rin flushed at the nickname, mouth agape as he had half a mind to chide Nagisa for his sudden familiarity.  But his bubbly personality and genera outgoing nature made that a little more than challenging, and he found himself grumbling instead.

“He’s my boyfriend,” Haru explained, and the squeal that left Nagisa’s lips caused Rin to choke back a laugh.  As well as the heart currently beating up against his throat.

“Tell me everything!” Nagisa said, grabbing onto Haru’s arm and tugging at him.  

Haru seemed unruffled by the excited manhandling, but complied anyway.  “Fine,” he said, and launched into an astonishingly simple explanation of his and Rin’s short but sweet history.  If it were Rin telling the story, he wouldn’t spare any detail, embarrassing the hell out of himself while he went on and on about his feelings for Haru and how long he pined for him.  (Gou knew all of that firsthand.)  But he liked the way Haru told it, even if it wasn’t the most grand, elaborate story.

Mostly because he liked the way that Haru liked him.

It was a stupid thought, but just hearing Haru talk about their relationship to someone else - just hearing Haru call him his boyfriend - was thrilling.  Haru was a closed book, shut with a lock, key, and a bike chain, and while Rin had gotten just a little bit better at reading him, there were still times when he wasn’t sure what Haru was thinking.  So to hear those feelings vocalized, even if they weren’t at him… Well, it made him really happy.

He couldn’t stop smiling as he walked behind the group, enjoying Haru’s brief story about their meeting through Taki, about their awkward flirting, and about their first date.

“I can’t believe you’re dating Matsuoka Rin!” Nagisa exclaimed, looking back at Rin with a beaming smile, apparently not caring about his open fanboying.  Rin couldn’t find it in himself to care.  “Rei-chan and I are huge fans.”

Rin blushed despite himself.  “Always good to meet fans,” he said with a teasing grin.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous.”

“Nagisa-kun!” Rei muttered, flushing a deep shade of red as he fidgeted with his glasses.  Clearing his throat, he turned toward Rin.  “Please excuse my partner.”

“I know you’re jealous too, Rei-chan,” Nagisa teased, looping his arm through Rei’s and leaning up to peck him on the cheek.

“That’s beside the point…”

Rin reached up to rub the back of his neck as his cheeks stained themselves a permanent red.  Haru looked back at him and Rin could see that familiar ghost of a smile on his lips as his look turned playful.

“I’m not sharing,” he said, and Nagisa burst out laughing as Rin flushed even more.

He was relieved when the conversation switched back to reminiscing, Nagisa prattling on about the “good old days,” the swim club, and high school.  He asked a lot of questions about what Haru and Makoto were doing - about the swim club and Makoto’s job as a teacher - even attempting to pry into Rin’s personal life, to which he answered to the best of his ability.

It didn’t take them long to finally get down to the beach, and Nagisa’s ceaseless chatter continued on until they reached the edge of the water.  It wasn’t the first time Rin had been there - he ran past the water quite a few times on his morning runs, and he’d even taken Taki down there when they first moved to Iwatobi - but this was the first time he’d been there since summer started, and it was beautiful.  The sun glittering off the surface of the water, the waves rolling in and crashing on the sand, and the cry of gulls in the distance combined with the salty sea breeze made Rin feel at ease.

As much as he enjoyed city life, and as long as he’d lived like that, there was something nice about the quaint town of Iwatobi, and while he’d been hesitant to move there at first, a move he took following Gou and her job and not by choice, he was much happier there than he was when he was living in any city.

And he knew that reason extended well beyond the beautiful ocean in front of him.

In fact, it was standing next to him, looking out at the water too as Makoto, Rei, and Nagisa whipped out their towels and umbrellas and started getting comfortable.  Glancing over at Haru, he was surprised when he looked away from the water long enough to stare back.  And Rin couldn’t help the wide grin that spread across his face as he found himself laughing.

“What?” Haru asked, tilting his head to the side.

“I’m just…happy,” Rin admitted as he bumped his shoulder against Haru’s, their knuckles brushing as their arms touched.

Haru watched him for a while before he looked back out at the ocean.  “Me too,” he said, and touched Rin’s hand, gripping it in his own.

 

 

It wasn’t long after the five of them had gotten settled that Rin heard the sound of his son’s voice in the near distance.  “Dad!” Taki called out, running toward him, leaving Gou and Seijuurou behind in the sand and the dust.  Getting up from his towel, Rin crouched down and opened his arms up so Taki could tackle into him, wrapping his arms around his neck and squeezing him tight.

Picking Taki up and swinging him around, Rin laughed as he hugged his son back and set him down.  Taki was breathless and grinning, his eyes sparkling as he looked up at Rin in a way that made his heart twist in his chest.

“I missed you,” he said.

Rin could barely contain the smile plastered on his face as his heart twisted again.  “You have fun at Aunt Gou’s?”

Taki nodded excitedly.  “Yeah!  We stayed up late and watched movies, and she let me eat ice cream for breakfast.”

“I told you not to tell him,” Gou said as approached the group, stopping behind Taki and putting her hands on her hips.  She winked at Rin knowingly before ruffling Taki’s hair.

Rin rolled his eyes.  “She spoils you,” he said.  “Miss me?”

Taki nodded.  “Yeah, but I knew you were having a sleepover at Haru’s, so it’s okay,” he said, and then looked around, almost as if remembering it was more than just the two of them.  When he spotted Haru, he jumped out of Rin’s arms and ran over to him, tackling him into the sand as well with a happy cry and an excited grin.  If that didn’t make Rin as happy as it did, he might’ve been jealous.  (But how could he be, when his son liked his boyfriend almost as much as he did?)

“Oh my god, he’s so cute,” Rin heard Nagisa tell Makoto, and he couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face.

After Taki’d had his fill hugging Haru and gushing to him about his Deep Sea Crossing town and his sleepover at Gou’s the previous night, he finally looked around to see the rest of the group.  He waved none too shyly at Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei before he paused, his eyes widening.

“Wait, are you… Haru’s boyfriend friends?!” he asked, and rushed over to Nagisa and Rei as if he’d just spotted a pair of celebrities.  The two of them shared a look before Nagisa burst out laughing.

“Yeah, we are.”  Nagisa grinned.  “Are we famous around here, Haru-chan?”

As Haru sat back down on his towel, he looked off to the side.  “Not really.”

But apparently Taki thought otherwise.  “Haru told me all about you!” he said, jumping up on his feet.  “About your cool breast stroke and your beautiful butterfly.”  He pointed to Nagisa and Rei, both of whom were blushing, Rei looking a little more than flattered.  “And how you’re boyfriends and awesome swimmers and super cool friends.”

As Rei adjusted his glasses, puffing out his chest in some display of pride, Nagisa giggled.  “Wow, Haru-chan.  Super cool friends?

“His words,” was Haru’s answer as he laid back on his towel under the shade of Makoto’s umbrella.  This only made Nagisa giggle harder as he leaned down to talk to Taki.

Rin turned to Gou as he stretched his arms over his head.  “Hope he wasn’t too much trouble,” he said.  “It’s been a while since he’s spent the night.”

Gou smiled, waving her hand in front of her face.  “Never,” she said.  “Anytime you need to get some, you know who to call.”

And Rin felt his face heat up all over again, and not from the burning sun beating down on him.  “That’s not—“

“Tonight, you’re gonna have to tell me all about it,” Gou cut in with a wink as she reached for her own towel so she could set up and relax under the warm sun and cool sea breeze.

And Rin knew he’d do just that later.  After all, he had a lot to talk about.

As their group settled into the sand and Taki made his rounds, chatting with each person as he grilled them with questions about their lives, Rin allowed himself to relax on his towel, settled right next to Haru’s.  Haru sat next to him, their legs occasionally touching as he laid back and relaxed.

“I’m surprised you’re not swimming,” Rin said, sitting up to look at Haru over the rims of his sunglasses.

Looking up, Haru nodded toward the tube of sunblock sitting next to him.  But Rin knew that was just an excuse; nothing could keep Haru from the water, not even the threat of sunburn.  There was a small part of Rin that hoped Haru wasn’t in any rush to get swimming because he wanted to spend time with him, but he wasn’t sure how true that was.  

Hey, he could dream, right?

Grabbing for the tube, Rin grinned and shook it in front of Haru’s face.  “Want me to get your back?” he asked.

Haru sighed and sat up, reaching to tug his shirt off in one swift motion.  Rin couldn’t help the way his heartbeat quickened as his eyes traced every curve of Haru’s lean muscles, his tongue darting out to wet his lips.  And he couldn’t help the way his stomach twisted when he saw the shameless hickeys spread across Haru’s neck and torso, but Haru didn’t seem to care as he presented his back to Rin without question or comment.  And what could Rin do but oblige?

As he finished helping Haru apply his sunscreen, Taki came and flopped down between them, hugging his beach bag close and smiling up at them.  “Are we gonna swim?” he asked.  “Get my back too, dad!”

And Rin smiled as he squeezed a large glob of sunscreen onto his hands while Taki tugged is shirt off.  Handing the sunscreen tube to Haru, he watched him apply the rest out of the corner of his eye.

“Aunt Gou brought snacks!” Taki said as Rin was finishing up with his sunscreen.  Reaching for his bag, he pulled out some chocolates and sweet potato chips, hugging them close to his chest with a grin.

Rin rolled his eyes and smiled.  “And Haru and I packed lunch,” he said, grabbing the cooler filled with quickly made meals they’d thrown together that morning.  “And since you had ice cream for breakfast—“

But he didn’t even have to convince Taki to eat his and Haru’s cooking.  Snatching a bento box from the cooler, Taki ripped it open and dug in almost immediately.  He was beaming around his chopsticks as he ate, mumbling praises for Haru’s cooking in between each bite.

Glancing over at Haru, Rin couldn’t help but notice the small smile on his lips as he rubbed more sunscreen into his arms.

After the three of them had eaten, Rin laid back on the towel and listened to the chatter amongst the group as they all relaxed in the sand.  Though their voices were barely heard over the crashing of the waves and the wind coming off the ocean, it was a nice background noise as he found himself dozing off, completely comfortable and more than sated.  Taki curled up in between him and Haru as the three of them laid there together, relaxing.

After all had eaten and digested, Nagisa was the first to jump up from his towel and run over to Rin.  “Taki-chan, let’s swim!” he said, holding out his hands.  

Taki grabbed it and pulled himself up with a grin.  “Yeah!” he said, before he turned to Haru.  “Haru, let’s go!”

And Haru couldn’t say no to that, letting Taki pull him up from the towel and drag him down to the water.  At least Taki spared a wave to Rin, who continued to lay back on the towel and watch from afar, a smile plastered to his face.

 

 

As the rest of the group played in the water, Rin found himself sticking close to shore.  Normally, he’d be all for the extra swimming practice and exercise (as well as the fun), but the hickeys on his neck and chest made him more than a little self-conscious.  Sure, Nagisa had already pointed them out, and when Taki had seen the ones Haru was sporting, he loudly asked what they were (to which Rin quickly responded with “bug bites.”  Nagisa’s counter was, of course “love bug bites,” which started a very heated discussion between him, Rei, and Taki).  But he’d never had hickeys before, and while he found them hot on Haru’s body and liked the reminder they gave him of the night before, he wasn’t quite ready to take his shirt off.

Not yet.

Still, he found peace and relaxation as he watched Taki frolic in the water with Nagisa and Rei, allowing Seijuurou to hoist him up on his shoulders so the two of them could go even deeper into the ocean.  And he found it nice to watch Gou shy away from the waves as she waded in to her ankles, laughing every time her boyfriend did something silly or Nagisa made a dumb joke.

He found himself watching Haru almost as much as he was watching Taki.  It didn’t take long for Haru to swim out to sea as far as he could, but when he came back, he was floating less and talking more, as he and Makoto stood together and let the waves hit their thighs.  The two of them stood side-by-side, Makoto smiling knowingly as Haru spoke to him.  And Rin was too far away to hear what they were talking about, though he was more than a little curious.

He could go out there and eavesdrop, couldn’t he?  After all, there was a chance they were talking about him, right?

But just as he was about to get up and head out to the water, shirt and all, Gou plopped down next to him, her legs and feet sandy and a smile on her face.

“So, don’t give me all the details now, but how was it?” she asked, nudging Rin with her shoulder.  “I can tell by your neck that something happened.”

As she reached to pinch one of his visible hickeys, Rin found himself blushing and grinning at the same time as he swatted her away playfully.  “It was amazing,” he said, looking out at the ocean and at Haru.  “It was just…so amazing.”

“Worth the wait?” Gou asked with a wink.

Rin looked over at her and smiled.  “Definitely.”

Gou smiled and nodded, looking out at the ocean too.  The two of them sat in a comfortable silence until, finally, she shifted enough to reach for her bag, pulling it over and setting it on her lap.  “I’m gonna show you something, but don’t flip out, okay?”

Rin looked over at his sister, his eyebrows knitting together in confusion and a hint of nervousness.  What could she have in her bag that would cause him to panic?  Was it a mysterious letter?  A photo?  A pregnancy test?!

But instead, Gou produced a small plastic bag hidden deep within her purse and held it up for Rin to see.  Inside was a ring, delicate and intricate and definitely not what Rin was expecting.

“Sei proposed last night,” she said, and Rin could see that she was barely suppressing a smile as she likely waited for Rin’s reaction.

“Holy shit,” he said, taking the bag from Gou almost too gently.  He wanted to tear into the little bag and grab the ring, but he opened it slowly instead, producing it from its plastic confines so he could hold it in his hand.  It was beautiful, he had to admit.  Light gold bands woven together, a ruby at the center, just big enough to impress, but just simple enough to speak to the nature of Seijuurou and Gou’s relationship.  Rin knew Seijuurou could more than afford something extravagant, but this ring was perfect in every way, just the way it was.

“We’ve been talking about marriage for a while,” Gou said, watching as Rin held the ring up and inspected it closely.  “You know, ever since we moved in together.  So, it wasn’t a surprise or anything.  But it was still sweet.”

“How’d he propose?” Rin asked as he handed the ring back to his sister.  He shouldn’t have been surprised either; Gou mentioned to him on multiple occasions that they’d been discussing marriage, especially as Seijuurou trained with Rin for his third Olympic run.  But Seijuurou never mentioned it to him!  Sure, they weren’t exactly best friends, but they’d definitely gotten closer since they started swimming for the same team (and since he started dating Gou).  And he was much more welcoming to the idea of their dating than he was when they first started going out.  (Maybe Seijuurou was still afraid of him.)

Gou was smiling as she slipped the ring on and held out her hand so Rin could admire it again.  “It was really simple and nice,” she said.  “I’d just put Taki to bed in the guest room and we sat down to watch a movie, but instead he put on this really cheesy music and made this whole speech and then asked me to marry him.”  Rin could see the blush on Gou’s cheeks, and he couldn’t help but smile.

“Sounds sweet,” he said with a nod as he touched the ruby on the ring.

“Sometimes I can’t believe how we ended up here, you know?”  Gou turned her hand so she could admire the ring as well.  “He was so annoying in high school, always fawning over me.  And when his little brother started too?”  She sighed and shook her head.  “But after you had Taki and I started going to school and we became friends?  It just clicked.”

“I’m happy for you,” Rin said, leaning in to give Gou a kiss on the cheek.  “You two deserve this.”

“Good!” Gou said, puffing out her cheeks to hide her embarrassment.  “Because you’re walking me down the aisle.”

And Rin laughed, just to hide the way his heart twisted in his chest and a lump formed in his throat.  “I better be,” he said, wrapping his arm around Gou’s shoulder and pulling her in for a half-hug.

“It’s either you or Momo.”

Sighing, Rin leaned his head against Gou’s.  “Don’t even joke about that,” he said, feigning a groan.

And curled up next to him, Gou giggled as she leaned against Rin as well. 

 

 

When Gou rejoined the party in the water (after packing her ring up, of course), Rin continued to hang back, still out of embarrassment, but more out of quiet contemplation.  He thought a lot about Gou and Seijuurou and how far they’d come, but he thought more about his sister and how much she’d been through.  He knew it couldn’t have been easy for her, after he left for Australia and came back a different person.  And it couldn’t have been easy for her when he brought Taki home, just a baby, with almost no explanation.

He remembered the long nights when Taki was still young, him and Gou struggling with their schedules in order to help raise him together, because he needed all the help he could get.  He remembered Gou moving in with him, even though he told her he could hire a nanny, just because she couldn’t let him do it alone.

And now Taki was older and she was settled into a job.  She was building a life here in Iwatobi, just like he was.  And soon, she’d start building a family on her own too.

Smiling to himself at the thought, Rin didn’t notice as Haru approached him and sat down next to him on his towel, soaking wet with salt water and sand.  “Hey,” he said, looking at Rin.

“Hey,” Rin said with a smile.  “Tired?”

Haru shook his head.  “No,” he said.  “Why aren’t you swimming?”

Rin flushed and shrugged.  “Oh, you know,” he said, but Haru tilted his head curiously, proving that he didn’t.  Rin blushed harder as he gestured to the hickeys on his neck.

Haru rolled his eyes just a little bit.  “No one cares,” he said, and then nudged Rin with his arm, getting his shirt wet.  “Come swim with me.”

Rin’s heart soared at the idea.  He loved swimming with Haru, almost as much, if not more, than he loved swimming in general.  And part of believed that maybe Haru felt the same way about him, in his own weird, Haru-like way.  “Fine, fine,” he mumbled, attempting to mask the giddy feeling in his chest as he slowly pulled off his shirt.  

Tossing it aside, he looked down at his chest and flushed again.  It was pretty embarrassing how littered his chest was with marks.  Maybe they’d fade by the time he had practice, but he thought that was pretty unlikely.  He’d get a lot of teasing comments from his teammates, he knew that much.  As long as they didn’t try to dig too deep.

Making to stand up, he noticed Haru was still seated with no intention of moving.  Instead, he was staring at Rin almost curiously, his eyebrows knitted together.

“What?” Rin asked.

Haru was silent for a bit before he answered.  “I’m sorry I outed you to my friends,” he said, and Rin’s heart leapt up into his throat.

“No, it’s okay.”

“It’s a very private secret.  I should’ve asked first,” Haru said, determined in his apology in a way that surprised Rin.

Shaking his head, he smiled at Haru.  “No, really.  It’s okay,” he said.  “If anyone had to know, I’m glad it’s them.”  He knew Makoto actively encouraged their relationship, if his advice and restaurant recommendations were anything to go off of.  But his other friends?  They felt kind of like family to Haru, and that made it worth telling them.

“Okay,” Haru said, and the way that he smiled at Rin - so open, genuine, and honest - made Rin’s heart soar again.  And as three words formed in the back of his throat, crowding his mouth in an attempt to get out, he found himself happier than he knew he ever could be.

His life wasn’t a terrible one.  He was a professional athlete, he was well-known, and he was successful.  He had a family that he loved and a son who made his life better every day, just by existing.  And he had a boyfriend that he loved too, who was quirky and strange and made him feel warm in a way that no other person could.

He really loved Haru.

And while he wanted to tell him and kiss him and let him know just how amazing he was, he swallowed his words instead and leaned back on his towel.  He’d tell him another time.  When the moment was right; when they weren’t still figuring things out together.  Right now, he was happy with the pace they were going at and the relationship he had.  He wasn’t in any rush to change that.

Standing up, Haru stretched before holding out his hand to Rin.  “Let’s swim together, Rin,” he said, still smiling that tiny, beautiful smile.

And Rin grabbed his hand, letting him pull him onto his feet.  “Yeah,” he said, leaning in to kiss Haru on the lips.  They lingered like that for a while before Rin broke it off with a grin.  “Race you there!”

And took off in a head start.  As Haru chased after him, Rin felt giddy and happy and wonderful in a way he couldn’t describe.  Being there with Haru and his son, with Gou and Seijuurou and Haru’s friends, felt almost perfect.

It was the first day of summer, the sun beating down on them, the water the perfect temperature, and the promise of excitement in the air.  It felt like being young again, when summer meant going home and goofing off; being with friends, running wild, and ruling the world.

And what better way to spend that first day of their summer than with friends and family?  With laughter, smiles, and love?  What better way to spend this morning, after everything he’d been through, than with his new boyfriend.

Looking out at the sea, the horizon seemed endless, just like the possibilities of his own future.  It was exciting, wasn’t it?  Starting a new relationship, exploring something new, taking things one day at a time.  And just like the possibilities of this endless summer, Rin couldn’t wait to see where life would take him, Haru, and Taki next.

This was going to be the perfect start to the perfect summer.

And he couldn’t wait.