Squall sat bolt upright in his bed, his heart pounding, and the sound of screams still reverberating in his head. His shirt was soaked with sweat, the sheets torn loose from the bed, the wave mattress still bobbing crazily beneath him. Tiredly, he brushed back his damp hair from his forehead and leaned against the headboard. Fuck, when will these fucking dreams stop already? It had been five years since the accident, but still his sleep was plagued with nightmares. Long after he’d come to terms with his loss, his ears continued to be haunted by grotesque sounds. The high-pitched banshee shriek of the brakes, the crunch of metal, and the terrified screams of the bystanders, of himself, of Seifer, of Rinoa. Countless times he’d awakened in mortal terror, after reliving the accident over and over each night in his sleep. One of these days I’m going to go crazy, he thought with certainty. His eyes fell on the bottle of prescription sleeping pills he kept on his nightstand and he frowned. The pills were both a blessing and a curse. When taken, they brought him sweet oblivion, a dreamless sleep that blanketed him in the dark like a night without stars. Unfortunately, they drowned out all outside interference, including his well-meaning alarm clock. This made it a bad idea for him to use the pills during the week, instead he had decided to save the treat of deep sleep for the weekend only. Of course, his dreams didn’t give a damn about his busy work week, and visited him whenever they saw fit. Lucky me.

He glanced at his alarm clock and saw that it was almost four in the morning. Fuck it. I have to get up in an hour anyway. This night is pretty much shot. Groaning with disgust, he kicked away the remnants of his sheets and climbed out of bed. His stomach rumbled and he remembered that he’d gone to sleep without eating dinner. Having a full stomach only made the dreams worse, adding an element of late night b-movie horror. Instead of merely being thrown through the windshield, Rinoa might turn toward him, her beautiful face replaced by a gruesome clown mask, her small hands transformed into hairy tentacles, reaching to snatch out his eyes. That was an extra special touch that Squall definitely did not need, and he always refused to eat after midnight. But, I might as well eat something now. He pushed his bedroom door open, his eyes blinded by the sudden light that flooded his vision. Light?! What the hell?! Strife… Growling, he blinked several times before rubbing at his eyes and making his way down the hallway. The smell of pizza reached his nose and his stomach responded enthusiastically. Rounding the corner, he could see his best friend and former roommate perched on a stool at the kitchen counter, an open pizza box in front of him. Squall sighed and clapped a hand to his forehead in agitation. “Cloud Strife, please remind me, why haven’t I beaten you down and taken that key from you, yet?”

Cloud looked back at him, one blond eyebrow raised in challenge. “Probably because you know you’d get your ass kicked.”

“Cute.” Squall remarked dryly, and then lunged across the room at him, with speed that no one who’d just woken up should ever possess.

Startled, Cloud toppled backwards off the stool, his back hitting the linoleum floor with a loud thud, his head following soon after. He saw a few stars and groaned in pain and irritation. “Goddammit, Squall Leonhart. That shit was not funny.”

Squall calmly claimed the stool for his own, and helped himself to a slice of pizza. “You didn’t like my joke?”

Cloud pulled himself to a sitting position and glared back at his friend. “I never like your jokes.”

“Shouldn’t be so jumpy then.” Squall chewed the slice thoughtfully, a disapproving expression on his face. “Ham and pineapple, huh? You’re a nasty man, Cloud Strife.” Nevertheless, he helped himself to another slice.

Cloud climbed to his feet and pulled another stool over to the counter. “If it’s so nasty, then why are you still eating it?”

“Because I’m hungry.” Squall answered matter-of-factly. A third slice rapidly went the way of the first two.

“I can see that.” Cloud replied, and reached for the pizza box, scowling when Squall slapped his hands away. “Come on! I’m the one who bought the pizza in the first place. What are you doing awake, anyway? Don’t you have to go to work in a couple of hours?”

Squall finished his fourth slice and relinquished the depleted pizza box to Cloud. “I had a nightmare.” he said quietly.

“I guess I kind of figured that.” Cloud said, finishing off the last of the pizza. “You look like Hell, plus I heard you thrashing around in there.”

“Why didn’t you come and wake me up, then?” asked Squall irritably.

“Shit, I remember what happened the last time I touched you while you were having one of your fits.” Cloud said, defensively. “You threw me across the room like a rag doll.”

“But I woke up, didn’t I? It was a noble sacrifice on your part.” Squall half-heartedly argued, as he went over to the fridge and took out a couple of Cokes. Tossing one to Cloud, he settled back down on his stool. He took a deep swig, appreciating the way the fizzle of the caffeine mixed with the coldness of the drink. The simplest things make me feel alive. Make me feel lucky to be alive. Sighing, he happened to catch a sideways glimpse of Cloud, who was watching him closely, concern evident in his large blue eyes. Squall immediately looked away, uncomfortably reminded of a time when he’d thought he was in love with his best friend. It had been soon after he’d moved in with him, about three years after the accident. After several failed attempts at winning Cloud over, he’d come to realize that what he’d felt was nothing more than a deep bond to another human being, something he hadn’t felt since Rinoa died, and something he never thought he’d feel again. Still, when Cloud looked at him like that, it gave him the creeps. Where else have I seen eyes so incredibly blue?

“Hey, Earth to Squall?” Cloud called, poking him in the ribs. “Are you alright, Leonhart? You kind of zoned out there for a minute.”

“Yeah,” Squall answered, distractedly. “I was just thinking.” Blue eyes… Who else do I know with blue eyes?

“Hopefully not about how much you love me.” Cloud muttered into his Coke can.

Immediately Squall flushed and spun around, glaring. “In your dreams, Strife!”

Cloud smirked, his taunt drawing the desired reaction from Squall. “It happened once, it can happen again.”

“It won’t. I assure you.” Squall responded, with finality. He took another swig of soda, feeling extremely embarrassed as he usually did when Cloud starting throwing ancient history in his face. That jerk is always bringing that shit up. I swear he just wants to get a rise out of me. “I didn’t even really love you then. I was just confused.” he explained in a defensive tone. “Anyway, those days are over.”

“They’d better be.” Cloud agreed. “Or I’ll tell Aerith, and she’ll come and give you such a stern talking to, young man…”

Squall rolled his eyes at the thought. Cloud’s girlfriend would probably do just that. She was far too soft for physical violence. Yet, she possessed such a gentle, trusting nature that Squall couldn’t help but like her. It was so rare to meet a genuinely sweet person. To think, he found her working in a flower shop, of all places. He never asked his friend what he was doing in a flower shop, and Cloud damn sure never told him. Shame that Cloud met her first. Still, he knew it really didn’t matter. Aerith wasn’t his type. He looked at Cloud with dawning suspicion. “Speaking of the flower girl, what are you doing here? Why aren’t you over her place? Or better yet, over your place?”

“Well,” began Cloud. “That is to say that I, um… It’s kind of complicated, you see…”

Squall nodded, a smug expression on his face. “I see. You fucked up, didn’t you? You’re hiding.”

“I am not hiding!” Cloud argued, indignantly. “I am just making myself a bit scarce, is all.”

Squall smirked. “I’ll bet. So tell me, what did you do this time?” He finished off his soda and tossed the can in the trash. Glancing at the microwave he saw that it was now a little after five.

“I didn’t do anything.” Cloud insisted. “It’s just that, well, she’s going on a bible retreat this weekend.” He shuddered. “And she wants me to go with her. So I’m hiding, okay, yes. I’m hiding until she leaves tonight.”

“Okay, big man. Why don’t you just tell her that you don’t want to go?” Squall suggested. “You’re twenty-four, and you can’t stand up for yourself?”

“You think I didn’t already try that? I did.” Cloud complained. “It’s just that, when she looks at me in that way of hers, I have a hard time telling her no.” He finished his own Coke, and went on. “I love Aerith, really I do. But sometimes I wish she wasn’t so damn… religious.”

Squall tsked, shaking his head. “Shame on you, Strife. When you love someone, you’re supposed to love everything about them. Not just their sparkling green eyes, and flowing red hair...”

“I think you’ve been looking a little too hard at my girlfriend, Leonhart.” Cloud interrupted.

Squall waved a hand dismissively at him. “Don’t be a jackass. You know that if I wanted her, I would’ve taken her from you a long time ago.”

Cloud bristled and got ready to respond, but a finger on his lips silenced him.

“Besides,” Squall continued in a low voice. “I like you better anyway.” He leaned in as if to kiss his friend.

Cloud squawked and fell backwards off his stool. This time he hit the floor head first, and he saw a whole damn universe. “Oh man… Fuck you, Leonhart.”

“Not today, Strife. Not today.” Squall stood up, and crushed the pizza box, before tossing it into the trash along with Cloud’s empty soda can. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a shower. Try not to drown in your own stupidity in my absence.” He staunchly ignored the double middle fingers Cloud was giving him from his place on the floor, as he walked back to down the hallway to his bathroom.

Closing the door, he stripped out of his night clothes, meticulously placing them in the hamper beside the door. Cloud called him a neat-freak, but he didn’t care. Cloud’s slovenly habits were one reason why they’d put an end to the roommate arrangement, Squall’s nightmares were another. The final straw had been Aerith, of course. It just irked Squall a little too much to see two people so obviously perfect for one another. It called too strongly to the ghosts of his own past. He absently brushed his fingers across the scar on his face, the only tangible reminder he still had that the accident had ever even happened.

Shaking his head, he stepped into the shower and turned on the water, adjusting the knobs. When it got as hot as he could stand, he took his soap from the side tray and lathered up, starting with his hair and working his way down. As he soaped, it suddenly came to him. Sora. He was the only person other than Cloud who had eyes that reminded him of travel brochures. Travel to exotic locations, they said, and displayed pictures of Fiji, Tahiti, or Costa Rica. All of the pictures showed white sand beaches and dazzling oceans, the water so invitingly clean, fresh, and blue, it almost made you think you could afford to visit those places. Both Cloud and Sora had eyes like that. But I like Sora’s better, he thought, and flushed. Where the hell did that come from?

Squall rinsed off, and began to lather up again, his usual routine. That was unacceptable. I don’t even know him that well. Squall had spent a total of eight hours around the person who had quickly become his favorite student. Four hours in class, and another four hours in detention. How ironic. I thought you were supposed to give detention to the students you didn’t like. For four days he’d been spending time after school just conversing with Sora, while he did his homework, or swept the floor, or cleaned the board. He’d soon realized that Sora had a brilliant mind for one so young, and a maturity beyond his years. Listening to Sora talk excitedly about his mom and cousin, about his best friends, and about how he planned to go to medical school and become a doctor, he’d felt a sense of peace that he rarely knew. It was unsettling really, the way his whole demeanor changed around Sora, his usual coldness transformed into a rare warmth that he only ever showed to people he’d known for a long time. Somehow, Sora had instantly gotten past his defenses without even trying, his blend of intelligence and youthful naïveté lulling Squall into a restful calm. This kid is really something, he often thought. Only when he caught Sora looking at him in that strangely erotic way, did his thoughts turn toward the inappropriate. Not to mention, the illegal and downright ridiculous. Besides, he doesn’t know what he’s doing when he looks at me like that. He probably has a little girlfriend somewhere. Yet, somehow, he doubted that. Despite Sora’s easygoing and talkative nature, there was one subject on which he’d remained tightlipped. His friend Riku rarely ever made it into conversation, and that was only if Squall happened to mention him. He didn’t know why he even brought the kid up, he already liked him less than Tidus… except that he was dying to know the true nature of his relationship with Sora. If the student rumors were to be believed, Riku was quite the lover-boy. For some reason the idea of him being with Sora bothered Squall, and he wanted to be reassured that such was not the case. It was assurance that was slow in coming.

Well, it’s Friday, at least, but for some reason the thought brought him little joy. Squall found it mildly disturbing that he was dreading this last day of the week, as it would be the end of his detentions with Sora. He told himself that it was because he would miss the conversation, the easy bantering back and forth, and the enjoyment of being around someone who was not a complete moron. It is all of that, but it’s something else. It was also the way Sora had, of pausing between sentences and fixing Squall with a look that went straight to the core of him, an undeniable purpose resting languidly in the arch of his eyebrows, in the curve of his lips. At the center of it all, those ocean blue eyes, rimmed with sooty dark lashes, calling him to come away, to perhaps the most exotic place of them all. In those instances, time seemed to slow to a crawl, and Squall felt like he was being drawn to a sea of sensuous hedonism, in which he would gladly drown, if given half the chance.

Squall felt his face redden at the nature of his thoughts, and groaned with embarrassment when he realized that his body had enthusiastically agreed with his assessment of Sora. Quickly, he wrenched the shower knob counter-clock wise, changing the spray of the water from scalding to freezing. “I’m too old for this shit.” he muttered.

When he arrived at the high school two hours later, he was as always, struck by the placidity of the neighborhood. They call New York the city that never sleeps, but Utopia was the town that was never awake. Granted, it is seven in the morning, but still… Squall knew that even during the afternoon, the suburban part of the town was sluggish, the residents irritatingly cheerful and sheltered. It was enough to make him very glad that he lived downtown, and only had to come this way for work. And who the hell was corny enough to actually name a place Utopia? I’d like to give the founding father a good kick in the ass.

He slowed his motorcycle as he entered the parking lot, artfully bringing it to a stop in his designated parking space. He dismounted, and smirked inwardly, fondly remembering the stunned faces of his fellow teachers as they’d first seen just how he was getting to work every day. “You ride that thing?!” one particularly annoying Biology teacher had exclaimed, her brown eyes wide behind tortoiseshell glasses. He had been tempted to tell her that there was a word to describe people who asked stupid questions like hers, but that sort of language wasn’t suitable in school. Still, he knew she couldn’t help it. His bike always intimidated people. It was a hulking machine creation of high-gloss black, and twisted chrome. He’d fallen in love with it the moment he saw it.

Cloud on the other hand had been less than enthusiastic when he brought it back to the apartment. “Let me get this straight,” Cloud had said to him. “That… beast, is supposed to make you feel safer than riding in a car, how?” Squall had tried to explain it to him the best he could, but Cloud had merely looked at him like he was an idiot, remarked “I hope your life insurance is paid up.” and let the subject drop.

In the end, the motorcycle had earned him brownie points with the female teachers. For some reason that got on his nerves, and their coy flirtatiousness didn’t help. If he heard one more grown woman coo, “Can I touch it?” with feigned wide-eyed innocence as if the double entendre was completely unintentional, he was going to scream. It’s just because I’m new, that’s all. Give them a couple of weeks, and they’ll lose interest. But he didn’t believe it. Women had always flocked to him in droves, and he knew it was more his looks than anything else.

I’ll probably never date another one, he thought, then rolled his eyes. Good God, why am I thinking like an angst-filled twelve year old? What could’ve put me in such a stinker of a mood this early? Then he remembered his little episode in the shower and groaned. That. So depriving his body of what it had so obviously wanted wasn’t the best of ideas, but still. I was not about to do that, while thinking about one of my students. It would’ve been indecent. Indecent or not, his hormones sought to punish him for his impudence, by sending his mood crashing down.

He sighed as he entered the school building, and smoothed his disheveled hair, not wishing to start his day off this way. I could always go down to the cafeteria and have a cup of coffee, he mused, but then quickly nixed the thought. That would put him in just the right location for all the female faculty members to sexually harass. Instead he headed directly to the main office.

“Good morning,.” Aurora, the office secretary, greeted him. Her blue eyes gave him thorough look over, all in the space of a few seconds. “It’s Squall, right?”

Squall conquered the urge to shudder, and merely gave her an acknowledging nod as he passed, all the while pissed at her boldness. “Why is everybody here so goddamn unprofessional?!” he grumbled to himself. That’s pretty funny coming from a man who was thinking about one of his students in the shower this morning, his mind replied flippantly. He scowled as he punched his time card. Hastily, he passed back the way he came, hoping to avoid Aurora altogether. He made it all the way to the door.

“So Squall,” she called to his retreating back. “If you’re not doing anything this weekend…”

“I can’t.” he replied without turning around. “I already have plans.” Yeah, I have to dope up on sleeping pills and pass out, but I’m sure that a date with you would have about the same effect. “Sorry.”

The disappointment was evident in her voice. “Aww… That’s too bad. Maybe another time, then.”

“Maybe.” Squall answered noncommittally as he left the office. When the door closed behind him, he scoffed. Please. I’m not that desperate. Quickly, he made his way to his classroom, hoping that he would not run into any more amorous female co-workers before he reached his destination. Turning the corner, he saw a figure leaned up against the classroom door and felt like screaming. For fuck’s sake, are they going to start laying in wait for me behind the bushes outside, too?! “Can I help you?” he asked with barely concealed irritation.

Sora turned and looked at him, an unreadable expression on his face. “Hey. I needed to talk to you about something.” Come away, the eyes said.

Squall suddenly felt as if the bottom had dropped out from underneath him, and he was tumbling down into a pit of nothingness. He pointedly looked at his watch until the feeling of vertigo passed, and then spoke. “At seven fifteen in the morning?”

Sora shifted anxiously and nodded. “Yeah.”

Squall rubbed his eyes, and walked over to the door. “Alright. Just let me sit down first.” He inserted the key into the doorknob, and turned it, hearing the tumblers click. He pushed the door open and held it for Sora who walked in behind him and cut on the lights. What the hell could he want with me this early in the morning? Crossing around behind his desk, he set his bag on the floor, pulled out his chair and sat down. He looked back at Sora, one eyebrow raised. “Well?”

Sora sighed and sat down on the edge of his own desk. “I know I have detention after school today, but I was sort of hoping that you would let me serve it before school instead? Or if not, then let me finish it on Monday?”

Squall blinked, confused. “Well that’s an interesting proposition, Sora, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to hear the reasoning behind it before I decide, one way or the other.”

Sora made a face as if that was the last thing he wanted to explain, but spoke anyway. “It’s like this. Riku is going out of town for the weekend, and he’s leaving this evening.”

“Is he going to a bible retreat?” Squall interrupted.

Sora stared at him. “No… Why do you ask?”

“No reason.” Squall answered, slightly embarrassed. “Please continue.”

Sora’s face took on a look of frustrated confusion. “Well, he’s been acting sort of funny all this week. He’s never at lunch, he’s never home when I call, and then he always seems out of it in class. I can’t even get words that make sense out of him.”

Squall nodded. He had noticed Riku’s lethargic behavior, as well. I’ll bet I know what’s causing it, too.

Sora continued. “And I just wanted a chance to stop by his house and talk to him before he left for the weekend. You know, to see what’s wrong. I’m kind of worried about him.” He looked at Squall, his expression pleading.

Squall faltered. “I don’t know, Sora. If I let you do that now, then the other students might not take me seriously.” Like that’s even an issue.

Sora stood up. “I know, but still… I really need to talk to him.” His eyes shone with honest determination. “And I swear that I’ll make up the detention, whenever you say so.”

Squall paused and regarded his pupil with something akin to awe. He remembered Cloud telling him that when Aerith looked at him a certain way he had a hard time telling her no. Is it anything like this? I think it is. He knew then that he would excuse Sora from his detention, even though it would make his own afternoon considerably duller. At least Riku will be getting some good out of this, he thought, somewhat bitterly. Finally, he nodded. “Alright Sora. You are excused from this afternoon’s detention.”

Sora sat back down on the edge of his desk, relief evident in his face. “Thank you so much.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Squall replied, casually. “You didn’t really deserve it anyway. I probably should’ve given it to Riku from the start.”

Sora scowled, and Squall was stunned to see such a dark look pass across that innocent face. “No, I don’t think so.” he said. “He probably would’ve just skipped it. Besides,” he continued, his scowl replaced by a look that was almost shy. “I enjoyed it. You’re pretty cool to talk to.”

Squall snickered at being called cool. “I’m glad you had fun, but I always thought detention was supposed to be a punishment.”

“That’s what I thought too,” Sora agreed. “So, when do I make up my hour?”

“I guess you’re making it up right now.” Squall answered, and then shrugged. “Although actually, I probably would’ve just let you go without making it up. I’ll bet you wish you’d stayed in bed now, don’t you?”

Sora shook his head. “Not really.” He turned toward Squall, and suddenly the look was there, en force. Come away…

Squall swallowed hard, and looked away, remembering that he had food in his bag. He’d quietly packed a small breakfast while Cloud proceeded to go to sleep on his expensive leather sofa. Now he leaned over, and unzipped his bag, taking out his meal, which consisted of a bagel, a banana, and a small bottle of orange juice. He set the items on the desk, pointedly ignoring Sora until he saw a shadow fall over his desk. Looking up with trepidation, he saw that Sora was practically hovering over him. “Yes?!” he damn near squeaked.

“You have a bagel.” It was a statement, not a question.

Squall was eerily reminded of a huge gray tomcat named Archimedes, he’d had back in junior high school. Whenever he was eating something that it wanted, it had an annoying habit of running up to him, it’s pupils dilated to the point where it was just plain weird. Sora was looking at him like that now, and he had half a mind to throw the bagel across the room, just to see if he’d chase it like Archimedes always did. Instead he squashed the crazy urge, and leaned casually back in his chair. “So I do.”

Sora frowned at him. “My mom always says that caring is sharing, you know.”

Squall smirked. “Well, my mom always said that stingy people get the most.”

Sora’s jaw dropped. “She did not!”

Squall shrugged and broke the bagel in half. Handing a piece to Sora, he replied, “I don’t know if she did or not, really. I don’t remember her.” He took a bite of his half and chewed it slowly. “She and my father were killed in a plane crash when I was still a toddler.”

Sora sat back on the edge of his desk, a stricken expression on his face. “That’s terrible…”

Squall shrugged. “Yeah, it is. But I wouldn’t even remember what they looked like, if it weren’t for the pictures, so I suppose I can’t feel too bad. But growing up, and seeing how many of the other kids my age took their parents for granted…” He grimaced. “It pissed me off. So you can imagine, I was pissed off a lot as a teenager.”

“I’ll bet.” Sora murmured. “Who raised you, since your parents were gone?” He ate the bagel, his eyes questioning.

“A man named Cid Highwind.” Squall answered, knowing that Sora would be familiar with the name.

“You know Coach Cid?” Sora asked in disbelief. All of the students had been upset when Mr. Highwind had retired two years before. Even though he was incredibly foul-mouthed, he was much loved by everyone. Tidus even cried, he remembered.

“Cid was my legal guardian.” Squall explained. “He’s also the one that got me this job here.”

“Oh…” said Sora. “What’s he doing now, anyway?”

Squall peeled his banana, and took a bite. “Well, he owned an auto repair and parts shop, even while he was a coach here. Once he retired, he went back to work at it full time. The shop is where I worked before I came here.”

“So what made you decide to become a teacher?” Sora asked.

Squall smirked. “Insufficient funds.” No one’s ever asked me that. Then again, I haven’t been teaching that long. “I got tired of my credit cards always saying ‘Decline,’ whenever I tried to buy something.”

Sora grinned. “That’s why anybody ever does anything. But I mean, you seem pretty smart, despite what some of the students say.”

“Thanks ever so much.” interrupted Squall, in a sarcastically sweet tone. Now I’m letting him take shots at me? Hell…

Sora suppressed a giggle as he continued. “So, I would think that you could’ve found a job that you would’ve actually liked.”

“Wait a minute, I never said I didn’t like this job.” Squall protested. Well, I don’t really, but you’re not supposed to know that.

“Oh come on. You don’t have to say it.” Sora argued. “You practically ooze it out of your pores.

Squall rolled his eyes. “That was somewhat short of disgusting, Sora. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m trying to eat, here.”

“Yeah, yeah. But I’ll bet you can’t think of one good thing you like about this job.” Sora challenged, leaning forward.

Squall watched him, apprehensively. “If you don’t quit leaning forward, you’re going to fall right off that desk, and smack your head on the floor like another fellow I know did earlier this morning. In my very own kitchen, in fact.”

Sora’s eyes narrowed briefly and then returned to normal. “Who?”

Was that jealousy, I just saw?! Squall looked at Sora warily, before answering. “My best friend, who is also Cid’s nephew.” He finished his banana, and rolled up the peel. “But yes, you will fall, and you will hit your head, and I will laugh. Believe this.” He pushed the peel forward. “Here you go. Put this in the trash for me, so I don’t end up scooping your brains back into your head.”

“Now’s who’s being disgusting?” asked Sora, standing up. He took the peel and walked over to the trash can, dropping it in, and quickly returning to his spot on the edge of the desk.

“Sora,” began Squall warningly.

Immediately Sora got down off the desk, and pulled his chair around instead. Sitting down, he fixed Squall with a look of mild annoyance. “You never answered my question.”

“What question?” asked Squall, taking a swig of his orange juice.

Sora sighed as though Squall had committed some grave social faux-pas. He looked dejectedly at the clock. Soon the other students would arrive and this magical quiet hour he was having would come to an end. “I asked you if there was anything about this job that you actually liked.” he said softly.

Squall raised an eyebrow, and folded his hands in his lap. He’s practically fishing for compliments. For some reason, it didn’t irk him like it would if anyone else had done it. Fuck it, anyone that can get on my good side as quickly as he did deserves a few compliments. “I like you.” Squall replied simply.

Sora looked up, as suddenly as if a buzzer had gone off. His eyes were intense. “I like you too.” he spoke quietly.

Squall was caught again, time stretching out into eternity, and all that he could see was ocean blue, stretching out before him like a blanket to roll up in. Whoa. With no little effort, he stood, averting his eyes to the wall clock. “Class is going to start in a little bit. If you want to get something from the vending machine, or need to use the bathroom, I suggest you do it now.” He moved quickly to the door, needing to get out, before his morality suffered another gut punch.

Sora was on his feet in an instant, a pained expression on his face. “Don’t.”

Squall turned. “Don’t what?” Please, just let me leave, before I think something I’ll regret. He remembered mad snatches of some long-ago philosophy class. Something about how once abstract ideas form coherent thought, that it’s only a matter of time before they are translated into action. If you can dream it, you can achieve it, he thought, wanting to laugh more than anything, but knowing that Sora would probably take it the wrong way.

“Don’t talk to me like that.” Sora pleaded. “Like you’re just my teacher or something.”

“I am your teacher.” Squall said firmly. Famous last words, I’ll bet.

“I thought you were my friend.” Sora countered, eyes flashing.

Squall looked at him for a long moment, again remembering what Cloud had said about Aerith. Yeah, I’ll bet it really is a lot like this. “Yes, Sora,” he conceded, the words making him feel as though he was at the beginning of the end. “I am your friend.”

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