“Sora!” called his mother. “Riku’s here!”

Sora groaned and pulled his pillow down over his face. He couldn’t believe it was morning already. Better still, he couldn’t believe that it was already time for Riku to come over so they could walk to school together. He’d stayed up almost all night talking with Kairi, and he was exhausted. “Give me a break!” he muttered. Lord, he needed some more sleep right now.

“Do you want me to send him up?” asked Sonja.

Sora immediately sat up. Riku seeing him in his boxers was one thing he did not need right now. He might not ever make it to school. Not to mention he’d have to help Riku tuck his eyes back into their sockets. “No, mom! I’ll be right down!” he yelled.

“Okay!” she called back.

Sora could almost sense Riku’s displeasure at being made to wait in the living room like some kind of salesman. There was nothing to be done for it, though. Sora hadn’t even brushed his teeth yet. “Way to get my day started off right.” grumbled Sora, grabbing his towel and heading for the shower.

When Sora finally made it downstairs fully dressed, Riku gave him the dirtiest look he’d seen in quite some time and motioned towards his watch. “Get the lead out, Sora. Maybe clapping erasers after school is your idea of fun, but I’ve got better things to do. Or people for that matter.”

Sora rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever. Just let me grab a bagel, and I’m ready.”

Riku stood up and thrust a wrapped item into his hands. “I already made you one. Let’s go.”

Sora blinked. Curious, he unwrapped the item, and found it was indeed a bagel. His favorite, in fact. Cinnamon raisin. “The hell? I thought you hated all bagels, Riku.”

“I do.” Riku mumbled, kicking at the carpet. “But you love the nasty little things, so whatever. Now let’s go.”

Sora shrugged. If Riku was feeling generous, he wasn’t going to complain. It was better than having textbooks thrown at him any day.

As if reading his mind, Riku blushed and looked away. “I wanted to um, apologize for yesterday.”

Sora opened his mouth to respond but before he could, Riku’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and he felt a light tug on his sleeve. He turned to see Kairi standing there, looking nervously at them. “Hey, Kairi. What’s up?”

“Um, you mind if I walk with you, Sora?” she asked. “I don’t know the way.” she explained apologetically.

Riku glared. “I mind.”

Kairi seemed taken aback. Glancing at Sora, she let go of his sleeve. “Oh. Well, in that case…”

“No, no. You can come with us.” assured Sora, ignoring the glare Riku immediately turned in his direction. You can’t intimidate me into giving in, Riku. I’m immune to your bullshit.

“Are you sure?” Kairi asked.

“Fuck off, girl.” Riku gritted out just low enough for her to hear.

Kairi backed down. “Um, never mind. I’ll just get Sonja to drive me.”

“Great.” agreed Riku. “Come on, Sora.

Sora glared at Riku who simply looked amused, and then turned back to his cousin. “Okay. I’ll see you later, Kairi. Good luck.”

“Thanks, Sora!” she barely called out, before Riku yanked him out the door and slammed it.

Outside on the porch, Sora snatched his arm away from Riku and shoved him. “What the hell was that?”

Riku pushed him back. “You tell me, lover boy. Who’s that bitch?”

Sora bristled. “She is not a bitch. She’s my cousin, Kairi. I can’t believe you’re acting so stupid!” He started off walking, not bothering to see if Riku was following.

Riku caught up with him easily and fell into step beside him, which annoyed Sora to no end. “Let me get this straight… That was Red-Haired She-Devil? The mad sand castle stomper? Barbie’s number one fan?”

Sora smiled in spite of himself, amused that Riku still remembered the tales about his destructive little cousin. “Yeah, that was her. She’s going to be staying with us for a while. She’s supposed to enroll at school today. She’s an 11th grader.” He took a bite of his bagel, pleased that Riku had even bothered to include the cream cheese.

Riku waved a hand dismissively. “That’s all I needed to know. Good thing she’s just your cousin. I was getting pretty jealous for a moment.”

Sora rolled his eyes. “You idiot, who else could she be? My mother would not allow strange girls to spend the night in our house.”

“I always did think Sonja was a good parent.” smirked Riku.

“Yeah… if she was that good… she’d forbid me from hanging out with you… pervert.” quipped Sora, between bites.

“That really hurt, you know.” replied Riku, placing his hand over his heart. “Besides, adults don’t know how to act around me. They all want to fuck me, but I’m underage, so they feel guilty.”

“Oh come on! My mom does not want to sleep with you, Riku!” Sora groaned, picking up his pace.

“How do you know?” asked Riku innocently. “You left me alone with her for almost a half hour today. I swear she grabbed my ass five times and cupped my nuts at least once.”

“Oh my God, Riku! Get a life!” Sora yelled, finishing his bagel.

“I’m serious, Sora.” Riku claimed. “She was all like, ‘Give it to me Riku!’ And I was like, ‘Miss Sonja, don’t you know that 15 will get you 20?’ Then she was all like, ‘Jail would be worth it just to get some of your tender loving, Great Riku.’”

“I am so not hearing this!” Sora clapped his hands over his ears and ran towards the school building just a block away.

Riku grinned and watched the love of his life run toward the brown brick building. Man, he loved the way Sora’s ass looked in those jeans as he ran. This is going to be a good day. The school bell rang, startling him from his thoughts.

“Shit!!!” cried Sora, in despair. He slumped against the red double doors, knowing what the bell meant.

Laughing, Riku walked up to him and patted him on the shoulder. “Oh well. I told you not to drag ass back at the house. We would’ve made it if you hadn’t insisted on playing Simon Says with your bug-eyed cousin. Looks like it’s eraser clapping time for us.” He pulled open the door. “Come on, suck it up, kid.”

“It’s not fair…” moaned Sora, trudging into the school. He dragged his feet all the way to his locker, and leaned up against it, prolonging the inevitable. “I hate late detention. Miss Hall is such a shrew.”

“I know, I know. She has gotten downright evil since that boyfriend of hers knocked her up.” soothed Riku. “I’m not looking forward to it either, but as long as you’re suffering with me, I can still get my kicks.”

“What a great friend you are.” Sora snapped sarcastically, opening his locker and putting his backpack away.

“Well, I do try.” simpered Riku, opening his own locker. “But come on, quit dragging ass, already. How much damn detention are you trying to get?”

Sora gathered his books and sighed, resigned to his cruel fate. “Damn. Okay, let’s get this over with. I am seriously dreading seeing the look on her face when we walk in.” He walked slowly through the empty hallways, cringing when he heard the music that signaled the end of the morning announcements. “Aww man, we really are late.” He groaned, seeing his classroom just a few footsteps away.

“Thanks for that late breaking news flash, Sora.” answered Riku. “I mean, I couldn’t tell, what with the hallways being empty, and all the classroom doors being closed.” He gave Sora a funny look. “Well, are you going to open the door, or what?”

Sora froze up with his hand on the knob. “ I can’t… I hate the way she looks at you when you disrupt the class.”

Riku rolled his eyes. “Oh, whatever. Move, and I’ll do it.” Sora obediently stepped to the side, and Riku twisted the knob and opened the door. The noise inside the classroom immediately ceased and Riku peeked in, expecting to see Miss Hall’s angry brown eyes glaring back at him. Instead, the eyes glaring back at him were a rich shade of gunmetal gray, and the eyes did not glare at him, so much as they seemed to pass over him nonchalantly. That’s not Miss Hall, Riku realized. Hell, that’s not even a woman.

Indeed the striking gray eyes belonged to a tall young man who couldn’t have been out of his twenties. His slim build was accentuated with just enough musculature to make it obvious that he worked out. His dark brown hair fell to just around his shoulders, framing his face perfectly. The only mar to his otherwise flawless appearance was a faded scar passing diagonally across his face. Yet, while such a scar would’ve spelled disfigurement for anyone else, it only added to this man’s attractiveness, making him appear sage and rugged, even for all his youth.

Before he could stop himself, Riku let out a low appreciative whistle.

Behind him, Sora elbowed him in his ribs. “What is it?” he hissed.

“This man is a fox.” Riku whispered back.

“Man? What man?” asked Sora.

Gray eyes widened momentarily in disbelief and then narrowed again. Was that kid just checking me out? And who is out in the hall with him? He cleared his throat. “Well, are you going to pull up a desk and take your lessons in the doorway, or would you prefer to come in and join the rest of us?”

It took all of Riku’s concentration to wipe the grin off his face as he decided not to tell this gorgeous man what he’d prefer. He grabbed Sora’s hand and yanked him with him as he entered the classroom. “My friend and I had a little trouble getting ready this morning.”

Sora pulled the door softly closed and turned to look at this strange man standing in front of the chalkboard.

“I see. Can your friend speak on his own, or are you his interpreter?” asked the man, turning his unconcerned gaze upon Sora.

Sora flushed as those gray eyes locked with his own. He suddenly had the uncomfortable feeling of being atop a summit in a roller coaster car, waiting for that first drop. The drop never came. The tension kept mounting, curling into a searing knot in the pit of his stomach and sending pervasive tingles of heat throughout his body. It was like the feeling he got when he caught Riku looking at him that way, but a million times worse. Sora forcefully broke eye contact. I was staring at him! he thought in a panic, and pushed past Riku. He slumped down in his seat, a sigh of relief issuing from his lips when he felt safe once more. He did not look at the man again.

Riku blinked and looked apologetically at the man. “Forgive him. He’s very… shy. And he had a rough night.”

One of the students snickered, and Riku slapped him in the back of his head as he passed on the way to his seat. “Stuff it, Tidus.” Damn, bad choice of words.

Tidus collapsed onto his desk in a heap of giggles, his laughter muffled by his arms.

Riku rolled his eyes and sat down in his own seat, irritated with the blonde’s antics.

The man sighed, mildly annoyed at the spectacle that was unfolding upon the arrival of the latecomers. “Now that the comic relief has been taken care of, we can get down to serious matters.” He turned his back on the class and proceeded to write on the board in an elegant sloping script. “My name is Squall Leonhart. You students will address me respectfully as Mr. Leonhart, of course.”

Of course, thought Riku. The man had a splendid ass that practically commanded respect, if not outright worship.

Squall turned back to the class and looked them over. “I suppose you may be wondering why I’m here?”

Riku smirked. The thought did cross my mind. He shot a glance at Sora, wondering what he was thinking. Sora was determinedly staring down into his lap with an unreadable expression. I’ll have to talk to him later, Riku decided. He looked back at Squall to see that the man was leaning against the edge of the desk, his long legs crossed at the ankles.

“As all of you are aware,” began Squall. “Your teacher, Miss Hall is due to give birth in the spring. She has decided to go on an early maternity leave, and may not return for the rest of the academic year.”

“Yeah!” cried Tidus, pumping his fist in the air. The rest of the class snickered.

“I wouldn’t start the festivities so soon, young man.” Squall replied. “After all, until she returns, you will be stuck with me. You may come to find yourselves wishing for her expedient recovery.”

The class grew quiet at these words. Even Tidus settled down to ponder what this could mean. So this guy was their new English teacher?

Squall continued. “I’m afraid I’m not the easiest man to get along with. In fact, I’ve spoken more in these past ten minutes than I normally do in a week. But, as long as you do your work and don’t give me any problems, I won’t give you any problems. I’m a reasonably fair man.” Here he turned his gaze to Riku. “Speaking of fair, I do believe there is a set precedent for dealing with tardy students?”

Riku casually leaned back in his chair. The prospect of detention didn’t hold much fascination for him, but then he wasn’t disturbed by it either. “Well yeah, if you want to be anal about it. When you’re late, you get detention.”

Sora looked up, and stared at Riku in surprise. It generally wasn’t good to use the word anal for any reason when talking to a teacher. Riku, what are you trying to pull?

Squall didn’t miss a beat. “Well then, I wouldn’t want to start off breaking the rules.” He leveled his gaze at Sora. “And what do you think? Are you capable of speaking now, or are you still too shy?”

Sora felt his cheeks flame under the scrutiny of those calm gray eyes. He opened his mouth and was relieved to find that he could in fact, speak. “It’s only fair.” He looked at Riku, who shrugged, and then continued. “I mean, we were late. We deserve the punishment. I understand.” he answered truthfully.

Riku snickered, causing Sora to glance at him questioningly. He just shook his head. What are you Sora, the patron saint of detention? Quit trying to rationalize it, and just take it, already.

Sora turned back to his teacher and was surprised to see that his gaze had softened somewhat. Before Sora could be sure though, the expression was gone as quickly as though it had never been.

“Well then, see me after class and we’ll work out a schedule.” Squall decided finally.

“Yes sir.” replied Sora immediately.

Riku made a non-committal noise and looked out the window.

Squall turned back to the desk and lifted a spiral notebook. “Well, we’ve wasted enough time. I’m going to call the roll, so we can get started on the assignment. Answer ‘Here’ or ‘Present when you hear your name called.”

Riku absently watched as the few early morning school-skippers walked around outside. Sora was probably somewhat miffed with him, but that was fine. Riku rather looked forward to spending time around both Sora and this new handsome teacher. I’ll probably get whiplash from trying to decide which one to look at the entire time.

“Riku?”

“Here.” Riku answered without turning from the window.

Sora sighed and waited for his own name to be called. I’ll have to remember to thank Riku for this. Maybe, a nice good poke in the eye with a sharp stick would do.

“Sora?”

“Present.” Sora responded automatically. He knew that somewhere, Miss Hall was laughing at him.

“Tidus?”

“In the hizzouse!”

Squall put his hand to his forehead in irritation. It was too early for this. He fired off the last few names in rapid succession, eager to assign some nice, quiet busywork. “Now that we’re finished with that, I’d like you all to turn to page 223 of your textbook, and read The Pearl.”

The class issued a collective groan.

Squall put up his hand for silence. “That’s not all. When you’re done, complete the questions at the end of the story.”

“But we don’t have enough time left...” moaned Tidus.

Riku rolled his eyes. Tidus was such a drama queen.

Sora scoffed to himself. The Pearl was middle-school stuff. It required twenty minutes, at most.

Squall apparently agreed. “Don’t be lazy. We have over a half hour left. Surely you can read the story, at least. The questions are for homework.”

Amidst grumbling and turning of pages, the class settled down to work.

Thirty minutes later, the bell rang, signaling the end of first period classes. Squall glanced at the clock and sighed in disbelief. It’s only been an hour. At this rate, he’d be looking for a new job next Monday. He never did like kids much, and teenagers seemed to be the worst of the bunch, next to toddlers. Neither group had much respect for authority, the former because they considered themselves too mature to care, and the latter because they were too impulsive to know any better.

Either way, they offended Squall’s stoic, self-controlled nature to no end. He would take his planning period and then teach for three more classes before he would be done for the day. But first…

“Free at last!” cheered Tidus, pushing back his chair.

Squall fought the urge to roll his eyes. Lord, that Tidus is annoying. He could tell that first period would not be his favorite part of the day. If it wasn’t that blonde snickering to himself for no reason, it was that Riku kid giving Squall looks that made him feel almost violated. What is with him? he wondered. Riku had seemed content to divide his time between looking at Squall and watching his friend Sora, neglecting to crack open his textbook even once. That was fine by him. He had been thinking all period about how to handle the detention issue, and he had come up with a plan that made him proud of his own cleverness.

Sora looked around and noticed that he and Riku were now the only students left in the classroom. He looked expectantly toward his teacher, wanting to get this over with so that he wouldn’t be late to his next class. The last thing I need, is to get in more trouble. He shot a dirty look at Riku, only to see that for once Riku wasn’t looking at him.

“So,” Riku began, leaning forward on his elbows and staring dead at Squall. “What type of schedule are we looking at here?”

This kid is unbelievable, Squall thought. He deliberately ignored him, and looked at his friend instead. “Sora, you will spend one hour after school each day serving detention with me, for the rest of this week.”

“What about me?” asked Riku. “I get detention too, right?”

Squall just barely kept the smirk off his face. Perfect, the kid is practically begging for detention. “I’m afraid not. Only Sora gets detention.”

Sora put his head down on his desk and groaned. Oh, this is just great. First day with a new teacher and he already had a week’s worth of detention. What’s worse, Riku seemed to have somehow weaseled his way out of it without even trying. He was going to be stuck by himself. “How boring.” he mumbled.

“That’s not fair!” exclaimed Riku, standing up. “I was late, too! If you’re going to give Sora detention, you have to give it to me, as well!”

Squall raised an eyebrow. Can you get a load of the nerve of this kid? “I only have three things to say to you, Riku. One, life is not fair. Two, I don’t have to do anything but pay taxes and die. Three, I refuse to give you detention on the grounds that you would probably enjoy it as long as you were in Sora’s company. Hence, it is far better punishment for you, if you were separated from him for a few hours a week.”

Riku bristled and glared, knowing he’d been bested. “Fine. Whatever you say, Mr. Leonhart.” He gathered his books impatiently, not wanting to let the prick know just how much he had pissed him off with that sneaky trick of his.

Squall almost bristled before he caught himself. He was too old for this shit. He was not about to let some egotistical, spoiled brat get under his skin. “See you tomorrow, Riku. I trust you’ll be on time?”

Riku growled quietly to himself as he walked out of the classroom. He wasn’t even going to dignify that with a response.

Sora stood and silently gathered his things, somehow not surprised at the turn of events. While Miss Hall had been careless enough to assign them to joint detention, he should’ve figured this new teacher would be perceptive enough not to make the same mistake. Oh well, no more eraser fights, he thought glumly, as he headed out the door.

Squall watched him go. Those two must be really close for Riku to act up like that. Some time apart might actually be good for them. Shaking his head, he settled down to enjoy the brief respite before his next class.

Out in the hall, Sora turned the corner just in time to see Riku savagely punch his locker. The sound reverberated down the corridor, and several students hurriedly finished with their own lockers and went on their ways. No one wanted to inadvertently become an outlet for Riku’s obvious rage. Even Sora hesitated a moment before walking over.

Apparently Riku’s knuckles had thought better of committing further violence against unyielding metal, and now Riku was leaning up against his ill-treated locker, muttering expletives under his breath.

“Geez, you’re really ticked about this, huh?” asked Sora, placing a hand on his shoulder.

Riku seemed to relax at his touch, but his voice was still thick with anger when he responded. “Who the fuck does he think he is, pulling that shit? I can’t fucking believe this.”

Sora tried a grin. “Oh, suck it up. An extra hour at school a day won’t make any difference. I just hope I don’t have to scrape gum from under desks again.” he said, grimacing. “That was too gross for words.”

“That was pretty nasty.” agreed Riku. He felt himself growing calm in Sora’s presence. Sora was the only one who had that effect on him. Even his own mother couldn’t soothe his feelings like that. Riku sighed and reached over his shoulder to clasp Sora’s hand. “It still sucks, though.”

“It’s just for a week.” Sora defended, with a shrug. “No big deal.”

Riku closed his eyes and lifted Sora’s hand to his face, rubbing his cheek against it. “Maybe not to you…”

Sora froze. Riku’s skin actually felt rather nice. His cheek was warm and smooth to the touch, and Sora began to think that he might not mind it, except that Riku was acting downright weird again. “Um, Riku?”

“I hate being separated from you, Sora. It’s almost painful.” Riku muttered. He reluctantly released Sora’s hand and sighed, turning around. “You’ll never understand, I guess.”

Sora’s face flushed. I have no idea how to respond to this! He avoided Riku’s eyes as he took note of the time. “Look, I’ve got to run. I’ll see you at lunch, okay?”

Riku stared at him for a moment. “Okay.” he said finally, as though coming to a decision.

Sora didn’t like his tone, but he didn’t have time to press the issue. Turning, he walked off to his next class.

Riku watched his departure. I won’t continue to be denied like this, Sora. Irritated with his bad luck, he headed off to his own class, counting the minutes until lunch.

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