AN: First KH fanfic posted! I actually have a bunch of them, but this is the one I finished first. I don't think I'll continue it...I like the other ones better...but I'll just throw 'em up, on the off chance that some merciful soul decides to review this piece of crap. :D It'll get better, but this chapter equals much suckage.

Um, this chapter is RikuxCloud and SoraxLeon. Maybe a hint of the impending RikuxSora and LeonxCloud, but nothing really obvious. I don't want to ruin the story, but because I want to be sure to warn readers, the couples do end up switching partners. If I plan it out right, it will be sweet, not disturbing. Sorry for any out-of-character-ness. I'm doing my best. And pardon the language! I tried to watch my mouth (or Riku's, rather) but I may have slipped and left an eff-word or two in there. Oo;

The Ugly Duckling Effect

By azneyez

"C'mon, Strife. Stop slacking. We have to be at the airport by eleven."

Grumbling, Cloud dropped the magazine he'd been reading and resumed dusting with pointed laziness. From his place at the windows, Riku glared, heaving a roll of paper towels at him. "I'm serious! I let you sleep in and everything while I cleaned the bathrooms. The least you can do is wipe off a coffee table."

"But you make a such an excellent housewife," Cloud protested, beaming.

Despite himself, Riku chuckled, then struggled to retrieve a stern expression. "And you're an excellent bum."

"What's that? I have an excellent bum?"

Riku sprayed him with the Windex. "That too."

"Honestly, though," said Cloud in a suggestive voice, coming up behind Riku and closing his arms around his waist. "The only reason I'm slacking so much is because I don't even know these people you're inviting over. I've only the vaguest idea. Some old schoolmate and his boyfriend, right? So how do I know that he wasn't your old flame or something? I'm not so keen on the idea of sharing a house with competition."

"He's not competition," said Riku blandly. He extricated himself from Cloud and continued scrubbing the windows. "We went out for maybe two weeks...wasn't meant to be. We're cleaning because he's a neat-freak, not because I'm trying to impress him. Clear?"

"Crystal, Riks. Thanks for clarifying. Finally."

Cloud swiped halfheartedly at the computer desk with the dusting rag, then sighed and crashed back onto the sofa, reopening the magazine. "So what does this old flame look like? Sweet, virginal schoolboy? Fiery redhead with a killer body?"


Riku paused, his hand poised in the air. When he turned around, he was a little red.

"That cute, huh?" Cloud sighed.

"Um. No. On the contrary...well, he's—he's not gorgeous. He's not like you."

Slowly, Cloud's face broke into a grin. "He's...'not gorgeous?' What's wrong? Do you think he's ugly?"

"No!" Riku protested, flushing even more. "No, he's definitely not ugly. I feel awful even thinking it. He's skinny and short. And he wears big glasses. But he's really not ugly...he...he could probably just use a little more meat on 'im. And if he would get his teeth fixed, or maybe not wear orange rubber bands on his braces—he'd be fine looking! He—"

"Riku-kun, you think your friend is ugly!"

"God, no! He's not ugly...he's just...homely!"

"Same thing!"

"No, it's not!"

"'Homely,'" Cloud read, seizing the dictionary and flipping through the pages rapidly. "'Simple, plain. Uncultured and crude; unattractive!'"

"Gah, go play in a food processor! He's not ugly! He's tolerable!"

"No wonder you were so ambiguous about who he was!" He snickered, then sobered up. "I hope you're not worried that I'm going to make fun of him or something. I've dated some dubiously attractive people before. I don't care whether he's kind of ugly, as long as he's a nice guy."

Riku growled, scrubbing at the windows even harder. "He is homely."

Cloud rolled his eyes. "Riiight. Since you're in a pissy mood, I'll just pretend that 'homely' and 'ugly' have different meanings."

"I swear to god, Cloud. If you say one thing to him—if you dare even imply that he's unattractive, or that I think he's—"


He stood up again, placing a hand on either side of Riku's shoulders so he was trapped against the windows. Riku met his gaze defiantly, then looked away, that same proud blush on his cheeks. Cloud touched a lock of his hair. "Listen to me," he said, quietly. "Believe it or not, I'm not a shallow person. And I actually do have some common sense, and manners. I would never call one of your friends ugly. Even if this guy looks like the hunchback of Notre Dame, I think we'll get along splendidly, as long as he has a sense of humor."

"He's really funny," Riku replied huskily, still not meeting his gaze. "He makes me laugh until I piss my pants."

"Then we're going to have a blast ," said Cloud calmly.

Riku finally looked back up at him, treating him to a small smile. "I'm guess I'm just really nervous about this. I've kept in touch with him since he moved away, but I haven't seen him since I was fourteen. He should be seventeen by now. I just...don't want to lose his friendship. He's was the best friend I had in school. He still is my best friend. So if you screw this up, I will kick your ass."

"Yeah, of course. I understand. Really."

He kissed Riku briefly. After they broke away, Riku smiled at him again, a little doubtfully.

"Just be sure to watch your mouth. You have a tendency to say things without thinking."

"I'll watch my tongue around your 'ugly' friend," said Cloud solemnly, and Riku couldn't repress a snicker.

"Homely, asswipe. He's homely."

Riku smacked his hand as Cloud reached for the dictionary again.

The airport was ridiculously crowded. It seemed everyone was leaving for the Fourth of July, and by the time Cloud and Riku had squeezed up to the front of the gate, Riku was afraid that he might've missed his friends. "We could always have him paged," Cloud suggested in consolation. "'Homely' kid to Gate 317, please, 'homely' kid to 317." Riku punched him in the ribs, effectively cutting off any further smartass comments that Cloud may have spouted during their wait. They stood in silence for nearly twenty minutes, Riku chewing his lower lip, Cloud painfully rubbing his side.

"We must've missed him," Riku said at last, sighing. "C'mon. Let's go check the baggage claim."

"Wait for this last group," said Cloud, as another planeful of passengers began emerging through the gate. He scanned the crowd. There were a couple of frazzled mothers with children, a flight assistant holding the hand of a tearful toddler who looked too young to be flying alone...a handsome man with a kid who might've been his younger brother, both of them stunningly attractive. He shrugged, patting Riku's shoulder. "Well, it was worth a shot. They're at baggage carousel 6, right? We'll see if we can head them off before—Riku? Hello, Riku?"

Riku was staring into the crowd, his mouth sprung ajar.

"What? You see them?"

"Th-those—those two f-f-f—they're really—they're—"

Cloud tried to follow his gaze, frowning. "Have you no shame? Ogling guys while I'm standing right here?"

Suddenly, one of the passengers—the younger of the eye-catching duo—approached them, leaning across the ropes to tap Riku on the shoulder. Up close, the kid was simply spectacular. His complexion was fantastically clear, and he had the most beautiful blue eyes Cloud had ever seen. When he smiled, his face was shy and flirty at the same time. Beautiful smile. "Hey, baby," he said to Riku in a sultry voice, touching his shoulder. "Take me home with you? I need a place to crash tonight. I promise to make the occasion worth your while."

"Oookay, kid." Cloud seized Riku's hand, but he wasn't moving. "He's taken."

"Cloud," Riku stuttered. "Th-th—thi—shiiiit..."

"And maybe he's had a few too many this morning," Cloud added sweetly. "Now, if you'll excuse us, we're trying to meet some friends."

"He is my friend," Riku burst out, suddenly finding his voice. His face was cherry-red.

Cloud frowned. "You know each other?"

The kid smiled that incredible smile again. "Yeah, we went to school together! Ri, it's really great to see you again. You haven't changed a bit, Mr. Popular!"

Riku wordlessly shook his hand. He tried to speak and ended up emitting a strange choking sound.

"Sweet," said Cloud, losing his patience. "So glad you two could meet up again. But we must hurry along now." He snapped in Riku's face. Riku didn't even blink. "Time to go find the homely one, remember?"

The kid raised his eyebrows. "The homely one?"

"Lost you in the crowd," his older friend broke in suddenly, materialized next to the kid. He too was unbelievably handsome, maybe in his twenties, with long brown hair and tight leather pants. He glanced at Cloud and Riku expectantly. "So, want to introduce us?"

"Oh, sure," said the kid after a moment of silence, eyes narrowed. "Leon...I assume this is Cloud. And the one next to him is Riku. Cloud, great to meet you too. I'm Sora."

Cloud stared at him blankly.

Sora smiled frostily at Riku, his eyes blazing. "The homely one."

"Wait, listen, I didn't--" Riku began, but Cloud cut him off.

"Whaaat? You're the homely one? Riku, what the hell! Are you blind?"

For the second time that day, Riku's voice failed him. "S...Sora...!"

The silence that followed was perhaps the longest and most awkward Cloud had ever suffered through. He shuffled his feet, glancing between Riku and Sora, the latter of whom looked livid. Leon coughed, meeting Cloud's gaze. The eyed each other helplessly, almost smiling. Then Sora broke the silence and kissed Riku at the corner of his mouth, pulling him into a hug.

"You're just lucky the homely one is also the good-natured one," said Sora, smiling reluctantly. "And the good-natured one would still like to be friends with the tactless one, if you can tolerate my unattractiveness."

"Oh, Sora," said Riku weakly. "Let me explain. I never said..."

"It's fine," Sora interrupted. "We'll talk it out later. Come help us with our luggage."

Sora nodded, then smirked, swinging his carry-on duffel back onto his shoulder and walking towards the baggage claim. Cloud watched his hips sway as he moved, elbowing Riku and gesturing. "If that's a homely body, I'm straight as a goddam pin."

Riku scowled and threw him off. "Fuck you."

"Maybe later tonight," Cloud called after him.

"So much animosity among this group," Leon commented, one eyebrow raised. He watched as Riku raced after Sora. "I think this may prove to be much more interesting than I had initially anticipated."

"Gah, Rik's bipolarity plus Sora's hot sexy body equals mass drama," said Cloud, and after sharing another wordless grin, the two of them headed after their significant others.

"By the way," Sora was saying, casting a calm sideways look at Riku, "You have split-ends."

Riku stopped dead in his tracks and grabbed a handful of his hair, horrified. "What? I don't see any!"

"They're in the back. Try using more conditioner. I find that helps, even for us homely folk."

The look on Riku's face was worth the price of an admission ticket. He opened his mouth angrily, then bit back the retort, his cheeks going red. Sora just smiled at him, fluttering his eyelashes with a confidence that assured Cloud that he knew damn well he wasn't ugly.

"But besides your hair," Sora added kindly, "you're not entirely repulsive, Ri."

More silence.

"The first person to shut Riku up," said Cloud in amazement. "Sora, you're my hero."

Wordlessly, Riku flipped them both off.

End chapter one

Continue? Trash it? Tell me; I listen:D By the way, I don't have a beta, so I apologize for my spelling and grammar mistakes.