A Test Of Courage

Opposites Don't Attract

I awoke with a strangled scream, lurching forward in my bed and gripping the satin sheets in my shaking fists. My head swivelled in all directions, taking in my surroundings.

Once my pulse returned to normal and my heart decided to stop abusing my rib cage, I finally realised I was in my bedroom, not out in the chaotic sea. I exhaled the shaky breath I'd been holding and flopped back onto the pillows, groaning as I rolled onto my side and burrowed under the blankets.

I emerged once again from another restless sleep a few hours later and stumbled out the doorway and into the bathroom. I tried to avoid looking at myself in the mirror as I brushed my teeth, but it seems the temptation is always too much to resist.

The sight wasn't anything new to me, but for some reason the pile of ratty hair sitting atop my scalp always caught me off-guard. I grimaced at my reflection and continued brushing before spitting the bubbly mint into the basin and washing the toothbrush.

I trudged back to my room and lazily kicked the door shut before wondering over to the dresser. Pulling several items of clothing out and strewing them haphazardly across the floor and furniture, I finally decided on a simple attire. I wasn't doing or going anywhere particularly special today so I was free to wear whatever I wanted really; within reason of course.

As I dragged the brush through my messy locks I made my way into the kitchen, mumbling a quick 'good morning' to the photo frame of my parents sitting in the middle of the table.

I popped two slices of bread into the toaster before opening the freezer and pulling out a piece of wrapped fish. Tossing the seafood into a pan, I turned back to the toaster as it popped and pulled out a plate from the cupboard above me.

Dropping the toast onto it, I lightly buttered the pieces before throwing the cooked fish on top. Admiring my oh-so-appetising dish, I scooped it up and fell into a sitting position next to the table.

The crinkle of turning the pages was almost deafening in the near silent room. My eyes scanned the news of today's local paper as I stuffed my face.

The usual was being advertised: Boats, trailers, cars, tatty furniture, even some unwanted animals had made it in this time.

Maybe getting a pet isn't such a bad idea? I wouldn't mind having a companion to talk to, and a little extra responsibility is always good.

...Wait, what am I saying? I shake my head furiously, closing the newspaper in a rather rough manner while quickly scratching that thought off the list.

When I was finished I pushed the now less-than-immaculate paper aside and stood to drop the plate off at the sink before exiting the back of the house.

Seeing my worn-out but incredibly comfy reclining chair perched on the patio in the early morning sun, beckoning me to join it, I couldn't help but race over and sink into the all too familiar comfort of my favourite spot.

I sighed heavily with content as I basked in the early morning rays, the dull tingles travelling across my skin lulling me back to sleep.


Haru let out a large yawn before rubbing the crust from his eyes. He stared at the digital numbers of his alarm clock and sighed heavily, before reluctantly rolling out of bed to start his morning routine.

Once he was done in the bathroom he shuffled to the kitchen and made himself his usual mackerel on toast.

He stared out the window while sitting at the table, absent-mindedly chewing his food as he gazed longingly at the distant ocean. He grabbed the empty plate and sat it next to the sink before quickly making a beeline for the bathroom once more.

It'd taken all of his self-control plus extra to keep himself away from the tub long enough to eat something, but now that he was finished there was nothing holding him back any more. He stripped out of his pyjamas and tossed them aside carelessly before sinking into the depths of the water, a satisfied sigh escaping his lungs before completely submerging himself within the liquids embrace.

Haru wasn't sure just how long he'd been soaking in his tub, but he knew that it'd been longer than it felt when he heard the muffled sound of his doorbell ringing from under water.

But he decided to ignore it, like always, and closed his eyes.

Besides, he knew the person would invite himself inside anyway. “I'm coming in!” He called while opening the unlocked door.

Haru listened carefully to the footsteps echoing around his house, and it took all he had to hold in his disappointed sigh as the bathroom door opened with a bang.

“How did I know you'd be here?” Makoto mused to himself, stepping over the strewn clothing before standing at the side of the bath. The brunette knelt down and stuck his hand in the cool water, waving it in front of his friends face.

Haru cracked his eyes open and grimaced at the intruding limb in his bathtub. Knowing he wasn't getting out of going to school today, Haru pushed himself up, his head surfacing above the water again.

Shaking the collected drops from his hair, he turned enough to glance up at his oldest friend. Haru met the taller boy's eager grin with a frown of his own before accepting the extended hand.

“Ready to go, Haru-chan?” Makoto asked as he pulled Haru out of the bath and onto his feet. As usual, Haru was wearing his swimsuit.

“Stop calling me that.” Makoto heard him grumble under his breath, only earning a chuckle from the taller boy.

Haru pulled a towel off the rack and began wiping himself off as he shuffled to his bedroom. The taller teen waited in the dining room beside the table for the boy to get dressed. He glanced at the fish watching him from it's bowl and couldn't help but smile.

Makoto leaned down to get a better look at the little thing, but it quickly swam to the furthest side of it's home to get away.

Haru came in a few minutes later, his hair partly dry and the shoulder and upper back of his shirt growing damp from whatever water remained. Makoto shook his head at the sight but thought against saying anything. He knew it would do nothing but cause an argument, so he decided to stay quiet and instead followed the silent boy to the front door.

“You're not having breakfast today?” The brunette inquired as he waited for the teen in front to slide the door open and step out first.

“Already ate.” Makoto was surprised to hear that the swimmer had changed his usual routine up today, but only gave a silent smile in response.

Haru locked the house once they were out and followed Makoto down the steps, not really paying attention to the other boy's conversation as his eyes locked onto the cobalt blue ocean, all thoughts directed towards how good it would feel to swim right now.

Makoto paused mid-sentence and glanced at his friend, seeing the clear yearning shine behind those deep blue eyes of his. He smiled and picked the conversation back up, even though he knew Haru wasn't hearing any of it.


As lunch rolled by the boys: Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa and Rei were all seated on the rooftop of the school, enjoying the gentle breeze on an otherwise hot summer's day.

Haru desperately wanted to dash over to the school's swimming pool, but they were waiting for their manager, Gou, to show up.

Clearly impatient, Haru blew out a silent breath and continued staring at the glassy surface of which he wanted to be submerged in.

Makoto eyed the uneaten food in Haru's bento before following his friend's gaze. Realising it lead to the pool, Makoto couldn't help but laugh, interrupting Rei and Nagisa's squabble for the time being.

“What's so funny, Makoto-senpai?” Rei questioned, not understanding why the brunette was chuckling to himself.

“Sorry, sorry. I was just watching Haru stare at the pool. He seems quite eager to start swimming today!” Makoto explained, wiping at his eyes.

“Well that's normal for Haru-chan! Water is the only thing he ever thinks about!” Nagisa piped up, leaning around Makoto to get a better look at Haruka's face.

Haru huffed moodily and turned his head away from their prying eyes, but still kept his gaze on the pool.

“Hey guys! Sorry I'm-...late!” Gou gasped as she burst through the door to the roof and stumbled over to the waiting swimmers.

“Took you long enough! Gou is so slow!” Nagisa teased.

“It's...Kou!” Gou corrected him after catching her breath. “Alright, shall we head down to the pool?”

“Pool?” Haru whispered, his ears catching only that specific word. Without a second to waste Haruka sprung to his feet and all but barrelled through the door, jumping the staircases three steps at a time to get down quicker.

Nagisa broke the silence with a laugh before jumping to his own feet. “Come on, we can't let Haru-chan beat us!” He yelled, beckoning wildly for the others to follow before racing after his team mate.

“N-Nagisa!” Rei called, but the shorter boy was already too far to hear.

“Haru, Nagisa, wait up!” Makoto stumbled up from his spot and chased after the two, followed by a flustered Rei.

“You guys, wait! You can't run in the school!” Gou warned, but they didn't pay her any heed. She glanced at their abandoned lunches on the rooftop and sighed in defeat before following after them in a hurry, an exhausted groan leaving her lips.

The eager teen pushed the school doors open with a bang before gliding over to the waiting pool. He gazed at the shiny surface reflecting the sun, the slight waves creating enticing ripples that only beckoned him further.

Pushing the gate aside, Haru quickly wriggled out of his uniform, not missing a single step as he tossed his shoes and socks aside just before leaping towards the pool, his hands creating the perfect opening as he dived under the surface, slipping into the waters comforting hold once more.

He flipped over so his back faced the bottom of the pool and opened his eyes, seeing the outside world above him. A feeling of complete serenity engulfed the boy as his eyes slipped shut again and he began to gracefully spiral below the surface.

“Unbelievable,” Gou sighed, standing by the edge of the pool as she watched Haruka swim effortlessly, hands placed on her hips. “He's already in!”

“Well, you know Haru...” Makoto laughed it off. Gou puffed her cheeks out in disapproval but made no further actions against the raven-haired boy.

“Wait for us, Haru-chan!” Nagisa cried as he came running in wearing only his swimsuit, dragging a staggering Rei behind him.

“N-Nagisa, wait a sec-!” Rei didn't have time to finish as the short blonde pulled him into the water forcefully.

Rei cried out as he fell rather ungracefully into the pool with a cringe-worthy splat. Nagisa surfaced after diving in and laughed at the perplexed look on his friend's face.

Makoto sighed and shook his head while Gou rolled her eyes and tapped her pen against the clipboard impatiently.

“Ah...that's right, I'm supposed to be picking her up!” Makoto suddenly exclaimed, the colour draining from his cheeks as he realised what the time was.

“I-I'll be right back, Kou!”

“Wait, where are you-...?” Gou watched, mouth agape, as Makoto scurried back the way he'd came, but instead of going back to the school he ran across the road and down the footpath.

“What was that all about?” Rei asked while re-adjusting his drenched glasses.

“Whooooa, does Mako-chan have a girlfriend?!” Nagisa joined in, swimming to the edge of the pool so he could rest his crossed arms on the wet concrete.

“Impossible. Surely he would’ve told us before now, right?” Gou muttered, reclining into one of the beach chairs lined along the fence.

“Makoto tends to only tell Haru about those sorts of things.” Rei pointed out.

“Good point, let's ask him!” Nagisa pushed away from the wall and waved his arms wildly above his head to get the swimming teens attention.

Haruka caught Nagisa's flailing in his peripheral vision and went to join the others, his head finally surfacing for the first time since he jumped in.

“Hey, Haru-chan, does Mako-chan have a girlfriend?”

Haru gave Nagisa a look that clearly said he hadn't heard anything about it before answering with a simple, “No.”

Nagisa hummed under his breath while Rei shared a confused look with Gou.

“I wonder who it is then?” Gou verbally sounded the question they'd all been thinking about. Well, all except Haruka.

He didn't care in the least about what was going on, the only thing on his mind was the need to swim. Haru took a deep breath before diving once more, the feeling of cold liquid gliding over his skin one that he'd missed for a long time.

“Sorry everyone!” The other three members turned their heads to see Makoto making his way back to the pool, a brown cardboard tray holding five soft-serve ice-creams balanced on his hands.

“That was quick!” Gou rushed over to take the melting treats from Makoto.

“Apparently she'd already started walking this way.” Makoto scratched the back of his scalp as he explained the situation to the others, a sheepish smile plastered to his face.

“Who wants ice-cream?” Gou called, grabbing Nagisa and Rei's attention. Both climbed out and quickly scooped up a cone each, leaving three behind.

“So where is she?” Nagisa questioned, licking the melted sides of his dessert.

“Uh, she's er-...over there.” Makoto pointed a finger in the direction of a person standing several yards away from the pool, beneath the shade of a tree.

“Why is she all the way over there?” Rei squinted to try and get a better look at the stranger, but she was too far and his glasses were still wet so he couldn't see a thing.

“She, um, she's not-” Just as Makoto was about to answer Haru jumped out of the pool, momentarily distracting everyone as he shook the water from his hair before reaching for one of the icy treats.

“You should bring her over here!” Gou spoke up, earning an uncertain glance from the backstroke swimmer.

“I don't th-”

“Oh, come on! If you don't, I will!” Nagisa chimed in, cracking his knuckles to show that he wasn't kidding.

Makoto exhaled heavily before turning back and going over to the stranger everyone wanted to meet.

After much coaxing and a lot of reassurance, the brunette was finally able to convince the mystery girl to move a little closer. With shallow breaths and a death grip like no other on Makoto's arm the girl reluctantly followed.

“Here she comes!” The blonde announced, looking as excited as a five year old on Christmas morning.

Makoto winced at the loss of circulation in his arm but didn't dare to try and ask her to loosen up a little. It would only result in the girl clinging to his head as she tried to climb on his back...

“Wow, she's so pretty!” Nagisa was the first to speak as all pairs of eyes were drawn to the stranger. “I wish she was my girlfriend!”

G-girlfriemd?!”Makoto choked on the words and almost inhaled his ice-cream in the process. “We're-...related!” He sputtered, slamming a fist into his chest as he tried to stop the oncoming coughing fit.

“So does that mean I can have her?” Nagisa asked eagerly.

“Nagisa! Watch what you say!” Rei scolded, his cheeks tinted in a pink hue at the shorter boys brashness.

“I was only asking...” Nagisa defended.

Makoto sighed in exasperation as he shot an apologetic look at the girl clinging to his arm. He gestured to the others with his head, to which the girl gave a hesitant nod.

“Guys,” Makoto called to get his team mates attention. “This is Hanko-”

“...Hanako.” The girl corrected quietly.

Makoto smiled and continued. “-Hanako Tachibana. Her real name is Hanko, but she prefers if you call her Hanako.”

“Hanko?” Gou repeated, then suddenly her face lit up. “...That's a boy's name!”

Hanako blushed deeply and averted her eyes to the sandals covering her feet.

“Oh, sorry...it's just that I have a boy's name too. It's nice to have someone else around that I can relate to!” Gou explained, coming up to the girl and laying a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

Hanako smiled weakly before glancing at the other swimmers, tucking a stray strand of brown hair behind her ear.

“So she's your sister? I thought you only had one...” Rei interrupted.

“No, we're cousins. Both our fathers share the same last name.” Makoto explained.

“Well, Hana-chan should come swimming with us!” Nagisa piped up, finishing the last of his ice-cream off before grabbing the girl's free hand and pulling her towards the pool.

Hanako's eyes widened and her entire body became stiff, making it hard for the blonde to move her.

“N-Nagisa, that's not a good-”

“Come on, Hana-chan!” Nagisa ignored Makoto's feeble attempt at warning him and continued tugging on the girls hand.

Hanako's fearful eyes darted towards the water lapping gently as the edges. Her heart was beating rapidly and her pulse thumped in her ears.

The brunette screamed in protest and yanked her hand out of the boys, clinging onto the back of Makoto's shirt as she desperately tried to take some kind of shelter behind him.

Nagisa froze in place, his hand lingering in the air. “What...?”

“Ah...sorry about that, but she kind of hates water.” Makoto let out a nervous laugh.

Haru felt his grip on the ice-cream loosen, the delicious treat slipping from his fingers and plummeting to the ground. The sound of the dessert hitting the concrete drew everyone's attention his way.

In all his life, Haru never thought he'd ever meet someone who hated water. He never thought anyone could hate water. It was unfathomable to him.

Haru stared in shock at the frightened girl cowering behind his best friend and took an unconscious step back. He suddenly felt very dry. Too dry.

And looking at the girl only made him feel worse. As if she were a desert, Haru quickly back tracked to the pool and dove in, a feeling of bliss immediately overcoming him as he met with the refreshing liquid once more.

The other teens let out suppressed laughs as they watched Haruka swim as fast as he physically could to get away from the girl who he probably thought shouldn't even exist.

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