Title: Separate Lives

Author: Slashapalooza

Fiction Rating T: 13+ Unverified. Contains content not suitable for children. Suitable for teens, 13 and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes.

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts and I never will. I don't own Kingdom Hearts and I never will. I don't own Kingdom Hearts and I never will. That sound you hear is the sound of my HEART BREAKING. I don't own Kingdom Hearts and I never will.

Author's Note: For those of you who don't know, I'm baaack! Yes, that's right! Slashy, in the flesh and the geeky pajamas! Updating all my old stories! Living in the realm of Kingdom Hearts fanfiction! It is too, too fun to be back. Let's see. I have a new LJ, the link to which is in my profile and, uh, my butt's asleep. And there's a lot of cursing in this chapter. That's about it.

Oh, no, wait. I also have to pee. Does that count? Eheh, I bet none of you ever wanted to know that. Yeah, I'll just stop now…

Thanks To: Everyone who has reviewed in the past year! Thanks so very much for sticking with me!

Date Begun: August 24, 2006

Date Posted: October 2, 2006

004. Crash Into You
"Where's Riku?" Sora asked immediately the next morning when Tidus failed to appear with the older boy in tow. The blond snorted, raising one shoulder in a shrug.

"You'd know better than me these days," He said snidely. "Anyway, I'm sure he'll be along soon. Or just meet us at school. Whatever. You can have his bagel."

Sora caught the bagel Tidus chucked at his head and stuck his tongue out, opening the foil and taking a bite. He stared pensively down the street. Riku had never done this before. Okay, sure, Sora had only known him for three days and, for all he knew, Riku was never on time for the bus, but still. This was usually the time they had all their nice talks.

Like when Riku said something nice and Sora said something sarcastic and Riku laughed and Sora cursed Riku's existence. Sora treasured those talks. How dare Riku just take that away.

And leave him alone with Tidus. Tidus! Riku knew Sora hated Tidus. Tidus was an asshole. What made him think that he wanted to spend ten minutes standing on the sidewalk with Tidus? He'd rather have his spleen removed by a drunken hobo with a series of toothpicks and no painkillers. Presumably, Tidus felt the same way.

So where was Riku?

"Does he… is he ever… um…" Sora cleared his throat to halt the stammering, feeling like a total idiot for thinking so much about that stupid boy. "Is Riku ever late like this?"

Tidus raised an eyebrow curiously for a moment. Then, suddenly, he grinned. "You like him, don't you?"

"No," Sora denied immediately, going a bit pink. "This is just the first time since I've met you idiots that he's ever been late for the bus and he left my house kind of quickly yesterday and I was just making sure he's not avoiding me or something. I mean, I'm supposed to avoid him, not the other way around. If he's avoiding me while I'm avoiding him, then that just takes attention away from me avoiding him, doesn't it? Is it me or is the bus taking really long to come?"

Tidus stared at him blankly. "What the hell are you even talking about?"


"Yeah, whatever," Tidus turned his attention back to the street, taking a large bite of his bagel and not swallowing before continuing to speak. "Riku told me all about you and your little speech about his eating habits."

Sora swallowed. "Uh… h-he did?"

"Yep. We were expressing our mutual amusement that you watched him closely enough to accuse him of anorexia. It's cute," Tidus gave Sora an impish grin. "He totally likes you, too, you know. You should go for it."

"I'm not going for anything! Because, first of all, I'm not gay and, second of all, I don't like your stupid—oh, hey, look, the bus."

As soon as the bus pulled up in front of them, Sora raced on, taking a seat in the back by the window and hoping that he would get lucky and Tidus would sit somewhere else.

Which, naturally, meant that Tidus slid into the seat beside him and spent the entire ride talking to a kid Sora didn't recognize about blitzball. Sora had never had the greatest luck.

"Hey," Riku said as Sora slid into his seat in front of him. The brunet immediately whirled around in his seat, his eyes narrowed. Riku blinked. "I see you're in a great mood as always."

"Where were you this morning?" Sora hissed, his eyes narrowing even further. "You left me alone with Tidus. Tidus! How could you?"

Riku raised an eyebrow, looking far too amused for someone who was supposed to be deeply ashamed of his actions. "I had to help my Dad with something. If I didn't know better, I'd think you missed me."

"Don't be stupid." Sora turned back around, in full sulk mode. Unless Riku had been in the hospital after having a limb viciously ripped off, then there was no excuse for leaving him alone with Tidus. And Riku hadn't even apologized. It was like he didn't care about Sora at all!

Not that Sora wanted him to or anything. It was the principal of the thing. Riku couldn't just go around blowing hot and cold. Either he wanted to be Sora's friend or he didn't, and, if it was the former, he was doing a horrible job.

Sora stiffened as Riku leaned forward to whisper in his ear, "I'm sorry."

"Okay," Sora breathed, melting before he realized what he was doing and stiffened again. "Whatever. Just don't do it again."

"Alright." Riku was once again far too amused for someone who was supposed to be wallowing in guilt and regret.

What could he possibly have been helping his father with that was more important than helping Sora not strangle his so-called best friend? Riku wasn't exactly friend material if he avoided keeping his friends alive. He and Tidus could have gotten into a scuffle, during which Tidus could have pulled out one of those glass bottle blades or what have you and stabbed Sora with it. It would have served Riku right, leaving them alone like that!

Sora's thoughts were getting a bit too crazy, even for him, and thus he rested his head against his desk and groaned. It was the poor atmosphere, for sure. It was driving him crazy. He needed to be amongst his peers, talking about money and polo and girls and booze. Nevermind that most of his peers had never liked him because he was, according to them, 'odd' due to the fact that he didn't find watching some girl's bouncing chest to be incredibly fascinating. He'd rather be trying to fit in with them than trying to fit in with these people.

A pen jabbed him in the back, a sure sign that Riku wanted his attention, but Sora was too preoccupied with feeling sorry for himself. He closed his eyes and groaned again, ignoring the vicious prod that followed a few moments later.

Finally, Riku seemed to have just given up on the jabbing and leaned forward again. "I got you something."

Sora perked up immediately. "Really?"

"Uh huh," Riku whispered, sounding oddly pleased. "I'll give it to you at lunch. I think you'll—"

"Mr. Masaki," Mr. Obana said with a hint of a smile. "I'm sure that the notes to accompany today's lesson can't be found on Mr. Harada's ear, so if you would please look up at the board and continue that particular venture after class?"

Sora didn't think it was possible for his face to be so red.

"Yes, sir." He and Riku said in unison, falling quiet for the rest of the class.

It wasn't until Leon realized that he'd graded his last seven essay papers with Es that he gave up on trying to act normal. He had the class doing some random worksheets because he was afraid that if he attempted to put notes on the board, he'd end up writing Cloud's name or something equally embarrassing. And these kids were hungry for any bit of gossip they could get their hands on. The rumors about him and Yuffie still hadn't died down.

Then again, it wasn't like they ever did anything to prove or disprove them. Yuffie only got close to him in the teachers' lounge and Leon had an award-winning poker face and a glare that scared any overcurious gossip into running away and simultaneously crapping themselves.

He couldn't imagine what they'd start saying when they realized that he and Cloud used to be closer than professional relationships allowed. A lot closer.

But he really shouldn't have been thinking about those kinds of things with nothing but a desk separating him from his students and an entire twenty minutes of class left to go.

He raised his gaze from the desk in front of him to the door as the door opened and had to struggle to keep his face blank as none other than Cloud walked in, looking first nonchalant, then surprised, then resigned.

Leon blinked slowly. "Can I help you…" He paused before continuing. "Cloud?"

"I, um," Cloud cleared his throat. "We ran out of chalk in my classroom, so can I…?"

"Yeah, sure." Leon took a box out of his top drawer and held it out, seeing no compelling reason to get up and walk it over to Cloud. The blond's eyes narrowed slightly as he waited then, rolling his eyes, he crossed the classroom.

Leon's eyes never left him the entire way. He took in Cloud's expressive blue eyes, his spiky blond hair—which, he noticed, had gotten much shorter and less wild—and… was that a piercing in his left ear? Two piercings? When had he gotten those?

Cloud took the box of chalk from him and raised an eyebrow. "Thank you, Squall."

Ignoring the murmuring coming from his students, Leon immediately corrected him. "It's actually Leon now."

"I thought that was just Yuffie's random nickname for you."

"Well, it's not."

"I see," the other eyebrow joined the first. "Thank you. Leon."

"You're welcome."

They stared at each other for another minute before Cloud turned and walked out of the classroom. Leon looked back at the students, all of whom were staring at him with matching smug expressions.

"Mr. Leonhart," said one in an unbearably innocent way. "Are you and Mr. Strife—?"

"There is a 50,000 word essay waiting for you at the end of that sentence." Leon replied coldly.

The student wisely didn't finish.

Cloud stared at the box of chalk in his hands, exhaling slowly. His class was probably wondering if Sir Francis Drake had kidnapped him and sold him into a life of slavery on the high seas, but Cloud had all but forgotten about them. The box was still slightly warm from being held in Squall's—that is to say, Leon's—hand and it really shouldn't be affecting him the way it was.

Leon really shouldn't be affecting him the way he was.

Of course, it would be much easier to maintain an indifferent nature if he wasn't still in love with the guy. He'd really thought he'd gotten over it. It wasn't as though he hadn't dated other guys while he was at college. He'd gone through his usual 'how-could-he' stage where he sulked and played sad, soulful breakup songs superimposed against angry, spurned female tracks. This had been followed by the 'get-out-and-move-on' stage in which he went out in slut clothes and picked up a new guy every night, only avoiding alcohol poisoning and STDs by sheer force of will and an obsession with properly applied condoms. The actual getting out and moving on had come a year or so after that.

But the moment he'd seen Leon again, it had all come rushing back. The love. The lust. The heartache.

"Shit," he said quietly, tossing the box into the air and then catching it again before finally heading back into his classroom. Hell if he was going to let Leon keep him from doing his job. He wasn't some lovesick puppy dog waiting for his lover to take him back.

If anything, he was the one who should get to do the taking back. He wasn't the one who'd accused his boyfriend of being a slut. He'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person. And he'd apologized. Twelve times. What more did Leon want?

Obviously not me, Cloud thought with an air of bitterness, since he broke up with me so easily.

The bell rang, snapping Cloud out of his thoughts and causing him to release a few very colorful curses just as his class opened the door and stopped when they saw their teacher glaring daggers at the ceiling.

"Mr. Strife…?" A girl said hesitantly. "Are you okay? And also, do we have any homework?"

"I'm fine," Cloud muttered in irritation. "Read the chapter or something." He whirled around and stormed in the direction of the teacher's lounge, wishing he'd never even heard the name Squall "It's Actually Leon" Leonhart. Didn't he realize that Leon Leonhart was every bit as stupid a name as Montgomery Montgomery or something?

Though, the fact that Yuffie had loved to tease them about how you couldn't have a fast, violent storm without clouds to cover up the sky and, therefore, he and Squall were trueloveforever might have had something to do with it.

Cloud entered the teacher's lounge, somewhat unsurprised to see Yuffie sitting on the table, and went about seeing whether or not he could pour himself a cup of coffee in under ten seconds. The longer he spent in here, the more likely he was to run into Leon again and if that happened, well, his middle finger had a lot to say to Mr. Leonhart.

"Cloudster!" she chirped happily, half-way through a smoothie. "You're not mad at me about yesterday, are you? I was just trying to… ah… help."

"Of course you were." He couldn't help but smile. "It's fine, Yuffie."

He poured some milk into his coffee and grabbed the sugar packets—he could add those after he'd gotten the hell out of there—preparing to make a break for it.

"You two are ridiculous," Yuffie said, rolling her eyes as Cloud made his way towards the door. "In the highly unlikely event that Leon comes looking for you, what do you want me to tell him?"

Cloud paused at the door. "Tell him… that his name is stupid." And then he was gone.

Riku's mouth curved into a nervous smile as he dug around his portfolio for Sora's gift. He'd spent the better part of the night putting the finishing touches on it, which made him more or less dead to the world mentally when his father had shaken him at 5am because the "goddamn toilet's overflowing and I need to take a shit."

How his father had confused 'high school student' with 'first class plumber', Riku would never know, but at least he'd fixed the toilet. It had cost him a bus ride with Sora, though, awarding him a day that had already begun with Sora hating him.

Interesting kid, that one. Hanging around with him wasn't for the faint of heart or weak of spirit. Riku had done more work in the last three days just to get Sora to acknowledge him than he'd ever done in his entire life.

But he had a feeling that if he could just get Sora to smile at him—a real smile that reached his eyes—then everything would be worth it. Which is why he had drawn the picture.

Tidus pushed his half-empty carton of chocolate milk from one side of the table to the other, eyeing Riku with exasperated amusement. "So, you want in his pants or something, right?"

"That's what's wrong with today's generation," Riku said amiably as he located the picture and carefully extracted it so it wouldn't get bent or folded. "Everything always comes down to sex. Everybody has an ulterior motive. Suspicion and mistrust are what cause wars and murders. I for one—"

"—Are full of shit," Tidus finished for him, smirking. He whistled as Riku showed him the very detailed picture of Sora. "I totally can't stand the kid and I don't understand why you want to impress him so bad, but that's a real work of art. No offense, but I hope he hates it just to give me an excuse to beat his snotty little face in."

Riku chuckled, though he sincerely wished Tidus and Sora would get over whatever problem they had with one another. Tidus had been his best friend for years and Sora would, hopefully, be a new one. Was it too much to ask that they get along?

Tidus called him a peacemaker. Riku just preferred not to walk around with a constant migraine.

"Here he comes," Tidus said idly, pointing over Riku's shoulder. Riku immediately turned around, instinctively smiling as he saw Sora inching his way into the cafeteria, looking at everyone like they would spring up and attack at any minute. That boy was so cute—in a purely friendship-like observational kind of… oh, screw it, Sora was freaking adorable.

The brunet finally noticed them and made his way over to the table, sitting down and producing a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a Pepsi from his backpack. Riku didn't know whether he was still against cafeteria food or if he just had a Dorito fetish that the broken vending machine couldn't satisfy and he really didn't feel like asking at the moment.

"Hey, Sora," he greeted, the picture now burning a hole through his hand. "How were your classes?"

Just as Riku was berating himself for being so completely transparent, Sora looked at him like he had grown a talking fish head.

"They were fine, thank you," he said slowly as if wondering whether he should be giving such a positive answer or if he should be complaining about them so that Riku could launch into some sort of long rant.

Riku quickly smiled to show that, despite the fact that it was neutral question, that was a right answer. "Oh, that's cool."

"Um, yeah."

"'Um, yeah,' don't say hi to me, spiky." Tidus said sarcastically. "And also, Riku's got something for you."

"Oh, right!" Sora cried, ignoring the first half of Tidus' statement. His eyes were practically shining; he looked so excited. "Can I have my present now? Is it edible? Is it a cookie? What is it?"

"Yes, no, no, and here," Riku answered, handing Sora the drawing and holding his breath. He knew he was a decent artist, maybe even fantastic on a good day, but Sora just seemed so critical of everything. He didn't know if he'd be able to handle Sora hating his picture after he'd worked so hard on it.

Sora didn't seem to be breathing either. "Riku… this is…"

"I, um, drew it for you. Of you. Yesterday, when we were in the art room, that's what I was—"

"Riku…" Sora said again, breathlessly. "You… you…?

Tidus snickered and suddenly Sora seemed to snap out of the trance he was in and sniffed, sticking the picture carefully into his bag. "I would have preferred a cookie."

Riku shot Tidus a glare cold enough to freeze Bermuda, then gave Sora a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Sorry. I'll remember that for next time."

"Thanks." Sora's eyes were soft as he said it and Riku knew he wasn't talking about remembering cookies.

His smile brightened considerably. "Anytime."

Tidus had no patience for a lot of things. Among these things were Sora Harada, trips to the dentist, his mother when she was drunk, and Wakka Obana.

It wasn't that he hated Wakka—no, okay, it was that he hated Wakka. He still didn't understand how Wakka had gotten chosen as blitzball captain instead of him. He had all the brains, skill, and good looks. Who the hell had a crush on Wakka? Uh huh, that's right. Nobody.


"Stop sulking, ya," Wakka said, tossing a blitzball into the air and kicking it to one of the other team members. "Makes you look like a girl."

"It does not," Tidus immediately protested, grabbing the returning blitzball just before Wakka could catch it. "I am all man. Now are we going to practice or are you just going to be a smartass because I'm prettier than you?"

"Geez, Tidus," Wakka rolled his eyes, snatching the ball. Tidus took a moment to resent the fact that Wakka had at least nine inches on him in height. "Who put the ground up nails in your breakfast this morning, ya? EVERYBODY INTO THE WATER! We'll practice breathing exercises first!"

Tidus shed his shirt and dived into the school pool, filling his lungs with air before he made contact with the surface. As he mentally counted the seconds he could make it without drowning, he caught sight of Wakka a few feet away and scowled.

He was about to launch into an all new mental rant when a hand suddenly grabbed the back of his shirt and dragged him out of the pool. He opened his mouth in a gasp, inhaling water and choking as he was roughly tossed onto the pool deck.

"What t-the fuck?" he cried, coughing the moisture out of his lungs. His eyes watered, blurring the image of whoever had tried to kill him.

"I'm walking Sora home," said the familiar voice of Riku Masaki. "Wanna come?"

Tidus coughed out the last of the water and regulated his breathing. Then he attacked.

"ASSHOLE! I COULD HAVE DIED AND YOU'RE FUCKING ASKING ME IF I WANT TO TAKE YOUR FUCKING BOYFRIEND BACK TO HIS FUCKING HOUSE! FUCKHEAD!" he screeched, his hands grabbing Riku's neck and trying to throttle him. They tumbled backwards onto the deck, narrowly avoiding the fall into the water, and Tidus straddled the older boy, pounding ineffective fists against Riku's chest. "YOU FUCKING SUCK!"

Riku, rather than being terrified or dead (the bastard), was laughing. "Tidus! God, you kiss your boyfriend with that mouth?"

"I'M NOT THE GAY ONE, DAMN YOU!" Tidus snapped, increasing his efforts to kill Riku. The white haired boy grabbed one wrist and then the other, stopping the attack and snickering.

"Well, I'm sorry, but it's not like I've never dragged you out of the pool before." Riku reasoned. He smirked. "I think you're just mad because you were busy checking out Wakka's ass under the water."

Tidus' eyes narrowed. "Death. Death! Pain. Suffering. Dismemberment. CASTRATION."

"I love you, too. Now, could you get off?"

Tidus glared at him.


The glare intensified.

Riku beamed innocently. "You know, I really don't get into this position with other boys unless we're dating. You offering?"

"Yeah," Tidus deadpanned. "I've been dying to have your hot and sexy body between my legs. Please, Riku, fuck me."

Riku's hand reached up and cupped his cheek and Tidus wondered if he'd catch something if he bit clean through Riku's wrist. Maybe it'd just be safer to lop off his arm with a protractor. But where would he get a protractor at a time like—

"Rik—oh my… um…" Tidus and Riku both turned to see Sora standing there, staring at them in a mixture of shock, interest, and a bit of disappointment. "Sorry for interrupting, but you said that if I tried to tie myself to a bus and get home that way, you'd camp out outside my house and you were taking too long to get Tidus so I just thought I'd come find you guys, but, obviously, you're making out so I'll just go wait out front and, oh, hey, I didn't know there was a pool here, is that water clean?"

Tidus climbed off of Riku, wondering how the hell Sora managed to talk so fast without taking a breath, and held out a hand to pull the older boy to his feet. He sighed in irritation. "Great, now you've got spiky thinking we're dating. I should really kick your ass, Riku."

However, he noted with growing irritation, Riku wasn't even listening to him. His entire attention was on Sora. "Tidus and I aren't—we aren't like that. I mean, Tidus is straight and, even if he wasn't, it's Tidus—"

"Hey, hey, hey," Sora said, backing up and holding up his hands. "It's cool, really. No need to deny your clandestine relationship purely for my sake. I've never seen two boys making out before. Or almost make out before. It's, uh, not so bad, I guess. To each his own. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever rocks your house party. Etcetera, etcetera."


"Tidus!" the blond tried his hardest not to glare at his team captain and was only half sure it worked. "Get your scrawny ass back in the water! This is blitzball practice, not time for you to play with your boyfriend!"

Goddammit, Tidus thought, glancing over his shoulder and unsurprised to see that Riku and Sora were gone. I fucking hate Riku.

"It's not true."

"It's nothing to be ashamed of."

"I'd be ashamed if it was true."

"Well, aren't you just the world's best boyfriend?"

"Sora!" Riku said in exasperation, stopping mid-walk.

They were only about half-way back to Sora's house and the younger boy had been frigid to him—well, more frigid—the entire walk. Riku supposed he could have, or should have, mentioned how he and Tidus taunted each other, but it was too late for that. Now he had to concentrate on digging himself out of this hole before Sora stopped talking to him entirely, effectively undoing all the effort he'd put into the friendship already.

Sora took a few more steps before he realized Riku was no longer beside him and turned. "What?"

"I'm not dating Tidus. We were just fooling around." Sora's eyes widened and Riku, realizing what he'd just said, immediately corrected himself. "I mean, not like that. Like friends. We're not together."

"Okay," Sora replied, sounding just as exasperated as Riku had been. "Can we talk about something else now? Anything else? You've been babbling on the entire way."

Riku grabbed Sora's wrist just as the brunet began to turn around and start walking again, meeting Sora's gaze intently. "I don't feel like that about Tidus, okay? I don't feel that way about anyone right now. To be honest, the only person who comes even remotely close to making me feel that way is you."

Sora stared at Riku impassively, tugging his wrist free. Riku didn't break the gaze and didn't avert his eyes guiltily. He was telling the truth. Sure, he didn't like Sora. Not that way. But he'd have to be stupid and blind not to notice that there was potential there. Whether Sora himself realized that was irrelevant.

The younger boy stepped closer, his expression still completely blank, until there was little more than a couple of centimeters separating their bodies. Then, he leaned up and, grabbing a fist full of Riku's t-shirt, brought Riku's lips down to his.

Riku was too shocked to do more than stand there stupidly and let Sora kiss him, wondering how he'd ended up standing in the middle of the sidewalk kissing a (cute, he freely admitted) boy he'd just met three days ago. Except he wasn't doing much of the kissing.

Just as that thought hit him, Sora pulled away, looking at Riku through lowered lashes. Riku stared at him, wondering what Sora's next move would be and why he'd kissed him and if he was going to do anything else. Then, Sora grinned.

"Sorry, but I'm too good for you, Riku."

Riku frowned, about to protest when Sora turned with a snicker and started to run. He stared for a moment as Sora got farther and farther away, then shook his head with a laugh and followed. "You little bitch!"

"Go find yourself a gay boy!" Sora called over his shoulder in between laughs. "You're missing the necessary parts for me to be interested!"

Riku's grin widened. "Well, sorry! It's just the cost of an operation is so high these days!"

"I'm going to pretend you didn't just say that!"

Riku had no idea what was going on in Sora's head—he didn't think he ever would—but for the moment things were good between them and that was enough.

Tidus gave Wakka his customary departure signal (one middle finger as far up as he could get it) and left practice, his backpack slung over one shoulder and a grocery list in the other. He noticed the words 'more beer' scrawled unsteadily at the bottom of the list and rolled his eyes, wishing that his mother would stay away from the grocery list and/or do her own damn shopping. Like he could buy beer without paying somebody off to do it for him. Geez.

He supposed he was just fed up. Between practice with Wakka the Creep, Riku's little performance earlier, and then getting thrown over by Riku for Sora (again), Tidus was irritable, lonely, and irritable. What, just because he wasn't gay and snotty, he couldn't hold his own against Sora for the attention of his best friend? That made so much sense.

"Dammit," Tidus muttered, realizing that he sounded like a bitter ex or something. He knew if he just told Riku that he felt neglected and shit, Riku would try and fix it. Riku was just like that. He valued honesty; not only did he tell the truth, but he expected other people to be honest with him.

But, man, Riku just seemed so happy when Sora was around. He was starting to get that happy glint back in his eyes that he hadn't had since his Mom took off. Sora might have been a stuck-up asshole, but he was the stuck-up asshole who was on his way to making Riku truly happy.

In three fucking days. Tidus just didn't understand it.

He stopped as he realized that he was, yet again, standing outside of The Paris Dance Studio. He didn't remember instructing his feet to take this way home and he really didn't feel like watching Selphie dance with the world's biggest scowl on his face.

That didn't, however, stop him from peering through the glass. Some girls were there, twirling and leaping and landing in perfect formation to some melody Tidus could only vaguely hear. His eyes swept over them, but Selphie wasn't among them. Well, wasn't that just the perfect end to an already crappy day?

Disheartened, he turned and immediately slammed into something small and soft.

"Hey!" an unfamiliar voice said, grabbing his arm to keep from falling over. "Hey, you're Tidus, right? Right?"

Tidus blinked at the hand on his arm, following it up, up, up until he was staring into the eyes of none other than Selphie. He blinked again. "Um?"

"Hi! Remember me?" Selphie asked, beaming. She was wearing a pair of denim jeans and a sleeveless emerald green hoodie shirt. It brought out her eyes. "I'm Selphie! You ran away from me yesterday!"

"Um," Tidus repeated again, obviously feeling very intelligent and coherent. "Um."

"Want to go to the music store with me?" She pointed across the street to Dee Bee Records, the only decent music store for miles. "I figure if you're going to stalk me, we should at least get along. Especially if you're going to be so obvious about it."

Tidus struggled to say something other than 'um'. "Uh…"

"Great! Let's go!"

Before he could even form a sentence, she'd grabbed his arm and was dragging him across the street. Maybe this day wouldn't suck so bad after all.

Sora could feel it in the atmosphere. Seriously. It was like that moment in the movie where the guy and the girl stood on the porch awkwardly for ten minutes, shuffling around and locking gazes and then looking away, until one of them finally kissed the other goodnight and the girl went inside to gush about it in her diary.

The closer they got to Grandma Yamazaki's house, the more he could feel one of those moments coming on. And, really, he only had himself to blame for kissing Riku in the first place.

It wasn't like he'd done it with the intention of pursuing some kind of long term relationship (or even a short term one). Sora liked girls and Riku was no girl. It was more like he'd done it to prove to himself that all these traitorous thoughts he'd been having weren't the result of some sort of latent crush on Riku.

Which they weren't, because Sora hadn't really felt anything while kissing Riku. It was just kissing. No fireworks, no sappy music, no chorus of angels singing, "Baby, you're the one." Just kissing.

That crush Riku may-or-may-not have on him had to be pretty advanced for him to think Sora would kiss him again. Hadn't he just said he was out of Riku's league? He was rich. Riku was poor. Never the two shall meet.

His situation aside. Of course.

"Well, here we are," Sora said as he reached the front door and he didn't bother to wait before pulling it open and revealing at least twelve cats. "And here I go. See you tomorrow."

Riku blinked slowly, then seemed to shrug before that ever-present amused smile was back. "Bye, Sora. Sorry about the whole—"

"It's cool. Now get off my property, peasant." Sora stuck his tongue out at Riku and then slammed the door in his face. Ah, life's simple pleasures.

"Sora? Is that you?"

"Uh huh," He called back to his grandmother, peering through the peephole to see Riku still freaking standing in front of the door. "But I have to go as soon as Riku's gone. Mom wants me home for dinner today."

Grandma Yamazaki appeared behind him, balancing four bowls of milk which she began to set down on the floor to lure away the cats that were trying to eat the dangling zippers on Sora's ratty backpack. She was smirking. "Riku walked you home again today, did he? Sounds like things are getting serious between you two."

"Yeah, I don't know why he keeps doing that. Like today he said—wait, what?" Sora whirled around so fast he nearly got whiplash. "Serious? We're not even—it's not like that at all! He's poor!"

Grandma Yamazaki sniffed. "So am I."

"You're family! And he's—he's all… nasty. And male."

She looked at him as though she'd never seen him before in his entire life. "…you're straight?"

"Yes." Sora said vehemently. "What did you think?"

"…are you sure?"


Grandma Yamazaki blinked again. "Really?" She narrowed her eyes and began retreating almost suspiciously. "It's like I don't even know you."

Sora stared at her blankly, then returned to staring through the peephole only to find that Riku was no longer standing outside. To be sure, Sora poked his head out the door briefly. Riku was nowhere in the immediate area. He looked behind him and waved. "Well, gotta go. Bye, Grandma!"

He got nothing but a small snort in reply.

"How about this? Do you like Switchfoot?" Selphie asked, waving the CD in his face. Tidus stared at the CD, then at her, then shook his head and looked away.

In the last half hour, he'd learned that Selphie was really the energizer bunny. This theory was backed up by her inability to sit still, her endless supply of energy, and the fact that she'd managed to fit a ninety-eight word rant about the Spice Girls into one breath. Not that Tidus had been counting. Or staring at her lips. Or anything.

"Well, what do you like?" She placed one hand on her hip and pouted thoughtfully. "Is it me? Are you having a bad time because of me?"

"Wha—no, I—" Tidus began, cheeks flushing. "It's not you. I've just… had a bad day. It's not you." He glanced around and grabbed the first CD he saw. "What about this one?"

Selphie peered at it, then raised an eyebrow in amusement. "Hilary Duff? Are you serious?"


"Give me that before you hurt yourself," She took the CD with a giggle and flounced off in the direction of the Pop/Rock section, leaving Tidus to wallow in a pit of his own depression. He was hanging out with the prettiest girl he'd ever seen, after being accused of being gay, in one of his favorite places. By all rights, he should be moderately happy.

He just…

"Here! You've got to like this song!" Selphie had reappeared beside him and was pulling him in the direction of the headphones. She scanned the CD—The Odds, Tidus barely had the time to read—and pulled the headphones on over his ear, flipping through the songs until she found the one she wanted.

I'm a heterosexual… I'm a heterosexual maaaaan…

Surprised, Tidus began to laugh.

"No self-respecting straight man wouldn't like that song," she announced proudly, hands folded behind her back as she leaned towards him with a grin. "Pretty good, isn't it?"

Tidus nodded, small chuckles still escaping him. "Yeah, pretty good."

Selphie stepped close, lifting the headphones and pressing their cheeks together before bringing them back down so they could both hear. Tidus knew his cheeks were heating up, but trying to move away would only advertise that and he didn't really feel like moving anyway.

"I wanna get every girl on the globe. We kiss and hug and then we disrobe…" Selphie sang along happily until she realized she was getting a lot of odd looks from the girls in the area. She winked and blew a kiss. "What're you doing tonight, cutie?"

Tidus laughed again. "Stop that. You're scaring them."

"People need to be more open-minded, anyway. If I want to hit on a girl, dammit, I'll hit on a girl!"

"While you're out on a date with me?" He asked, raising an eyebrow. "Seems a bit rude."

Selphie grinned. "This is not a date. A date is when a nice boy asks a nice girl to do something with him. A date is not when a nice girl drags a nice boy to a CD store so she can make sure he's not a psycho stalker."

The song came to a close and Tidus removed the headphones, putting them back and turning to her. "And am I a psycho stalker?"

Selphie met his gaze innocently. "I don't know. We haven't spent enough time together yet."

Tidus raised an eyebrow, about to ask if this was the part where he was supposed to ask her out on a real date, when he heard a small buzzing noise. Selphie pulled a rather expensive looking cell phone out of her pocket—how long had her parents had to save up to buy her that?—and had turned around to speak into it in hushed tones.

A few minutes later, she closed it with a sigh. "I have to go home now. It was nice finally getting to talk to you, Tidus." She smiled wistfully. "Come see me again, okay?"

"Yeah," He said with a wistful smile of his own. "Yeah, I will."

"So, son," Yukito began as he cut his steak into bitable pieces. "How are you doing at that—that—can you even call it a school?"

Seiya giggled, taking a sip of her white wine. "Now, now, honey. Don't be rude. How are you doing, Sora? You never seem to be home in time for dinner, anymore. Does this mean you're getting involved and making friends?"

"Friends!" Yukito looked appalled. "They're poor! They don't make friends! They make clients and… and dealers!"

"Actually," Sora broke in before his father went on a long rant about the seedy underbelly of the city. "Some of them are actually nice. And not drug dealers. Or whores. And I kissed a boy today."

"Don't be ridiculous, Sora. They are all—WHAT?" Yukito shouted. His steak slid down the wrong hole and he began to choke, his face turning red. Seiya clapped him on the back even as her eyes lit up.

"Sora, you're gay? I knew it! I told you! Didn't I tell, you, Yuki? You so owe me three hundred dollars."

Sora blinked, realizing for the first time just how alike Grandma Yamazaki and his mother were. "Mom, I'm not gay."

"You kissed a poor boy?" Yukito demanded as soon as he could breathe again. "Your first experiment with your sexuality has to be with a POOR BOY?"

"Well, he was there," Sora said with a shrug, going back to his food. "And also I think he likes me. He pretty much said so after I caught him about to make out with this other boy."

"Oooooh," Seiya leaned forward in her seat, looking at Sora intently. "I have to meet this boy. What's his name? Are you going to go out with him? What do you think of him? What do you mean you're not gay?"

"Seiya," Yukito said firmly. "Our son likes girls and I will thank you to stop encouraging this—this phase."

"Liking boys isn't a phase. Although," Seiya paused thoughtfully. "Didn't you have a thing with that one boy? What was his name? The one I caught you with in the old music room and took pictu—"

"ANYWAY," Yukito interrupted. "Sora, I don't want you fraternizing with any boys. Especially not poor ones. You have to give us an heir."

"I thought that was Kairi's job. I thought my job was not to flunk out of school again," Sora pointed out, completely disinterested in the conversation. It wasn't like he was even interested in Riku. Sure, he was nice and funny and smart and a really talented artist. But Sora liked girls. And, also, Riku was poor, like his father said.

"What's his name?" Seiya insisted, waving her spoon at Sora menacingly. "And when do I get to meet him?"

"His name is Riku," Sora answered dully. "And you don't. He thinks I'm poor, remember? Besides, I only kissed him because—" Because I wanted to. "—because he looked pathetic. I don't like him at all." He looked down. "May I please be excused?"

"Don't think we're done talking about this!" Yukito said before sighing. "Go ahead. You should start your homework anyway."

"Thank you." Sora got up, not meeting either of his parents' eyes as he left the table and made his way to his room. He immediately reached for his bag, pulling out the picture he'd stuffed in there earlier.

It really looked like it had taken a long time…

"Riku," he murmured, running his finger along the sketch and completely unaware of the small smile on his face. "Riku…"

Next Update: Part 005: All That You Can't Leave Behind