title: penultimate
fandom: Free!
characters/pairings: pre-Makoto/Haru/Rin
rating: G
warnings: episode spoilers, musings
summary: Haru and Rin are in Australia, and all the boys are thinking too much.
notes: episode 12 fit into the Household Foundation series so absolutely perfectly, i had to jump on it.


But, I do believe this trip will be something special for Haru.


Makoto separated from Nagisa and Rei, their voices still audible until they walked up to the station. They were, of course, talking about Haru and Rin. It was far from the first time Makoto walked home from school alone. Of late, it was more unusual to be walking home with Haru. And the last time they walked home together...

Ran and Ren met Makoto at the door, both of them trying to tell him a story at the same time about the frog their friends found and everyone chasing it, contradicting each other and arguing over the sequence of events. He tried to make them calm down, but it wasn't until his mother came out and ordered them to wash up that they let go of him. He thanked his mother, changed his clothes, and fed his fish.

Their father came home just as they were finishing setting the table. The frog escape adventure was restarted, this time Ran and Ren taking turns and being slightly more polite as they told their father. After dinner, Makoto offered to do the dishes, so Ran and Ren offered to help. They had a soap bubble fight, and Makoto had to break it up. They all cleaned it up together, and their parents were snickering in the sitting room when they were done, clearly able to overhear the entire conversation. Makoto took the twins upstairs and set up their bath, and after they'd bathed, he played action figures with them. He helped Ren draw a picture - by picking out crayons and markers for him - and he helped Ran braid her doll's hair - by holding it for her.

Their mother poked her head into the twin's room and smiled cheerfully at them, telling them it was bedtime. Makoto read two chapters of their book to them, and tucked them in, tucking Ran in twice because she threw off her covers to toss her doll away and grab a stuffed animal while he was tucking in Ren, and then Ren complained that Ran got tucked in twice, so he had to sternly tell them that it was bedtime and he loved them and he'd see them in the morning.

He took his bath, and he thought about the baths in Australia, and how they were different, and didn't the water move differently in the drain or something? The toilets worked differently? Makoto remembered reading about that when Rin went to Australia. He didn't remember all the details. Rin chose to leave, and he went to Australia, and he changed. They were still friends, of course, and Rin's dream never changed, but he left and he experienced many things that Makoto probably could never even guess at, and he would continue to grow and change and experience things that would have nothing to do with Makoto...

And he was taking Haru with him...

Makoto got out of the bath and told his father it was open. He got ready for bed, spending about twenty minutes playing his game before his parents peeked in to say goodnight and warn him not to stay up too late. He went to bed shortly after that, but his room was quiet and dark and he couldn't do anything but think he so he thought about how Haru and Rin were having sex in Australia.

Makoto was fairly sure it wouldn't be their first time, but then, it was hard to tell sometimes. He tried to be a friend to both of them and give them space, but so often they ended up dragging him along, plus with the swim club training kicking up, they hardly had any free time. So, maybe this would be their first time. In a hotel in Australia. That was pretty romantic; how fitting for a plan of Rin's. Makoto wondered what sort of hotel they had. Would they have two beds or one? If it was one, would Rin pretend the hotel made a mistake? Would Haru make a fuss?

But Haru wouldn't. No matter what, Haru wouldn't make a fuss, so even if Rin kicked up a pretend-fuss, they would end up in bed together. Actually, it was the perfect scenario, wasn't it? The two of them in some hotel in a foreign country, sharing a bed... Haru would start out with his back to Rin, but Rin would just have to touch Haru's skin to make him jump and then Haru would turn over, and Rin would laugh...

If there was a way to poke out his mind's eye, Makoto would. He could see it all, and it was perfect, and why wouldn't it be? He was being stupid! He already knew that Haru and Rin would go places he couldn't follow! He already knew they belonged together, and they'd figure it out! He already knew it all, so why...?

He turned to his side, wrapping his pillow around his head to muffle his tears. He was an idiot and a bad friend, but he wouldn't disturb his parents or his siblings with his stupidity.

He was happy for Rin and Haru. These tears were selfish. Haru needed Rin, like he never needed Makoto. Rin and Haru were going to do great things with each other. They were... in love...

He was happy for them. He had to be happy for them. He wouldn't let them think he wasn't happy for them, not for even a second. He wouldn't be selfish, not now when it mattered the most. For Haru, for Rin, Makoto would get it together.

By the time they got back from Australia... Makoto would be able to smile for them. It didn't seem like there was anything left for Makoto, but that was his own problem, and he'd figure it out. In Tokyo, maybe. For Haru and Rin, he'd smile, and he'd be happy for them.

After all, he loved them.



It was my... first fight.


Rin tried not to dwell on those words, but they stayed with him. He had been amazed that Haru came along with his crazy plan relatively easily. He didn't even ask about what they were doing until they were already all the way in Australia, so, in retrospect, it was clear that he was running away.

The whole purpose of the trip was to make amends, and to see if he could help Haru. So, now this was just something else. Haru and Makoto had a fight. Honestly, Rin couldn't picture it. Did Makoto yell? Did he get angry?

And... Haru got to see it...

He'd already been thinking that Makoto would think it was strange that he took Haru away to a strange land... and now it turned out that they had a fight, and Haru was sulking. Well! Rin could help with that, too! He had... a lot to make amends for, and he'd only added to his sins at the tournament. So, well, if he cheered Haru up and gave him something to think about with regards to his future... wouldn't that help things out with Makoto, too? And if Haru got serious about his future, he could go to any school, just like Rin could, so... then, he'd probably choose the school Makoto was going to, right?

And then Makoto and Haru would probably live together... they'd only need one bedroom, right? It would essentially be like getting married. Not like those two weren't already married. Since probably before Rin had even met them...! And this was their first fight? It was about time! They had to get it out of their systems and move on! Ah, it was probably Haru's fault... moving on was exactly what he wasn't able to do, that was why they were in Australia, right?

Rin would show him the way! And then he'd return Haru to Makoto, and... they would continue to live their life together, like they had when Rin left before, and It would just be Rin off chasing his dream... which was exactly as it should be. They were still his friends. They were in love with each other... but Rin was still their friend.

Coming back to Australia just confirmed everything for Rin. Seeing Russell and Lori, and hearing how they worried and cared for him, confirmed it all. He wasn't the same kid who came to Australia those years ago. He was more mature, and he'd learned from that past. He understood his own strengths and weaknesses better. Haru and Makoto and Rei and Nagisa, they lifted him up when he was at his lowest. Captain Mikoshiba and Samezuka had accepted his apology and let Rin explore his ideas of swimming. Sousuke had returned to show Rin more than he'd ever imagined about passion and heart. And then there was Momo and Ai... they had one more relay together, Rin's ultimate team, though what were they going to do about Sousuke?

He'd grown, which was something Rin had to remind himself as he slept in a narrow bed with Haru, ever conscious of Haru's body heat and soft, adorable breathing. No, he'd never be the one to roll over and throw an arm around Haru, taste his skin and touch him all over... he'd never get Makoto to hold him and whisper into his ear, or get to see Makoto's sleepy face and messed-up hair the morning after a night together. They were still his friends. They would always be his friends. Rin would always be a part of their life, and he would... always be important to them both.

Not as important as they were to each other, but Rin... was still their friend. Only their friend. So, he could be a best friend to them. He'd help Haru, and in so doing, help Makoto. They were his friends, after all.

He loved them.



So Makoto finally decided on his post-graduation plans.


Haru let Rin's words sink deep down into him. So, Makoto and Rin talked. (Haru knew that.) Makoto had told Rin his plans before he'd told Haru. (Naturally, why wouldn't he?) Makoto had talked to Rin about how he would tell Haru. (Like parents discussing how to break bad news to a petulant child...) Makoto told Rin first.

Back when they were kids, Rin and Makoto immediately got along easily. (Everyone got along with Makoto, everyone liked Makoto...) They laughed about things that weren't funny and Makoto worried over Rin's stupid ideas. (Rin was bold and exciting...) Right from the moment of the relay last year, when they all forcibly hugged Haru at the end, Haru could tell what would happen. (Was that what they meant by the red string of fate?) Rin and Makoto would go back to being close, and then, well, they weren't kids anymore...

Even Haru understood that. Of course he did.

He met Rin's Australian parents. Not understanding what they were saying made him uncomfortable, but when he looked around the house, he realized that Rin lived there, and he watched tv over there and played pool probably and he played with the dog and he did his homework and he felt things Haru never felt because Haru had never done anything like the things Rin did. He wrote letters to Sousuke, and went to swimming, and he slept in a bed upstairs.

Makoto would do the same thing. Go off to someplace Haru had never even wanted to go in his life, and live in some apartment and he'd have neighbors and his neighbors would like him and he'd made friends with Tokyo cats and go to classes and do things Haru hadn't considered and neither Rin nor Makoto had talked to Haru about what they wanted to do before they did it, and it was going to happen no matter what Haru thought.

But they talked to each other, and Makoto told Rin before he'd told Haru.

They got back to their hotel, and Rin kicked up a silly fuss, and they went to bed. Rin made Haru think about when they first met, and Haru realized how much Rin had, in a sense, always been a part of their lives. Wasn't that why they took note of each other as soon as they met? Rin was always doing big things, like taking Haru to Australia on a whim, and he and Makoto talked without Haru, and they were all going to do things they'd never done before.

When Haru woke up, he felt numb to everything he'd been feeling since Makoto told him he was leaving Haru. He followed Rin, and they got to the aquatic center. It was huge. Of course, Haru had seen the Olympics before, he knew that there were big international swimming competitions, but a pool was pool-sized, a regulated size, and he'd never really considered it.

He stood on the blocks, feeling empty but open, and he watched the swimmer in the lane next him take off, and he felt something. He dove into the water and he felt something.

Rin planned on coming back to Australia, so he was still focused on the Olympics. Makoto was going to Tokyo. They would have a long-distance relationship, then. But they were young, so it would be fine. Rin and Makoto... they would talk.

Whether Haru wanted it to or not, things were changing. Whether Haru wanted it or not, his friends were moving on. Whether Haru wanted it or not, they were going to have their own life... together. Whether it was what Haru wanted or not.

Was it in realizing it that Haru was freed? If it was taken out of his hands, then it wasn't his responsibility anymore? Makoto had talked to Rin first. Haru already knew how Makoto and Rin felt, even though it seemed as if they didn't. But, it was out of his hands. Makoto and Rin had decided on their own lives, so it was up to Haru to do things he hadn't thought of before.

Makoto and Rin had already decided, so Haru was free.

Haru was free, and he would always love them.