A/N: Okay, so I was going through the Free! kink meme (don't judge me) and I saw a prompt where Nagisa's teasing is actually wearing down on Rei, who was bullied in the past. Yeah.
Warning: Past bullying, slight angst
Disclaimer: I don't own Free!/Swimming anime
It always came down to this, didn't it?
Rei gave a forced smile as he heard everything chuckling around them. Nagisa had once again talked them into playing some game to pass the time before their pizza arrived. But for some reason, instead of a nice, wholesome game where they got to know each other more, it turned into a game of "Tease Rei to the point where he was about to breakdown."
Bowing his head down, Rei could feel his lips started to quiver and his eyes watering. However, he drew in a deep breath to hold himself together. This time was no different from the other times that this had happened. He had to hold it together. As much as he wanted to shout at Nagisa and Makoto that it wasn't funny, that the blonde's teasing jabs were hurtful instead of playful, he just couldn't find it in himself to say anything. He knew that Nagisa meant well. It just turned out that it was more hurtful than loving.
Fiddling with the string of his pants, Rei tried to block out the laughter of their "game". He just wanted to go home at that point and do his homework. Physics always helped him calm down after moments like this. The equations flowing through his mind and blocking out unnecessary distractions...yes. That was what he wanted right now. But leaving right before their small get together was finished would be very rude, not to mention suspicious. There was no doubt in his mind that he'd be teased for leaving so early. The sun hadn't even gone down yet in the sky, for goodness sake.
"Rei-chan~? Whatcha thinking about?" Nagisa asked from across the table, giggling happily.
Lifting his head up, Rei blinked for a moment before pushing his glasses up. He cleared his throat, making sure that he didn't sound weird at all. He didn't want to alert them of his inner monologue. "Nothing. I was just lost in my thoughts."
"Ahh, you're always thinking so much. You need to learn to stop thinking and just have fun~" Nagisa said with a laugh, waving his hand in the air.
Piercing his lips together, Rei just hummed before ducking his head down. Yes, he did think too much, didn't he? He always thought too much. Perhaps that was what attracted people to come and bully him. But he just couldn't help it. He had grown up trying to discover secrets about the world around him using logic and equations. And for some reason, that was enough reason for people to pick on him.
He had dealt with it all throughout his school career. People teasing him about his high grades, bullies slamming him against lockers if he out-shined them in class, teachers pulling him aside and asking if he cheated whenever he got perfect scores on their tests because he rarely ever failed...it was tiring. It was so tiring and he was just done with it.
So, when he came to Iwatobi, he had hoped that finally, he would be getting a new start. He was in a new school with people who were just as smart as him. He wouldn't be the target of endless mocking laughs and painful beatings. And for the most part, that had been true. Sure, he would get teasing jabs from the track team about his intense concentration and seriousness, but for the most part, people were nice to him. Heck, some people even asked him to tutor them because he understood Physics like the back of his hand. He had finally felt as though he was past the bullying.
Until Nagisa, that is.
Nagisa was nothing like the bullies at his old school, nor was he like the other students that teased him. He supposed that the blonde showed that he liked someone by teasing them. After all, he did do the same with Makoto and Haruka. However, it didn't take a genius to realize that Nagisa was doing it much more to him than the other two. And for the life of him, he couldn't understand why.
Was it because he looked weak? That couldn't possibly be it, since he was taller and broader than the younger male. Was it because he was what people called a nerd? That could be a reason, though he would have never thought that that would be a reason for Nagisa to tease him. He didn't go after any of the other nerds in Iwatobi. So that couldn't possibly be it either. Was it...
...Was it because he didn't really like him as much as he had pretended to? Haruka, Makoto and Nagisa had been friends since they were children, after all. They had known each other a long time and were a tight-knit group. Along with that Rin guy, Rei just felt like he didn't belong. Perhaps this was Nagisa's way of telling him that he didn't belong?
"...ei? Rei? ...Rei!"
Jumping at the sound of his name, a flush came to Rei's cheeks as he realized that everyone was staring at him with curious eyes. He noticed the flicker of worry in Makoto's eyes and the blank judgment in Haruka's eyes. They were normal expressions on their faces when they usually played these games. It was nothing new. Moving his eyes towards Nagisa, a feeling of discomfort came to him. There seemed to be...something twinkling in the younger male's eyes. He wasn't quite sure what the emotion was, but something was telling him that it wasn't something good.
They were all staring at him, expecting him to say something. Their eyes were boring into him, demanding answers to questions that he barely even knew. All of a sudden, Rei could feel himself starting to sweat and tremble. He hated being put on the spot in such situations where there was nothing that he could do besides embarrass himself. So, he did the only thing that he could do.
Standing up suddenly, Rei shot a hand out and grabbed onto his backpack, quickly strapping it to his back before making his way out of the room and towards the front door. He could hear them calling out his name, probably to stop him from leaving. But before they could even get up from their spots, Rei was already out of the house and halfway down the stairs.
As he ran down the stairs, Rei couldn't help but feel pathetic. Again, he had run away from a situation that he probably could have handled. He ran and came across as a coward who couldn't handle stressful situations. He'd be the laughing stock of their school come tomorrow.
He was so pathetic.
Back at the house, Makoto, Nagisa, and Haruka all sat at the table, not quite sure what had happened. All that they had been talking about was schoolwork before Makoto mentioned a physics test coming up next week. None of them were quite that good at physics, so they had thought that asking Rei for help would have been the best plan. But instead of agreeing to help them like they had thought, Rei had shot out of the room and house like he had seen a ghost.
Huffing lightly, Nagisa crossed his arms and puffed out his cheeks. "What's up with Rei-chan? We were just asking him to help us study..."
Makoto hummed softly and frowned slightly. "He did seem kind of upset. I've never seem him like this before...it's quite strange," he pointed out.
"But what could he possibly be upset about? We haven't done anything to him," Nagisa whined softly, resting his arms on the table and pouting a bit.
Makoto hummed in agreement before looking over towards Haruka. There seemed to be a thoughtful expression on his face and the brunette tilted his head a bit curiously. "What's wrong, Haru?"
Haruka lifted his gaze to meet Makoto's for a moment before glancing towards Nagisa. He didn't say anything for several moments before sighing and standing up. "I don't think Rei appreciates being put on the spot," he said simply before walking into the kitchen.
Both Nagisa and Makoto watched Haruka as he walked into the kitchen, not saying another word. Not quite sure what to say, Makoto gazed over towards Nagisa, who was looking back at him. It didn't look as though the blonde understood Haruka's statement any more than Makoto did. So, they both just sat at the table while Haruka was busy in the kitchen, thinking to themselves.
Rei didn't like to be put on the spot? What did that even mean?
Rei sighed as he stood at his bus stop, waiting for the bus to come and pick him up. Glancing down at his watch, he noticed that he still had a good five minutes before the bus came. Sighing softly, he lifted his head back up, pushing his glasses up on his face in the meantime. Perhaps it would be better to just walk to school. He could use the exercise and it wasn't like the school was that far away-
Hearing a familiar voice calling out his name, Rei winced before slowly turning around. Seeing Nagisa running towards him with a bright smile on his face made the pit in Rei's stomach tighten up harshly. It was way too early in the morning to deal with this. He had been hoping that by the time Nagisa boarded the bus (at another stop), he would be in a seat with someone else, as to avoid the other boy as much as possible. But it looked as though that plan was thrown right out the window.
"Hello, Nagisa," Rei said tightly, quickly looking away from the blonde as he ran up to him.
Since his head was turned away, Rei didn't notice the look of confusion and mild hurt on Nagisa's face before it was quickly replaced by a smile. "So, how come you ran off all of sudden yesterday, Rei-chan?"
"I wasn't feeling well," Rei said promptly, pushing his glasses up on his face.
Humming curiously, Nagisa leaned forward a bit to get a closer look at Rei. Noticing the movement, Rei backed up just a little bit to compensate for the lost space. Looking back at Nagisa, he noticed that there was a skeptical expression on his face. Watching as a familiar twinkle coming to the blonde's eyes, Rei groaned mentally and steeled himself for the onslaught that was about to occur.
"Hmm...Rei-chan doesn't look like he's been sick," Nagisa pointed out, narrowing his eyes before a playful grin came to his face. "I think Rei-chan is lying~"
Gritting his teeth together harshly, Rei breathed through his nose and stepped away from Nagisa again. He really didn't want to deal with this right now. He could feel the irritation welling up inside of him, years of being teased and mocked about to boil over and cause him to snap. Nagisa needed to stop talking, before he ended up losing his temper. Because as mean as some of the blonde's comments were, he knew that Nagisa wasn't trying to be mean-spirited. He was just acting the way he always acted.
Not seeming to pick up on the tense atmosphere around him, Nagisa continued talking, poking Rei in the mean time. Rei looked out of the corner of his narrowed eyes, seeing the bright expression on the blonde's face. It just made him so mad...
"You know Rei, I have the feeling that you just left to go and study so that you could get a higher grade than all of us. You're such a smarty-pants, I don't even know why you have to go and study all the time-"
"Will you just shut up, Nagisa?! For goodness sake, I don't need to hear any more of your mocking statements!" Rei finally snapped, turning to face Nagisa and shouting right in his face.
Nagisa immediately stepped back, his eyes wide in shock. A moment of self-satisfaction went through Rei's veins and he quickly straightened himself back up, huffing loudly. He was done dealing with the deprecating comments. He knew that remaining at home or walking to school would have just been a better option than waiting at the bus stop. So, not even bothering to check his watch to see what time it was, Rei began walking in the direction of the school. Thankfully, he happened to live fairly close to Iwatobi to where it would only take him about twenty minutes or so to reach the school should he walk. That was more than enough time.
Rei didn't gaze behind him as he walked away. He never noticed the look of hurt and concern on the blonde's face before he slumped, biting his bottom lip harshly. However, he did feel the tension that had sunk into both of their hearts the farther away that Rei walked away.
"Rei said that? Really?" Makoto asked in shock, sitting next to Nagisa with an arm wrapped around him in comfort.
Nibbling his bottom lip, Nagisa just nodded his head, blinking away the tears that wanted to fall down his face. "Y-yeah...and I have no idea why he even said that. I-I wasn't mocking him..."
Furrowing his eyebrows in confusion, Makoto tapped his chin and looked over towards Haruka for a moment. The other male was leaning back against his desk, staring at the both of them with an intense expression that Makoto rarely saw on his face. There seemed to be something there that told him that Haruka knew what was going on. So, leaning forward a bit, Makoto tilted his head and hummed curiously.
"Haru, do you know why Rei would act like that?" he asked softly.
"He doesn't like being put on the spot," Haruka answered simply, giving the same answer that he had the day before.
Huffing loudly, Nagisa wiggled out of Makoto's grip and glared at Haruka with wet eyes. "And what does that even mean? I don't put him on the spot-"
"Yes you do," Haruka answered back. "You might not notice it, since you've done it for so long, but you do tease people a lot Nagisa. Makoto and I don't say anything, because we're used to it. But it's obvious that Rei isn't and it's making him uncomfortable."
Makoto and Nagisa didn't say anything for a moment, just staring at their normally silent friend in shock. Haruka stared right back for a few moments before he sighed and looked out of the window. "Rei doesn't like being teased, Nagisa."
Flinching a bit at the harsh tone, Nagisa bowed his head down and looked at his trembling hands. Had...had he really upset Rei that much? He hadn't even noticed, truth be told. He had just thought that it had been fun and games. Plus, Rei never said anything to him. He had thought that the other male didn't mind. No where in his train of thinking had he ever had the desire to hurt Rei or make him feel uncomfortable. And yet, that was exactly what he had done.
And to make matters worse, he had just continued pushing Rei until he ended up snapping at him.
Letting out a cry of anguish, Nagisa bit his bottom lip hard and clenched his eyes tight. He had just wanted Rei to feel like he belonged in their group. To show that he liked him. And now, he had probably just messed all that up. He had to do something...before he ended up losing Rei.
It wasn't often that he came to the roof to think, but sometimes, Rei just found the noise in his head too loud to concentrate. The shouts and loud talking of the other students didn't do anything to help him calm down. So, he went up to the roof where very few students went to to try and clear his head.
Leaning his forehead against the fence for a moment, Rei shut his eyes and groaned low in his throat. He just wanted this day to be over with so that he could go home and rest. Just take a long nap and forget about everything that had gone on that day. But he knew that that was impossible. After all, one didn't just forget about Nagisa.
It was so hard to forget about him, and that made both angry and upset. All of the other people who had made fun of him in his life were so easy to block out of his mind. Sure, the pain stayed there, but their faces and their voices were easily forgotten that they just became another page in an ever-filling book. Faces, expressions, and accents all just mixed together until they were one entity. But with Nagisa, that wasn't the case. He couldn't forget his face, his voice, his mannerisms, the way that he smiled at him whenever he was watching him-
No! No, he couldn't think about Nagisa that way! He couldn't think about the parts of Nagisa that made his heart skip a beat. The blonde was already in such a vulnerable place in his heart. If he let him weave himself even deeper, then it would just end up hurting him more in the end. Nagisa didn't like him in such a way, so he needed to stop himself before he got carried away. Rei clenched his eyes tight together and rested his forehead against the steel fence.
So caught up with his mental battle, Rei didn't realize that the door leading to the roof opened, revealing someone else who was seeking silence and peace. But when the person realized that they wasn't the only one on the roof, he stopped before sighing loudly.
Nagisa hadn't even been trying to find Rei. He had told himself that he'd go look for the other male after school, since he was fairly sure that Rei wouldn't be coming to practice. The entire situation was causing him a lot of stress. He had hoped to go up to the roof to help clear his mind before he thought about what he would even say to Rei when he saw him.
So, what he hadn't been expecting was to run right into the male that he was trying to figure out, right there on the roof. Blinking for a moment, Nagisa continued standing by the entrance for a moment before he sighed and slowly walked out onto the roof. There was no use trying to sneak back inside now. He would just be acting like a coward when he had the chance to get back Rei and explain everything to him. Running away now would further ruin his chances. Plus, Makoto and Haruka would surely ask questions about why he had come back all of a sudden after he had told them that he was going off to think.
As he moved towards Rei, Nagisa momentarily forgot the fact that the door to the roof was a bit rusty. So, the moment that he let it go, it immediately screeched loudly, causing both males to jump and flinch at the sound. Nagisa froze in place as he saw Rei snap his head towards him. He wasn't sure what to do in that moment, so he just stood still. Fear shot in his gut and spread out all throughout his body.
Watching as several emotions spread across Rei's face, Nagisa swallowed thickly before he slowly made his way towards the other male. Rei didn't move at all, but there was a suspicious expression on his face. The closer that Nagisa seemed to get to him, the more closed off that he became. It was actually kind of heartbreaking to watching. Rei was normally so open about his emotions and now, Nagisa could barely tell what he was feeling. However, the blonde didn't back down at all. He couldn't back out of this just because he was uncomfortable or because things looked bleak.
"What do you want, Nagisa?" Rei cut him off, sighing softly and looking back at the cityscape.
Following his line of sight, the blonde frowned and continued walking up to Rei until he was standing right next to him. He didn't say anything at first, just looking out at the scenery for a moment. What did he want? There were lots of things that he wanted, that all dealt with Rei. He wanted to apologize to the other male. He wanted to hug him, hold him, and tell him that he hadn't meant to hurt his feelings. He wanted to confess the reasoning to his teasing and why he always targeted Rei before Makoto or Haruka.
He wanted to confess that he really like Rei. A lot.
Eyes flickering back and forth between the scenery and Rei's hand, Nagisa licked his lips for a moment before slowly lifting his hand up. Body trembling slightly, Nagisa placed his hand over Rei's, which was still clutching at the fence. He felt Rei flinch underneath his touch before the muscles in his hand tensed up. However, Nagisa didn't let that deter him. Instead, he tightened his grip and looked over towards the other male.
Rei's face was tight with emotion. "Nagisa," he said stiffly, looking at the blonde with a glare.
Looking right back at Rei, Nagisa pulled Rei's hand away from the fence and brought it up to his face. The taller male looked down at Nagisa in warning, silently telling him to let go of his hand. However, the blonde didn't do what he asked. Instead, he brought the hand up to his lips, kissing is gently, all while staring right at Rei.
Watching as his eyes widened, Nagisa felt his lips twitch as a blush came to Rei's face. However, none of the tightness in his face went away. So, Nagisa sighed softly and looked up at the other male. "...I'm sorry."
Rei's eyes grew even wider (if that was possible) and his mouth fell open in shock before he coughed awkwardly. "W-What?" he stammered out, eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
"I...I said I'm sorry. For hurting you," Nagisa said, quickly adding the last part to explain himself.
However, that seemed to make Rei even more confused (or suspicious), because he huffed loudly, his eyebrows still furrowed. So, Nagisa slumped a bit and took in a deep breath. It looked as though he was going to have to explain himself in full. While he didn't mind doing that, it was...kind of embarrassing to have to say all of these things. But he needed to do it, apparently. Rei didn't understand his feelings for him.
"I didn't know that...that you didn't like it when I teased you. I had always thought that you never really minded. I mean, sure you got embarrassed, but I thought that was it," Nagisa said softly, looking up at Rei with an unguarded expression. "I didn't know that I ended up hurting you all of those times. I...I didn't mean to hurt you like that. And I'm sorry."
Rei just stared at Nagisa for a few more minutes, unable to say anything. He...had no idea how he had felt? All that time and Nagisa hadn't know how he had felt about all the teasing? He wasn't sure if he was happy or upset about that. He was slightly happy at the fact that he had been able to hide how he had felt all this time, but upset at the fact that Nagisa hadn't even been able to tell that anything was wrong. What would be stopping him from making the same mistake again, if he couldn't even catch the warning signs?
Although, that did pose a curious question in his mind.
"If you didn't know anything was wrong, who were you able to tell?" Rei asked softly, looking down at Nagisa hesitantly.
A flush of embarrassment and shame came to Nagisa's face and he scratched the back of his head. "...Haru-chan told me."
"Haruka-sempai?!" Rei exclaimed in shock. Haruka...was the one to tell Nagisa?! He...that was unexpected. He had thought that stoic male hadn't really cared, truth be told. Haruka wasn't a man of many words or expressions. So...to hear that he actually recognized that Rei had been upset, when Nagisa and Makoto (the fact that Makoto hadn't realized why was surprising) was...mind-blowing.
Nagisa nodded his head slowly, sighing softly. "He told me that I should stop...because you don't like being put on the spot."
Rei raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Well, that was true, in a sense. He didn't mind being put on the spot so much as he minded being mocked. But he wouldn't correct Nagisa. He just stared at Nagisa as the male continued explaining himself. The words all started blending together and it made it harder for Rei to concentrate on them. However, he wasn't really paying any attention to what Nagisa was saying at the moment. Most of Rei's attention was on the hand that was still cradling his and the fact that their joined hands were still a few inches away from Nagisa's lips.
Flushing a bit, Rei grunted, snapping Nagisa out of his ramble. "Are you going to let go of my hand, Nagisa?" Rei asked, moving his gaze to their joined hands.
Nagisa followed his line of sight and stared at their hands for a while before he tilted his head. "Why?"
"W-why?! B-because friends don't just hold each other's hands like that! You don't see Haruka and Makoto doing this!" Rei said incredulously.
"That's because they bathe together," Nagisa said simply.
"EH?!" Rei exclaimed, jumping away from Nagisa with wide eyes, a bright flush on his cheeks.
Staring at the other male and blinking, Nagisa leaned over and placed his hands on his hips. "Why are you so surprised? I thought you knew how close Haru-chan and Mako-chan were."
"No, I didn't know!"
Laughter bubbled out of Nagisa's mouth and he moved back towards Rei, grabbing at his hand and holding it tight. Rei's face grew even hotter and the blonde found himself laughing louder. He curled their fingers together and reached out to grab Rei's other hand, curling his fingers around that one as well. "N-Nagisa-"
"I really like you Rei. A lot. That's why I teased you more than Haru and Mako," Nagisa explained, looking down at their joined hands. "And I thought that you really liked me too, because you didn't tell me to stop. And...I still hope that maybe...you still like me. Enough to be my friend at least...," he trailed off, frowning slightly and piercing his lips together with a look of sadness on his face.
Noticing the melancholy atmosphere surrounding Nagisa, Rei sighed and leaned down a bit. There was still a blush on his cheeks and he was fairly sure that he would be even more embarrassed after doing this. But he had to do this to put some of this misunderstanding behind them. They needed to get everything out in the open. So, lifting their hands up, Rei looked right at Nagisa and confessed, "I like you too, Nagisa. I...I do not appreciate the teasing, but I still like you."
Neither of them said anything for several moments. Nagisa was staring at Rei while Rei was looking away in embarrassment. Several thoughts were going around in both of their minds, mostly revolving around the other and their surprise of having their feelings returned. Then, out of nowhere, Nagisa squealed happily and practically tackled Rei down to the ground, nuzzling up against him. A grunt left Rei's mouth and he flailed for a moment to try and get from underneath Nagisa. However, the blonde was way to heavy for him to lift off, plus Nagisa was moving way too much to be contained.
The two of them didn't end up moving until the school bell rung about ten minutes later. However, as they rushed to their class, their hands were still clutched tightly together.
A/N: I like to think that, while Makoto is clearly the mother hen of the group, Haru is a bit quicker to pick up on situations than him and can notice a problem much faster. He just doesn't emote very well.
Also, the end was a bit rushed. I apologize. :'c