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Makoto can't lie, when he had heard that Rin came every New Years without saying anything, he was hurt. It wasn't just the fact that Haruka hadn't told him - he knows that Haruka probably didn't want to make him worry - but also because he'd always considered him and Rin friends. It was the fact that Rin didn't find him worth his time, despite that history, despite the fact that he always told Makoto before that Makoto was 'really the best out of all of them, because he was nice and he never got mad.'

They'd been children, the words were simple and clean and Makoto couldn't help but hold onto them throughout the time he hadn't seen Rin, because they mattered, just like the first time Haruka had really spoken to him, or the first time Nagisa had been serious, those words were what Makoto considered the moment they became friends. And realizing that the Rin who had said them had disappeared...Hurt.

He still called though, because in the end, Rin was still a friend and he wanted him and Haruka to be friends again, and he wanted to go back, just a little bit, to the time when all four of them cheerfully swam in the same pool, rival schools or not. He's not that surprised that Rin doesn't answer. He leaves his message and doesn't expect a response, because if Rin doesn't answer his own sister, why would he answer a friend he hadn't seen in years?

He does answer. When Makoto sees the caller he's not sure what to think, what to expect. He prepares for any number of responses.

"I'm joining the swim team." Rin says once Makoto answers the phone.

He's relieved. "That's good."

"I'm not doing it for you guys." Rin snaps, it seems, and Makoto says hurriedly, "I didn't expect it. But I'm glad anyways. It'll be good to see you again, Rin."

Rin hangs up on him. Makoto listens to the dial tone and wonders if this really is a good thing, or if it's just another problem to a growing list.

/ /

They meet on the street, accidentally, with Rin going, "Are you stalking me or something?", and Makoto stuttering his way through, "I didn't expect to see you here" and "No, I'm not stalking you".

It's for groceries in Makoto's case and snacks for Rin. It's a small shop, designed mainly for teenagers with snacking habits or children who can drag their parents along, and Makoto had went in because his siblings had begged him to bring back something. Rin is there, he assumes, for snacks, which turns out to be exactly right when Rin picks up dried squid and candy. Makoto can't help but stifle a laugh.

"What?" Rin says, scowling at him, and Makoto's mouth runs off before he can stop it.

"You still like those." He says, pointing at the candy in Rin's hand. It's a bag of sour gummy candy, like the worms, except in the shape of dolphins, sharks, whales, and miscellaneous fish. Rin's mouth opens and closes, and he seems flustered, shoving the bag back onto the shelf. "They're ok." He mutters, mumbles, Makoto tries not to laugh again.

They leave the store in opposite directions. Makoto is glad to know Rin hasn't changed completely.

/ /

The first swim meet the go to, the captains have a swim off, and Makoto panics until the category is called as 'backstroke'. Nagisa slaps him on the back.

"There you go Mako-chan! You're great at backstroke!" He says, shouting like a kid. Makoto tells him to quiet down, he's not that great, but the other team has already heard and looks at their captain, whispering. He looks at the pool, uncomfortable until Haruka gives him a light tap, a soft way of saying, "You'll be fine."

Haruka is a gift. Makoto slips into the water, feet first, grabbing onto the starting block wall. The referee starts counting. Makoto starts breathing.

When the "GO!" is sounded, he pushes off the wall. He's never been the best at starting, though he picks up fast, feels the water on his skin and the fact the he can always breathe, direction has never been an issue for him. He stays on line like a ruler and a pen. He always has. The water is giving and gentle and the sun is in the sky, and Makoto feels at ease. Nagisa is shouting off to the side, "Hurry Mako-chan!", "Mako-chan! You're ahead- No wait! Ahh, so close!", and when Makoto hits the wall he sees that his competitor is a bit ahead, not by much, and that's when he decides that winning doesn't sound to bad.

It's like a switch, with him. Haruka's is on all the time, and Nagisa tries to keep his on, but Makoto - he saves it for when he needs it, does a powerful kick and slices the water and moves, arms up and down and breathing deep, kicking so fast the water around him jumps, and when he hits the other end he's a little surprised it went by so quickly. The other team gawks.

"Did you see that?!" "He swam so fast all of a sudden!" "I thought captain had it in the bag!" "What the hell was that kick? Did you even see his legs?" "Forget his legs, his strokes were so wide! He moved like, half the pool per stroke!"

Their captain is giving them the evil eye, and they shut up. Still, he shakes his hand. "Nice."

"Thanks." Makoto says with a smile, "You were really good too. I had to try pretty hard."

The captain laughs. "It didn't seem like it." He says, and Makoto stutters his way through a ton of half apology half compliments, and the rival captain laughs again.

Rin is in the back, watching the race through the fence. Makoto hasn't changed much either, when it comes to swimming. That slow and steady pace is almost infuriating, until he sees the way he picks up-that's Makoto at his most serious. It's refreshing to see again.

Rin leaves when Haruka's race begins. He doesn't want to see it.

But he texts Makoto, just a few words, "Nice backstroke."

/ * /

Rin is a creature of solitude now, bred from years of isolation, years spent practicing and struggling, years where winning had overtaken any other need besides air and water. But Makoto is easy, easy to speak to, because he's still the same, never angry, never really upset even, just gentle and giving and kind, even though they don't speak about anything but the next swim meet either one will be at. Makoto watches, sometimes, Rin sees him when he's out of the pool. He hides in the back but, with his height, it's impossible not to see him. Rin's not ever sure if he's glad to see him or frustrated, or near both, but Makoto gives him the same smile he gave to Haruka years ago, and Rin feels like he's accomplished something, in a backwards kind of way.

Makoto hands him a small bag of the gummy fish after the meet. "Your team is incredible." He says. "It's really amazing, the speeds of everyone-ah, though you're still the best, it's just-"

Rin laughs. It's a short snicker, a two second accident that pops out of his mouth and can't be taken back, and Makoto looks shocked before grinning. "That hasn't changed either."

"Not much has changed, really." Rin says, softly, thinking of the way Makoto speaks, drawing back traces of childhood, his stutters and his constant stream of useless, but comfortable words. The type of words you hear used in movies to represent people with normal lives, easy lives, simple lives, words that carry comfort through normality.

And Rin likes that, strangely enough. He doesn't say so.

Makoto seems to know though, and carries on, but Haruka is never mentioned. Rin isn't sure if it's frustrating or gratifying to know that Makoto tries to avoid the subject, because it still stings somewhere, but he should get over it. But Haruka is only a stepping stone, he reminds himself. Only a stone. He has someone else to find.

"Rin?"

"Huh?"

"I'm going this way." Makoto points down the road, to the left. Rin nods.

"I'll...Talk to you later?" He asks, and Rin just nods again. "Sure."

Easy words. Comfort words. Makoto is like that.

Rin thinks that maybe he could use it.

/ * /

The incident comes up on accident.

"My family for New Years, once they-"

"What did you guys do without me, on New Years?"

Makoto gapes, searches for words, Rin holds back a laugh, partially because he feels a little sick thinking about the past, partially because laughing might change the subject.

"Well...Not much." Makoto says. "Nagisa left, you know, on New Years with his family, and Haru-chan and I-"

"You still call him that?" Rin laughs to ease the sting. "Didn't he hate that?"

"He doesn't really hate it!" Makoto makes a few panicky motions before settling down, becoming thoughtful. "He'd tell me honestly if he really hated it."

There's something off about his voice there. Rin doesn't want to mention it, but he looks hard and-ah. He may have discovered something about Makoto that has changed.

"So what'd you do?" Rin asks, pushing the thought aside.

"We usually went to the shrine together and prayed-with our parents of course." Makoto goes quiet. "We...Well, the first time we prayed to see you again. After that, I don't know what he prayed about."

Rin smiles, teeth showing, but something in him twists. "Well here I am." He says, dry, "Not exactly what you were expecting, huh?"

"No," Makoto says, which is surprisingly blunt of him, "But I'm still glad to see you again." And with that he smiles, and Rin wants to punch him, because Makoto, Makoto is still too nice. Still too easy to be around, still too much like the past and it's making him hurt for all the wrong reasons.

"Well you probably won't see much of me anymore." He says. "I'm going to be training."

"Oh." And he looks dejected, frowning, but nods. "That is important."

"Yeah."

There isn't much said on the way back.

/ /

Rin doesn't answer him anymore.

Makoto looks at his phone and wonders what went wrong in that last conversation, at what exact point had he ruined the carefully crafted tower that he'd made, just to maintain contact with Rin, the Rin that was still cheerful and laughed and maybe was a little crueler than before, but was still kind in the end. He wonders whether it was Haruka, or New Years, or if Rin had just suddenly had a change of heart, he wonders if it's because Rin really is incredibly busy training, he wonders if it's because Rin decided he didn't need his friendship for the second time. He wonders.

He won't get answers unless he asks, he knows. But being rejected twice hurts. It hurts to think about how all that time disappeared again, and how it's reverted back to when Rin didn't want to speak to them, any of them.

He nibbles on a gummy shark and falls asleep.

/ * /

He almost sends him a text, a simple one, "Training sucked. Completely beat all the other guys", but doesn't. He erases the words one by one.

Easy isn't necessary.