Sora didn’t bother looking back as he walked down the street. He knew that Riku would be at the window, glaring at him with a face that could make an onion cry. He’d foolishly looked back after being kicked out once, and was rewarded with an expression so terrible that it haunted his dreams for weeks. Sora wasn’t about to fall for that one again. As it was, he’d already have trouble sleeping. The feeling of Riku’s hand brushing over his most intimate part was not one he’d soon forget. That was probably the boldest thing Riku had done so far. Sora sighed and shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. It was a beautiful autumn day, there wouldn’t be too many more of these as October gave way to November. Better to enjoy it while it lasted, instead of racking his brain over Riku’s latest fit of passion. Sora looked up at the clear blue sky, smiling as a cardinal flew by. Those were his favorite birds. He loved the color red. Whereas Riku loved the color blue… Ack, there go his thoughts again, drifting towards his best friend.

Everyone is attracted to me.”

Sora rolled his eyes, and kicked at a stone in his path, recalling Riku’s words. How vain. Yet, Sora had to admit, Riku was rather attractive. But still, he wasn’t gay or even bisexual like Riku. He was quite sure he liked girls. He just hadn’t met one that interested him.

“How depressing.” Sora muttered to himself.

Riku never had a problem meeting girls or guys that interested him. There was something about Riku that drew other people like a moth to a flame. He was both beautiful and handsome all at once. He was taller than Sora by a few inches, and slimmer, though more muscular. He carried himself with authority blended with raw sensuality. His silver hair was naturally streaked with lavender and sky blue, making him stand out in every crowd. His aquamarine eyes went right through you like a white hot needle when he was angry, but any other time, they were cool and inviting like a swimming pool on a hot summer day. You could almost dive right in, and many people did. Then Riku would run back to Sora, excitedly telling him of his new conquest, his new victim, his new poor bastard. It had been like this ever since Riku turned 15. Sora was sickened by it all, and to learn that Riku had slept with Jake, it just turned his stomach. Sora could only imagine how much emotional turmoil Jake must be in, realizing that he’d done something that the captain of the football team was simply not supposed to do, namely giving head to another guy. Jake wasn’t the first to get caught in Riku’s web, and he certainly wouldn’t be the last. When it came to Riku, the other students just had a hard time saying no.

“I wonder why I don’t have that problem.“ he mused. It probably has something to do with my knowing him ever since I was five and he was six. He’d known Riku ever since he was skipped into his first grade class, and they had instantly bonded. Years of sleeping over each other’s houses in the summer, trick-or-treating in the fall, bombing cars from their snow forts in the winter, and chasing girls with caterpillars in the spring had probably caused Sora to become immune to whatever pheromones Riku was exuding. Now if only Riku could do the same. Sora looked up, startled that he was at his home already. He fished his key out of his pocket, and unlocked the door, heading into the foyer. “Mom, I’m home.” he called out, closing the door behind himself.

“Sora honey, come here for a minute, would you? We have a guest.” his mother, Sonja, called back from the living room.

Surprised, Sora set his backpack down on the floor, and walked into the living room.

Sonja looked up. “Oh, good. Come on in here now, girl. Don’t be shy. He’s still your cousin after all.”

Sora blinked. Who was she talking to? What cousin?

Just then, a chestnut-haired girl who appeared to be his own age emerged cautiously from the kitchen. Her large violet eyes looked him over shyly. “Hi.” she said softly.

Sora stared. “Um, Hi.” he stammered out finally.

Sonja looked back and forth between them. “Sheesh, you two are acting like a couple of bashful, blushing brides. Sora, this is your cousin Kairi. Don’t you remember her?”

Sora’s jaw dropped. What?! This was Red-Haired She-Devil?! The Kairi he remembered was some snot-nosed punk whose hair he used to pull when he visited his grandmother’s beach house in the summers before she‘d passed away. He’d never known what had ever become of his bratty cousin, and he’d never really cared. Now he felt a pang of guilt as he regarded this doe-eyed girl standing half in and half out of his kitchen. “Wow, you grew up.” he said lamely.

“So did you.” she replied, in that same soft voice.

Sonja gave up on getting any more conversation out of the two of them, so she’d finally just tell Sora why Kairi was here. “Sora, Kairi is going to be staying with us for a little while. I guess you didn’t know, but Kairi has been staying with your uncle Raymond, but… he got into a little trouble with the law. I won’t allow my niece to be put into a foster home. So, she’s going to be staying with us until it all gets straightened out, or until your aunt Patricia returns from Ireland.”

Sora sat down on the couch next to his mother, taking it all in. Okay, so not only had his best friend grabbed his privates and kicked him out, his cousin that he hardly recognized was going to be living in his house for an indefinite amount of time. “Great.” replied Sora simply. What a day.

Sonja leaned over and clasped his hands in hers. “I knew you would understand.” She planted a warm kiss on his forehead, and then turned back to Kairi. “Come on over, and have a seat.”

Obediently, Kairi walked over and sat down next to Sora.

Sora looked at her warily.

Sonja sighed. “I’m going to go fix dinner. You two can catch up on life for a bit.” She pushed herself up from the sofa and walked into the kitchen.

When the sounds of pots and pans being moved around floated back to them through the doorway, Kairi turned to Sora. “Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

“Because… the last time I saw you, you were some snot-nosed, pig-tailed little punk that used to stomp on my sand castles and try to make me play with Barbies.” Sora replied.

Kairi blushed. “Geez, I’ve grown up, you know. I’m 16 now.”

“So am I.” said Sora.

“Really? So, you’re a junior too, right?” she asked.

“Nah, I’m a senior. I got skipped a grade.” he answered, failing miserably at keeping the smugness out of his voice.

“I’ll bet you’re proud.” remarked Kairi dryly.

Sora raised an eyebrow. “What? Was that a tinge of attitude from the old Red-Haired She-Devil?”

“Don’t call me that!” cried Kairi, punching him playfully on the shoulder.

Sora grinned. “You still hit like a girl!”

“I am a girl.” she responded airily, sticking out her tongue.

“I doubt it.” teased Sora, laughing.

“Oh, poo on you!” she teased back, laughing as well. The awkwardness between them erased, she leaned over and raked her hand through Sora’s hair, messing it up.

“Cut it out!” Sora mock-shrieked, ruffling her hair as well.

Inside the kitchen, Sonja smiled.

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