Disclaimer: The only thing I own is the story idea and only some of the witty remarks. I own so little; so please don't steal.
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Recently, Finny's been noticing something different about Gene. He's lived with the boy for years already, so it's only obvious that he be the one to spot something amiss. It's just – when he stands next to the anxious brunette, he catches a whiff of something delicious. It isn't something culinary fragrant, like apple pie or his mother's pot roast. It's a scent that is fragile and wonderful, like a breeze that teases the skin and goes away as fast as you felt it.
It must be a new brand of cologne, Finny figures. He's not a genius about cologne, but he's had talks with the other boys about the best kinds and the worst kinds and the kinds that make the women run for the hills. One wouldn't believe the last kind would be marketed, but then you would have to have bad faith in bad tastes.
Gene's cologne is delightfully subtle. It's there, faintly, one moment, and when he turns, it's gone. It's hard to tell where you'll find it next, and Finny catches it once when they're returning to the dorm, another time when they're changing classes. It must also be the way he applies it, though Finny's never been able to tell whether on the neck or on the wrists. To be honest, he hasn't actually seen Gene put cologne on, but it's not like he keeps tabs on Gene's comings-and-goings daily.
It's a hard scent to describe, so he can't go up on the other chaps and ask them where it can be bought, and its name. He also can't ask them to go up and smell Gene – that would be uncouth. Finny doesn't think his roommate would be too keen on a bunch of boys coming up to him, and he doesn't want to imagine it. What if Gene makes friends with them because of it, and Finny is his best friend.
Once, he thinks it might be Gene's shampoo, but when he finally gets his hands on the bottle and sniffs it, it isn't the same at all. The shampoo smells soapy, and the scent is personal and doesn't remind him of white or cleanliness (not…not like that).
"So cologne's pretty popular," Finny says casually one day. He pretends not to look interested and stares up at the ceiling above his bed like it doesn't matter, and he's more interested in the college pennant he's stuck up there. Or he's thinking about the recent attack at Hawaii with the Japanese bomber planes. Anything but cologne, really.
"Is it?" Gene asks distractedly, more absorbed in his work than his friend's slight-of-hand tactics.
"Yeah. Some guys swear by it, says it gets the ladies. Although I don't know what woman would be attracted to a cloud of smell, no matter how good it is." Is it working? He can't really tell. Finny tears his eyes from the ceiling and bores a hole in the side of Gene's head, but Gene doesn't notice.
"Hmm," Gene mumbles. "Brinker's a main suspect. I have to hold my breath when I walk by him." His pencil scratches the paper and the sound fills the room until Finny tries another route.
"You can't really get really good kinds here," he says, trying to see if he can provoke Gene to protest. "They probably mix them in their backrooms and bottle them and sell 'em ten times more than they're worth."
Gene's a pretty tough nut to crack, Finny thinks frustratedly.
"My brother tried to get me to wear his," he says next, trying to keep the impatience out of his voice. "But it smelled like something a lumberjack would wear. I'm a sophisticated New England gentleman, you know. That sort of thing doesn't mix well with me." Then, throwing all sort of subtlety to the wind, "Hey, what kind of cologne do you wear, Forrester?"
"I don't wear cologne," Gene replies, frowning and taking an eraser to the paper in front of him. "I didn't wear any back at home, and I don't wear any here."
Finny blinks. He gets up and walks over behind Gene and leans down. At first, he thinks it's not there, but then again – that scent. It's definitely coming from Gene. But Gene wouldn't lie, would he? Something as trivial as cologne is not worth lying over, right? But he's sure it must be some kind of perfume.
Perhaps Gene just oozes good smells? Finny almost knocks his forehead against Gene's when the latter turns in surprise. "What are you doing, Finny?"
"What are you doing?" Finny asks, saving his skin by pointing to the worksheet Gene is working on. Great save, Phineas old boy. "Is that due tomorrow?" He drapes himself over Gene's shoulders and sighs. "Help me out with it, okay?"
"R-right." Finny doesn't notice Gene's pink face. "What about you?" he asks, out of the blue and changing the subject. "Your cologne, I mean."
"Mine? I'm not wearing any today."
Note: It's pheromones, you silly boys. Thanks for reading!