title: starting at the end
fandom: Free!
characters/pairings: Makoto/Rin, Sousuke/Haru(ish)
rating: G
warnings: none
summary: Makoto and Rin consider Haru's latest accomplishment.
notes: i got started thinking, and that's rarely good. this is mostly just for laughs, but also -- i finally wrote some souharu! kinda!!

Rin's left eye was twitching uncomfortably. He couldn't even turn his gaze to see how Makoto was reacting. He held out one trembling finger to point at the stack of books before them. "Makoto. What... What am I looking at?" he asked, his voice restrained considering all that was going on inside of his head. He couldn't even think considering all that was going on inside of his head!

"I know as much about this as you do, Rin," Makoto replied, his voice calm but shaky. "I got the same message from Haru that you did... so..."

"What am I looking at?!?" Rin hissed, demanding an explanation for the stack of books. The cover was a picture of water with light filtering through it.

"I don't know, Rin," Makoto sighed. "Well, I mean, Haru said he'd... he'd made a book..."

Rin shook his finger at the top book more decisively, right at the title. In clear, simple kanji, the words Pools I Have Swum was written. "Is that even proper grammar?"

"I-I don't know, Rin," Makoto's voice shook, and he rubbed his forehead.

Rin looked from Makoto to the books and back to Makoto. He knew he shouldn't take this out on Makoto, but... Wasn't Makoto in charge of that brat?! "What am I looking at!??"

Makoto shook his head, and picked up a book. He touched the characters for Haru's name in the corner. "Haru made this... apparently..." He opened it up. From the look on his face, nothing much was any clearer.

Sighing like everything wrong in the world was his responsibility, Rin picked up a book. "Oh my fucking god, these are actual pictures of pools he's swum in... Is the whole book pictures of pools he's swum in?! What am I looking at?!" Rin flipped through the pages, exasperated.

"I don't know, Rin," Makoto mournfully sighed.

"Oh, it's not all pictures. Look, there's also drawings of things he's seen while swimming. ...Is that a goddamned dolphin's tail? What the hell am I looking at?" Rin growled.

"I really don't know, Rin, I swear," Makoto shook his head, flipping past the page that seemed to be a picture of an orca's tail.

Rin flipped back and forth through this so-called book that was apparently being sold in actual stores with other actual books. "Oh, there's writing, too. Let's see. The water is alive. Once you dive in, it will immediately bare its fangs and... What the hell am I looking at, Makoto?"

"I really don't know, Rin!" Makoto wailed, and then quickly bit his lip, looking around to see if anyone had heard him.

"Everyone is going to know he's crazy now, Makoto! People we know in real life will buy this because they know him and then they'll know that he's crazy," Rin hissed, glaring at Makoto.

Why did Makoto let Haru make a damned book!?

"I really don't kno-" Makoto started, but then his phone rang, and he jumped, fumbling to put the book down to answer it.

Rin huffed, and flipped through more pages. That damned Haru...

"Hello! Ah, Nagisa! ...Ah... y-yes, I've seen it..." Makoto's voice quivered.

Rin glared. "That fluffy headed brat is talking about the stupid book, isn't he?"

Makoto smiled at Rin, conciliatory. "Er, well, we're at the bookstore now... Yes, I'm with Rin. ...Ah, well... it's... it's interesting..."

"It's not interesting, it's weird, and everyone knows he's crazy now!" Rin snarled.

Makoto made a face, and then he looked at Rin apologetically. "Nagisa wants me to tell you that Haru-chan isn't crazy, he just has a really special way of looking at the world, and people will appreciate it."

"People will appreciate how crazy he is," Rin grumbled, gritting his teeth. Of course that fluffy brat would take Haru's side. Rin still couldn't understand just what the hell this was he was looking at, damn it!

"Well, Nagisa, I've just... We've only really glanced through it, it's... yes, it's very impressive to get something published, I just... I mean, I guess I'm a little surprised that he did get it published... is there really a demand for... pool books, I just...?" Makoto sighed.

"What are we looking at here?" Rin threw his hands up, exasperated.

"Nagisa says the book was very well reviewed," Makoto shrugged at Rin.

"Nothing in the world makes sense anymore," Rin bemoaned.

"Er, at any rate, Nagisa... ...no, I'm not trying to get rid of you so I can make out with Rin," Makoto rolled his eyes.

"We could go behind that shelf there," Rin suggested. That was a much better idea than looking at Haru's incomprehensible book.

Makoto gave Rin that look that meant that they weren't going to make out behind the shelf but Makoto actually did think it was a good idea. Rin liked that look, though making out in the book store would be good, too. "Yes, Nagisa. I promise. ...Ok, ok! And yesyes, we're buying the book..."

"We're buying it?" Rin looked stricken at the stack of books. This was...

"Talk to you soon," Makoto hung up on Nagisa, and then he looked at Rin. "Of course we have to buy it. Haru... er, made it, so..."

"But it's crazy," Rin sighed. He flipped to a random page. "Look. This is the pool in Hong Kong we swam at. I wondered what he was doing, getting there so early... he was taking damned pictures. He said he wanted to swim in pools all over the world... I thought that meant he was getting serious about swimming, but no, he just wanted to go on a damned tour. And then make a book about it. I mean, he didn't even make it to the final round in that tournament! Do you know how close he came to qualifying for the National team? Oh, but he had to write some of this golden poetry. Listen, The water has eyes, it sees you. Don't flinch from the water's gaze. Makoto!" Rin showed Makoto the offensive page. Makoto had to understand, he needed to do a better job watching over Haru.

"Rin," Makoto sighed, and now Makoto was going to be reasonable, and that meant taking Haru's side. "I realize that sounds... but someone published it! And look how many are out here! So... that's good for Haru, right?"

"Haru is crazy," Rin replied flatly.

"Rin," Makoto sighed.

"Makoto, what are we looking at here?!" Rin moaned.

"Can I help you gentlemen?" a too-cheerful voice asked, causing them both to jump.

"Ah! Er, no, we were just looking at..." Makoto laughed, holding up Haru's book.

"Oh! Yes, that's a most excellent choice!" the salesgirl clapped her hands together.

"Really? This book?" Rin asked, his voice dripping with disappointment in humanity.

"Oh, yes, the work is a bit sublime, yet enticing. Karatani Kojin wrote a critique of it for Gunzo!" she enthused.

"Eh?" Rin stared at her, wondering when she would start to make sense.

She looked despondently at Makoto. "It's already been nominated for the Noma Prize."

"Eh?" Rin was starting to become genuinely afraid.

"We're... we're going to take two copies," Makoto replied cheerfully. He was smiling like that, so the shopgirl would forget all about Karatani and Gunzo and Noma, and think only about making Makoto happy. And, as always, he didn't even know he was doing it! Rin really had to keep an eye on him!

The salesgirl blushed, and took the books from Makoto, and smiled shyly at him. "R-right this way, sir! I can... I can absolutely take care of you! Right this way!"

Rin followed behind Makoto, his arms folded over his chest. "Yeah, she wishes she could take care of you."

"Rin!" Makoto smiled.

Well, that smile wasn't so bad...

They paid for their books, and then they went to a café for lunch. Rin couldn't help paging through Haru's damned book. Makoto kept giving him disapproving looks, but they weren't as effective behind his glasses, because it just made Rin think of those naughty librarian games they sometimes played...

After they ordered, Rin casually started to read, "Deep in the water, you can feel its heart beating, and it can feel you. Embrace it. Are you telling me those are the words of a sane man?"

"It's as sane as Haru has ever been," Makoto replied cheerfully.

"Exactly, I'm worried about him, I mean, this is a cry for help!" Rin rattled the book on the table.

Gently, Makoto reached out and slid Rin's copy closer to him. "Ok. How about this? How about we try to not talk about Haru's book for the next... say... three minutes? How about that?"

Rin pouted as cutely as he could, but Makoto just kept smiling at him.

"To make it easier... let's just talk about something else. ...I got my ticket to Rio," he said suggestively.

Rin straightened up and cleared his throat. "Ah... yeah? It wasn't... I mean, I know it's expensive..."

"All paid for," Makoto declared warmly, his eyes sparkling. "And your mom said she and your sister can share a bed, ah, so I can have the other room in their suite, so..."

Rin flushed. His mom really did understand, then? "W-Well, I'll see you, then. When I'm swimming... at the Olympics..."

Makoto flushed, and then he looked down at his hands. "I told you I'd be cheering for you."

He had. And at the time, Rin hadn't quite believed him. Because he'd thought... Rin scowled. "Too bad Haru spent all his time writing weird poems or whatever the fuck about water. He could have taken some great pictures of the pools in Rio."

"And we're back to that," Makoto sighed. "Rin, you know... it's possible that you just got better than Haru, you know."

"Of course I know that," Rin replied defensively. "I've always known that."

"You've been training really intensively, and you've always been really focused. I always admired that about you," Makoto added shyly.

"I, uh," Rin returned smoothly.

"The fact that Haru decided to write a book once he knew he wasn't going to make the team... that's not an insult to you," Makoto suggested, and Rin could swear he was batting his eyelashes at Rin.

Rin took a sip of water just to steady himself. He swallowed hard, and looked Makoto right in the eye. "But it's such a stupid book!"

Makoto sighed, and gave up.

Sousuke smirked. There were only two people in front of him now. He couldn't wait to see Nanase's face when he got to the front of the line. He'd been laughing about Nanase's stupid pool book since before he'd even gotten his hands on it, and now he was going to laugh right in Nanase's face. Rin was on his way to Rio, and Nanase was signing books in some store out in the boonies. This was the best!

Only one more person now, and Sousuke would get to enjoy the sweet revenge that had so long been brewing! He pictured the embarrassment and the shame on Nanase's face when Sousuke ironically shoved the book under his nose to be signed. Maybe Nanase could take pictures of pools, but Rin was swimming in them!

All right, technically this was Rin's victory, but Sousuke was going to help him savor it. With justice!

It was finally his turn! He grinned, and put his book down heavily on the table. Nanase looked up at him with a dead expression, but his eyes widened with recognition.


"Yamazaki? You came out all this way... to see me?" Nanase blushed.



This was...

Oh, shit, he was cute when he blushed.

Wait, what?!

"No!" Sousuke said, far too loudly. "I just... I got your book!" he said proudly. There. There! Now, Nanase would taste the bitter taste of shame!

"Thank you," Nanase smiled at him coyly. "I appreciate it." He opened the book to sign it.

Wait, Nanase wasn't doing this at all ironically! "The water breathes." He repeated his favorite line. Nanase would be withering in the face of his own ridiculous words!

Nanase didn't appear to be withering. "I have to keep the line moving... let's meet after to talk." He closed the book and slid it back to Sousuke.

Feeling desperate, Sousuke nodded quickly. "There's a coffee shop across the street," he suggested.

"Great," Nanase beamed at him. Beamed! One of the bookstore's staff started to shepherd Sousuke away. "It's a date, then." Nanase nodded goodbye, and then turned his attention to the next person in line.



"No," Sousuke tried to turn and go back to set Nanase straight, but the staff member pushed him away from the table and the line.


Flustered, Sousuke opened his book to see Nanase's stupid signature.

He signed it, but he'd also drawn two fish circling each other with a little heart in the middle.


"It's not a date!" Sousuke wailed to no one who was listening. Aggravated because Nanase hadn't reacted correctly and because he was being stared at, Sousuke marched off to the coffee shop across the street.

When Nanase got there for their date, Sousuke would explain that Nanase should be humiliated and also it wasn't a date!!