"Mako- chan~!" you slowed to a stop as a young man with blonde hair and a wide, happy smile ran up to Makoto, instantly dragging him off toward the pool. You blinked.
"Um..." you murmured, putting a finger to your lips as you surveyed the scene before you. Two women, one with lovely burgundy hair and the obvious younger of the two, and another with brown hair and kind, brown eye, sat in fold-out chairs underneath a large umbrella. The younger girl held a clipboard and was jotting down what you assumed to be notes, occasionally shouting out something to the young men in the pool, while the brunette woman just watched with a little smile. You looked to the pool, spotted to blue-haired boys (blue!), though one was clearly a more talented swimmer, and the other still wore his red glasses. You slowly started forward, pausing at the opened gate, and resting your elbow on the warm metal. The blonde boy already had Makoto in the pool, splashing and flailing around excitedly, and it made you giggle.
And that caught everyone's attention almost instantly.
"Girl," one of the blue-haired boys, the darker bluenette (as you were now going to call them), raised a hand and pointed at you. He neither smiled or frowned at you, only blinked once, and then continued swimming like he'd never noticed you in the first place.
"Hello," you raised a hand and waved, smiling at the group. Makoto, looking a bit distressed that you'd been so awkwardly left behind, climbed from the pool and jogged over to you. You stared, not realizing that your sweet, innocent tutor was so incredibly well-toned. Hell, he was gorgeous! And those swimming pants, damn! You shook those thoughts away when he stood before you, smiling apologetically.
"I'm so sorry, _____," he said. "I didn't mean for you to be left out. Please, come over here," he led you around the pool where the two women sat. Both smiled at you. "Gou, Amakata-sensei, this is ____ ___________, my new neighbor," he introduced you, stepping back so he was slightly behind you.
"Pleasure," you said, holding out your hand to Gou first, forgetting anything and everything Makoto may have taught you that morning. The younger girl took your hand and gave it a good shake.
"Nice to meet you, ____, and please, call me Kou," she instructed, and you nodded, not wanting to cause a stir by asking why she preferred to be called by a different name.
"Pleased to meet you, _____. I'm Miho Amakata, and you may call me Amakata-sensei," the older, brunette woman took your hand then and smiled at you. She was very pretty, you thought, even shaded by her large umbrella. "You're going to be my student, aren't you?"
"Oh, yes, next week," you answered, smiling at her. She must have already gotten your paperwork and a heads up that you'd be joining her classes. You were glad to meet her then, before the first day, and that she was so nice. "Makoto has been tutoring me given that my Japanese is, err, below average," you laughed, scratching at the back of your head.
"Nonsense," Makoto spoke up then. "She did great today," he complimented you and you beamed up at him, proud to hear him praise you. Makoto smiled back at you, but he was instantly whisked away again to practice, the energetic blonde boy now more interested in asking him about you than swimming.
"Sit here, ____," Gou patted the seat next to her and you sat, thanking her. "So, that's our swim team. You know Makoto already, as I can plainly see," she winked at you. "That is Nagisa Hazuki, he's my age, and the one with the glasses is Rei Ryugazaki, our transfer athlete, as he used to be on the track team, and last is Haruka Nanase, Makoto's best friend."
"Oh," you smiled at her, but you knew you would never remember any of those names, or how to properly address anyone, or what title they should be given, and suddenly it all made your head spin. "Lovely."
"Just call them by their names," Gou laughed, almost as if she sensed your confusion. You laughed, relieved.
"Alright," you said, and Gou went on to tell you the story of the Iwatobi Swim Team, and how the boys all knew each other from childhood, and that her brother attended a different school, but was also a close friend. She told you they were preparing for the tournament at the end of the summer, which gave them the whole school year to practice, and that she was confident they would bring home a win this year.
While Gou talked, you watched Makoto and the others, smiling at how they interacted, and how they all seemed so close. You had never had friends like that back home, just people you talked to at school or sometimes saw on the weekends, but no one like Makoto seemed to have. It made you a little jealous, honestly, but you hastily shoved those feelings back.
"____-chan!" Nagisa called out suddenly, waving at you. You raised a hand to wave back. "Come here! Come here!" he urged and you giggled, standing and walking to stand by the edge of the pool. He motioned for you to kneel down and you did, letting his whisper in your ear. "Are you Mako-chan's girlfriend?"
"Wha?" you fell back, eyes wide and mouth agape. Nagisa laughed, delighted, and climbed out of the pool to sit beside you. Recovering from your initial shock, you put your feet in the water and sat back on your hands, looking up at the sky. "Won't the water get the cold? With the season change?"
"Mhmm!" Nagisa nodded. "But we'll have practices inside then, at Samezuka."
"Samezuka?" you asked, looking at him. From the corner of your eye, you could see Makoto and Haruka at the other end of the pool.
"Yep! That's the school Gou-chan's brother attends, and when it gets too cold for us out here, we'll go there and practice. Simple!" he explained and you nodded, smiling a bit.
"Nagisa," you started, glad when he only tipped his head at you and didn't blush madly like Makoto had the first time you used his name. "Why did you ask if I was Makoto's girlfriend?"
"Because he's never brought anyone to practice before," Nagisa answered. "Especially not a pretty girl!"
"I begged to come," you laughed. "It's not like he invited me."
"But he said he was tutoring you," Nagisa continued. "And he calls you ____, not _____-chan."
"And he looks at you like that," Nagisa suddenly turned your head so you were looking at Makoto, who immediately turned brilliant red and spun around. Nagisa laughed in delight and you smiled a bit, a faint pink touching your cheeks. "He likes you."
"I just met him," you argued, shaking your head. Nagisa dropped right back into the pool, splashing you a bit, but you didn't mind. Before he swam off, he turned to look at you with a wide grin.
"Trust me," he said, winking at you. You blushed lightly and looked away. "You'll see, ___-chan!"
You went with Makoto to swim practice every day after that and on your first day of school, he and Haruka walked you, the bluenette boy between you and Makoto the entire time. It confused you, did Haruka not like you?
It was honestly hard to tell.
But he'd hadn't been unkind to you since you met, and he had offered you a bit of his breakfast that morning, which you declined, since it was smoked mackerel. Still, he didn't so much as let you an inch closer to Makoto than what you already were, even when it meant you hopping large puddles to avoid soaking your shoes and socks.
"Haru..." you heard Makoto murmur several times and he would shake his head, as if he should have expected this of his best friend. The bluenette would only look at him, tip his head slightly, and then continue on walking.
That was your morning for the next four months (with or without puddle hopping), Haruka sandwiched between you and Makoto as the three of you walked to school. What had started off as a rough year for you quickly turned enjoyable with the help of your new friends. You and Gou had become close, the younger girl inviting you over several times and coming over to help you finish decorating your new house. Rei made sure you never fell behind on your studies, and Nagisa made sure everyone knew who you were and that you were treated kindly, and Makoto tutored you every Saturday and Sunday to make sure you retained everything you learned during the week. Haru, well, he eventually let you swim during practices, so you regarded that his acceptance of you.
"Break!" you shouted as you yanked on your shoes, nearly tripping over yourself in your joyful rush, and ran to link your arm with Makoto's. "Hello."
"Hello," he answered, smiling gently down at you. You smiled back at him, glad for the warmth his big body provided you with, and you put your head on his shoulder. You were ridiculously affectionate, always had been, and it had taken Makoto almost a month to stop blushing every time you touched him.
"How long is break?" you asked him, glancing up at him before looking around at the snow covered schoolyard.
"Two weeks and there'll also be the New Year's Festival," he answered, adjusting the scarf you had given him for his birthday last month, and instantly perking your interest with this tidbit of news.
"Festival?" you asked, looking up at him with wide, excited eyes. Makoto laughed softly and nodded, pulling you closer when you shivered. You smiled at him. "Will we go?"
"Of course," Makoto nodded, and you squealed in excitement, throwing a fist into the air. "We always go. Didn't you celebrate the new year back home?" he asked curiously and you shrugged.
"Well, sure," you answered. "But usually with a bucket of hot wings and fake champagne," you explained with a sheepish grin and another shrug. "We don't have a big celebration where I'm from."
"That's sad," Makoto commented, frowning lightly and you laughed. He was too adorable.
"Well, maybe this year you can show me how to properly celebrate the New Year?" you asked him, looking up at him with a smile. You giggled quietly when a soft, pink blush dusted his cheeks, leaving him to stutter out a reply.
"Ah, o-okay," he answered with a nod, and you hugged his arm tighter, bringing your body closer to his. You could almost feel the heat radiate from his cheeks and, for a moment, you wondered if he was backtracking on his blushing progress. He was awfully red, but then you weren't really helping! It wasn't your fault he was so easy to-
You stopped yourself, refusing to give in to that thought. It was too early, too soon, and you couldn't bring yourself to admit it.
"_____?" Makoto's soft voice brought you from your thoughts and you smiled up at him, releasing his arm to spin out in front of him.
"What do you wear to a New Year's festival, Makoto?" you asked, leading him now as the pair of you walked down the street. You had your hands folded behind your back and you occasionally spin around to grin at him. It had begun to flurry, the snow falling gently from the grey sky, and you paused for a moment to look up, catching a few snowflakes on your tongue.
"Most people just wear their normal clothes," Makoto answered, catching up to you since you had paused to catch snowflakes. "But some dress up in a kimono."
"A what?" you asked, tipping your head all the way back to look at him. Makoto laughed, and that made you smile even wider. You loved his laugh.
"It's like a dress," he answered. "Sort of, but it's a very traditional style of clothing that would have been worn to festivals centuries ago."
"Can you buy them?" you asked him, straightening up to take hold of his arm again. Makoto nodded. "Take me?" you asked, now giving him the same, doe eyes you'd given him the day you'd met so he would take you to swim practice. He hesitated for a moment before nodded.
"Alright, _____," he answered, and you laughed, always feeling a flutter in your stomach when he said your name. You scolded yourself every time. "Do you want to get a bite to eat first? My treat."
"Mhmm!" you instantly agreed, blushing for the first time when Makoto linked arms with you instead of the other way around.
>> time-skip and Makoto's POV >>
Three stores later and ____ had finally found one she liked. Bold as ever, she picked out five kimonos to try on and, with a flustered shop owner following behind her, disappeared into the dressing room.
Makoto sat, the cushioned bench just a touch petite for him, and put his hands on his knees. Everything was so dainty, so small, and he felt so large and clumsy, but ____ had looked so excited carrying those kimonos that he didn't have the heart to ask her to try another store, so he sat quietly, waiting.
After four failed kimonos, _____'s joy was starting to fade, replaced with a few muttered curses and disappointed glances toward the mirror. Makoto was getting nervous. He'd never been shopping with a girl before, but he was pretty sure if everything they wanted to fit didn't fit, the trip was going to go downhill. Quickly.
"_____," he called, stretching out his legs and then standing up to move closer to the curtained dressing room. "_____, there's always other stores," he suggested quietly, straining his ears to hear any sound ____ might make. "We can look again-"
"I don't need to," she interrupted and Makoto stepped back, blinking as the ____ pulled back the curtain and poked out her head. "Makoto..."
"Y-yes?" he asked, stepping back again when she pulled the curtain fully back and stepped out before him. Several things happened to Makoto in that moment - his mouth went dry, his eyes widened, his heart skipped a few beats, and he completely forgot how to use his legs.
Her hair was down, falling in [straight/curly] waves around her neck and shoulders, and framing her face. The [dark/light] shade of her hair only brought out the natural rosiness in her cheeks and the brilliant [color] of her eyes. The lower cut kimono exposed the curve of her collarbones, the delicate [color] skin looking exceptionally touchable, and the [favorite color] fabric hugged her body perfectly, highlighting every delicious, feminine curve.
"Well?" she asked, biting her lip and staring expectantly at him. Makoto opened his mouth to reply, but only ended up closing it again and shaking his head. "I-Is it that bad?" she asked, her little smile instantly falling, and had his mind not been currently trying to catch up to his heart, he would have noticed her stutter, but it slipped right by him.
"N-No!" Makoto instantly answered, calming himself when he saw the surprise on his face...and when the store owned harshly shushed him. "Sorry," he murmured, bowing his head to the older woman before looking back at _____. "No, it's very...very beautiful," he cleared his throat and smiled at her, and the look of relief that flooded her face was enough to send his heart fluttering again.
"You think?" she asked and, when he nodded, she squealed in delight and launched herself at him, long arms wrapping around his neck. Instinctively, he caught her about the waist and, given their height difference, lifted her right off her feet. He blushed bright crimson when he felt her breath on his neck and her lips curve into a smile. "I feel beautiful."
"You should," he answered automatically, and this time, he caught the faint pink that touched her cheeks. She released him and, with a little smile, returned to the dressing room. Makoto dropped to the little, cushioned ataman, a heavy sigh escaping him as his shoulders sagged. "Oh dear, Makoto," he murmured to himself, taking the bottle of water he was offered and chugging the entire thing. "Kimonos...who knew?"
>> time-skip and back to your POV >>
"Goodnight!" you called from your door, waving to Makoto as he started the climb up the stone steps to his house. He paused and turned, waving back at you. With a smile, you closed and locked the door, hanging your new kimono from the coat tree before removing your coat and boots. You stretched and twisted, letting out a pleasant hum before going to fall on the couch-
Except someone was already there.
"H-Haruka!" you shrieked and fell back, tripping over the coffee table and falling with a hard thud onto the floor. You sat up and glared at the bluenette. "What are you doing in my house?!"
"I was sleeping until you started shouting," he answered easily, also sitting up so he could better face you.
"Why weren't you sleeping on your couch? And why are you wearing your swim trunks?!" you asked, completely shocked and all around bewildered.
"G-Get out!" you pushed yourself to your feet and pointed to the door.
"Out!" you demanded again. "Go out there and knock and ask to be invited in!" you added and, when he saw you were not about to relent, he sighed and stood, leaving. A moment later he knocked. Still fuming, you opened the door.
"May I come in?" he asked, staring down at you.
"No!" you shouted, slamming the door and putting your back against it, huffing as you crossed your arms over your chest.
"____," Haruka called through the door, softly knocking once more. You frowned, finally turning and opening the door enough to look at the young man.
"What?" you asked quietly, leaning against the door and staring expectantly up at him. Haruka was silent as he watched you, making you a bit uncomfortable after a few minutes. "If you don't have anything to say-"
"Don't hurt him," he said, stopping you mid-sentence.
"Makoto," Haruka answered. "I see how he looks at you, and how he blushes when you smile at him, and I know that he cares for you more than you know."
"Haru, I do know..." you started, but the boy shook his head and that was when you noticed it was damp. Had he been...swimming before he decided to break in your house and take a nap?!
"No, you don't," he insisted. "You don't understand him like I do, you don't know that he's so stupidly unselfish that he would let you break his heart and never say a word, so long as it made you smile. You don't know that he's all I have."
"What about Rin? And Nagisa?" you asked, confused as to why this was happening, or why Haruka thought he had to tell you all this. Did he think Makoto loved your or something? You were just friends! Just...good friends...weren't you?
"They're not like him," Haruka shook his head. "Makoto is different. I don't want him to have someone like you, someone he loves, but it was bound to happen. So..."
"So?" you asked, swallowing hard. This was it. This was the reason Haruka walked between the two of you every day when you went to school. The reason he made you jump puddles, or twist around bike racks, and why he ran between you two during gym class. Makoto was his best friend...and he thought you were stealing him. You opened your mouth to say you would never, that you didn't want to come between them, but Haruka spoke before you could.
"So I'll share him with you," he said, very quietly, and you would have missed him had there been any other sound in that moment. "If you promise not to hurt him."
"Haru..." you whispered. "I promise," you added, nodding. And just like, Haruka bid you goodnight and turned, walking through your courtyard gate without another word. Closing the door, you latched it and then sank to the floor, letting your head fall to your knees.
You promised to not hurt Makoto...but how were you going to do that when you couldn't even admit to yourself that you loved him?