title: sibs
fandom: Free!
characters/pairings: Rin & Makoto, Gou
rating: G
warnings: fluff, makoto panicking over something silly as usual
summary: Gou has an unusual way of staying connected with her big brother.
notes: none

Gou kicked her shoes off and called out, "I'm home!" even though she knew that her mom wouldn't be home from work for a few hours. Long practice had taught her that the best way to deal with coming home to an empty house was to pretend that she wasn't. She checked the time on her phone, and then she went to the kitchen to grab an apple. She went to her room, and flopped onto her bed, quickly turning over and sticking her feet up in the air. She got out her phone again, and dialed the number.

She took a bite of apple while she waited for him to answer.

"What's up, Gou? I'm about to start my run."

"I know," she rolled her eyes at her brother's gentlemanly manners. "Ai-kun gave me your schedule."

"...What the hell? Why does he even have my schedule? Wait, what did you call him?!"

Repressing her smirk, Gou wiggled her toes inside her socks. "Your boyfriend's in a blue funk," she taunted.

"Eh? Is this about that brat Haru? Stop calling him my boyfriend! I don't really give a flying... fig if he's upset because he burned his damned mackerel or his favorite swim suit shrunk in the laundry or what the hell ever," Rin groused.

"Yeah, yeah, I get it, tough guy," she couldn't help laughing a little. "But I wasn't talking about Haruka-senpai. I meant Makoto-senpai."

".......Makoto's never in a bad mood! What are you talking about?" Rin demanded.

"Interesting that you don't deny that he's your boyfriend," she said thoughtfully, taking a bit of apple. "Everyone in school is talking about how Makoto-senpai is depressed!"

"I don't believe that everyone in school cares. Don't eat while talking on the phone, damn it, Gou. And what the hell is this all about, c'mon, stop beating around the bush!"

"Are you worried?" she snickered. She didn't give him a chance to retort. "Some girls in my class were talking about it before school even began. How Makoto-senpai was trudging to school. And Nagisa-kun and Rei-kun were discussing it at lunch. And at practice today, he was positively listless, and Rei-kun got really worried and thought he was deficient of some sort of vitamin or something," Gou recounted.

Rin considered that for a moment. "Gou, do you have a crush on Makoto?" He sounded concerned.

"Shut up!" she laughed. "I'm not chasing after your boyfriend, I'm serious, people were talking about this!"

"You know, he's not my boy-..." Rin started, but Gou didn't care.

"He's the Captain of the swim team and I'm the manager and we're friends, and he's definitely in a blue funk. And I've never seen Makoto-senpai not being cheerful! So this is serious! I thought you'd want to know! Don't go around trying to deflect by making this about me, as far as I'm concerned, he's just a good friend who happens to be an exquisitely put together display of muscles. I can't believe you think just because I noticed a friend was depressed that I have a crush on him!" she finished scolding him.

"You did just describe him as an exquisitely put together something muscles," Rin said flatly. "You know, I think you spend too much time around scantily clad men. I'm not sure this is good for you."

"Makoto-senpai has a glorious trapezius, that's just a fact. And I don't need your permission to be the swim club's manager. So, are you going to call Makoto-senpai, then?" she swung her legs back and forth.

"What I'm going to do, li'l sis, is go for my run. You've already made me late," Rin sighed.

And then he hung up on her! She stuck her tongue out at her phone.

It was fun calling Rin. It was more fun now that he answered.

And she was sure he was going to call Makoto-senpai.

Rin turned the corner on the beach, and he saw Makoto waiting for him by the railing up at the road. He picked up his pace a bit, jogging up the stairs to the railing.

Makoto smiled when he saw Rin.

Rin stopped and took a deep breath. He pointed at Makoto's bike. "You rode out here?"

"It's pretty far, you know!" Makoto flushed.

"It's pretty far for me, too, but I ran!" Rin laughed.

"Well, I didn't want to keep you waiting. Anyway, riding a bike is good exercise, too," Makoto pouted and huffed at the same time, a skill of his that reminded Rin of the child he'd known what now seemed ages ago.

"You're supposed to be a swim Captain!" Rin slapped Makoto's abs.

Damn, they were tight.

"Just having long legs isn't good enough, you gotta work on your kick!" Rin admonished.

Makoto looked embarrassed, and he pulled back a step, his hand covering where Rin had touched him. Rin looked at Makoto's hand where his hand had been, and he felt his heart thud. "M-my kick is just fine! If you want me to prove it, we can have another backstroke race. I don't mind beating you again. That was fun, back then."

Makoto's eyes were shining, he was actually teasing Rin. "How about this time we have an Individual Medley race and then you can tell me how fun it is," Rin shot back. He was grinning, too, just because he couldn't help it.

"You know what? Forget it, just worry about your own backstroker first!" Makoto smirked.

"Oh, I am worried about him," Rin sighed. "He doesn't take to instruction all that well."

"I'm sure you'll whip him into shape," Makoto said affectionately.

Thinking about Makoto and affection and whips... "Whip yourself into shape so you don't embarrass your team when we compete!" Rin blustered. "And what's this about you being depressed? You don't seem too depressed to me," Rin crossed his arms over his chest, looking at Makoto accusingly, as if taunting him to become depressed on demand.

"...Ah! Did Gou-chan call you?" Makoto looked sheepish. "Ah... no, it's really nothing. I didn't want to worry anyone..."

"Well, you did," Rin sighed, as if Makoto was really putting him out. "C'mon, what's going on?"

"No, it's really nothing at all, I mean, I know I'm making something out of nothing, I just..." Makoto sighed, and blew his hair out of his face, but the wind was still messing it up anyway. Now that he was thinking about it and not about Rin, he really did look troubled.

"Is it about Haru?" Rin asked quietly, hoping that it wasn't about Haru.

Makoto blinked, and asked, "Why would it be about Haru?"

"I don't know, it always seems to be about Haru!" Rin threw his arms up in frustration.

Makoto grinned and damn, he sure didn't remind Rin of the child he'd once been when he grinned like that. He reached over and tugged on Rin's ponytail. "I suppose it does... but no, this has nothing at all to do with Haru..." Makoto drifted off.

Rin's head was in a jumble from the tail tug, but he saw something in Makoto's eyes and he wasn't sure what it was. "You didn't talk to Haru about it?"

"Of course not!" Makoto looked at him with wide eyes. "Look, it's really nothing, I'll... I'll make sure not to worry anyone anymore, so you can tell Gou-chan that it's fine." He smiled, and his smile looked sad and defeated.

Rin scowled. "Stop being an idiot! If something is wrong, just talk about it! And if it really is nothing, well, that's fine, isn't it?"

Makoto looked at Rin, surprised. After a moment, he looked down, hesitant. "Well... maybe it is something you could understand... it's something we have in common, after all..."

Rin's eyes widened and his lips parted.

"It's just..." Makoto closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He looked at Rin, and suddenly he appeared panicked. "It's just, I've always given Ran and Ren their baths and then made sure they dried off properly and at night I tuck them in and read to them but suddenly Ran wants to take a bath alone and she won't even let me dry her hair because she said she wants to do it and last night... last night she said she was too old for a bedtime story!"

With each word, he became more and more desperate, and Rin started to wonder if this all hadn't been a huge mistake and maybe he shouldn't have pushed to have Makoto share with him. But Makoto was looking at him, really searching to see if Rin might have some answers. Rin fidgeted from foot to foot. He took a deep breath.

"But Ran's like ten or something, right? I mean, she's a girl! She's just getting to the age when she's embarrassed about boy and girl shit! It's no biggie!" Rin burst out unhelpfully.

"But I'm not a boy! I'm her big brother!" Makoto wailed.

Rin shook his head. "Well, don't she and Ren still share a room? Did you tuck him in and read to him?"

"Yes," Makoto answered with a slightly petulant tone.

"Well, see, she wasn't really giving up the story! She was just putting up a good front! She's growing up, Makoto! Becoming a young lady or something! She wants her big brother to see that she's not a kid anymore," Rin reasoned. "It won't be long before she'll have a little boyfriend and she'll be wrecking havoc with little hearts all around her."

"I'm not ready to hand her off to some man!" Makoto wailed, covering his face with his hands.

"No, you shouldn't, she's still just a kid, that's not what I meant," Rin said calmly, wondering if Makoto was always stupid or if it was just because of Ran.

Makoto sniffled like a child. "I just don't like it! They're my little siblings! Why do things have to change?"

Rin smiled at Makoto crookedly. "Pretty soon, you'll be going to college. Maybe... Ran is just preparing? You know, being a bit more independent now so that after you leave home, she won't have to miss you so much?"

"But I'm going to still miss her!" Makoto cried. "Maybe I shouldn't go away to school. I could just get a job nearby..."

Rin smacked the top of Makoto's head with his fist, having to stand on his tip toes to do it. "Idiot. A good big brother doesn't coddle his siblings! A good big brother is a good example for his little sibs! You have to go to a good school and do well so Ran and Ren know that's what they should do, too!"

Makoto whimpered a bit, but he was looking intently at Rin. "That's... that's true. You're right. Of course you're right." He sniffled one last time, and then he beamed at Rin. "Thanks, Rin! That actually does help a lot!"

Rin unconsciously took a half step back. Makoto's full-powered smile was as lethal as ever... it was truly a testament to Haru's stoicism that he got to see that smile so often and remained sane. Relatively speaking. "Forget it. Just... big brothers have to stick together, or something," he muttered, looking away as Makoto laughed in agreement.

Gou plopped on her bed again, turning onto her back and sticking her legs up. She wiggled her butt around, trying to get her underwear to stop being so uncomfortable. She popped the small chocolate she'd snagged into her mouth, and waited to make her call until she'd swallowed it all down.

She wouldn't want her big brother to scold her again!

"What is it today, Gou?" Rin asked, sounding bored and annoyed, but she knew better.

She thought.

"Don't be such a grump! I just wanted to congratulate you on your good work with Makoto-senpai. He was in much better spirits today!"

"What are you talking about, I didn't have anything to do with it," Rin grumbled.

"Oh? Well, maybe Haruka-senpai talked to him, then," Gou smirked.

"That would require actual words and not just grunts," Rin sarcastically replied.

Gou snickered. "Oh, but you definitely didn't have anything to do with it and you and Makoto-senpai are definitely not dating."

"Sh-shut up, brat!" Rin had to be blushing, he had to be!

"You called him, and you made him feel better. Your boyfriend. Rin and Makoto-senpai, under the umbrella," she singsonged.

"Whatever, Gou, sheesh," Rin gruffly sneered, and then he hung up.

Gou jumped out of bed and went to get another chocolate. It was all right to indulge because she had helped her brother with his boyfriend, and good little sisters earned rewards!

She adjusted her underwear on the way to the kitchen, whistling. Tomorrow, she was going text Rin some pictures of Makoto-senpai at practice!