Ren sighed heavily, swinging his legs slowly in the water. The evening was too cold, and the tournament was too near, for his team to be wasting time swimming in a pond on the expansive grounds of Beacon when they could be studying or—better still—getting a good night's sleep.
"Are you sure this is, you know, allowed?" he tried futilely, staring at the broken moon and praying one of his other teammates might question Nora's spontaneous decisions for once. She'd never gotten them into trouble, however inadvertently, but there had definitely been a few very close calls.
"Of course!" exclaimed Nora confidently, before diving underwater again and turning a somersault. Ren heaved another sigh and closed his eyes; he would honestly rather be studying. The others, however, were splashing around in the water to their dear hearts' content, and were obviously used to the chilly temperature of the wind and water—but Ren refused to join them.
More accurately, he couldn't. He would rather have been thrown into a cliff by a Deathstalker than admit he couldn't swim, though, so he'd had to use the excuse of the cold to keep himself out of trouble.
"Come on, Ren," pleaded Nora, surfacing again and startling him. "It's nice, once you get used to it. Besides, you promised!" Ren looked to Jaune or Pyrrha for help, but Jaune was busy racing her across the pool, and neither of them looked like taking a break to help him out was high on their priority lists.
"No," retorted Ren, face burning, and pulled his feet out of the water for good measure. "I told you I'd come with you all, but I didn't say I'd swim." He couldn't suppress a note of pride; after years of manipulation, he had finally learned to speak delicately around her, lest she hold him to a promise he hadn't realized he'd made.
"Aw, you're no fun," pouted Nora, and promptly clambered out and plopped her sopping self beside him: Ren endeavored not to look at her. Not having brought a swimsuit to Beacon, Nora had no problem wearing her underwear instead as a makeshift bikini, and Ren was rapidly losing the ability to keep a calm eye on her in these cases.
Unfortunately, as with most things, Nora was completely oblivious to Ren's discomfort, and simply leaned towards him with a gleeful gleam in her eyes, cheek almost brushing his bare shoulder. Ren took a break from internally panicking to observe her expression warily, grateful that the dark might hide his lingering blush. He had learned long ago to be very, very afraid of that look, but before he could get more than half a syllable out of his question—"What are you planning this time?"—she pushed him into the pond.
Several seconds' worth of flailing in the water was evidently enough to finally convince Nora that maybe, just maybe, there was a good reason why he wasn't joining them (besides the temperature, lateness of the hour, and the fact that there was school tomorrow, of course). She dove in after Ren just as he was about ready to give up and drown, and dragged him to the shore again like some sort of mermaid.
…Except Ren had a slight phobia of mermaids due to his aforementioned lack of ability to swim, so he threw the analogy out immediately after forming it in his exhausted brain. Nora is scary enough without giving her a fish's tail!
"Oh my gosh, Ren, I'm so sorry!" blurted Nora, wide-eyed as usual, as he lay on his back, panting; Pyrrha and Jaune were climbing out of the pool to surround him too, hurling a flurry of questions his direction, all of which involved his welfare. Ren could do no more than nod at them exhaustedly, too busy enjoying having air in his lungs again to waste it answering stupid questions, and sat up shakily.
"What can I do?" asked Nora helplessly, wringing her hands. "I didn't mean to almost kill you! If I meant to murder you, I would have done it years ago," she added, with a frightening amount of thoughtfulness in her eyes, glimmering in the moonlight. "Really, though," she continued. "What can I do to make it up to you?"
"Sh-shut up a minute," coughed Ren, holding up a finger to silence her; however loath he was to be abrupt with her, the last thing his waterlogged ears and brain needed was to hear incessant apologies and chatter about making it up to him. She quieted as quickly as she had begun talking, looking extremely worried.
Ren had tried, for almost as long as he had known Nora, never to let her get into his debt, because he knew from experience that she would never stop trying to make it up to him, and oftentimes ended up making it worse instead of better. (One particular situation stuck in his memory in which he had been discovered to be allergic to dandelions, so Nora had picked him an entire bouquet of the nasty things to 'train him out of it'.) In this case, she'd probably prescribe teaching him how to swim, which would inevitably end in his death by drowning. Ren would have to think of an alternative, and fast.
Sodden brain racing, Ren sneezed a few times to get rid of the last few drops remaining in his lungs (Pyrrha steadied him so he didn't lose his balance and fall into the pool again; Ren nodded to her thankfully). What do I want from her…?
Tuning back into the real world again, and finding no answers to his current dilemma, Ren found that Nora was still waiting for him to give her permission to speak again, anxiety in her light blue eyes.
"F-first," managed Ren hoarsely, after another few seconds' worth of clearing his throat, "we're going back up to take showers, and then we're going to sleep like sane students. And no buts!" he added sternly, as Nora opened her mouth, outraged disappointment edging her soft features.
"Yes, Ren," she sighed, understanding his sternness for once, and got up; Ren reluctantly accepted the hand she offered, knowing he was still a little too shaky to get up safely on his own. She supported him by the shoulder all the way back to the room, closely followed by a concerned Jaune and Pyrrha.
As they turned down the hall towards their room and the bathrooms, Ren wondered what would happen if the teachers found them wandering back to their rooms in swimwear (or underwear), having just taken a twilit swim Ren was pretty sure was against the rules.
Fortunately, no such encounter happened, and Ren breathed a sigh of relief as he staggered into the guys' bathroom to shower (Jaune resting a hand on his shoulder sympathetically, and pushing Nora towards Pyrrha so she wouldn't follow them).
After a significantly longer shower than Ren was accustomed to—despite his hatred of swimming, the only thing he loved as much as sleep was bathing—he returned to his room, wearing his traditional boxers as pajamas.
Nora was waiting for him, of course, in her little light blue nightgown, and biting her lip as she sat on her hands on their bed, plainly trying to sit still. Ren raised his eyebrows at her and slipped between the sheets without further ado. The others could stay up if they liked, but almost drowning tended to drain one's energy, and Ren was ready for a nice long sleep.
"I could teach you how to swim," offered Nora, snuggling up behind him with her arms around his middle.
"No, thanks," responded Ren automatically, closing his eyes. Called it.
"I could… I could let you copy my homework…?"
"Since when do I need to copy anyone's homework?"
There was a long pause; Ren felt a little guilty as Nora gave a tiny, warm sigh against the middle of his back. He suppressed a shiver with difficulty as he recognized that her lips were practically brushing his spine, and attempted to control his heartbeat and breathing.
"You could kiss it better," he mumbled suddenly, surprising himself, and immediately shut his mouth, turning gradually crimson. He'd been doing his level best to conceal his own attraction to her from himself, lest it detract from his studies—with very limited success. How much longer can I hold it off?
"What?" asked Nora, confused.
"…Never mind," grunted Ren, rearranging himself and accidentally brushing her hand with his; Nora grasped it before he could pull it away, and his breath caught momentarily before he sighed exasperatedly, semi-reluctantly allowing her to continue holding his hand.
"Good night, Ren," she smiled.
After a long and ineffective bout of arguing with himself about how exactly he should treat his position with Nora, Ren finally drifted off to blissful slumber. However, immediately after his first rhythmic breaths he was sucked abruptly back into his physical body again: a tiny, tender kiss was pressed against his back, and he flinched.
"Nora!" he hissed, suddenly wide awake.
"What?" she asked innocently, tightening her hold around his midriff and inadvertently slipping her fingers down to his waistband: Ren gasped sharply and yanked her hands up and away, absolutely scarlet.
"S-sorry!" squeaked Nora, retracting her hands, and Ren could imagine her blushing too, which did absolutely nothing for his present condition. He took a few deep and controlled breaths, then rolled over to face her, keeping as stern an expression as possible on his face.
"What you can do to make it up to me," he said through grit teeth, meeting her concerned eyes, "is let me sleep. Give me some space, just for tonight. Please." Ren felt his voice crack into a beg on the last word, since he could still feel Nora's breath on his chest, and he definitely wouldn't be able to go to sleep for as long as his skin was tingling at her proximity.
"Okay," said Nora anxiously, and scooted backward, almost to the complete opposite side of their combined beds. Ren sighed in relief and turned around again, closing his eyes and attempting to meditate himself into slumber.
Ren had no idea why he was awake at such a godforsaken hour until he noticed he was cold. Nora hadn't stolen all the covers, much to his confusion, but he had been left with a single sheet, and that simply wasn't enough for his tastes.
Sighing resignedly, Ren turned towards the sleeping Nora, but quickly hesitated. She looked so peaceful, slumbering in a mountain of bedding, that Ren almost reconsidered taking some of it away. However, his own need for more sleep—not having actually lost consciousness for a couple hours more than he had anticipated—outweighed the desire to keep Nora happy for once, and he crawled over to her determinedly, gently tugging a couple blankets from her sleeping grasp.
She made an incoherent sound of protest, and a smile tugged at Ren's mouth. "Sorry," he whispered, and extended the blankets, sliding under them a moment later—much closer to Nora than he had been upon falling asleep. At least she won't bother me now, he consoled himself, and closed his eyes again, hoping to catch at least another hour of rest.
He had thought too soon. Nora stirred and squeaked a little as she stretched, but did not open her eyes; instead, she mumbled sleepily, "You came back," and cuddled up to his arm with a smile on her face, exhaling contentedly.
Ren sighed, opening his eyes again to glance at her. A few wisps of hair covered her face, and he brushed them away before he could stop himself. She didn't react; her breathing remained deep and steady, and Ren smiled to himself hesitantly, an idea occurring to him which he might have thrown out the window had he been more awake.
Instead, obeying his half-asleep impulse, he moved his head forward and kissed her lightly on the forehead; Nora didn't shift, merely clinging to his arm with an unconscious smile, and Ren closed his eyes again, pleased with his own sleepy courage as he drifted off once more.
Maybe I'll try and let this side of myself out when I'm fully awake, too.
((Finally, another chapter! I can't promise I'll update very frequently until RWBY Volume 2 comes out, and even then, it won't be guaranteed. But hey, here's a little something for in the meantime!
Actually, I've been struggling with this one since I've written the last one—and what inspired me to really get it done was none other than you all! Another Day at Beacon is my most popular story, and I guilted myself into thinking about how all of you have been waiting for the next chapter, so you have you to thank for this~))