Leaning against the fence at the end of his street, Sora glanced at his watch. Just a few more minutes. Although his mother was at work, he didn’t want to be seen entering the house until it was a little after the time that he usually came home. Neighbors were often a lot nosier than he gave them credit for. I don’t want to have to explain anything. How can I, when I don’t even understand it myself? Tentatively he touched his lips, where the tingling effect of Squall’s kiss still remained. The rest of his body seemed to have returned to normal during his walk home, but for some reason his lips were slow to comply. He was still stunned by the events that had transpired. I guess, looking back on it, all of the touching did sort of hint at it, but I never dreamed that Squall wanted me. He frowned. Nah, I need to get over myself. He’s just horny, he admitted it. Still… It was nice. I’d do it again, even now. Too bad a second chance is out of the question. Another peek at his watch informed him that it was time, and he rounded the fence, heading for his home.

A quick jog across the street and he was safely inserting his key into the lock, and letting himself in. He slumped against the door as it closed behind him, allowing most of the tension to leave his body. I’m safe. For a long moment he stood against the door with his eyes closed, until he remembered why he was sneaking around in the first place. With a groan, he made his way to the stairs, and went up, his mind reluctant to function. All I know is, Riku is probably pissed that I skipped sixth period. I hate to imagine how pissed he’s going to be when I tell him why. He froze, his hand on the doorknob to his bedroom. Wait, I can’t tell him that. I can’t tell anybody that. He opened his door and immediately flopped down onto his bed. But what am I going to do? I like Squall, I like him a lot. So how do I act normal around him? Especially after today… He propped himself up on one elbow, his brows furrowed in thought. Unless, I do what he suggested and concentrate on my relationship with Riku. But how will that help? Won’t it just make it worse if every time I kiss Riku, I’m thinking about Squall? He buried his face in his pillow. “I’m so confused!” he mumbled.

A soft rapping on the doorframe roused Sora from his thoughts. He looked up just enough to see Kairi standing in the doorway, with an uneasy expression on her face. “Oh. Hey, Kairi.” I was so out of it, I didn’t even hear the front door open. He dropped his face back into the pillow.

“Hey,” began Kairi tentatively. “Can I come in?”

Sora thought about it. He wasn’t really in the mood for company, but at the same time he didn‘t want to be alone. “Sure.”

Kairi entered the room, eyeing him cautiously. “Are you sure? You don’t look so happy to see me.”

“It’s not that. I’m just surprised.“ Sora explained, rolling onto his side. “Usually you don’t get home this early. I thought you were hanging out with Selphie or something.”

Kairi shook her head. “Nah, not everyday. Sometimes she can be really shallow, you know?” She sat down on the edge of the bed, and tucked a strand of her auburn hair behind one ear. “So, what’s up?”

“Nothing much.” Sora replied. “What’s up with you?”

“Nothing…” Kairi hesitated, and then took a breath. “Sora, what happened today at school? What’s going on with you and Riku?”

I knew it, Sora thought bitterly. She just came here to grill me. Forget about Riku, I have some real dirt, and wouldn’t you just love to know. “Why do you want to know? So you can go back and tell the scoop to Selphie and her gang, like a good little minion? Earn a few brownie points?” As soon as he said it, he regretted it. Kairi wasn’t like that and he knew it.

“No way!” Kairi protested, hurt. How rude! He’s not acting normal at all. She crossed her arms and huffed angrily. “What’s with you?!” She punched one of his jean-covered thighs.

“Ow!” Sora groaned, and rubbed his leg. “Jeez, I’m sorry! You don’t have to beat me up. I’ve just had a really rough day.” He sighed. “It’s not right to take it out on you, though.”

Kairi’s eyes softened. “Sora, you big dummy… I’m your cousin, and I hope at least, that I’m your friend. I just wanted to know what was bothering you.” She pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin on her knees. “You looked so unhappy when you left the cafeteria. I was worried, you know.”

“I know.” Sora conceded. I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t. He turned onto his back, crossing his arms behind his head. “Riku is my boyfriend.” he explained. “And we just had a disagreement. I suppose it’s what couples do.” He slightly altered the truth, not even wanting to tell Kairi about Jake. “No big deal, or anything. I just got mad, and so I wanted to be alone for a while.” He closed his eyes.

“Oh…” Kairi said, her brows furrowed. “So, it doesn’t have anything to do with last Saturday?”

Sora’s eyes popped open. “Saturday?! What about Saturday?!”

Kairi looked at him strangely. “You told me that you spent the day hanging out with your crush, remember?”

“Right…” Sora answered, his heart pounding. I’d forgotten I told her that.

Kairi tilted her head to the side. “You know, when you told me that, I thought you were talking about Riku at first. But then I remembered he was out of town, right? Plus he didn’t fit the description you gave.”

Sora felt a rising terror as he realized that Kairi had a better sense of deduction than he ever suspected. “Oh?” She’s smarter than she lets on.

Yep.” Kairi agreed. “So, what happened with him anyway? Now that you said you’re dating Riku, I guess your crush is a guy, right?”

“Yes, it’s a guy.” Sora responded, his pulse racing. I have to be careful, I can’t let anything slip. “Uh, it didn’t work out with him.”

“What do you mean it didn’t work out?” Kairi asked, eyes wide in disbelief.

Sora sighed. “It just didn’t work out.” He recalled the sting of Squall’s rejection and covered his face with his hands. I thought I was over that, but I guess I was wrong. “He doesn’t want to be with me. He isn’t interested.” he whispered.

“What?!” squawked Kairi, indignant. She pounded her fist into the bed. “That won’t do at all! We’ve got to go find him, and kick his ass!”

Sora looked up, stunned out of his sorrow. “Did you just curse?”

Kairi shrugged. “So? I think the situation called for it.” She patted Sora on the back. “I mean, how can anyone not want to be with you? You’re smart, cute, and funny. You’re a really nice guy, Sora.” She shook her head. “I think that anyone who can’t see that is a real loser, and you’re probably better off without him. And, you do have Riku, anyway.” She almost managed to keep the distaste out of her voice.

“Still don’t like him, huh?” Sora teased.

“Not really.” Kairi admitted. “Part of it is what Selphie told me about him. But most of it, is how mean he was to me, when he didn’t even know me. Now that I know he likes you, I guess I understand. But he’s stupid to be jealous of me. We’re related, for crying out loud! That would be totally gross.”

“Very nasty.” Sora agreed, nodding. “But I’m sure there’s someone out there who thinks you’re not totally gross, Red Haired She Devil.”

Kairi punched him in the other leg. “Oh, shut up!”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Sora mock-sobbed, rubbing his thigh.

“You’re so stupid.” Kairi teased, sticking out her tongue.

“Oh yeah, it must be genetic.” Sora shot back.

Kairi raised her fist again. “You want some more of this?”

“No thanks!” Sora laughed, moving his legs away from her. “You know, I feel a lot better now. Thanks, Kairi.”

“No problem, Sora.” Kairi smiled. “Now, do me a favor and pass me the tape-recorder I put behind your headboard. Selphie and the girls are waiting for me to deliver the goods.”

Sora paled.

“I’m just kidding!” Kairi laughed, holding up her hands. “Boy, you should’ve seen your face!”

“Grrr…” Sora jumped up and chased Kairi away from the bed, his mood largely improved. “You’ll pay for that, Red Haired She Devil!”

Kairi darted out of the room, squealing. That’s more like the Sora I know. “I’m going to go make dinner! You can get me back then!”

“You bet!” Sora called after her, and then closed his door, laughing. I’m glad she came to stay with us. She always seems to know what to say. He ran his hands through his hair. But I still I have to call Riku tonight. I think I’ll take a shower first, though. Quickly he stripped out of his clothes, leaving them were they fell. He fetched his towel and wrapped it around his waist. On his way to the door, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and froze. It was just out of the corner of my eye, but I think… He twisted slightly until he could see the reflection of his back. He was struck by a sense of foreboding. The welts left by Squall’s fingernails were still there.

Sora never got a chance to call Riku. As soon as he returned to his bedroom after the shower, he heard the telephone ringing. That must be him, Sora thought.

Sure enough, Kairi was knocking on the door a few minutes later. “Sora, it’s your boyfriend.”

Sora blushed, realizing he still wasn’t used to the idea. I’ll have to get over it, though. He opened the door a crack and groped blindly, groaning when Kairi deliberately moved the phone out of his reach. “Oh, come on!” He pressed his face to the opening in the door, one blue eye glaring out at his playful cousin.

“Aww, you’re so excitable when it comes to your boyfriend, Sora.” Kairi teased, handing him the phone. “Dinner is ready, by the way.”

“Thanks.” Sora replied, and closed the door. He lifted the phone to his ear, anxious. What am I going to say? I didn’t have enough time to prepare a story. “Hello?”

“Look,” Riku began. “I’m sorry.”

“Huh?” Sora asked, taken aback. “Sorry about what?”

“About that business with Jake.” Riku explained. “You’re right. I should’ve taken his feelings into consideration, but I never expected him to get jealous. I just handled it all wrong. I’ll do better, I promise.”

Sora sat down on the edge of the bed, unsure of what to think. “Oh… Well, that’s okay. I wasn’t really that mad at you. I just felt bad for Jake.”

“Why did you leave, then?” Riku blurted out. “I was worried about you! When I didn’t see you in sixth period, I didn’t know what to think. I figured I had really pissed you off…”

Sora felt an overpowering guilt. Poor Riku, I’ve been so unfair to him. “I wasn’t feeling well.” he lied. “I think I’m coming down with something.”

“Oh.” Riku breathed with obvious relief. “That’s good. Shit! I mean, it’s not good that you’re sick! It’s good that’s why you left school… No! I mean, it’s good that you’re not mad at me.” He groaned. “Did I sound like a complete tool, just then?”

Sora snickered. “No. Maybe. Okay, you did. Just a little bit.”

“Well, that’s what love does to you.” Riku replied easily.

Sora was amazed at the way Riku proclaimed his feelings so openly. “Riku,” he began hesitantly. “How do you know that you love someone? I mean, why do you think that you love me?”

Riku was quiet for a long moment before speaking. “It’s kind of hard to explain over the phone… With you, I just knew it. I mean, you make me feel a way that no one has ever made me feel before.” He sighed, remembering his feelings of confusion and shame. “It’s not like I didn’t try to like other people, but it was hopeless. I always sort of knew it was only you, but I wasn’t really sure until the last year that we went to catch fireflies. I was nervous all night around you, and only when I got home did I realize that it was because I had wanted to kiss you. But I didn’t know how you’d react, so I didn’t. I think that’s why I kept dreaming about that night. I wanted to go back and change it.”

Sora’s guilt grew and he recalled Wakka’s words. “You underestimate Riku a lot, ya.” So, I did. “Oh.”

“I’m doing a lousy job of explaining.” Riku said apologetically. “I guess it’s just a feeling you get. When you know that this person is the only one who will do and everybody else is just background noise. When you want to be with them, no matter what. When it’s the best thing on earth when you’re together, but it’s the worst pain imaginable when you’re apart.” He sighed. That doesn’t even begin to describe the way I feel. “There’s more to it, but it’s kind of like that.”

“I understand,” Sora replied softly. “Thanks.” I have to make a choice now. And I choose Riku. It isn’t fair for me to chase Squall when we aren’t even right for each other, and I know it. He doesn’t want me anyway. It was all just wishful thinking.

·<>·§·<>·

Squall stared up at the ceiling, watching the dying rays of sunlight play across the blades of the ceiling fan. He cast a cursory glance at the half-opened blinds, somewhat surprised to see that it was still wasn’t dark out yet. I thought it was later than this.

“There is no time here. There is only us.” The whisper was accented by the soft sound of rustling fabric.

Squall knew that he should’ve been terrified at the mental intrusion, but instead he felt a peaceful relief. He knew who that voice belonged to. Lazily, he lifted his head from the pillow and glanced down at the end of the bed. The charcoal sheets were rippling softly, even though he hadn’t moved, and he was intrigued to see what would happen next. “Sora…” Suddenly the time was the last thing on his mind.

Blue eyes appeared in the back of his mind. The sunlight flickered in gold sparks within their depths, adding a feral quality that was almost too much for Squall to handle.

“Come here.” Squall ordered.

Sora obliged, his body seeming to form out of the sheets themselves as he rose from the bed. The sheets fell away from him as he crawled toward Squall, revealing his naked skin, enticingly golden in the fading light.

Squall sat up as Sora approached, and pulled him into his arms impatiently. Sora’s legs went easily around his waist, their lower regions brushing together, and he shuddered. This can’t be real.

“Why not?” Sora asked, his hands roaming over Squall’s broad back. “Don’t you want me?” His eyes flashed again.

“Fuck yes.” Squall groaned, his body trembling under those fingertips. I know that now, without a doubt. He lowered his lips, searing the skin so readily available to him. Hungrily he tasted Sora’s lips, giving them up only to pursue his throat, then the smoothness of his collarbone, and the line of his shoulder. I’ve desired this body since the first day I laid eyes on it, and there is no point in lying about it. The damage has been done.

Sora seemed to melt into him, his moans of pleasure echoing in the back of Squall’s mind. He could feel everything he was doing to Sora as though it was being done to him. Each shudder and gasp amplified into a maddening volume, until Squall couldn’t take anymore. I can do what I’ve longed to do for so long. There are no consequences here. Panting, he lowered Sora back onto the bed, his need dictating his actions.

Sora moved smoothly beneath him, his body burning to the touch. “Am I yours?” The sensuality in his voice awakened Squall’s natural possessiveness. He had never before thought of Sora as belonging to him, but now it seemed almost natural that he should.

“Yes, you are mine.” Squall answered fiercely, without hesitation. He gripped Sora’s slim hips in both hands. His skin felt like heated silk. I know this is a dream, and I don’t care. I only wish it were real.

“Then take me.”

Squall had the peculiar sensation of drowning, of being submerged in the very essence of Sora. It seemed almost as if he were wrapped up in a blanket of Sora’s presence as he moved. Sora’s touch was everywhere at once, doing impossible things as Squall penetrated him. His senses were flooded with the scent, sound, feel, and taste of Sora, and he didn’t want to give up the endless pleasure. If this is a dream, I never want to wake up. The expression of utter ecstasy on Sora’s face, and his half-closed sapphire eyes in the flickering light quickly drove Squall over the edge.

When he came, he felt Sora’s incredibly sharp nails dig their way down his back, the searing pain as real as anything he’d ever felt while awake. “Now we’re even.” The stinging discomfort stunned him out of his dream.

Gasping, Squall rolled over the side of his bed. His body barely registered the impact with the floor, his adrenaline coursing from the dream. He could still feel the spasms of orgasm and looked down in disdain, able to see the stain on his boxers even in the dim glow from the streetlights. Shit… We are most certainly not even, unless he’s having wet dreams about me, too. The thought of Sora twisting around, crying out Squall’s name while he slept only served to intensify the last tingles of his release, and Squall gave up his efforts at rising, helpless to do anything but clutch onto the carpet for dear life.

When at last he felt able to stand, he pulled himself up by the bed, and wasn’t surprised to see the sheets in a state of complete disarray. He cut on his bedside lamp, wincing as his vision was splashed in light. I was right about one thing, anyway. It was later than I thought. Slowly he changed out of his clothes, and cleaned himself up with a towel. Once he’d put on a dry set of clothes, he felt secure enough to leave his bedroom.

Upon opening his door, he heard the familiar sound of someone raiding his fridge, and marched into the kitchen, forgetting his disheveled appearance. “Alright, Strife. I know Aerith must be back by now. Why are you here?”

Cloud looked back at him, a sandwich hanging from his mouth. Quickly, he removed it and set it on a napkin. “I was just heading over there actually. I stopped by because I was hungry, and I don’t have any good food at my place.”

“You are unbelievable!” Squall growled, his expression murderous. He took a step forward.

“Hey! Down, big guy.” Cloud protested. “You don’t want your guest to think you have a temper problem, do you?”

Squall froze. “What guest?” He shot a panicked glance at his coffee table where the evidence of Sora’s visit still remained. Something told me I should’ve put that stuff away, but then I didn’t expect this fool to stop by.

“Your friend.” Cloud replied, as though Squall were stupid. “Where is he? Still in the bedroom?”

“There is nobody in the bedroom, Strife.” Squall said, carefully. “There is no one in this entire apartment, except for me and you, and that is exactly why I’m going to get away with it when I murder you in a few seconds.” He advanced another step.

“Wait a minute,” Cloud interrupted. “All that noise I heard, that was just you? By yourself?”

Squall’s face flamed. “All what noise?” Shit…

“Tsk, tsk.” Cloud shook his head, laughing. “Damn Leonhart, you need to learn to beat off a little more quietly. You must’ve been having a really good time with yourself.”

“I was sleeping!” Squall shot back, defensively. Like that’s any better.

Cloud laughed even harder. “Ha ha, what are you, like twelve or something?”

“Shut up!” Squall snapped, his cheeks red. Goddammit… “It’s none of your business. And I can’t believe you stayed long enough to make a sandwich after you thought that I had company. What, were you jealous?”

Cloud snorted. “Hell no. I was just curious. I’ll admit, I wanted to see what he looked like, seeing as how he’s stolen your heart and all.”

“He has not stolen my heart!” Squall griped. “It was just a temporary thing, and it’s over now, anyway.”

“Sure, sure.” Cloud agreed. “I know you, Leonhart. When you fall, you fall hard. You’ll be sitting in your room writing love letters soon enough.”

“Hell no. Everybody isn’t as whipped as you are with Aerith.” Squall taunted, tired of being the topic of discussion. Give him a taste of his own medicine… Speaking of medicine, I need to take mine before my cold flares back up. He headed back into the living room and picked up the bottle of cough syrup. Sora brought this for me. He skipped school, walked all the way to the grocery store, spent money that really wasn’t his to spend, and came to take care of me. He grimaced. And I didn’t even give him back the goddamn twenty dollars. What the hell is wrong with me? I used to be normal.

“So?” Cloud said finally.

“What?” asked Squall, turning around. I almost forgot he was even here.

“Maybe I am whipped.” Cloud shrugged. “So what? I’m happy, and that’s all that matters.”

Long after Cloud had left, Squall lay awake in his bed, waiting for sleep, reflecting back on his day. He kept thinking about what Cloud had said. Sora made me happy every time he talked to me. It was weird, but it can’t be anything like what Cloud thinks about Aerith. The thing with Sora is all physical, and I’m through torturing myself. But… He sighed and closed his eyes. If I can have him in my dreams, then who am I to complain?

·<>·§·<>·

Riku opened his locker and gathered his books for first period. He’d been feeling uneasy ever since he talked to Sora on the phone last night. Sora had obviously been upset about something, but he wouldn’t say what. When Riku had asked him if he wanted to walk to school with him, Sora had told him that he was still thinking about staying home. Mystified, Riku had consented, walking to school alone, feeling as though he was overlooking something. Sora said he left school yesterday because he wasn’t feeling well… but he seemed fine to me. Why did he have to sneak out like that without letting me know?

“Hey.” Sora called softly.

Riku turned around, pleased to see his friend. “Hey. So, you decided to come after all.”

Sora nodded. “Yeah.” He laid a hand on Riku’s arm. “Riku, I’ve been thinking.”

“About what?” Riku asked, feeling uneasy. He can’t be breaking up with me already, can he?

Sora briefly averted his eyes and then looked back at him. “About us.” Focus all of my attentions on Riku…

“What about us?” Riku questioned, even more anxious now. Okay, this is getting scary.

“I really want to give us a chance.” Sora said. “I don’t think I’ve been very fair to you.” His experience with Squall still weighed heavily on his mind, along with the choice of action he’d decided upon.

Riku looked at him strangely. “Um Sora, how much more fair could you be? I mean, I knew you were squeamish about a relationship with me. I’m just glad you agreed to that much.” So incredibly glad. “What more can I really ask of you, just yet?”

Faithfulness. Sora summoned all of his courage and leaned forward, pressing his lips to Riku’s. He forced the image of his kiss with Squall from his mind, and lost himself in his desire to please his boyfriend

Riku returned Sora’s kiss, stunned. He could feel Sora’s tongue lapping at his own, and he pulled back, his body temperature rising dangerously. Whoa. He fell against the locker, his heart racing.

Sora held onto Riku, kissing his parted lips, his shyness and thoughts of Squall vanquished. This was easier than I thought.

Riku turned his head to the side to avoid the kisses and groaned when Sora attacked his neck instead. Goddamn! He pried at his boyfriend’s arms with no luck. The hallway was filling with students and Sora showed no signs of letting up. “Sora, I thought you were supposed to be shy?”

Sora grinned. I never thought I’d hear him complaining. “And I thought you were supposed to be bold?”

“Hey! Hey!” Riku exclaimed, when he felt Sora’s hands sneaking under his shirt. “What are you trying to do to me, this early in the morning?”

Sora laughed, pleased with Riku’s reaction. “Oh come on. What’s the big deal?” He tweaked his friend’s nipple.

Riku made a pained expression and laid his face on Sora’s shoulder. “The big deal,” he growled. “Is that I haven’t been laid in a while.” A situation I expect to remedy with you in the near future.

“So?” asked Sora. “I’ve never been laid in my life. What’s your point?” I could get used to this.

“My point,” Riku continued in a low voice. “Is that if you don’t stop messing with me, you’re going to end up losing your virginity on school grounds. Today. In about five minutes.”

“Geez, you’re so demanding.” Sora teased. He removed his hands from the inside of Riku’s shirt and simply hugged him, content.

“You have no idea.” Riku replied, hugging him back. He looked up suddenly and was shocked to see his English teacher walk by, glaring at him with an incredibly cold expression. The malice burning in those gray eyes was unmistakable, and all too intimidating. What the hell? “The fuck is with him?!” Riku exclaimed, letting go of Sora.

“What?” Sora asked, turning around.

Riku rolled his eyes. “Leonhart just shot me a dirty look. Damn, he really is homophobic.”

Sora felt a shiver go through him. Squall glared at Riku? He scanned the crowd of moving people with his eyes, but he didn’t see Squall. Instead he caught a glimpse of Jake Addison scowling at him as he passed, Selphie Tilwitt hanging onto his arm. Yikes. Instinctively he leaned closer to Riku. “I guess some people just have a problem with us.”

“Well, I guess they’ll just have to get over it.” Riku replied, and kissed Sora on the cheek. “Come on, and get your stuff or we’ll be late.” He rolled his eyes. “Leonhart will probably give me detention and let you go free, this time.”

I doubt it, Sora thought. He let go of Riku and moved to his locker. He was in no real hurry to get to class, dreading the awkwardness. He kissed me, and I know he didn’t mean to… but still… Sora shook his head and gathered his books. But it’s in the past anyway. He told me to focus my attentions on Riku, and that’s just what I’m going to do. Feeling heartened, Sora closed his locker. He shot a glance at Riku who was standing beside him, watching the other students with a bored expression. On a mischievous impulse, he quickly smacked the back of Riku’s jeans.

The hell? Riku whirled around, his eyes wide. “Sora? What’s gotten into you today?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Sora said with feigned innocence, and shrugged. Ha ha!

“You smacked my ass.” Riku accused. And I liked it. A lot.

“I would never.” Sora said, almost hiding the smugness in his tone. He raised an eyebrow, inviting Riku to prove otherwise.

“Oh, you little liar.” Riku murmured, his interest aroused. “If that’s how you want to play it, then it’s fine by me.” He leaned in for a kiss.

Sora dodged to the side and smacked him on his ass again. “Come on, or we’ll be late, remember?” He walked off, a sly smile on his face.

Ha! “Whatever you say.” Riku agreed, and took off after him.

Squall looked up as Sora and Riku entered the classroom, his expression bland. In his mind he kept replaying what he’d seen a few minutes earlier. Sora had been latched onto Riku, showering him with kisses that were anything but chaste. It had taken every bit of Squall’s self-control to keep from walking over and knocking Riku flat for enjoying it so much. Why should I be mad at Riku, anyway? Sora was the one all over him. He sighed. But then, I did tell him to devote himself to Riku. Still, he didn’t have to rub it in my face like that. Absently, he listened to the morning announcements, wondering if he should seek counseling.

Sora deliberately avoided looking at Squall, determined to keep the awkwardness at a minimum. He paid attention to the announcements, feeling his school spirit rise slightly at the mention of homecoming.

Riku divided his time between gazing at Sora, and glancing worriedly at Squall. Why does he look so pissed? He probably needs to get laid.

The announcements ended, and Squall was snapped out of his disgruntled thoughts. He dared one last look at Sora, irked to see that the look was not returned. Oh well, he thought darkly. I asked for it. Besides, it wasn’t that good of a kiss anyway. In a hopelessly bad mood, he called for class to begin.

Squall drove the class with a disturbing sort of relentlessness, giving nothing. He brutally dissected answers and neglected to simplify new concepts, leaving even Sora somewhat dazed. Tidus cheerfully gave up within the first ten minutes, and contented himself with doodling in his notebook for the remainder of the period. Riku merely watched Squall with a knowing smirk, convinced that the man desperately needed a girlfriend. Sora tried his best to participate in the class activities and discussion, only to find himself staunchly ignored by Squall.

The dismissal bell hadn’t even finished it’s trill when Sora pushed back his chair and left the classroom, his ego badly bruised. He could hear Squall giving the homework assignment pages, but he didn’t care. He felt cruelly insulted, and all he wanted was to get away without making a scene. How could he be such a bastard to me? He turned the corner, his expression bewildered. I mean, he’s the one who told me to leave him alone. So, why the attitude? Sora stopped, his eyes falling on the piece of white notebook paper taped to his locker. What’s that? A message was scrawled onto it in black marker and as he approached, he could make out the words.

“ALL FAGGOTS SHOULD BURN IN HELL!!!”

“Oh…” Sora said, stunned. He blinked, not sure what to think. His feelings weren’t hurt, but at the same time he was surprised that the note would end up on his locker, considering that Riku had been with lots of other guys before him. Why me?

“Hey Sora,” Riku called, sidling up beside him. “You just ran out of class without giving me a chance to catch up.” He noticed Sora’s distracted expression and followed his gaze.

Ack! I can’t let him find out! Sora quickly laid his back against the locker, blocking the note. “Oh, I didn’t want to be late for next period.”

“What was that on your locker?” Riku asked suspiciously. “I thought I saw a piece of paper with words on it.”

“Oh, that? It’s nothing.” Sora lied. “Just a practical joke or something.”

“Sora, what does it say?” Riku asked. He’s acting too funny for it to be nothing.

Sora shook his head. “Nothing really.” If Riku sees it, he’ll just get mad, and it won’t do any good.

Riku sighed. “Move.”

“No.” Sora said firmly. “Don’t worry about it.”

Effortlessly, Riku moved Sora to the side and read it. He recognized the handwriting instantly. Riku snatched down the note and crumpled it, his anger rising. “That fucking prick!” he spat, shoving the note into his pocket.

“Who?” Sora asked, worried. Geez, now what?

“Jake.” Riku growled. “Jake fucking Addison.” He thought back to the day before in the cafeteria, when Jake had been threatening Sora. And now this shit… “I’m going to rip him a new asshole.” he declared, and started off.

“No, Riku!” Sora pleaded, his eyes panicked. He tugged on his friend’s sleeve, but Riku easily wrenched free, and continued his angry strides. “Calm down!”

Riku shook his head, not slowing in his rampage. “No way, Sora. No fucking way. I’m not calming down until I beat that fuck Addison into a pulp.” He ignored Sora’s pleas, and rounded the corner, his eyes narrowing.

Jake Addison was leaning against Selphie’s locker, flirting with her, seemingly oblivious to the drama that was heading his way.

Riku strode up to Jake, and shoved him rudely into the lockers. “You must think you’re pretty fucking funny, Addison.”

Jake whirled around, unprepared. He hadn’t expected Riku to find out about the note so fast. I thought Sora had more pride than to sic Riku on me. The situation could get out of hand if he wasn’t careful. He decided to deny it for now. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

Sora ran up, his eyes wide. “Riku!” he cried. “Please! Just let it go!”

Riku ignored him, and glared at Jake. “So, you’re going to play dumb with me?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the crumpled note. “Remember this?” He threw it at Jake.

Jake didn’t bother catching it, and simply glared back at Riku. “So what if I wrote it? It’s true. You do deserve to burn in hell.” He could tell by the murderous gleam in Riku’s eyes that the situation was out of his control now. A small crowd of students had gathered around them, waiting expectantly for something to happen. There was no way that he could end it himself without losing face.

“But you didn’t leave it on my locker, you coward. I wouldn’t give a fuck if you did. You left it on Sora’s locker, and he’s innocent.” Riku clenched his fists. “You’ve got your nerve, after what you’ve been doing. He should be the one leaving notes on your locker.”

Jake felt a momentary panic, and looked briefly at Selphie’s questioning face. He can’t tell! “You shut your mouth, if you want to live!”

Sora grabbed Riku’s arm and pulled with all of his strength. “Come on! He’s not worth it! Just let it go!”

Against his will, Riku could feel his anger diminishing, his instinctive reaction to Sora’s touch. He allowed himself to be dragged by Sora, mentally vowing to settle matters with Jake at a later time. The crowd around them parted with a sigh of disappointment.

Jake watched as Sora tugged Riku away from him, placating him and soothing him. It burned deeply, and he thought back on all those escapades he’d had with Riku, when Sora wouldn’t give him the time of day. He remembered how ashamed he’d felt when Riku had awakened his body to the needs that he had tried so long to ignore. He recalled how unsettled he’d felt when he realized that he had grown emotionally bound to Riku, though the other male treated him with casual indifference. And now Sora had come along, and suddenly it was over. No contact, no sex, nothing. This isn’t right. It’s not fucking right!

Sora looked back at Jake warily, fearing his silence. If anything he should be hurling insults at us, but he’s just staring.

Jake stared back at Sora, and suddenly something inside of him snapped. It was the fear in Sora’s eyes, not fear for himself, but fear for Riku. As if I would ever fucking hurt Riku. He lunged at Sora, his emotions disheveled.

Sora yelped and ducked out of the way with startling speed, letting go of Riku. Jake’s lost his mind! He dodged the next swipe and lost his balance, sprawling onto the cold tiles. “What’s wrong with you?!” he yelled, scrambling backwards to avoid another attack.

Immediately Riku grabbed Jake, preventing him from approaching Sora again. He almost hit Sora… Enraged, he began to pummel Jake with his fists. “You son of a bitch! Don’t you ever fucking touch him!” He lost all sense of reason and attacked savagely, his entire will bent on the task of rendering Jake unconscious.

Jake forgot about Sora, and concentrated on trying to free himself from Riku’s grip. He returned the punches, which seemed to have no effect on his attacker. Physically they were an even match, but Riku was ruled by a savagery born of rage that left him impervious to pain. Growing desperate, Jake flung himself back against the lockers, slamming Riku into the metal.

Selphie screamed and darted away, her eyes wide. “Somebody get a teacher or something!”

Riku spun free and viciously kicked Jake into the space where Selphie had been standing seconds before. And that silly bitch has no clue… fucking lying hypocrite! Unrelenting, he launched himself onto Jake’s back, shouting insults as he delivered his blows.

Sora finally climbed to his feet, his thoughts racing. They’re really going to hurt each other if they keep this up! “Stop it!” he yelled. “Just stop fighting!” He dashed forward and attempted to pry them apart.

Too late, Riku saw Jake’s arm pull back and the derisive sneer on his face. He’s going to hit him! “Sora, get back!”

Explosive pain centered on the left side of Sora’s face and he found himself flying backwards. Jake punched me… he really punched me. Before he could hit the ground again, he was caught by a pair of strong arms and managed to stay on his feet. That was lucky. “Thanks…” he mumbled.

Squall turned him around roughly, and looked down at him with an expression of pure concern. “Are you alright?!” What the hell is all this shit?!

Sora nodded, his left eye closed and throbbing. “I’m fine.” He glanced back at the fight.

Jake appeared to be trying to restrain the wildly thrashing Riku with no luck. With a cry of hatred and fury, Riku began to claw at Jake’s face. Blossoms of red appeared on his skin, and he let out a strangled groan of pain.

“Oh my God! You have to stop them!” Sora cried, yanking free of Squall’s grip. “They’re going to kill each other!”

Squall watched the fray for a second, disgusted and enraged. Sora certainly has picked a fine mate. Not only is he loose, he’s violent to boot. Lovely choice, Sora. With grim determination, he pushed past Sora and strode over to the fighting males. He gave no warning, and simply snatched Riku off of Jake’s back, and threw him on the floor. When Jake made as if to go after him, Squall shoved him back against the wall and scowled. “You don’t want to move an inch, kid.”

Jake slumped against the wall, defeated. “Whatever.” His face burned where Riku had scratched him, and his body felt sore all over. Yet, those aches were minor compared to the emotional pain that he felt from realizing that Riku had attacked him out of hatred. Hatred for him, and love for Sora. “I just don’t want to fight anymore.” he said emotionlessly.

Squall turned and glared at Riku, who had quietly climbed to his feet and was studying them both. “What about you? Do you still want to fight?” He deliberately flexed his muscles, knowing that it would intimidate Riku into compliance.

Riku shook his head slowly. “Not with you. I’m not crazy. You’d kick the shit out of me and probably enjoy it.” He shot a look at Jake, who flinched from the coldness in his gaze. “But this isn’t over.”

“Trust me, it’s over.” Squall snapped. He released his hold on Jake’s shirt. “Both of you are in serious trouble. Come on, we’re going to the principal’s office.” He walked several steps and waited, growing impatient when neither of them made any attempt to follow him. Fuck this… “Move it!” he roared.

Stunned, Riku sprang into action, following Squall. He snarled when Jake got to close to him, but didn’t lash out. His English teacher looked pissed, and Riku didn’t doubt that Leonhart wouldn’t hesitate to hurt him if he angered him further. Hesitantly, he looked back over his shoulder at Sora, who was standing in the center of the hallway, staring at him with a sad expression on his face. Riku quickly turned away. That was the look he always got from his mom, right before she said “I’m not mad at you, I’m just disappointed.” Riku scowled. He didn’t want Sora to be disappointed in him. I want him to feel safe with me, but Addison just made me so mad. He shot a look at his opponent, only to see that Jake was looking at the floor, his shoulders slumped. I guess that’s over, Riku thought with relief. One more fuck-up like that, and he won’t get to play in the homecoming game.

Squall opened the door to the office and ushered them inside. “Get in there.” He closed the door behind himself.

Aurora looked up, alarmed. “Goodness! What is this?” She would’ve been glad to see Squall except for the two students that he had brought with him. One of them looked virtually untouched, while the other’s face was streaming blood. She recognized them after a moment, and was even more shocked. “Jake? And Riku? What on earth happened?”

Jake lowered his eyes and remained silent, awaiting punishment.

Riku sighed heavily. “I’m innocent.”

“They were fighting.” Squall explained. “I broke them up. Is Ansem in?”

Aurora stood. “Yes, of course. I’ll get him right away.” She vanished down a corridor.

Squall turned to his two charges. “What was this all about, anyway?”

Jake shook his head slowly. He hates me… I just can’t believe it.

“It was self-defense.” Riku glowered at Jake. “He attacked us, for no reason.”

Somehow Squall doubted the veracity of Riku’s statement. “Is that true, Jake?”

“He’s lying!” Jake shot back, surprised that Riku would try to pin all the blame on him after beating him so badly. And what will the team think? Oh man…

Riku’s eyes narrowed. “Oh yeah, he did have a reason. He’s a fucking ignorant asshole, is his reason.”

Squall raised a hand. “Alright, alright. Just shut up. You two have done enough already.” He sighed and waited for Aurora to return. He was still feeling a little woozy from his dying cold, and didn’t relish the idea of spending his planning period babysitting. He was also eager to check on Sora, although he knew it wasn’t a good idea after the cold way he’d treated him in class. Still…

Aurora returned, her eyes worried. Beside her walked Principal Ansem Hightower, his expression disapproving. He stepped in front of the two students, his immense height forcing them to look up. “What is this I hear,” he began, his voice calm. “About two of our most promising seniors fighting in the halls?”

Promising? thought Squall. These two brats? It was all he could do to keep a straight face.

Ansem stared at the students until they lowered their eyes, ashamed. He turned to Squall, his hazel eyes inquisitive. “Tell me, Squall. What happened?”

Squall sighed. “It happened shortly after I dismissed my first class. I was getting ready to begin my planning period, when a hysterical young woman rushed into my classroom, screaming for help. She said that three boys were fighting in the hallway, and so I went out there to stop them.”

“Three?” interrupted Ansem. He looked at the students again and then returned his gaze to Squall. “But there are only two here. Where is the third?”

“He had nothing to do with it!” Riku snapped defiantly, his eyes gleaming.

Ansem nodded at him indulgently. “Yes, I’m sure. Squall?”

“He’s telling the truth.” Squall agreed. “The third boy is innocent of violence. He had in fact, tried to end the fight himself, and was attacked by one of the boys as a result. He should not be punished for something he had no part in. After stopping the fight I decided to bring only the guilty parties to you.”

Riku stared at Squall strangely. What the fuck? Is he deliberately protecting Sora? Why, when he hates us so much?

Ansem sighed. “I understand that perfectly, but I will need to question him as well. Tell me, what is this boy’s name, so that Aurora can look up his schedule?”

“He has Calculus right now.” Riku offered. “Mr. Merlin’s class.”

“Thank you.” Ansem replied courteously, and turned to his secretary. “Aurora? Can you get the young man down here for me please?”

“Right away.” Aurora said, and picked up the intercom phone. She looked up after a moment, puzzled. “Oh, but what is his name?”

“Sora.” Squall responded automatically.

“How did you know?” Ansem asked, raising an eyebrow.

“He’s in my first period class.” Squall answered easily, inwardly kicking himself. “Along with this one right here.” he said, nodding to Riku.

Riku rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”

Aurora dialed the extension and waited until the teacher answered the intercom. “Hello, is this Mr. Merlin’s class? Do you have a Sora in your classroom this period? Oh, I see... Well, when he comes back, please send him to the main office. Yes, thank you.” She replaced the receiver in the cradle and looked up. “He is in the nurse’s office right now.”

Riku’s eyes widened, and he spun around scowling hatefully at Jake. “It’s all because you hit him! I saw you! You fucking hypocritical asshole!” Enraged all over again, he lunged at Jake.

Ansem caught a hold of Riku’s shoulder, his grip firm and painfully discouraging. “That will be quite enough out of you. I suggest that you not make things worse for yourself.”

“Okay, okay!” Riku agreed, wincing. Principal Hightower’s hand had a vise-like grip on his shoulder. Beating on Jake some more isn’t worth getting my arm dislocated, anyway.

Ansem nodded. “Very well. Aurora, call their parents, and let me know when the third boy arrives.”

“What do you need Sora for?” Riku asked, worried. If Sora gets in trouble over this, Sonya will never forgive me!

“Someone has to tell me the truth.” Ansem replied dryly. “Now both of you, come into my office. I think you two need to be refreshed on the finer details of the Code of Student Conduct. Squall, I thank you greatly for your assistance. You are free to leave.”

Glad to be released from the madness, Squall quickly left the main office. Why the hell were they fighting, in the first place? I’ve never even seen them speak to one another. Then again, I never paid much attention to Riku, he admitted. But, how is Sora involved? He had to know something in order to get hit… Oh shit, he did get hit, didn’t he? Squall hurried to the nurse’s office, feeling ill. And I was an asshole to him all class, too. Then he turns around and gets slugged in the eye. Some friend I am. He reached the office just as Sora was coming out, an icepack in his hand. “Sora…”

Sora looked up, holding the icepack to his left eye. The other eye widened. “Sq-, I mean, Mr. Leonhart?”

Squall felt incredibly low. “I came to see if you were really alright.”

Sora nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s not my first time getting a shiner. My cousin Kairi decked me one back when we were kids. She’s normally pretty weak, but she gets strong when she’s mad. Then one other time, I fell and smacked my face on a doorknob.” He rambled on, feeling unsettled by the way Squall was looking at him. What’s with that expression? “My mom always said that I’m lucky I’ve never poked one out. I guess she’s probably right. Ha ha. But, I’ll put some meat on it when I get home or something. It’s no big deal.” he finished finally.

“Look,” Squall started. “I’m sorry. I was a prick to you today, and I regret it.” He swallowed. “And I regret what I said to you yesterday.” I dreamt about you all night, if that’s any consolation.

Sora averted his gaze. “That’s okay. I mean, you were right. I must’ve confused what I thought I was feeling for you with what I felt for Riku.” He looked up. “But, I’ve been correcting it. I took your advice, and it worked.”

Squall felt a cold chill emerge in his chest and spread slowly throughout his body. What the fuck have I done? “Oh? Well, I’m happy to hear that.” he said carefully.

“I’m glad.” Sora replied honestly. “And thanks for breaking up the fight. I don’t know what I would’ve done without your help. They were both too strong for me.” His face took on a worried expression. “What do you think will happen to them?”

Squall shrugged. “Suspension probably. Oh, speaking of which, Principal Hightower is waiting to see you. He wants to hear your version of what happened.”

Sora groaned. “Oh man… And it’s all my fault! If I hadn’t done that to Riku this morning, then Jake wouldn’t have gotten mad and written the note... But really it’s Riku’s fault for using Jake in the first place...” He shook his head. It’s all so crazy.

Squall blinked. “Using Jake for what?” Don’t tell me that this is all some sort of twisted love triangle?!

Yikes! Sora’s mouth snapped shut, abruptly. I shouldn’t have said that… He shrugged and looked away. “Eh… I can’t tell you. It’s kind of personal, you know.”

In other words, I am no longer in your confidence, Squall thought coldly. But then, we aren’t friends anymore, are we? “Oh.”

“I’d better get to the office, then.” Sora announced, and walked quickly around Squall, avoiding his stare. I still feel weird when he looks at me, but he’s right. I should just leave him alone. I wouldn’t want to get him in trouble.

Squall watched Sora’s retreat, his face emotionless. This is the way it has to be. He ran his hands through his hair and started off for his classroom. But I fucking hate it. Oh God, how I hate it. He sighed. I just wish I knew why…

<--- Back to Change My Stripes