Jake turned to Sora, his blue eyes darkened with pain and confusion. “He made me. I’m so sorry, Sora.” Trembling, he turned the barrel of the gun on himself.

“No!” Sora shouted, reaching out as if to grasp time itself.

A single gunshot obliterated all other sound.

Sora jerked awake with a strangled cry, his heart pounding. Oh God! Jake… Sunlight streamed into his eyes and he blinked, raising a hand to shield his face. Man, I must’ve dreamed it all. But why would I dream something like that? He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It had to be a dream, though. I’m still in bed. Why didn’t mom wake me up for school? And why do I feel so drained? He stretched, yawning, and became aware of something pressed against his back. Eh? What’s that? He glanced down tiredly. There was an arm lying across his waist. Huh?!? His heart revved up once again, and he yelped. What the hell is all this?!

The form against him shifted slightly, mumbling something incoherent.

Sora felt all of his memories from the night before come flooding back in a dizzying rush. That’s right! I went to the party with Riku last night. Then, I found Jake, and he tried to kill us, but he ended up killing himself, and after that… I ran away. Right! I ran to Squall’s apartment, and then we… His eyes widened and he took a closer look at his surroundings. This isn’t my house! This is Squall’s bedroom! That means that… He turned slowly around, feeling as though he would die of shock at any moment.

Squall regarded him calmly, his gray eyes alert despite the early hour. “Hi.”

Sora stared. We did it. We really did it. “Hi.” he choked out. I can’t believe it.

Squall pushed himself up, leaning on one elbow. “I take it you’re not too pleased about this turn of events.” He looks petrified.

Sora watched in abject horror as the sheet tumbled off of Squall’s shoulders, revealing his well-muscled arms and chest. Gah! I touched that last night! Ack! He blushed and began to stammer. “I… I… It’s not that, I just… well, I forgot and…”

“You forgot?” Squall questioned. “Shit, was I that damn bad that you had to block me out of your mind? It was traumatic for you?”

“No, no!” Sora protested furiously. “You were fantastic. Really wonderful.” His blush deepened. “Not that I had anything to compare it to, but still…”

“That’s enough. You’re starting to hurt my feelings.” Squall teased. He stretched, yawning, and pretended not to notice Sora’s stare.

Sora averted his eyes after a moment and swallowed hard, as the reality of his situation began to sink in. I slept with my English teacher! I cheated on Riku! I ran from the scene of a crime! I stayed out all night without letting my mom know where I was at! She’s going to kill me if she finds out even half of what went on last night! He put a hand to his head. “I think, I’m going to pass out.”

“Careful, Sora.” Squall said, quickly putting his arms around him. He pulled Sora back against his chest. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound so unconcerned about it. Everything that happened was a big deal for me, too. It’s just, I agonized over it all night long, once you fell asleep.” He sighed. “But that didn’t change anything. What’s done is done, and I can’t say I regret it. Unless you do.” He gently turned Sora to look at him. “If you regret what happened, then I’ll never forgive myself.”

Sora shook his head slowly. “No, I don’t regret it. Not at all.” He tentatively reached out and stroked Squall’s chest, expecting to wake up at any moment. “I wanted it for so long, but I never thought it would happen.”

“Neither did I,” Squall admitted. “I feel bad about it, but I can’t deny that I wanted you.” He took Sora’s hand within his own. “So, what are we going to do now? I think I’ve done more than enough. The next move is yours, Sora. Whatever you say, I’ll do. If you want me to go down to the station and confess, I’ll do it. If you want me to find a new job, I’ll do it. I never wanted to hurt you, or make you uncomfortable in any way.”

Sora shook his head and hugged Squall. “Of course not! I don’t want you to get arrested or lose your job! But, I don’t know what to do.” His brows furrowed. “I mean, what is there to do?”

Squall stroked his back. Everything I said was true. I would’ve given it all up if he asked me to, and not because of guilt, either. Simply because I never want to see him upset. “Well, how about breakfast, for a start?”

Sora nodded. “Breakfast sounds good.” I am sort of hungry. Mom can wait until I’ve eaten something, at least. The rest of the world can wait forever.

“You sound good.” Squall teased, raising an eyebrow. He laughed when Sora blushed furiously and averted his eyes. “Hey, I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it. I still can’t believe it myself.”

“I can’t either.” Sora answered truthfully. He turned his gaze to Squall’s. “Can I kiss you?” he asked shyly.

Squall smirked. “Not with that morning breath, pal.”

Sora let out an indignant yowl and lunged out of the bed. “I don’t have to take this!” he insisted, heading for the bathroom.

Squall slapped him on his bare rump as he passed, earning a shriek. “That’s right. Now go freshen up, and I’ll start on breakfast.”

Sora shot him a look that was deliriously happy, despite his best attempts at frowning, and ducked out of the room.

Squall heard the bathroom door close and mentally let out the breath he’d been holding. That went well. He pulled back the sheets and stepped out of the bed. Leisurely he moved around the room, picking some lounging clothes from the dresser and putting them on. He considered picking some for Sora, and quickly thought better of it. As much as I hate to send him out of here in those filthy rags of his, I’d be signing my own death warrant if I gave him some of mine. His mother is going to be mad enough to shit, as it is. Now he did feel a pang of guilt, and he paused, his shirt half on. He’d never known his own mother, but he was pretty sure that she would be worried if he had run off for a whole night without telling her what the deal was. How the hell are we going to handle this? He sighed and finished pulling on his shirt. One day at a time, I guess. He left his bedroom and rapped on the door to the bathroom.

“Yeah?” came Sora’s garbled reply.

He’s using my toothbrush, Squall realized. And I don’t mind one bit. “When you finish, you can find your raggedy clothes on the floor in my room. So, don’t pull another one of your little ‘Oops, I don’t have any clothes’ stunts.”

Sora’s outraged response was completely unintelligible.

“Whatever.” Squall replied, and headed into the kitchen. He set to work fixing up a quick breakfast of bacon and eggs. As an afterthought, he put a couple slices of bread into the toaster, just in case. He’d already seen how much food Sora could put away. He’d get huge if it weren’t for that metabolism of his.

“Ooh bacon!” Sora exclaimed, ambushing Squall, a few minutes later. He peered over his shoulder to stare at the frying food. “How did you know I liked my eggs scrambled with cheese?”

“Lucky guess.” Squall offered, turning around. “And what are you doing in my robe?” He playfully brandished the spatula. “I ought to pop you with this for taking those kind of liberties.”

“I didn’t want to wear dirty clothes while I was eating.” Sora protested. “And stop, or you’ll burn the bacon!”

“It’s tastes better that way.” Squall replied, but turned back to the stove. “Get a couple of plates, will you?”

“Okay.” Sora found them immediately, so familiar was he with Squall’s kitchen by now. I feel like I belong here. He set them down on the counter. “Now what?”

“Now you get yourself a glass of juice, sit down and wait.” Squall answered, turning the bacon. Do I deserve to be this happy after what I’ve done?

Sora watched Squall from his stool, still unsure what to make of it all. I wouldn’t change this, but I don’t know what to do next. I know that I want to see Squall again, but first I have to deal with my mom. And Riku. He was glad to have a distraction from his thoughts when Squall finally brought him a plate filled with eggs, bacon, and two slices of buttered toast. “This looks great!”

“Well, hopefully it tastes great. I hardly get to cook half of the food I buy. Cloud usually beats me to it.” Squall admitted, fixing his own plate.

Sora stiffened. “Is he over here a lot?” Cloud is really good-looking. I wouldn’t stand a chance if he went after Squall.

Squall shrugged. “More than I’d like him to be.” Then he realized the cause for Sora’s discomfort, and turned around. “Wait, are you jealous?”

“No.” Sora replied quickly. Too embarrassing!

Squall sat down beside him. “Well, don’t be. Cloud has a wonderful girlfriend. He’d have to be a complete fool to leave her. No one else would put up with him for long.”

Sora relaxed and began to eat his food. Well, what right do I have to be jealous, anyway? It’s not like Squall and I are a couple or anything. Although… He snuck a glance at his companion. I guess I wouldn’t mind if we were.

Squall watched Sora eat, marveling at his own lack of guilt. I was torturing myself over a kiss, but now that I’ve had him completely, I don’t feel bad at all. I guess feeling guilty at this point would be a lot like buying a smoke detector after your house has burned down. He ate his own breakfast, wondering if it was possible for him to take Sora home without telling on himself. If I just dropped him off and sped away, it would be suspicious as all get out. Not to mention, they’re probably looking out for him, which would make that impossible. He could think of no possible excuse that would suffice. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to walk home, Sora.” he announced when they had both finished their meals.

“I knew that.” Sora answered, rolling his eyes. “What do you think I am? Stupid?” He stood up.

“Well…” Squall began, smirking.

Sora turned his back on him, crossing his arms. “You’re such a jerk, Squall.”

Squall stood up and wrapped his arms around him. “Oh, like you didn’t already know that.” Once he leaves, I’ll be counting the hours until I see him again.

Sora turned around, his eyes shy. “I’m still not used to this, you know.” I did it, with Squall Leonhart, of all people! How did it happen? “Can I kiss you, now?”

Squall raised an eyebrow. “You never let not having my permission stop you before. Go ahead, if you want.” He watched with amusement as Sora leaned forward and kissed him firmly on his lips before pulling back, blushing. “Is that the best you’ve got?” he teased.

Determination set, Sora leaned forward again and pulled Squall down to his lips, and dove in. I can kiss him now, whenever I want to. He boldly met Squall’s tongue with his own, marveling at the new sense of freedom. If I forget everything when I grow old, I will always remember the moment when I kissed Squall Leonhart and he let me. He pulled back after a minute, shaky. “That better?”

Squall pretended to think about it. “Well… it was fine, but…” I love picking with him. I love everything about him. What would it be like to date him? To wake up next to him every day?

“But what?” Sora asked anxiously. Oh God! What was wrong with it?! I didn’t do it any differently! Besides, I’m new at all this stuff, I’m doing the best I can, and when is he going to answer me?! “But what?” he repeated.

“…You taste like bacon.” Squall said after a long moment, and grinned.

“Squall! You jerk!”

·<>·§·<>·

Riku pulled his pillow down over his ears, and gritted his teeth. It turned out to be a wasted effort. He could still hear his parents arguing furiously in the living room, waking him up way too early for a Saturday morning. He savagely kicked at his mattress. I can’t believe I got myself into this shit! Sora told me something bad would happen, but I didn’t listen. I’m so fucking stubborn, and now Jake is dead, Sora is missing, and I’m in a shitload of trouble. He heard the sound of breaking glass and cringed, pulling the pillow down harder. And Dad just had to spend the night here after he picked me up from the station. Mom probably screwed him out of loneliness, and now they’re back to their usual petty bullshit. He heard something else shatter and sat up, his eyes narrowed. That’s it! It’s all my fault, I know. But I’m not going to hide in shame while dad goads ma into breaking everything we own!

Riku swung his legs out of bed and stood up, still in the oversized sweatshirt and jeans his father had brought down to the station for him. He’d had no idea that his father even knew what a sweatshirt was. He probably got it in some “When Your Kid Gets Arrested Kit” he found on Ebay. He slid his feet into his slippers, and opened his bedroom door, wincing when the sound of the fighting reached his ears that much easier. He stalked down the stairs, not at all sure what he was going to say, just knowing he couldn’t lay down and ignore it. The living room came into view and his mouth fell open. It looked like a war had broken out.

An entire newspaper was strewn haphazardly across the coffee table, soaking up the coffee that dripped lazily from a newly shattered mug. Another end table had been overturned, post it notes and sharpies crushed beneath it. Bright shards of the Tiffany lamp his mother had received as a wedding gift sparkled in the sunlight, creating an expensive kaleidoscope of broken glass all across the carpet. Sephiroth was standing in the middle of it all, advancing on Lillian who glared back at him coldly.

“Alright!” Riku shouted. “Stop the fighting! Just stop!”

Both of his parents turned to regard him, shocked. For a moment there was complete silence. Outside, the birds chirped merrily.

“Oh Riku…” Lillian murmured weakly. There were tears in her eyes.

“You turn around and get your narrow ass back up those stairs!” Sephiroth ordered. “This is none of your concern, you little convict!”

Lillian whirled on him. “Don’t you talk to him like that, you sanctimonious bastard! I told you to get out!”

“For fuck’s sake!” Riku screamed, kicking the sofa. Gah! They’ve sucked me right along into it! “Stop! Both of you! Just shut the fuck up!”

Sephiroth’s mouth fell open. No one had ever told him to shut the fuck up before in his entire life. My own son… He simply stared at Riku in disbelief.

Lillian sat down on the couch, her hands over her mouth. Her face crumpled and she began to cry in great heaving sobs.

Riku went to her, ignoring the crunch of glass beneath his house slippers. When she looked up, he hugged her, rubbing his cheek against hers. “Please don’t cry, Mom… I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! But I’m sick of how you two always fight!”

Sephiroth watched for a moment, and then stalked into the kitchen, disgusted. This is ridiculous. After a few minutes of waiting for Lillian’s sobs to subside, he came back with the broom and dustpan. Awkwardly, he began to sweep up the broken glass fragments, a somewhat shamed expression on his face.

Riku watched him for a moment, and then turned back to his mother. “What’s going on, ma?”

Lillian sighed and placed a comforting hand on Riku's cheek. “Nothing, Riku. We’re both just so worried about you and we got a little carried away. You could’ve been killed last night! I don’t know what I would’ve done if that boy had shot you.” She shuddered. “I can’t even imagine how his mother must feel right now.”

“The school psychologist needs to be fired for allowing a psychopath to roam the student body.” Sephiroth muttered, still sweeping. “I could make one telephone call, and have them all under investigation.”

“It wasn’t like that.” Riku said quietly. Now’s as good a time as any. He sighed. “Jake wasn’t crazy until recently. Or maybe, he was always crazy, but he wasn’t dangerous, until the fight.”

“What fight?” Sephiroth asked, confused.

“I was in a fight last week.” Riku explained. “I got suspended, and we didn’t tell you, because you’d just blame it on mom being too easy on me. But it was self-defense!” He clenched his fists. “Jake might’ve really hurt Sora, if I hadn’t protected him… I guess I should’ve known how far gone he was then…”

“Riku,” interrupted Sephiroth. “You’re not making any sense. What do you mean to say?”

Riku felt his mother squeeze his hand and looked at her. “You don’t have to tell him, if you don’t want to,” her eyes said.

Riku shook his head and went on. “Dad, Jake wanted to kill me, because he was jealous.”

“Jealous of what?” Sephiroth asked, thoroughly perplexed now. “It’s not like you flaunt your wealth the way that you’re supposed to.”

Despite her tears, Lillian rolled her eyes.

“Jake was jealous of me and Sora.” Riku continued gently.

Sephiroth stopped sweeping and stared at Riku skeptically. “Riku, do you mean to tell me that this boy wanted to kill you out of jealousy towards your friendship with Sora? He wanted to be your friend that badly?”

Riku sighed again. Oh man, why does dad have to be so dense about these things? “My boyfriend.”

“I beg your pardon?” asked Sephiroth.

“Sora is my boyfriend.” Riku took a deep breath. “Dad, I’m attracted to other guys. And Jake wanted to be my boyfriend. That’s why he was jealous.”

Sephiroth sat down on the floor, stunned. For once in his life, he couldn’t think of a single thing to say.

Lillian burst into nervous giggles, covering her eyes with both hands like a child.

Riku groaned and put his face in his palm. Now what?

·<>·§·<>·

Sora sighed heavily when his house came into view. Am I really ready for this? I hope so. He hadn’t wanted to leave, but Squall had insisted, and Sora knew he was right. His mother was probably devastated. I really should’ve called, but it’s too late for that now. Nervous, he jogged up to his door, and fished around in his pocket for his keys. He found the piece of paper Squall had given him and managed a slight smile. He gave me his number and told me to call. Maybe if I don’t get grounded for life. Groaning, he found his keys and unlocked the door. He had barely pushed it open when he heard a squeal of delight. He stepped inside and closed the door, his pulse racing. Here we go.

Kairi jumped up from the sofa, the Fear Street book in her lap tumbling onto the floor forgotten. “Aunt Sonya!” she shrieked. “Aunt Sonya!” She ran to Sora and threw her arms around his neck.

Sora hugged her, feeling immensely pleased by her concern, but guilty for causing it. “It’s okay, Kairi! I’m here now.”

Sonya padded down the stairs, looking exhausted, her auburn hair pulled back in a messy bun. “Kairi, what is it…” Her words trailed off and her eyes widened as she laid eyes on her only child. “Sora? Is it really you?” She raised a trembling hand to her mouth.

Sora nodded, and gently disengaged himself from Kairi. “Mom, I’m so sorry.” She looks so very tired. Squall was right, I should’ve called.

Sonya flew over to her son and enfolded him into a hug, squeezing him fiercely. “I’m so glad you’re safe!” She struggled to hold back her tears. “Oh, Sora…” She looked at him pleadingly. “Why did you run away like that? When Lillian called and told me what happened at the party and you never came back, I thought something terrible had happened to you! I was up crying all night!” She shook her head. “I waited, and waited, so afraid that I would get a phone call telling me that your body had been found in a ditch somewhere!”

Kairi punched him savagely in one arm. “Yeah! We were really worried!” Tears leaked from the corners of her violet eyes.

“I’m sorry!” Sora insisted. “I just, I couldn’t come home after what happened! I needed to be alone, to think.”

“You didn’t have to run away!” Sonya argued. “You could’ve come home! We would’ve left you alone!” She shook her head. “Where did you go, all that time?”

“I was at the bus station.” Sora lied. He had turned over several plausible stories in his mind during his walk home, determined to keep suspicion away from Squall. “I slept on a bench. No one bothered me.”

“Oh Sora…” Sonya said, and started crying again.

Kairi joined in, and together they hugged Sora for what seemed like hours. Finally their sobs tapered down into sniffles, and Kairi socked him again, this time in the small of his back. “Don’t do it again.”

“Oww!” Sora groaned. “Take it easy, I had a rough night, you know.”

“We all did.” Sonya said. She looked Sora over, scrutinizing. “And you look like an absolute mess, young man.” She sighed and ruffled his hair. “It’s no wonder you didn’t get taken to a homeless shelter.”

Sora shrugged. “I guess. I just want to get cleaned up and get some rest.” That much is true, at least.

“Oh, of course!” Sonya said, as though just remembering. She turned to her niece. “Kairi, go run some hot bathwater for Sora, and I’ll get started cooking something nice.”

Kairi gave Sora one last hug, and bounded up the stairs.

Sonya turned back to her son. “I want you to go on and take your bath, and then, when you’re ready, we’re all going to have a long talk about this. You’re in deep trouble, but I suppose you knew that already.”

“Yeah, I knew.” Sora admitted. “I deserve it for making you worry. I never wanted to make you cry, mom.”

“I love you, Sora.” Sonya hugged him one last time, as though afraid she would never see him again.

Sora gently pulled away, and turned to go upstairs.

“Sora?” questioned Sonya, her dark eyebrows furrowed with concern.

“Yes, mom?” Sora said, turning.

“Why are you walking like that? It’s almost like you’re limping.” Sonya explained, approaching as though afraid he would collapse at any moment.

Sora quickly turned away so that his mother wouldn’t see him blush. I didn’t even realize it! I must be sore because of Squall… Heat flooded his face at the thought. “Um, my legs are just stiff from sleeping on the bench. It was really cold, and the metal was so uncomfortable, but I kept rolling around trying to stay warm...” he stammered.

“My poor baby.” Sonya sighed, and hugged him again. “You’d better hurry up and get in the bathtub. You’ve been through so much. We’ll talk about everything after you’ve eaten.”

·<>·§·<>·

“How long have you known that you preferred… that you were…” Sephiroth ground out. After the initial shock of Riku’s confession, he had eventually moved from his undignified place on the floor to a spot on the sofa. Lillian had left them alone to talk, but every now and then she peeked out of the kitchen, making sure all was well.

“That I’m gay?” Riku asked. “Actually, I like guys and girls, but I just like Sora the most. It has nothing to do with the fact that he’s a guy. I would’ve felt the same way even if he was a girl. It’s so much deeper than gender.”

Sephiroth sighed and smoothed his hair back from his forehead. “So, you think that you’re in love with Sora?”

“I know that I’m in love with Sora.” Riku corrected. “I always have been.”

“Well,” Sephiroth sighed again, rolling his eyes. “This certainly changes things. So much for any notions I had of marrying you off.”

Riku bristled. “I’m not some sort of business acquisition to trade around, okay?”

“I was jesting.” Sephiroth said flatly. “Although, this will take some getting used to.” He scowled. “You know, Vincent always told me that he suspected you were… that you preferred males, but I never believed him.” He shook his head. “I’ll never guess how he figured it out.”

Riku kept his mouth shut. If I tell him about Vincent, he just might pop. It’d be too much too handle at once. I suppose it’s bad enough to learn that your son is into guys, let alone having to hear about how your personal assistant wants to hump you, too.

Lillian appeared in the doorway, her calm demeanor apparently restored. “I made some tuna sandwiches.” she announced softly. “I think we should all have something to eat.”

Riku glanced at his father. I know her cooking usually sends him running for the hills, but he’s got to have enough tact to stay this time.

Sephiroth appeared to be fighting an internal battle. “Splendid.” he managed after a moment. “I was getting rather hungry. If you don’t mind, of course.”

Lillian shook her head. “No, I don’t mind. What about you, Riku?”

Riku shrugged. “Fine by me.”

·<>·§·<>·

Sora relaxed back into the tub, feeling the tension melt out of his muscles. So far, so good. He hadn’t been caught up in any lies, but then he still had yet to tell his mother the entire story. If I can just keep Squall’s name out of it, I’ll consider it a success. He shuddered. Squall… I still can’t believe what we did. He sank down lower into the water, recalling the events of last night. He didn’t know which was worse, the guilt for sleeping with Squall, or the guilt for allowing what had happened with Squall to completely overshadow what had happened with Jake. Poor Jake. I wish I could tell him that I’m sorry, but that’s not my apology to give. He sighed. Riku… I don’t know when I’ll ever want to talk to him again. He’s probably been chewed out pretty good by now, but it’s probably not nearly what he deserves.

“Are you okay in there, Sora?” called Kairi, from outside the door.

Sora jumped, almost sliding under the water. “I’m fine!” he answered. “I’ll be out in a few minutes, okay?”

“Take your time!” Kairi replied quickly. “Aunt Sonya and I were just getting a little worried, that’s all. Lunch is ready, by the way. We’ll be downstairs.”

Sora closed his eyes and let out a breath. He was not looking forward to how much more over-protective his mom was going to become now that this had happened. She probably won’t let me out of the house again until I’m 25. Who knows when I’ll see Squall again? He let out an involuntary shudder at the thought. How am I going to face him in class Monday? Or, how am I going to face anyone? Everyone who was at that party saw me leave after Jake shot himself. What are they thinking?

After a few more minutes, Sora sighed and sat up. He knew that as much as he’d like to, staying in the tub all day wouldn’t erase what happened to Jake, or his own role in it. Quietly, he rinsed himself off and stood up. Letting the water drain, he carefully dried himself off, glad to finally have some clean clothes to put on. Mentally, he rehearsed his story as he dressed, making sure that there were no obvious loopholes. I’d better make it solid, because it probably won’t be the last time I have to tell it.

Sonya and Kairi were seated at the table, already waiting when Sora finally walked into the kitchen. A delicious-looking ham sandwich rested on a plate, and Sora gratefully helped himself to it, while the two women in his life watched over him anxiously. Without being asked, Sonya pushed a glass of orange soda towards her son. Kairi offered him a plate of cookies she’d no doubt baked in a hurry.

“Thanks.” Sora murmured, after he’d finished his meal. “You didn’t have to, but I appreciate it so much.” He sighed. “I don’t know what I would do without your support.”

Kairi struggled to keep from tearing up again. “Shut up, or I’m going to cry.”

Sonya patted her niece on the back, and then turned to Sora. “I’ve already spoken to Lillian, but I want to hear everything that happened from you now. From the moment you left last night, until the moment I came downstairs and saw you this afternoon.” She waved her finger at him. “And don’t you leave out a single thing.”

Sorry mom, but you’ll never know the whole truth if I can help it. Sora took a breath, and began telling them the events of the previous night. He divulged everything leading up to the tragedy, omitting nothing, not even the true nature of his relationship with Riku. When he got to the part about Jake’s breakdown and suicide, he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye.

Kairi clapped a hand over her mouth and fled the room, trying to keep from heaving.

Sora started to go after her, but Sonya was already on her feet. “Stay here, I’ll take care of Kairi.” she ordered softly, leaving the room.

Sora put a hand to his forehead and sighed. If Kairi had gotten that upset, he didn’t want to see how the rest of the school is going to react. God, what is Selphie going through? He clenched his fist. So much pain. And it all could’ve been avoided. I hope you’re happy Riku. I hope you’re absolutely goddamn giddy.

“Alright.” Sonya said, returning a few minutes later. “Kairi is fine. She was just up all night, she hadn’t eaten much, and I think her body just wasn’t ready to hear about it yet.” She sat down in her chair and met Sora’s eyes. “Continue.”

“Well, that’s when I left the party.” Sora explained. “It wasn’t like I was trying to avoid getting in trouble or anything, it’s just… I couldn’t take it! Everyone was standing around just gaping at me, and all the while, they had no clue what had really happened. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, so I just ran away.”

“Okay.” Sonya nodded, believing him. His story was identical with the one that Lillian had made Riku tell her over the phone last night. “Go on.”

This is the tricky part. Carefully, Sora recited his fictional story of deciding to go to the bus station because it was clean and well-lit. He called to mind every detail he could remember from previous visits to make his tale more authentic. When he finished, he knew his mother believed him. He could see it in her eyes. Squall is safe. He let out a relieved sigh.

“So, Riku is your boyfriend?” Sonya questioned after a long moment.

“You could say that.” Sora answered, not too pleased about this particular subject of discussion.

Sonya poured herself a glass of soda. “And how long has this been going on?”

Sora thought about it. “Almost two weeks now, I guess.” He shrugged.

“And when were you planning on telling me?” Sonya questioned, taking a sip.

“Never.” Sora confessed, grimacing. I already regret telling you, to be honest.

“Why not?” Sonya asked, obviously hurt.

Sora shrugged again, wishing she would just drop it already. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I was embarrassed. I thought you might be upset or something.”

“Sora, I can’t believe you thought I’d be upset about something like that! How could I? It’s a part of who you are, and I wouldn’t change a thing about you. I’ll admit, I did hope to have grandchildren someday.” Sonya shook her head. “But I’m your mother! I want to know these things about you. I need to know them. That way I won’t be beating myself up at night, wondering why my son is acting strange, or why he ran away.”

Sora groaned. “It was only for one night!”

“And those were the longest twelve hours of my life!” Sonya crossed her arms. “You really stepped in it, Sora. I mean it. Your punishment goes into effect as soon as we get back from the police station. They’ve been waiting an awful long time for your statement, young man.”

“I just needed some time to think!” Sora argued, secretly relieved that his mother had believed everything he told her, had even accepted his relationship with Riku, in fact. If getting fussed at is the price I have to pay, I’ll pay it gladly.

“I understand that perfectly, honey.” Sonya told him. “You’re going to have plenty of time to think while you’re grounded. One month.”

That seems fair, wait! What?! “Are you serious?!” Sora cried.

“As a heart attack.” Sonya assured him. “One month. No telephone, no television, no music, no video games, no dessert, no going to the mall, the movies, the arcade, or any other place where fun can be had. For thirty days, you will go to school, come straight home, eat, sleep, bathe, and breathe.”

Sora reeled. “Mom, that seems kind of excessive, don’t you think?” It’s not like I killed him!

“No, Sora. What happened to Jake was excessive.” She placed a hand on Sora’s shoulder. “Honey, you have to understand. That boy died. He’s not going to get to go to prom, graduation, or college. And his parents are the ones who will suffer for it.”

“But it wasn’t my fault!” Sora pleaded. “Mom, I tried to stop him! You have to believe me.”

“Of course I believe you!” Sonya responded. “I know that it wasn’t your fault, nor was it Riku’s fault. That boy chose to kill himself, no one forced him to do it. And you chose to disappear last night.” She shook her head. “Do you realize that I felt just a taste of the agony his parents must’ve experienced when I didn’t know where you were? And a taste was more than enough. A month of punishment might seem like a big deal for you, but at least no one is planning your funeral!”

Sora sighed, resigned. I guess that solves the problem of what to say to Riku. I won’t be saying anything, because I’ll be grounded for a month. “You’re right, mom. And I’m sorry for everything.” If only she would’ve grounded me from going to school.

·<>·§·<>·

Riku followed his dad to the car, not sure what exactly he should say to him. It had been an oddly peaceful meal for the three of them, his parents talking quietly while he paid no real attention to what they were saying. His thoughts had become entirely preoccupied with Sora. He was worried, but at the same time incredibly pissed off. How the fuck could he just run out on me like that?! Then when the police got there, they cuffed me like some kind of a criminal! If he’d have been there… maybe they would’ve just ended up slapping handcuffs on both of us. I don’t know… He was startled to feel his father suddenly grab hold of him. “What the-”

Sephiroth enfolded Riku into a strong hug, catching him entirely off guard. “Thank goodness, you’re alright.”

Riku froze, unsure of what to do. The sudden display of warmth and love in Sephiroth’s bright green eyes was entirely unfamiliar and mildly horrifying. Okay… This is weird. He tentatively hugged his father back, and was squeezed tighter in return. “Ack! Okay, dad! You’re crushing me here!”

Sephiroth backed off, resuming his usual cool demeanor. “Well, then… You will be glad to know that I already have my lawyers working to ensure that if that boy’s family wishes to file some sort of suit against you, they will utterly fail.”

“Thanks. I appreciate it.” Riku replied truthfully. Although, if I have my way, they’ll be pissed at a whole different person. “And thanks for staying for dinner. I know how much you hate ma’s cooking, but it was really nice to have both of you together again in one place for a little while.”

Sephiroth sighed deeply and toyed with his car keys. “Riku, I have never hated your mother’s cooking. Lillian’s skills in the kitchen are far superior to those of any other woman I have known, and I assure you, I have known plenty.”

At least I know where I get that from, Riku thought wryly. “But then, why did you always put her down, and tell her you hated it?”

“I have worked tirelessly to ensure that no woman I chose for my wife would ever have to cook, Riku. If I had my way, our house would’ve been filled with loyal servants to wait on the two of you, hand and foot. You wouldn’t have even had to bathe yourselves, I’m afraid.” Sephiroth admitted, smiling slightly.

“That sounds a little sick.” Riku answered, before he could stop himself.

“I agree.” Sephiroth gazed upward into the clear fall sky. “I suppose I wanted to keep a family of perfect little glass dolls, in an immaculate display case. I had hoped that my feigned disgust for your mother’s cooking would eventually persuade her to comply with my ideals. Alas, she served me another delightful little dish. Divorce papers.”

Riku blinked. “Um, wow. I had no idea.” And all this time I thought he was just a cold, materialistic, heartless bastard. “Sorry.”

Sephiroth waved a hand. “No matter. The past is the past. I have no regrets, and you too must learn to live without them. You may take lessons and even inspiration from your mistakes, but never take regrets. Regret is nothing more than the useless emotional manifestation of man’s lack of control over the machinations of fate. A man can no more change the past, than stop the earth from turning.” He turned his eyes to his son. “Do you comprehend what I’m telling you?”

Riku could read his father’s expression. He’s telling me that no matter what shit I end up taking at school because of this, I’ve got to keep my head up high. He nodded. “Yes, dad.”

Sephiroth clapped him briskly on the shoulder. “Excellent. I will be in touch.” He disarmed the alarm on his black Mercedes and climbed in.

Riku watched him drive away, feeling as though he understood his father a lot better than he ever had. I guess I’m a lot more like him than I thought. He let himself into the house, and headed for the stairs. I just want to lay down and never get up again. For at least a week.

“Riku?” Lillian called from the kitchen.

Riku turned and headed towards the kitchen instead. “Yeah?” he replied, poking his head into the doorway.

“I just spoke to Sonya.” Lillian informed him. “She said that Sora came back today.”

Riku’s heart jumped in his chest. “Oh? Is he alright?”

Lillian nodded. “Sonya said that he’s fine. Spent the night at the bus station downtown. She’s taking him to the police station now to make a statement.”

Riku sighed. “Good. I’m glad he’s okay. I just hope he doesn’t hate me.”

“Oh kiddo, I’m sure he doesn’t hate you.” Lillian soothed. “Although, if I were you, I’d give the boy a little space. He’s probably plenty upset. On top of all that happened, Sonya grounded him for an entire month.”

“Damn!” Riku said. “That’s kind of harsh.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Lillian said slyly. “It’ll serve as a punishment to you too, since you won’t get to see or talk to him outside of class for a month.”

“Shit!” Riku muttered. I didn’t realize that!

“Watch that mouth, or I’ll rinse it out.” Lillian warned. She sighed. “Just be patient with Sora. He’s been through a lot, and he’s a lot more sheltered than you are.” She shook her head. “Poor thing. He must’ve been scared to death down at that bus station.”

“Probably.” Riku agreed. “I’m going to go lay down until dinner. I have a lot of thinking to do.” He headed back towards the stairs. But why the hell would he go to the bus station? I guess I’ll just have to ask him Monday.

·<>·§·<>·

“95...96...97...98..99...100...” Squall breathed, and then lay still, his damp hair clinging to his scalp.

“Thank God,” Cloud muttered. His relief was short lived when Squall put the other arm behind his back, in preparation for yet another round of one-handed pushups. “Hey! Will you cut that out?”

“Why do you care?” asked Squall, making no effort to cease his exercise. “101...102...103...”

“Because you’re making me look bad, you bastard.” grumbled Cloud, from his place on the couch. “I can only do twenty of those. What are you? A damn Marine, or something?”

“It’s not my fault you’re weak.” Squall shot back, sitting up. He slicked his hair back and let out a deep breath.”

Cloud snorted. “It’s not my fault you’re a testosterone train wreck, either.” He stared at his friend warily. “What is with you? You’ve been exercising like crazy since I got here.”

Squall climbed to his feet. “So?” He rolled his eyes, and reached for the towel draped over his sofa. “There some sort of rule against that?” he quipped, drying his hair.

“No, it’s just that I’ve seen rocks that move more than you do on average.” Cloud informed him.

“And I’ve seen rocks that are more intelligent than you are on average.” Squall sighed. “What’s your point, Strife?”

“Something’s up.” Cloud declared. “I know you, Leonhart. Your shady ass is up to no good. What, did you get some from your mystery lover again?”

Squall stopped toweling his damp hair just long enough to shoot his former roommate a look of pure murder. “What I did or didn’t get, isn’t any of your fucking business.”

Cloud put his hands up. “Damn. I get the point. You’re always so touchy.”

Squall draped the towel over his shoulders and sighed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be a complete asshole. It’s just…” He sat down on the other end of the couch and ran a hand through his still damp hair. “I’m really just scared to death.”

“Of what?” Cloud questioned.

“I’m afraid that things are going to be different between us now.” Squall admitted, leaning back and closing his eyes. And if it’s this nerve-wracking for me, I can only imagine what Sora must feel like. “Sex changes everything, you know.”

Cloud rolled his eyes. “Yeah man, tell me about it.”

Squall sat up and looked at his guest. “How far along into the relationship were you and Aerith before you had sex?” Maybe I could get some insight from them.

Cloud’s face turned a brilliant red. “Excuse me?!”

“I said, how far along into the relationship…” Squall repeated.

“I heard you just fine.” Cloud interrupted. “I just can’t believe your gall! Just moments ago you were practically telling me what was and wasn’t any of my fucking business, and now you’re asking me a very personal question?”

Squall waved a hand dismissively. “That’s beside the point. I’m asking you a legitimate question, not trying to make a smartass remark.”

“How is prying into my sex life a legitimate question?” Cloud argued.

“Oh for God’s sake, Strife! When did she let you have it?” Squall snapped in irritation. “I need to know.”

Cloud stared at Squall for a long moment and then shrugged. “She hasn’t.”

“You’ve got to be shitting me.” Squall replied incredulously. “You’ve been trotting after her since forever. Is she a mental case or just prudish?”

“You’re one to talk.” Cloud shot back. “She’s saving herself for marriage. I respect her wishes. There’s more to a relationship than sex.”

Squall rolled his eyes. “Right. That explains it. I was wondering why a long-legged beauty like that was still single, let alone interested in you. Mystery solved.”

Cloud resisted the urge to slug Squall in his exposed ribcage, and instead mused on this change in his demeanor. It was completely unlike Squall to ask that sort of question. I wonder what‘s going on with him? “How long have you been dating this guy of yours?”

Squall shot a glance at Cloud to see if he was teasing, and determined that he wasn’t. “We haven’t exactly been dating. He’s sort of seeing someone else.”

Cloud gaped. “Leonhart, you dog! Here I was ready to congratulate you on reacquainting yourself with the human race, and all this time you’ve been carting around stolen goods.” He snickered. “You really are an asshole. Couldn’t get your own, eh? Had to take someone else’s.”

Squall winced, feeling every bit the hound Cloud accused him of being. “It’s not like it sounds. He came after me! I mean, I resisted for as long as I could, but last night…”

“Whatever, home wrecker.” Cloud quipped. “Tell it to the other guy. Or girl?”

“Guy.” Squall corrected. “And I’d like nothing better than to throw it in his boyfriend’s face, but that would be the only thing dumber than getting into this situation in the first place. I definitely don’t need that drama.” That’d definitely land me in the jailhouse, both for statutory rape, and for having to kick Riku’s ass good and proper.

Cloud laughed again. “I’ll bet.” He raised an eyebrow. “So, how was it?”

“Amazing.” Squall replied immediately. “Just incredible. It felt like he was custom made for me. And he was so damn responsive! All I had to do was touch him, and it was like…”

“Shut the fuck up!” Cloud groaned, clapping his hands over his ears. “Damn Leonhart, have you ever heard of too much information? All you had to say was whether it was good or bad. I don’t need the play by play.”

It was Squall’s turn to laugh. “What’s the matter, Strife? Was my story giving you wood?”

Cloud rose to his feet. “On that note, I think I’ll be getting the hell out of here before you get all nasty, and try to reenact your last night’s adventures with me.”

“You wish.” Squall shot back. “Now that I’ve had Sora, you just don’t do anything for me.” Damn, probably shouldn’t have given him a name…

“Oh ho! So, he does have a name.” Cloud taunted. “Although, I can see how he’d end up gay, with a girly-sounding name like that.”

“Shut up.” Squall replied, rolling his eyes. “And get out of my apartment.” He smirked. “And just so you know, I took him on this couch, right here. The same one you were just sitting on.” He relaxed back into the cushions, nodding with satisfaction. “What do you think of that, freeloader?”

“I think you’re a nasty bastard with no respect for leather.” Cloud replied, grimacing. “Oh ugh, I sat on your gay sex furniture. I think I need a shower.” He opened the door.

“I think you needed one even before you came over.” Squall called. “I thought you smelled a little rank.”

“I’d tell you to blow me, but your little boyfriend might get jealous.” Cloud replied loudly, closing the door.

Squall blanched, unable to think of a witty retort. My boyfriend?! Sora? He sighed, and smiled wistfully at the concept. I wish. I don’t think I can even call him my lover, since we’ve only had sex once. He ran a hand through his hair, combing out the tangles. I would love to have the privilege of calling him my boyfriend or even my lover. He smirked. Especially since that means we’d have to have more sex to earn that label. Although, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

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