“We won, you know.”

Sora looked up from his homework. “Huh?” He had been so lost in his equations, he hadn’t realized his cousin was even in the house.

Kairi stepped further into the room. “We won. Homecoming.” She shrugged. “I just thought you might like to know.”

“Oh…” Sora nodded slowly. “That makes sense.”

“What did you think I meant?” Kairi asked. “The lottery? Publisher’s Clearing House?”

Sora shrugged. “I wasn’t really paying attention.” He finally noticed the bright red and yellow pennant flag Kairi was holding in her hands. “My mind was somewhere else.”

“I’ll say.” Kairi peered at his notes. “Physics… yuck.” She straightened up. “I’ll let you get back to your work.”

Sora sat up, suddenly wanting some company. “No, that’s okay. I needed a break.” He closed the book, and moved his notes to make room for her. “Why don’t you sit down and tell me about the game?”

Kairi sat down on the bed. “Well, we pretty much crushed Midgar High. I think they must’ve felt sorry for us because of what happened to Jake. Plus, it would’ve been rude to beat us at our own homecoming game. But maybe I’m wrong.” She considered. “I mean, your friends were great. Especially… Wakka? That’s his name, right?”

Sora nodded.

“Yeah, he really helped the team out. Everyone was totally psyched up, too. There was so much yelling and school spirit.” Kairi continued. “We might even go to state championships or something. But I don’t really know a lot about football.” She sighed. “But the cheerleaders…” She shook her head. “They were awful, Sora! They were bickering on the sidelines about what cheers to do next, and then, when they were doing the pyramid, Donna dropped LeBlanc, and she broke her leg! They had to call an ambulance and take her off the field on a stretcher. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen… LeBlanc kept screaming that Donna did it on purpose while the paramedics took her away.”

“Are you serious?” Sora asked in disbelief. “I can’t believe Selphie would let something like that happen.”

Kairi blinked. “You mean, you didn’t know?”

“Know what?” Sora asked, getting a sinking feeling in his gut. Oh God, what now?

“They made Selphie quit the squad.” Kairi looked at him strangely. “I thought for sure you would’ve known.”

Sora gaped. But she was the captain… “Why did they do that?”

“Because of what she said.” Kairi answered quietly. “She told everyone that Jake killed himself because she was cheating on him with Riku, and he couldn’t handle it.”

So that’s what that scene in the cafeteria was about! Sora realized. I’ll bet Riku put her up to it… God Riku, every time I start to feel a little sorry for you, you just mess it all up again!

Kairi seemed to read his thoughts. “It was last week, in the cafeteria. After she ran out, I followed her and made her tell me the truth. I already knew the real story from when you told me.” Her eyes narrowed. “I wanted to punch Riku’s lights out. But Selphie made me promise not to tell anyone, so I won’t.” She shrugged sadly. “I wish I had, though. But it doesn’t matter now. She won’t talk to anyone. She just keeps to herself, and I never see her in class anymore.” She sighed. “I’m really worried about her, Sora. But she won’t even look at me.”

Sora squeezed Kairi’s shoulder. “Maybe she’ll talk to me, since we were both there when it happened. If I see her, I’ll try. I’ll tell her how worried you are.”

Kairi nodded. “That would be nice.” She shot him a glance. “How have you been feeling these days?”

“I’m more upset that I can’t have sweets than anything.” Sora answered honestly.

Kairi giggled. “That was pretty harsh of Aunt Sonja.”

“I know.” Sora sighed. “But other than that. I’m doing okay. I’ve been able to cope pretty well.” Thanks to Squall.

Sora had been spending half of his lunches in the English classroom with his teacher, much to Riku’s dismay. They spent the time talking amicably about their lives, each delicately avoiding the topic of their night together. It was all Sora could do to pretend not to notice Squall’s half-starved glances, let alone his less than subtle invitations to further mayhem. Sora was terrified of getting caught in a compromising position, and instead contented himself with simply being in Squall’s presence, despite his tormented hormones.

Kairi stood up, sensing that her cousin was retreating back into his thoughts. “Well, I’m going to go get some ice cream.”

Sora’s face fell. I remember ice cream. It was my favorite.

”Oh sorry! I forgot.” Kairi giggled, waving her hands apologetically. “But I guess I could bring you some too.” She winked. “If Aunt Sonja asks, I’ll just tell her that I was really hungry and ate a lot of it.”

“Would you really?” Sora asked hopefully. “That would be great!”

“Sure.” Kairi replied. “Just a little bit though, or she’ll never believe it. And you have to be quiet about it.” She left the room, leaving her pennant on his bed.

Sora picked it up, his fingers tracing over it’s fuzzy red surface. Maybe I’ll go to a game once I get off punishment. This is my last year here, after all. It could be fun to see Wakka and Tidus in action. He laid back on the bed, still holding the pennant. It’s all going by so fast this year. All that’s really left is winter break, then spring break, then prom and graduation. Then I guess I’ll get a summer job somewhere and save up to buy a car. I’ll go to college next fall, and then… Then what? I’m going to study medicine, so I suppose I’ll eventually go to med school. He tried not to ask himself the question that was burning in his mind, absently rolling the flag up into a soft fabric tube.

“Hey!” Kairi cried. “Don’t do that, you dummy! You’ll ruin it.”

Sora dropped the pennant, startled. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to.” He sat up, eyeing the tan and white bowls in his cousin’s hands. “That was quick.”

Kairi closed the door to his room. “Duh. I have to be, unless you want to get busted. Aunt Sonja’s reading in her room with the door closed, but I still don’t want to take any chances. I like you Sora, but not enough to serve a double duty grounding with you.” She stuck out her tongue. “You’re cool, but not that cool.”

“Right back at you, Red Haired She Devil.” Sora teased, taking one of the bowls from her. The simple silver spoon sticking out of the ice cream never seemed so beautiful. He took a bite and sighed with joy. Double Fudge Brownie! Wonderful…

Kairi laughed at her cousin’s joyful expression. “You’ve only been on punishment for like two weeks! You act like you’ve been stranded on a desert island or something.”

Sora grunted and continued eating. So good…

Kairi giggled and shook her head. “What are you going to do when your grounding is over?”

“Eat more ice cream.” Sora answered without hesitation. “Maybe some cookies. Or a cake. Haven’t decided yet.” He took another bite. “Although, if I go to Maggie Moo’s I can have all three, in a great big bowl. With a waffle cone.”

“You’d better watch it.” Kairi wagged her finger at him. “Or you’ll get fat.”

“Nah.” Sora replied. “I once ate four grilled cheese sandwiches at one time. You should’ve seen the look on his face.” He blanched. Aww no…

Kairi’s eyes lit up. “Whose face?

Damn, damn, damn… Sora shoveled in a huge spoonful of ice cream. “Mmfph mmr. Mmbdy.”

Kairi set her bowl down and peered at him intently. “No way, Sora! This is not a Twix commercial. You can’t just chew this one over. Whose face? Riku’s?” She grinned. “No, it couldn’t be Riku’s, or you wouldn’t be making such a big deal out of it.”

Sora mentally cursed his cousin’s powers of perception. “Forget it. It’s nothing.”

“Ah! Is it that guy?” Kairi asked.

“What guy?” asked Sora, his stomach clenching. Why does she know so much?!

Kairi paused, trying to remember. “Um, it was a while ago… The guy with the dark hair? The one that you were having the fight with or whatever. I think you spent a whole Saturday with him once.”

“Geez, you don’t forget anything, do you?” Sora groaned, covering his face.

Kairi laughed. “Are you kidding? I still remember the time you put a sand crab down the back of my sundress when I was five!” She sniffed. “It traumatized me for life, you know.”

“Yeah, you seem pretty traumatized.” Sora teased.

Kairi shook her fist at him. “I’ll give you some trauma, if you don’t come clean with me. Is it the same guy? Are you two together now or what?”

Sora sighed, putting his now empty bowl on the bed. “Fine. Yes, it was that guy. I was hanging out with him, and we had lunch. I ate four sandwiches, and he was horrified. That’s all.”

“Sure…” Kairi raised an auburn eyebrow. “No seriously, what’s going on between you guys? Are you a couple?” She scooted closer. “Does Riku know about him?”

Sora paled. “Are you nuts? He’d… I don’t even know what he would do if he ever found out!” Probably go completely postal. Better not to think about it. “No, Riku doesn’t know.” Not yet, anyway.

Kairi nodded. “So… Tell me about this guy. What’s he like? Is he cute?”

Well, she already knows too much anyway. I’ll just have to be careful. Sora took a breath. “He’s very nice. Very quiet, and laid back, but he has a great sense of humor. He’s really mature and thoughtful… Kind of anti-social, though. He’s been helping me a lot to get through this whole thing with Jake. And yes, he’s really, really, really cute.” Especially when he’s shirtless.

Kairi squealed with excitement, then remembered herself. “Shhh!”

“Why are you shushing me? You’re the one who squealed!” Sora complained.

Kairi grabbed the bowls. “Quiet, or you’ll get us caught! I’ll be right back.” She darted out of the room.

Sora sighed. Girls are so weird sometimes.

Kairi returned in a few minutes, rubbing her temples. “Okay, I’m back.” She closed the door.

“What’s wrong with your head?” Sora asked.

“Brain freeze. I ate my ice cream on the way down the stairs really fast, so Aunt Sonya wouldn’t ask me any questions.” Kairi plopped herself down on the edge of the bed. “Well, go on.”

Sora considered. I’m not about to tell her that had sex with him. I don’t want anybody to know that yet. “Uh, there’s not really much else to say. He just makes me really happy, and I feel safe with him.”

Kairi nodded. “Okay. Dump Riku, and go out with this guy instead.”

Sora choked. “What?” Is she serious? “You’ve got to be kidding! There’s no way I can do that!”

“Why not? It seems simple to me. He makes you happy, right?” Kairi asked, tilting her head to the side. “You said so yourself. Does Riku make you happy?”

“Riku and I have plenty of fun together.” Sora defended. I can’t believe I’m even having this discussion!

“That’s not the same thing.” Kairi explained, shaking her head. “How about this, does Riku make you feel safe? Huh?”

Sora cringed. I guess that personal safety is becoming somewhat of a concern when it comes to Riku. But then that’s not entirely fair. “Well, no…”

“Then it’s simple. Dump Riku, and stick with this new guy. You’ll be better off. Trust me.” Kairi replied matter-of-factly.

“It’s not that simple.” Sora sighed. “Riku and I have a history together.” She couldn’t even begin to understand. You can’t just cut someone off like that.

“Right. But do you have a future?” Kairi asked. “I mean, the past is nice and all, but the future is what matters the most.” She shrugged. “If you don’t have that to look forward to, then what’s the point really?”

Sora blinked. I never thought of it that way. Still… “Well Riku and I may not have a future together, but then I might not have one with the other guy either. Who knows?”

“You’ll never know, unless you try.” Kairi replied. She glanced at her watch. “Sheesh! It’s getting late. You’re going to keep me up all night!”

I’m keeping you awake?” Sora questioned incredulously.

Kairi retrieved her pennant. “Yes, you are. Anyway, remember what I said. And if you can get Selphie to talk to you, let her know that I’m still her friend, and I’m really worried about her. Okay?”

“I will.” Sora agreed.

“Thanks.” Kairi smiled. “Goodnight.”

“Night.” Sora replied. He watched his cousin leave, his mind turning. He glanced at his homework. Great, now my head is all scrambled. He pushed his books to the side and laid back on his bed, one arm over his face. Dump Riku, huh? I don’t think that would go over too well. But… A future with Squall… That could be nice.

·<>·§·<>·

“You’re not any damn help, you know that?” Cloud snapped.

“Huh?” Squall blinked, finally startled out of his reverie. He looked over to find his friend scowling at him from the kitchen. The utter absence of joy on his normally cheerful face was extremely sobering. Squall sat up on the sofa, and made a concentrated effort to remember exactly what was so damn important. Let’s see… He was in the kitchen, eating my food, and then he said something. I said something, and now he’s giving me the look of death.

“You weren’t listening to a single thing I said, were you?” Cloud accused, his eyes livid.

I sort of had other things on my mind, like how I probably belong in the Guinness Book of World Records for most consecutive nights of beating off due to having an underage lover. Squall sighed. “In all honesty, no.” He raised a hand at Cloud’s exasperated groan. “Please don’t pitch a fit, Strife. Just run it by me again, and I promise I’ll at least try to pay attention this time.”

Cloud groaned again and ran both hands through his unruly hair. “I said, I’m thinking about proposing.”

“Proposing what?” Squall asked, confused. Wait, what the hell did I miss?

“Marriage, you big dumbass!” Cloud yelled. “What did you think?! A fucking business merger?!”

Squall bristled. “Hey, don’t start getting all pissy with me, you jittery bastard. Why don’t you quit pacing a hole in my floor, sit down, and then we can talk about this like rational adults.”

Cloud rubbed his eyes. “My bad, man. I didn’t mean to yell at you. But I don’t feel very rational…” He sat down reluctantly next to Squall. “I haven’t felt rational for a while now. I’ve been pretty much going through the motions, but inside… I just don’t know what to feel anymore.”

“Well, what happened to make you want to propose so suddenly?” Squall raised an eyebrow. “Did she give you an ultimatum?” Women…

“Of course not.” Cloud mumbled. “She would never do that. That would’ve made this a lot easier.”

Squall nodded. If you say so. “Ah, alright… Did you two finally have sex?” Sex changes everything, after all. “You didn’t… knock her up, did you?”

Cloud flushed. “No! Nothing like that. Aerith’s not that kind of girl!”

Squall sighed. Then I’m all out of ideas, and you’re not giving me much to work with here. “Well then, what happened to upset you like this?”

“Nothing.” Cloud replied, sounding every bit as confused as he looked. “Nothing at all! She went on her retreat, and then she came back. Nothing changed. We’ve been doing the same things. We still go to the movies, and go bowling, and feed the birds in the park and stuff. Only, it all feels different to me.” He looked away. “And, I’ve been thinking...”

“That was your first mistake, right there.” Squall quipped, unable to resist the cheap shot.

Cloud glared at him. “Asshole. Anyway, I realized that there’s nothing really keeping her here. Just like how she just up and went on that retreat, she could just up and go to Denmark or something.”

“I’m pretty sure that she won’t go to Denmark.” Squall offered. “They have such shitty music.”

“That’s not the point! The thing is, what’s keeping her here? I mean, she works in a flower shop! It’s not like she even has family members here.” Cloud shook his head. “You know, I just wonder how long is she going to keep doing this?”

“She has you, doesn’t she? You’re keeping her here, if her job isn’t. You two have been going out for how long? Almost three years, right?” Squall reflected.

“Then what kind of man would I be, if I didn’t step up to the plate and take our relationship to the next level?! I love that woman, Squall! If she ever left me, I just might curl up and die… or something. But I sure as hell don’t want to find out! I want to keep her here with me, and if I have to slap a shiny ring on that finger and sign away my freedom, then goddammit, that’s a small price to pay!” Cloud declared. “I mean, I know we still have to work out things like living arrangements, insurance, and all the other shit... Don’t look at me like that! I’ve thought this through, okay? We don’t even have to get married for another few years. I just want something on the table right now, so that she knows she has something concrete worth sticking around for.”

Squall blinked. Cloud, you are a man possessed. Clearly. “I suppose that sounds somewhat sensible. For a little while I was afraid that you were going to haul her ass off to Vegas and elope. Still, have you actually talked to Aerith about this?”

“Not yet.” Cloud admitted. “I wanted to get your opinion first.”

Squall clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Well, I’m flattered that you trust me so much with your future. But in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not exactly the best one to ask for relationship advice.” Not only am I breaking several laws with what I’m doing right now, but Sora and I haven’t really even talked about our ‘relationship.’ “You are light years ahead of me in the relationship department, Strife.”

Cloud snorted. “You think I don’t already know that? Believe me, I seriously weighed my options before deciding to confide in you-”

“Thanks a lot. Your vote of confidence means so much to me.” Squall snapped.

“But,” Cloud continued. “You are my best friend, and somewhat intelligent when it comes to everything else besides relationships, so I trust your judgment. So, what do you think?”

Squall considered for a few moments. “I think that Aerith is as close to a perfect woman as can be found in this town, and that you are entirely undeserving of her devotion. But for some reason she does seem to love you, so you can’t go too wrong by wanting to clap a chain on her before she gets away.” He couldn’t help but smirk at the light that came into Cloud’s eyes. “Still, you should really ask her how she feels before you prance off to Jared’s and toss out three months of pay on a ring that she might not even want just yet. And if you think that I am going to loan you a damn thing, you are out of your mind.”

Cloud stood up, looking relieved. “Good, good. I feel so much better now.” He grinned. “See, I knew you had to be good for something other than buying lots of delicious food for me to eat.”

Squall rolled his eyes. Another grocery trip down the drain. “Go fuck yourself, you mooch.”

Cloud was unfazed. “Speaking of which, where’s your little meat puppet? Lately I’ve actually been pretty scared to come by unannounced.” He shuddered. “I don’t want to catch the two of you in some sort of gay sex marathon.”

Squall groaned. I wish. He leaned back into the couch and gazed up at the ceiling. “I haven’t seen him since the first time. Well, that’s not entirely true... I do see him fairly often, it’s just that we haven’t had another opportunity to get intimate again. It’s driving me out of my goddamn mind.”

“It can’t be that serious.” Cloud scoffed. “And you call me whipped. You know what I think?”

“No, but I can’t wait to find out.” Squall drawled sarcastically, waving a hand.

“I think that you’re even more whipped than I am.” Cloud announced. “You’ve only been seeing this guy for a few weeks or so behind his boyfriend’s back, and you’re all strung out like a pair of Mardi Gras beads. You’re so whipped right now, I could spread you on a sandwich.”

“Then why don’t you do that, and eat me.” Squall suggested amicably, raising an eyebrow.

Cloud grimaced. “No thanks, I’m full. Besides, I wouldn’t want to make your boy toy jealous.”

Squall smirked. “I really don’t think that Sora would mind. Especially if we can get a threesome going.” He grinned. “Actually, he did tell me that he found you rather attractive. ‘Hot,’ I think is what he called you when I showed him your picture.”

“Ugh!” Cloud blanched. “Don’t go around showing my picture to your little butt buddies. I have a wonderful woman in my life, and I don’t need any stalkers.” He snickered. “I still think Sora is quite possibly the gayest name I’ve ever heard.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Squall remarked, stretching. “I never had the heart to break it to you, but I’ve always thought that Cloud was definitely the gayest name of all time. Just so you know.”

“Fuck you.” Cloud shot back.

“Please?” Squall asked hopefully. He fixed his friend with his gaze, knowing how much it unnerved the younger male. “Pretty please? With sugar, whipped cream, nuts, and a cherry on top?” He moved as if to stand up.

Cloud flinched and backed up several feet. “The fuck is wrong with you, Leonhart?! Go rub one off, you fucking lecher.” I feel so violated.

Squall sighed and relaxed back into the cushions. “I’ve already been doing that. A lot. It’s just enough to keep the edge off, but it can’t compare to the real thing.” I wonder if Sora is feeling even half as keyed up as I am these days.

“I actually feel kind of bad for the guy.” Cloud admitted. “When you two finally do get it on again, he’s not going to be able to walk a straight line for a week.”

“For a month.” Squall corrected without hesitation.

Cloud shook his head. “That’s just not right, man. You’re a sick individual.” He pulled his cellular phone out of his back pocket. “What’s this guy’s number? I need to call him and warn him to stay far away from your deviant ass.” He flipped the phone open, the screen glowing expectantly.

Squall smirked again. “Sure. I’ll let you call him, but then you have to wait around until he gets here.”

Cloud flipped the phone shut. “You know what, I think I’m just going to get the hell out of here, before you start touching on me and shit.” He tucked the phone back into his pocket. “I got the advice I came here for. I don’t need all this sexual harassment. Just try to keep your hands to yourself long enough for me to get to the door.”

“What about my eyes?” Squall taunted. I should probably quit before I give him some kind of complex.

“I can practically feel them burning a hole in my jeans.” Cloud griped, heading to the door. “I’ll see you later, Lecherous Leonhart.”

Squall waved as Cloud left, closing the door behind himself. He laid down on the couch and reflected on the family card that he had tucked safely away in his nightstand drawer. I could call him, but then he is grounded. I don’t want to get him into more trouble. Besides, I’m sure that if he really wanted to, he could find a way to call me. I did give him my number, after all. He shot a wistful glance at his bedroom, the concept of phone sex dancing in his thoughts. I just hope that I don’t do anything crazy like jump on him at lunch tomorrow. That probably wouldn’t go over too well.

·<>·§·<>·

There she is, Sora thought, feeling relieved and apprehensive all at once. I almost didn’t recognize her in that huge sweatshirt. I just hope that she’ll talk to me, but what can I say to her? She doesn’t even really know me. I mean, she knows me, but well enough to confide in?

Sora had been vaguely acquainted with Selphie since ninth grade, although they never really interacted with the exception of a few tutoring sessions scattered intermittently throughout the year. She was always nice enough to him, but not in a way that invited further socialization. Selphie came from a different world, where all the kids had both parents, wore expensive designer clothes, and went to summer homes in another part of the country. He had no illusions about being a part of that world, and was quite content to wear what his mother bought for him, while spending his summer catching bugs and frogs with Riku.

Last night, he had made his promise to Kairi in somewhat of a fervor, so distressed at seeing her upset. Thanks to Squall, he no longer felt guilty about what had happened to Jake, yet Sora could not shake his sense of wanting to set right some of the wrongs that had occurred.

This definitely qualifies as a wrong, he mused, watching.

Selphie stood in front of her locker, looking disorientated. She spun the dial repeatedly, stopping on numbers, and mumbling absently to herself. After a few moments she slapped her locker hard and walked off, seemingly oblivious to the strange looks she was getting. A few students booed at her half-heartedly, to no effect.

Sora peered after her, trying not to let on that he was planning to follow her. I hate to miss out on lunch with Squall, but this is the only time I have to get near her. It’s not like we have any classes together. He watched as she pushed open a side door and went out into the courtyard. Okay, so she’s going to be outside. He turned to his boyfriend.

Riku was beside him, opening his own locker. He hadn’t spoken to Sora outside of asking for a sheet of paper in English class. Walking to school he’d sensed something was wrong, and merely resigned himself to silence instead of questioning Sora’s recurring coolness towards him. If I had known Jake was going to set off this huge avalanche of cascading shit, I would’ve killed him myself. Or at least never slept with him. This shit just keeps piling up, and I don’t even know what the hell has his panties in a knot now, but I’m so sick of it…

After a few minutes of watching Riku manhandle his book bag, Sora turned away. Bringing up Selphie right now would probably start a fight judging by the way he’s looking right now, so I think I’ll just make a quiet retreat.

“Sora-baby!” Tidus strolled over, twirling his wallet chain on one finger. “We’ve been missing you in the cafeteria. Are you going to finally join us for the entire lunch today, or are you going to run off to your hiding spot again?”

Sora cast a glance at Riku, who was unceremoniously tossing his mauled backpack into the locker. He hasn’t said a word about my not being at lunch. Is he still feeling too guilty to say anything, or did he just put Tidus up to speaking for him? “Sorry Tidus, but I’m not even stopping in. I’ve got something really important that I have to do today.”

Tidus gagged and fanned the air. “I think I smell bullshit!”

“That would be your breath.” Riku muttered, closing his locker. He turned to Sora. “See you later.”

Sora watched him walk away, his brow furrowed. That was rude, even for Riku. I guess he must think that I’m just avoiding him. I wish it were that simple.

“Damn!” exclaimed Tidus. “That was cold-blooded. I wonder what’s up his ass? Then again, I’d rather not know. It’s Riku we’re dealing with after all. Could be just a bug, or it could be a Hello Kitty vibrator.” He nodded sagely. “Best not to dwell on such things.”

“You seem to have given it some thought.” Sora teased, smiling in spite of himself.

Tidus laughed. “Yeah right! Whatever Sora, I’ll see you later. I think I’ll go freshen my breath with a mint and then breathe right in his face. Might cheer him up.” He gave a salute and took off in the direction that Riku had gone. “Riku-baby! Wait up!”

Sora looked around. The hallway had thinned out drastically, only three stragglers remained, milling around aimlessly. He walked over to the courtyard door, hoping that he would still have time to at least peek in on Squall before going to his next class. I guess that’s a little selfish of me, though. He was instantly struck by the cold air, and wished that he had brought his coat. Why would she want to come out here for lunch? It’s freezing! He pushed the door open and stepped out onto the gray pavement.

The courtyard stood desolate in the late fall afternoon. All of the flowers had long since dried and fell, while the three trees stood bare, their tan leaves scattered on the ground. The small pond in the corner was glazed over with ice, blades of frosted grass sticking up half-heartedly from the murk. Sora found himself wondering for the umpteenth time whether they took the fish out in the winter, or left them to their fates. The stone benches looked even colder than the ice somehow, and he inwardly prayed that she wouldn’t want to sit down and talk. A slight rustle of movement caught his eye and he noticed a glimpse of black from behind one of the trees.

Sora made his way over, desperately wishing that he had thought of something inspiring to say before coming out here.

Selphie leaned against the brown brick wall, her normally pristine curls unkempt and blowing in the wind. Her face was pallid above her black sweatshirt, her half-closed eyes dull and emotionless. Gone was the confident cheerleader who was destined for great things. In her place was a shell, a hollowed out copy of a homecoming queen to be.

Sora felt a sharp pang of guilt. At least I already knew about Jake. Selphie didn’t find out until it was too late. Hesitantly, he took a step toward her. “Hey Selphie.” he offered.

Selphie looked up, startled. “Hey yourself.” A lit cigarette dangled loosely from the corner of her lips.

Taken aback, Sora uttered the first thing that came to mind. “I didn’t know you smoked.”

Selphie let out a single mirthless laugh. “Heh, neither did I. My cousin gave me a pack when she came to see me after Jake’s funeral. Told me it would take my mind off the pain.” She took a drag and lightly pulled the cigarette from her lips to blow out the smoke. “She was right. I feel like I’ve been doing it for years.”

“You shouldn’t smoke in here, though.” Sora chided gently. “If you get caught, you’ll probably get suspended.” Possibly even expelled.

“Do I look like I care?” Selphie asked, eyes wide in mock-fear. She took a longer drag and let it out slowly, rolling her eyes. “Fuck this school and everyone in it. If I never see this place again, I’ll count my blessings and thank my fucking lucky stars.”

Sora gazed at her with concern. I feel like I’m talking to a complete stranger who’s wearing her like some kind of human suit. Any thoughts of trying to construct a five-minute pep talk fled his mind. She really needs somebody right now. “Selphie, are you okay?”

“No.” Selphie replied flatly. “You?”

“Not really.” Sora admitted. He averted his eyes, unsure of why he had thought that he could reach her. I don’t know what to say… I could apologize, but that might make it worse.

Selphie broke the silence. “Well, what’s up? You came all the way out here just to say howdy-fucking-do?”

“I guess.” Sora murmured. “I’m just really sorry that everything happened the way that it did.”

Selphie snorted. “It’s not your fault, so just get over yourself. I mean, Jake was supposedly in love with Riku.” She shook her head. “That’s some sick shit.” She took another drag on her cigarette. “Who knew there were so many of you fags in the world.”

Sora winced. Ouch. That was uncalled for. “Selphie…”

Selphie waved him away. “Just when you think you know someone, something crazy happens and then you realize, that you never knew them at all.” She took another drag and closed her eyes, teardrops forming at the ends of her lashes. “It can make a girl kind of jaded, you know.” She sobbed, and put a hand to her face.

Oh no, I didn’t think she was going to start crying! Sora stepped forward and took her in his arms. “It’s going to be okay…”

Selphie instantly dropped the cigarette and hugged him to her. “I’m so sorry, Sora.” she cried. “I didn’t mean to lash out at you! I know it’s not your fault! You’ve always been nice to me… I just feel so helpless, you know? Like, he was my boyfriend! I knew him for years. How could I not have known how he felt until it was too late?”

“Jake didn’t want to hurt you.” Sora insisted. “That’s why he didn’t tell you.”

“Bullshit.” Selphie muttered. “Jake never gave a damn about me. I thought he did, but I guess I was just a status symbol, another accessory for him. And I still sacrificed my reputation to protect his name in the end. I figured I owed him that much, at least.” She sighed heavily. “They cut me from the squad, you know. Four years in all, two years as captain, and Miss Harris couldn’t even look me in the eye when she told me. What a bitch.” She scowled. “I hope they all get yeast infections for the rest of their lives, the bitches.”

“What are you going to do now?” Sora asked, softly stroking Selphie’s hair. She stopped crying, thankfully.

Selphie shrugged. “Nothing, I guess. Mom and dad told me that if I stick it out until graduation, I can spend a whole year abroad before I start college. I’m thinking about Paris or Rome. London could be nice too. Maybe I’ll never come back.” She gently pulled away from Sora, and looked up, meeting his eyes. “Can I tell you something? More than Jake, you were the reason I decided to go through with Riku’s plan.”

Sora blinked. Okay… That was definitely the last thing I was expecting to hear. “What? Why? How could you decide to do something like that because of me?”

“I saw your face.” Selphie explained quietly. “In the lunchroom, that Monday after the party. You looked like you were getting ready to throw up, pass out, or both. I knew that Riku was right, and everyone would eventually draw their own conclusions if we didn’t give them something to believe.” She laughed weakly. “I really didn’t care until I saw you looking like that. Even though we were never close friends or anything, you’ve always been nice to me. Kairi always talks about you and how sweet you are.” She squeezed his shoulder. “I remember how gentle you tried to be when you told me that Jake had…” She looked away.

Sora gave her a moment to compose herself, patting her softly on the back. “You don’t have to talk about it anymore. I’m just amazed that you wanted to do that because of me.”

Selphie returned her eyes to his. “It wasn’t a hard decision to make. I felt that it was just the right thing to do. That’s all. I’ve taken some shit for it, but the fact that you came out here to talk to me today just convinced me even more that I made the right choice.” She sighed. “My friends were all losers, anyway. I think we all secretly hated each other. It’s the games we play, you know. We build each other up, just so we can tear ourselves down and laugh. Your cousin made me realize that. She’s really smart, you know.”

“I think it’s genetic.” Sora teased.

Selphie smiled. “I believe it. I remember how you used to tutor me. I’d probably still be a freshman instead of a senior right now, if it wasn’t for you.”

“Oh come on, you weren’t that bad.” Sora lied.

“Get real, Sora.” Selphie laughed. “I was the dictionary definition of a spoiled little rich girl. The only thing I had to learn how to read was a fashion label, and the only thing I had to learn to write was a check. My parents didn’t really care about grades, as long as I was popular and pretty.” She sighed. “I guess I sure let them down, huh? I am sitting pretty next to Riku at the top of the school’s most hated list, but I don’t think that’s what they had in mind.”

Sora patted her back again. “I don’t think you let them down at all. And I still think you’re very pretty, even with your hair all messy and blowing in the wind.”

Selphie smiled, and in her face there was something of the girl she used to be before the tragedy. “Thanks! I guess I’m still a little bit vain, because you saying that just made my whole day.” She shook her head. “You’re a really nice guy, Sora. But you shouldn’t be with Riku. You’re too good for him and you deserve better than that. Raise your standards, okay?”

I’m not sure what to say to that. Sora sighed. “You aren’t the first person to say that to me. Kairi said the exact same thing... Speaking of Kairi, you should really talk to her. She’s worried sick about you.”

It was Selphie’s turn to sigh. “Yeah, I know. I haven’t been a great friend lately, but I guess I’ll call her tonight or something. I just didn’t want to drag her down into hell with me, you know?” She planted a soft kiss on his cheek. “I’d better get back inside and grab something to snack on before lunch is over. I’ll see you around.”

Sora nodded. “Take care of yourself, Selphie.”

“You too,” Selphie replied softly. She padded quietly to the door and left.

Sora sighed and ran his hands through his hair. I don’t know if I feel better or worse now that I know the real reason Selphie lied to the school. But if she feels it was the right thing to do, I’ll just have to accept it. He went back indoors, glad to be out of the cold. I wonder if I still have time to see Squall. He glanced at the clock, and was relieved to see that there were still twenty minutes left in the lunch period. Yes! He sprinted down the hall to his English classroom, feeling unashamedly giddy.

Squall looked up from his desk as Sora slid into the room. “I thought that said you weren’t going to stop in today.” But I’m glad that you did.

Sora closed the door and walked over to Squall’s desk. “I didn’t know if I would have the time.” He plopped down on the edge of the desk and sighed. “I promised my cousin that I would try to talk to Selphie. You know, Jake‘s girlfriend.”

“Ah. How’d it go?” Squall asked, closing his ledger and sitting up.

“Well…” Sora considered. “It went a whole lot better than I was expecting. She cried a little, but she looked like she was happier once she got it all out, and she said she felt a lot better. But… I’m getting kind of tired of people always apologizing to me, Squall.”

Squall nodded sagely. “I’m sorry, Sora.”

Sora rolled his eyes. “Oh shut up.” He stood, trying to resist the urge to pace. “I mean, it’s getting so nerve-wracking. Selphie even told me today that she ruined her reputation for me and not Jake, because she thought I was such a nice guy.”

“I‘m not that surprised.” Squall replied. “You’re an incredibly kind person. That was one of the first things I noticed about you.”

“Really?” Sora asked, interested. “What were the other things?”

Squall smirked. “Let’s see… Your intelligence, your maturity, your body, your eyes… And then the way that you looked at me.”

“Was I really that obvious?” Sora groaned. Geez… How long did he know?

“You looked at me like a starving man would look at a steak dinner.” Squall answered. “It was obvious to the point of being frightened. I even kicked you out of my apartment because of it, remember? Of course, I was looking right back at you the exact same way. I’m probably doing it right now, despite my best efforts.”

Sora walked over beside Squall. “I’ve never seen a starving man looking at a steak dinner, so I can’t say for sure.” he teased.

Squall leaned back in his chair. “Use your imagination.” He watched with mild horror as Sora sat down in his lap. That was not exactly an invitation, but I’ll take what I can get.

“I am. And all of this talk about steak is making me hungry.” Sora frowned. “I did miss lunch today, you know. And now I’m in here with you, and you don’t have any food for me, do you?”

“Well, I was going to save you some, but you told me earlier that you weren’t coming, so I didn’t save you anything. I’m so sorry.” Squall taunted.

Sora made as if to get up, and was inwardly thrilled when Squall wouldn’t let him. “Well, no one would ever mistake you for being a very kind person, that’s for sure.” He stuck out his tongue.

Squall snickered. “Maybe some of your kindness will rub off on me. And you know, I think I have the perfect solution to your hunger problem.”

“What is it?” Sora asked. His lover’s voice had gotten dangerously low and even though he knew that meant trouble, he secretly wanted the attention. I don’t think we can get in that much trouble in fifteen minutes…

Squall wrapped his arms around Sora’s waist and lowered his face. “I think you… should come over… for dinner tonight.” He murmured between kisses.

“Mmm…” Sora purred, leaning his head back so that Squall could kiss his throat. “That depends. What are you having?”

“You.” Squall answered without hesitation. He trailed a finger down Sora’s spine.

Sora shivered. “And for dessert?”

Squall moved his hands beneath Sora’s shirt, caressing the smooth expanse of skin. “The same.” Good lord, I’ve missed this…

“Oh, I don’t know if that’s worth sneaking out of punishment for. You haven’t mentioned any actual food yet.” Sora teased, trying to sound nonchalant despite the inferno building inside of him.

Squall’s eyes flashed. “Sora, I will do things to your body that will make it forget all about it’s need for food. Food will become as meaningless as lips on a bird.”

Sora snickered. “Ha, I think that a bird with lips might look pretty interesting.”

“The only lips of any interest to me are yours.” Squall confessed, leaning down to kiss him again.

A lot. We can get into a lot of trouble in fifteen minutes. Sora lapped at Squall’s tongue, squirming in his lap as his instincts challenged his reason for the rights to his body. When they finally broke the kiss, he was panting. He felt Squall’s hand come to rest on his inner thigh and tensed. Oh God…

“So Sora,” whispered Squall. “Did you lose my phone number?” His hand crept closer to it’s destination. “Have you somehow misplaced it somewhere?” I really am going to get myself fired one of these days, but right now it would be so worth it.

“N-no.” Sora admitted. “I s-still have it.” He shuddered as Squall’s hand stroked him playfully through his jeans.

“Do you?” Squall gently kissed the side of Sora’s neck. “Then why haven’t you called me yet? Hmm?” His hand settled into a steady rhythm over Sora’s wakening arousal.

Sora arched back against him. “I-I t-told you! I’m grounded! I st-still have two weeks left…” His words trailed off into a low moan. Oh no…

“I’m sure you wouldn’t let that stop you, if you really, really wanted to.” Squall licked Sora’s earlobe, relishing the sounds that he made. “Come on, Sora. Don’t you really, really want to?”

Sora mewled as the hand picked up tempo. “Oh God, Squall… What are you trying to do to me!?”

Squall tugged at Sora’s earlobe with his teeth lightly before answering. “Well, I thought you would like to know, that I have been beating off furiously for the last two weeks.” He increased the pressure and grinned when Sora clutched onto his desk for support, his legs shaking. “But don’t worry. I don’t consider it a waste of time. In fact, it was good practice. I figure it’s about time I put all that practice to use on someone else.”

“I-I s-see.” Sora moaned, his eyes half-closed. He is trouble…He involuntarily opened his legs wider, struggling to retain his balance.

Squall seized the opportunity to slide his hand down the front of Sora’s jeans. “Thank you, that makes this a little easier.” He’s practically burning up…

Sora yelped, arching. “There’s n-no t-time!”

“Don’t worry.” Squall whispered, returning his lips to Sora’s neck. “I’m watching the clock. You’ve got a good nine minutes before the bell rings. Just go with it.” He wrapped his fingers around the shaft, sliding them back and forth, changing tempo.

Sora squirmed uncontrollably, moaning incoherently.

Squall shuddered. Okay, that’s not cool… “Sora, sweetheart, I know that you are not in complete control of your body right now, but I’m going to have to ask you to try not to grind on my lap like that.” He changed tempo again, smirking at the way Sora’s breathing changed. “If you insist on grinding on me, I will not be held responsible for my actions. Just so you know.”

Sora groaned in response, his mind clouded in a haze of bliss. It seemed like ages since his night with Squall, and now, to be touched like this was driving him mad. Every nerve in his body was ablaze, his sensitivity beyond any natural threshold. The feel of Squall’s own clothed erection against his lower back only served to fan the flames. The only thing better than this, is when he’s inside me. And we can’t do that here… But if he keeps touching me like this, we just may have to. He felt himself nearing the edge and bit down on his tongue to keep from crying out.

“I’ve spent so much time doing this to myself in these past two weeks, I think I’ve actually gotten a lot better at it.” Squall murmured into Sora’s ear. “What do you think?” He stroked him again, harder.

Sora yelped and collapsed forward onto the desk. Oh man… He bit down hard onto his forearm to muffle his cries as the pleasure coursed through him. He did get better… I can’t stop shaking…He felt his legs give out in the midst of his spasms and was helpless to do anything about it.

Squall held onto Sora from behind to keep him from sliding onto the floor. “I’ll take that as a confirmation that my practice has paid off.”

Sora moaned into his arm, still trembling. Dimly he wished that he had a change of clothes. I’m a mess.

Squall gently lifted Sora up, steadying him on his feet. “That has to be a new record for you.”

“You owe me a new pair of jeans.” Sora panted, his knees week.

“I think I can manage that on my salary.” Squall agreed. “What size do you wear? Your waist is so small.” He traced his fingers along Sora’s hipbones.

Sora’s legs gave out again with a shudder, and Squall had to catch him before he slid to the ground. “Look what you did to me.” Sora groaned. “I’m ruined.” He leaned onto the desk, gradually finding his feet.

“You’re ruined?” Squall collapsed back into his chair. “Look at me! I’m so damn turned on, I’m probably going to fall off my motorcycle halfway to my apartment. Plus I have to make it through the rest of the day, with nothing to aid me.” He looked at his fingers. “Well, not nothing, I suppose.” He lapped at the hand that he had used to pleasure Sora, traces of his fluid still on the skin.

Sora watched, shuddering. “I so wish I wasn’t on punishment right now.”

“That makes two of us.” Squall replied, swirling his tongue around his ring finger. His gray eyes flickered at the clock. “You’d better run off to the bathroom and clean yourself up for your next class. You’ve got about two minutes before the bell rings.” He started on the middle finger.

Sora was loathe to pull himself away from such a glorious vision, but he knew that Squall was right. Gingerly he pushed away from the desk, getting his balance. “What about you? Don’t you want to go to the bathroom or something?”

Squall shook his head. “Not a chance. I am not getting out of this chair until this wood goes down. That’s the last thing I need is to run into one of these lonely female teachers in this place while I’m at full mast. I’d have to fight my way out of the faculty lounge.”

“I guess you’re right.” Sora acknowledged. He continued to stare helplessly at Squall, utterly mesmerized. Through no will of his own he found himself standing directly in front of his teacher.

Squall looked up. He’s going to be late, if he doesn’t hurry up. “Yes? Did you want something else?”

Without thinking, Sora leaned forward and wrapped his lips around Squall’s index finger. He sucked it all the way into his mouth, swirling his tongue leisurely around its form, tasting himself on Squall’s skin. Slowly he pulled back, lightly dragging his teeth, and flicking his tongue at the tip before letting go of the hand.

Squall stared, his body as still as a statue. What the fuck…

Sora realized what he had just done and blushed furiously. I don’t know what made me want to do that! “Oh no, Squall! I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me!”

Squall calmly stood up. “You know what, Sora? I think I will take my chances in the faculty lounge. Because thanks to that little stunt of yours, if I wait for this thing to go down on its own, I’ll still be sitting here well into next week.” He patted Sora on the shoulder, his hand shaking slightly. Did I tell Cloud that Sora wasn’t going to be able to walk a straight line for a mere month after I was through with him? I may need to change that, because if things keep up like this, that boy is going to be making a zigzag line all over the stage at graduation. He walked to the door, and opened it. “In the meantime, could you do me a favor, Sora?”

“Anything.” Sora answered, his eyes still darkened from Squall’s attentions.

Oh my fucking goodness gracious, would you look at the gaze that he’s giving me right now… Squall called upon the last of his strength to tear his eyes away. “Go in my desk, and put a post-it note on the door saying that I went to the library to get some things and that I’ll be back in ten, no, five minutes. Please?”

“Sure, I can do that.” Sora replied, still watching Squall.

Is he still looking at me? Squall glanced back. Sora’s look didn’t have any less of an effect than it did the first time he’d seen it earlier in the year. In fact it only seemed to have grown in its intensity. Squall felt a surge of heat in his loins. He dropped his eyes with great effort. That’s it, I’m getting the fuck out of here. Now. “Close the door when you leave okay, Sora?” Good God.

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