A/N: Seeing as I've been eagerly awaiting to deliver my own unique, and slightly deranged spin on one of my favourite gaming experiences, I've decided to share the wealth... or trauma... it's pretty much your call. Anyways, I'd better give some warnings here in case they all don't fit outside:
1). This is a Riku/Sora fic. This means there will be boys doing inappropriate things with and to other boys, (but not too inappropriate, cos I'm hoping to keep this T-rated).
2). This fic also contains the Leon/Cloud pairing, cos I think they're adorable and I know damn well who I'd run to if given the choice between Aeris and the tightest pair of leather pants known to man.
3). Other hetero pairing include Tidus/Selphie, cos they're sweet in a sugar-high sort of way, and possibly Wakka/Kairi, seeing as I'm not into Kairi-bashing, and so sort of think she could possibly deserve happiness... Possibly... I may not like the girl, per se, but I won't throw her in a leech infested swamp just for the hell of it, no matter how much I wish I could. So, if anyone complains about Riku being unnecessarily mean to her, I'll ask you to re-read the fic more thoroughly, cos the boy believes in equality, and mocks and insults all of the other characters to a similar extent.
4). This fic is also slightly AU, although sooner or later it will fully tie inwith the original storyline... but with some strange quirks. Hence, I've messed with ages a bit:
Cloud and Aeris are18,
Leon is 17,and so is Yuffie, (just so they're closer to their original, FF ages, cos somehow Squall apparently being 25 in KH weirded me out).
Riku and Wakka are 16,
Sora, Selphie and Tidus are15, as is Kairi.
Basically, they're all in secondary education, with Cloud and Aeris in their final year before university... That was easy enough, right?
5). The opening scene is taken from Chain of Memories, where Kairi comes to save ickle Riku from bad old Zexion and his silly floppy hair, so that's a SPOILER warning gone slightly wrong.
6). And finally, there is shameless 'Fork'™ interaction in this chapter, AND slight unrepentant Sora-molestation, cos the world's topsy-turvy like that sometimes...

DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the characters or locations created by both Disney and Square-Enix, and would not appreciate having the clothes sued off my back seeing as I'm not making any money AT ALL out of this. I also don't own Nena's: 99 Red Balloons, or, I think it's NSync's Giddyup, which is a relief. Oh, and I don't own A Christmas Carol or Star Wars either, although that would be pretty cool... However, steal 'Tuna Tuesdays' and 'The Fork'™ at your own peril, for they are by-products of my own twisted imagination.
"..." Regular speech, peoples talking to other people, or possibly themselves...
-italics- Usually interior monologues or thought processes, though in this case it's just for Riku making tangential asides while he spins his merry dream yarn to an uninterested Leon.
------------ or 'the big grey line deelies', break up scenes or flashbacks or dream sequences, and pretty much everything else similar to all that has been aforementioned, just to return some semblance of order and coherence.
Prologue: (or, Figments, Fantasies and 'Forks'™)

Classification is a confusing issue; mainly due to the whole sense of ambiguity in which it is addressed, what with the fact that we as people go out of our way to make something more complicated and confusing in order to salvage what little dignity we have.

While I'm fairly certain that to have been driven to this level of internal torment, I must deserve some sort of compensation, I'm also struggling against the more sensible facets of my personality, seeing as asking for help from something I don't even believe in delivers a sense of utmost failure upon my already brittle and warped psyche.

In case you're confused, which is a good thing, trust me, I at least feel slightly validated that I'm not completely hopeless as a human being; I have stripped the last vestige of respectability from my perpetually enduring soul, and have begun to pray desperately for aid to anyone who's willing to deliver it.

Then again, if you can hear my proposal, I guess that means that deities do exist, not that I'd ever admit it… but it would also mean that you'd be pretty damned hysterical about topping up your headcount of worshippers, potential candidates, victims or any other synonym in the vast lexical set available to you. If that were so, then I'd be right about my theory of classification, and it'd also make you kind of pathetic for going to such unfeasible lengths in order to distinguish yourself from the competition.

However, if you're working as a telemarketer for Satan, then I must admit that I have a grudging amount of respect for you, but that's gonna be superseded most of the time by the utter loathing, so don't think the brief respite due to pity is going to help your cause.

As I was saying, and if you weren't listening I won't hold it against you, I have a public announcement to make. Everyone here tuning into this particular brain-wave radio station, playing all Riku, all anguish, all the time, and maybe some random elevator music while I'm attempting to drown out that helium-infused voice representing all of the enmity I could ever muster for a single entity; I've got a proposition for you:

Whoever can supply me with a suitable miracle, and trust me, I'm not asking for much; maybe just some duct tape or a rusty coat hanger, in the shortest period of time, shall be rewarded with the access all areas pass to my immortal soul, to play with as he or she wishes, for better, for worse, for whatever juvenile pranks you think you can pull with it.

Honest to whichever one of you is listening; I really, truly could care less… Use it as an ornate rug, permit your irritating small children to poke it with an innocent form of maliciousness into live plug sockets, let the pet Day-Glo pigmented, lumpy-headed dog bury it in the back garden, just give me the damned duct tape before my brain makes a desperate bid for freedom out of every orifice in my aching head.

I swear, if that thing trips over its mutant feet, possessing an overall tincture closely resembling a delightful shade of yellow that isn't actually found in nature, one more time, and utters anything reminiscent of 'golly', 'gosh', 'oopsy-daisies' or any other half-assed apology, I will snap, and you won't be able to fob off my recently instilled homicidal tendencies by feigning ignorance.

In fact, I'll probably use the duct tape, which I shall obtain, one way or the other, mark my words; to gag the radioactively gargantuan rodent, and tie him to a tacky piece of furniture, just so he stops shuffling from side to side in the newest travesty of a jig he's decided to choreograph. Then I'll use my trusty, rusty coat-hanger…

-You see what he's done to me? No matter how hard I try to repress it, I keep rhyming at irregular intervals-

I'm quite sure that sing-along-songs were originally developed as a form of divine punishment, but no deity with even the barest of pretences towards benevolence could subject them upon an undeserving mortal, especially not if the performer is painfully tone deaf… Anyways, I feel bound to beg forgiveness for the outburst; the rage within me seems to fluctuate between the fragile divisions of sanity… I was speaking of implementing the coat-hanger, was I not?

I'd use that to saw off his perfectly circular ears, and wear them as both a war-trophy, and a rather snazzy, if touristy hat. I'd then proceed to issue profanities in every dialect I could recall, usually by replacing them with key phrases within the lyrics of his accursed songs, and then abandon the bastard for the Heartless to devour him, if only to take the responsibility for the abomination out of my hands.

The plan is, unfortunately, ultimately flawed, as the Heartless would probably forsake him as callously as I would have, and one of his forest friends would end up freeing him, I'd be forgiven for our little misunderstanding and I'd never be rid of him, prospect of regicide be damned.

However, seeing as there was the teensy, often overlooked fact that I needed him in order to rendezvous with someone relatively normal -well, not all that normal to be perfectly honest, but it's not like I knew anyone that was nowadays- to be specific, my nemesis, once upon a time.

Now, surfeit of eaves-dropping gods, we probably didn't even remember each other well enough to bicker and strike out blindly; now, he was possibly even a friend of mine. The friendship aspect would be cemented when he discovered that I was being driven mad by a freakishly tall caricature of a woodland creature as well, and we'd give and take solidarity from within each other's common troubles.

Then again, by all accounts, the boy had to deal with two of them; both loyal subjects of His Royal Pain in my Arse. One was definitely enough for me, but even the duck and dog… at least, I think it was a dog,

-If you could manage to assign it an actual species with the accuracy of prior knowledge, I'd be really grateful if you let me into the loop-

I think I'll call them critters… Well… not even the pair of… whatever the hells they were could outdo Mickey effing Mouse when it came to handing out neuroses like they were made out of candy. Sugar sodding free… of course…

Heck, knowing Sora; unless he's flipped out as well, which I doubt, seeing as he used to embrace utter weirdness whole-heartedly, with an inane grin on his face that made me want to do things to him… things involving fists and hitting and teeth arcing gracefully through the air, trailing little streamers of blood and spittle.

Not creepy things… I may be deranged by association, but I've not sunk that far yet. My thoughts are solely platonic in their origin; like the way girls can compliment each other for having ridiculously large dewy cow eyes, with irises fashioned from sapphires that cause all other precious stones to hide their many faces in shame, or amicably pointing out how the sunlight plays with the varying shades of chestnut and cinnamon that run riot throughout untamed, perpetually mussed -although still belonging to an entirely theoretical person's- hair…

I teased him because it was as amusing as it was effortless; maybe once because of the resultant pouting, but that's all I'm willing to admit, EVER. Well, that or the overwhelming to desire to monopolise and then make him cry; again, purely for the satisfaction that cruelty has dropped into my contented lap over and over again.

Not that my thighs are sentient, at least, I hope not… Methinks to avoid further confusion, I'm gonna stop mincing and massacring my metaphors; and never personify my limbs again.

So, yeah, for the entertainment value, not because I'm possessive and the only one in all of the plethora of worlds that have cropped up out of nowhere entitled to witness the aesthetic majesty that is the puppy-face.

That expression could turn water into wine if it wanted; well, it'd manipulate someone's common sense into putty and then you could easily send your new zombie slave to fetch you the beverage of choice…

I keep forgetting that he's underage though, and probably shares his code of ethics with good ol' Rizzo. Alcohol is a corrupting force of evil apparently; by resisting its temptation and feminine wiles I fight the ever-looming darkness within me. Personally I think that's a load of bollocks, but it's really, really difficult to disagree with an incensed, evangelical life form that pretty much constitutes the stuff of nightmares in its entirety.

Now I've forgotten what it was I was talking about… Too much time in Heartless city-central probably hasn't done wonders for my attention span; I'll probably end up like Selphie at this rate… minus the perpetual sugar high and the random impulses that make her resemble a ferret on some sort of hallucinogenic drug. However, I think I'd gladly welcome death before I tackled someone to the floor whilst demanding that they 'giddy-up!'

Only once did the hyper-active ball of processed sugar and oddly shaped hair subject me to that humiliation, and I think the sole factor that resultantly stopped her from doing so again was when I started chasing her all over the beach, brandishing one of the oars from my old rowing boat.

I mean, ordinarily, I'm not the sort of guy that's willing to lower himself to the level of a pack-mule, but matters only got drastically worse when she started to sing her happy little phrase, over, and over, and over again. You cannot comprehend the feelings of abject horror evoked in me when I found out that that was a real song she was screeching into the dark, foreboding night sky. Ansem himself could have expanded his knowledge of torture tenfold if he apprenticed under that girl…

Shuddering slightly, effectively dispelling my progressively more worrying thoughts, after placing the blame for them on cabin fever, I pulled myself into a more upright position, resting gently on my elbows as I scanned the immediate area for anything resembling a potential threat.

But then, the darkness that had surrounded me for so long that days and weeks and months had run together into collective nothingness, the ubiquitous collection of shadows that plagued my every waking, and some resting, moments; the darkness that had haunted me and mocked me for what I truly was, was suddenly engulfed by the light.

It didn't burn, as they had promised saccharinely while I slept; it wasn't all-consuming, as I had feared… Why did I remain in such a place? The light was far too powerful to be wielded by a black heart such as mine, it should have stripped away the taint that danced and meandered about my very veins, leaving me diminished, faded, dwindling until entirely vanished, perhaps finally healed…

"You can't fade. No power can defeat you - not the light, not the dark. So don't run from the light - and don't fear the darkness. Both will make you stronger." An eerily familiar, entirely unwelcome voice called out to me, attempting to dispel my fears and answer the questions no mortal should have been privy to.

"What the hell are YOU doing here?" I simply demanded, adopting a suitably snide and pouty expression to convey my distaste for my newfound Ghost of Christmas Past, or spectre of Obi Wan, or whatever the heck she can be described as in relevance to her lack of functions and browser options.

The petite redhead seemed to use the sheer force of her will to physically smooth out her twitching facial muscles at my less than polite query, before unclenching her tiny fists and inhaling deep and jarringly.

"Delivering a prophetic vision, AGAIN… Geez, I knew your long term memory was something only rivalled by goldfishes, but come on… how can it take FIVE DAYS to absorb three paragraphs of destiny?" She queried condescendingly, crossing her arms across her non-existent chest and turning her nose up at me like I'd rolled around in garbage before trundling up into her personal space to treat her to my renowned collection of weasel impersonations.

"Didn't you hear? I was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder… It means that I really… er… really… want a pony?" I asked in an oblivious manner, rejoicing internally at her answering growl of barely suppressed rage.

I could have sworn I heard her mutter something along the lines of: "…anger… ten… shove it up his pansy… goodbye, red balloon!" but by that point I'd sort of tuned out for the benefit of my own ongoing mental well-being. However, never being one to resist the wicked temptations of driving other innocent citizens insane, I hummed a jaunty tune under my breath, though still in perfectly audible ranges of hearing, before fully bursting out into song: "Heute zieh ich meine Runden, Seh die Welt in Truemmern liegen, Hab' nen Luftballon gefunden, Denk' an Dich und lass' ihn fliegen."

"Riku… this is the FIFTH time you've had this dream in as many DAYS! While I must admit that you've certainly gotten far more creative in your methods of irking me to the point of mass homicide, can't we just run through the script properly, just the once?" She fairly begged as I begun to snicker, cutting short my terribly off-key caterwauls in favour of sporting the 'kicked-puppy' face.

Given the mini-wench's repentant expression, I was at least temporarily off the hook, as she began to dither about, cooing at random intervals at my apparent 'cuteness'.

"So… you mean… you don't like the song?" I asked tearfully, jutting out my lower lip as far as was physically possible, whilst adding just a pinch of subtle quivering. The girl looked to be momentarily taken aback, as if forced to reweigh her options as to whether I was just messing with her or genuinely exploiting my seductive skills. As an easily corruptible mortal, she pointed at random and landed on the latter. Doing my damnedest to mask the grin forming over my forlorn features, I let out an entirely fake, breathy sob. "I learned GERMAN for you, Kairi!" I fairly wailed, whilst internally allowing myself to wonder how I had indeed learnt German at all; albeit rather briefly, as Kairi was quirking an eyebrow dubiously in my general direction, as if questioning my dedication to our newfound 'love', which I can barely even think without cringing. Forcing my eyes wider, as if a proverbial light-bulb had been flicked on inches above my head, I gasped in poorly feigned horror. "Stupid, stupid Riku!" I hissed, slapping myself on the forehead with the heel of my hand. "FRENCH is the language of love, not GERMAN!" I exclaimed, as if I had suddenly had some magical sort of epiphany. Kairi's nervous aversion seemed quite able to psychically convey the question: Were you dropped on your head as a child? "However, they are both European, and therefore technically Romance languages… oh noes! German is… well… it's a Germanic language, isn't it? I'm such a hopeless, lovesick fool!" I cried, dramatically splaying the back of one hand over my poor, abused forehead as I fake-swooned.

At this stage, Kairi seemed quite eager to retreat from my company as quickly as her stubby little legs would take her; which meant that yes, I retained my title as the undisputable MASTER.

Unfortunately, as soon as she reached the corners of my straining vision, she recoiled; as if some physical force had shoved her mercilessly back into my dream vista, of sorts.

"Fiiiine, I'll finish the damned dialogue… hard-ass…" She muttered; features so contorted by her glowering that she rather resembled a scowling Maleficent, as had been the usual with the bossy hag. "Darkness, too?" She asked suddenly, deepening her tone to mimic that of some Neanderthallic male blatantly longing for that one extra brain-cell to create at least the semblance of a spark of friction. I was about to grin approvingly at her malevolence, but then I realized that it had been directed my way, so I simply pouted instead. "Especially darkness." She confirmed, simpering at her own authority, although, in my opinion it looked more like she was conversing with sock puppets than actually reading from some preordained script. "Because that power is yours alone. The darkness in your heart is vast and deep... but if you can stare into it unflinching, you'll never know fear again." She concluded with no small sense of accomplishment.

Forced to choose between a veritable plethora of options, seeing as I'd never actually allowed the girl to progress this far through our now familiar conversation, I was mostly torn between scoffing and announcing that I feared nothing, or actually getting the whole scenario over and done with for once.

As the redhead had previously mentioned, we'd been going through the motions every night for the last five, which I was now unable to exclude as just some freak occurrence.

"Um… All this… does that say 'time' or is that a 'q'?" I squinted; failing to decipher the small card taped to a wall of the never-ending which was acting as an impromptu autocue.

"That's IT, Riku, see if I ever help you pound on snotty little emo kids ever again!" She whinged, flouncing off melodramatically into the wings… well, she would have done if she hadn't crashed face first into another invisible wall. She fell back, lavender eyes expanding to unfeasible proportions as she barked out a girlish squeal of fear. She hit the ground with a dull thud, which was soon concealed by the shrieking of rusty hinges as a trapdoor sprung open under her weight. As Kairi's screams echoed away into mere memory, they were replaced by fresh cries of a similar nature, though these seemed to refract about the transparent barriers of my vacant prison and it was hopeless to attempt to locate their origin.

"So then, while the girlish screeching was still going on, suddenly SORA comes hurtling out of the sky like a pointy, parachute-pant-wearing meteorite, and decides to use my fragile spine as a landing strip." I announce in an excited rush, having reached the climax of my merry little tale. The sullen brunette sitting on the opposite side of the cheap and tacky plastic canteen table still appeared to be pointedly ignoring me, but I was well aware that despite his pretenses he'd heard every word. However, the smaller blonde to his left was leaning forward, all eager smiles and interested noises, elbows planted on the unhygienic surface of said hideous table as his hands cupped his jaw. "And THEN, when he finally had the decency to shift himself, he started whacking ten shades of crap outta me with something rather reminiscent of a five foot long key, made from distorted chicken wire dipped in liquid gold-leaf. It was just so BIZARRE, Leon… what the hell do you think it means?" I demanded sulkily, still utterly mortified at the memory of my mother strolling innocently into my bedroom as I woke up screaming incoherently about not being a bloody padlock.

"I don't know and I don't care…" Leon answered in a helpful, accommodating voice. Cloud half-heartedly slapped his best friend upside the head at this unsurprising development, sighing like the drama-queen we all knew he was as the icy brunette caught the hand in mid-swipe and placed it firmly back to the tabletop, never taking his stormy eyes from the pages of the book he was reading.

"Any ideas Cloud?" I asked with a poorly concealed sigh. I was getting pretty desperate at this stage, something Leon seemed to agree with as he managed to tear his gaze from his book to stare at me in utter disbelief.

"Well… I sort of got a bit confused when you started talking about simplification and telemarketers," He hedged in embarrassment, pale cheeks tinged with streaks of scarlet that made Leon smile fondly until he realized I was gaping at the rare display of indirect affection and replaced the expression with a well-worn scowl. "BUT, I think I sort of got back on track with the hats and the duct tape." He concluded proudly, before taking a bite out of his ungodly sandwich. "Methinks I could have helped you more if your pretty little speech wasn't so pretentious." He pointed out patronizingly, "You can convey your messages without ingesting a Thesaurus, you know…" He concluded with a self-amused snort, whilst chastising me with a wag of one index finger.

"Just because you have a literacy level rivaling that of a small toddler, doesn't mean you can judge me for having a vocabulary." I retorted haughtily, internally nursing the wounds he had dealt to my growing arsenal of flowery words. "There's really no need to be so jealous, Cloud; having to pore over a word-a-day calendar doesn't make you any less of a moron… I mean man…" I elucidated snidely, before mentally entertaining the image of standing over a Thesaurus with limbs, decked outin a classical hunting pose, cackling my triumph to the skies and declaring that I was now the king of Alphabet Castle.

"Wow, it's mastered put-downs as well… Now all you need is to master the art of backstabbing and then I'll have inadvertently created a master politician." The blonde drawled cruelly, before his brow furrowed again and he adopted a confused, lost expression. "I sort of lost you again when you started to mention the emo person… whatever that actually IS…" He snorted as he rolled his renowned, luminous eyes, and then began to reacquaint himself with his neglected sandwich.

I knew from experience that Cloud wasn't actually all that fond of yellowfin tuna, but seeing as today was a Tuesday, and this was the only day Cloud's timetable coincided with Leon's for lunch in the whole academic week, the blonde always brought in a small, brown paper bag reeking of the stuff.

Last week it had been tuna-fish sashimi, the week before it had been tuna and black olives on mini-pizza bases. Every damned week the boy came in with hideous, inedible tuna, always presented in a slightly different way or recipe, and for someone as intelligent as Leon was, I was quite stunned that he didn't actually seem to be aware of their ritual.

Every other day of the week, Leon would use the lunch period to catch up on his reading, maybe munching on something like an apple if he was feeling particularly adventurous that day, and would shoot you down mercilessly if you tried to cram food into his malnourished person.

However, on a Tuesday, while he would be much unaltered in regards to his literature and overall grouchiness, he would contentedly chow down on Cloud's infernal tuna without even seeming to be aware that he was even eating it. Every damned week I was subjected to this creepy, spellbound interchange, and was horrified that it had somehow become one of the most addictive spectator sports in the history of ever.

Cloud swallowed his mouthful of mayonnaise inundated tuna and shrugged nonchalantly, awarding his culinary efforts with a passing grade. I was undoubtedly fascinated by the devilish little smirk that bloomed on his lips as he gestured sideways with the half-decimated sandwich, smile widening to reveal teeth and a profound sense of accomplishment as Leon allowed himself to be fed by his friend's hand like a docile little kitten; never tearing his gaze from the typeface in front of him.

I let out a breath I hadn't been aware I'd been holding. At least it hadn't been as weird as that time with the salad… Cloud seemed to silently agree with me, and had pretty much stuck to making finger-foods ever since the dreaded incident with 'The Fork'™.


It had been your average Tuesday… well, as normal as a Tuesday in my life could get, and Cloud had practically skipped into the refectory with his dreaded brown paper bag. He had gleefully brandished a cling-film sealed bowl of tuna salad far too big for someone of his overall height and stature to consume all by his lonesome –unless we were using Sora and the black pit that dwelled in his stomach as an exception to such a rule- and had then proceeded to dig in as if he had not a single care in the world. After a few minutes of contented munching, pointedly ignoring my general glances of utter distaste, both at his eating habits and his meal-choice, he proffered the business end of the fork to Leon, and then bad things had happened.

The brunette had wrapped his soft, pliant lips about the prongs and made a pleased sounding groan in the back of his throat. Practically vacuuming the luckiest fork in the known world, he had actually turned his stony gaze -which seemed at that moment to possess the burning intensity of a gazillion white-hot suns- and locked his grey with wide blue eyes, releasing the fork with an audible sucking sound before diligently and deliberately cleaning his lower lip of the speck of dressing marring that full, entrancing mouth… with his tongue.

At this stage, my eyes had probably fallen out of my head and were rolling feebly about the floor before being carted away by an army of dust-bunnies. However, unless my ears were deceiving me as badly as my eyes were, Cloud actually emitted a choked mewl, whilst torn in an epic internal struggle between tackling the brunette to the scummy linoleum tiles or fleeing the complex as if the very denizens of hell themselves were chasing him.

After much deliberation, he muttered a brief curse that was anything but child-friendly and legged it from the cafeteria, stubbornly refusing to surface for the rest of the lunch hour.

Leon's emotions flickered across his face in a matter of mere seconds: shock, to blind hurt, to disappointment, before settling on mild amusement, as he took up the dreaded 'Fork'™ and gradually began to consume the rest of Cloud's lovingly prepared salad, one hand still turning the pages of yet another book at regular intervals.


"It's all about balance…" Leon stated, completely out of the blue. Being so unused to Leon actually speaking more than once in the space of an hour, I practically flinched so hard I leapt clear of my cheap, plastic chair.

"Squall, it's a sandwich… symmetry doesn't make it taste any better…" Cloud replied dubiously, but I could already see the cogs turning in his warped little mind. Next Tuesday, every foodstuff in his menu would probably turn up cut into perfect, set-square measured cubes.

"Cloud, grow an attention-span or shut up." Leon concluded, leaving the blonde to sulkily defend and attack the arguments for each side of his ultimatum. "And don't call me Squall…" He added as a slightly irked afterthought. "I think she was trying to tell you that you could only, properly be whole when you reached a sort of equilibrium, you know, find the equivalent of light to your own darkness… or something…" He elucidated, then feigned absolute ignorance, stealing another bite of Cloud's sandwich before hiding his face in his book again.

"So… you mean like… Squall's moody and grumpy all the time, and I'm really hyper; so alone we're both pretty obnoxious… but we're better together?" Cloud asked; sounding eerily enlightened for once. He ruined the moment by giggling, completely oblivious that his comment had hit far too close to home, especially if Leon's sudden lack of respiratory activities acted as any sort of hint.

Fortunately, Sora took this moment to appear at our table, and I took the time to pray that he wasn't feeling as pissed off and slap-happy as he had in my dream. Leon exhaled noisily, and I felt obliged to let out a small sigh of relief as well.

"Meltdown averted; countdown cancelled with 0.09 seconds remaining…" I reeled off in my best electronic GPS navigator voice. Cloud merely giggled again, while Leon pinned me to my chair with a glare so intense I thought I'd pass out from the overwhelming stress.

"Should I come back at a better time?" He drawled, smirking evilly as I shot him a pleading look. At this point, even the residual humiliation of having my fine-looking arse bailed out by Sora of all people was preferable to death at the hands of a coldly infuriated Leon.

Hence, I leapt from my chair and flung my arms about the small brunette's legs, whimpering softly. Sora flushed to the roots of his gravity-defying hair and pretended to busy himself with counting every single light fixture on the ceiling. Even Leon had to crack a minute smile at our antics, while Cloud was practically doubled over with laughter.

"Highly masculine; and just as mature…" The blonde dictated stoically, before spoiling the skillfully delivered deadpan by cackling low in his throat.

"Hey, Riku can't help that he's missed me, can you boy?" Sora quipped through his adorable giggles, ruffling my perfectly set hair in a way that was likely to permanently damage my follicles in order to stop them from lying flat ever again. Enacting my own form of revenge, I purred my acquiescence and nuzzled into his thigh. Sora choked on thin air and begun to back-pedal furiously, tripping when I refused to relinquish his leg and landing flat on his ass.

"Sorry, I was feeling vulnerable and needy…" I explained, mixing a pinch of sarcasm with a convincingly sheepish smile. Sora merely made a disgruntled, anguished noise and gestured wildly to where we seemed to be surgically attached, so I released his leg with a wistful sigh. "I won't wait for ever, you know…" I murmured flirtatiously, thoroughly enjoying the way the poor boy's face flamed again. "So, where HAVE you been for the last few days?" I demanded suspiciously, when we'd both returned to our respective chairs.

"Well, you know I was stupidly busy at the weekend; I had to pretend I knew what the hell was going on in some play for some coursework I'd forgotten to hand in… THEN, I got a lunchtime detention yesterday, apparently for writing spur of the moment crap, so I actually had to read the WHOLE play in front of my teacher, just so he'd let me leave the classroom…" He declared morosely, wheeling out the pout that made me feel like the room was suddenly devoid of all oxygen.

"Aw, poor ickle Sora…" I cooed, interlocking my fingers and holding them to my cheek, "I had a mean old teacher like that once… I can't believe he actually wanted me to SUCCEED in my academic pursuits!" I cried out, tone excessively coloured with petulance. Leon hid an amused snicker behind his book as Cloud slapped the table with the flat of his hand, laughing so hard he had been reduced to wheezing pathetically.

"You know I could just as easily go back to Kairi, Yuffie and… Selphie…" His originally superior statement trailed off into nothingness as he shuddered at the prospect of returning to the girly table. I offered him a knowing, acerbic quirk of an eyebrow and he sighed in a long-suffering manner. "Fine, you'd have to pay me good money to go back there, but you should still appreciate me…" He sulked, folding his arms across his chest huffily before yelping and randomly attempting to conceal himself under the horrid, Formica table. Peering down, I noted with no small amount of annoyance that half of my meal had been magicked away into the void. Turning to face the 'girly table', I saw Kairi furiously attempting to wave us over and barely suppressed a shudder of my own. "Don't let them get meeee!" He wailed, words muffled and distorted by the presence of MY chicken salad baguette; whilst displaying the contents of his mouth, which I found as unnecessary as it was undesirable, before planting his chin in my lap as he turned the puppy-face in my general direction.

Suddenly, it felt like I'd run a marathon, so I hunched over, trying to force oxygen back into my lungs and regulate my elevate breathing whilst pushing Sora as far away from my crotch as was physically possible. Seeing as I was not in the best position for leverage, I ended up having to wrap my arms about the boy in the midst of a supreme wig-out session in order to heave him back topside. Placing the spiky-one daintily back in his chair, I sighed overdramatically.

"Freakish metabolism or not, boy; you're going to have to hit the gym and burn off some extra calories or my arms aren't going to survive the week…" I moaned bitterly, pretending to rub feeling back into my shoulders as Sora adopted an offended, dumbstruck expression. Truth be told, the brunette weighed about as much as a bag of all purpose flour, despite the fact that he ate more than nine times his own body weight a day.

However, regardless of how cute -albeit a little nauseating- it was to see him stuffing his pudgy little face, I did not forgive those who consumed MY food easily; and Sora had been stealing my meals since before we could string proper sentences together.

Then, everything seemed to go wrong; really, really fast…

"Are… are you saying I'm FAT?" Sora fairly shrieked, grabbing me by the collar and hauling me up to his eye-level, which led me to secretly resolve to enter the building tomorrow morning modeling the manliest pair of stilettos I could find, seeing as the kid was more than catching me up in the height stakes, and I wasn't due another growth spurt for another two damned years.

"Awww… honey, that's not what I meant at all… You know how much I adore you and your love handles…" I retorted in a placating, soothing tone, although the sentence was just as audible as its predecessor. My face betrayed no residual emotion, none that would give me and the game away, which I delightedly noticed as we were getting more than a few stares.

"Well… my love handles hate you, so HA!" Sora grinned at his witty comeback, although his face fell shortly after as he realized his words were neither witty nor a comeback.

"Well, your chubby little bottom still seems rather fond of me, so I'll just have to hold onto that, ne?" I asked devilishly, smirking wider as I noticed the liquid fury in the brunette's sky-blue eyes.

Leon was directing a blatant scowl my way, practically screaming at me to run before I went too far and ended up brutally murdered with jagged fragments of plastic cutlery. Just to spite him, I slowly looped my arms about Sora's waist, only relinquishing my sappy embrace to draw back a hand and spank the humiliated boy across said aforementioned chubby-cheeks, cackling as he shrieked in indignation.

Cloud, on the other hand, while still breathing with no little difficulty, seemed to be rooting for the 'happy couple', yelling out through hysterical laughter:

"Go, Chubba-Wubba! Shake that fat ass and win back your man!"

At this point, I almost died laughing, possibly due to the combination of 'Chubba-Wubba' and the consequent undiluted rage it sparked on Sora's stunned and pouting face.

"What was that, Cloud?" I called back; alluding to deafness as the tiny brunette began to shake, barely suppressing his ire by convulsively clenching his hands into tight fists. "You think me and Jabba the Butt should go 'make-up'… and out, in the janitor's closet?" I asked, batting my eyelashes coquettishly as Sora let out an animalistic roar.

The next thing I knew, I was on the icky floor, with a skinny brunette plastered along the length of my body, looking ready to throttle me with the Velcro straps on his frighteningly colossal shoes. It was really, really difficult to avert my eyes from his dilated pupils and heaving chest, but somehow I managed it, praise be to my awesome will power.

"Riku…" He growled, spreading his legs to effectively pin me to the ground with his thighs. Ooh, sexual gratification from my best male friend… what a dream come true. Sarcasm: terminated...

"Oh, I'm sorry baby; did you want to be on top today?" I practically purred, flexing my hips as I arched closer into his restraining hands.

Sora let out a stunned, breathy whimper, and then bolted off me faster than a startled deer, emitting a supersonic, inhuman wail of absolute terror before sprinting clumsily from the canteen.

Leaping gracefully to my feet, I retook my uncomfortable seat, chuckling slightly as Leon looked at me with a morbid sort of curiosity. Cloud would have congratulated me, had his frame not been so racked by sniggers and guffaws, but he managed to give me a brusque high-five before attending to the tears that had come unbidden to his electric blue eyes.

Those eyes were eerily familiar, but I hadn't been able to place them, a thought that had been niggling at the edges of my brain since we met. As Leon pinched the bridge of his nose, no doubt to stave off the Riku-induced migraine, everything clicked into place.

Cloud and Sora seemed to share more than just a hairstyle; their eyes, not to mention their exuberance, also seemed to match. In fact, Sora also seemed to possess Leon's hair colour, lean frame and anger management issues. It was almost horrifying at how easily my mind would accept such similar characteristics from both parties and then blend them so seamlessly together.

If someone told me that Cloud had magically grown ovaries one fateful evening, and he and Leon had gotten drunk, and one thing had led to another, and another had led to a lovechild, I'd point to Sora without needing to be prompted.

"So, what was the screaming finale about?" Cloud finally managed to ask when he'd recovered from his bout of hysterics.

"Oh… that was code…" I answered nonchalantly, stealing a sip of Leon's bottled water as he looked too stressed to wrestle it from my cold, dead hands. "It means that I've got to wait here for another five minutes before joining him in the closet, so no one gets suspicious." I concluded, wearing what I had dubbed: Riku's omniscient, godly smirk. Cloud sniggered slightly as Leon dog-eared a page and finally gave up on his reading, seeing as he was now far too hopelessly distracted with subduing a giggly Cloud and glaring at yours truly.

I glanced at the pair again in fascination, as both seemed to be wearing Sora's favourite expressions simultaneously. Suffice to say, it was really, really weird…

"What are you staring at now?" Leon demanded snippily, running a hand through his hair, which served as a telltale sign that he was stressed, rundown and highly uncomfortable.

"Oh, nothing much, just designing your future offspring in my head…" I answered, feigning disinterest as I suddenly found my fingernails scintillating specimens of perpetual amusement. "He has your eyes." I giggled to Cloud as Leon seemed to go into coronary arrest. The two sixth formers instantaneously turned to the other, confusion, abhorrence and intrigue warring for dominance on their faces as I continued to laugh.

As if coming to a silent agreement, Leon reverentially handed Cloud his hardback, which the blonde accepted with a beautifully soft, grateful smile. He then proceeded to bludgeon me about the head with the damned thing.

"Heeeey!" I shouted, attempting to shield my battered cranium from the psycho, club-wielding maniac formally known as Cloud Strife. "It's not like I said your kids were going to be ugly! The one I was thinking of was kinda cute… if you go all in for the whole, cherubic, wide-eyed, chubby-bottomed thing…"

"Oh god, Riku… that's just WRONG!" Cloud retorted noisily, screwing his eyes shut as if it'd help to cut off the torrent of hideous visions that were assaulting his mind.

"But, Cloud, sweetheart, you glowed…" Leon deadpanned, resulting in Cloud and I freezing in unison.

"Did he just say what I think he said?" I asked in perturbed wonderment as the blonde's skin suddenly darkened to vermillion.

"Why do I have to be the one with the womb?" He sulked, raising his voice to a nasal whine that was strangely reminiscent of nails on a chalk board. "It's not FAIR Leon… I'm the oldest, so you should be the girl…" He pouted, shooting a glare my way as I had begun to sputter at the 'womb' comment.

"Cloud, darling, I thought we'd gotten over your 'toy-boy' issues, just as I managed to deal with the jealousy spawned from your feminine wiles and voluptuous curves." Leon retorted smugly, actually treating us to a smile that involved the usage of facial muscles as the poor blonde gaped at being described as so delectably rounded.

"But… but… his hair! Imagine the havoc those spikes would wreak on my uterus!" Cloud defended childishly, before realising that he'd actually unintentionally admitted that he was a clandestine hermaphrodite. "And don't flatter yourself; Squall… the age-gap is a year; hardly wide enough for you to be a 'toy-boy'." The blonde highlighted snottily, folding his arms across his chest as he turned up his nose with all the arrogance and condescension he could muster.

"You'd prefer it if I was any younger?" Leon asked, feigning disbelief, "I never knew you wanted to be a paedophile when you grew up!" He cried exuberantly, which was creepy in itself, regardless of the nature of their conversation, as an excitable Leon was about as natural as a Selphie who could stay still.

"Very funny, Squall, but I doubt an impotent child could have knocked me up!" Cloud practically screamed back, getting progressively angrier with each giggle that came from Leon's end of the table. I simply stared, open-mouthed and astonished, eyes flickering between the two like a spectator following a ball in a tennis rally.

"Ooh, a paternity suit… should I call up Oprah? I hear business has slowed since the 'sofa' incident." A high-pitched, girlish voice suddenly interrupted, causing the three of us to wrench our heads violently towards its origin, whilst trying to avert our eyes guiltily when we recognized the perpetrator.

"Hi… Yuffie… how're you doing?" Cloud asked, feigning nonchalance with an equally strained noncommittal shrug.

"Oh, you know me, same old, same old…" The female wannabe-ninja replied affably, grinning somewhat demonically as Cloud blushed hard enough to burst blood vessels. "But enough about me, young man, how could you keep your big news a secret from your bestest materia loving friend in the whole wide world?" She queried, feigning hurt as Cloud glared accusingly at the floor, like it was the linoleum's fault that he hadn't yet been swallowed up by the earth.

"Cos I only got the good news myself three minutes ago…" The blonde muttered acrimoniously as Yuffie clapped a hand over her smirk to stifle her laughter.

"We thought we'd better let him back in the loop when Riku noticed that he'd started to show." Leon clarified with one of his patented smirks, leaving Yuffie to sigh dreamily whilst mentally cursing the fact that the teenager was figuratively spoken for.

"I just wondered what the little tyke was gonna look like." I fairly squealed, doing my damnedest to make my eyes light up with innocent inquisitiveness.

"Girl or boy?" She demanded mischievously in return.

"Boy." Both parents-to-be answered, Leon's tone putting across as much amusement as Cloud's carried despair.

"Oh, that's easy then… you'll have a mini-Sora on your hands, mark my words." She chirped through a grin that seemed to horizontally cleave her face in two. Leon chuckled deeply again as Cloud began the tried and true method of bashing his brains out against the Formica surface of the sticky table.