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19 September 2015 @ 11:38 pm
4/4  
Title: Water's Edge
Pairing: Nanase Haruka/OC
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Spring has arrived, and they finally move on.
Note: This is the fourth and last part of the fifth installment. You may find the previous installments here:

Coastline
Soup-Port
Harbor
Island [ 1 | 2 | 3 ]









It’s still far too early to drop by at ISCR so Miharu ventures to Haruka and Makoto’s neighborhood. The sight of the beach as she walks by inflicts her with sweet nostalgia. She promises herself that she’ll visit again later after she meets up with Gou and the others. Right now, her feet take her up the stairs, toward the torii up above, to the house that welcomed her long ago. As she expected, the Nanase residence is empty, the doors locked securely and the windows covered by the drawn curtains within. The house looms over her with an air of mystery. Normally, just the thought of it being empty would scare her but right now, knowing the whereabouts of the boy who used to live there, the building merely looks like it’s yearning to be a home once more.

“He’ll be back soon,” Miharu whispers as she stares at the house. Smiling sheepishly to herself, she turns on her heel and prepares to descend the stairs. Approaching the first step, she pauses upon seeing a white cat stretching lazily before her. As it stares up at her, she instantly recognizes the beautiful pair of green eyes. “Mika?”

The cat sits up attentively. The way it curls its tail to look like a lollipop – it really is the white kitten that she and Haruka named years ago. It has grown up, big and fat, but it’s a wonder how it can still remember the random name bestowed upon it. Perhaps Haruka has been calling it by name that it had become accustomed to it.

That would be nice…

Almost hurriedly, Mika scampers toward Miharu, rubbing its head against her leg. Miharu crouches down and strokes its chin and it purrs in delight.

I’ll be sure to tell Haru about this when I get back.

Soon enough, Miharu bids Mika good-bye and proceeds to the local pool where she is escorted by an excited Coach Sasabe to where the team is. Walking into the area, she is met with several new faces. Before she can sit down on one of the benches, two friends have crashed into her to give her a very tight “Welcome home!” hug.

“You’re finally here, Miharu-chan!” Nagisa exclaims happily.

“Miharu-senpai! Welcome back!” Gou exclaims just as happily and just as loud as Nagisa.

Hearing the ruckus, Rei emerges from the water and quickly spots the reunion at the side. “Is that Miharu-senpai?!”

“C’mon, Rei-chan! Hurry!” Nagisa calls, jumping in excitement.

“I’m back,” Miharu says with a bit of embarrassment now as Gou, Nagisa and Rei gather around her. “There are so many new people.”

“Of course! Placing in the nationals was quite a feat that the swim club’s popularity spread across the student body like wildfire,” Rei expresses confidently. “Not only in school, but also in the whole town!”

“Are Haru-chan and Mako-chan with you?” Nagisa asks enthusiastically but he doesn’t get to hear Miharu’s answer as one of the members calls for him from the other side of the pool. Rei follows after him which leaves Gou with their visitor.

Watching Nagisa and Rei train the others now, Miharu is reminded of her days at the school pool. The swim club used to be a 4-member group but now it has Rei as the club president and Nagisa as his vice, with several others under their wings. She suddenly feels like she’s been away for years.

“Will Haruka-senpai and Makoto-senpai catch up later?” Gou asks again. Just as much as Miharu, she wishes that the two boys could tag along.

Miharu shakes her head. “Haru has training until tomorrow and Makoto-kun has a test on Monday to study for.” She forces out a chuckle despite remembering the lonely travel she had and will be having tomorrow morning. “So here I am, a representative for both.”

Gou smiles although she is worried about the older girl. She had noticed the bags under her eyes ever since she arrived but because she was trying her best to enjoy the day, Gou decided not to bring up anything about Tokyo life. “Right, right.”

“Rin…”

“Hmm? What about onii-chan?”

“H-Have you heard from him lately?” Miharu stutters. She assumes Gou might think weirdly of her asking about her brother since, well, they’re not that close as friends and Rin probably never told her about that day when he took her to see their father; Gou would’ve asked her about it, but she never did.

“He’s doing well in Australia,” Gou reassures with a chuckle. “He told me he and Haruka-senpai have been keeping in touch through mail.”

Looking back, Miharu remembers Haruka telling her stories about Rin the first time she stayed over at his apartment and sometimes when they ate dinner in Makoto’s room when their schedules weren’t so demanding. But since the three of them haven’t seen each other for some time now, those stories have come to an inevitable stop.

“That’s good to hear,” Miharu replies, easing out a smile on Gou’s face.

Later on, during their break, Nagisa and Rei pull Miharu over to meet the other team members. Most of them are freshmen so that when they introduce themselves to Miharu, for some reason, they can’t help but blush in embarrassment. Some of the sophomores who are bold enough try to flirt with her but Nagisa and Rei shut them down immediately, revealing that she is, for a fact, the Nanase Haruka’s girlfriend which in turn stuns the boys and make Miharu blush really badly. Not so long after that, Gou instructs the boys to return to training whereupon Miharu bids the team good-bye.

Keeping her promise, Miharu wanders off to the beach. She takes a seat on the sand, on the very same spot where she and Haruka had once sat on. The sun is about to set as she folds her skirt neatly underneath so that she can hug her legs. There are boats in the distance, bobbing to the movement of the waves, like origami figures pasted on a reddish orange art paper for a background. She fishes out her phone from her pocket and stares at it, waiting, hoping for it to ring and a voice on the other line to say: “Hey. We’re at the airport.” But the real surprise is not getting that call and not hearing those words and most definitely realizing that Haruka and Makoto really won’t be coming home.

As the sun disappears completely, Miharu pockets her phone once more, stands up and dusts herself, and then turns around and prepares for her journey back.

That Saturday evening, in Tokyo, Haruka fetches Makoto at the convenience store where the latter now works at so they can eat dinner at that ramen shop nearby. It has certainly been a long while since they last ate dinner together and since Makoto had asked Haruka to pay him a visit the night before, the quiet boy, wanting to take his mind off training for a while, took the offer.

“That was so good~” Makoto sings as he and Haruka walk to the park. Neither saying a word, both of them simply know that they don’t want to go home yet.

“You ate too much, Makoto,” Haruka comments nonchalantly.

Taking their spots on a bench, Makoto lets out a sigh. “I know. I didn’t eat much for lunch.”

“Why?”

“I was studying.” Makoto leans his head back, closing his eyes to listen to the crickets’ symphony overlapping with the traffic ruckus. “University life is too different from our high school one, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“I feel like it’s been months since we last hung out like this,” Makoto shares with a sheepish chuckle.

Beyond the trees, residential lights flicker. Cars’ headlights flash over the leaves from time to time and their engines leave a lingering rumbling that echoes within the vicinity. Several men and women pass by the park as they jog up the road, some steer their bicycles to park at the entrance for a quick rest before they mount them once more and continue on their way. Everything and everyone is bustling, moving to some upbeat and fast rhythm that doesn’t seem all too familiar to Haruka and Makoto, still. Despite how long they have been staying there, the city just seems too lively and too foreign. Perhaps they have become accustomed to the boisterousness and the vehicle congestion and the overwhelming population that scatter around the streets and highways but not any time soon will they get used to the thought of ever calling this city another home.

Makoto reopens his eyes and directs them at Haruka beside him. “Miharu-chan must have already met Nagisa and the others, huh?” he brings up musingly. “I wonder how they’re doing.”

“I wouldn’t know.” Haruka stares at the ground. Traces of a much bigger shoe are beneath his own, stretching inches longer than his sneaker. Someone must have been sitting there a short while before they arrived.

“I’m sure Miharu-chan will have lots of stories for us.”

Images from high school flood Haruka’s mind: walking to school with Makoto in the morning, being greeted by Miharu in the classroom, looking out the window during class, eating lunch with Nagisa and Rei on the rooftop, diving into the pool after school, walking home under the brilliance of the sunset with Miharu and Makoto by his sides and all of this, only in Iwatobi.

“Is she doing well at school?”

The abruptness of the question barely fazes Makoto. For some reason, he has been expecting Haruka to ask. “Our schedules never really coincide except for our lunch break. I don’t see her around campus except for that brief time and since both of us have been busy lately, we rarely meet up for lunch anymore.”

Haruka doesn’t flinch. “Has she ever mentioned talking to Sousuke before?”

“Sousuke?” Makoto asks with evident surprise. “I don’t believe she has. She doesn’t talk much about her friends in campus either.”

“Then what does she tell you?” Haruka questions, a tiny bit of frustration showing through the cracks of his words.

It takes a minute for Makoto to recall most of their conversations. “Most of the times, we talk about our classes and our plans for the weekends. Sometimes, she brings up random topics like that book she saw in the library or neighborhood cats she sees in the morning when she walks to school.” Then his eyes soften as they focus on his palms – close-open-close-open – and his lips curve to a tiny fond smile as he remembers. “Once, when she came over to study with me, she fell asleep on the couch and when she woke up, she told me she had a dream about you. She wouldn’t tell me in detail but I don’t think anything bad happened. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have smiled so warmly when she told me.”

The sunset smile that Haruka cherishes flashes in his mind after Makoto’s tale. He begins to wonder about the last time he saw Miharu smile. When was it? Why does it feel like it’s been so long ago?

“Haru.”

The quiet boy looks at his best friend wordlessly. Makoto’s eyes reflect a void of pain that isn’t completely his; half of which, it seems, he shares with another.

“You know, Miharu-chan misses you a lot. She might not show it to you or tell you often but it’s only because she doesn’t want to trouble you. She knows you’re doing your best to reach your dream and she’s doing her best to support you, too, really,” Makoto reveals honestly. “But, sometimes, I think she doesn’t realize that she’s beginning to keep too much of what you need to know to herself.”

Frustration clearly shows in Haruka’s eyes even as he tries to contain it by staring at the darkness playing amongst the trees in the distance. Since when did the two of them switch roles? No, it isn’t a matter of who’s the sharer and who’s the listener; it’s about the silence – too much of it – that the two of them have been abusing ever since, and have been neglecting for far too long for it to manifest into the perfect disguise called ‘distance’. Has Miharu forgotten? Has she forgotten that her thinking of herself as a burden is the root cause of Haruka’s anxiety? Or maybe Haruka hasn’t reminded her enough to rid her of such thoughts.

“I don’t mean to pry but I think you should spend more time with Miharu-chan whenever you get the chance,” Makoto says in a tone of friendly suggestion. “I mean, even Miharu-chan is anxious about her future. She doesn’t really have a dream to lead her so…”

Makoto’s voice and his words gradually disappear. How can Haruka not realize it sooner? The way Miharu looks at him whenever he talks about training and his competitions; how she says that he’s getting closer and closer to his dream; how she smiles at him warmly when she thanks him for doing a great job; everything, these tiny almost overlooked actions – they are admiration for another’s dream, and Haruka has never once expressed this same feeling for Miharu not because she doesn’t talk to him about her dream, but because there’s nothing of the sort to talk about to begin with. All he knows is that she likes literature and not once has he ever heard her say that it will take her somewhere. Why didn’t he ask her sooner?

Meanwhile, back in Iwatobi, Miharu walks into her room right after dinner. She pauses by her desk to leave her phone there upon noticing that it had already shut down. As she scans her table, picking up books here and there, she chances upon an airmail beneath some of the paperbacks. She assumes that her mother must have left the envelope there for her to find whenever she came over to visit.

“Matsuoka…” Miharu reads the sender’s name slowly before her eyes widen in surprise. “Rin?”

Sitting on her bed, she notes that the letter had been delivered on the same day she had stayed over at Haruka’s apartment for the first time. She carefully opens the envelope and takes the letter from within.


          How are you?

          It hasn’t been that long since I left Japan but I feel as though the days here pass by too fast. Training has been completely exhausting but I guess university life is wearing you out, too. Isn’t it? It would be best if you’re keeping watch of your health.

          I’ve been talking to Haru through mail. He tells me that his training is [probably] as exhausting as mine. I think that’s for the best. After all, if it doesn’t hurt, then it’s not effective. But then, too much of it will be dangerous. He also tells me that you and Makoto go to the same university and even stay in the same apartment. This is just me and don’t tell him, but I think he’s jealous. His letter about that gives off that feel, you know?

          I may not be in the position to tell you this but Haru worries about you. He may be preoccupied with his training and competitions but you need to know that, even if you two don’t hang out as often as you used to, he thinks about the next time he gets to talk to you. And even if he [might] be jealous of Makoto being close to you nowadays, at the same time, he probably already asked the guy to keep watch of you since he’s not there, by your side. I don’t know if you’ll ever believe me saying this to you but if you do, I’d appreciate it.

          When I think about the future, I want to see myself swimming with Haru, whether we’re on the same team or as an opponent, that’s a given. But you know what, Miharu? Haru and I may have similar dreams but his is a whole lot different on a certain level. I won’t tell you why. You’ll have to know by yourself.

          Haru can be a pain but support him as much as you can, okay? Do your best! I’ll come and visit as soon as I can.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            -Rin

P.S.

          Don’t let him eat mackerel all the time. Give him more meat!!

The last bit of the letter ultimately makes Miharu laugh. Rin’s words are peppered with his own confidence and efforts, so much so that she can imagine him swimming under that foreign sky with a huge grin on his face. It goes without saying then that Rin has lent Miharu bits of his own strength to fuel her determination to do better for Haruka in any way she can.

Later that night, Miharu closes her eyes to sleep, oblivious of the world beyond her unconsciousness, unaware of Haruka trying to call her yet only hearing the dull dial tone repeat in his mind. He tries several more times, over and over, to no avail. When he tries for the last time, only to experience the same outcome, he draws his phone away from his ear and falls on his bed, lying supine for his eyes to stare numbly at the ceiling.

“Talk to me.”

The following morning, despite emailing both Haruka and Makoto that she’s already on the plane back to Tokyo, Miharu doesn’t really expect anyone to fetch her at the airport so that when she sees Haruka waiting for her at the exit terminal, naturally, she feels both surprised and worried.

“You didn’t have to wait for me. You have training today, don’t you?” Miharu says with a frown while Haruka takes her backpack. Since it was a quick visit, she packed lightly.

The boy shoots her a knowing look. “I wanted to,” he replies simply which silences Miharu.

As they board the bus, Haruka briefly explains to Miharu that he is taking her to training with him and that he’d leave early to drop her off at her apartment. When the girl tries to negotiate with him, saying that she’d just take a bus home alone, Haruka dismisses her idea with a simple shake of the head. Uncertain of what to say next yet partly sure that she wouldn’t be able to convince Haruka either way, Miharu decides to keep quiet and just respect Haruka’s assertive decisions.

“I bumped into Kisumi-kun and Hayato-kun yesterday. Kisumi-kun said he hasn’t been hearing from you and the others lately so I told him that I’d tell you and Makoto-kun to call,” shares Miharu, unaware of how Haruka’s eyes narrow slightly at the mention of Kisumi’s name. They’re at the W College’s pool now, by the bench where Haruka had left her the last time she was there. He’s about to start his training. “And Gou-chan and the others are doing really well in the club. There are so many new members!”

Haruka wordlessly nods.

“And I saw Mika outside your house. Did you know that she’s already a grown cat?”

Again, Haruka nods without saying anything. He stares at Miharu for a moment before he saunters off to the other side of the pool where his coach is and begins training. Without leaving a thought to ponder, Miharu simply watches the water envelop the quiet boy.

When words trail out of Haruka once more, it’s when they’re already inside Miharu’s apartment room.

“Can I stay over?” he requests without even meeting the girl’s eyes, setting her backpack by the divider.

“Sure.”

Even if Haruka left training early, the traffic from W College to the next neighborhood ultimately hindered their supposed timely travel home. With two cars crashing into a huge company truck, an hour and a half inside the bus without anything to talk about (or not finding the right moment to speak, perhaps) seemed like a whole year without rain. The drought of silence had been that terrible.

It’s evening now, the kind when the full moon is already out and granting the night sky a mystifying glow. Past the traffic, right before getting on the second bus, Haruka and Miharu walked into a small ramen shop and had an early dinner. Aside from saying their orders to the shopkeeper, they hardly spoke a word to each other.

“Shall I prepare the bath?”

A pause lingers. “It’s fine…” comes the visitor’s reply in an almost inaudible mumble.

Exhausted from the day’s travels, Miharu walks over to the balcony to slide the door open and then taking a seat right in front of the entryway, looks up at the disc of pale white plastered on the dark bluish-black backdrop. The city lights are blaring brightly enough to keep the stars from twinkling.

“I’m sorry,” Miharu whispers without turning to look at Haruka standing behind her. She can see his shadow hovering over hers with due effort from the small lamp by the couch. She had forgotten to buy a new bulb for the ceiling light, thus the partial darkness.

There is no answer.

She pulls up her legs and hugs them close, resting her chin atop her knees. There is neither sunset nor the rippling water of the Iwatobi High pool or the coming and going waves of the beach. There is only part darkness and part moonlight, and her thoughts.

“Have you finally decided to break up with me?”

The question deals the silence a lethal blow. The air finally moves and disrupts the seemingly permanent suffocating stillness in the room. Haruka stares at Miharu’s tiny figure all curled up into a seated ball.

“Which is more important? Your dream or Miharu?”

The girl is trembling, he knows, and yet he can still picture a smile on her face; not the kind that he looks forward to seeing, but the kind that stabs him senseless. He strides what little distance that separates him from her and sits next to her.

“No.”

Miharu hides her face against her knees. The tiny action rouses buried thoughts within Haruka’s consciousness: how many others have seen Miharu do this before? How many others will see Miharu do this? How many others have felt this sensation of wanting to just care for her? How many others will have this sensation of wanting to care for her? Others – the thought doesn’t sit well with him, never will.

“I don’t want you to choose someone else.”

“I won’t!” Miharu blurts out, hastily looking up and then over at the boy in a panic. Haruka’s eyes take in all of her honesty embodied in both her words and in the redness of her cheeks. “I won’t,” she repeats more calmly.

“Then, Sousuke…”

“Yamazaki-kun? What about him?” she asks with bits of surprise but Haruka doesn’t explain. The fact that he isn’t making eye contact with her then somehow gets the message through to her, and she begins to smile a little. “Yamazaki-kun is a good friend to me. You really don’t have to worry about that, Haru.”

When the boy finally turns her way, they stare at each other until his eyes soften. “Then I want you to talk to me,” he whispers just as Miharu rests her cheek on her knees without breaking their gaze. When was the last time they looked into each other’s eyes this deeply and this long before?

“I miss you even when you’re just in front of me.” Miharu’s voice is trembling yet Haruka urges her to continue with a nod. A shaky smile slowly stretches on her lips. “I’m so happy right now that it’s embarrassing.” She pauses, realizing that she can see only her reflection in Haruka’s gentle eyes. Memories of similar moments flood her mind. “I like it when you look at me because you can look at the whole world in front of you but you choose that one moment to give me your attention instead.”

It’s strange, suddenly, how the months have passed so easily while Miharu had done her best to contain all of these thoughts to herself and yet here they are, out in the open, floating softly into Haruka’s very existence, orbiting around them like the planets around the sun. If she had the courage to tell him these sooner, would they both feel nervous and silly and humorously happy then? If she had told him sooner, would they even be spending that moment under that brilliant city moonlight, as though it’s their hometown sunset?

“I want to spend more time with you. I want to see you every day. I want to hear your voice every day. I want to see you swim every day. I want to keep supporting you.” Tears begin to well out from Miharu’s eyes. How long has she been holding these tears back? They streak down her face as though there’s no end. “I want to be strong for you. I want to be a part of your strength. I want to be someone you can be proud of. I want to feel like I can stay beside you because I have something to offer. I want to help you achieve your dream. I—“ Miharu chokes. She tries to look away and cover her eyes with her palms but Haruka takes her hands into his gently and holds her gaze. She’s embarrassed out of her wits but she looks deeply into his eyes anyway. “I want to stay with you for as long as you’d let me.”

No other words tumble off Miharu’s tongue. She shuts her eyes tightly, making more tears slope down her awfully blushing face, hiccups escaping. Then, out of the blue, she feels Haruka’s lips brush softly against her eyelids, kissing her warm tears away. He kisses the bridge of her nose and, so very slowly, he claims her lips. It starts off as a peck, the very same as their first kiss, then Haruka gently kisses Miharu deeper, entwining their tongues together in a languid, leisure waltz. The warmth of their mingling breaths, the smooth static of Haruka’s palms cupping Miharu’s face, the caressing touch of the night breeze on their skin and the indescribable sensation of having no distance between them – all of these seem to have made the whole world stop and time axis second by precious second only between the two of them.

Haruka secures Miharu in his arms. She’s asleep now, right next to him, on the floor because the moonlight is too beautiful to leave. Her breaths puff against his chest, her hands clutching his shirt weakly as if she’s trying to keep him from leaving in the morning which, Haruka admits, he has never thought of doing. Looking up at the ceiling, he suddenly recalls the view he saw at Australia, the very same one that makes him want to continue swimming. He and Rin have similar dreams, he knows, but in his dream, just as he emerges from the water, a figure stands at the corner, waiting for him with a smile lit up for his eyes only; a sunset smile, it is. Miharu is there – in his arms at that moment, and in his future.

“I have you,” Haruka whispers against the crown of Miharu’s head, keeping her close as can be. “We’re a team.”

And then the world restarts.

Monday morning, and Makoto is standing outside Miharu’s door. His first two classes had ended early for the day and the rest in the afternoon have been cancelled for a faculty meeting amongst the professors. He has been trying to call both Haruka and Miharu since last night but no one thought of picking up even once. Since he knows the girl doesn’t have classes on Mondays, he proceeds to pay her a visit, only to press the doorbell thrice and not see the door crack open in the slightest.

“Geez. Miharu-chan is such a sleepyhead,” Makoto mumbles to himself, sighing as he takes his spare key for the room and unlocks it. “Sorry for intruding.”

Entering the room completely, Makoto isn’t sure of how to react to the scene before him: Miharu in Haruka’s arms and both very deeply asleep on the floor. Instead of feeling the initial confusion through and through, Makoto finds himself chuckling. He goes to the other room to get a blanket from the closet and brings it back to the living room, carefully spreading it over his two friends. He realizes – based purely on instinct – that something might have happened between Haruka and Miharu again; something very profound yet delicate, perhaps, that brought them closer to each other.

As Makoto takes a seat beside his sleeping friends, watching them closely, he is somehow reminded of two children. He chuckles at the thought, mentally agreeing with himself completely. In front of him, he notices the balcony door is left slightly ajar so that a warm morning breeze strays into the room.

Summer, huh?

Up in the sky, amongst the white puffy clouds of that Monday, a lone airplane passes by quietly. Makoto gazes at it quietly then his attention returns to Haruka and Miharu beside him. Carefully, his lips curve into a tender smile.

“Let’s live in this moment forever.”





<<< Part 3




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