title: the Light WithIn
fandom: Free!
characters/pairings: Makoto/Haruka/Rin, Nagisa/Rei, Gou, Tachiparents, Ran, Ren
rating: G
warnings: fluff, so much fluff
summary: A fairytale of free!some
notes: this may seem inspired by this beautiful glowing heart fanart that's been circulating... i won't say that didn't influence me because i saw that before i posted this, but i was thinking of some way to visualize the "red string of fate" concept. fulfills soul bonding / soulmates for my trope_bingo card.

She was nineteen, sitting in a cafe between classes trying to catch up on reading. He sat down opposite her, and tried to engage her in conversation. She barely looked up from her book, and when she did, her only thought about him was kinda dorky. He tried once more to talk to her, but then he gave up, opening up his own book. The cafe was busy and loud and it was easy to ignore the man on the other side of the table.

Twelve minutes before her class, she started to get her papers and books together. She reached out for a notebook when he reached for his cup of tea. Her right ring finger glowed faintly lilac and his right ring finger glowed faintly violet.

Her eyes widened and her body froze, as did his. The glow was no mistake; it only got more solid and steady the longer their fingers stayed close to each other. She looked up and stared into his light brown eyes, hidden behind heavily-framed glasses. He needed a haircut and his attempt at a mustache was slightly funny looking.

"Oh..." he said dumbly.

"I-I have to get to class!" she blurted out.

"Please!" he clumsily took her hand, and their fingers glowed a bit brighter. "What... what's your name? Can I... call you... or...?"

She bit her lip and looked down at their joined hands. It was fate, wasn't it?

Their first date was less than a week later, awkward and embarrassing and completely unpromising. They went out again, though, and then again. She stayed over at his apartment a month later, and in the morning she wore his shirt while she burned eggs and undercooked the toast. She made coffee strong enough to wash the dishes and walk the dog, which he did not have but he laughed when she made the joke, anyway. They were married four years later, after she'd graduated and he'd settled into his job and gotten his first promotion. They had their first child a year later, and they named him Makoto.

She doted on her baby, certain that he was the cutest baby in the whole world ever. He was chubby and cheerful, except when he cried, which he did a lot, but even then she was sure he was adorable. Both parents spoiled and loved him. They let him sleep between them, and they put their hands on his belly, and fell asleep to the lilac-violet glow.

Makoto grew up well. He was tall for his age, always, and energetic. His mother thought he was the most thoughtful and sweet child she'd ever met. His grandmothers thought he was too timid and shy, but both of them did their share to help spoil him. On his first day of kindergarten, he had a Pikachu backpack with his three tamagotchi hanging from the straps. His mother walked him to the kindergarten, but he didn't let her walk him inside. When he got in, though, he became very nervous, and he kept grabbing his shorts, thinking he should go back and get his mother. There was a lady there who was probably the teacher greeting children, and he didn't know what to say to her. Then, another boy came in. He had a simple blue backpack and only a little rubber dolphin hanging from it. He had dark hair and blue eyes, and he looked right at Makoto, who was still hovering in the doorway.

"Here for class?" he asked, and Makoto nodded. The boy then took Makoto's hand.

Makoto's right ring finger glowed green.

They went to greet the teacher together, and Makoto was so happy that his finger did the same trick as his parents' did, he stayed near Haru-chan all day long. They played together and when it was nap time, they shared a blankie, and they ate their lunches together. When it was time to go home, they found both their mothers outside, and it turned out that they lived very close together! Makoto immediately showed his mother how his finger glowed for Haru-chan. He noticed that his mother looked a little upset, but he didn't know why. Haru-chan's mom smiled nervously at his mom.

Makoto and Haru-chan held hands on the way home.

That night, Makoto toddled out of bed to get a sip of water, and he heard his mom crying. He crept closer to his parents' room, frightened. The sound of his mother's sobs was the worst sound he'd ever heard.

"It doesn't make any sense! Why wouldn't his finger glow for Mako-chan? It's just not fair! That boy is so precious... Who could ever be better than our boy?"

"I know, dear, I know... there's nothing to be done, though," his father soothed his mother.

Makoto went back to his room and slipped into bed. He thought about what his mother said carefully. It was true, when his parents' finger did the trick, they both did it. Maybe Haru-chan's finger was broken, though! And... even though his finger didn't work, Haru-chan didn't mind sharing a blankie or holding hands. Makoto went to sleep, confident that there was nothing wrong and that his mother was just worrying about nothing.

Makoto and Haru-chan grew up inseparable. Makoto started to have trouble with asthma, and Haru-chan was always careful to keep an eye on his friend. Haru-chan was patient with Makoto, and Makoto was always thinking about Haru-chan, so by the time they were in grade school, Makoto's mother was as used to Haru-chan being in her house as her own son.

Makoto got better at controlling his asthma with the help of new medicine and Haru-chan, so Makoto's father suggested that his son try some sport to build up his strength a bit. Makoto knew that Haru-chan liked the water more than anything, so Makoto suggested swimming. Makoto was a tiny bit afraid of diving into the water and being submerged, but Makoto was a tiny bit afraid of a lot of things, and Haru-chan was willing to join the swimming class with him, so it was fun, everyday.

When they were in their last year of grade school, they met Rin. Rin was a confident boy who was also a swimmer, and he loved to boast and talk big and he wanted to swim a relay with Haru-chan, because Haru-chan was so fast. It sounded like fun and Makoto didn't want to be left out, so Rin said he could swim, too, but Haru-chan didn't want to swim in the relay. He was just being stubborn, Makoto thought. Rin wasn't like Makoto, though. He wouldn't just let Haru-chan do whatever he wanted. He pressed and pressed, and even threw his arm around Haru-chan. Haru-chan went to push Rin away, and his right ring finger glowed faintly blue. Haru-chan looked dumbfounded at his finger, and Rin checked his fingers, but they didn't glow, so Rin made a joke about Haru-chan being in love with him and Haru-chan pushed him into the pool.

After swim club that day, Makoto went straight up to his room. He sat on his bed, and he thought about how Haru-chan's finger glowed for Rin. The more he thought about it, the sadder he felt, but he found that he couldn't think about anything else. The more and the more he thought about it, he realized that the saddest part was that Rin's finger didn't glow in response. Rin's finger should have glowed back! Rin even changed schools to be closer to Haru-chan! And... and... Haru-chan's finger...

Makoto understood, then, why his mother cried the night after his first day in kindergarten. Though Makoto was a bit shocked that Haru-chan's finger glowed for someone who wasn't him, he'd already known for years that he couldn't make Haru's finger glow. But Rin did! So Rin should love Haru-chan back! And why wouldn't he? Haru-chan was quiet and stubborn and somewhat hard to understand, but he was caring and gentle and he noticed things about people!

Makoto's mother came to check on him and found him sobbing quietly as he hugged his pillow to his chest. She went over to him and put her arms around him, and asked him what was wrong, but while sniffling, he could only manage to squeak out, "He should have glowed for Haru-chan, mom!"

Makoto never knew how to talk to Haru-chan about his blue finger, which seemed to embarrass Haru-chan. They swam the relay with another boy, Nagisa, and they won. After that, though, Rin went off to Australia, to go to a special school for swimmers. Makoto wasn't sure, but he thought it would have been better if Rin stayed close to Haru-chan. He decided this because he knew he would never want to be without Haru-chan, so Haru-chan must feel the same way about Rin, right?

Years passed. Haru-chan quit the swim team in middle school, so Makoto did, too. That way, they could keep going home together. Makoto finally learned (most of the time) to stop calling him Haru-chan and just call him Haru. They started high school, and their first year, Makoto was class rep, but Haru (most of the time) waited for him after school when Makoto had meetings. Nothing much changed.

Their second year of high school, Nagisa entered their school. He pushed them to swim again, and by chance, at their old swim club, which was set to be torn down, they met Rin again. Rin had changed... a lot. He wouldn't get close to Haru at all and he was dismissive and rude. But still, Makoto knew that Rin was the person that Haru was fated to always love, so he hoped they could all become friends again. They started a swim club, and they made friends with Rin's little sister, another first year like Nagisa. They rounded out their team with a boy from the track club named Rei that Nagisa snagged because their fingers glowed magenta for each other. Unreservedly, Makoto was happy for them.

It was nice to be with your fated person, no matter what.

They swam in a competition, and Rin beat Haru in an individual race. While Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei were looking for Haru, they ran into Rin. He tried to act tough and mean, but Makoto reminded him of how important it was to be with your friends. Rin looked shaken by Makoto's words, but then he tried to just walk past them. He put his hand on Makoto's arm to push him back as he walked by, and Rin's right ring finger glowed red.

Makoto was so shocked that all he could do was cry out, "Why?"

Rin's face was almost as red as his finger, and he pulled his hand back like it burned. "How should I know?!" he cried back, and then he ran off.

Makoto was so confused by what happened. He begged and begged Nagisa and Rei not to say anything to anyone about it. Rei agreed immediately, but Nagisa thought it probably meant something. To Makoto, all it meant was that he was trying to steal Haru's fated person, and he refused to do that.

Makoto didn't know what Rin's finger glowing meant, but he would never, ever do anything to hurt Haru, so that was all that mattered.

They ended up swimming a relay together, Haru, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei. Seeing them swimming together made Rin want to swim in a relay as well. Haru told Makoto that swimming the relay was fun for him, too, and they buckled down to work hard. Many things happened, and on the day of the next competition, Rin, having been cut from his own relay team, was too devastated to swim his individual race properly.

Haru, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rei saw him struggling to get out of the pool, and then they realized he'd been cut, and they knew that they had to help him. Rei, knowing that Rin was Haru's fated person and Haru was Makoto's, generously suggested they substitute Rin for him. Nagisa hugged Rei tightly, his own fated person, as Haru and Makoto went off in search of Rin.

They managed to get together in time for the race, and once again, Haru, Makoto, Rin, and Nagisa raced the relay together, and they won! Right after Makoto pulled Haru out of the water, Rin grabbed Haru and they hugged tightly. Haru's right finger glowed blue. Makoto and Nagisa grinned at each other, and they joined the hug. Makoto's finger glowed green, and Rin's finger glowed red. Nagisa ran off to find Rei, and the three second years were left laughing and hugging each other.

And then it happened.

Makoto's left ring finger started to glow red. Haru's left ring finger glowed green. Rin's left ring finger glowed blue. Amazed and in awe, they joined their hands together.

"We form a ring," Makoto said, feeling stupid and shocked.

Rin whispered under his breath, "Romantic."

Of course, they were disqualified from the competition because Rin didn't go to their school and wasn't supposed to be racing with them, but no one really cared (except maybe their teacher or coach, but no one cared if they cared). Rin made peace with his own team, and then asked permission to go home with Haru and Makoto's team. They sat on the train together, in seats that faced each other, holding their hands out to make a ring. Nagisa teased them and Rei taunted Rin that he wasn't going to give up his position again, and Rin's little sister took pictures of them with her cell.

Bursting with excitement, Makoto called out for his mom as soon as he opened his door. She came running in from the kitchen and his twin siblings chased after her. "How was it? Did you win?"

"...Oh! We did but we got disqualified, but that's not the important part!" Makoto beamed, and then he told them about their glowing ring fingers and how Rin and Haru were both his fated person!

His little sister Ran looked up at their mother in confusion. "Are you allowed to have two fated people?" she asked.

"I... I don't think it's a question of... allow..." their mother answered, obviously confused. "It's... well, it's fate."

Makoto beamed.

Ren squeezed the fabric of their mother's skirt between his fingers, staring at his brother in awe. "Oniichan's so cool, he gets two boyfriends!"