Squall Leonhart turned away from the board as the morning bell rang throughout the school. Carefully, he set down the chalk and dusted off his hands, casually surveying his class. He noted with a sense of triumph that everyone appeared to be on time, no doubt remembering the example he had set the day before. Although, sitting after school and making conversation with him was hardly what Squall would call punishment, it seemed to have done the trick. Surely I’m not that bad to talk to, he mused. Still, he doubted if his detention had brought about any real change in Sora. The kid naturally struck him as the type who didn’t go looking for trouble.

Even now, Sora was seated patiently at his desk, notebook open. His blue eyes met Squall’s own for an instant, and then hurried away, shifting almost guiltily towards Riku.

Ah Riku, thought Squall. Now there was a real character. The kid was practically sprawled out on his desk, looking like Hell warmed over. Squall wondered idly if he’d even bothered to brush his hair after getting out of bed. He was probably up too late doing something, or someone he had no business doing. Squall had already heard a few of the things students were saying about Riku. He noticed how giggly girls tended to act when they heard his name, and the way the guys spoke of him with obvious reverence.

Squall personally didn’t see what all the fuss was for, yet he couldn’t stop wondering about the nature of his relationship with Sora. No time to think about it now, though. He made a mental note to save it for detention. Class had to come first.

Clearing his throat, he addressed everyone with an energy he didn’t quite feel. “Good morning students. I trust that all of you are feeling well-rested and ready to begin today’s lesson? First of all, I would like all of you to pass forward yesterday’s assignment so that I can collect them.”

There was a collective shuffling of papers as the class readied itself. Even Riku mustered up enough effort to dig out his notebook. Placing it on his desk, he laid his head down on top of it. Man, I’m wasted. His diversion with Jake had proven to be more time and energy consuming than he’d expected. Jake had welcomed him with an enthusiasm that quite frankly worried him, and had practically demanded just about all that Riku had to give. Something about the way Jake had looked at him when he left didn’t sit right with him. He felt that he probably shouldn’t see Jake again, but at the same time he knew that he would go back. The sex was just too good. Yawning, he lifted his eyes and tried to look like he was paying attention. He could feel Sora’s eyes on him, but he ignored it, not at all wanting to look at Sora while Jake was still fresh in his mind.

Sora gave up looking at Riku and turned back to his teacher. He seems a little off today. I’ll just have to talk to him after class. He passed his homework to the person in front of him, and watched as Squall came around to collect the stacks of papers.

“Before we move on, are there any questions about yesterday’s reading selection?” Squall asked, setting the papers on his own desk.

Only Tidus raised his hand, the action eliciting groans of protest from his peers who apparently wanted to move on to something different.

Squall toyed with the idea of ignoring him, decided it would be too unprofessional, and gave in. “Yes?”

Relieved, Tidus dropped his hand. “I just didn’t get it.” he started. “This couple finds some big pearl that’s supposed to make them rich. Then these jerks chase them, and try to take it, but they all get killed, and so does the couple’s baby. But to make matters worse, they throw the pearl away in the end.” His brows furrowed in confusion. “So, I mean, what’s the point?”

Squall raised an eyebrow. “Well, judging from your scholarly interpretation of the text, I’d say that you would do well to buy the Cliff’s Notes for any future readings that I assign.”

Riku found that he still had just enough energy to laugh loudly at Tidus’ expense.

Squall shot him a cold look, before returning his impassive gaze to Tidus. At least he has the good sense to look embarrassed. “I doubt that you were the only one who had some trouble with the text, Tidus.” He raised his eyes to observe the entire class. “Would someone be so kind as to give an explanation of the point of the text, in their own words?”

Immediately, Sora raised his hand. An unexplainable need to impress Squall seemed to have permeated his mind, and he quickly organized his words, not wanting to sound stupid.

Squall looked briefly around the room before his gaze caught Sora. Their eyes met, and he gave him permission to speak with an almost imperceptible nod. “Go ahead.”

Sora lowered his hand, his eyes bright with excitement. “The thing is, you can’t always get what you want. No matter how badly you want or need it. You can give your all, sacrifice everything you hold dear, just for this one thing, that might even fit right in the palm of your hand.” He cupped his hands demonstratively. “Like the pearl. But, you can’t hold it for long. You have to let it go, because if you don’t it’ll destroy you and all that you hold dear. Some things just aren’t meant for us to have.” he finished softly, his expression unreadable. I hope I didn’t sound stupid or anything.

Squall was suddenly struck by a chill of foreshadowing, as if something in Sora’s interpretation had been illustrated to him once before, and would be again, at some point in his future. An image of Rinoa wavered into his mind for an instant and was gone. Dammit, I have a class to teach, now is not the time for theatrics. He willed himself to return to his task, and looked pointedly at Tidus. “Now, do you understand?”

“Nope!” proclaimed Tidus, cheerfully.

Squall gritted his teeth, and walked back to his desk. Sitting down, he grudgingly admitted that Sora’s concept of the plot probably was too complex for Tidus’ obviously simple brain. Promptly concede defeat. “Alright then. Change of plans. Instead of moving on to the next story today, everyone will explain The Pearl in their own words.” The class groaned, but Squall continued. “This will probably work as a benefit to you, once you have your first test. Sometimes it helps to hear the opinions of others.”

“Unless that other is a idiot.” muttered Riku. At least I’ll be able to sleep through this bullshit.

Squall’s eyes turned toward Riku. “Since you seem so full of pep today, why don’t you start, Riku?”

Riku sighed, and nuzzled deeper into his own folded arms. “Alright. I personally think the story is a warning to our capitalist society, on the dangers of pursuing wealth over personal happiness.” He nonchalantly slid his eyes over to Tidus, and smirked to see that his classmate was even more confused. My work here is done. He closed his eyes, feeling content despite his incredible exhaustion.

Squall sighed, knowing that it would be a long day. “Thank you, Riku. Who would like to go next?”

By the time the dismissal bell rang, Squall wished he’d never even heard of The Pearl. Steinbeck, you’ve ruined me. He noticed that all of his students were still regarding him expectantly, waiting for tonight’s assignment. Except one, anyway. At some point during the thirty seconds it took for the bell to finish ringing, Riku had exited the classroom, apparently not giving a damn about the homework. To Hell with him. “There’s no homework tonight.” Squall announced, much to the joy of the students. I’m doing it more for my benefit, than theirs. Listening to all of his students stumble through the text, violating it beyond belief, had turned his own brain to mush, and he knew he’d need rest before he could even begin to think about starting them on anything new. The realization that he still had the rest of the day ahead of him, caused him to groan. Lord, I don’t feel like doing this for another three classes. Looking up, he saw that Sora was standing by the door, looking back at him, as if he wanted to say something. “Yes?”

“I was just making sure, I still have detention today, right?” Sora asked, his voice almost hopeful.

Squall looked back at him with amusement. “Of course, you do. Although, you should try not to sound so happy about it. If the other students hear you, they’ll think detention with me is where you just sit and play video games for an hour or something fun like that.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Sora joked, before walking out the door. He hurried to his locker, frowning to find that Riku was not there. I wonder where he went off to, so fast? He sure is acting funny today, but I guess I can catch him at lunch, he thought as he prepared for second period.

“Well, so much for what I thought earlier.” Sora muttered, hours later. He looked restlessly around the cafeteria, neglecting his chicken nuggets. He hadn’t seen Riku at all since first period, and it was starting to get to him.

“Looking for someone, ya?” asked Wakka. He’d noticed Sora’s almost constant glances around the room as soon as he’d sat down. He figured he knew who Sora was looking for, and he also figured he knew where that person was.

Sora sighed and started on his nuggets. “Yeah. I was trying to see if Riku had shown up yet. I haven’t seen him since this morning, and he was acting really out of it then.”

“Oh, I overheard some people saying that they saw him in the locker room a little while back.” Tidus offered helpfully.

Sora frowned. “But he doesn’t have gym until after lunch. Why would he be in the locker room now?”

“Cheerleaders.” answered Tidus, around a mouthful of French fries.

Wakka nodded. “You’re probably right, ya. We all know how Riku is.” He noticed the play of emotions across Sora’s face, and sighed inwardly. He was always disturbed by the underlying drama between Riku and Sora. With Riku being a ticking time bomb, and Sora being so smart and so dense all at once, it was a sure recipe for disaster. One of these days, something is going to set a spark, and then the shit will really hit the fan. He placed a hand on Sora’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he’s in good hands, ya.”

Tidus laughed uproariously, knocking his remaining fries on the floor while in the throes of his fit.

Wakka rolled his eyes. “Since Riku isn’t here, I’ll take over his post. You didn’t need any more of those fries anyway, Tidus. Especially since you’ve started getting fat in the face, ya.”

Tidus snorted. “Pfft. Coming from you, it doesn’t have any meaning, hefty.”

Sora snickered, his mood gradually improving. “I swear, you guys are too much.”

“I know.” grinned Tidus. “Hey, isn’t that your hot cousin, sitting over there with Selphie and the rest of the goodtime girls?” He pointed at the table where all the cheerleaders were sitting, until Wakka slapped his hand down.

Sora nodded, and smiled to see that Kairi appeared to be having a good time. Her violet eyes sparkled as she chatted animatedly with the other girls. Sora noticed the easy way she brushed back her auburn hair from her face when she grinned, showing her perfect white teeth. “I’m glad she found lots of friends so quickly.” he said honestly. “Too bad I didn’t get that gene.”

“Well, she’s certainly got a friend in me.” Tidus replied. “I think I’m in love.”

Wakka groaned. “You fall in love several times a day, ya.”

Tidus shrugged. “What can I say? I’ve just got so much love to give.”

Despite the conversation going on around him, Sora’s attention remained fixed on the table where Kairi was sitting, and he mentally counted the cheerleaders surrounding her. They’re all there. There’s no one missing… So who is Riku in the locker room with? His mind went back to Sunday afternoon. Jake Addison… He’s on the football team, so naturally he’d be in the locker room during some part of the day. But then… Riku always made it a point to never pursue the same person twice. Sora flushed. Unless he’s developed a thing for Jake or something. Riku was prone to temporary bouts of infatuation, but they always ended quickly, with plenty of drama and angry phone calls. Sora shuddered at the thought of having to deal with another one of those episodes. With the captain of the football team, nonetheless. A tap on the back broke through his dismal thoughts. He looked up to see both Tidus and Wakka looking at him with concern. “Yeah?”

“You smoking crack or something?” Tidus asked. “Because I want some.”

Sora swatted at him playfully. “Oh shut up. I was just wondering about Riku, is all.”

Tidus groaned. “Oh, come on! Don’t have a shit fit, man. He’s fine. He’s probably laid up somewhere, violating some pretty little underclassman. Just chill, already.”

“You’re right.” Sora relented. “I’m just being stupid. I’m sure he’s fine.”

Later on, sitting in Physics class, Sora wasn’t so sure. Riku was passed out on his desk as usual, but he seemed genuinely exhausted, instead of just bored. He had already been slumped over the desk when Sora entered the room, not bothering to even pretend to participate in the class. If the instructor was bothered by it, he didn’t show it, instead launching flawlessly into a summary of what they would learn today, via the overhead projector. Once the lights had gone out, Riku’s sleep seemed to have deepened, the slight rise and fall of his sides being the only indication that he was still in the land of the living.

Sora resisted the urge to feel his forehead, and concentrated on copying the notes from the screen. It proved to be a futile endeavor, as his thoughts and eyes constantly strayed to his best friend. Why am I so worried, he’s always like this! But still, his mind returned to Riku’s abrupt departure from English class. He always waited for Sora at their lockers, he had been doing it for years. I wonder if I upset him last night on the phone. Sora searched his memory, trying to figure out what he could’ve said that would cause Riku to avoid him. Maybe it’s the way I act when he tells me that he likes me. He sighed, and blew an errant strand of spiky brown hair away from his eyes. But I don’t like guys, I can’t help that. He felt a tingle go up his spine, and remembered his English teacher. Okay, so that’s not entirely true. I do, sort of, like Mr. Leonhart. At least, I think he’s really good-looking. But, if I can think that Mr. Leonhart is… cute… Sora blushed at the thought and was eternally grateful that the lights were off. Then I should be able to think that Riku is cute. Somewhat leery of this way of reasoning, Sora found his eyes roaming over to his right, nonetheless.

While the light from the overhead projector was not exactly flattering, Riku’s good looks were still apparent enough. His handsome features were softly illuminated in the dim lighting, his long lashes resting against his smooth skin. As though responding to Sora’s thoughts, he breathed deeply and nestled deeper into the crook of his arms.

Sora quickly averted his eyes, his heart racing. Okay, so I’ll admit, he is sort of cute. Yet Riku didn’t feel him with that feeling that he got from looking at Squall. The only time Riku makes me feel… that way is when he’s doing… things to me. The incident from the previous day where Riku had pinned him to his locker flashed into his mind, making him blush again. Yeah, that definitely made me feel a little weird… But then I’d probably feel that way if anyone were doing that sort of thing to me. He briefly glanced around the classroom and immediately changed his opinion. Some people would just outright disgust him if they tried that. Even his close friends Tidus and Wakka would disturb him greatly if they ever tried to touch him the way Riku did. So… I have to like Riku in some way, in order to not be disgusted by the things he does… Right? Sora felt a dull throb in his brain, and rubbed his temples soothingly. I’ve gone and given myself a headache from all this mess.

The lights clicked on suddenly, jarring him from his musings, and making him wince at the unexpected onslaught of brightness. Geez, why don’t teachers ever warn you when they do that? He glanced at Riku again, surprised to see that he was still asleep. He must really be tired.

The dismissal bell rang, and his teacher quickly called out the pages for the homework assignment, as the sound of ruffling pages, scraping chairs and backpack zippers nearly drowned him out. Sora quickly scribbled down the information, and gently nudged Riku awake.

Riku sighed deeply and opened his eyes. “Hmm? What is it?” he questioned in a voice husky from drowsiness.

Yeah, he really is sort of cute. Sora shook his head. “Nothing. Class is over, that’s all.”

“Oh, thanks.” Riku murmured. He sat up and yawned, looking extremely adorable. In that moment Sora was reminded of Riku as a child, before the evil hormones of the teen years had ravaged his pure mind. “Fucking physics puts me to sleep every time.” Riku said, shattering the image of childhood innocence.

Sora sighed, and gathered his belongings. “You’re going to fail, if you keep this up.”

“No, I’m going to die, if I keep this up.” Riku muttered, standing to leave. Jake had ambushed him before lunch, and he’d been spending the rest of the day trying to recharge his batteries, knowing that he’d probably be getting another helping of Jake’s enthusiastic attentions later in the evening. Jake definitely eats his Wheaties, that’s for sure. He was conscious of Sora’s presence beside him as he made his way to his locker and felt a pang of guilt. Fuck, he probably doesn’t care anyway. I’ll bet he’s glad I’m not all over his nuts right now.

“Riku?” asked Sora hesitantly, as he opened his locker and put away the books he didn’t need. I don’t even know what I’m going to say.

Riku opened his own locker. “Yeah?” He unzipped his book bag to empty it, and noticed that it was already empty. Oh hell… That’s right… After he’d finally escaped Jake, he hadn’t had a chance to make it to his locker before his next class. He tried to remember what he’d done in his classes since then, and was shocked to realize that he couldn’t. With a groan, he laid his head against the locker door and let his empty bag drop to the floor. I really am going to fail if I keep this up. That’s it, I’m going to cut this loose. No more Jake. He glared southward. This is all your fault, pal, but it’s over now. He shoved his empty bag into his locker and closed the door. At least I don’t have any homework, or at least I can’t remember if I do.

“Riku?” asked Sora again. He’s so spaced out…

This time Riku turned around to look at him. “What is it, Sora?”

“Are you feeling okay?” Sora asked, concern apparent in his voice and facial expression.

Riku nodded and ran a hand through his silver hair. “Never better? Why?”

Sora averted his eyes. “No reason. Just paranoid, I guess. You’ve been acting a little funny today. More spaced out than usual.”

“I got a hold of some fantastic drugs last night.” Riku joked. “I guess since you busted me, I have to share them with you.”

Sora snorted, his mood brightening. “Whatever. You can keep those to yourself, you budding crackhead.” Maybe he just stayed up late or something. But that still doesn’t explain his absence at lunch. But then I guess it’s not really my business. He looked back at Riku. “You want me to call you tonight?”

Riku felt a wave of heat go through him at the thought of Sora calling him for the same reason he called Jake. “Sure.” Although, with the way things are going now, I probably won’t be at home. “You know that you can call me anytime and for any reason.” He smirked and leaned seductively against his locker. “Hell, you can even surprise me with a naked visit. I don’t mind.”

Sora flushed and looked away. He’s doing one of those things he does… “Okay. I’d better get going. Don’t want to be late for detention.”

Riku’s expression darkened slightly. “I’ll bet. Later, then.” He pushed away from the locker and walked off before Sora could respond.

And now he’s being weird again. What did I do? Sora wondered, hurt. He absently made his way to the classroom, mulling over Riku’s sudden change of temperament. Riku has always been moody, but this is weird, even for him. I can never figure him out. Sighing, he turned the corner and found his English class. Before he had even stepped completely over the threshold, all thoughts of his friend had fled his mind.

Squall Leonhart did not see his arrival as he erased the chalkboard, the dark mane of his hair draping over his broad shoulders. A wandering question about whether that was against the employee dress code briefly entered Sora’s mind before it was rudely shoved out by more astute observations. Foremost in his swirling thoughts was the realization that Squall’s movements had revealed to him a scant amount of skin on his lower back. His gaze fixated on that single spot, unconsciously obsessing and marveling at it’s perfection. Sora realized with muted horror that he was dying to touch it, and swallowed hard.

In that unfortunate instant, Squall chose to turn around, once again giving Sora a taste of utter humiliation as his gray eyes landed on his pupil.

Immediately, Sora dropped his eyes. Oh man, not again! He felt a little light-headed at the realization that he had been busted for the second time in a row. I wonder if you can get suspended for being a pervert. Hesitantly, he looked up, somewhat intimidated by the unreadable expression on his teacher’s face.

Squall blinked slowly, willing himself not to dwell on his blood’s instinctive reaction to the look he’d just caught Sora giving him. That’s the second time he’s done that, that I know of, anyway. Lord only knows how often he’s done it in class, while I’ve been too distracted by the other students to notice it. He set down the eraser, and walked around to his chair. Sitting down, he resolved to handle the issue in his typical fashion. Ignore it, Leonhart. Folding his arms, he fixed Sora with a look of neutral expression. “And so you have returned for more, hmm?”

Sora took note of the heat coursing through his body, and flew quickly to his seat, needing to sit down. “I guess you could say that.” he mumbled. The double entendre was killing him inside.

Squall sighed, unconsciously wishing that he’d let the moment stretch out longer. “Well, as usual there is nothing I have set aside for you to do, unless you want to grade homework assignments.”

God, please no! “I didn’t realize I had a choice.” Sora proposed, hoping to get out of it. He had no desire to touch those papers after the mockery his classmates had made out of The Pearl earlier, and he knew his teacher didn’t want to read them either.

Squall raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t say all that, now. I asked if you wanted to do it. If not…” He smirked. “I’ll still make you do it anyway.”

Sora gaped at him. “That is so unfair!”

Squall nodded, feeling surprised at how good he was feeling now. “Nobody ever said life was going to be fair.” I know that all too well…

“I’m sure someone did.” argued Sora, his blue eyes sparkling defiantly.

Squall’s smirk grew even more taunting, and his voice was maddeningly smug as he replied. “Sure. And someone also said the world was flat.” I enjoy picking with him far too much.

“The world is sort of flat. We walk on it, don’t we?” Sora shot back, drawn fully into the silly debate. “And whatever happened to free will?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Squall placated. Hell, a high school kid talking to me about free will?! What is this world coming to? “Anyway, there is no free will inside this room. This is the United States of Squall. Outside this room is free will, but not inside.”

“That is such childish reasoning!” Sora proclaimed. I can’t believe I’m getting so worked up over something so stupid. He crossed his arms and glowered unsuccessfully, irritated with himself for succumbing to his teacher’s petty jests, but amused despite it.

Squall leaned back in his chair and nodded sagely. “That it is, Sora. That it is. Now come and get these papers.” He tapped the manila folder resting near the edge of his desk. He felt a surge of playfulness as Sora grudgingly approached and took the folder, scowling. This is hilarious, and I just can’t help myself. Adding insult to injury, he did something so uncharacteristic that Sora could only stare at him in disbelief.

“I still can’t believe you stuck your tongue out at me.” Sora muttered, forty minutes later as he put the graded papers back in the manila envelope. Riku would’ve taken that as an invitation.

Squall smirked. “Yep, and if you tell anyone, I’ll claim it never happened.”

“No one would believe me, anyway.” Sora replied, as he stood and returned the folder to it’s place on Squall’s desk. He deliberately avoided Squall’s gaze, having grown weary of embarrassing himself. Carefully, he returned to his seat, and opened his backpack. He had started on his homework when Squall’s smooth voice broke into his thoughts.

Squall had considered and rejected various things to say in order to initiate conversation. Such a thing was alien to him, and he was literally at a loss for words. He didn’t know why he was being so unusually talkative, but he had some strange urge to converse with Sora. It’s probably because he actually has a functioning brain in his head, unlike so many people I know. Then again, I don’t know that many people. The thought was mildly unsettling. “What do you do, when you’re not at school?” he asked, needing to break the silence.

Sora looked up, surprised. “Um, nothing much. I mean, I hang out at home, or downtown, or over my friend’s houses.” He was pleased that Squall had asked him a question about himself.

“Do you have a lot of friends?” Squall asked, hating the corny way it sounded, but unable to think of anything better.

“Not really.” Sora answered truthfully. “I mean, there’s Tidus,” He snickered at the way Squall frowned. “And there’s Wakka, and there’s Riku.” His thoughts shifted briefly to Riku’s odd behavior.

“Ah.” Squall said. “You have some interesting friends. Especially Tidus and Riku. Wakka is in one of my other classes, and seems alright, though.” That’s an understatement. Wakka was the only one of Sora’s friends that he didn’t actively dislike. “Have you known them for a long time?”

Sora’s brow furrowed. “Sort of. I met Tidus and Wakka back in middle school, but I’ve known Riku all my life.” Hearing the words spoken out loud gave him something of a glimpse into Riku’s point of view. He has been there for me for as far back as I remember.

Squall staunchly ignored the slight jab he felt at the confirmation of his suspicions. “You two must be really close then.” Not that it’s any of my business.

You have no idea. A vivid image of Riku reaching for his zipper last Sunday assailed Sora’s helpless brain. His cheeks turned a bright shade of pink, and he waved a hand as if to stave off his embarrassment. “Ha! Um, I guess you could say that. Ha ha!” Face flaming, he pointedly inspected his hands, certain that his teacher was probably staring at him like he had lost his mind. Maybe I have gone nuts. Yep, definitely flipped my lid. “So, what about you?”

“What about me?” asked Squall, staring at Sora oddly. What was up with that reaction?

“What do you do when you’re not at school, err, at work?” Sora questioned. Cautiously he looked up again, feeling the heat leave his face.

Squall shrugged. “Nothing really. I sleep, eat, and perform various bodily functions.”

“You sound like a robot.” Sora replied, disappointed.

“I feel like a robot sometimes.” Squall confessed. “That’s just how I am. I don’t have much of a life.” I can’t believe I just revealed to one of my students that I don’t have a life. Serves me right if I get made fun of.

Sora frowned. “What about hanging out with your friends?”

What friends? “I don’t really have too many of those.” Squall admitted. “I have one really, and that’s about it. I’m too antisocial.”

“Oh.” Sora remarked. And I always thought that I was isolated. A crazy thought occurred to him. “Well, now you have two. And I have four. So we both get something out of it.”

Squall blinked, confused. “Are you saying that you want to be my friend?”

Sora nodded, grinning. “Why not? I mean, you don’t have any, you said so yourself.”

“So I did.” answered Squall, mentally kicking himself in the ass. “But why would you want to be friends with your teacher? Don’t you kids consider that extremely uncool or something like that?”

Sora rolled his eyes. “So what? I mean, I’m practically considered extremely uncool.” It was not altogether true. He knew that a lot of girls had crushes on him, and a lot of people were friendly to him, but he often felt alone, nonetheless. “The only reason anyone even knows who I am is because I hang out with Riku, Tidus and Wakka. Tidus and Wakka are team captains, and Riku is just popular. But me, I don’t play any sports, I’m not in any clubs, and I don’t date a bunch of cool people. I’m really just a loser, I guess, which is sort of depressing once you hear it said aloud.”

Squall shook his head. “Don’t say that. I was the same way when I was in high school. Except everyone knew who I was because the biggest asshole in school was obsessed with making my life Hell.”

“Why?” asked Sora, immediately interested. He loved hearing about people’s pasts, and he was sure that Squall’s must’ve been unique.

Squall shrugged. He had long since stopped trying to figure out the blonde man’s reasons for tormenting him during his years at Balamb Garden. “Why does anyone ever do something cruel to someone else?” Seifer Almasy had always been a mystery to him since day one. “I don’t really know for certain. Maybe it was because all of his ex-girlfriends wanted to go out with me. Maybe it was because I was the only one who could beat him in a fight. Who knows?”

“Or,” began Sora. “Maybe he liked you, and it was his way of showing it.”

“Perhaps.” agreed Squall. “Either way, I’ll never know. Seifer is a closed book to me now. I couldn’t reopen it if I wanted to.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Sora, wanting to know more.

“Because he’s dead.” Squall replied simply. Like so many others that I knew. Talk about things being depressing.

“Oh! Sorry…” Sora felt slightly ashamed for prying. It was flattering that Squall had shared a part of his personal life with him, but still, he didn’t mean to be nosy. He resolved to change the subject. “So, are you going to be my friend or not?”

Squall felt a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He certainly is persistent. I’ll give him that. “I didn’t realize I had a choice.” he teased.

“You don’t.” Sora assured him. “There’s no free will inside this room, remember? I’ll be your friend no matter what you say. So you might as well give in now and save yourself the trouble.”

“Troublemakers get detention, you know.” Squall warned, smiling openly now.

“Tell me about it.” answered Sora, sighing dramatically.

For some reason the action struck Squall as hilarious and he found himself laughing. It was completely different from his usual sarcastic laughter, instead it was the sort of good clean laughter that makes you feel vibrantly alive and untroubled. He stopped after a moment and looked at Sora admiringly. He makes me laugh so easily, it’s weird. “You know you’re really something.”

“Something good, I hope.” Sora replied. Squall’s beautiful smile had caused the slightest tingling in his stomach, and now he understood fully what it meant to have butterflies. Wistfully, he glanced at the clock, knowing that it was past time to go. It was in fact, a good bit beyond the designated time. “Wow, I’d better get home or Kairi will wonder where I’m at.”

“Kairi?” inquired Squall. I’m shocked Riku would let any girls get close to Sora.

“Oh, she’s my cousin.” explained Sora. “She’s living with my mom and I for the time being.”

“Ah, I thought it had to be something like that.” Squall replied, nodding.

“What?” asked Sora.

“Nothing.” Squall amended quickly. “But yeah, you’d better get home. I need to go too. Dinner isn’t going to up and cook itself, although considering how expensive groceries are, they should be able to cook themselves.”

“You can cook?” asked Sora in disbelief, and then flushed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so rude about it. It’s just that you don’t seem like the type.”

Squall smirked. Very funny. “Who knows. Maybe I’ll surprise you, and bring you some leftovers one day.”

“Sure.” agreed Sora amicably. “Just don’t take it personally when I get them tested by the Poison Control Center first.” He gathered his books, and stood, smoothly pulling his book bag onto his back. “So I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Unless I get poisoned by my own cooking.” Squall answered. He watched Sora leave, feeling strangely at ease. It’s good to laugh sometimes. I get sick of always feeling so dead inside. He gathered his folders, wondering idly if it was healthy to enjoy hanging around a student so much.

In the hall, Sora was whistling, and he could hardly wait to get home to call Riku and cheer him up. I’m sure that once he gets some sleep, he’ll be back to normal. I was probably just being paranoid. Detention had erased all worry from his mind, making him feel mildly giddy. I guess Squall just has that effect on me. He blushed at the thought of referring to his teacher in such personal terms, and sighed. “Sheesh, I’m turning into such a girl.” He pushed open the double doors and stepped out into the warm fall sunlight. Thoughts of Riku and Squall intermingling in his mind, he began to walk home.

<--- Back to Change My Stripes