when they said 'it gets better' they meant 'jade starts to appear'

Beautiful Dreamer

A Dean x Reader

A/N: This is my entry for @avasmommy224 ‘s Birthday Writing Challenge! I’m not sure what genre this is, it’s just something that came up when I thought of my prompt. I haven’t written much, so be gentle. Let me know what you think. I hope you like it, girl! Happy Birthday! ♥

Prompt: I dreamed of you. I dreamed you were wandering in the dark, and so was I. We found each other. We found each other in the dark.

Word Count: 2,056

Warnings:
- language.

Tags: (at the end)

*gif is not mine.

When Dean Winchester walks into a room, he demands attention. Not the ‘look at me I’m so attractive’ type of attention, but the ‘fuck with me and I’ll literally kill you’ type of attention. It’s intoxicating and disgustingly arousing, something you’re not even close to being used to. Your entire life had consisted of working at your family’s diner, busing and waiting tables for measly tips that couldn’t even buy you a box of tampons. Your life had been painstakingly boring, until that one unforgettable day your entire life changed.

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patience like this

“I care about you. More than I want to. And that scares me. It scares me so much that I sometimes wish we’d never met. I hate that you make me feel this way.You kind of drive me nuts. But somehow I still want you. You mess me up so bad and I still want you.”

Illuminate x Her series, Pt. I, Pt. II
Pairing: Shawn Mendes x Her
Rating: Explicit
Words: 5285

Clubs have never really been his scene. He quickly gets uncomfortable when the sweaty bodies of strangers bump into him, and with the occasional bold girl getting straight to the point by wrapping her arms around his neck and grinding up against him. So he stays off the dancefloor and chats with the bartender when she has time to talk, sips from his drink, eats his peanuts and watches his friends dance to the fast paced, pulsating music that blares from the speakers.

Shawn’s not surprised when a female body pushes up against the bar next to him and starts a hollow conversation about his drink, then claims that she doesn’t know him but says that he looks familiar. At this point, he’s used to women hitting on him once they recognise him; it’s a common pattern. He’s noticed them watch him with their girlfriends before plucking up the courage and making an excuse to approach him.  So, he’s developed a secure routine.

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Forsaken: UK Shadowhunters Con Recap

Hi all! So I went to Forsaken this weekend, if you don’t know what that is, it was a Shadowhunters con in London with Maxim Roy (Jocelyn), Jon Cor (Hodge), Kaitlyn Leeb (Camille) and Joel Labelle (Alaric).

It was so much fun, and since it was their first con/they’re not the main cast it was so small, nice and chill. They were all so down to earth, humbled and overwhelmed that we came to see/speak to them. They each had two panels (one on each day) and a full guest panel, I’ve managed to write up most of what I can remember below. Obviously there’s a lot I haven’t captured, but highlights/best moments are under the cut!

A lot of things we discussed were personal/non-Shadowhunter related, if you just want to read the bits to do with the show, just read the bits that have been bolded.

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Off Limits (Skam - Chris x OC) Part 2

Pairing: Chris x OC

Synopsis: Mara Magnusson has always had everything she ever wanted in life, except for one thing. The boyish charm of her brother’s childhood friend had wrecked her poor heart and ruined her for any other guy – you can trust her, she has tried. She could see the way he looked at her, though she knew there were rules about not hitting on your best friend’s little sister. Luckily for her, there were no restrictions when it was the other way around.

Word count: 1.5k

MASTERLIST

Part 1 <<< >>> Part 3

Chris’ relationship with Mara had always been a complex one. No matter how hard he tried to convince himself that it would be better to simply consider her as his own little sister, he couldn’t erase what attraction he felt toward his best friend’s little sister. She was one year younger than them, but it’s true what they say: girls mature quicker than boys.

He kept his distance when he could and played it off as the big brother kind of concern when he couldn’t stay away from her. When her first boyfriend broke up with her and she came home crying to Chris and William playing video game. When she drank too much at a party and started getting touchy with strangers. Or when she was going out to a party and her dress was so short both he and William let out a sharp comment and told her to get changed – as if it was any of their business in the first place. The thing is, Chris’ concern was justified most of the time, but the most significant difference between William’s brotherly worry and Chris’ unease upon seeing Mara dress like she was going on a man-hunt was the motivation behind it.

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Paperback (PT9)

Sebastian Stan X Reader

Location: New York, Apartment

Warnings: Language, Smut

Tagged for updates🌙🍂
@idkjusteli
@nylalushlifexx
@chipilerendi
@jade-cheshire


He held her close and hard and inside himself he said goodbye and then goodbye and goodbye.- E.H (The Garden of Eden)

“Sebastian grabs ahold of your torso angling your body so that it would align with his. You see the look on his face and how it’s drawn with a severity of emotions. Looking down he finally took notice that you were watching him. His mouth gradually yet so eloquently formed into a smile.

Sheepishly smiling back at him you watched as he resumed grabbing your foot so that your leg would carefully extend. Holding you be the ankle he started kissing above your ankle continuing up to your leg. Leaving a trail of wet kisses, going alongside your inner thigh.

You were no longer capable of keeping your eyes on him. You placed both of your hands across your eyes. Pressing your lips together because you tried to suppress the girlish giggling. Suddenly feeling him hover over your body, your hands were removed. Sebastian kept your arms outstretched with your hands pinned underneath his. You could feel that every part of his body was touching yours.”

9


The phone wouldn’t stop ringing. You didn’t bother picking it up to answer or silence it, because that meant you would have to talk. Instead you stayed in the same spot on the floor looking at the same pile of books over and over again. It was like trying to figure out a puzzle and only having a few pieces. You kept picking up different copies and flipping through the pages like it would help refresh your memory. The only problem was you had none.  Nothing about this made it feel normal. 

Frustrated you tossed the book aside on the floor with the rest but it landed on its pages. Feeling a little contrite for not wanting to damage literature, you picked up the book so the pages wouldn’t crumple. As you picked it up a square thin sheet of paper fell out from between the pages. Taking a closer look you noticed that it was a Polaroid. Turning it over to see the picture you slowly sink back down to floor. 

It was a picture of Sebastian covering the lower half of his face with a book. On the bottom of the picture written in black it writes:

FOUR MONTHS, THREE WEEKS,ONE DAY.

Rushed with a hurricane of emotions filled with anxiety. Not knowing what to do or who to talk to ,you get up from the floor and rush into your room. Opening up the closet  door you reach up for a shoe box. Once you have pulled it off of the shelf you sit on the corner of your bed going through it. You realized you owned a Polaroid camera and you kept all of the pictures in that box. Riffling through the pictures you see only candid shots you remember taking. Not even knowing what you were looking to find exactly you set the shoe box beside you getting up from the bed feeling hopeless. Until there was a loud knock at the door. 

Startled you jumped a little because you were alone and wasn’t expecting anyone. Though with a day like today who knows who it could be. Walking back to your living room entrance you stood behind the front door. Carefully trying to hear who it could be. 

“Who is it?” You called out with a timid tone. There was a pause before anyone answered you. You didn’t have a peephole on your door and you weren’t about to open it for anyone. 

“Woah! Steady yourself there.” You heard a familiar voice say on the other end of the door. You quickly opened it when you recognized it was the man who worked in the lobby. He was holding onto what appeared to be a heavily intoxicated Sebastian. You didn’t know how to react. “What is going on?”

“He was seen stumbling around not too far from here so I went out looking for him. I figured you would know what to do with him considering your relationship.” He was panting for dear life.

“Relationship?” You asked so fast making your eyes widened.

“My legs feel so fucking numb.” Sebastian’s words slurred together and he couldn’t keep his head up. 

“Let’s bring him in.” You say as you toss his right arm around your neck lifting up with your shoulders. You both guide him over to your couch. Easing him down you caught a whiff of him and he smelled of nothing but alcohol. 

“I’ll leave you to it then." 

"Wait!” You say stopping the elderly doorman. “What am I suppose to do with him?" 

"He is in no better hands than yours (Y/N).” He says with a reassuring smile.

“But I don’t understand I just met him.” Your voice was shaking and your vision was starting to get clouded with tears. Reaching for your hand, squeezing your fingers and patting the top of your knuckles he lets them go.

“My heart breaks for you.” He says as takes his hat off and closes the door behind him. Hearing the door shut the tears come flooding down your face because it was time to face your reality.

{Part 9 out of 10}

bloodsoakedstrex  asked:

"I wasn’t planning on asking you, but it appeared to me that life is short. Will you marry me?” Jupeter (14 of idk)

this is #dramatic but so is peter so I mean it’s not like it’s not canon. warnings for more blood than should be outside of someone’s body and a little bit of violence.

death of a bachelor


Juno remembered three things about how it happened.

The bullet.

The blood.

The crushing realization that he would do literally anything to save the man slumped against him on the speeder, the damp warmth of his blood seeping through the back of Juno’s coat.

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anonymous asked:

important headcanon question: are the pynches pancake or waffle people

[Sorry this took forever to finish!] 

One of the reasons I love Ronan and Adam so much is that in the beginning they got on each others’ nerves. And despite their current relationship status, I like to think they can still be pretty petty sometimes.

Which is how I’ve come to this conclusion: Adam is a pancake person. And Ronan is a waffle person. And it turns into more of a thing than it needs to be.

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Aspect Analysis
External image

I present…my Aspect analysis! I’ve come up with a ‘synonym’ for each Aspect. Much of this is backed up by own research into mythology, which the classpect system is explicitly based on. Hopefully some of you find it interesting/helpful!

I cite idioms a lot. That’s because I suck at explaining and I feel like they get my point across better. I blame Hussie and his 'steal the spotlight’ comment in reference to Thief of Light, Vriska. For several of the Aspects, I’ve also cited/analyzed examples from canon.

NOTES:

1. This is long

2. The examples use my own definitions of classes (which haven’t already been defined in canon). I say this because because I define at least one class far differently from the vast majority of other theorists. The classes are:

Sylph-/Heir+(to fix)

Witch-/Maid+(to make)

Mage-/Seer+(to understand)

Analysis begins after the break!

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[608] Makoto/Haru

Work title: Hell Summer
Chapter title: Bullet Train
Rating: explicit
Genre: smut, fluff, AU
Summary: Agricultural engineering student, Nanase Haruka, plans to spend his summer holiday swimming, only to find out he’s been assigned to work in a paddy field for the entirety of his break. Bitter, he arrives in the countryside and meets the son of his host family, Tachibana Makoto, who will teach him the ins and outs of rice farming (or something…)

Chapter One: Bullet Train

A crowd of students pushed past him as he stood rooted by the doorway, staring fixedly at the paper in his hands. ‘Summer Placement Program’ it read in large font at the top, followed by an outline of his assignment over the holiday - the holiday he had every intention to spend in the pool. But it seemed four weeks of his five-week holiday were to be spent on a paddy field in Yamagata, farming rice. It was news to him; there had been no mention of it before. And he felt his throat closing up, as if he were about ready to cry. But no tears came. He stood motionless and expressionless by the door as his eyes skimmed the paper. At the foot of the page was information regarding his host family. He would be housed by the Tachibana family while he worked day in and day out on their farm in Yamagata. The name alone made his skin feel sticky, Haru remembering the class trip he’d taken to Yamagata in elementary school, to a town surrounded by mountains on every side, hot and humid and barren. Four weeks in a town like that would be equatable to four weeks in hell. Never in his life had he resented summer as much as he did that day.

As he trudged back to his dorm, Haru had half a mind to turn back and voice his protests, but he spared himself the effort, knowing it would be wasted. After all, the school was funding the trip, and it was mandatory for every agricultural engineering student to have this experience, as they put it. Seeing as there was already a limited number of students in his major, it wouldn’t do him any good if he was the only one complaining. Knowing that, he stepped into his dorm room and shut the door, sinking onto the floor and hanging his head between his knees. Blue eyes flickered to the paper pinched between his fingers, zeroing in on the date of his departure. He was to leave for Yamagata in two days - the same day he would have left for Iwatobi.

That night, he dreamt of the ocean. Waves crashed around his feet as he stood on the shore, the water glistening beneath the sunlight, one with the cerulean sky. Taking a deep breath, he dove in, flinching when he suddenly flopped onto his stomach with a splat. He looked up to find himself face-down in a muddy field, the sky grey and bleak above him, the once blue ocean now a marshy field full of rice. When he woke from his dream, blue eyes cracked open in the darkness, and he stared at the wall for a long, long time.

He packed lightly for the trip, leaving behind anything he wouldn’t want to permanently stain. At the bottom of his grey duffel bag were his swim trunks, folded neatly and having waited for him all this time. Without dwelling on it any longer, he quickly pulled them out of his bag and tossed them on the bed, like ripping off a bandage, now that he wouldn’t be needing them. He packed a book for leisure and his toiletries, along with the phone he never used and the charger he never plugged in. After wiggling in an extra pair of shoes, he zipped up the bag and hiked the strap up his shoulder. He took one last look at his room, thinking to himself that he’d rather spend the four weeks here. But thoughts like that would do nothing for him at this point.

On Thursday afternoon, he arrived at Tokyo station ten minutes early, dressed in a striped blue shirt and cropped grey trousers, his feet snug in his white boat shoes. The station was bustling with people, some shouting, some laughing as his eyes scanned around the crowd.  He saw couples linking arms, tourists carrying cameras, children excitedly pulling their parents along by the hand. It seemed as though everyone had somewhere they wanted to go - everyone except him. He stood still as he waited for the train, staring straight ahead onto the tracks, thinking to himself that his trip would be a long one.

A breeze blew threw the station as the train arrived, Haru among the first to step inside and take his seat. The train to Yamagata was not a busy one, and he set his bag down in the seat beside him, resting his head against the window. It would be best, he thought as he closed his eyes, if he could sleep through the trip.

When his lids fluttered up, the first thing he saw was a striking blue sky that stretched as far as the eye could see. In his daze, he mistook it for the ocean. Lifting his head, he saw the mountain towering above them, its peak white with snow. He wistfully glanced at his wrist watch, wondering how much of the trip he had left. Two hours had passed since they left the station, so he still had quite a ways ahead of him. Tipping his head back, he closed his eyes again, and willed himself to sleep.

The sun was setting behind the mountaintops when he stepped off the train at Yonezawa station, the sky above him a dim gold. From the train station, he went to the bus station. The bus screeched to a halt, exhaust fumes rising up in the air as a lone passenger stepped out, and Haru seemed to be the only one boarding the bus. At the very least, it was quiet, and he could sit wherever he pleased. He chose a seat towards the front, seating himself by the window and dropping his bag in the seat next to him. Somehow, sleeping through the trip had made it feel as though he hadn’t traveled very far. And yet, the change in scenery made it apparent that he had. When the bus had left the hustle and bustle of the city, the buildings around him were replaced by acres and acres of fields and crops. A field of black horses caught his eye as they drove past, but they soon disappeared from view, and the scenery became tedious once again.

When he finally arrived at the local bus stop, he felt a bit dizzy rising to his feet. Sitting in moving vehicles for so long seemed to have taken his toll on him. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he climbed out of the bus, pausing at the last step when he saw only one other person at the bus stop. He had umber hair and fair skin, dressed in a checkered green shirt and washed out jeans rolled up at the cuffs, his shoes black and laceless. Hunched over on the bench, he held a sparse bouquet of pink and white flowers in his hand, twiddling his thumbs as if he were anxiously awaiting something. Haru was supposed to meet his host family at the bus stop, but all he saw was a country boy looking nervous for a date, and fields of rice. He stepped onto the road, and the brunet looked up, his jade eyes gentle. He gaped at him for a second, before he glanced back down at the flowers in his lap, and the bus screeched as it pulled away. Scanning the fields, Haru wondered if anyone would come for him. It was already quite dark, only a faint trace of light left in the sky. What was he to do if no one came? Was he to walk through an endless rice field in the direction of a house he couldn’t see? If that was the case, he’d be better off asking for directions.

“Excuse me.”

The brunet lifted his head again. Though Haru’s speech was polite enough, somehow he still managed to come across a little rude.

“Do you know where the Tachibana residence is?”

“Eh?” he stood up from the bench, his brows raised.

Is this guy my ride back? Haru wondered.

“I’m Tachibana. Tachibana Makoto.”

On his feet, he was much taller than expected, and his chest and shoulders appeared much broader. Though his face was young, Haru had to wonder how old he was with a stature like that.

“…I’m Nanase.”

There was a moment of silence, in which Makoto stared a bit dumbly at him, like he were putting two and two together.

“…Ah! Nanase! Nanase… H-haruka…?” he stammered.

Upon hearing his full name, Haru’s lips sunk into a frown. He detested being called by his full name. Tachibana Makoto had managed to push his buttons within less than a minute of meeting him.

“Haru’s fine.” he muttered, curtly.

“Ah… I see.” his cheeks were flushed as he glanced down at the boquet in his hand, before hiding it behind his back and giving a nervous laugh. “Sorry I didn’t recognise you sooner… When I heard your name, I wasn’t expecting a man.”

At that, Haru’s face felt hot. That was a terribly bold thing to say. Did this guy just say the first thought that popped into his head? As he thought about that, he realised the flowers behind Makoto’s back were likely meant for him, or rather, the person Makoto thought he’d be.

“How was your trip?”

His frown deepened at the question, Makoto appearing a bit flustered when their eyes met again. He probably didn’t even realise what he’d said to put him in such a foul mood, as if he weren’t already down in the dumps to be in the middle of nowhere, with no pool and no sea. Moreover, despite that night had nearly fallen, the air was still too warm and humid for his liking. It was as if the town itself wanted to suffocate him.

“You must be tired.” he said, filling the tense silence. “I’ll carry your bag-”

“No. Your hands seem full.” Haru sighed.

Makoto’s blush spread to his ears, his jade eyes averting to the ground. Though he made the comment with the intention of paying back the humiliation he felt, Haru almost pitied him now.

Almost.

This naive country boy probably expected a beautiful city girl to step off the bus and dazzle him with her radiance. But, well, that was Makoto’s problem, he thought, clutching the strap of his bag tighter. But to his surprise, when Makoto looked up again, he wore a smile.

“It’s getting dark. We should get going. The house is this way.”

With that, Makoto started down a dirt trail branching off from the main road.

“Are we walking?” Haru blurted, only realising after he’d said it that it was a pointless question.

“Ah- yeah. Is that okay? Our house isn’t far.”

“It’s fine.”

Tachibana Makoto was too considerate, Haru felt. What would he have done if Haru replied with a 'no’? Would he have offered to carry him back? That would’ve been rich.

Their feet moved soundlessly across the soft dirt trail, the crops rustling around them in the breeze. Only a glint of the sun could be seen behind the mountain. Surely, even that glint would be gone the next time Haru looked. As they walked down the trail, Makoto glanced over his shoulder.

“So, what’s it like in Tokyo?” he asked.

He was trying to be sociable, that much was clear. But Haru was stumped by his question; was he supposed to give him a rundown of the city life, right here? Right now?

“…It’s loud.” he said at a length.

Makoto stared back at him, speechless, before he raised a hand to his lips and chuckled.

“I see. And the weather?”

Oh, he meant the weather.

“It’s hot.”

“Here, too.” Makoto chimed. “Last year, I went to Tokyo for a festival-”

Good for you, Haru brooded, already bored of his story.

“It’s lively, isn’t it?” the brunet smiled. “I had fun.”

That was all well and nice, but Haru very much wished Makoto would stop talking. He seemed kind, too kind to let a silence go uninterrupted for fear of letting his company feel awkward. Perhaps if Haru remained silent, he would get past that, and realise such efforts weren’t needed.

As they walked down the trail, Haru tipped his head back, stunned when he saw the star-speckled indigo sky. There were so many, he couldn’t even begin to count. Their reach seemed endless, he thought, his lips parted as the twinkling lights mesmerised him.

“It’s pretty, isn’t it?”

Makoto’s voice pulled him out of his trance. Apparently this guy wasn’t content with only voicing his own thoughts, he even took the liberty of voicing Haru’s thoughts. It irked him. If Haru wanted to voice his thoughts, he had his own voice, and he’d do it himself.

When they arrived at the house, blooming flowers of all colours lined the pebbly trail leading to the door. The lights shining in the windows made it seem even darker around them as their feet crunched on the path. It was a tall house, seemingly old, and Japanese through and through. Opening the unlocked door, Makoto slipped out of his shoes in the entrance way and set the bouquet down on the floor, Haru following after him.

“Pardon the intrusion.”

As he stepped into the house, Makoto turned to face him.

“Ah. You’ll be staying in the room next to mine.”

With one ear, Haru listened to him speak, and with the other, he listened for any sounds of life. As far as he could tell, they were the only ones home. Blue eyes skimmed the dimly-lit house, the interior more western than the exterior suggested. All in all, it was a very normal house, mundane even. His gaze returned to Makoto’s back as he followed him up the stairs and down the hall, stopping at the second door. For a split second, Haru’s eyes flickered to the side at the sound of a murmur, and he wondered if it was simply the house creaking in the wind. Brushing it off as just that, he followed Makoto into the room, letting his bag slide off his shoulder by the doorway.

It was a large and sparsely furnished room, a double bed decorated with a pale blue duvet next to the window, and a fawn dresser nearer the door. A quaint, oval mirror hung above the dresser, and a vase of flowers was placed atop it. Across from it, on the other side of the room, was a wooden desk the same colour as the dresser, and a matching chair. Somehow, a desk and a chair seemed out of place in a guest room. Was it possible the Tachibanas had brought it there just for him? Knowing he was a university student? Before he could think any more of it, his thoughts were interrupted.

“I’ll show you the washroom.” Makoto added, one foot already out the door when Haru snapped to attention.

It seemed they would be sharing a washroom, which was, much like the rest of the house, mundane and not at all different from the washrooms he’d seen in the city or the suburbs. A neon green bottle of shampoo with a turtle-shaped cap caught his eye, and he wondered why something so childish would be in Makoto’s bath.

After returning to his room, Haru shuffled to the window and peered outside, before he turned back to Makoto who stood waiting in the doorway. It seemed like a silly question, but a reasonable question to ask nonetheless.

“Do you… live alone?”

“Eh? No… my dad works late in the fields.”

So he lived with his father, Haru thought.

“Are you hungry? It might be a bit cold now… but dinner’s ready downstairs.”

As if cued by the offer, Haru’s stomach let out an embarrassing growl, earning him a giggle from the easily-amused brunet. Despite that they’d gotten off on the wrong foot, he seemed like a good guy. At the very least, he wasn’t someone Haru needed to be wary of.

Dinner was laid out on the table when he took his seat. A plate of rice and curry awaited him, and as he pulled in his chair, he paused when Makoto suddenly took the seat beside his.

“Thank you for the meal.”

At first, he’d failed to notice the plate beside his own. Haru watched quietly as Makoto shoveled more rice onto his plate and began to eat. Was it possible he hadn’t eaten dinner either? How long had Makoto sat waiting for him on that bench, holding that bouquet?

“…Thank you for the meal.” he echoed, lifting his spoon.

For a while, they ate in silence. It seemed even Makoto was too hungry to make conversation. But when he went for seconds, he spoke up again.

“Um.”

Blue eyes shifted to the side, then back down to his dinner.

“Sorry about earlier. I mean, what I said about your name… Because my name’s girly too, so I-”

“It’s no big deal.” Haru cut in, reluctant to relive the humiliating memory.

Makoto stilled, before he hummed in agreement, and scooped more curry onto his plate.

“Sorry about before.” Haru added.

“Eh? What for?”

“You expected some big city beauty, didn’t you?”

His apology wasn’t genuine in the least, but Makoto didn’t seem to catch his sarcasm. Instead, the brunet set his spoon down, jade eyes fixed on the table.

“It’s not like that at all.”

Haru was a bit flustered by how seriously Makoto had taken his joke.

“I did think you’d be a girl but-”

He could feel himself becoming increasingly irritated again.

“-but Haru’s… a beautiful person in any case.”

At that, he coughed, bringing an arm up to cover his mouth, blue eyes wide as they met Makoto’s solemn stare. Tachibana Makoto was a little too honest, Haru thought.

A few minutes after returning to his room, he heard a knock.

“Haru?” Makoto poked his head in the doorway. “If you need anything, I’m in the next room.”

“Got it.”

Smiling, Makoto closed the door behind himself.

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.” Haru called back, waiting for the door to click shut before flopping down on the bed. He rolled onto his back, gazing up at the stars through the window. Makoto’s voice suddenly rang in his ears.

It’s pretty, isn’t it?

That it was, Haru thought. Striking, and quiet. He could hear the chirp of insects outside, but that was all. He heard no people, no cars, none of the sounds he’d grown used to hearing at night. There was only silence, a silence so still he could hear his own heart beating. Before he knew it, he’d drifted to sleep under the window in his day clothes, clutching the pillow.

Chapter Two: The Tachibanas

The early morning sun pried at his sleepy eyes, and he woke up to find a fluffy, grey blanket draped over him. It seemed someone had checked up on him last night. Reluctant to greet the day just yet, he closed his eyes and twisted the blanket around himself, deciding he would bask in the sunlight a little longer. Any way he looked at, what awaited him when he climbed out of bed would never be as pleasant as this.

A soft murmur reached his ears, and he twitched to attention, listening until it faded out. He was almost beginning to suspect that the Tachibana residence was haunted. Sitting up, he made a fist and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. It was then he spotted two small, brown heads of hair poking into his room through the open door, one on either side of the wall. The one to left was a little girl, her dark hair reaching down her back, and she looked up at Haru with two jade eyes the same shade as Makoto’s. The other was a timid-seeming, little boy with slightly fairer hair, staring up at him with hazel eyes. Despite the differences between them, their faces were more or less identical. Were they twins? Both children were dressed for school.

“H-he’s looking at us…” the little boy stammered.

“Ren? Ran?”

When Makoto called their names, they skittered away, their feet tramping down the stairs and leaving Haru in silence. He thought back to the kids shampoo bottle he’d spotted in Makoto’s bath, and it all made sense now.

Haru folded the grey blanket and left it on the bed, before changing into a pair of black trousers and a grey shirt. He washed his face and brushed his teeth, then headed down the hall, pausing when he started down the steps. From where he stood at the top of the staircase, he could see Ren and Ran seated at the table, wearing their backpacks, each with a plate of eggs and toast. Ran sat with her legs folded, while Ren sat with his legs tucked beneath him on the chair, as he leaned over the table. Makoto stepped out of the kitchen with a pan of sizzling eggs, setting aside a portion for Haru on the empty plate by his empty seat, before he served himself. When Ren reached across the table for more eggs, Ran casually swiped the last bit of toast off his plate and bit into it without the slightest hesitation.

“Eh?! That’s mine!” Ren whined.

Ran’s cheeks were too stuffed with toast to even make a retort.

“Don’t fight.” Makoto sighed, splitting his own toast and handing half of it to Ren.

“Nii-chan, what about me?” Ran pouted.

The remaining half of his toast went to Ran’s plate, leaving Makoto with only a modest share of eggs as he took his seat across from them. Haru watched the scene unfold quietly from the top of the stairs, before making his presence known as he came downstairs. When he entered the dining area, Ren and Ran fell silent, their heads down as they avoided Haru’s eye, not that he was looking at them in the first place.

“Morning.” Makoto smiled.

“Morning.”

“You’re an early riser.”

Not really, Haru thought as he pulled out his chair.

“Ren, Ran. This is Nanase Haruk-ah…” he paused mid-sentence, correcting himself. “This is Haru. He’ll be staying with us for a while.”

Even so, the twins did not look up from their plates, remaining very still and silent in his presence.

“We’ve already met.” Haru noted.

“Eh?”

Jade eyes flickered between Haru and the twins.

“Ren? Ran? What did you do…?”

At that, they finally looked up from their plates, pouting like they were ashamed of themselves.

“It was Ran’s idea…” Ren mumbled.

“Hold on! You agreed!” Ran protested.

Another argument broke out between them, Makoto sighing and shaking his head.

“They didn’t do anything.” Haru piped up, before the chaos escalated any further. He’d prefer to eat his breakfast in peace, if he could. Splitting his own toast, he held one half out to Makoto, who looked down at his hand, then back up at Haru, questioningly. “Take it.”

His lips turned up in a gentle smile as he accepted the offer.

“Thanks.”

After watching the exchange, it seemed Ren and Ran were inspired to share as well.

“Nii-chan, take this.” Ren said, offering Makoto the rest of his eggs.

“This too!” Ran chimed.

He chuckled at their offers, but turned them down nonetheless.

“Eat, you two. This is more than enough for me.”

As they ate, Haru felt Makoto’s eyes on him. But he avoided looking up from his plate, thinking to himself that it might be troublesome if their eyes met. What was that guy thinking, anyway? Was the thinking that Haru was a nicer person today than he was yesterday? Perhaps it was something along those lines, simply because he’d offered him a share of his breakfast. Only when he felt Makoto’s gaze leave him did he lift his head.

“Hurry up, Ren. We’ll be late.” Ran warned him.

Shoveling the last of his eggs in his mouth, Ren climbed out of his chair and they hurried to the door. Getting up from his own seat, Makoto saw them off, reminding them to go straight from the door to the bus stop without making any detours. They seemed close, Haru thought. Closer than his own family, at the very least.

By the time Makoto returned to the table, his breakfast was surely cold.

“Sorry about that.” he began. “I don’t know what they did, but-”

“They didn’t do anything.” Haru reiterated. But perhaps his answer didn’t make that clear enough to the concerned older brother, who was convinced they’d done something. “They stood outside my room.”

“Ah… I see… Did you sleep well?”

Actually, he slept very well. He hadn’t felt this well rested in a long time.

“Yeah.”

He wondered if Makoto was the one who had spread the blanket over him while he slept.

“Then, after breakfast we’ll head out to the field. My dad’s busy, so I’ll be teaching you.”

Tachibana Makoto was to be his teacher? He hadn’t expected that. In fact, he wanted to ask him first how old he was.

“How old are you?”

It slipped out before he could reconsider how appropriate it was to ask.

“Twenty-two.”

He’s the same age as me, Haru thought.

“You?”

“Twenty-two.” Haru echoed.

“Same as me.” Makoto chirped.

 

 


Though Makoto had insisted there was no need to, Haru had been adamant about helping him clean up after breakfast. He couldn’t sit back and watch without helping. After which, Makoto had protested against how Haru was dressed for the field, saying he’d dirty his nice clothes, and that he should borrow from his own closet instead.

“It’s fine.” Haru said, because his trousers were rolled up to his knees anyway, and his sleeves were short. Meanwhile, Makoto wasn’t dressed much differently from himself, wearing a pair of folded up, washed out, blue jeans and a thin, blue t-shirt. It’s not as if Haru’s clothes were any nicer.

When Haru brought his black shoes downstairs, Makoto protested then, too.

“Ah. Those won’t do. I’ll lend you some boots.”

So Haru had left his shoes in the doorway, and they’d headed out wearing navy, rubber boots that kicked up dirt as they walked down the trail leading out to the fields. A few metres down the trail, Makoto had disappeared into the shed and emerged with tools. Though it was only seven in the morning, the sun felt awfully hot on his skin as they ventured into the rice fields, and Makoto handed him a sharp tool.

“We use these to cut the rice stalks-”

And so began his thorough explanation of how the Japanese rice farmer went about harvesting rice. Until the sun had risen above the mountains in the east, to the time it was creeping towards the mountaintops in the west, they worked. They worked until Haru’s back ached and his fingertips felt numb. They worked until arms felt heavier than his legs, and it took every fibre of his strength not to fall to his knees in defeat. Around eleven o'clock they’d taken a break to eat the lunch Makoto had packed ahead of time, before returning straight to work. At one point, Haru had lost his footing and dropped his knife, nearly tumbling into the stalks before Makoto caught him by the arm, and dragged him back onto his feet.

“Careful.”

Haru was a bit awed by how strong he was. Of course, he hadn’t expected any less after seeing his build, but expecting it and experiencing it were two entirely different things.

Around four in the afternoon, the sun was beating down without mercy, not a cloud left in the sky. Before he knew it, his hair was clinging to his cheeks, and his skin was sticky with sweat.

Standing up, Makoto, wiped his brow with his sleeve and looked up at the sun.

“They’ll be home any minute…”

He wondered how Makoto could estimate the time down to the minute just by looking at the sun.

“Haru, I have to head back and make a snack for Ren and Ran.”

Straightening his back, Haru dropped his knife, his joints aching. Finally, he thought.

“Don’t worry, I asked a friend to cover for me. He’ll be here soon to help you.”

At that, Haru froze, his dismay written on his face. He’d been so relieved to think he was done for the day, only to find out there was still more ahead of him. And he’d so badly wished for it to end.

“Will you be alright on your own until then?”

Makoto seemed to pick up quickly that his question was scratching at the surface of Haru’s pride. Regardless of how worn out he might’ve appeared, he wouldn’t be accepting anyone’s pity.

“I’ll be fine.”

“Ah… Right, I’m off, then. I’m counting on you!”

With that, he started down the trail leading back to the house, dirt dusting the soles of his shoes as he ran. Haru watched his figure shrink into the distance, until he vanished out of his sight. Only then did he breathe a long sigh and crouch down, his head hanging between his knees as his hands quivering from fatigue. Thankfully, the sun was slowly retreating behind the mountain, and the cool evening breeze would surely follow.

At the rustle of boots trudging through the field, blue eyes flickered up, higher and higher, somehow the figure had no end. When his gaze finally reached the top of his head, he found himself looking up at a young man with a tousle of short, dark hair, his eyes cyan and soft, though the contemptuous scowl on his face suggested otherwise. Rising to his feet, Haru concluded that he was taller and sturdier than Makoto, not by much, but enough that he felt he was standing next to the hulk in disguise.

“Already beat?” he scoffed. “Well, can’t expect any more from a city child.”

Haru’s lips sunk into a bitter frown. This guy seemed like a jerk through and through. What made him so arrogant in the first place? Did he hate city folk? Did he have a bad experience at an airport? They hadn’t even introduced themselves, no less spoken a word to each other, yet he was already taking shots at him like he knew his type.

“What’s your name?”

Haru clenched his teeth, reluctant to tell him. If he was going to ask, he could’ve done so civilly. At the very least, he could’ve introduced himself first.

“Nanase. Haru.”

“Nanase.” he echoed. “The name’s Yamazaki. Yamazaki Sousuke. I’ll teach you a thing or two about manual labour before you run back home. Try not to die, yeah?”

As he spoke, the corners of his mouth turned up in a wholly sadistic smirk, Haru’s frown deepening as he stood firm, refusing to be intimidated by his cheap act.

But after five minutes under Sousuke’s instruction, Haru already wished Makoto would hurry back.

“What the hell are you doing?” Sousuke snapped, pulling him up by the back of his shirt. “You’re cutting them too short!”

“Makoto said this was fine-”

“He was being lenient with you! That idiot…” he muttered, snatching the knife from Haru and demonstrating for him. “Watch carefully. This is how it’s done.”

 

 


When Makoto finally returned to the fields an hour later, Haru’s stomach fluttered with relief to see his face again. If Yamagata was Hell, Yamazaki Sousuke was the devil. Standing up, Sousuke waved to him.

“Yo.”

“Yo. How’d it go?” Makoto waved back.

“It went well.” Sousuke answered casually, though the miserable expression on Haru’s face begged to differ. Makoto seemed to take the hint.

“A-ah… I see. In any case, I’ll take it from here.”

“Sure.”

With that, Sousuke’s figure disappeared in the rice stalks. Haru could only hope that was the last he’d see of him.

 

 


Around six in the evening, when the sun appeared as though it were balancing on the mountain peak, their shift was over, and they headed back to the house, stopping at the shed to put back the tools. After eleven hours in the field, Haru couldn’t quite feel his legs, though he felt something holding him upright - they just didn’t feel like legs any longer. His boots felt like heavy weights, and it pained him to move his arms. Standing up straight made his back ache terribly, but he refused to voice a single complaint. Manual labour was harder than he’d imagined, but it was still within his abilities. When all was said and done, he was still on his feet, and that had to count for something. Tomorrow he’d be better, he told himself, though his spirits plummeted at the realisation that he would relive the ordeal tomorrow.

When they stepped into the house, he nearly collapsed in the entrance way, but held himself upright by leaning against the wall. When his eyes flitted up, he saw Makoto looking back at him, appearing very concerned. To prove to Makoto, and himself, that he was perfectly fine, he pushed away from the wall and took a step forward, only to stumble when his knees wobbled, Makoto leaping to catch him before he fell.

“Wahh-! Don’t push yourself so much!”

Though Haru carried himself up the stairs to his room, Makoto stayed close behind, as if worried he might fall again. Ren and Ran watched with curious eyes as Haru passed their room, poking their heads in the hallway and watching him disappear into his own room.

A few minutes later, Makoto appeared in the doorway to find him collapsed on his bed, face down with his arms at his side.

“Haru-”

His head turned with a bit of difficulty, blue eyes half-lidded as he looked up.

“-I’ll take a shower and start dinner.”

“…Got it.” his voice was nearly a whisper when he spoke, a testament to how whipped he was. He hated to think Sousuke was right, but he was unprepared for the work ahead of him.

As Makoto started down the hall, Haru’s heavy lids grew heavier still, and he hadn’t even the strength to grab a hold of his consciousness before it slipped away.

 

 


He woke up to a hand on his shoulder, his eyes cracking open to find Makoto standing over his bed, Ren and Ran crowding around him.

“Haru? Are you okay? Do you feel sick?”

“Haru-nii-chan, are you okay?” Ran parroted.

Despite how very not okay he felt, what troubled him even more was having people fuss over him like this.

“I’m fine.”

“Thank goodness…” Makoto sighed in relief. “Dinner’s ready.”

“Dinner’s ready.” Ren echoed, his fingers curled into Makoto’s sleeve, while Ren held on to the back of his shirt.

As Haru sat himself up and rose to his feet again, the twins suddenly clung to him instead, tugging him along by his hands.

“H-hold on a sec!” Makoto called after them. “Haru doesn’t want to be pulled!”

But his words fell on deaf ears; they were already dragging him out the door, and Makoto anxiously trailed after them. They pulled him down the stairs all the way to the table, where Haru saw their father for the first time.

He was a kind-looking man with fawn hair, his brown eyes looking back at Haru through rimless glasses, and he was still dressed in his overalls. It seemed his work wasn’t finished just yet. He stood up from his seat to introduce himself, and he was as friendly as Haru would’ve expected, having already met the rest of his family.

With everyone seated at the dinner table, the atmosphere was much livelier than it had been the night before. Arguments would break out between Ren and Ran, demanding Makoto’s attention as he struggled to make peace between them. Meanwhile, their father made light conversation with Haru.

“It’s a long trip from Tokyo, isnt it?”

“About four hours.” Haru replied.

“Ah, that’s right. Is your room comfortable?”

“Yes.”

“Good, good. So tell me, how was your first day in the field?”

At that, Haru fell silent, and their father stifled a chuckle.

“You’ll get used to it soon enough. Ah, you met Sousuke-kun today, didn’t you?”

His mouth full, Haru gave a nod in response.

“He’s a good kid.”

What part of him? Haru wondered.

“Sorry I can’t take time out to teach you, myself. It’s the busiest season of the year. But my son’s a fine teacher.”

Hearing a mention of himself, Makoto looked up from his plate. Blue eyes shifted in his direction, then back to his father.

“He’s a fine teacher.” Haru reaffirmed, Makoto’s cheeks glowing pink as he dismissively waved his hand.

“No way…”

“Nii-chan’s the best teacher!” Ren piped up.

As they ate, Haru thought to himself that the salt was unevenly distributed in the food. That was undoubtedly an error made in cooking the dish, and he remembered that Makoto was the one preparing all their meal. Perhaps there were a few things Haru could teach him as well. But of course, he’d save that for another time. He wasn’t so daft as to criticise his cooking at the dinner table, in the presence of his family.

After dinner, Haru showered and brushed his teeth, changed into a soft, blue shirt and grey sweats. Then, he dug through his duffel bag for the book he’d brought along. The door to his room creaked open, and he saw Ren standing in the doorway, his feet together as he tugged on his sleeve out of nervous habit.

“Uhm… Haru-nii-chan… Do you wanna play, too?”

“Eh?”

“Nii-chan’s new game is really fun.”

“Game…?”

Footsteps heavier than Ren’s approached his room, and Makoto appeared in the doorway to herd him away.

“Ren, come here.”

“Nooo!” he whined, planting his feet on the ground. “Haru-nii-chan wants to play, too!”

“Eh?” Makoto’s face lit up, if only a little. “Really? There’s a fourth controller if you want to play, Haru.”

A video game, huh… Haru mused. He supposed he could read another time. A part of him was curious to see what kind of games a country boy like Makoto would play.

 

 


Makoto’s room was decorated not unlike his own, furnished with a double bed and a dresser, as well as a desk and a chair. However, his room had the addition of a television and a stand, as well as a row of bookcases lined up against the wall separating his room from Haru’s. Two shelves on his bookcase were dedicated to games alone. Truthfully, Haru hadn’t expected him to be such a dedicated gamer, but he supposed there weren’t many ways to pass the time in a place as quiet and lifeless as this.

While Makoto fetched the fourth controller from the shelf, Ren motioned for Haru to take a seat between him and Ran, then patted the empty space on his left, motioning for Makoto to sit next to him.

“It’s a racing game, you know?” Ren explained, excitedly, as Makoto plugged in the controller and handed it to Haru. “You move using this. This button makes you go faster.”

“If you press this and the red button the engine revs.” Ran chimed in.

Makoto seemed amused by the sight of the twins crowded him, a trace of a smile on his face as he turned back to the television and restarted the game to accommodate a fourth player.

Though the twins had given him such a detailed explanation, Haru was still a bit overwhelmed when the game started, wracking his mind to remember all the instructions and tips they’d give him. For the first few rounds, he lagged behind terribly. But during the fourth round, he caught the hang of it, and he was steadily catching up to Makoto. Meanwhile, Ren, who had been thrilled not to be stuck in last place anymore, didn’t seem so thrilled when he started losing to yet another opponent. When he whined about losing, Haru slowed down a little, letting Ren pass him and finish in third place, while he finished in last place again, himself. While Ren rejoiced, he caught Makoto looking at him in the corner of his eye, before he turned to the twins.

“It’s already this late…” he realised. “Ren, Ran, time for bed.”

Blue eyes glanced up to the wall clock, surprised that it was already nine. Time flew by faster than he’d noticed, and Ren and Ran wailed in protest as Makoto nudged them down the hall.

“I’m not tired!”

“Haru-nii-chan’s not going to bed yet!”

Their voices faded down the hall, the house falling silent when their bedroom door clicked shut. Leaning back, Haru skimmed Makoto’s room, his eyes brushing past the character posters on the wall and the few stuffed animals lined up on the bed. He wondered if they were really Makoto’s, or simply things Ren and Ran left behind in his room. His bookcases were crowded with books, DVD’s, games, and nicknacks alike. And on his desk was a family portrait in which everyone was dressed formally, yet they all wore smiles befitting of the Tachibana family. There was only one person in the portrait Haru had yet to see in the house, and that was the woman he could only imagine was Makoto’s mother. After all, her eyes were identical to Makoto’s, gentle and viridescent.

When Makoto returned to the room, Haru returned his attention to the television, and lifted his controller.

“Ready?” Makoto smirked, his aura noticeably different now that the twins were out. Somehow, it felt as though the real game had only just begun.

True to expectations, Makoto raised the bar higher than Haru could ever dream of reaching. He breezed past him in every round, his fingers mashing buttons too quickly for Haru to make out what he was doing and how he was doing it. It seemed Makoto had also been holding back for Ren and Ran’s sake. Around ten, Haru grew weary of losing, and he dropped his controller in surrender.

“Your win.” he said, lounging back on the floor.

“Should we try a different game?” Makoto laughed.

Blue eyes skimmed the games lining the shelves.

“I’m sure you’ve already mastered all of them.” Haru sighed.

“You’re right… But there’s one game I can never win.”

“Oh?”

Makoto shuffled over to the bookcase, and came back with fighting game in hand.

“Sousuke’s amazing as this one…”

Haru stared at the cover a moment, then back at Makoto.

“You…” he hesitated when he spoke. “You’re a nice guy.”

At that, Makoto looked up, jade eyes wide in surprise. He supposed the compliment was a bit sudden, but there was a point to it.

“How did you become friends with the likes of him?”

Makoto’s eyes flickered to the side, and a silence fell over them.

“…Sousuke’s a good person.” he said at a length.

“He doesn’t seem good at all-”

“He’s a good person!”

Caught off guard by the change in his tone, Haru’s teeth clicked as he shut his mouth and listened. Apparently, he’d touched on a nerve.

“You know… When mom died, Ren and Ran were really lonely. I couldn’t spend as much time helping dad, because they needed someone to take care of them… At the time, Sousuke offered to help dad in my place. He didn’t ask for pay, either. But for the last two years, he’s been working every day by dad’s side. And I’m… I’m just…” his voice trailed off, leaving his thought unfinished.

Just what? Haru wondered. Makoto didn’t seem to think very highly of himself at all. It seemed his excessive modesty was more than just a polite front.

“I know a good person when I see one.” he concluded. “That’s how I know Haru’s a good a person, too.”

Blue eyes widened, Haru looking to side to avoid meeting his stare. He couldn’t begin to fathom how Makoto had reached that conclusion. They were probably just empty words, he thought. Tachibana Makoto was speaking out of line. Realistically, he didn’t know Haru at all. Moreover, if he could think so highly of others with nothing as evidence but his own instinct, why, then, did Makoto think so little of himself? It was painfully clear in his voice, in his mannerisms, in his eyes, however gentle, that Makoto had a weak heart.

“I’m sleepy, so-” Haru stood up and started for the door. “-I’m going to bed.”

“Ah. Okay. Goodnight…”

“Goodnight.”

He shut the door behind himself and moved quickly to his own room, going straight into bed. He shifted onto his back, listening to the crickets chirp outside his window as the stars twinkled in his eyes. A frown was permanently etched into his face as he thought about Makoto, about how the nicest person of all could only see the good in others. It was frustrating, but even more frustrating was that he was giving it any thought at all. In three weeks and six days he’d be home in Iwatobi, where he’d spend the last five days of his break in the pool. That thought put him at ease, and his heavy lids fluttered down. Before he knew it, he’d fallen asleep atop the covers again.

 

 


That night, he woke up to the sound of the door creaking open.

“He did again…” came a murmur.

Still half-asleep, he listened as light footsteps faded down the hall, before they entered his room again. He could hear the floorboards squeak as someone approached his bed.

“You’ll catch a cold like this, Haru-chan…”

A soft blanket was then draped over him, and the door quietly closed. Haru opened his eyes, listening to Makoto’s footsteps in the next room. At the sound of sheets crinkling as he crawled back under the covers, Haru huddled under his own blanket, and drifted back to sleep.

Chapter Three: A Bad Liar

A murmur reached his ears, and his lashes fluttered up. The sun had yet to rise, and the room was tinted blue as he sat up and listened again. He could hear people conversing on the floor below; from the sound of it, it was coming from the dining area. Climbing out of bed, he moved quietly on light feet, his weight on his toes as he opened the door and stepped into the hall. He started down the stairs, thinking Makoto and the twins were already up and eating breakfast, but paused at the top of the stairs when he spotted two tall figures seated at the table. Sousuke and Makoto’s father were eating breakfast, chatting quietly amongst themselves. Somehow, Haru felt as though his curiosity had escalated to eavesdropping, and he crept back down the hall to his room.

A part of him wondered how Makoto felt knowing his father spent more time with Sousuke than he did with his own son. But it wasn’t Haru’s matter to meddle in. And he supposed there was an imbalance in how much time Makoto spent with the twins than his father did. Considering how late their father worked, Makoto was essentially playing the role of both parents to them, and he remembered how he’d spoken of his mother, how lonely the twins had been without her. But Makoto had failed to make any mention of himself or how he felt at the time. So Haru wouldn’t think much of it. Makoto’s situation was not an uncommon one.

Shutting his door, Haru picked the book up off his desk on his way back to bed, and lounged on his front, his pillow under his chest as he opened it to the first page. It was a book he’d read before, but he never grew tired of reading a story about the sea. Luckily, it was a lengthy book, and if he read slowly, it could last him a week or so. Blue eyes moved across the page, line by line, and yet, he couldn’t absorb a word he was reading. His head was still muddled with thoughts of Makoto and his family.

That morning, the breakfast table was quieter. Seeing as it was Saturday, Ren and Ran were sleeping in, and Makoto and Haru ate their breakfast in peace. As he ate, he was almost waiting for Makoto to mention the blanket. But instead, he made casual conversation about the work they’d be doing in the field, prepping Haru with tips and warning him to take breaks when he grew tired. And Haru wondered why Makoto would rather go through the trouble of checking on him at night instead of outwardly telling him to sleep under his blanket.

“Today’s hot so, if you feel dizzy or tired, take a break.”

“Got it.”

“Don’t push yourself, alright?”

“Yeah.”

Truthfully, Makoto was getting a bit too fussy. It bothered him to have someone worry about him this much.

“You do the same.” Haru muttered, returning the sentiment. But what he really meant was, worry about yourself.

After breakfast, Haru stood up to clear the table, but Makoto insisted he let him do it.

“Fine, I’ll pack lunch.” Haru said, refusing to sit idly at the table.

“Eh? Can you do that?” Makoto asked, his brows raised in surprise.

“Yeah.”

While Makoto set to work clearing the table and washing the dishes, Haru cooked a simple lunch consisting of rice and whitefish. Makoto curiously peered over his shoulder as he packed their bentos, his eyes sparkling in admiration.

“Amazing…”

“It’s not amazing.” Haru sighed, thinking to himself that Makoto was too easily impressed.

In the same trousers they wore yesterday, but different shirts, they started down the dirt trail to the field. They stopped by the shed again, Haru peering inside the dusty, old space, seeing barrels and buckets and tools of all sorts, some stacked or piled on top of each other, others hanging from the walls. It smelled earthy, and somewhat of overheated wood. When Makoto stepped out, he handed him the tools and wriggled the stubborn door shut, the lock squeaking as it swung from the impact.

Still sore from the previous day’s labour, Haru worked significantly slower than he did the day before. His limbs moved a bit robotically, seeing as his joints were still tender, and his back still ached when he crouched down. But Makoto didn’t voice a single complaint. Haru recalled Sousuke telling him that Makoto had been lenient with him, but today, he was thankful that was the case. If Makoto had worked him as hard as Sousuke, he probably wouldn’t have gotten out of bed in the morning.

At the sound of rustling amid the rice stalks, Haru stilled. Makoto quickly noticed the change.

“What’s wrong?”

Blue eyes focused on the rice stalks, and he listened and waited again for the sound. When it came again, he heard it clearly. It was a raspy kind of cry, and out from between the stalks crawled an unkempt, black cat, Haru toppling back as the cat leapt at him, resting two paws on his stomach. He heard Makoto giggle, and looked up to see the brunet kneeling beside him.

“Good morning.” he cooed.

At that, the cat abandoned Haru and scampered towards Makoto, who welcomed it with open arms and cradled it to his chest. It gave another cry as it bumped noses with him, as if telling Makoto its woes while he stroked the underside of its chin.

Haru watched the scene, a bit lost for words.

“What do you think? Should we eat lunch?”

Sighing, Haru dusted himself off and rose to his feet again.

“That’s fine.”

 

 


The cat continued to circle Makoto in anticipation as they sat down and unpacked their bentos, blue eyes flitting up to watch Makoto pinch a bit of fish between his fingers and hold it out to the cat. But Haru was not so willing to share his lunch, sparing the cat a sideways glance when it tried its luck with him, but continuing to eat in silence. When the cat realised this, it returned to Makoto, curling up in his lap and yawning.

“Haru, you like fish a lot, don’t you?”

He lowered his chopsticks and looked up from his bento. It seemed while he observed the cat, Makoto had been observing him. Well, he had eaten his fish first. All that was left now was his rice.

“Yeah.”

The cat’s mewling filled the silence as they ate, and the sun had risen as high as it would. If Haru had to venture a guess, he’d say it was about noon. At the sound of Makoto’s stifled laughter, he averted his eyes from the sky and looked down. He didn’t want to ask, but when his laughter continued, he felt he had no choice.

“…What?”

Leaning forward, Makoto reached out his hand, Haru stiffening when he felt his fingers brush his cheek.

“How did you get rice under your eye?” he chuckled, a single grain between his fingers as he pulled his hand away.

With his lips in a pout, Haru looked to the side.

“Ah. Sorry, sorry.” Makoto smiled, biting back his laughter.

Don’t apologise now… Haru brooded.

After finishing their lunch, they took a short break, Makoto preoccupied with the cat while Haru surveyed the field. Somehow, the sun felt hotter now than it did before they sat down to eat. And when they returned to work, sweat was trickling down his cheek within a few minutes.

In the corner of his eye, he watched Makoto tug off his shirt and fan himself. His front and back alike were toned and lean, impressively so, Haru thought. But considering the work he did on a daily basis, Haru wouldn’t expect any less.

 

 



When they returned from the field in the evening, the twins greeted them at the door. It seemed they’d be waiting for them to come home, likely bored in the otherwise empty house.

“Haru?”

Haru kicked off the other boot and looked up.

“You go ahead and shower first.”

Grateful for the offer, Haru gave a nod and headed up the stairs, Makoto keeping the twins busy for the time being.

“Nii-chan, you smell.”

“I know, I know.”

When he closed the washroom door, he immediately sunk to the floor, wondering if he still had enough strength left to stand in the shower. He’d done well to hide his fatigue today. He would’ve much rather taken a bath, but considering the circumstances, a shower was only appropriate. Stripping out of his sweat-stained clothes, he stepped into the tub. The cold water prickled his skin, dirt and dust washing off and streaming into the drain. He wondered if he’d really be able to keep this up for four weeks. Within that time frame, he’d either conquer his weaknesses and rise above the challenge, or cripple himself in attempting to do just that and collapse from the stress put on his body. Only time would tell.

After his shower, he returned to his room and sifted through his bag for a clean set of clothes to relax in, regretting now that he’d packed so little. When he dug out his other pajama shirt, he discovered a hideous tea stain that he’d failed to notice when he’d packed. So he dressed himself from the waist down for the time being, figuring he’d just have to wear the stained shirt when it came time for dinner. A knock came on the door, Haru looking up from his bag as Makoto peered inside, droplets of water clinging to the ends of his hair. The first thing to draw his attention was the stained shirt Haru was holding up, but the second thing demanded his attention. He pushed open the door, his arms at his sides as he stood still in awe.

“A-amazing, Haru… You’re so fit…”

Makoto probably hadn’t expected him to have a swimmer’s body. Jade eyes blinked at him a few times, and his mouth hung open.

“I guess.” Haru murmured.

“Are you an athlete…?”

“Not really. I only swim free.”

Makoto didn’t seem to process his last reply very well, and a silence hung over them before he shook his head and directed his attention back to the shirt.

“Um, if you need a shirt, you can borrow one of mine.”

Blue eyes glanced at the grey, and unfortunately, partly beige shirt, then back at Makoto.

“…Is that alright?”

“It’s alright.” Makoto smiled.

 

 


Haru sat down at the dinner table, wearing a dark blue shirt two sizes too big. The neck hole exposed his collarbone entirely, and drooped off his left shoulder. But at the very least, it was clean and it smelled like peach-scented fabric softener. Makoto’s father hadn’t come home for dinner yet, so Makoto had set aside a dish for him, and left it by his place at the table.

“Guess what, guess what!” Ran beamed as Makoto slid her plate across the table.

“What?”

“We found a ladybug nest today!”

“A… ladybug nest?” Makoto asked, quirking a brow and taking his seat. “Do ladybugs have nests?”

“We saw tons of them!” Ren chimed in, stretching his arms out as if to show just how many tons they’d seen.

“Ladybugs don’t have nests.” Haru said, quietly.

“Ehhh?!” the twins chorused.

“But they have colonies.” he added, to appease them.

“Then, we saw a colony!”

“Probably, yeah.”

“Haru’s pretty smart, isn’t he?” Makoto chuckled.

“Not really.” he muttered, averting his eyes to his plate. Makoto was too quick to praise him, he felt. But that kind of tendency was fitting of someone who could only see the good in everyone but himself.

 

 


The white light of the television dimly lit the room, their controllers still beside them as they lay asleep on the floor, having played until their dry eyes shut and their hands went limp. Makoto’s eyes fluttered open, and he squinted in the light of the television as he sat up and rubbed his eyes. He crawled forward and pushed the power button, then looked down at Haru who slept like a dead man on the floor, his back slowly rising and falling with every breath. Nudging his shoulder, Makoto tried to wake him.

“Haru…” he rasped, unable to shake him awake. Soon enough, Haru shifted and swatted his hand away, though still fast asleep.

Sighing, Makoto fetched a pillow from his bed and a quilt from his closet, draping the quilt over him and gently lifting Haru’s head to slide the pillow beneath it. It seemed today’s work had taken quite a toll on Haru, for him to sleep so deeply in such an uncomfortable place.

“Goodnight.” the brunet yawned even knowing he couldn’t hear him, and he climbed into bed.

 

 


Haru woke up early on Sunday morning, numb in the shoulder he slept on as he sat up. Makoto was still slumbering, his lips parted as he snored softly. And Haru wondered if opening the door and going to his own room would wake him. On the off chance that it would, he’d rather wait it out. Surely Makoto wouldn’t sleep much longer.

When jade eyes cracked open, he saw Haru lying on the floor, his knees bent and his head on the pillow as he turned the page of his book. In his boredom, he’d skimmed the books on Makoto’s shelf and picked the first title to catch his eye. That happened to be 'The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Andersen.

“Morning…” Makoto mumbled, his sleepiness apparent in his voice.

Haru glanced back at him, then returned to his book.

“Morning.”

When he reached the end of the page, he noted the page number and closed the book, stretching to put it back on the shelf.

“It’s fine if you want to borrow it. You won’t be working today, anyway.”

He paused at that.

“I… won’t be working?”

“Mm. Haru’s a university student, after all. You should take Sunday off and spend it doing your other work.”

Actually, he didn’t have other work. He’d completed most of his summer assignments before his date of departure, and the remainder of it was done on the train when he couldn’t will himself to sleep anymore. Be that as it may, he wasn’t about to turn down an offer to take the day off. Pulling his hand back from the shelf, he stood up with the book and turned to the door.

“Then… I’ll borrow this.”

“Mm.”

Contrary to his expectations, having the day off wasn’t as nice as he thought it’d be. The house grew hot in the afternoon, uncomfortably so, Haru fanning himself as he lay sprawled on the bed, having already finished the book he’d borrowed within two hours of returning to his room. Ren and Ran had been warned by Makoto not to bother him, so there was nothing to distract him from his boredom. He would’ve liked to play video games, but seeing as he had the day off under the pretense that he had other work to do, playing video games would be entirely inappropriate. So he remained motionless on the bed, staring up at the cloudless sky, listening to the cries of the cicadas. Everything seemed so awfully still. He wondered if the clock was still ticking. Suddenly, he perked when he caught his doorknob turning in the corner of his eye, and sat up.

Makoto stood in the doorway wiping his forehead, the front of his red shirt unbuttoned and his sleeves rolled up above his elbows.

“Haru? Are you still busy?”

Blue eyes glanced at the wall clock. It was already nearing five. Somehow, as he lay there thinking time had stopped, it had rushed by.

“No.”

“Could you help me out a little?”

“Sure.”

While Makoto showered and dressed, Haru changed into his grey trousers and blue shirt, folding the shirt he’d borrowed from him and popping into his room to leave it on his bed. By the time Makoto met him at the door, Haru was putting on his shoes.

“All ready?” Makoto asked.

“Yeah.”

The Tachibanas had two cars, an average, yet somewhat dusty Mazda, and an even dustier pickup truck. Seeing as they were out to buy fertiliser, Haru headed for the truck, waiting by the passenger seat door for Makoto to unlock it. As they climbed into the truck, Makoto looked up from the ignition at the click of Haru’s seat belt buckling. He seemed surprised by the fact Haru wore his seat belt. Conversely, Haru had to wonder why Makoto didn’t. He would’ve told him to put on his seat belt, if only it didn’t seem like something his mother would’ve nagged him about. Perhaps, instead of telling him, he’d be better off casually posing the question.

“You don’t wear a seat belt?”

“Eh? Ah… The store isn’t that far…” Makoto explained. But after seeing Haru buckle up, guilt seemed to set in, and he pulled out his seat belt regardless.

 

 



Unsurprisingly, the road was more or less void of cars. As they drove, Haru rested his head against the window, squinting in the glint of the sun as it crept behind the mountain. Just as Makoto had said, they reached the store within ten minutes, parking the car in the space nearest the store front.

When they entered the store, Haru crinkled his nose at the scent of soil hanging heavy in the air. But he didn’t expect any less from a store that housed shelves upon shelves of fertiliser and plants.

“Long time, no see.” Makoto waved to the girl behind the counter. But she ignored him as he walked by, and Haru caught himself wondering for a second why she was so cold to him - not that it was any of his business.

While Makoto spoke with the lone employee working the floor, Haru waited by the counter for him. The girl at the register looked to be in her late teens, pale-skinned and dark-haired with grey eyes. It was anyone’s guess why Makoto had been happy to see her. But her appearance wasn’t what drew Haru’s attention, rather, it was the fact that he felt her eyes on him, even as he looked away. He avoided her stare until Makoto returned with two shopping carts stacked with fertiliser.

They’re cheapest this time of year, Makoto had said. That was all well and fine, Haru thought, but was there room enough for all those bags in the back of the truck? As Makoto paid for the purchase, Haru grabbed the handle of the nearest cart, already pushing it into the parking lot by the time Makoto pocketed his wallet and wheeled out the second cart.

Apparently, rice farmers weren’t just rice farmers. They were also champion weight-lifters. In contrast to how easily Makoto slung a bag over his shoulder and carried it to the truck, Haru struggled just to lift it above his shoulder, nearly tripping over his own feet under the weight. By the time they’d loaded the fertiliser in the back of the truck, Haru had carried a measly two bags, while Makoto had carried six. Even so, Makoto made no mention of it as they sat in the car and shut the doors.

“Thanks, Haru.”

“Yeah…”

He didn’t feel like he deserved his gratitude, really. As Makoto pushed the keys in the ignition, he paused, jade eyes fixed on the dashboard when he spoke.

“That girl behind the counter… You saw her, right?”

Haru rested his head against the window, staring out at the parking lot.

“Yeah.”

“She was asking about you.”

At that, blue eyes glanced at Makoto, before shifting to the window again. That wasn’t what he’d expected to hear. But considering how she’d ogled him, it didn’t surprise him either.

“Is that so?” he mumbled, audibly disinterested. “Let’s go.”

The conversation was innocent enough, but he had a feeling it would take a turn for the worst if it went any further. At the very least, he knew Makoto wasn’t finished talking.

“She’s beautiful, isn’t she?”

“I guess.”

“Won’t you go back and talk to her?”

“Don’t want to.”

“You don’t have to say that for my sake-”

“It’s not for your sake. Let’s go.”

He didn’t mean to come off so cold, but Makoto’s insistence was grating on his nerves. He was being awfully meddlesome, and there was no need for him to pull any favours for someone who ignored him when he smiled and waved. Makoto’s fingers hovered above the keys, Haru waiting for him to start the car.

“Haru…”

How he wished Tachibana Makoto would shut up and drive. But he was certain no matter what he said to him now, it would only invite more self-sacrificing words. How was he to shut him up and at the same time make it perfectly clear that he didn’t want to speak to the girl behind the counter?

“If you’re-”

Makoto’s voice trailed off when Haru suddenly slid a hand around his neck and rose from his seat, silencing him with a kiss. Though he was the who’d initiated the kiss, his heart skipped when he felt the brunet’s pulse racing in his hand, his lips soft and warm. The smell of heated leather filled the car as the cicadas cried, and time stopped for an instant. He caught the scent of soap lingering on Makoto’s skin, and he felt the ends of his feathery tickle his fingers. Pulling away, Haru sunk back into his seat and glared out the window.

“Let’s go.”

His heart was thumping madly in his ears, and his face felt unbearably hot. But at least Makoto was quiet now. Yet, in the minute it took Haru’s heart to settle, he wondered why Makoto had yet to start the car. Looking back, his eyes widened at the sight of the brunet with his lips parted and his cheeks scorched red, his eyes blank as though he’d blown a fuse as his fingers fumbled to find the ignition, but failed every time, repeatedly bumping the steering wheel.

“…Oi. I’ll drive back.”

 

 



Or so he’d said.

But while Makoto sat reeling in the passenger seat, Haru made turns he wasn’t sure about and stopped at signs he didn’t recognise. By the time Makoto eased out of his daze, the car had stopped at a dead end, the sun was disappearing behind the mountain, and they were completely and utterly lost.

“Eh? Where are we?”

Frowning, Haru looked out the window, ignoring the question. But his silence said enough.

“Sorry, Haru… this is my fault. Don’t blame yourself.”

I’m not blaming myself… Haru brooded.

Though he stared directly into the setting sun, he felt Makoto’s eyes on him. He hoped he would look away, but time passed slowly, and he couldn’t take it much longer.

“What?”

“A-ah… Nothing…” Makoto stammered when their eyes met. “Um, you know… that was my first kiss…”

“Oh?”

The tips of Makoto’s ears were flushed red, and he hesitated in his speech.

“Haru… have you kissed a lot of people?”

“Not really.”

Actually, that was his first kiss, too. But he wasn’t about to admit it.

“You don’t have a girlfriend?”

“No.”

“That’s a relief…” Makoto sighed, leaning back against the head rest.

“What is?”

“E-eh? Ah… no… nothing…” he stuttered, looking out the window to avoid Haru’s stare. “I was kind of… Or, how should I put it… I’m relieved you’re not being unfaithful… o-or something…”

Bad liar. Haru noted. Tachibana Makoto was a bad liar. With a sigh, he sank back in the driver’s seat, letting his heavy lids fall as fatigue drowned out everything else he felt in that moment. In any case, it was futile to ask for directions until Makoto had recomposed himself. Haru heard him shift in his seat, and a second later, he felt the brunet’s hair brush his cheek as his lips hovered a centimetre away, Haru holding his breath in wait. But he pulled away without so much as brushing lips with him, Haru’s heart pounding slowly and heavily in his chest as his eyes flitted open, and he saw Makoto staring out the passenger seat window again, his cheeks flushed and his fingers fidgeting in his lap, pretending nothing had happened. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt this restless.

By the time they arrived back at the farm, the stars had come out. The thought of the fertiliser completely slipped their minds as Haru headed back to the house, and Makoto started down the trail towards the shed. When he arrived at the shed door, he was surprised to find it already open. Before he could peer inside, a hand shot out and grabbed him by the neck of his shirt, yanking him inside. He flinched in fear and braced himself for the worst.

“S-sousuke…?”

After the fright he’d just had, Makoto was relieved to see his face.

“Don’t scare me like that…”

“Where the hell were you?”

“Eh? Buying fertiliser.”

Cyan eyes pierced him as he nervously looked to the side. Sousuke didn’t seem satisfied by his answer.

“Where’s the fertiliser?”

“…Ah! The truck!”

Sighing, Sousuke swung open the door and stepped outside.

“I’ll help you carry it back.”

 



Monday afternoon was the hottest, stickiest day Haru had experienced yet. Wiping the sweat off his cheek, he looked up to see Makoto stripping out of his shirt, his skin damp with sweat and glistening in the sun. Somehow, that wasn’t what Haru wanted to notice, but the only other thing he could direct his attention to was the arch in Makoto’s back, his eyes trailing down and ending up where he did not want to be caught staring at.

He couldn’t explain it, but the sight he saw on Saturday didn’t look quite the same on Monday.

Chapter Four: Storm Clouds

Two days had passed since the kiss, and neither of them had spoken a word about it. At times, Makoto would hesitate, as if he were about to bring it up. But in the end, whatever he had to say would go unsaid. Haru didn’t especially mind. In fact, he preferred it this way, because any conversation concerning that day would undoubtedly be awkward and unpleasant. In the best case, he would leave Yamagata without ever having to speak of it.

Realistically, he doubted things would go that smoothly.

Haru woke up on Wednesday morning to a cloudy sky, rain drops pattering on his window as he sat up and checked the time. It was still too early for Makoto to have woken up. So he laid back down in bed, watching droplets slide down the glass as he waited to hear Makoto’s alarm go off in the next room.

“Ren and Ran… won’t they be late?” Haru asked.

The breakfast table was unusually quiet without them, not that he minded. Somehow, everything seemed quieter under the overcast sky.

“Their summer break starts today.” Makoto explained, his eyes flickering to Haru’s empty plate. “There’s more left if you want.”

“No. Thanks for the meal.”

After breakfast, Makoto cleared the table while Haru prepared a simple lunch consisting of rice and pork. Seeing as it was the first day of Ren and Ran’s summer holiday, he set aside two bentos for them as well, before clearing the kitchen counter.

“It’ll probably rain today…” Makoto mused, peering out the window. “If it’s too heavy, we’ll have to call it a day.”

Let’s pray it’s heavy. Haru thought as he wiggled into his rubber boots.

When they stepped out of the house, the humidity hit him like a ton of bricks. Light rain sprinkled the fields, though the sky was dark with storm clouds. Thunder could be heard rumbling in the distance, and as it drew nearer by the hour, the rain fell harder. It was around ten that a clap of thunder shook the ground, and the rain began beating down, flooding the fields and nipping his skin.

“Leave them here!” Makoto said, Haru dropping everything and following him as they sprinted down the dirt trail, mud splashing up around their feet. He led him to what looked like a shed. But upon entering the small outbuilding, Haru realised it was an annex, and likely an old one at that.

Dust blanketed the floor, their boots leaving wet footprints as they stepped inside. Though the furniture was covered by white sheets, he could see the shape of a bed in the corner, a table and an armchair. As they stood by the doorway watching the rain fall, puddles formed around their feet, their hair and clothes dripping wet. The sound of the rain pelting down on the roof drowned out the sound of their breathing, and they stood still as they watched and waited. The cold began to set in, and in the back of his mind Haru wondered if Sousuke and Makoto’s father had found shelter from the rain. It was anybody’s guess how long they’d be stuck in the annex, and he gave the room a once-over, thinking there might be something they could substitute for an umbrella. He supposed they could use a sheet and return it later, but how long a thin bed cloth could last in the rain was uncertain. In the midst of his thoughts, he looked up when he heard his name.

“Haru.”

Makoto’s gaze seemed to reach beyond the rain. Haru wondered what exactly he was looking at.

“The truth is…”

At that, his stomach flipped and he looked straight ahead, certain Makoto was about to make mention of something Haru would rather not hear. And yet, there was no escape. As long as they were trapped in the rain, there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. But Makoto’s parted lips closed, and he hesitated again, like he had before. Seeing him like that, Haru felt a bit paranoid for getting so worked up over something he should’ve known by now wouldn’t lead anywhere.

“…There’s something that’s been bothering me since the other day.”

Suddenly, Haru stiffened, now reaffirming that he had every right to be anxious.

“…What?” he muttered, promptly looking to the side.

He didn’t want to look in Makoto’s eyes, nor did he want Makoto to see into his. But when Makoto took him by the arm, he instinctively looked back, his lips parting to speak, but instead being caught in a fleeting kiss. In the split second he caught him off guard, Haru couldn’t help thinking that Makoto’s lips were still as soft as he recalled, only now, a little cold. His eyes fluttered shut, and his heart thumped in his chest, then again in his ears before Makoto pulled away. Despite that he’d initiated the kiss, his cheeks were flushed red, his jade eyes averted to the floor. As puddles formed outside, the splash of the rain echoed around the modest, little house.

“It bothered me… that I didn’t pay you back. But with this, we’re even…” he said, stuttering a bit in his speech.

For such bold words, his delivery was awfully timid. Haru found himself fighting back his laughter as he looked out into the rain. In his attempts, he wound up looking more serious than usual.

“We’re not even.”

“…Eh?”

“I kissed you better than that.”

“E-eh?! What’s with you?”

“Interest rates are high, you know.” Haru sighed. “Two days ago, that might’ve been enough. But not today.”

Blue eyes cast him a sideways glance to catch his reaction. Teasing Makoto shouldn’t have been this much fun, but in his defense, Makoto shouldn’t have been so easy to tease in the first place. Somehow, making light of it all put his restless heart at ease. Then, without warning, two arms roped around his waist and pulled him in, Haru tripping over his feet when Makoto caught him off guard again with a second kiss. His breath felt hot on his cheek, and his lips parted as his fingers curled into the brunet’s sleeve. Blue eyes flitted down, and as Makoto took a step forward, Haru stumbled again, his back touching the wall. At the feel of his tongue flicking his lower lip, his heart skipped a beat, and he pulled away to catch a glimpse of Makoto’s face. He looked the same way he did before, only his breathing was a bit heavier, his cheeks were a bit redder, and he seemed a bit dizzy. His lips hovered a centimetre away, so close Haru could feel their warmth. Before he could think it over any more, he lifted a hand and threaded his fingers through the brunet’s hair, pulling him down by the back of his neck. He felt a longing in his kiss, his back pushed up against the wall as he cupped a hand over Makoto’s cheek, his skin chilled and damp from the rain, but his kiss feverish. Calloused hands slipped under his shirt, tracing the arch in his back and the hollows in his side. It was better this way, Haru thought. He didn’t want to talk about it. If Makoto had something to say, he wanted to hear it this way. He wanted to feel it this way. His lashes flitted up when he broke the kiss, their eyes meeting in silence. Had those eyes always been such a deep green? Looking into them now,it felt like those kind eyes saw right through him.

“Haru, you’ll catch a cold in these clothes.”

He frowned, irritated by his needless concern.

“What about you?”

“I… I’m…”

“What?” Haru prodded when he hesitated. “If they’re wet… take them off.”

He tugged at the lowest button of Makoto shirt, the snap ringing through the room.

“Okay…” he breathed, jade eyes leching after his lips.

Haru pulled him into a slow kiss, sucking his lower lip as his fingers worked to unbutton the brunet’s shirt. Makoto’s lips wandered to the corner of his mouth, pressing fleeting kisses across his cheek and under his jaw, Haru tipping his head back when his lips trailed down his throat. He ghosted over his collarbone as Haru tugged off their shirts and dropped them on the floor, Makoto nipping at the pale skin. His heart drummed in his chest when their skin touched, and a thigh pressed between his legs, his knees growing weak with every tease. He looked down, chagrined for being so easily aroused by a light tease. Makoto’s lips brushed over the shell of his ear when he lowered his head, Haru shuddering and closing his eyes as his breath tickled his ear. Shoving at his chest, Haru took him by the hand and dragged him to the bed, his head down and his eyes hidden beneath his hair as he sat him down and climbed into his climb. He could feel Makoto’s heart pounding against his ribs as Haru’s tongue teased his lips, his hands hooking around his waist and pulling him close. More impatient every second, Haru pinned him down on the sheet, Makoto raising his hips off the bed and teasing him again. A gasp escaped, blue eyes flitting down as his mouth hung open, and his strangled breaths turned to restless pants. Jade eyes were fixed on his face, watching him more closely than Haru could bear. His hands dug into the mattress as he fought to keep himself upright. At this rate, his quivering arms wouldn’t hold him up much longer. But he couldn’t move when Makoto was teasing him this much, either.

Before he could voice a protest, he was flipped onto his back and pinned down to the bed by his hips, the friction driving him mad as Makoto rolled his hips, pressing kisses to the corner of his mouth. A calloused hand traveled down his stomach, unbuttoning his trousers. And he lifted his head, waiting to see Haru’s reaction when he pulled down his briefs and fondled him. His cheeks flushed red when he felt a thumb brush over the tip of his cock, and he bit his lip, watching the corners of Makoto’s mouth turn up in a faint but visible smile. He was reveling in Haru’s fluster too much, stroking him so slowly it bordered on cruel. If he kept at it like this, he’d tease him into climaxing. Haru slid a hand between their stomachs, fumbling to undo the buttons of Makoto’s trousers, with every intention to return the favour. He watched the brunet’s lips tremble a little when he touched him, and a second later, he was nuzzling the nape of Haru’s neck to hide his face. Apparently, he could take what he dished out. But it was easier this way, Haru thought. He didn’t like being watched. Makoto’s hand moved down, undressing Haru and throwing his clothes off the bed. His arms snaked around his waist, and two fingers brushed over his entrance.

Haru brought his hands back up when Makoto moved down the bed, blue eyes wide when Makoto pushed his thighs apart and dipped his head down.

“Oi…!”

Soft kisses trailed down his thigh, Haru pressing an arm over his mouth to stifle a whimper as he pressed a single kiss to his entrance. He jolted up in surprise at the flick of his tongue, his muscles pulsing against Makoto’s lips. And that was all it took for his heart to race. His toes curled he dragged his tongue over his entrance, and his feet shuffled restlessly on the sheet.

“Makoto-! What are you… Nn-”

He covered his mouth again, horrified at the moans that carelessly left his lips every time he tried to speak. A pinch of pain made him flinch when a slicked finger pushed inside, and he propped himself up on his elbows, meeting his gaze for all but a second. His heavy-lidded, jade eyes were so dark with lust, Haru shuddered and looked away, resting his head back on the mattress. He couldn’t quite call it pain, but he couldn’t call it pleasure; it was a dull ache. At least, that was all it was, until the tip of his finger brushed a nerve that made his stomach leap, his hips twitching up as tiny waves of pleasure hit him like electric pulses. Even with a hand over his mouth, his voice was too loud to stifle.

“Does it feel good? Haru…”

He was pulsating around his finger, his one, little finger. Of course it felt good, and Makoto was well aware of it. There was no way he hadn’t noticed. It was obvious he just wanted to hear him say it. But Haru wouldn’t play into the palm of his hand that easily. Sitting up, Makoto moved back up the bed. A silence fell over them as their eyes met, the rain beating harder on the roof. Yet, despite the cold air creeping in through the open door, his skin felt hotter than he could stand. He was restless and teetering on the edge, but he wanted so much to be gratified by him. Just being gratified wasn’t enough now if it wasn’t by Makoto’s hand.

“…Is it over?” he mumbled, his impatience showing.

“No.” the brunet chuckled, raising a hand to his lips. “Of course not.”

“Then, hurry up-”

His blush reached down to his neck, but it was too late to take the words back now. After making it that clear, he prayed Makoto would listen. His heart pounded slowly, heavily in his chest when Makoto rubbed against his entrance, teasing him again. He’d had enough of that, anxiously scratching at the sheets in wait. But when he entered him, what he felt wasn’t the least bit gratifying. It was a pain like no other, making him snap out of his high as he fought to bring his thighs together, only to have them pushed apart again. He’d meant to keep quiet, but his whines filled the air and he clawed at the bed, panting through the pain as he tensed around his cock.

“Haru? Are you okay?”

Blue eyes flitted up, Makoto’s cheeks flushed and his eyes glassy, though kind and concerned as they always were.

“Should I stop?”

His teeth dug into his lip as he slowly shook his head, Makoto leaning in and pressing a kiss to his cheek. Blue eyes squeezed shut when he gave a slow thrust, any pleasure he felt drowned out by the pain. With one hand clutching the sheet, he brought an arm around Makoto’s shoulder, his fingertips ghosting over the ends of his hair, so feathery and soft that simply toying with it distracted him from the pain. With every thrust, the dull throbbing slowly turned to a pulsating pleasure, a groan rasping from his throat as his heels dug into the arch of Makoto’s back. His fingers trembled as the pleasure swelled, Makoto lifting his hips off the bed as he thrust faster. A shudder ran through him, and he arched his back, his hips rolling and his breathing ragged.

“Haru…” his breath tickled his ear, blue eyes narrow and looking up at the ceiling through a tangle of dark lashes. “You’re amazing…”

His heart skipped at the whisper his name. He wanted to hear him say it again.

“Haru, tell me when you’re coming… okay?”

Nuzzling against his hair, Haru decided then and there that he would not do anything so crude.

He’s getting carried away.

But his resolve began to waver when Makoto fondled him again. His knees quivered, his hair clung to his cheeks, his jaw slacked, and he could do nothing to stop the moans eluding him.

“I’m… co… com-”

His nails dug into Makoto’s back, scratching at the fair skin.

“Mako… to…”

A raspy moan tore from his chest and he lulled his head back, his hips bucking as his body moved on its own.

“Haru-chan. You look really cute.” he cooed, stealing a kiss.

He was so ashamed of his voice. Haru, who was so very good at resisting to voice his thoughts, and saying only what needed to be said, was so needlessly loud when Makoto touched him. He couldn’t understand himself. He couldn’t stand himself.

Lowering him back down onto the bed, Makoto pulled out. Haru felt a warm drop trickle down his skin, and he propped himself up on his elbows, huffing words between his pants.

“You…? Came inside me…?!”

Makoto shrank back, appearing just like a puppy afraid he was about to be punished.

“Sorry… I’m so sorry-”

Falling back on the bed, Haru stared up at the ceiling.

“…Whatever. It’s not a big deal.”

Well, it was until he made that face.

 

 



The heavy rainfall had yet to stop. They were lying face to face on the bed, the dust from the old sheet clinging to their skin. Makoto was visibly nervous under Haru’s stare, but even knowing that, Haru couldn’t stop looking. He was looking for something, whatever thing it was that had prodded him to do something he would never otherwise have done. But no matter how hard he looked, he couldn’t find it. He saw kind eyes, a button nose, supple lips, and wispy, umber hair. So where was it? His stare intensified, and Makoto finally cracked from the anxiety, burying his face in the sheet and letting out a feeble whine.

As it were, their clothes had all been tossed on the floor. If they were any kind of smart, they would’ve hung them up to dry. But now, they were in a sopping heap on the floor, soaking in a thin puddle of rainwater, likely cold to boot and uncomfortable to wear. And as he sank down from the high, his skin pickled from the cold again. Sitting up, he crawled to the edge of the bed to fetch his clothes. But as soon as he tried to stand, a dull ache in his back made him shrink back down on the bed.

“Haru? What’s wrong?”

 

 


Makoto’s hands were hooked under Haru’s knees, Haru’s arms wrapped around his shoulders as he piggybacked him down the dirt trail leading home. The rain had lightened up, but under the weight of the two of them, Makoto walked significantly slower. By the time they reached the house, they were dripping wet and soaked to the bone. As he carried him inside, Ren and Ran, who’d been seated at the table, came running to the entrance way at the sound of the door closing.

“Nii-chan, what happened?”

“Haru-nii-chan, what’s wrong?”

Their chorus of questions prompted Makoto’s father to come to the door, though Sousuke remained seated at the table. Somehow, Haru felt awfully unnerved under their stares, but only because of what they’d done, and what they were about to do.

“Haru hurt his ankle running in the rain.” Makoto explained, lying through his teeth.

“Is it broken?” Ren asked, worriedly.

Haru looked to the side, avoiding their eyes.

“No.”

“It’s fine.” Makoto assured them. “It’s nothing serious.”

He said it so naturally, even Haru was inclined to believe him. Tachibana Makoto was a surprisingly good liar when he wanted to be, Haru thought.

After reassuring them again and again that he was perfectly alright, Makoto carried him up the stairs and into his room. He sat on the edge of the bed to help Haru down, but to his surprise, Haru’s legs remained wrapped around his waist, his fingers laced over his chest and his face buried in his damp shirt. He was clinging to him with astounding resolve.

“Haru-chan. You’re being cute again.” he cooed.

When Haru spoke, his voice came out a mumble, his lips pressed to the curve in Makoto’s back.

“…Stop adding chan to my name.”

 



In keeping with their grandiose lie, Haru lay flat on his back in bed, his ankle elevated by a throw pillow as he stared up at the ceiling. His wet clothes were hung in the closet to dry, and he was once again wearing the blue shirt he’d so neatly folded and returned once. A light knock came on the door, followed by a string of mumbles and whispers, before the door creaked open and Ren and Ran poked inside.

“Haru-nii-chan… Does it hurt?”

He sat himself up and cast a glance at his injured ankle.

“No.”

They huddled at the edge of his bed, their hands clutching the ends of his blanket.

“Hey, you know, that thing you made for lunch-” Ren began.

“-It was delicious!” Ran beamed, finishing his thought.

“Can you make it again tomorrow?” Ren pleaded, his pout reminiscent of Makoto’s. It seemed they were the same breed of puppy.

“…I can make something else.”

Their faces lit up at the revelation. Apparently, the twins had assumed rice and pork cutlets were the only dish Haru was capable of making.

 

 



With a bit of difficulty, Haru dragged himself to the shower before he slept that night. As he stood under the shower head, the hot water rekindled every ache in his body. His hands came to rest on his sides, and he was reminded of Makoto’s touch. He shivered a bit at the memory, and crouched down in the shower, waiting for the sensation on his skin to fade.

Dizzy from the steam, he climbed into bed. A knock came on his door, and he glanced over his shoulder to see Makoto standing in the doorway. His expression was a bit serious, more so than usual. But it quickly turned to a soft smile.

“Already going to bed?”

“Yeah.”

“Another time, then. Goodnight.”

Another time what? Haru wondered, watching the door close.

Beat as he was when he huddled under the covers that night, he fell asleep as quickly as he closed his eyes.

It wasn’t until three in the morning that his eyes cracked open, and he pushed the covers down, his hair and his clothes damp with sweat. It took all but ten seconds before the change in temperature made him shiver, and he yanked the blanket back up over his head, his teeth chattering as he tried to fall back asleep.

When he woke up that morning, he could see from the clock on the wall that he’d overslept. That said, every inch of his skin, every muscle, and every bone in his body ached. His chest felt painfully tight, and his head throbbed no matter how he tried to rest his eyes.

Around eight o'clock, Makoto came to his room to see what was the matter.

“Haru? Are you still sleeping?”

Blue eyes flickered in his direction, then back up to the ceiling. He would’ve tried to speak, but even doing that much was a needless pain. A cool hand came to rest on his cheek, like sweet relief.

“Y-your temperature’s amazingly high…” Makoto stammered.

That didn’t come as a surprise. But at the same time, Haru felt a bit pathetic being the only one who caught a cold from being in the rain. His dry lips parted, and he managed to cough up a single word.

“Ya…mazaki…”

“Eh? Sousuke? He’s fine.”

Damn it.

He shouldn’t have asked. Asking had only rubbed salt in the wound. As he brooded in his silence, Makoto fussed over his blanket, straightening the creases and evening the sheets out. He brushed Haru’s hair aside and touched the back of his hand to his forehead, before bringing his hand back to his side. He was dressed for work, but it seemed there was now a change in plans.

“Haru, take it easy today, okay? I’ll bring breakfast up. Try to sleep if you can.”

His instructions were heard but left unanswered as he started for the door, closing it, but not clicking it shut. After watching him leave, Haru closed his eyes again and turned onto his side. Makoto was right, it would be best if he could sleep. But with the agony he felt in that moment, he’d have better luck falling asleep on a bed of needles. Instead, he rested his eyes until Makoto returned with a bowl of rice porridge. Sitting up was a struggle in itself, and he felt his pride take a hit when he finally managed to sit up, only to realise it was thanks to Makoto’s hand supporting the back of his head. Haru detested being helpless, even more than he hated being a burden on others, or a reason for concern.

He ate his breakfast slowly, so slowly it was a bit cold by the time he’d finished. And when he rested his head on the pillow again, Makoto returned to his room with a damp towel, draping it over his forehead and checking his temperature once more.

“Still hot…” he murmured. “I’ll come back.”

Don’t… Haru brooded. He’d rather be left alone to recover by himself. He couldn’t stand that he’d put a stopper in Makoto’s plans by catching a cold. He couldn’t stand that Makoto was stuck at home, taking care of him while Sousuke was in the field with…

Why…? Am I thinking about this? Haru asked himself. And he couldn’t find an answer.

Miserable, and still unable to sleep, Haru wasn’t exactly unhappy to see Ren and Ran pop in the doorway, Ren holding a cookie, Ran holding a glass of milk. They set them down on the windowsill as they came around to his bed, their small hands balled into even smaller fists as they looked up at him with fighting spirit in their eyes.

“Feel better, Haru-nii-chan!”

Oddly enough, their visit did lift his spirits a little, and he was finally able to sleep, only waking for a matter of seconds when Makoto dropped in to switch out his towel. At some point, his eyes opened in the shade of the setting sun, to find Makoto’s father standing above his bed, checking his temperature. But he quickly drifted back to sleep, snoozing straight through dinner.

 

 



When he woke up the next morning, his shivers had ceased. Though he still ached, and he was weak with fatigue, he was at the very least able to drag himself into a sitting position. As if he’d been waiting for him to wake, Makoto poked his head in the doorway, and stepped inside.

“Haru, how are you feeling today?” he asked, hopefully, his brows turned up in concern.

“…Better.”

At that, he sighed in relief.

“That’s good. Wait here. I’ll bring your breakfast.”

While he ate his rice porridge, Makoto sat in his desk chair, his eyes skimming the room. Perhaps, he was surprised that Haru hadn’t unpacked much, or made any changes to make himself more comfortable. At the sound of raspy mewl, they glanced at the door, Haru doubting whether he was really awake when he saw the black cat from the field saunter into his room. He looked to Makoto, who gave a guilty laugh as he lifted the cat and cradled it to his chest.

“The weather was really bad, so…”

He didn’t need to hear the rest. Makoto was as soft as they came. As the cat leered at his rice porridge, Haru lifted the bowl a little higher, making it clear that he wasn’t about to share the breakfast Makoto had specially prepared for him, no matter how woefully it mewled.

Bored of his bed and his window, Haru wrapped his blanket around himself and waddled to Makoto’s room, where they killed a few hours playing games. Haru had very insistently demanded to play the game Makoto couldn’t win, determined to help him to victory. At some point, the controller had slipped from his hands, and his head dropped on Makoto’s shoulder as fatigue caught up to him, and he dozed off.

He woke up that night in his own bed, the stars twinkling above him through a gap in the storm clouds. He could hear people murmuring softly downstairs, and his heavy lids fell again, sleep overtaking him.

 

 



The next morning, he woke up feeling like himself again. He showered and changed into a clean set of clothes, then made his bed and made his way downstairs for breakfast. However, he paused in his step when he saw only Ren and Ran seated at the table, munching on cookies and cakes.

“Where’s Makoto…?”

“Nii-chan’s still in his room.” Ran said.

Already suspicious, Haru marched back up the stairs and pushed open the door to Makoto’s room. As expected, he saw him huddled beneath the covers, his cheeks flushed as he shivered.

“Haru….” he rasped. “Are you feeling better?”

His lips sunk into frown, blue eyes half-lidded and unamused.

“Thanks to you.” he muttered.

“That’s a relief….”

“It’s not a relief.”

Idiot. Stop worrying about me. Worry about yourself.

Though he’d only thought the words, Makoto seemed to pick up on his irritation. He opened his mouth to apologise, but Haru wasn’t having it. He’d return this idiot’s favour in full.

“Wait here. I’ll bring your breakfast.”

Chapter Five: Haru Nii-chan

When he washed his hands in the kitchen sink that morning, he noticed for the first time that his palms had grown calloused. Blisters had formed under his joints, some had already popped and stung under the soap and water. Farm work was changing him, little by little. He set to work cooking a pot of rice porridge for Makoto, that he would later reheat for his lunch. Ren and Ran sat patiently at the table while he prepared Makoto’s breakfast and scooped it into a bowl.

“I’ll be back to make breakfast.” he said as he passed the table on his way to the stairs. “You should think about what you like.”

Their eyes lit up, and they quietly conferred in their seats while Haru carried the bowl up the stairs. He gave a knock on the door, hearing a quiet moan in reply from the other side, and opened the door to find Makoto still curled up under the blanket. He set his breakfast down on the windowsill, and gently pulled the covers down to check his fever.

Well, he was hot. Too hot. That was Haru’s verdict, seeing as he didn’t have a thermometer.

“How do you feel?”

“I’m okay…”

Tachibana Makoto was lying badly again. Sighing, Haru took a seat in his chair, resting his elbow on the desk.

“Eat before it gets cold.”

“Mm. Thanks, Haru.”

 

 

When he returned to the kitchen, rain was tapping against the window again, the overcast sky growing dimmer by the minute. He wondered when the storm clouds would finally clear; it felt as if they’d overstayed their welcome.

“Have you thought about what you like?” he called back.

The twins skittered into the kitchen and clustered around him, setting their hands down on the counter.

 “Anmitsu!” they chorused, decidedly.

“That’s not breakfast, is it…” Haru mused. Apparently, the twins thought they could get away with anything if Haru was in charge. And to be fair, they could. He had no serious objection to making dessert for breakfast, but not feeding them responsibly would upset Makoto. Sighing, he reached into the cupboard for a mixing bowl. “Fine. But eat something else while you’re waiting.”

They cheered as they skipped to the pantry and poured themselves two bowls of sugary breakfast cereal and milk. Somehow, Haru felt like they’d betrayed his trust. But, to be fair, they did eat something else, so he couldn’t exactly complain. While the twins sat at the table, arguing over who could eat the slowest, Haru tried to recall the recipe. He’d made anmitsu once before, but just once was enough to remember.

As he prepared the dessert, the twins would occasionally poke their heads in the doorway in anticipation. Sometimes they would saunter up to the counter and watch his hands work, but they were careful not to touch.

“Is it ready?”

“No. It’ll take some time.”

The first time he’d answered that question, it came from Ran. This time, he heard it from Ren. If they grew too bored while they waited, they might become a bit of a nuisance.

“Can you ask Makoto if wants any?”

“I’ll ask!” Ran chirped, raising her hand.

“I’ll come with you!” Ren whined, running after her. “Wait for me!”

Their footsteps disappeared up the stairs, and Haru was left in silence again. This was how he preferred to cook, after all.

When the dessert was finally ready, he prepared two bowls for Ren and Ran, setting aside two more for Makoto and himself. What was left of it went in the refrigerator, and he served the twins first before he started up the stairs to Makoto’s room. He knocked on the door again before he entered, Makoto already sitting up when he came in.

“Sorry about this…” he murmured when Haru handed him his bowl and spoon. “You went through all this trouble for them-”

“It’s fine. They already ate breakfast.”

That seemed to put Makoto’s mind at ease, and a faint smile surfaced.

Tachibana Makoto cared very much for his siblings, Haru could say that much with certainty. Haru wasn’t quite in the mood for sweets so early in the morning, but seeing Makoto eat, he was curious enough to have a taste for himself.

“Delicious!” Makoto gushed, his eyes brimming with admiration as he turned to Haru.

“Oh? Good.”

He was satisfied to know that he liked it, but he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he’d forgotten one thing in the recipe. It was too late to dwell on that now. And it tasted alright, regardless.

“Um, Haru…”

Blue eyes flickered up from his bowl.

“Sorry to ask this of you, but could you sit with Ren and Ran instead?”

Huh?

“I don’t want them to be alone for too long…”

If he hadn’t known Makoto, he would’ve thought in that moment that the Tachibana twins were troublemakers who couldn’t be trusted alone. But knowing Makoto, that wasn’t the case at all.

“…Okay. Tell me if you need anything.” he said, standing up from his chair.

“Thanks.”

When he came downstairs, he found Ren and Ran still seated at the table, their bowls empty and pushed aside, pencils in hand while they doodled in their notebooks. So focused and quiet, they were the furthest thing from troublemakers, Haru thought. And as much as Makoto worried for them, they were likely much stronger than he thought.

“Ran, can you draw a bird here…” Ren asked, pointing to a blank space beside the sun in his picture.

“Give it here.”

She took his notebook and began sketching, only to have Ren wail in protest and snatch it away from her.

“That bird is ugly…” he mumbled, Ran looking terribly offended as he grabbed for his eraser and undid everything she’d done for him.

When Haru took his seat at the table, Ren looked up from his drawing.

“Haru-nii-chan, can you draw birds?”

“Maybe.”

“Can you draw one here?” he asked, hopefully, sliding his notebook and pencil across the table to Haru.

It took all but a minute for Haru to draw a detailed, anatomically-accurate, and stunningly out of place seagull next to Ren’s sun. His realistic style wasn’t quite fitting of Ren’s simple line art. Regardless, Ren gaped at the bird, standing up from his chair and leaning over the table to get a closer look as Haru added the finishing touches.

“Amazing! Haru-nii-chan’s amazing!”

“Let me see…” Ran muttered, setting her pencil down and leaning over the table. “Eh?! That’s amazing!”

“I said so!”

“Haru-nii-chan, can you draw me a bird, too?!”

“Sure.”

After drawing a bird in Ran’s picture, Haru slid their notebooks back to them, the twins sitting back down as they admired the additions to their pictures. Tearing a clean page from her notebook, Ran reached into her backpack and handed Haru a pen.

“Here. You draw, too.”

That was all well and fine, but as soon as Haru put his pen to paper, the twins ceased to draw at all, and spent the next ten minutes marveling at how he drew a mountain and a field of flowers.

“Is that our town?”

“…I guess.”

Actually, now that he looked at, it did look very much like this town. He hadn’t given much thought to what he would draw before he started drawing. He’d simply allowed his hand to move freely.

“You keep it.” Haru said, handing them the drawing as he put down his pen.

“Is that okay?!”

“Yeah.”

 

 

After eating lunch, Ren and Ran had insisted on bringing Makoto his lunch themselves. Seeing as Ran quickly snatched up the bowl, Ren was left trailing after her, carrying the spoon. Filling a glass with water, Haru followed after them.

“Lunch is here!” Ran announced, cautiously carrying it to Makoto’s bedside.

He sat up, smiling though the pain and gratefully accepting it.

“Thank you, Ran.”

“Spoon is here.” Ren added, a bit modestly. But it earned him another 'thank you’ nonetheless.

While Makoto ate, Ran showed off Haru’s drawing. Makoto was just as impressed as the twins had been.

“Haru, this is amazing…!”

“Not really.”

“No, no, it’s really amazing! Look at this detail…”

Being praised this much was a bit disorienting; he wasn’t used to people admiring him this much outside the water. As Makoto ate, and the twins talked, Haru thought to himself that Makoto seemed to perk up around his siblings. Then again, the visit they’d paid Haru when he felt ill had also helped him recover.

“Hot.”

That was Ran’s verdict as well after checking Makoto’s temperature.

“Let me feel.” Ren piped up. “Nii-chan, you’re too hot…”

“I’m okay.” he smiled.

“Really?”

“Mm!”

There he went again, lying so convincingly Haru caught himself falling in the trap. 

When he’d finished his lunch, they left him to rest. Haru set about washing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen, while Ren and Ran diverted their attention to the television in the living room. When he’d finished, he brought his book down from his room, and seated himself on the couch behind the twins. The rain was beating down again, so much that the sound would occasionally disappear from the television, and the screen would flicker.

 

 

That night, a thunderclap above the house shook the floor. As Haru laid in bed, he heard footsteps coming down the hall and stopping outside his door. The hinges squeaked as it opened, and he saw Ren and Ran standing in the doorway, dressed in their pajamas and clutching their pillows.

“What is it?” he asked, sitting up in bed.

The twins skittered to his bedside, Ren surveying the room as Ran looked up him with pleading eyes. She was a different kind of puppy than Ren and Makoto, but still very much a puppy.

“Um, Haru-nii-chan, can we sleep here?”

“…Why?”

“Why not?” Ran whined, running in place. “Nii-chan lets us sleep in his bed…”

Another clap of thunder made them flinch and huddle together, answering Haru’s question.

“Nii-chan babies you too much.” he sighed.

“So can we?” Ren pouted.

“No.”

“Please?!”

“Please!”

“No.”

With that, he laid down again. But despite his utter refusal, the twins crawled into his bed, making room for themselves on either of him as he they huddled closer. Their pillows were crowding his bed, and being surrounded by children was awfully warm, uncomfortably so.

“Weren’t you listening?” he muttered. But they linked arms with him, ignoring his every word. At this point, he was certain nothing he said would drive them away. Even trying to scare them would probably make them cling tighter.

Though the twins fell asleep within minutes, Haru remained awake, listening to the rain.

In the end, he didn’t sleep much that night.

 

 

He woke up that morning with the twins piled on top of him. They were restless sleepers through and through. If that was a trait Makoto had also inherited, he couldn’t imagine what it was like when the three of them slept in one bed. His mind wandered in that direction anyway, and as he contemplated the positions the Tachibana siblings might’ve woken up in, they grew more and more abstract, until their sleeping positions seemed somewhat like an art. He’d thought too much about it.

Makoto joined them at the breakfast table, his fever gone and his eyes bright again. He was dressed for work, but his father had warned Haru not to let him out of the house. He was to make sure Makoto rested today. That wasn’t a responsibility Haru wanted, but since it was now his responsibility, he’d see it through.

“Nii-chan, are you feeling better?”

“Mm.” he hummed, showing Ran a smile. “Thanks to Haru.”

“I should be saying that.” Haru sighed. After all, he was the one who passed his cold on to Makoto. He didn’t feel like being thanked for returning the favour.

“Should we get going?”

Makoto stood up from the table, and felt a hand curl into the back of his shirt, holding him in place.

“You’re not going anywhere.” Haru said.

“…Eh? What do you mean?”

“Your dad asked me to babysit today.” blue eyes shot him a stern glance that made him shrink back down in his chair. “Go to bed.”

“A-ah… Okay…”

 

 

After sending Makoto back to his room, Haru cleared the table and washed the dishes. Ren and Ran came into the kitchen, tugging on his sleeves to get his attention.

“Haru-nii-chan, we’re going to our friend’s house.”

“Is that okay?” Ren piped up. Unlike Ran, he didn’t have the guts to pull the wool over Haru’s eyes and leave without asking permission.

“…Ask Makoto.”

They hurried out of the kitchen and up the stairs. He could hear murmuring above him, before their feet trampled down the hall, Makoto shouting something back to them like a worried mother as they came back downstairs.

“He said it’s okay!”

“Alright.”

When he heard them putting on their shoes, he peered into the hallway.

“Oi. Don’t you have jackets?”

Though it wasn’t raining at the moment, the clouds were dark enough that it could start again any minute. After fetching their jackets, they returned to the entrance way and laced their shoes again.

“You don’t need lunch?”

“No. We’ll eat there.”

He watched them zip up their jackets and open the door, waiting until it clicked shut to return to the kitchen. As soon as they’d left, the house fell silent. Ren and Ran were so lively the house felt a bit strange without them. When all was done in the kitchen, he headed up to Makoto’s room. He opened the door, and the brunet was sitting on the floor by the television, his controller in hand as he shot down enemy planes.

“You…” Haru huffed.

Jade eyes cast him a sideways glance, and he paused the game.

“Go to bed.”

His shoulders sunk, and the puppy face made its grand comeback.

“It’s boring in bed-”

“I promised you’d stay in bed.”

“Haruuu…” his whine was so child-like, Haru didn’t feel like he was speaking to Makoto. He was speaking to the third Tachibana triplet.

Sighing, he knelt down, Makoto watching him curiously as he reached for the game console, and thoughtlessly unplugged it.

“Ah-! What did you do?!”

“Go to bed.” he frowned, stern in both his speech and his actions.

“I got it, I got it…” he mumbled, dragging himself to bed and flopping down on the pillow.

 Haru took a seat at his desk again, the room quiet and dark. Makoto was right. It was awfully boring like this. Their eyes suddenly met in the silence.

 "Ren and Ran… Did they already leave?“

”…Yeah.“

 

Makoto sat up on the edge of his bed, while Haru sat between his knees on the floor, a slender hand resting on his thigh as the other unbuttoned his trousers and tugged down his briefs.

"Haru… What are you doing-”

“Shut up.”

He wouldn’t listen to any complaints. He intended to pay Makoto back in full for all the teasing he’d suffered in the annex. In the corner of his eye, he saw Makoto’s knee twitch when his fingers wrapped around his cock, and he gave him an agonizingly slow stroke. Blue eyes flitted up to catch his reaction, Makoto biting his lip as he watched his hand move. His leg shuffled a bit on the floor, Haru using his free hand to hold him still.

“You’re still sick, you know. You shouldn’t move too much.”

He lowered his head to hide the smirk tugging at his lips. That was what he’d said. But he wouldn’t be satisfied if Makoto wasn’t writhing with impatience by the time he gratified him. Leaning in, he licked his lips, and pressed a wet kiss to the tip, hearing a strangled whine. He lolled his tongue over the same spot, before he closed his lips around the head, giving an unsatisfying soft suck. He heard a huff as Makoto’s breathing grew ragged and unsteady, and he circled his tongue as he took him in his mouth. He didn’t have to do much to drive him up the wall. Makoto’s cheeks were already flushed, and a hand covered his mouth to stifle his voice.

That won’t help you… Haru thought, his cheeks hollowing as he touched the tip to the inside of his cheek, and gave another suck. A gasp reached his ears, and he moved his hand again, pumping him a little faster. A few drops dribbled onto his tongue, and he pulled away, sensing how close he was. And for that reason, Haru’s hand ceased to move, and he sat quietly, looking up at Makoto’s face, watching his lips tremble as one hand rested on the bed to hold him upright, and the other clutched at his shirt.

“H-haru…?”

He looked anxious. Haru could bet he was thinking something along the lines of, he can’t be finished yet, can he?

“What?” Haru’s tone was casual, too casual.

“E-eh? A-are you… already done?”

“My neck was a little tired.” Haru sighed. “Why? Did you want more?”

His question was cruel, but he asked with the intention of cornering him. He would corner him and make him beg for more, and do it all nonchalantly. Haru brushed his thumb over the tip, making him twitch as his jade eyes flitted down. Makoto’s blush reached the tip of his ears, and he was awfully sheepish when he spoke.

“I… w-want more…” he breathed, his lashes fluttering up to watch Haru’s hand move.

“You should have said so.”

“Ah-”

His breath hitched when the warmth of Haru’s mouth swallowed him again, and he rested a quivering hand on his head. Thin, silvery threads strung from his mouth when he pulled away, his lips dark and wet with saliva. A moan trickled out, and he grabbed at the ends of Haru’s hair, watching his tongue roll up the underside of his cock. Blue eyes flickered up, fixed on his face.

“Tell me when you’re coming.” he murmured, his warm breath making him twitch again in his hand.

“I’m… coming…”

“Already?”

“Ahh… Shut up, Haru…” he whined, breathless, and already embarrassed enough as it was. “Ah… Hah-!”

 

 

Raindrops tapped on the glass as Makoto laid flat on his stomach, his head buried in the pillow, and Haru sat at the foot of the bed, his arm resting on the windowsill. His eyes followed the drops as they slid down the glass and joined the puddle. It was quiet again, and still, until Makoto shifted on the pillow, and sat up.

“Haru.”

He listened, but he didn’t turn around.

“Do you…” he hesitated, likely rewording the question in his head, though it came out quite bluntly. “Do you like me?”

The question didn’t catch him off guard. It was only matter of time before he asked. But the truth was, Haru hadn’t thought much about it. He didn’t give these trifling matters his consideration. But if he was forced to think about it…

“I like you.” Makoto confessed, filling the silence.

Well, if Makoto had already said it, there was no reason not to.

“Yeah.”

Rain drummed on the windowsill, as if in place of his heart. Because he felt no different after saying it. It was out there now, but nothing had changed.

Perhaps, it had been out there all along.

Chapter Six: Don’t Insult the Water

After five days of stormy weather, Haru woke up to a clear sky, a lone white cloud floating past his window as birds sang. It had been one day short of two weeks since he arrived. He couldn’t say the time flew by, but it hadn’t passed as slowly as he thought it would when he first stepped off the bus. Yawning, he climbed out of bed, his borrowed, blue shirt sliding off his shoulder as he grabbed his clothes off the chair. On the one hand, he was happy to see the blue sky again, but on the other hand, he was sure he’d be sweat-soaked again by the time he trudged home from the fields.

When he joined Makoto and the twins at the breakfast table, Ren sat up in his chair.

“Hey, hey, can Haru-nii-chan come, too?”

“Eh?” Makoto looked up from his scrambled eggs. “Haru’s here for school, Ren.”

“So?” he whined, his hands gripping the edge of the table. “It’s just one day.”

Blue eyes flickered up from his plate, and he met Makoto’s gaze for a split second, before he looked back at Ren.

“We’ll talk about this later, okay? Ren?”

He lowered himself back into his chair with a pout, hazel eyes turning to Haru instead, as if asking him. But Haru had no idea what he was asking him about.

The sun was as hot as ever when they stepped outside, and the humidity left behind by the storm was suffocating, to say the least. They started down the trail to the shed, as they always did, and headed out to the fields. When he set to work again, his arms felt weak, and his legs felt too light to carry him. Perhaps he was still a bit weak from the cold, in which case, he wondered how Makoto was faring, seeing as he’d been running a fever until yesterday. He watched him in the corner of his eye, thinking to himself that he seemed more tired than usual.

 

 

When they sat down for lunch, Makoto poked at his foodan awful lot with his chopsticks, but he didn’t eat much at all. He took tiny bites, and chewed longer than he needed to, listlessly staring at his food. Perhaps, it was still too soon for Makoto to return to work.

“Oi.”

His call went unnoticed, Makoto shoveling his food around his bento box, before he snapped to attention and looked up.

“Are you really okay? Does it still hurt somewhere?”

He was expressionless at first, being that it was the first time Haru had ever showed so much concern for him. But a smile soon returned to his face, and he gave a nod.

“I’m okay. Thanks, Haru.”

They ate in silence again, or rather, Haru ate, while Makoto nibbled at his rice grain by grain. If he wasn’t okay, he should have just said so. But Haru wasn’t going to pry the words out of him if he didn’t want to say it. He thought back to the conversation Ren and Makoto were having during breakfast, and he wondered if Makoto would lie about that, too.

“What was Ren asking about this morning?”

“Eh? Ah… That was…” jade eyes glanced to the side, and he scratched his cheek. “Well, it was nothing important…”

When Haru sighed, Makoto noticed his frustration, and he finally answered.

“We go camping in the woods by our farm every year. Ren and Ran are really fond of you… So they asked if you could come.”

Haru lowered his chopsticks, listening quietly as he spoke.

“I told them you’re here on an assignment, but they still think of you as a friend who came to play.” he smiled, an empty smile, and Haru could guess what he was thinking at that very moment.

“How long is the trip?”

“Eh? It’s one day, but-”

“That’s not really a problem, is it?” Haru muttered, looking away to avoid his gaze.

He didn’t especially like camping. But he didn’t especially like rice farming either. And if he had to choose between camping with the Tachibanas or working under Sousuke’s ruthless instruction, he’d choose the former, without hesitation.

“Are you sure?” Makoto asked, though not really in protest.

“Yeah.”

Maybe the twins weren’t the only ones who wanted Haru to tag along, because Makoto seemed more cheerful after the conversation, and he finally took a proper bite of his lunch.

 

 

Just as he suspected, they trudged back to the house damp with sweat. He squinted in the glint of the sun as it sank behind the mountain, walking back in Makoto’s shadow. They shook off their boots and took turns showering, then dressed for dinner. Makoto had been planning to cook, since he’d recovered from his cold. But the twins had insisted to let Haru cook, which didn’t seem to surprise Makoto at all.

“Haru-nii-chan, can you make cheesecake?”

“That’s not dinner.” Makoto protested, herding them out of the kitchen.

“It’s fine.” he drawled, setting a pot to boil over the stove. “I can make it for dessert.”

At that, even Makoto looked up at him with bright eyes.

“Really?!” the three of them chorused.

The Tachibana family didn’t have twins, it had triplets. Haru had long since realised this.

It seemed no matter what he cooked, the Tachibanas praised him, revering his food. Perhaps it was the even distribution of salt that captured their hearts. But he didn’t exactly feel that was worthy of praise. He set down on the table a pot of rice and a pan of grilled beef, having thrown together what he could dig out of the refrigerator. By the time they stood up to clear the table, all but a bit of rice left in the pot had been gobbled up.

“Ah. Haru, I’ll do the dishes.” Makoto said when he saw Haru standing over the sink.

“It’s fine. I just need this for the cheesecake.”

Jade eyes blinked at him in surprise, having forgotten about their prior conversation.

“Eh? Y-you’re really making a cheesecake? You don’t have to do that, Haru-”

Or so he said. But in truth, Haru felt indebted to him for taking time out of work to care for him when he was ill. The guilt was rooted even deeper when he thought about how Makoto had caught his cold as a result.

“I’ll need an hour.”

Or so he said. But the time it took find replacements for the ingredients he didn’t have, and the time he spent baking it in the dim, little oven, took about two hours in total. Makoto had offered to help again and again, though Haru had repeatedly turned him down. The twins had offered to help once, and Haru had begged them not to. In the end, he always preferred to work alone. Help was only a nice sentiment.

The Tachibana triplets, as he referred to them now in his head, marveled at the raspberry topped cheesecake that he set down on the table. As Makoto passed out plates and forks, Haru cut the impatient twins two slices, then cut another slice for Makoto and the last for himself.

“Ah, that’s right. Haru said he’ll come camping with us.” Makoto piped when everyone was digging into the cake.

“Eh?! Really?!”

As Ren cheered, Ran stabbed her fork into his cake and broke off the crustiest chunk, dropping it on her plate.

“That’s mine!”

“It’s mine now.”

“You stole it!”

“Don’t fight…!” Makoto sighed. “There’s more cake right here.”

At least this once, Makoto didn’t have to sacrifice his own food to make peace between the twins.

“When’s the trip?” Haru asked.

“We’ll pack tonight and leave in the morning. Ren, Ran, get a good night’s sleep, okay? We’re waking up early.”

 

 

Packing was as easy for Haru as zipping up his duffel bag. Makoto had finished within twenty minutes, digging a backpack out from his closet and packing a light change of clothes along with his toiletries. The rest of the empty space in his bag was filled by a first-aid kit and other just-in-case items. He rounded up the camping gear and piled food in a small ice-box. The real problem was the twins.

“You won’t need any video games.” Makoto scolded them, unpacking everything they’d packed and starting again from the bottom up.

“We’re not babies anymore, nii-chan.” Ran frowned, folding her arms over her chest.

“That’s exactly why you should pack more responsibly.”

“We need them!” she insisted, standing firm.

Their eyes met in a momentary power struggle, the air tense as Ren and Haru waited to see who would emerge the victor. With a sigh, Makoto admitted defeat, Ran still standing firm as she waited for him to repack her video games.

 

 

At the crack of dawn, Haru woke up to his alarm. He heard Makoto’s alarm buzzing in the next room, and he sat up, rubbing his eyes. He folded Makoto’s shirt and left it the bed, changing into black trousers and a grey t-shirt as he packed his pajama bottoms in his duffel bag. Thinking they might need it, he dropped the alarm clock in his bag as well, and zipped it up. As he hiked the strap up his shoulder, he heard Makoto calling for Ren and Ran, yet to hear a reply. He poked his head in the hallway, to see Makoto opening the door of their room, and hanging his head with an exasperated sigh.

“I told you not to stay up late…” he grumbled, dropping his backpack in the doorway and stepping into their room. 

Curious, Haru followed him inside, to find Ren and Ran still fast asleep with their blankets crumpled at their feet. Even the beaming sunlight couldn’t pry open their sleepy eyes. Lifting Ran out of bed, Makoto rested her head on his shoulder as he knelt down by Ren’s bedside, trying to shake him awake, to no avail. He glanced back at Haru who stood in the doorway.

“Ah. Good morning, Haru.”

“Good morning.”

“Sorry, could you get my bag?”

Was this stupid brother intending to carry both twins in his arms?

“No, you take it. I’ll get Ren out of bed.”

“Eh? Okay. Thanks.”

As Makoto picked up his backpack in the doorway and carried Ran downstairs, Haru crouched by Ren’s bedside.

“Oi. Ren. Wake up.”

He placed a hand on his shoulder, gently shaking him, but yet to succeed in waking him.

“Oiiii.”

Could it be that he was already awake, but simply refused to act like it? If that was the case, Ran might well have been the same. But considering how much Makoto coddled them, this sort of behaviour didn’t surprise him. Sighing, he dropped his bag on the floor and lifted Ren into his arms, holding him up with one arm and carrying the twins’ bags on the other. He was awfully heavy. Considering how thin he was, Haru almost expected him to be light as a feather. He met them in the entrance way, Makoto thanking him for remember their bag as he helped Ran into her shoes.

They piled their bags and camping gear in the trunk of the dusty Mazda, and seated the drowsy twins in the backseat. Makoto was so quick to buckle their seat belts, Haru wondered why he didn’t take the same care with himself.

“Did we forget anything…?” Makoto wondered aloud as Haru shut the passenger door.

Haru glanced back at the twins, then counted how many bags he remembered placing in the trunk.

“No.”

 

 

The drive was a short one, though it was long enough for the twins to wake. Acres and acres of paddy fields flashed by the window, Haru subtly keeping an eye out for Makoto’s father and Sousuke, though he couldn’t spot them by the time they’d passed the farm. The woods Makoto spoke of were specified camp grounds, judging from the sign at the entrance of the gravel parking space.

“Ren, Ran. We’re here.” 

At that, they finally perked up, scrambling to undo their seat belts and open their doors. They hopped out of the car first, skipping over to the trail leading into the woods.

“Wait a minute.” Makoto called back, opening the trunk of the car. “Don’t wander off alone.”

“We’re not.”

When they joined them on the trail, Makoto took the lead. Haru stayed in the back, keeping an eye on the twins for him. The forest was a pale, luminescent green in the sunlight, likely greener still after the rain. Tiny flowers of every colour sprinkled the forest floor, extending onto the trail, where Haru was careful not to step on them. Unsurprisingly, the shade of the forest was much cooler than the farm, though the humidity was still as hellish as ever. They reached a clearing curtained by red maples of all heights, some as short as the twins, others towering above them and shielding the forest from the sun. 

“This should do.” Makoto said, decidedly, setting the bags down.

Blue eyes surveyed the clearing, a bit awed by the vivid colours. He snapped to attention when he heard his name.

“Haru, can you help me with the tents?”

“Yeah.”

 

 

After setting up camp, Makoto set to work preparing breakfast. He’d packed four simple bentos the night before, as well as the remainder of Haru’s cheesecake, which stayed in the ice-box for now. As they sat down to eat, Haru could hear tiny paws skittering across the forest floor. At first, he would glance in the direction of the sound. But after hearing it enough times, it quickly became mundane.

“Can we go swimming in the lake after this?” Ran grinned.

“The lake?” Makoto echoed, his eyes flitting up in thought. “That’d be alright, I guess… But you have to wait an hour.”

“I didn’t bring a swimsuit…” Ren mumbled.

“You don’t need a suit to swim, Ren!” she frowned, like his defeatist attitude was unacceptable.

“Ehh?! …Haru-nii-chan, can you swim?”

The three of them turned to Haru, at a loss for words when they saw him sitting motionless, holding his chopsticks in midair like he’d paused mid-bite. His wide eyes looked down at the forest floor, but it felt as though he was looking at something in the distance, something they couldn’t even begin to see.

“There’s… a lake?”

“A-ah… Yeah… It’s not far…”

His heart slowed, pounding in his chest. It’d been so long since he last dove into the water, his skin ached when he remembered the feeling. Setting down his chopsticks, he looked up.

“Let’s go!”

“E-eh?! Haru, you have to wait an hour!”

“I don’t!”

“You do…!”

Haru’s urgency threw the twins into a frenzy, and they scarfed down the rest of their breakfast before they stood up. Dragged into the excitement, Makoto rushed to clean up the campsite and hurried after them. He’d never seen that side of Haru before, but it was the first time the subdued Haru he knew had ever been such a handful.

 

 

The lake was half a kilo down from the campsite, the water a glittering blue beneath the sunlight. The Tachibana children watched, speechless, as Haru stripped down to his briefs in no more than a second, before sprinting off the dock and diving head first into the water. When he emerged from the water, he glided across the surface as easily as a fish, Makoto gaping at the sight of his front crawl. He recalled Haru mentioning that he swam, or rather, that he only swam free. But he’d never imagined anyone could swim so beautifully. Awed by his stroke, the twins jumped into the water, leaving Makoto on the dock. He would’ve joined them, but for the time being, he was more content watching Haru swim across the lake. 

When Haru swam back to the dock, Makoto knelt down, holding a hand out to him.

“You’re something else in the water, Haru-chan.” he smiled.

Frowning, Haru took his hand and climbed onto the dock.

“Stop adding chan to my name.”

“Nii-chan!” Ren called from across the lake. “Won’t you swim?”

Blue eyes flickered up, catching a glimpse of Makoto’s face, before he looked down at the dock.

“Niiii-chan!”

He could only assume Makoto’s siblings hadn’t noticed it yet.

“…You’re afraid of the water, aren’t you? Makoto.”

“Eh?”

His eyes widened, watching Haru shake the water off the ends of his hair.

“Why… would you say that?”

He wasn’t about to play therapist. Stepping onto the edge of the dock, Haru folded his hands, about to dive back in when Makoto rested a hand on his shoulder. He turned to face him, wondering if he was going to defend himself or lie his way around it. But his pale eyes averted to the side, and he lowered his hand.

“It’s true. The water scares me.”

It was surprising to hear him say it outright.

“But after watching Haru swim… I thought it might not be so bad.”

“Can you swim?”

“Eh? Ah… More or less.”

Sighing, Haru turned back to the water, leaving him with two words before he slipped away.

“Then, swim.”

 

 

While Ren and Ran played on the shore, skipping rocks across the water, Makoto and Haru were shrouded behind the leaves of a maple that stretched over the lake, dipping into the surface. One chaste kiss had led to another, and before he knew what was happening, his legs were wrapped around Makoto’s waist, his arms around his neck and his fingers threaded through his hair, dark from the water and silky to the touch. His plush lips were cold and wet, his tongue like fire when it slipped in his mouth. If he teased him any more, Haru wouldn’t even try to hold to hold back.

“Nii-chan! Haru-nii-chan! Where are you?! Are you here?”

“I’m hungry!” Ran shouted after Ren.

As quickly as she said it, Makoto’s grasp on his waist slacked, Haru’s feet touching the rocks as Makoto swam out into the open. 

 

 

After dinner, they sat around the campfire. The lantern in their tents illuminated the clearing as the hoot of the owls echoed through the trees. Haru would’ve liked to return to the lake, but he was certain Makoto would put up a fight if he were to swim in the dark, especially if the twins followed Haru’s example.

“Haru-nii-chan, can you tell us a scary story?” Ran asked.

“Eh? W-what about my stories?”

“Nii-chan’s stories aren’t scary.”

Haru stifled a laugh, looking to the side before he turned back to the twins. He didn’t have a story, but he’d bet whatever story he winged would be scarier than Makoto’s.

“Yeah. I have a story.”

Wide-eyed, they huddled together, jittery with excitement.

“I heard it from the bus driver on the way here.”

Jade eyes flitted up, as if asking if he were telling the truth. But Haru avoided his gaze, leaving him to decide for himself.

“He warned me not to enter the woods. Because one time, when he camped out here, he heard a sound.”

The twins clutched at each other’s clothes, while Makoto grew more anxious by the second. But he knew just as well as Haru, that asking if it were true would ruin the story for the twins.

“He was sleeping in his tent, and he woke up to a voice. It was a woman’s voice, she was calling out to him. But he couldn’t understand what she said.”

“W-was she speaking English?” Ren stammered.

“No.” Haru sighed. “But he could hear his name. He thought it was only his imagination, so he tried to sleep. But when he couldn’t, he opened his eyes. There, in his tent, lying next to him, was a woman in a white dress.”

“Was she from the lake?!”

“No. Don’t insult the water.”

“Sorry…”

The twins had locked arms, their teeth quietly chattering from fear.

Am I pretty? She asked. He was so scared he couldn’t speak. She was beautiful, but he thought that if he said yes, he would fall in her trap. So he said no.”

“What happened…?!”

“She disappeared. These woods have claimed many people, but he escaped death. Because he knew the townspeople depended on him to drive the bus.”

“S-so, being a bus driver saved his life?”

“…Well, something like that.” Haru concluded.

“Then, what about us?!” Ren whimpered.

“I-i-it’s okay… R-r-ren…”

The three of them turned to Makoto, who sat hugging himself and shaking in fear.

“F-f-farmers are important, too…”

Seeing him so terrified was actually a little worrying.

“Oi. Makoto. It’s just a story-”

“I know…” he murmured. “I know… I know… It’s a story… It’s just a story…”

In his attempt to frighten Ren and Ran, it seemed Haru had frightened Makoto the most. Within ten minutes of telling the story, Ren and Ran had returned to their usual selves, making lively conversation while Makoto still sat with an unnervingly blank expression, flinching at every rustle in the forest.

“Nii-chan, can we go fishing in the lake another time?”

Ran’s question pulled him out of his trance, and he looked up.

“We don’t have fishing poles, but…”

“We can buy some!” Ren chirped.

“They’re expensive, you know-”

“We’ll raise the money!”

“…You don’t have to go that far.” Makoto smiled. “I’ll talk to dad about it.”

As Ren and Ran rejoiced, Haru was yet again reminded of how soft Makoto was when it came to his siblings. It took little more than a puppy-eyed plea to make him cave. 

This is stupid. Haru thought.

 

 

The twins were asleep in their tent when Makoto rolled out the sleeping bag in their own tent, placing the lantern in the corner. As soon as he’d spread it over the tent floor, Haru laid down, their eyes meeting in silence. 

“Hey. Will you do anything if the sentence starts with 'nii-chan’?” Haru scoffed.

Jade eyes looked away, his question left without an answer. So Haru slipped a hand under his shirt and tugged it up, unveiling his chest and ghosting his fingertips over his nipples.

“Nii-chan…” he murmured, breathlessly. “Touch me here-”

A furious blush flared across the brunet’s cheeks.

“Haru-! Please stop…!”

 

 

“Ah…! Ah!”

Slack-jawed and pink in the cheeks, a string of moans eluded him one by one. His hands were spread on Makoto’s chest, pinning him to the sleeping back as he rolled his hips and hung his head. Makoto’s hands gripped his waist, guiding his hips.

“Haru…”

The lantern had been doused, and all Makoto could see in the dark was his shape, his snaking hips and his lean chest.

Suddenly, at the sound of Ren and Ran’s calls, they paused, Makoto sitting up and listening. They heard the rustle of their feet across the forest floor, and panicked to dress themselves.

When the twins peered into the tent, Haru was curled up in the sleeping bag, while Makoto sat up next to him, the tag of his backwards shirt scratching his collarbone.

“What’s wrong?”

“We heard sounds…” Ran whimpered.

At that, both Makoto and Haru blushed - mostly Haru, knowing it was his voice that had frightened them.

That night, Makoto slept in the twins’ tent with Ran, while Haru slept in their tent with Ren. It was a fitting punishment for being so helplessly loud.

 

 

 

In the end, the alarm he’d packed was of use. They woke at up at five and packed up the campsite, the drive back even shorter than the drive there. After breakfast, Ren and Ran went up to shower and unpack, while Makoto and Haru left their bags in the doorway, heading straight out to the paddy fields. He figured there was no use in showering when he’d only return from the fields damp with sweat.

“Haru?”

He looked up as they headed down the trail.

“Did you have fun?”

That simple question floored him a little. Why would he bother to ask something so childish in the first place?

“…Yeah. I had fun.”

Chapter Seven: Yamazaki Sousuke

His eyes cracked open at the feel something soft poking his nose. Makoto was crouched at his bedside, waking him at five in the morning with an eskimo kiss. Grunting, Haru brought a hand out from under the covers and shoved at his face, Makoto stumbling back on the floor. Haru was not yet ready to rise.

In a week’s time, he would leave the Tachibana’s farm and take the bullet train to Iwatobi. He hadn’t thought much of it, and he lived every day in the moment. Mostly because thinking about it would undoubtedly fill his head with questions he couldn’t answer, and realisations he didn’t want to make. So he was fine like this, tugging on his rubber boots at seven in the morning and following Makoto down the dirt trail to the shed. He was fine like this.

The clouds filtered the sunlight as they worked in the paddy field, sparing them the unneeded heat. His joints no longer ached after a long day’s work, and he no longer woke up sore in the morning. The palms of his hands were gradually becoming more calloused, and holding the tools no longer left his hands red and bruised. Three weeks had been a long time to adapt to farm work. At the end of his assignment, Makoto’s father would fill out a survey and write a brief report on Haru’s efforts, participation, and understanding. And that would be the end of it.

“Haru, should we break for lunch?”

“Yeah.”

As if cued by the question, his stomach growled, Makoto raising a hand to his chin and giggling. When they sat down to eat, Makoto’s lap cat came rustling through the rice stalks, mewling at their bentos. Though he’d denied him a bite of his fish every time, Haru sympathised with the cat today, and pinched a bit of salmon between his fingers, holding it out to the cat. Its tongue tickled his fingers, and he fought back a giggle when it licked down his hand.

“Does it have a name? This cat.” Haru asked, Makoto a little caught off guard by the question.

“A name…? Now that you mention it…”

If it were up to Haru to name him, he’d choose something simple and sensible. Kuro, for example. It seemed fitting of a black cat.

“How about 'Haru’?”

“Eh?” blue eyes flitted up in surprise. What did he just say?

“Don’t like it?” the brunet chuckled.

To be fair, they had matching hair. They were both fond of Makoto. And they both fancied fish. Maybe his own name wasn’t a bad match.

“…Name it whatever you want.” he muttered.

 

 

When they arrived back at the house, the sun had already vanished behind the mountain. August was ending, whisking summer away with it. He showered and changed into a clean set of trousers, and a borrowed shirt he would fold every morning with the intention of returning, but ended up borrowing again every night. In his defense, Makoto’s over-sized shirts were unusually comfortable, and they smelled of peach-scented fabric softener.

That evening, when Haru entered the kitchen to start dinner, Makoto poked his head in the doorway.

“Making dinner?”

“Yeah. Ren and Ran want fish.”

He wondered why Makoto stood fidgeting in the doorway, instead of simply coming into the kitchen and telling it to him straight.

“What is it? Makoto.”

He looked up at the sound of his name, and parted his lips to speak, hesitating again.

“…Um, Haru. You’re really good at cooking-”

“Not really.”

“No, no, you are. I would know… Ren and Ran like your grilled fish a lot.”

“That’s good.” he said, turning his back to him and lighting the stove.

“So that’s why… I was hoping you could teach me how to make it.”

He glanced over his shoulder at the ever-timid brunet, who finally met his eye.

“If it’s too much trouble, don’t worry about it-”

“It’s fine. Get a pan and a bottle of cooking oil. The fish is in the fridge.”

Jade eyes lit up, and he quickly set to work under Haru’s instruction.

“Yes, sir.”

When he brought the pan and the cooking oil, Haru greased the pan, while Makoto unwrapped the whitefish and laid it down on the counter.

“Listen well. First, you drizzle the fish in oil.”

Makoto’s brows knitted together in focus as he watched Haru’s hands work.

“Then, you salt it. Bring the salt.”

“Yes, sir.”

He returned to the counter with a jar of white powder. Suspicious, Haru unscrewed the cap, dabbed a bit on his finger, and licked it off.

“…This is sugar.”

“A-ah! Sorry…! I made a mistake…”

That was one hell of a mistake, Haru thought. He wondered how Makoto had fared in the kitchen this long without any aid.

When the fish was sizzling in the pan, Haru outlined the ingredients he used in the sauce, handing the mixing bowl and whisk to Makoto as he flipped the fish.

“How is it?” Haru asked.

Dipping a small spoon in the sauce, Makoto tasted it on the tip of his tongue.

“Delicious…”

Smiling, he raised the spoon to Haru’s lips, offering him a taste. He’d tasted it several times before, but he supposed since Makoto was the one who’d whisked it this time, tasting it again wouldn’t hurt. Leaning in, he closed his lips around the spoon, licking away the last bit of sauce. Blue eyes flitted up, to find Makoto gazing at him adoringly.

“How was it, Haru-chan?”

His lips sunk into a frown, and he shoved the spoon away.

“…It’s nothing special.”

“Eh?!”

“The fish is almost ready.” he changed the subject, trying to shrug off the embarrassment he felt after falling into Makoto’s trap. “We’ll start the rice.”

They served dinner that night to Ren and Ran, presenting it as Makoto’s cooking.

“I didn’t do much…” Makoto mused, scratching his cheek.

“Then, do it all yourself next time.” Haru said, and he took his seat at the table.

“Mm.” he nodded, giving the same gentle smile Haru had grown so familiar with. “Thanks, Haru.”

 

 

A calloused hand slid up his back, Haru sighing into the kiss as he straddled him and pushed him down on the bed. At the sound of footsteps coming down the hall, they sat up. When the door opened, Haru was hiding under the bed.

“Nii-chan, have you seen my camera?” Ran called from where she stood in the doorway.

“Camera? I haven’t seen it…” he mused, Ran closing the door again and scampering away.

Even after she’d left, Haru remained brooding under the bed. This would never do. He couldn’t stand being interrupted every few minutes.

“Haru, hurry.”

He crawled out from under the bed, a frown on his face.

“Makoto. Let’s go somewhere else.”

 

 

The first place they tried was the annex, only to find the door hinges had rusted from the rain, and the door wouldn’t budge. They ran to the car park, to find the Mazda had been taken out, and the pickup truck was crowded with bags upon bags of soil. Frustrated, Haru pinned him to the truck and tugged at the waist of his trousers.

“Whatever. Here’s fine, isn’t it?”

“Haru-! What if dad comes back?!”

 

 

It was seven o'clock on a cloudy evening, when Sousuke heard a knock on his front door. Thinking his mother had come home, he opened the door without looking to see who stood outside before he said, “I’ll help you carry the bags in-”

He choked up mid-sentence when he saw Makoto standing on the doorstep, Haru standing behind him, his lips in a frown and his brows knitted together. What had him so angry?

“Sousuke… Um-” the brunet hesitated, his cheeks flushing as he placed his hands on Sousuke’s shoulders and hung his head in a plea. “C-can we borrow a room?”

It took a moment for the implication to set in. When he realised what was happening, he paled and stepped back, Makoto’s hands sliding off his shoulders.

“Go rut in the dirt like rabbits.” he scoffed, and he promptly shut the door in their faces.

It took all but a second for another knock to come on the door, and he shook his head in disbelief. He already had his suspicions about them, but never would he ever have imagined Makoto would come to him asking for a room. How far gone was he? At the sound of bang on the door, he opened it again, seeing Haru standing in front this time, his foot in mid-air. This bastard had kicked the door.

“Sorry. My foot slipped.”

“Your foot definitely didn’t slip!” Sousuke snapped. He looked up to see Makoto’s pleading eyes staring back at him, and his stubbornness wavered. Even Sousuke didn’t have it in him to turn down a puppy. “Makoto… What are you thinking?”

“Sorry…” he mumbled, his eyes nervously flickering to the side as he scratched his cheek. “There was nowhere to go…”

He clapped his hands together in an earnest plea, and lowered his head.

“If you help me this time, I promise I’ll never ask for another favour again!”

In contrast to Makoto’s humble begging, Haru stood glaring up at him, not a trace of remorse in his eyes. He couldn’t understand what Makoto saw in this city brat, but if he pulled a favour, he’d do it for Makoto, not for him. Hating himself for caving, he sighed and parted the door, stepping to the side.

“…You have five minutes.”

 

 

Five minutes, he’d said. But after one minute, he wasn’t sure he could tolerate another four. After letting the rabbits in, they’d trampled up the stairs and slammed shut the guestroom door. After that, there were a few seconds of silence, though he could hear the guest bed creaking and groaning on the floor above. And a second later, Haru’s moans began leaking out from under the door. He could hear them in the living room, in the kitchen, in the washroom. No matter where he went, he could hear his voice. Occasionally, he could hear Makoto. But for the most part, Haru was the real bane. Eventually, he sat himself down on the sofa and hunched over, pressing his hands over his ears in an attempt to block it out. But even then, he heard it. He heard it and it sent a shiver down his spine. He heard it and he closed his eyes, wondering when it would end.

Eventually, it did end, and he uncovered his ears, breathing a sigh of relief. He leaned back in the sofa, thankful it was over, when he suddenly heard a whine that made him twitch to attention. Four minutes had passed; were they really trying to go at it again in the remaining minute? Balling his hands into fists, Sousuke stomped up the stairs and banged on the guestroom door.

“OI! ONCE IS ENOUGH!”

He went for the door handle, to find it was locked, and he cursed himself for letting the rabbits in, praying they would finish before his mother came home.

 

 

“So? What did you want to talk about?”

Haru was waiting by the front door, but Makoto had pulled Sousuke into his room for a word in private. Closing the door, he averted his eyes to the floor.

“If it’s about Nanase, I won’t tell anyone.”

He seemed to have hit the nail on the head, because Makoto perked up hearing his promise.

“You’re just messing around, right?”

At that, jade eyes flickered to the side, and he tugged on his sleeve out of nervous habit. Sousuke waited for an answer. But when he heard none, he feared the worst.

“What? Did you fall in love with that bastard?”

Makoto finally met his eye. Though his lips were parted to speak, he said nothing.

Sousuke heard his answer in the silence.

 

 

On Sunday, the Tachibanas went out to celebrate their father’s birthday. Naturally, Sousuke and Haru would tag along, despite that both of them had declined out of respect, and been invited again out of insistence.

After returning from work and showering, Haru stepped into his room, his towel draped over his head as he knelt by his duffel bag, sifting through it for his black trousers and a collared, coral shirt. Truthfully, he hated that shirt. But when he left Tokyo, he’d made an effort to pack clothes he didn’t like, and he was stuck wearing those until he left.

The twins ran out of their room, Ran in a white dress, Ren in a white shirt and green trousers. Haru waited at the top of the stairs for Makoto, who emerged wearing white trousers and collared, black shirt. He wore collared, checkered shirts every day, but they’d always been rolled up at the sleeves, sometimes unbuttoned. But in semi-formal dress, he was actually a bit striking. Or, at least he was, before Haru looked away.

“That shirt suits you.” Makoto smiled, Haru wondering if his cheeks were as red as they were hot. The shirt didn’t suit him at all. “Ready?”

“Yeah.”

 

 

Unlike when he first set foot off the bus, the late evening air was no longer humid. In fact, a chilling breeze swept through the fields as they headed to the cars. The twins sat in the back of the Mazda, Makoto’s father at the wheel, and a free space was left in the passenger seat. The dilemma arose when Haru realised Makoto would be the one driving the pickup truck, and Sousuke would be seated in the car with the Tachibana family. He wasn’t meddling. He definitely wasn’t meddling, but he didn’t feel right letting it happen that way.

“Makoto. Go sit with your family.”

“Eh?”

“I don’t know the way. But Yamazaki does, right?”

The humidity in Yamagata must have suffocated him so much he’d lost a dangerous amount of brain cells, because Haru was not the self-sacrificing type. Yet, repeating that to himself did nothing for him as he sat in the passenger seat of the pickup truck, next to Sousuke, who sat behind the wheel. He prayed the drive would be a short one. How far away could a restaurant be in a town like this?

A tense silence hung between them as the Mazda’s headlights flickered on, illuminating the dark road. Starting the engine, Sousuke waited for the other car to head out, the wheels crunching on the gravel when he trailed after them. Sousuke, too, was dressed more formally than Haru could’ve pictured him, in a black trousers and a black shirt, sporting a navy tie. He wondered if the restaurant was a ritzy one, or if everyone was simply dressed for the occasion.

There were even less cars cruising the road on Sunday night, the lights of quaint, little houses glowing softly in the dark. Haru sat with his head resting against the window, thinking he’d likely been anxious for nothing. Sousuke was as quiet as a mouse. It seemed their desire not to speak was a mutual one. Only, he couldn’t help wondering why it was mutual. Sousuke had surely given him reason to dislike him. But Haru had done nothing to him, said nothing to him. On the off-chance that Sousuke was pining for Makoto, the only thing that could’ve sparked his hatred was the two of them borrowing a room in his house. He doubted that was the case. Could a person as cold and calloused as Yamazaki Sousuke even love? Well, he supposed if he could, it would probably look something like this. Still, he doubted that was the reason.

Judging from the silence, Haru had assumed Sousuke was focused on the road. But it seemed even he was lost in his thoughts, because when Haru looked up, he could not longer see the tail lights of the Tachibana’s car. The pickup truck came to a halt on the roadside, Sousuke glancing in every direction.

“Where are we…?” he muttered, Haru paling when he heard him.

Sousuke was a native. How could a native get lost in their own town? Was his sense of direction that poor? They’d only driven fifteen minutes down the road. In that moment, Haru regretted not having brought his cellphone. But he spotted something a little ways behind them down the road.

“…What’s the name of the restaurant?” Haru muttered.

“Little Italy.”

Bewildered by how daft Sousuke could be, Haru nodded in the direction of the sign a few metres back.

“It’s right there.”

He glanced over his shoulder, cyan eyes squinting to see in the dark.

“Oh. I see it.”

No kidding… Haru thought.

When they arrived at the restaurant, the Tachibanas were already seated, the waiter showing them to the table. A seat at the round table had been saved for Haru between Ren and Ran, another seat saved for Sousuke beside Makoto. Yet again, the two of them were stuck sitting together. The restaurant was quiet, though a decent crowd occupied the tables. As they took their seats, the waiter came around with their menus.

When everyone had placed their orders, the Tachibanas began chatting amongst themselves, laughing and sharing stories, while Sousuke and Haru sat quietly in their seats, only speaking when spoken to. Their dinners arrived, and the conversation shifted to the subject of food.

“Haru?”

When his father’s attention turned to Ren and Ran, Makoto looked his way.

“How’s your food?”

He’d ordered a simple seafood pasta, but he enjoyed it nonetheless. Knowing the Tachibanas were treating him, he’d avoided anything costly.

“It’s good.”

“I’m glad.” his eyes softened as he gave a smile, the kind of warm smile that put Haru’s heart at ease, and made him look away before he got caught up in the moment. Suddenly Sousuke’s hands came down on the table, and he stood up from his chair.

“I need to use the restroom.”

“Ah. Sousuke, do you know where it is?” Makoto asked.

“Nanase can show me.”

He furrowed his brow, and he wondered why Sousuke had taken the liberty of ordering him around outside the farm. His arrogance was unmatched. Regardless, Haru didn’t want Makoto or his father interrupting their dinners to show the lost duckling where the restroom was. So he lowered his napkin and stood up from his chair, leading the way.

“Here you go.” he muttered when they reached the restroom, his words polite, but his tone begging to differ.

But when he tried to leave, Sousuke suddenly caught him by the arm, and dragged him through the swinging door.

“Come with me for a second.”

Despite how hard he tried to stay out of trouble, trouble seemed to come looking for Haru every time. It was a one-sided relationship he couldn’t escape, and he felt about knee-deep in trouble when Sousuke pinned him to the wall of the dimly lit restroom, scowling.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

Haru’s lips were sewn shut. He reserved the right to remain silent. Anything he said could and would be used against him. That said, he was pretty sure he hadn’t done anything.

“Do you hate Makoto? Do you have it out for him?”

His head was spinning in confusion. His questions were so absurd, Haru didn’t even know where to start.

“Why are you leading him on? You’re leaving this week, aren’t you? Don’t toy with him anymore! Have you thought about how he’ll feel when you leave?!”

He hadn’t thought about it. In fact, he’d made a conscious decision not to pay it any thought at all.

“If you get it, stay away from him. Do what your school sent you here to do.”

He leaned in, Haru shrinking back under his stare.

“After that, leave. And don’t come back here again.”

He clenched his teeth, blue eyes following Sousuke as he left through the swinging door, leaving Haru in the silence. Sousuke’s words echoed in his ears, and he slid down the wall, hanging his head.

Leave? And don’t come back? That was already the plan. Don’t toy with him anymore? He hadn’t meant to toy with anyone. He wouldn’t think about it anymore. His chest felt tight, and his heart restlessly thumped in his ears. He wouldn’t think about it anymore. It wasn’t worth the trouble. He wouldn’t think about it. He wouldn’t think.

When he approached the table, Makoto looked over his shoulder. His eyes seemed to search for something, as if suspicious. And to make matters worse, Haru had unconsciously paused in his step when their eyes met. Brushing it off, he returned to his seat, avoiding Makoto’s stare. He avoided it, and avoided it, until the cake arrived and they congratulated their father on his birthday. He avoided it until he’d opened his present and thanked his children. He avoided until they’d paid the bill and stood up from the table. And he avoided it as he grudgingly walked back to the truck, and rode back in silence beside Sousuke.

Though he tried not to think about it, he couldn’t push his thoughts back. Had he done something cruel? Had he done something wretched?

He would leave in four days. Avoiding him for four days was entirely doable. Haru could avoid anything. That was, after all, his specialty.

 

 

A knock came on his door that night, as he unbuttoned his shirt.

“Haru?”

Makoto pushed the door open, still dressed in his formal clothes.

“Did something happen…? You didn’t look so good when you came back from the restroom-”

He knew where this was going, and he wanted no part in it. He was already knee-deep in trouble. If Makoto got involved, he would be neck-deep before he knew it.

“Not really. I’m fine.”

His brows turned up in concern, and he certainly didn’t look convinced.

“Sousuke… Um… Did he say something to you?”

At the time, Haru didn’t realise that Makoto feared something else entirely. Having confessed to Sousuke his feelings about Haru, he dreaded that Sousuke had spread the news, and Haru had begun to avoid him for that very reason. Of course, that was not the reason at all. But the misunderstanding didn’t allow for either of them to be honest.

“No.” he answered, curtly.

Still unconvinced, Makoto gave his room a once-over, before he stepped back into the hall.

“Alright. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

 

 

If he had to sum up the next two days in a word, 'hollow’ seemed to fit the bill.

Makoto had sensed the change in him, though Haru had made no effort to change.

Their conversations together progressed as they always did. They worked diligently in the paddy field as they always did. Makoto would smile softly and laugh as he always did.

But when he turned away, his smile would fade too quickly.

Somehow, Haru felt as though he were watching him suffocate, slowly and painfully.

And there was nothing he could will himself to do about it.

Even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t know where to start.

Chapter Eight: Iwatobi

Blue eyes fluttered open on Wednesday morning, greeted by a cloudless, blue sky.

Today would be Haru’s last day working on the Tachibana’s farm.

He dressed and headed downstairs for breakfast. Makoto had prepared eggs and toast again. Ren and Ran argued at the table, Makoto acting the part of the mediator as always, and sacrificing his breakfast to make peace between them. As Haru took his seat, he stared down at his toast, hesitating for a moment, before he broke it in half, and handed one half to Makoto. Smiling, the brunet accepted his offer.

“Thanks, Haru.”

And they ate in silence. At one point, Makoto sat upright as though he had something to say. But his shoulders sank again and he looked down at his plate, letting the silence linger.

As they started down the dirt trail towards the shed, Haru surveyed the fields, remembering them well. It was likely he’d have to do a written assignment as a follow-up to the placement. Seeing it all now, he almost thought he’d miss it. But the farm wasn’t quite what he’d miss. He tore his eyes away from the back of Makoto’s head, and cleared his mind with thoughts of Iwatobi, thoughts of the pool at the gym, thoughts of his bathtub and his bed. In less than a day, he would finally be home again, if only for a little while.

After his shower that evening, he returned to his room to pack. He began by lifting clothes off the chair and neatly folding them one by one. But he quickly lost his patience. Feeling restless and frustrated, he balled up the rest of the clothes on his chair and stuffed them in the duffel bag, deciding he would wait to pack his toiletries in the morning.

A festival was being held in town that night. Though the Tachibanas had invited him to tag along, he would’ve much rather gone to bed, sleeping quickly and leaving quickly, like ripping off a bandage. But since he had no good reason to decline, he found himself standing idly in Makoto’s room as the brunet dug through his closet for his old yukata, thinking it would fit Haru.

“Ah. It was here.” he noted, spotting it in the corner of the closet shelf above their heads. “I wore it when I was younger… It looks about your size, doesn’t it?”

He held out a pale blue yukata, a white lining around the neck and a matching white wrap.

His blue eyes were half-lidded, his face expressionless as he took the yukata, and turned around to undress. His clothes dropped to the floor, and he reached his arms through the sleeves, while Makoto helped tie it around his waist. True to his expectations, the yukata was Haru’s size. When he turned around, Makoto looked him up and down, a chuckle threatening to escape when he pictured Haru with a sword in hand, his dark hair dripping from the rain as he adopted a fighting stance, fearless in the face of his enemies. It was an entertaining thought, quite different from the deadpan young man who stood with his arms at his side.

“What are you thinking…?” Haru muttered when Makoto raised a hand to his lips and snorted with laughter.

“Nothing…”

The festival was being held only a short walk away from their farm. As Ren and Ran skipped ahead of them down the road, Haru and Makoto walked in their shadows, Makoto dressed in his navy yukata. Haru’s gaze was fixed to the side as they walked, making an effort not to so much as glimpse at Makoto. He was handsome in his yukata, surprisingly so. Which was exactly why he would avoid looking.

The lights from the festival twinkled in the distance, and as they drew nearer, the music grew louder, lively shouts and laughter reaching them in the silence. The inky sky was speckled with stars again, some clustered together, some far apart, so many they shone brighter than the moon. As he gazed into the sky, he felt Makoto’s eyes on him, and he lowered his head, turning away again. Though the music was becoming steadily louder, the silence between them felt heavier.

Ren and Ran bee-lined for the goldfish catching booth, Makoto calling out to them, warning them not to stray too far.

“What should we see first…” he wondered aloud, jade eyes skimming the booths all lined up and leading to the shrine staircase.

“Whatever’s fine.”

Makoto watched him in the corner of his eye, a little fazed by his indifference. But he shouldn’t have been. Haru was always indifferent, after all. He spotted a booth with a classic shooting game a bit further down, and turned to Haru again.

“What about that one over there?”

“Sure.”

His words were empty, his voice was subdued. He wondered if Haru was really there at all. Makoto navigated through the sparse crowds, Haru trailing after him as he led him to the booth he’d pointed to. The man running the booth handed Makoto the rifle, explaining to him that he could keep anything he shot. Flashing him an innocent smile, Makoto lifted the rifle and aimed with terrifying focus, unnerving the man behind the counter.

As expected, Makoto was a frighteningly good shooter. Apparently, playing all those games had paid off. If he hadn’t been such a nice guy, he could’ve cleaned out that booth in a matter of minutes. But he set down the rifle after winning a stuffed bear for Ren, and a rabbit for Ran.

“Haru, you wanna try?”

Actually, he did. Makoto had made it look so easy he had to try his luck.

Lifting the gun, he aimed carefully at a stuffed duck. Makoto was a bit awed by his concentration. Despite that, he missed, and lowered the rifle in defeat. The children next in line pushed ahead, and dropped their money on the counter.

“Haru, did you want that duck?"   Makoto asked, as they sauntered through the festival grounds.

"Not really.”

A rack of masks caught Haru’s eye, and a group of children suddenly rushed past, Makoto stumbling a bit when he swerved to avoid them. The music filled the empty spaces, the colours drew his eyes in at every booth. But nothing seemed to interest him in the least.

“Haru? Haru?”

He snapped out of his thoughts, looking up to see the woman behind the stand holding out his candied apple.

“Sorry.” he stammered, taking the candy apple and starting down the stony path.

He wanted to go home. Never in his life had he felt so homesick as he did amidst the twinkling lights and the lively music.

A tug on his sleeve pulled him out of his thoughts again, blue eyes flitting up to see Makoto looking back at him over his shoulder.

“Come with me for a bit. There’s something I want to show you.”

He led him up the stone steps, away from the lights. A path diverged at the top of the stairs, and he pulled him along by the hand, until they reached a red bridge arching over a stream. The sound of the running water filled the silence, Haru resting his hands on the rail as he looked down. In the corner of his eye, he saw Makoto lean against the rail, jade eyes flickering to the side, catching him red-handed, mid-stare. He parted his lips to speak, and Haru braced himself for the worst.

“You know, Haru… You’ve been a little different since that night.”

He didn’t need to specify which night. They both knew exactly which night he meant.

“If something happened… I wish you’d tell me.”

The trickle of the stream filled the silence again. Though he felt Makoto’s eyes on him, he looked straight ahead into the water, winding through the rocks.

“Makoto… Do you hate me?”

His eyes widened upon hearing his question, and he stood upright. But before he could ask, Haru spoke again.

“Did I do something wrong? I didn’t really mean… I was just…” his voice trailed off, unable to finish his thoughts, unable to put them into words.

He felt a familiar, calloused hand curl around his fingers, and his brows knitted as he finally looked up.

“Haru? This isn’t like you.”

How would you know? You barely know me.

“What happened?”

He didn’t want to answer. He didn’t want to open his mouth at all. He didn’t want the tightness in his chest to get any tighter; it was out to kill him. He just wanted to dive into the water and swim away. Avoiding things was his specialty, after all.

“Haru… I… I-”

Makoto choked on his words, stepping forward and pulling him into his arms. Wide-eyed, Haru waited to hear him speak again, his hands curling into the back of his navy yukata as he tentatively rested his cheek on his shoulder.

“…I fell in love with you.”

His heart skipped. Makoto was the one who’d confessed, but his cheeks felt unbearably hot, and he buried himself in the nape of his neck.

“I get it… I get it. It’s no use telling you this when you’re leaving.”

That might have been so, but he was grateful to have heard him say it.

“I don’t want to say goodbye.” Makoto murmured, a tremor in his voice as he held him tighter. “But you know, goodbye… isn’t always forever.”

Blue eyes flitted down, and he laced his fingers through the ends of his hair, wishing they could stay like this until morning. Until he had to leave for the station. Until the train doors shut. He didn’t want to let go. Not yet.

“Yeah.”

At the sound of footsteps on the bridge, they pulled away, watching two young women scamper across the bridge, laughing and linking arms. When their figures disappeared into the dark, Haru looked back at the water. Red lights suddenly appeared on the surface, and a crackling sounded above them.

“Ahh… the fireworks are starting.” Makoto cooed.

The lights twinkled in his pale eyes, Makoto smiling from cheek to cheek as he watched the sky light up. He felt Haru’s gaze, and he looked back, their eyes meeting in silence. A soft hand cupped his cheek, his lashes fluttering down when Haru pulled him into a kiss.

 

 

“Shh.”

Haru raised a finger to his lips, hushing him as he pulled him down the stony walkway, leading him behind the shrine. A slow kiss made his heart drum in his chest, his hands roaming down Makoto’s neck and slipping under the back of his yukata. They sank into the grass, Makoto’s fingers trailing up his thigh as he nipped at his lower lip, dragging it as he pulled away. In the heat of the moment, the brunet suddenly burst into laughter, Haru confounded for the second time that night.

“…What?”

He shook his head and sat up, Haru propping himself up on his hand as he felt around his face and combed through his hair, catching a purple flower between his fingers.

“Ehhh? You took it out? It was cute.”

 

 

That night, Makoto heard a tap on his door. Haru soundlessly crept inside, shutting the door behind himself, his hands behind his back as he glanced to the side.

“Haru? What’s wrong?”

“…I can’t sleep.”

Sitting up a little, Makoto rubbed his eye and pulled the covers down, patting the empty space next to him. Tiptoeing across the floor, Haru climbed into his bed, resting his head on the pillow. Makoto pulled the covers back up, feeling around for his hand, and twining their fingers together.

“Is this better?” he asked with a drowsy smile.

“Yeah.”

Haru watched as his heavy lids drooped, and his lips parted. Within a minute, Makoto’s soft breathing filled the air, lulling Haru to sleep.

However, when his eyes cracked open at the first light of dawn, the magic of Makoto’s sleeping face had faded, and Haru was being crushed under the weight of the third Tachibana triplet, who lay sprawled on top of him, snoring away. He might have died like that if Makoto hadn’t woken up soon.

 

 

Though Haru was reluctant to wake them so early, Makoto had insisted he bid the twins farewell before they left. Their room still dark, Haru quietly knelt by their beds, whispering goodbye. Though Ran slept soundly through his farewell, Ren’s eyes opened, and he groggily felt around for Haru’s hand, his dainty fingers curling into the sleeve of his sweater as he drifted back to sleep.

Too early to stomach any breakfast, they went directly to the door, Makoto’s father waiting to see them off as they laced their shoes. Haru thanked him earnestly, taking one last glance at the mundane Tachibana house, before he followed Makoto out the door, his father waving goodbye as they started down the trail.

The early morning air was unexpectedly cool as they headed for the truck, Haru setting his bag down at the foot of the passenger seat.

“Eh? Sousuke? Did you come to say goodbye?”

When Makoto spoke the devil’s name, Haru halted and looked up, one foot on the step.

“Yeah.”

He held out his hand in a polite gesture, Haru reluctant to take it. But he sighed and relaxed his shoulders, accepting his handshake for the sake of moving things along quickly. In that moment, he felt something scratch against the palm of his hand, and he pulled away, finding a folded up scrap of paper in his palm. Judging from the look on Sousuke’s face, it was for his eyes alone. Haru didn’t much care what he had to say, but he would agree to hide it from Makoto for the time being, and dropped it in the pocket of his sweater. As they climbed into the car and slammed the doors shut, Sousuke stood on the side, waving goodbye as the gravel crunched beneath the wheels. The drive to the station was a long one, but he much preferred it in Makoto’s car than in the seat of an empty bus.

The sun slowly rose above the mountain as they drove away, the sky a pale gold, and his blue eyes narrowed in the light. They exchanged phone numbers on the way, Haru pulling out the cellphone he never used, untangling it from the charger he never plugged in. But tired as they were, they drove most of the way in silence, Makoto’s focus on the road, while Haru nodded off with his head resting against the window.

They arrived at the station sooner than expected, and remained in the car park to pass the time. Soon, the sky in Yamagata would turn to an endless blue, stretching as far as the ocean. He had to admit, there were some things in this town he’d grown fond of, Makoto being the first.

The clock on the dashboard struck six, and the bells from the station sounded. Reaching to open the door, Haru paused when Makoto suddenly grabbed his sleeve, jade eyes timidly flickering down.

“Wait, Haru… You… You definitely won’t fall in love with someone else, right?”

That was a stupid question, Haru thought. I don’t remember saying I fell in love with you.

He cast him a sideways glance, and dropped his bag in his lap, lacing his fingers around Makoto’s neck and pulling him into a kiss. His lips were soft, the scent of his hair filled his chest, and he kissed him a little harder when he realised it was the last time he’d taste his lips. The station bell rang again, and he pulled back, Makoto’s cheeks flushed as he eyed Haru’s lips, chasing after them for a split second before he caught himself and pulled away, jade eyes fixated on him as he shut the car door and headed for the platform.

That was the last memory he had of Tachibana Makoto, and he held it close as he stepped onto the train, the doors sliding shut behind him.

 

 

The cloud-riddled, blue sky hung over his head as he stepped off the train in Iwatobi. The station, the staff, the road leading home, they were all familiar. They all felt like home. Yamagata felt so far away, he wondered if it had all been a dream. Even if it was, that would have been alright.

Dragging his bag up the stairs to his house, he unzipped it and sifted through his clothes for the key. The familiar scent of home set in the moment he stepped inside the entrance way. He kicked off his shoes and started up the stairs, dropping his bag in the hall and bee-lining for the bathtub.

He sat in his bath for a long time, hazy sunlight from the window streaming into the water as birds sang on the roof.

With a towel draped over his head, he picked up his bag on the way to his room, and sat himself on the floor to unpack. As he pulled crinkled clothes out, one by one, he paused when he tugged a bright blue shirt out from the heap, an oversized blue shirt that smelled of peach-scented fabric softener, and didn’t belong to him. When he saw it, he was reminded of the note Sousuke had pressed into his hand. Leaving the shirt on his bed, he made his way to the washroom, digging through the laundry basket for his sweater and retrieving the paper. Curious, he unfolded it, reading it once, then reading it again.

He wasn’t sure why, but his eyes stung, and his shoulders tensed when he read the words scribbled in the fading black ink of a drying pen. If he didn’t know any better, he’d think he was about to cry.

'Please. Don’t forget him.’

Chapter Nine

His breath hitched and he buried his face in the pillow, scratching at the sheets as he rocked his hips.

“Mako… to…”

“Are you close?”

Biting his lip, Haru stifled a moan.

“If you don’t say it, I’ll hang up.” Makoto cooed.

Blue eyes glanced at the phone beside his pillow, squeezing shut as he worked up the nerve to say it.

“I’m… coming-”

He heard the door shutting on the other end of the line, a groan escaping as he hit his climax.

“Nn…”

Panting, he sank down onto the bed, his heart pounding as he waited to catch his breath.

“Haru… Do you always think of me?” Makoto asked, too composed for Haru’s liking.

His question was left unanswered as Haru frowned and pulled the covers up to his shoulders.

“Do you miss me?”

Though he didn’t say a word, Makoto heard him sigh. He’d long since learned that Haru communicated with silence as often as he did with words. Blue eyes stared at the phone, squinting in the blue light glowing the dark. He was sleepy, but he didn’t want to sleep yet. He wanted to hear Makoto speak. He just wanted to listen to his voice a while longer.

“Are you bringing the game?” he rasped.

“Yeah.” Makoto chuckled. “I packed it already.”

Hurry up… Haru thought. I want to see you again.

“Ren and Ran keep asking if they can come too. Another time, is what I said for now. But they talk about you a lot…”

His eyelids drooped, and though he could hear Makoto speaking, he couldn’t quite make out his words any longer. In the silence, he listened to the hum of Makoto’s voice, until his consciousness finally slipped away.

A long silence hung on the line.

“Haru? Are you sleeping?”

On the other end, Makoto could hear soft snores, that just barely reached the speaker.

Smiling to himself, he zipped up his bag and set it down by the door.

“Night. Haru-chan.”

Find the lyrics for each song on Dear Youth below:

‘AVALANCHE’
I can’t stop screaming these words over again. Until breath escapes and my chest caves in. It doesn’t matter where I’ve been. Can’t give in, and shut down. Just breathe in and breathe out and begin. I shook the hand of doubt so I could sever the lines that he spits from his mouth. And now it’s time to pull through. Something I must do with or without you.

I’ve been here one time, two times, now three times before. Long enough not to wait around for that knock upon my door. I’m staring at the face of doubt so I can’t forget who I’m cutting out. Why put in my all just to watch my buildings fall?

Hey, hey, I’m living for today. Forgetting things I can’t change unwinds me. Hey, hey, nothing stands in my way. Time stopped when I broke the chains that bound me.

It all comes down to this. Both truth and consequence. I need something more than an empty promise. To believe in something, just one thing, that will never go wrong, not today. Letdown after letdown, I’m done.

Hey, hey, I’m living for today. Forgetting things I can’t change unwinds me. Hey, hey, nothing stands in my way. Time stopped when I broke the chains that bound me.

Count the clock till the overhaul. You built a bomb inside my walls. Count the clock till we’re out of hand. You build, build now we’re caught in the avalanche.

Reset, rebuild. You wrecked this city but not my will.

‘MOVE ME’
I leave behind this sentiment to the man that I’ll become. Telling him not to be burdened by the things that I have done. The longest days and endless nights have become the routine. Far beyond frustration. It’s the end to all my means.

Constantly incomplete.

With my back against the wall, I stack brick by brick. I will rise above them all like this.

I may not be forgiven, but I forgave and I’ll forget. Going through the motions is no way to exist. So if there’s anybody out there that’s so sick of feeling alone, Has the damage already been done? You gotta get from underneath that gun.

We walk before we run.

With my back against the wall, I stack brick by brick. I will rise above them all like this.

Move me, choose me. Please before you lose me. Find me, drive me. End the things that pride me. Move me, improve me. Ignite the flame that ruled me. Guide me, collide me. I need something to survive me.

With my back against the wall. I will rise above them all like this. Coming back against all odds, I stack brick by brick. I will rise above them all like this.

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anonymous asked:

Hiii! :) where is the happy fluffy union j world you promised? I'm here and I'm ready for cute dramafreeness. Though feel free to get through the drama if that is what is taking over your asks...I will go eat chocolate or do something else equally unproductive.

Here you go!  I wrote this back before they had even announced any of their singles (they’ve now had 2.5 singles and an album + a UK/Ireland tour) but it’s a good starting place…



THIS IS UNION J. THEY ARE HERE TO RUIN YOUR LIFE.

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Fic: Chaperone (3/?)

Title: Chaperone
Rating: NC-17 (eventually, PG-13 for this chapter)
Pairing: Rumbelle, background Swanfire
Summary: When Mr Gold is invited to his ex-girlfriend Cora’s wedding, he knows he can’t show up alone. Thankfully, his son has an idea: a pretty young friend named Belle who is luckily in need of an invitation to the wedding. Everything is going according to plan, until Gold starts wishing the date were real…

[AO3]

Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3

The day of the wedding came, and Gold had made a terrible decision.

It had occurred to him, three days earlier, that he should have bought a corsage for his date, to prove they were an item. However, not knowing what colour Belle’s dress was, he had somewhat panicked.

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Everything suddenly makes (less) sense.

I don’t think I have ever liveblogged for two consecutive days, but I’m making up for the next few days, I will be pretty busy! And I’m neglecting asks solely because I’m dumb and ignore responsibilities constantly. Enjoy!

HOW MANY GIANT IMPS ARE THERE?? I don’t think John can fight those all at once, assisted by Nanna’s cake powers or not. He has to get to the gate!!


She HAS to sustain the structure, John. Be glad, because if it were me, I would have just made you attempt a triple somersault to the gate with the combined powers of kinetic energy and your pogo ride.


I completely share the sentiment but one moment ago he didn’t even bat an eyelid about the whole situation. ALSO, he may be too weak for his brother but if he fought against you, you wouldn’t last five minutes, honey. Watch your tongue!

Is that how she was going not to play it “in person”??? I need a bit of silly Jade being silly, anyway. I’ve been too busy worrying about John to really enjoy myself lately! That, and trying not to ship John/Rose.


It’s so hard not not to dance to Jade’s beats! She is so good even BEC is bouncing his head up and down!


GOOD MUSIC OVERLOAD! JADE, YOU NEED TO STOP! THE PUMPKINS ARE GOING TO EXPLODE!


THAT IS NOT HER TOWER


WHAT IS SHE DOING THERE
WHAT. DOES SHE JUST GO ON THE LIGHT KINGDOM WHEN SHE SLEEPS????

PROSPIT. JADE, I’M SO DONE WITH YOUR CRAP!!!

SHE IS IN ONE OF THE SPIRES OF THE LIGHT KINGDOM I’M SOOOO DOOOOONEEE. Why is she in the game already??? While she sleeps???? What. In the Light Kingdom, or PROSPIT now. Well, on its moon, chained to the kingdom! JADE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THE MOON!!! THERE IS A LIMIT TO THE WEIRDNESS!

The map of the Incipishere just doesn’t make it any justice. And also doesn’t make you realize just how close Skaia and Prospit are! And Prospit also sort of spins on its axis. The moon would practically orbit into Skaia at the right moment!


And she most probably has another physically existing self??? What the heck???? AREN’T THERE FOUR SPIRES IN THE MEDIUM??? ARE THE OTHERS HERE TOO??? THIS IS A GAME MECHANIC, NOT JUST JADE BEING JADE, ISN’T IT?? BUT I’VE SEEN JOHN SLEEP AND HE SURE DIDN’T WAKE UP ON…. HE DIDN’T WAKE UP…. OH MY GOD.

WHAT IF JOHN IS ON PROSPIT BUT HE IS SLEEPING. JADE ATTEMPTED TO SLEEP ON PROSPIT BEFORE.

And Jade is just waiting and waiting!!! Because John is with her in the light kingdom!! But the dork is sleeping!!! Jade surely wants to show him around Prospit and happily fly around together and meeting the habitant, things like that!!

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