title: birthday scars
fandom: Free!
characters/pairings: pre-Makoto/Haruka/Rin, Nagisa, Rei, Gou, Makoto's family
rating: G/Teen
warnings: fighting over presents, kisses to the cheek
summary: It's Makoto's birthday! That couldn't cause any drama, right??
notes: inspired, of course, by the poster for Makoto's birthday. part of the Household Foundation series, a pre-Happy Household Club series.

It had all been going so well up to that point.

Ama-chan-sensei had given them permission, so during lunch, Nagisa and Gou had slipped out to decorate Haru's house. Rin managed to get away from Samezuka so he was at Haru's in time. Rei picked up the cake from a bakery and used the faculty break room to store it until the party. And despite his complete lack of subterfuge, Haruka was able to bring Makoto home without giving away the surprise.

The perfect surprise party.

Makoto had been all smiles, and everyone had been enjoying themselves. They put on some music, they shared the cake, they told jokes. And then it was time for presents.

Nagisa got him a jump drive filled with good songs, though he didn't remember what songs anymore, a strawberry-scented notebook with a gold sparkly cover, and a gold earring, for when he finally convinced Makoto to get his ear pierced. Rei got him a book on increasing endurance, a box of gold paperclips, and a gold pen. Gou gave him a scrapbook of the year in the swim club, a box of gold-coated chocolates, and clear plastic ball filled with liquid and golden sparkles.

At that point, Rin had good-naturedly complained, What the hell? Did you first years go shopping together or something? What's with the three-part gold-themed presents? And his sister explained that Makoto was seventeen on the seventeenth, so this was his golden birthday. That might have been an omen, because both Rin and Haru reacted to that, Rin getting angry and sputtering that no one told him, to which his sister responded by jostling him and laughing, saying no one told her, either, but she knew, duh. Haru just looked ashen.

It might have been bad, too, that Rin was on Makoto's left and Haru was on his right. Close, in other words. But even still, there was probably no predicting it.

Makoto opened Rin's gift. It was a cute little shark plushie and an orca plushie of the same size. Haru made a snide comment about sharks being a lot smaller than orcas, and why would Makoto want a shark, anyway?

Makoto opened Haru's gift. It was two carvings, obviously done by Haru himself. One was a dolphin, very similar to the one he had in his bathroom, and one was an orca.

Then it began.

Rin laughed at Haru's renditions, and pointed out that the orca wasn't that much bigger than the dolphin. Haru then slid them together to show how they were designed so that, placed next to each other, the dolphin was swimming up the orca's body as the orca swam down the dolphin's. Because they're always together, Haru proudly declared. Makoto turned slightly red, and Rin lost it.

That brought them to that moment, the moment when Haru and Rin were on their feet, glaring and snarling at each other, having an all-out tug of war with the shark plushie in one hand and the dolphin figure in the other hand.

Nagisa was laughing his ass off, Gou was trying to calm Rin down, and Rei was trying to calm Haru down, but neither one of them could see anything but each other. Makoto, between them trying to get them to put the gifts down, was invisible to them.

And then, the dolphin slipped out of their grip, fell to the ground, and broke.

Haru cried out in frustration, digging his fingers into the shark plushie, pulling.

And he tore it, nearly in half.

Something happened then that no one present could ever remember happening before in their lives, not even Haru. Makoto screamed.


Everyone froze as Makoto lunged forward, grabbing his now sadly broken gifts. Just as if ice water had been poured over them, Rin and Haru stopped, and stared at Makoto. After a moment of dumbness, they both tried to make amends. Haru put his hand on Makoto's shoulder and said, "Sorry."

Rin bit his lip, and quickly reassured Makoto, "I can get you another one!"

"I don't want another one!" Makoto cried out. Unnoticed tears streamed down his face. "This one was mine, it was my present! Just like this dolphin! But you two...!" He cut himself off, miserably ducking his head down. He quickly gathered the abused shark and its stuffing and the pieces of the dolphin, and put them into one of the gift bags, rolling the top down to protect them.

"M-Makoto..." Haru started in a tiny voice.

Makoto just shook his head, unwilling to listen even to him. "Not everything is about which one of you is better," he sighed, turning to stuff the bag into another bag. "A-anyway, we should start to clean up..."

"You don't have to..." Gou started.

"We can take care of it, Mako-chan," Nagisa nodded.

"It's fine, I want to help," Makoto declared, packing away all his gifts. He wiped his cheeks, and then stood to take down the decorations around the window.

"Eh, well, we needed a step stool to put those up, so... that's... that's helpful..." Nagisa weakly tried.

But that was that for the mood of the party. Once everything had been taken down, and all the trash was packed up, Nagisa gave Makoto a big hug. Rei smiled and wished him a Happy Birthday once again. Gou bravely stood on her tip-toes to kiss Makoto's cheek, which earned her the same response as it would have Ran; he ruffled her hair and smiled at her. Then, Gou took her brother's arm and led him off to the station, obviously lecturing him. Nagisa and Rei followed them, heads bent together as they talked.

Makoto, for probably the first time ever, headed home without making sure Haru was following him.

Uneasy, Haru made sure to keep pace with Makoto, aware of Makoto's long legs like he never usually had to be. After a few steps, he touched Makoto's elbow, and Makoto jumped.

"Makoto, I'm sorry," Haru pled.

"It's fine, really, just..." Makoto shook his head.

"I'm really sorry," Haru fervently assured him.

Makoto sighed. "Stop, it's... it's ok, I mean, I understand, just..." Makoto looked away.

"Makoto. I'm sorry," Haru insisted.

"Stop it, please," Makoto begged.

Haru's hand fell back to his side.

They went together to Makoto's house, and they were barely in the gate when Ran and Ren ran out to jump on their brother. They had woken him up that morning, but they had still missed him all day. They went inside, and Haru played with the kids while Makoto changed. They were all playing video games when Makoto's father came home, bringing the fresh squid from the marina. Ran and Ren helped their mother get everything together for dinner. Haru noticed that Makoto had shoved the bags of presents under his desk.

They had a family dinner together, and Haru had to sit next to Makoto's mother, because Ran and Ren insisted on sitting on either side of their brother. The Tachibana family was warm and loud, despite the eldest being gentle and quiet. After dinner, the cake Makoto's mother made was brought out, and Makoto opened his presents, a video game he wanted, a couple of shirts he liked, a gold chain his mother claimed was very manly, and a handmade book Ran and Ren had made, depicting the three of them going out into the woods and befriending a dragon. The dragon was named Haru.

After dinner, though, Makoto didn't do his usual nagging that you might as well just sleep here, so Haru started to feel really anxious. He had been watching Makoto, and it didn't seem like Makoto was still angry, but it was hard to tell with Makoto. He wasn't even really sure he'd ever seen Makoto angry before as a reference. When he said he should head home, only Makoto's mother asked him if he was sure. But, at least Makoto went to the door and walked Haru out to the sidewalk. And when Haru looked back when he halfway down the stone stairs, Makoto was still standing there, watching him.

It was after Ran and Ren went to bed that Makoto came down the stairs, looking sheepish. He smiled at his mother, and produced from a bag a rather sad-looking little shark plushie that was bleeding stuffing. "Mom? Do you think... you can fix it?" he asked her.

She took the toy, and looked it over. "Oh dear... I've never been that good at reverse seaming... I'm afraid it will leave a scar." She looked up at him, thinking about a dozen things.

He smiled brightly at the prospect of it being repaired, though. "That's fine!" he quickly assured her. "It doesn't matter, as long as... well, as long he recovers," Makoto laughed.

But it seemed to really matter to him.

"Well, let's see what we can do, then!" she cheerfully declared. She got her craft bag out from under the shelf, and sat down at the chair in the living room.

He sat down on the floor before the coffee table, and spread out a newspaper. And then he placed on it wood glue, a small box of headless pins, a pair of needlenose pliers, wood putty, and a tiny spatula. And then he got out pieces of what appeared to be a dolphin carving.

She shook her head. "Looks like you had quite the party with your friends today," she commented, watching him.

"Mm, yeah," he sighed, but he was already setting to work.

She took to her work as he did his, and made sure she made her stitches small, and as invisible as she could. They both worked in silence, her work mainly tedious and exacting, his more like forcing together a puzzle. When she was done, she just watched her son. With cautious diligence, he stuck the pins in the large pieces to help them stick together, and put the glue in between just before fitting them. He held them together, being careful to apply force, but not to damage the poor dolphin any further. Then, he applied the wood putty to the seam, closing it up as best he could, wiping away all excesses carefully. Fortunately, there weren't that many pieces, and only a few minutes after she was done, he set it down, looking it over. "Ok, done," he decided.

"Mine, too!" she declared. She got up and sat behind him, putting her arms around him to show him his shark. She kissed his temple. "You're a very sweet boy, Makoto. I hope that... despite... the damages, you enjoyed your birthday."

He flushed. "Thanks, Mom. I did. And... Thanks. He looks great." He smiled up at her.

She pinched and squeezed and pulled his cheeks, and he just laughed, not really resisting her. Her son was just too damned cute and nice.

Nice people got hurt a lot, she feared.

As Gou followed Makoto up the stairs to his bedroom, she had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. If she took a bunch of pictures, she could get really rich selling them to girls in their school. That was, if they didn't just kill her for going up to Makoto's bedroom in the first place.

"I'm sorry, it's kind of messy," he apologized as he let her in.

"Don't worry!" she assured him, mostly certain it was just something he would say. Actually, his room was a lot sparser than she'd imagined, and though he had a hoodie on the floor and game controllers just spread out in front of his television, for the most part, his room looked perfectly neat.

Of course.

Hana-chan was going to die of jealousy...

"I'm pretty sure I've got the notebooks right here, just give me a minute," he promised her.

"It's ok! Thank you so much! I hate to bother you... I would have asked Haruka-senpai, but..." she shrugged.

He laughed. "You think his notes would be better than mine?" he teased.

She flushed. "Th-that's not what I meant!" she tried to recover.

He out and out laughed, though. "It's true, Haru's smarter than I am. But, it wouldn't have mattered." He came out from the back of his closet, and winked at her. "I've got Haru's notes, too, anyway."

Damn, he was such an unconscious flirt! Most of the time, it didn't really affect Gou, but... She shook her head. "Don't tell me that Haruka-senpai expects you to take care of his stuff?" she laughed.

"No," Makoto was laughing, too. "We studied for finals together, though, and he just left everything here. He told me to just throw out the notes, but..." Makoto shrugged. "You never know, right? So, here's mine, and here's Haru's." She took the notebooks, and started to rifle through them.

"Thank you so much, Makoto-senpai. I don't mind Tahara-sensei much, but this last section just made no sense..." she sighed.

"I know," he nodded sympathetically. "Our class did really badly on it, too. I hope the notes help."

"Well, Rei said he would study with us, but he made us promise that we'd try to understand on our own first," she laughed. "But I just had no idea where to begin. I have a feeling that Nagisa isn't going to prepare at all. I'm going to meet up with Hana-chan and a few others, though, and we'll go through this." She held up the notebook like it was a battle axe.

He laughed. "I have a feeling that no matter how strict Rei intends on being, Nagisa will have a way of getting what he wants from him."

Gou snorted. "I think that's their whole relationship in a nutshell," she laughed.

He turned a bit pink, but he didn't deny it. "Oh! I also have some old tests. Let me think..." he went to his desk, and knelt down to go through a drawer. "I know Tahara-sensei cycles his tests, but you can at least get an idea of the types of questions..."

"That would be really helpful, thanks!" Gou beamed. While he went through his drawer, she looked over his desk. It was neat, without being overly studious. He just had a few pens, pencils, and a calculator out. And.

She picked up the shark plushie that had been torn. The deep scar running across its belly almost made it more endearing. And next to the orca plushie the shark had been snuggling, the figures of the dolphin and orca were swimming together. The orca was somewhat covering it, but she was sure the dolphin was equally battle-marred. She nuzzled the shark a bit, feeling warmth spreading up through her insides. She wasn't small-minded at all, but it was still a bit of a strange thought.

Should she send her brother a message about the time she spent with Makoto-senpai, make him jealous? He deserved it!

"Here!" he declared. "I don't have the final, but everything else. Ah, just ignore the grades, if you don't mind. Well, they're not that bad, but..." he laughed self-deprecatingly.

She set the shark back down, but on top of the orca, and moved in to kiss his cheek. He jumped back, shocked, and she had to laugh. "Thank you, Makoto-senpai, you're awfully sweet," but she wasn't talking about the tests anymore.

"Eh? No, it's nothing..." he started.

She rocked on her heels, looking around. "Is this the first time you've had a girl in your room? Makoto-senpai?"

"Eh?" He looked around, confused. "Ah... um. Well. I guess... Er, no. Aki-chan, that is, a friend from grade school has been in here... though, that was back in grade school..."

"Was it just you two?" Gou asked.

"Mm, well, Haru was there, too, of course," Makoto considered.

"Of course. But he's not here now," she pointed out.

"Er," he looked at her, puzzled.

She grinned. "Have you forgiven them? Haruka-senpai, and my stupid brother?"

"Eh?" he looked flummoxed. "Forgiven? There... there wasn't anything... for me to... forgive..." he trailed off. He looked... sad.

She took pity on him. She took the tests from him, and beamed at him. "That's only because you're too nice. But it's ok. They should stew a bit, anyway. Especially my stupid brother. He's always so dishonest! You know, growing up, he always used to pretend that he didn't care much either way when mom was making curry, but he always liked it when she used pork. And when we did have pork curry, he'd eat like a machine, and mom would tease him, asking if it was any good, and he'd just mumble 'Sallright while he shoveled it into his mouth," she snickered.

He didn't look any less confused, but he was obviously picturing little Rin, chomping down on his favorite meal while pretending he didn't care much either way about it. "That's really cute," Makoto smiled.

Gou smiled up at Makoto knowingly, and then she held up the tests. "Thanks so much for all of this, I really appreciate it."

"Oh! Of course! And if you need any other help..." he started to offer.

"I got it, but if you ever need any help with oniichan, just let me know, and I'll give him a good knock on the head," she winked at him.

"Eh?" he stared at her.

It was too adorable for words. She put the notebooks and tests into her bag, trying to keep from laughing.

"Oh! Are you sure you don't want anything, like... tea or...?" he offered her cutely.

"Nope, sorry, I gotta meet Hana-chan," she sighed. It would be a more jealousy-inducing story if she let him serve her in his room... she looked at the shark on top of the orca, and smiled. "Thanks for everything, Makoto-senpai."

"Ah, no problem," he beamed, and then he escorted her down. On the stairs, they were met by two cuties.

"Eh? Oniichan, is this your girlfriend?" the little girl gaped.

"This is Matusoka Gou, she's the manager of the swim club. My kohai, really. I was just helping her by lending her some notes," Makoto explained patiently.

"Eh? You're that Rin person's sister?" the girl asked, incredulous. She made a sour-looking face. "Really? That guy has a cute little sister?"

"Are your teeth all weird and scary, too?" the little boy asked, stepping up around his sister and craning to get a look at Gou's teeth.

She flashed them for his perusal, and his eyes went wide as saucers.

"Ran! Ren! You're being rude! It's not that Rin person, it's Rin-san, and his teeth are not weird, it's not nice to judge people on things they have no control over!" he lectured them patiently.

"Sorry, oniichan," they chorused.

"This is my little sister, Ran," he told Gou, tapping Ran on the nose, "and my little brother Ren." Ren straightened up and puffed his chest out.

"Are you really that Rin...san's little sister, though?" Ran frowned. She tugged on Gou's sleeve. "He's always so nasty and he stuck his tongue out at me!" she pouted.

"Well, I will lecture him about that," Gou assured Ran. "He shouldn't be so nasty to such cute little girls."

"She called me cute!" Ran jumped up to cuddle her big brother.

Ren stepped up to where his sister had been. "Hey, hey, Gou-san, do you have a boyfriend?" he asked her shyly, batting his eyelashes at her.

Damn, this family...! She laughed. "Nooo, no, actually I don't."

"Oh!" he brightened. He leaned in and stage whispered to her, "If you wanted to confess to oniichan, Ran 'n' me can give you some pointers!"

"Oookay," Makoto indulgently sighed. "That's enough. Gou-chan has someplace to be, and you two must have homework, right?" he affectionately scolded them.

Laughing, they both said, "Yes, oniichan!" at the same time.

Heading past them, Ran waved. "Later, Gou-san! Come back anytime, I'll show you my dolls!"

"Bye-bye, Gou-chan!" Ren winked at her. "I like your shark hair ties!"

Laughing she waved goodbye, and then headed down the stairs. "That Ren is going to be a player," she informed Makoto.

He sighed. "Please don't say such scary things! They're only ten!"

She was still laughing as she got to the genkan. She got on her shoes, and thanked Makoto once more. He watched her as she left, making sure she got to the street all right. Once she was out of sight, she pulled out her phone, and pulled up her brother's contact so she could message him. Snickering to herself, she typed.

Guess what, oniichan! I just spent some time in a boy's room! ^_~