Rei walked into his room Saturday evening, tired and ready to fall asleep. Even though it was the fall, Gou-chan had ordered an all day practice for the swim club ("In order to keep up that musculature over the off-season!") and there had been an extended joint practice at Samezuka. Almost a mini training camp, Capitan Mikoshiba, with Gou-chan's assistance, had run them ragged. Even Rin-chan-san had seemed tired, fitness-obsessed as he was, leaning on Haruka-senpai with more exhaustion than usual on the train ride back to Iwatobi at the end of the day.
On top of the physical exhaustion, Rei was running low on sleep, thanks to Nagisa's plans for a sleepover the night before - "But Rei-chan, we'll be going to the same place in the morning, it just makes sense!" - and the blond's insistence that they stay up late in order to make it like feel like a real sleepover.
Not that Nagisa-kun hasn't spent the night before. At the thought of his friend's exuberance and general lack of prudence, Rei was almost tired enough to grumble, despite such behavior being most definitely not beautiful. Instead, he merely placed his bag in it's spot on his desk, and proceeded to flop, as gracefully as one can after swimming, running, and doing weights for eight hours, face down on his bed.
As luck would have it, Rei's face landed squarely on one of his pillows. He took a deep breath in through his nose, fully prepared to let out a long suffering sigh, when his senses were suddenly flooded with a sweet scent.
Strawberry. And underneath that, a slightly warmer, more comforting smell - like cinnamon, or home baked cookies.
Rei did let out a soft groan at that.
Nagisa. This must have been the pillow he had borrowed the night before. Rei resisted the urge to inhale deeply again, and rolled on his back to stare at his bedroom ceiling.
In the months since he had started with the swim club, he had developed a deep friendship with the other boy. At first, he had found him slightly overbearing and a bit of a handful, but over time, he began to regard Nagisa's quirks and exuberance as endearing rather than annoying. They quickly developed a routine together, and except for the time spent with their individual fall clubs - Rei had refused to be dragged off to the history club, announcing that he would be much happier with the math team, thank you very much - they had become nigh inseparable. But when he found himself earlier that same week studying the way the sunlight glinted off of blonde hair, and comparing rosey eyes to actual roses and silently declaring, beautiful, Rei knew he was in trouble.
Not that he thought Nagisa would denounce his friendship, or abandon him if he were to find out about Rei's crush. Nagisa was too open and caring for that sort of petty behavior. But revealing his feelings would undoubtedly make their relationship awkward, and he couldn't bear that. Almost unconsciously, Rei turned his head back to the pillow, and inhaled. The image of Nagisa's head on his shoulder, snoring softly as he napped on the train ride home earlier that week rose unbidden in his mind. That was the second time in as many weeks they had missed their stop, Rei lulled into a peaceful drowsiness by the other's regular breathing and comforting scent. He let out his breath with a sigh at the memory, distantly noting that the scent of strawberry seemed particularly strong for having only been used for one night.
Almost three weeks after the joint practice, the Iwatobi team, plus Rin-chan-san, had gathered at Makoto-senpai's house to play video games. Haru and Rin were currently battling it out on some apocalyptic game, with Makoto alternately starting at the screen or hiding being either Rin or Haru whenever one of the zombie-like denizens would rush at game. Though what giant robots and little girls had to do with an underwater city (which was the factor that Rei suspected had convinced Haru to play), he had no idea. Rin was gesticulating and swearing loudly, Haru a mostly silent and intense presence beside him, save for the occasional deadpan, "You're lucky you're not as bad at swimming as you are at taking down splicers." Which would invariably lead to the two players bickering and Makoto briefly forgetting his fear to laugh affectionately at the two of them, before the inevitable enemy would come rushing on the screen, causing Makoto to yelp and hide his head behind whoever was closer at the time, clutching onto his shirt as Rin and Haru abandoned their personal battle to work together.
As the three second-years were absorbed in the game, seated on the floor, the two first years were sitting side by side on Makoto's bed. And once again, Rei found himself fighting the urge to turn his head and bury his nose in Nagisa's oh-so-tantalizingly-close hair. With the blonde's head on his shoulder, he could still catch the faint scent of fruit and vanilla, smelling like the world's most sinful version of strawberry shortcake. Rei was surprised that his friend had fallen asleep so quickly, but was both appreciative of and dismayed at the thought of having Nagisa so close.
It had taken days for the scent of strawberry and that uniquely Nagisa scent to fade from Rei's extra pillow - and it had made his dreams more vivid during that time as well. More than once when he had woken up in severe discomfort, he had resolved to wash the pillowcase, or at least switch back to using his regular pillow. But something in him resisted, reveling in the comforting feeling of falling asleep to his friend's scent, even if some of the side effects weren't beautiful.
Strangely enough, during that time, it had seemed like the smell of strawberry shortcake had lingered far longer than should be possible for any shampoo or body wash. Rei wondered if this was the result of wishful thinking when after waking up the third day and noticing Nagisa's scent had begun to fade, when he put his head down that night after successfully helping the other boy study math for a few hours, he breathed in and almost tasted the strawberry on his tongue.
About a week after that, he was almost convinced it was his imagination, because whiffs of strawberry and vanilla began to show up seemingly wherever he was. When he opened his drawer to get his calculus notes; upon opening his school locker to get out his slippers in the morning; upon unzipping his swim bag - the scent of Nagisa was everywhere, and it was driving him more than a little crazy. Every time he breathed in that comfortingly sweet smell, it reminded him of some endearing memory of his friend, and his feelings would almost overwhelm him.
All of this was at the forefront of Rei's mind as he sat with Nagisa's head now almost pillowed in his lap. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't focus on anything but the enticing scent and the fact that the other boy's head was right there. Though valiantly trying to keep his mind blank, Rei began to panic as he lost control of his autonomic nervous system, and his body's nigh inevitable reaction to the blond's proximity.
"FUCK! Goddamnit, Haru, you were supposed to be backing me up there!"
Rin's exclaimation, and subsequent tackle of Haru to the ground as the television screen faded to black with a "GAME OVER" banner, was enough to startle Nagisa awake, a fact that Rei was both thankful and vaguely disappointed about. "Rei-chan? Why are Haru-chan and Rin-chan rolling on the ground?"
Makoto just sighed and rolled his eyes, reaching down to grab the other two second-years by the collar and admonishing them to "Keep it down, the twins are sleeping" and "Stop that you two, before you hurt yourselves or break something." Once the two had separated, Rin with a glower and Haru looking like a sulking cat, Makoto turned to Rei and Nagisa.
"I think that means we should call it a night, guys. Are you sure you can make it home alright?"
Rei opened his mouth to reassure his senpai that they would be fine, but was cut off by a sleepy, albeit cheerful, voice.
"Don't worry, Mako-chan! I'll just spend the night at Rei-chan's! His parents aren't home this weekend. That way we can make sure we both get home safe!"
"Nagisa-kun, you can't just decide things like that!" he sputtered, knowing that it was useless. Rei once again - he was sensing a theme - felt at war with himself. He was both delighted to keep spending time with the blond, but also apprehensive. If just Nagisa's scent on his pillow had been enough to interrupt his sleep patterns, Nagisa in the flesh could only be expected to cause more discomfort, especially in the wake of his increased olfactory awareness of the other's presence. Resigned to a night of restless or no sleep, which is not beautiful at all!, the pair bid their seniors goodnight, before heading to the train.
The entire ride back to Rei's house, Nagisa kept up a stream of chatter, more tempered than usual by his sleepy demeanor. Rei was just content to listen, subtly trying to breathe in the vanilla-strawberry fragrance emanating off of the other boy's hair while at the same time trying to remind himself that was a bad idea.
In a cruel twist of fate, once preparing for bed, Rei decided he was in desperate need of a moment to recompose himself, and took a detour to the kitchen after leaving the bathroom for a glass of water, figuring Nagisa knew where the futon in his room was kept and that he could begin pulling it out himself. Of course, upon returning to the bedroom, Rei could do nothing but look in on the scene in despair.
There was his bed, covers neatly pulled back, the pillow he had recently been using placed in the direct center of the bed. The only problem was the bed's occupant, sprawled half in and half out of the sheets, with his head pillowed on his arm and the pillow. There was no hope for moving him, Rei knew. Despite being several inches shorter than the other boy, Nagisa was an immovable object once he got comfortable and fell asleep. Rei simply sighed, and moved to the other side of the bed, pulling the coverlet up over the both of them, and scooting as far towards the opposite side of the bed as he could.
It was no use. Nagisa is in my bed kept repeating itself through his mind, the thought resounding with every beat of his heart, every in-drawn breath bringing the sweetly intoxicating scent like a shot to his nervous system. He lay stiff as a board, timing his breath to the other's in an effort to relax. Though facing away from his friend, the berry fragrance wafted across the short distance, reminding him of earlier with the other's head in his lap, of all the times Nagisa had gotten close in order to express his friendly affection in skinship. After laying there for what felt like an indeterminable amount of time, Rei's muscles began to relax, lulled into a proper sleep by the now-familiar comforting perfume coating his pillow.
When he awoke the next morning, nothing about it was comfortable. Rei found that somehow in the night, he had ended up used as a body pillow. An arm and a leg were thrown over his body, with a blond and fuzzy head snuggled up to his chin. He took a deep breath, sweet bakery scent flooding his nostrils, before noticing the other reason he wasn't comfortable, internally wailing, it's so not beautiful! He gradually attempted to slide out of bed to go freshen up, but just as he almost finished extricating himself, Nagisa's hand tightened on his sleeve, caging him as effectively as any bonds. He was forced to lay there for several long moments, mentally willing his body to respond to his direction, praying that the other boy didn't wake up any time soon - these butterfly pajamas, as lovely as they were, did not hide much of anything well.
Eventually, Nagisa's grip relaxed, and Rei huffed out a small sigh of relief as he completely exited the bed. His breath caught in his throat, however, when as Nagisa let go and rolled over, he called out what was unmistakably, "Rei." The taller boy froze, then slowly began edging backwards out of the bedroom, not even daring to breathe. By the time he had made his escape to the bathroom, he let out a slow breath, trying to calm his racing heart and overly excited nervous system. But it was doing no good - as a result of Nagisa's body wrapping around his own, he was now seemingly cocooned in an aura of the other boy's comfortingly sweet scent. And that was making it impossible for him to get his beating heart under control - especially when paired with the memory of hearing his name, with no honorifics, said in such an alluring manner.
He eventually decided a shower was required to deal with the multiple facets of his problem, and he finally emerged from the bathroom a half of an hour later, ready to deal with whatever fate threw his way for the rest of the morning.
Or so he thought. He was not prepared for fate to greet him with the image of Nagisa standing over his bed, a spray bottle in one hand, spritzing his pillow - the same one the blond had borrowed the night before and during the previous sleepover.
Rei could only stand there, flabbergasted, mouth hanging open, while the other boy finished his task. When he turned away from the bed, he finally caught sight of the taller boy standing frozen in the doorway, and let out a shriek of "Rei-chan!"
Rei took in the rapidly reddening face of his friend, still holding the incriminating bottle, and sputtered, "Nagisa-kun, just what are you doing?!"
Nagisa attempted to meet his eyes, but looked away to the side, lips coming together in a pout - adorable, Rei fleetingly thought through his confusion - before he opened his mouth and shut it once, twice.
Rei just looked at the other boy, pushing up his glasses with one hand to give him a moment to try to process the individual words that Nagisa had said so very quickly. He gasped.
"You mean you've been making my bed smell like you on purpose?!" At the other's shamefaced nod, Rei quickly put the pieces together. "That means you've also been spraying your scent other places - like my locker, and my swim bag." Another nod. "But..." and this was the part that he couldn't feature, had no theory for, "but why, Nagisa-kun?"
Rei could never have hypothesized that his friend's face could get any redder than it already was, but the evidence proved that he could indeed flush even brighter. Rei distantly noted the blond was almost the same color as the strawberries he smelled like, but most of his attention was focused on the way the boy seemed to be gathering his courage, despite his embarrassment.
"I read it on the internet, Rei-chan! You can increase someone's attraction to you if they like your scent, so I figured if you smelled it a lot you might eventually end up liking me back."
After that pronouncement, Nagisa's eyes seemed fixed on the ceiling, determined not to look at Rei, as if afraid of his reaction. But it was the taller boy's turn to blush fiercely now, even as part of him was in disbelief at what his friend said.
Nagisa...likes me? He likes me, too? He could hardly believe it - after going more than a bit crazy over the last few weeks, convincing himself that it was all in his imagination - it was a stunning revelation to say the least. But the more Rei thought about it, he began to smile, and the wider his smile grew, until he started to laugh. Nagisa immediately turned accusing eyes on him, protesting, "It's not funny, Rei-chan, I'm serious!"
Rei immediately sobered up at the hurt look in his friend's expression, but remained smiling gently as he said, "There was no reason to try and remind me of you, Nagisa. But I...I liked smelling you, too." He fumbled over the words as his face flamed. This was not at all the beautiful confession he had imagined! He tried again, trying to convey his feelings into words.
"Nothing has made me happier over the last few weeks as catching a whiff of your scent as I go about my day, since the thought of you makes me happy."
As he spoke, his own face flared brighter red, embarrassed that he could say such things out loud to Nagisa. But the other boy's eyes were shining, and he said, wonder and a bit of hesitation in his voice, "Rei-chan? Does...does that mean you like me, too?"
Despite having previously said such sappy things (Rin-san would tease us and say "tch, romantic"), Rei still stuttered a bit as he replied, "Y-yes, of course!"
With an excited "Rei-chan!", Nagisa proceeded to launch himself across the distance between them, latching onto the taller boy with all of his limbs, and laughing into the side of his neck. Rei's arms came around to steady him on instinct, and the two of them stood there for a minute or two, just holding each other close. Rei finally gave into temptation, and buried his nose in the other's hair, inhaling the soft strawberry and cookie scent to his heart's content.
"How is it that you smell like dessert all the time?"
The other boy looked up at him, an impish expression on his face. "Well, Rei-chan, I thought if I smelled really good, you wouldn't be able to resist eating me up!"