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“I can go to practice,” Haruka insisted.

“No, you can’t. You’re not giving the whole team whatever you've caught.”

“The water heals me.”

Rin snorted. “I once met a kid who said that and fell into the river before the day ended.” He didn’t look impressed by Haruka’s pout. “Come on, I’ll be here for lunch. Get some rest meanwhile.”

Haruka glared at the door when Rin disappeared behind it.

 

 


  

 

Haruka awoke to a hand pressed against his forehead.

Well... To be honest, he had heard the door creaking open, the unusually soft steps tapping against the floor and the thud of bags being dropped; but he only stirred at the certainty that opening his eyes would be worth it. He felt too drowsy to smile yet, but the red reaching every corner of his vision had a surprisingly calming effect, slowing his pulse down, his heartbeat growing quieter for the first time since he had woken up in the morning.

Even if Rin didn’t seem half as happy as Haruka felt.

“You can’t fall asleep on the sofa,” he quietly reprimanded, hand sliding down Haruka's cheek to gently cradle his face. “You know it’ll give you a backache.”

Haruka huffed. He wasn’t completely sure he could recall how he had gotten there; all that came to his mind was feeling too small laying alone on the double bed and wanting to find a place where he fit better.

“Don’t mind.” The raspy words scratched his dry throat on their way out, and he flinched at the pain.

Rin sighed. “Well, now you’re awake you should eat something.”

His hair was still wet, droplets of water falling onto his shoulder; Haruka idly considered asking him why he had rushed to come back from practice, but decided focusing on more urgent matters; namely, the fact that just the prospect of eating made him feel nauseous.

“’m not hungry.”

He looked away from Rin’s concerned gaze, almost grateful when his boyfriend stood up and made his way to the kitchen.

“Then, if you’re going to sleep, do it on the bed.”

 

 

 

Haruka hated being sick.

On top of making him feel humiliatingly vulnerable, it always meant forcing other people to go out of their way to take care of him, no matter how much he insisted he was fine on his own. Not to mention he loathed facing worry and pity addressed to him, as well as the stupid questions that always came accompanying wide, concerned eyes.

I’m fine, he would say until he actually recovered, sometimes to himself, sometimes through his teeth in a frustrated hiss.

Sadly, Haruka had yet to find a way to speak those words that sounded believable in Rin's ears.

It… It wasn’t as if Haruka didn’t understand worry. He worried, too. He had worried when Nagisa had gotten sick from eating too much ice cream, or when Makoto had fallen down the stairs leading to his house and had sprained an ankle. And he had been deathly afraid when Rin had been mugged in Australia, despite learning about the incident during a video call with his boyfriend himself.

But apparently nobody else had the decency to leave an ill person some space.

Rin let Haruka get away with skipping lunch, but at a high price. Despite having the television on, it seemed Rin was unable to look away from Haruka for more than three seconds. Haruka pretended not to notice; it was hard to be really bothered by that, anyway, when his headache worsened and the shivers running down his spine returned. He curled up further into himself, blanket wrapped around him like a second skin, and covered his ears, the even voice of the newswoman piercing through his eardrums so loudly he gagged a few times.

Unfortunately for him, Rin didn’t miss it. He advanced to Haruka, knelt on the sofa beside him. Haruka only noticed a hand grabbing his shoulder, the other lowering the blanket until a kiss landed on his forehead.

“Your fever is back, it seems,” he noted. “I’ll go fetch your medicine; you go to bed.” The quiet order sounded almost like a request.

Haruka was torn between telling Rin to mind his own business and not wanting to see the uneasiness in his eyes. When he finally lifted his heavy eyelids and slid his legs over the edge of the sofa to settle his feet on the floor, though, Rin had long since walked away and was fumbling with tablets and boxes in the kitchen.

“You don’t have to treat me like a child,” he heard himself say. Or some hoarse, tired version of himself. Despite how much he despised the whole situation, he knew Rin wasn’t at fault; but logic didn’t stop him from snapping a bitter: “I’m fine.”

He turned his head to see Rin looking at him from the kitchen door, a hand on his hip and an infuriating frown between his eyebrows.

“You’re sick,” he stated, as if Haruka didn’t already know. His fists tightened around the edges of the blankets he was holding onto. “Like it or not, I’m here to–”

“But I don’t like it!”

I don’t want your pity, was what Haruka wanted to say.

No… that wasn’t it, either.

Rin exhaled slowly through his nose. “Will you just let me help? I’m not even asking this as your boyfriend. You look objectively awful.”

Haruka wanted to keep arguing until he won, but that would only worsen his already atrocious headache. He stood up, not sure if he wanted to walk to the bedroom or towards Rin, reaching for the nearest wall for support as the floor combed under his feet, suddenly made of water that threatened to swallow Haruka whole–

And then firm arms snuck around his waist, hair tickling his neck as he discerned Rin’s breathing somewhere above his shoulder, wondering when his lungs had become so thirsty for air.

“Hey, are you alright?” Haruka didn’t answer, more focused on putting one foot before the other as Rin guided him towards the bedroom, never letting go of him. “I’m not sure, but I think your fever is higher than last night,” he added, gently holding Haruka’s head as he laid down until it rested on the pillow. Haruka said nothing while Rin covered him and the blanket he was already wrapped up in with the bedclothes. “I’m going to–”

Haruka grabbed Rin’s forearm before he could even finish the sentence, an inexplicable urge coiling at the pit of his stomach. His grip was weak enough for Rin to shake it off if he wanted to, but his boyfriend stayed still.

“Stay,” Haruka croaked out; his surroundings weren’t clear yet and he felt like throwing up even though he hadn’t eaten at all for the whole day.

Rin gave him no answer; but Haruka closed his eyes, relieved, when a sigh and the rustle of sheets preceded Rin’s warmth next to him.

“Why is making up your mind so hard for you?”

Haruka’s hand slid down Rin’s wrist, loosely curling around his boyfriend’s little finger. He didn’t have an answer for that.

But dozing off next to Rin, hearing his even, peaceful breathing, was more soothing than any lullaby.

 

 

 

Haruka awoke tangled up in the sheets.

He struggled to free his limbs, flailed arms and legs around as his increasingly ineffective breathing threatened to asphyxiate him. He kicked around, whimpered in distress, trapped by the strong grip from the sheets, by the fraying memories of a bad dream.

The lifeless monster eventually let him go, swallowing one of his socks in the process. Head spinning, Haruka sat up and tried to calm his frantic heartbeat down, instinctively reaching to his side for a hand, a wrist, anything… Rin would help him, Rin would wrap him in a hug and despite being awful at consoling people he would find a way to– to–

Haruka choked out a terrified gasp.

Rin wasn’t there.

Haruka looked around; he felt dizzy, but there was no mistake in affirming he was alone in the room. He didn’t know if his fever was higher, but he was trembling noticeably now, his breathing shallow, haphazard.

“Rin?”

He crawled to the edge of the bed, put his feet on the floor. He shuddered when the freezing tile pressed against his naked sole, but he didn’t have the time to dwell on it; he didn’t even spare a thought to the giddiness moving the world around him. He had to find Rin; he had to get to him before he was out of his reach, had to tell him to stay

A single syllable kept falling from his lips as he struggled against gravity to keep walking, and even though he doubted he had ever felt worse than then he also felt lightheaded, his stunned mind oddly detached from his body, drowning in crushing hysteria.

Rin, Rin, Rin, was what every beat throbbing against his skull repeated.

Rin, reverberated in his eardrums with each step.

“Rin,” Haruka called again, finally reaching the bedroom door; there was nobody in the living room. He cringed when he heard the entrance door squeaking. “Rin!”

It had to be him, it had to, it had–

When Rin appeared into the living room and took in Haruka’s trouble to stand, he seemed scared. For once, though, Haruka didn’t mind; he didn’t even pay attention to it as he tried to approach Rin and the floor lifted to meet him.

Something fell before with a thud, Rin ran to him and the next thing Haruka was aware of was the pair of arms sneaking around him, pulling him into Rin's chest as he held most of his weight for the second time that day.

“Why on earth were you walking around?” The scolding was half-hearted, but it bothered Haruka all the same when lips landed on his forehead. “You’re burning up, Haru.”

“Why did you leave?”

Rin seemed to be taken aback by the sharp edge in Haruka's voice.

“I– I was... I went to buy dinner. Since…”

But Haruka didn’t want to hear excuses. His heart still beat so fast it made him dizzy, his breathing wasn’t nearly enough to provide all the oxygen he needed. Yet he drew back just enough to look at Rin in the face.

“I woke up and you weren’t there… Again– I thought you’d–”

And perhaps it was good that Haruka completely lost his voice before finishing that sentence, because Rin already looked horrified enough by the words he had spoken.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered after a short silence, lips brushing Haruka’s hair as he leant back on Rin's chest, clinging to his clothes, too scared to let go just yet. “I’m sorry I left you alone without saying anything.”

Haruka didn’t stop shivering when Rin helped him to get to the sofa, or when his hands were carefully disentangled from his boyfriend’s hoodie and Rin gave him a kiss and a just a second, I promise before walking out of his field of vision. Not even when he found himself wrapped up in a blanket did he feel better.

But when Rin sat right next to him, when Haruka leant into him and an arm surrounded his shoulders, he found a steady –if also a bit shaky– breathing to focus on, and the fresh air running through his throat didn’t hurt as much as it had merely minutes ago.

“You need to get something into your body.” Rin spoke softly, almost as if Haruka were asleep and he didn’t want to disturb him. “Not only because you haven’t eaten in the whole day; you shouldn’t take medicines with nothing in your stomach. So I thought about making mackerel for dinner and left for, like, ten minutes to buy it while you were asleep. I didn’t think you’d wake up.”

Haruka closed his eyes. He then opened them again, tugged at Rin’s arm so he looked at him.

I shouldn’t have freaked out,” he mouthed, articulating clear enough to be understood. The more he thought about it, the more absurd his fear seemed. He would have awoken had Rin tried to pack his things during his nap.

Rin sighed.

“I know you probably see it as pity,” he mumbled; Haruka frowned, “but needing help sometimes is alright, you know? And people worry and want to help no matter how fine you insist you are. Because they care, not out of pity.”

Try as he might, Haruka couldn’t see it as anything else. As he calmed down in Rin’s arms, feeling fingers absent-mindedly playing with his hair and careful kisses brushing his burning forehead every now and then, a wave of embarrassment washed over him; he bit on his lower lip to stop it from trembling further.

“It was stupid,” he managed to rasp. And I don’t want your pity, was what he wanted to add, for the second time that day.

No… that wasn’t it.

What he wanted Rin to know was that he absolutely did not need anyone’s pity. But even without saying it aloud Haruka knew that was partly false. As much as he hated to admit it, even to himself, what he really detested was how scared being alone made him, to the point part of him was willing to deal with the prospect of being pitied if it meant Rin stayed.

“It wasn’t,” Rin insisted, blissfully unaware of his boyfriend’s thoughts. "I'm happy you let me stay around even when you're sick."

Haruka exhaled slowly, grabbed Rin's free hand and brought it to his lips.

"I'm happy you want to."

He wanted to explain his contradicting feelings properly, to make Rin understand. To get that off his chest, because there was a chance he would be able to breathe better if that weight disappeared.

He didn’t know how to put most things into words yet, though. So for the time being he enjoyed being in Rin’s arms, even though his fever didn’t seem to be any lower.

Rin wasn’t going anywhere. There would be plenty of time to think about the right words.