Author's Notes: Seeing as how this is the final chapter of The End of Every Story, I feel almost sad as I post this. Although I have at times neglected it terribly, this story has been with me for two years now and as such holds a special place in my heart. I just broke my personal record for longest chapter every written with chapter 7, and I'm breaking that record again with this chapter which stands proud at almost 10,000 words.

On another note, I have been revising the first 7 chapters, but you don't need to go back and re-read them. The plot has remained the same, I just sharpened my prose, corrected mistakes and added a few lines of dialogue here and there. One thing I did add though was several mentions of Roxas's adoptive mother Lulu.

I'm thankful for every comment, be it praise, concrit or even a flame, so please take that one minute to hit the review button and leave a short message. Reviews are the only payment us fan fiction authors are ever going to get, after all.

My sincere gratitude to everyone who has read to the end. May the Yaoi Muse be with you.

Till next time!

- Nea Vanille


The End of Every Story

Chapter 8: Long Live the King!


"Seifer likes cheese."

It was quite obvious: the way he scooped up the cheese on his plate, then twirled the cheese on his fork before he put it into his mouth. The very existence of Rai and Fuu, of even Roxas who Seifer had been quite obviously excited over for the past couple of months seemed to escape the realm of his fickle consciousness whenever he was rolling creamy cheese on his tongue. A look of intense pleasure would be gracing his chiselled face and – with one long shiver racing down Roxas's spine – it was just that look that would summon up memories of certain moments intimate enough for that dreaded shade of pink to kiss Roxas's cheeks. Roxas's freckles would stand out in between the rosy colour of his cheeks like pieces of fruit in a strawberry yoghurt and he'd swallow when his gaze fell upon Fuu, who would invariably be regarding him with one hard-edged smile scored across her face. She always raised one silver eyebrow at him as though she was just as able as he to see the mental images his mind was conjuring up – a most unpleasant thought indeed.

"Seifer is afraid of snakes."

Seifer, afraid of anything? Asked two months prior, Roxas would have scarcely deemed it more likely than ever succeeding at tricking the sun into not rising. While he had known, in theory at least, that Seifer was just a human and was doomed to come equipped with all the flaws any other human was susceptible to, it hadn't been until he had seen Seifer cringing at the sight of the harmless little garden snake they had spotted one lazy afternoon hanging out in Seifer's garden that the whole weight of the realization really had sunken in. The night they had gotten... together – though Roxas usually preferred to call it the Night of the Fight, which, due to the rhyme, Seifer seemed to think was risible – the tall blonde had still been personified enigma; the aura, the fear not yet completely dispelled. Scary things that had no name had been clinging onto Seifer's skin, had been nudging themselves into his every crevice, hiding the human beneath. Now the veneer was spalling, little by little, exposing ever more of a very human Seifer Roxas would never in his wildest dreams have imagined existed. Ironically so much like the snakes he so feared, Seifer was writhing out of the skin Roxas had put him in.

"Seifer's dream is to be a knight."

Butterflies had been flitting through the summer air that afternoon, air that had been filled with the scent of lavender, grass and the heady, masculine scent emanating from Seifer's sun-kissed skin. They had talked about their childhoods, about dreams and laughters which were teasing the line to land of the forgotten a little more every year. Roxas hadn't been able to keep from laughing as Seifer had told him about his childhood dream to become a knight. "If it is your goal to protect the people, if I may say so, you're pretty much like the guy who wants to go to the hospital and ends up at the cemetery," Roxas had said, laughing carelessly like only a teenage boy could. He had bitten back the chuckles – well, at least, tried to – when he had seen Seifer's muscles tensing and his lips setting into a hard line and Roxas had realized that Seifer, perhaps, had never given up on that dream.

"Seifer genuinely does love his posse."

Another hot summer day, another day of revelations so ground-breaking Roxas could scarcely wrap his mind around them. They had gone fishing with Fuu and Rai to a nearby pond and had turned the day into one full of laughter, adolescent banter, the mouth-watering promise of a delicious fish dinner and clumsy wet teenage kissing. Seifer's hands had roamed his body, Seifer's tongue had conquered his mouth in a way that by then had felt horribly natural, but it had been with a violent tear that the taller blonde's body had jerked away from him at the sound of the splash followed by that scream of Fuu's that had been ringing with panic. Seifer had darted to save Rai, diving head-first into the pond, re-emerging only seconds later with Rai's brawny arms spun around his neck. Rai's eyes had been wide open,whispering messages of unspoken love and gratitude, mirrored in the dark swirls of passion inside Seifer's eyes.

Roxas had been able to tell. He had known from a multitude of things: the worry on Seifer's face, how he wouldn't leave Rai's side for the rest of the day, from the stiffness in his spine, how an ocean of relief swamped his face when he had asserted that his friend had not been harmed, from the gentleness on his face that had softened it, that had made Seifer look so much younger than he was. Roxas had been able to tell that Seifer loved them dearly, loved them both, loved them like a best friend, loved them even like a brother.

"And he's actually really good at teaching, too!"

No place in Twilight Town was safe from being announced Seifer and Roxas's personal sparring ground. Many a pearly sweat drop had fallen onto Seifer's lawn, the school plaza, the street or the Sandlot in the heat of tightly locked battle. While it was about the raw unleashing of fury and the bitter need to win that came in conjunction with it some of the time, other times, these fights were conducted like training lessons for Roxas. The sandy-haired boy had picked up countless tricks from Seifer – the best grip on a weapon, how to do subtle psychological warfare, how to enhance one's speed and precision – and Roxas was proud of how his fighting skill had improved by heaps and bounds. Sometimes, the fights would be sweaty, sometimes brutal; always dream-like, always passionate. And afterwards, their pumped-up energy would unleash and weave together into a reality just as passionate...

Roxas smiled, his vision taken up by vivid memory. It wasn't until a soft, yet urgent voice pierced the mental replica of Seifer's tongue in his belly button that his attentions swirled back to the brunette girl sitting opposite of him.

"That's all?" Olette urged, drumming her hands excitedly against the dull white surface of the cafeteria table. She leaned forward, green eyes glittering. "Tell me more about Seifer."

Roxas blinked, clearing his throat. "It's just all these little things I learned about him..." he trailed off, shrugging. "It's like, you know, I'm removing the layers... the layers of secrets, rumor, bad-mouthing... and there's an actual person underneath it all. Seifer, he...he keeps surprising me. It made me realize that, that... two months ago, I had no clue who he really was." He sighed, mentally adding, although I was right, of course, at least in general.Arrogant may not be all he is, but of course he's a cocky, overly confident son of a bitch at heart.

The day he had told Seifer he found it amazing how he was constantly finding out so many new things about him, Seifer had grinned toothily and said, "like retrieving treasures from a vault, one by one, isn't it just?" Roxas hadn't had the heart to say that sometimes, just sometimes, it was more like walking into one of those horrible bathrooms with gharish neon lights and discovering one zit, pimple and freckle after the other where you could have sworn there had been skin as smooth as a baby's ass a minute earlier.

Furthermore, he had also confirmed his dark suspicions that Seifer liked – yes, actually liked – seeing people hurt. Oh, not hurting Roxas any more, for the smaller boy knew that by now he had, for better or worse, won the taller boy's genuine affections; pretty much everyone else though re-presented little more than toys to Seifer, and like any child, overgrown or not, Seifer had a penchant for ripping off his dolls' heads. He had realized that the evil, the vile part of Seifer existed may have been much, much smaller than Roxas had anticipated, but there was no changing the fact that it still was a part that was just as real and true as the part that made sacrifices for his friends and grew soft at the sight of puppies and traced Roxas's jaw line with butterfly kisses.

It took Roxas a while to realize that the last statement coming out of Olette's mouth had actually been directed at him. " - treats you well."

Roxas jerked up his face. "Sorry, what did you say?"

If Olette was annoyed at his lack of attention, she was courteous enough not to show it. "I said I was sorry for milking you for details like that – you see, me and Hayner," she shot one look at the blonde sitting next to her, "are just trying to make sure he treats you well."

Roxas grimaced. "You mean, like you were trying to make sure the first three thousand two hundred sixty-four times you asked me whether he was being good to me, while making little secret out of the fact that in your imagination he ties me up and makes me meow with a cat o' nine tails?"

"Roxas, I -"

"Look," Roxas interrupted, smiling in an effort to keep the atmosphere light. "I appreciate your concern, but our -" he paused, thinking if he should use the elusive word relationship, the decided against it, "-situation isn't about him treating me whichever way he wants and me enduring it like his bitch." He tried to smil in an effort to soften the edge in his voice. "I can take care of myself – plus I'm sure Seifer is way too scared of falling victim to the wrath of our overzealous mother hen to ever even so much as get any funny ideas."

"I know you can take care. It's just still -"


"- strange."

"I know," he muttered. "It's weird to me, too."

Olette had taken it the best.

Of course she had questioned his sanity, of course it taken her a few days to come around. But when she finally had, Roxas had known why; she had realized she would have to live with the idea that the seeds had long been planted.

The seeds of Seifer and Roxas's entanglement; the seeds from which their relationship, for better or worse, would grow.

Olette had known. Two days after that fateful day, she had promised she would accept Roxas's choice no matter what it was. That of course they were still friends, that he was silly for even so much as thinking their friendship would ever end, that she, Pence and Hayner would be there for him. Always and forever, she had said, words that had caused a waltz of happiness to parade through his body and a weight equivalent to that of their entire school to be lifted from Roxas's slight shoulders.

Roxas knew it hadn't been a small feat for Olette to react the way she had – after all, it wouldn't be unreasonable to say that what Roxas had done had effectively unleashed a tornado at the laws of the Universe as they had known it, and in the rare moments that Roxas got to sit down and get a moment for himself these days, the guilt would be quick and swift to sneak past his mental barriers and wreak its havoc.

Olette gave Roxas a small smile - the ugly uncertainty of which Roxas would have missed if only he had blinked at the right time – and said, "I would be lying if I said that any of us ever saw it coming, but.. you know, all things considered, it does seem like you're very happy, Roxas with him, and of course I'm very glad to see that. And... Seifer has been behaving better since he has started datin-" she hesitated, "spending more time with you." Olette didn't bother to mention that Seifer's sudden disinterest in indulging in his usual pastimes of bullying innocent school children into surrendering their souls and wallets could just as well be attributed to the fact that Roxas sucked up most of his time these days rather than to any inherent chance in his personality.

"So, it's pretty good after all," Olette reasoned, then elbowed the boy sitting next to her. "Right, Hayner?"

The boy shot her an annoyed glare, rubbing his ribs. "Sure. Whatever you say." He turned to Roxas, his lips curling into a smile. "Hey, Roxas," he turned his head, "Olette. Hey, I was just thinking while you two were arguing, that we haven't had a real get-together in a while." He paused, his eyes writing a poem only Roxas could read. "You two and Pence wanna come over to my house tonight?"

"Awesome!" Olette shrieked, slapping Hayner on the arm in girlish excitement. "It's been forever since we've been over. I've been wanting to come back – your mom makes the best pizza in town!" She turned to Roxas, hurling a massive smile right at him. "You coming?"

"I'd love to!" he exclaimed, smiling brightly. Then he remembered and he looked down, flexing his eyes upon the floor. "But, I kinda have plans already."

"Oh." Olette said. From the corner of his eye, Roxas could see Hayner's smile falling.

"But tomorrow would be fine!" Roxas hurriedly added.

Hayner thought, then smiled. "Sure." His voice was heavy in an attempt to lock away his heart behind the barrier of feigned insouciance.

Thick silence fell around their table like a lead curtain. Guilt demons were gnawing away at Roxas's intestines as he pretended to be very interested in mutilating his cafeteria food and he almost led out a sigh of relief when Olette, at last, shredded the curtain of silence to pieces.

"Why is Pence still not back?"

Hayner grinned without humor. "30 munny he's blackmailing the lunch lady into giving him a free re-filling."

Olette and Hayner launched into a conversation and Roxas took the opportunity to let his eyes slip over to the other end of the cafeteria, where the imposing silhouettes of Seifer, Fuu and Rai were cut sharply against the flood of the other students. They were talking animatedly among themselves. A small rush of endorphins whirled through Roxas's body at the memory of Seifer's strong hands in his hair, tugging at it border-line violently, of the heat on Seifer's skin swirling up to meet his lips... of what they had done that night, and so many times since, with their hands, their mouths...

He shouldn't have had to, but when Pence returned to their table, Roxas felt like he had been caught like the proverbial child with a hand in the cookie jar; he hastily snatched his gaze away, running one hand through his hair.

"Man, this school's going to fucking hell – now they're out of desserts!" Pence announced as he plopped down onto the chair to the smaller blonde's right and started to indiscriminately stuff the rest of his lunch into his already bulging cheeks.

"Since when has this school ever not been going to hell?" Hayner retorted.

Olette giggled, opened her mouth to say something, but was cut off sharply as one tall, imposing figure stepped up next to her – towering over them all like the king Roxas had once thought he was, flanked, as always, by his most faithful minions. Roxas noticed with horror that he'd actually smelled his elusive cologne before he'd seen him.

"Since never," Seifer said to Pence, leering down at him. "People are born, people die, and then, then they go to heaven. Because hell? It's high school, kids."

Roxas bolted up from his seat. "How did you get here so quick? I just saw you over there!" he pointed to the now deserted table.

Seifer raised one eyebrow, grinning all over his face. "Been watching me, have you?"

Roxas's eyes widened. "No! Well, yes... but 'no' more than 'yes'!"

Seifer chuckled. "Don't be fooled, kids – he's a lot less innocent than he looks." He winked at Hayner, Pence and Olette, then turned to Roxas. "Well, let's go, then." Seifer slung one arm over Roxas's shoulder and started to tug him away, when he was stopped by one strong hand wrapping itself around Seifer's wrist.

"Where are you taking him?" Hayner demanded, eyes narrowed.

Seifer looked at him, a smirk on his face. Then, he turned to Roxas and sneered, "why, haven't you told your nannies that you're playing streetball with us today?"

"STREETBALL," Fuu agreed while Roxas elbowed Seifer and slipped out from under his arm. The albino girl's eye latched onto Roxas and he could practically hear the caps in her droning voice. "TOO SMALL. SHRIMP."

"Hey, Fuu!" Rai objected, sending helpless looks into Olette's direction, "be nice to him, ya. Boss said he'd be one of us from now on, ya know!"

Fuu cut the air with her hand. "WALKING METER," was her final judgement.

"Fuu, we've had this discussion," Seifer said, amusement dripping from his voice like honey, "he may be short, but not every part of him is small."

Pence choked on his lunch. Olette's eyes widened. Hayner coughed, red blasting into his cheeks.

Roxas slapped Seifer's shoulder, hard. "What...? Oh, you...!" He hurriedly turned to his friends, running a hand through his spiky hair and rattling, "I guess I should... get going. I did promise Seifer, Fuu and Rai I'd play streetball with them today..."

Seifer chuckled, once again curling his arm around Roxas's narrow shoulders, gently tugging him along. Blood was bubbling underneath Roxas's skin, thundering loud and clear in ears; it was just as the four teenagers had reached the door leading out of the cafeteria that Seifer turned around, blazing grin on his face. "And you three, get your mind out of the gutter – I was talking about his hands."

Roaring with laughter, Seifer led Roxas out of the room – going so quickly that Roxas almost tripped over his own feet and came dangerously close to leaning on Seifer like a fucking girl. He angrily swatted away the other boy's arm and they began walking toward the basketball court, Seifer and Roxas building the lead with the other two a few feet behind them.

Brooding quietly by Seifer's side, Roxas chewed his lower lip. Almost by default, his thoughts dug into his most recent memories, swirling back to Hayner and the last look of him he had caught before the cafeteria door had robbed Roxas of his vision.

It had come to nobody's surprise that Hayner had takenit though Roxas didn't quite know what it was -quite a lot harder than Olette had. Almost visible was his inner conflict, almost palpable his inner turmoil that cultivated into the benign neglect he was showing Roxas these days. Friends they still were – after all, if it hadn't been for Hayner and his love and support, the night of the fight could very well have ended with Roxas collecting his own brains splattered all over the battle ground rather than him spending the night huddled into Seifer's satin covers – but although Roxas's belief in Hayner's eternal love and friendship was unshakeable, the wedge between them had been hammered firmly into the ground.

They would tear it down, of that he was sure – just yesterday, after school, Hayner had approached Roxas and said, with eyes drained and rimmed with red, that all he needed was the same thing Roxas needed: the eternally soothing, cleansing hands of time.

Roxas had offered to break up with Seifer if that was what Hayner had wanted; to his great surprise, Hayner had declined. "It is not my right or place, Roxas. This is about you. Don't. You're in too deep now anyway."

He had been right, of course, but the hints of weariness around his eyes, the slight shaking of her lips, the tremor in his voice cracking underneath the cheerful top layer of her voice had been painful to Roxas; painful enough for little shurikens to wedge themselves into his heart and for the guilt demons to be invited to their equivalent of a Thanksgiving dinner.

Roxas was pulled back into reality by Rai's voice sputtering,"I did all right in front of Olette there, didn't I?" He was practically jumping into Fuu's voice in search for approval. "I was good, wasn't I?"

"NEGATIVE," she judged.

"What?!" Rai's eyes were wide and child-like. "But, this time I even managed not to spill juice over her like I did last ti – hey, watch it!" he roared as a boy bumped into his shoulder.

Huge eyes belonging to a small-framed freshman were staring up at the brawny boy. "I'm – I'm sorry!" he whimpered, his eyes darting wildly between Fuu and Rai like a cornered rabbit.

The boy bowed quickly, then tried to circumvent Rai and make for an escape. When Rai grabbed him by the collar and yanked him back to where he had been standing, he let out one long, drawn-out yelp and would likely have fallen if it hadn't been for the tanned teen catching him by the upper arms and holding him away from his body like an old lady reading a newspaper.

"Nobody bumps into me, ya know?!" Rai sneered. A beat. "Well, since you did bump into me... obviously you don't know! God, you'redumb!"

"S-sorry!" the boy gasped, looking like he was fully expecting to have his skull cracked open like a coconut on the cold, sterile floor of Twilight Town High any second now.

Fuu laughed; it sounded haughty and mean. Seifer just looked at the two of them, amusement sparkling in his eyes like the most cruel of gemstones. Roxas, who had until this point been a silent observer, took a step forward.

"Just let him go, Rai," he said, trying to keep his voice calm and collected and failing ruefully, "he's not worth it."

While Rai scowled, his victim's head snapped into Roxas's direction, wide and large and afraid, and when the blonde boy gave one tentative, crooked smile, the boy winced as though he had been beaten and Roxas realized he was afraid of him. Roxas opened his mouth to say something, to calm down the nearly hyperventilating boy, but was left in such awe scarcely a puff came out.

He was scared. Of him. Of him, Roxas.

Nobody had been afraid of Roxas since he had run to hug to the neighbour's girl with his fly wide open – and that had been in grade school. The surprise was so complete that he saw himself left unable to do anything other than stare at the guy.

Jumping in his throat, running along his body, cowering in his eyes, the boy's fear was a wave of erratic negativity, enormous and tantamount and so oddly fascinating that if it hadn't been for Seifer, there was no way to tell how long Roxas would have stood there gaping at this boy.

"He's right, Rai," Seifer drawled. "He really isn't worth it. He's just a fool who couldn't manage to get out of the way in time."

Rai snapped his head around to glare at Seifer, but only for a second did Roxas see the hints of defiance before they slipped off of his face as quickly as a towel off of curves; his anger and emotions dissolved like fingers dampened in acid. Without warning, Rai let go off the boy's upper arms, not even sparing another look as the boy lost balance and landed in a heap on the floor with all the grace of an Orc in high heels.

Fuu and Seifer laughed in unison, their high laughter bellowing along the halls of school while Roxas watched the boy gather up his belongings and speed away, eyes glistening in traitorous wetness. One question pulsed dully behind Roxas's eyeballs: just when exactly his life had come to a screeching halt and he had embarked ona journey into this parallel Universe that only very vaguely resembled the world he had known.

But then, he knew that, didn't he?

It had started the day after the fight, of course. That day, school had been different. While Roxas had always been able to sense an air of fear and aggressiveness haunting the classrooms and hallways since the very first day at school, that day school had felt akin to a war zone; sharp glares had been missiles and whispered rumours bullets. They had torn through school with all the viciousness of a wildfire through a dry forest.

Suddenly, Roxas had been like the President; everybody had an opinion about him. People at school he had never seen before would randomly declare their love or look at him with a glare that suggested they would do nothing with more pleasure than castrate him with whatever utensil was within reach. Roxas still wasn't sure which of the two was creepier.

As much as he hated to admit it, though, Roxas guessed he really should have expected as much - after all, all in the course of two days, he had gone from being a nobody to being Seifer's punching bag to being Seifer's... uh...

Well, whatever.

"Why did you let him go, boss?" Rai demanded, a welcome distraction that snapped Roxas out of his brooding. "It's been ages since I had a fight!"

"I'LL BEAT YOU UP!" Fuu offered with a glint in her eye. She sounded the most excited Roxas had ever heard her. "I HAVE A CHAKRAM. SLICE! SLICE!"

Ten seconds of silence as Rai, Roxas and Seifer all stared at the albino. Then Seifer turned to Roxas with a crooked grin. "Looks like the Deathship's got a new Captain."

"CAPTAIN," Fuu nodded happily. Then, almost as an afterthought, "SLICE!"

Seifer grinned. "Isn't she lovely?"

"LOVELY?" Fuu repeated, raising one silver eyebrow in an obvious sign that she didn't approve.

"Oh no, she's not only the captain of deathship, she's the Lordess of Destruct – owwwww," he howled as Fuu unceremoniously kicked his shin.

"IDIOT!" she said, emphasizing it with her hand. "There is no such word."

"I knew that!" Rai whined – yes, actually whined – in reply, rubbing his shin like a child. "I was just, ya know -"

"And on that fascinating note," Seifer interrupted them, turning his back to his posse, and grabbing Roxas's hand, "let's go."

Roxas gasped, slapping Seifer's hand away. "What are you doing?"

Both Fuu and Rai chuckled to themselves while Seifer raised one eye brow and leaned down to bring his face closer to Roxas's. His pair of eyes danced closer to Roxas; the sea-tossed waves that would surely one day mean his demise. The next words coming out of Seifer's mouth, low and intimate in tone though they were, were powerful enough to momentarily suck all breath out of Roxas's lungs. "What, I can't even hold my own boyfriend's hand?"

Roxas's eyes widened. "What? Boyfriend?"

Chuckling, Seifer grabbed Roxas's hand once more and Roxas's fingers brushed against the warm metal of several silver rings as their fingers intertwined, as Roxas's child-like hands with the large palm and the short fingers melted into Seifer's long and slender ones.

The impulse to slap Seifer's hand away surged in Roxas like a violent tide, crashing against his wind pipe; for some reason, however, an exhilarating feeling he couldn't place swept up and froze his limbs, drowning out the inferior pulse of the tide.

Roxas blushed as Seifer tugged on his hand, flexing his eyes upon the floor as they started walking, with Fuu and Rai trailing behind them in silence. Seifer's hand was warm, calloused and large – he almost felt like he could feel Seifer's heart beat drumming underneath the thin skin of his palm, but then he wasn't sure if he only looking for feeble excuses to explain away his own heart which had long since launched into one excited gallop.

The absurdity of the situation wasn't lost on Roxas and he was reminded of his ongoing internal debate between treasures and zits as Seifer once again revealed a new side of him, one that Roxas sure would have been the cause of one massive fit of hysterical giggles if only he had been in the position to. Seifer Almasy held hands. And had boyfriends. Or thought he did, anyway...

Roxas, once he dared to raise his head, felt as embarrassed as if he was waltzing around school wearing a frilly pink skirt and the other student's unabashed glares only made Roxas want to look down and check he really wasn't wearing a frilly pink skirt. If Roxas had been religious, it would have been quite likely he would have thanked his deity of choice for the fact that the basketball court was close to the cafeteria and their little detour through the Twilight Zone was mercifully ended when the three teenagers spilled into the open.

A group of students were already playing and once, a lifetime ago, Roxas would asked Seifer what they were going to do now – he no longer had to. Throughout the two months of spending more time with Seifer than was entirely healthy, Roxas had learned. It came to no surprise to the smaller blonde boy that the students – four tall juniors Roxas had seen in passing – looked up in dawning horror at the imposing figures of Seifer and his posse, exchanged hasty looks, then proceeded to empty the court. Just like that. Like there was an unwritten law that Seifer got to do what he wanted – and probably, Roxas reasoned, there was.

Seifer surprised everyone, though. "Hey," he called to them and Roxas blushed as the boys turned to look because Seifer was still holding his hand, "You're Branwel, right?"

The tallest nodded, stopping dead in his tracks and looking at Seifer with confusion written in a clear language all across his face.

Seifer grinned. "Play with us."

The four teens exchanged looks; hesitant with traces of fear lurking underneath, but when they turned back to Seifer and called affirmative, they were smiling, shaky around the edges though their smiles were. Seifer started to walk up to them, but Roxas stood rooted to his spot.

"Um, Seifer?" Roxas asked, looking up at the taller blonde.


"You can let go off my hand now," Roxas snapped, snatching his hand out of Seifer's grasp. Then he smiled thinly and started walking toward the court, Seifer's amused chuckle drumming into his back and the monotone foot steps of Rai and Fuu following him. At last at the court and facing the four boys – all of which, Roxas noted with a bout of jealousy, at least half a head taller than himself – Seifer, to Roxas's horror, introduced him.

"Nice of you to play with us today," Seifer said, making it clear that they didn't have any choice anyway. He indicated his posse, "these are Rai and Fuu, as I'm sure you know." Then, he slung one arm around Roxas, causing the smaller boy to gasp and stumble over his feet. Ocean eyes wide, Roxas crashed against Seifer's chest where he commenced to squirm and try to worm his way out of the involuntary embrace.

"And this," Seifer said, smirking, "is my boyfriend, Roxas."

While the four boys weren't exactly unconcerned, their expression of mild surprise couldn't ever in a million years hope to match the horror on Roxas's face.

"What the hell?" Roxas exclaimed, struggling against the taller boy's chest and wishing that for once he had the shin-kicking skills of Fuu. When he finally succeeded to disentangle himself from the other boy, he stood there panting, shooting death glare out of eyes that were adorned by twitching eyebrows. "What is it with you, today, anyway?" Roxas huffed. "Where is all this... this boyfriend talk coming from all of a sudden?"

Roxas looked at the four juniors, then over to Rai and Fuu – all six of them were still as perfect statues, regarding the two boys in their midst. It would have all been all too fitting if, like in a movie, gusts of wind would have howled around their desolate forms.

Seifer chuckled, letting his eyes trail over Roxas's face; the quickening of Roxas's heart beat lay a cruel testament to the fact that the taller boy's eyes still, even after gazing into them daily for so long, hadn't lost any of the strange effect they had on Roxas. Although it seemed much, much longer to Roxas, it couldn't have been more than a couple of seconds before Seifer shrugged, turned to the boys and announced, "well, let's get this started." He turned to the boy and yet again surprised everyone, "let's split up, after all. The four of you play with Rai and Fuu on the right side of the court. We'll play 21, every player for himself. 2 points a basket and yes," he winked at Rai, "no blood, no foul. I'm going to have a little one-on-one encounter," Seifer chuckled at that, "with Roxas."

Seifer stalked away from Roxas without another word or look, and it was then that the meaning of Seifer's word really dawned on him. A burst of defiance spilled forth and the smaller boy's eyebrows laced together into one of the most venomous frowns recorded on the usually much more placid teen.

When Roxas reluctantly slipped into his usual warm-up routine, he watched the other six teens congregate on the right side of the court. While the four juniors seemed to be wavering between confusion and being scared out of their mortal minds, a dreamy look was splattered all over Rai's dark face; probably, Roxas assumed, making a mental laundry list of all the havoc he could subject the junior to. Fuu, meanwhile, seemed all lost in a world in which Roxas could wildly imagine chakrams and blood playing very prominent roles.

Seifer was waiting for him on the left side of the court and Roxas sighed, shaking his limbs after his stretching exercises and started walking toward the taller teen. He stopped in front of Seifer and looked up at him and Hyne knew Seifer should by now have been familiar, but that knowledge didn't stop Roxas's knees from weakening ever so slightly at the sight of those green eyes sparkling down at him in a merry dance.

Relief washed over Roxas as Seifer broke the eye contact, but was quickly followed by a harsh intake of breath as the basketball Seifer had picked up raced toward the smaller boy. He caught it without much difficulty however and he twirled it in his hands, a skeptical look on Roxas's face as he regarded Seifer.

"From the way you look at me," Seifer sneered, "something tells me that basketballs won't be the only balls that are going to get fondled on this court this pleasant afternoon."

Roxas rolled his eyes, the basketball shooting out from between his hands and crashing into Seifer's arms. "You wish."

"From the way you've been staring at me all day, you wish."

It was almost like a ritual between them, one that had emerged over the course of the past couple of months and had settled so naturally into their daily lives that neither ever questioned it. The taunting was as necessary as it was empty and meaningless; the loving gazes that traced the lines of each other's faces was as clear a testament to that as any.

Pure affection it wasn't though; the pulse of competition was thrumming underneath those gazes hard and strong.

Seifer smirked as he turned his body to the basket and threw the ball toward the basket – the signal that the game had just begun.

The spell was broken. Roxas felt his own body lunging forward, his eyes transfixed on the ball flying through the air. Stretching out his arm, he jumped up as he saw the ball bouncing off the rim of the basket and flying toward him, but as only mere inches were separating Roxas from the surface of the ball, a weight connected with Roxas's side, reeling him off balance.

The smaller boy grunted softly as he landed on his feet, his eyes searching for the ball – and finding it shooting put of Seifer's hands and through the basket, whipping the net as it did so, then landing on the floor and shivering against it before it was picked up and cradled against Seifer's broad chest.

The combined force of Seifer's grin and the ball hit Roxas into the chest. "Your turn, chicken-wuss," Seifer cheered, snapping his body right back into position.

Two sandy-blonde eyebrows slid together on Roxas's forehead as he started to dribble the ball, rattling his brain for tricks to outmanoeuvre the taller boy, dribbling the ball around his legs, then sprinting toward the basket and -

- and the next thing he knew, the ball was still dribbling – but between the ground and Seifer's hand, having snatched the ball away quicker than the smaller boy had expected. Roxas felt the irrational urge to smack that satisfied grin right off of the tanned blonde's face.

Eyes transfixed on the ball, Roxas lunged forward, trying to steal the ball back – but Seifer snatched it out of his reach just in time and held it above his head, causing Roxas to moan in frustration as the ball was held above his head in what was plain mockery.

Seifer laughed throatily. "Too bad you aren't taller, huh, why don't we -"

Roxas never got to hear Seifer's suggestion however as Roxas, with one shrewd grin, jumped up as high as he could, reaching the ball with his fingertips and stirring it up enough to cause it to fall off of the bully's open palm. It was with a triumphant grin sprawled all across the boy's youthful face that the Roxas lunged at the ball and snapped it away seconds before Seifer could reach it. Joyful laughter as clear as bells sped across the court as Roxas ran toward the basket, dribbling furiously.

The imposing frame of Seifer's jumped in front of him, blocking his vision and, with a curse, Roxas stopped, dribbling the ball behind his back. Dribbling being something Roxas had taken to like Pence to a candy store, what Roxas lacked in height he could sometimes manage to make up in dribbling skills. Since Seifer's intervention, there had been many, many things Roxas had realized he was quite good at and others, like dribbling, that he found he excelled at, that he would never have tried if it hadn't been for Seifer's steering him along – even though, in some cases, it had been with a little more than innocent insistence.

He spun around on his heel as Seifer lunged at him, dribbling the ball close to the floor to give Seifer no opening to get to it – Roxas gasped, however, as Seifer pressed his crotch against his backside in what Roxas was sure was not entirely motivated only by trying to get to the ball.

"What the fuck?" Roxas spat, his heart speeding up as he desperately tried to keep the ball out of the reach of Seifer's arms, now dribbling with both hands. "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing?" the breathless voice of Seifer reached Roxas's ear; his body was now pressed flat against Roxas's back while his arms were snaking around Roxas's body. He could practically hear the smirk on Seifer face as he said, "I'm taking a standard situation as a lame excuse to feel up my boyfriend."

Roxas groaned, taking a few steps forward with Seifer following suit, grinding his body against Roxas's while lashing out at the ball and very nearly reeling Roxas off balance with his vehemence. Roxas ducked, dribbling the ball between his legs as he spat, "You're really starting to freak me out with all this boyfriend talk."

Although Roxas couldn't see it with his ass pressed flush against Seifer's crotch, he could picture the amused expression on his face as his voice, which carried a challenging, seductive edge, reached his ears. "Well, aren't you my boyfriend?" Roxas could hear the taller boy chuckling. "Because if you aren't, that means you're pretty much just a glorified fuck buddy." He paused. "You know, without the actual fucking."

Roxas rolled his eyes. "You're not going to stop bugging me about that, huh?"

A grin. "Not until the day Jesus stops being holy, mate."

Roxas grinned. "I didn't know the Bible was going to be re-written," Roxas teased, "because I think you are going to stop when I do this."

The smaller boy had been waiting for an opportunity for Seifer to let his guard down. Transferring the ball to only one hand, his elbow shot out with all his might, contacting with Seifer's stomach. Roxas quickly wriggled himself out of the taller boy's loose embrace. With barking laughter that made his ocean blue eyes glitter and sparkle like light amusing itself on the surface of sea water, Roxas raced raised on his tiptoes gracefully, held the ball above his head, and with what looked like little more than a brush of his fingertips, sent the ball sailing through the air.

Roxas's heart was thundering in his ears as he watched the ball shooting toward the basket, hitting the rim, trailing around it (Go in, go in, go in!), then stood still for a split second, then finally (yes, yes, yes!) fell through the net.

Sweet, sweet triumphant bled into Roxas's veins, coursed through his body and sent every cell into jubilation. Turning to Seifer, he was greeted by a most venomous sneer. "That was a foul," Seifer mumbled and it took all of Roxas's might not to break into a fit of giggles at the sight of his mouth curling into a pout.

"You said it yourself: no blood, no foul." Roxas smiled. "Which in our case means: playing dirty is not only tolerated, but expected." His smile grew, and he added sweetly, "Doesn't it, Seifer?"

Seifer's pout dropped, replaced quickly by a grin – and if Roxas was hearing it correctly, that was pride lacing his voice as he said, "I see you've been paying attention." His grin grew. "You grow more wicked every day."

Roxas smirked, picking up the ball and shooting it into Seifer's arms. "Save your breath. It's your turn."

Seifer's hand and hot water, Roxas decided, were a most exquisite combination.

The massage Seifer was administering to his sore shoulder muscles melted into the steam like honey. Roxas hummed quietly to himself as he felt the wet, slippery hands of Seifer dropping from his shoulders to his back, making small circles that helped him relieve all the tension that had built up during their streetball match just minutes prior.

Steam encircled their bodies like mystical flames as they moved against each other. The air was filled with the sound of water drumming against the tiles of the locker room intermingling with that of heavy breathing. The room was empty, lost to anyone but the two boys and Roxas briefly wondered whether the room was sad that the two of them were so lost in only each other.

"Feels good," Roxas moaned, closing his eyes and letting his head drop back until it rested against Seifer's chest.

"I do what I can," Seifer snickered. "After I whooped the basketball court with your ass, I figured it wouldn't hurt to treat it well for a change. Wouldn't want it to break or anything..."

A lazy smile pulled up Roxas's lips. "You won by a 2 point margin. Hardly a ground-breaking victory now, was it?"

Seifer laughed and his voice was sincere when he said, "You're right – considering your height and the fact that you learned how to play streetball scarcely six weeks ago, you are pretty good." A pause. "But, of course, you'd never beat me!"

Roxas laughed, then turned around to look up at the taller boy. Seifer's hot, wet fingers, which had been kneading his back, glided along his body as he turned, coming to rest at the curve of his waist.

It was then that Seifer did something that, Roxas had noticed, he only ever did when they were alone: all malice melted from his face, with affection and beauty rushing in to fill the void; his muscles relaxed, ironing his face into that of an innocent, young, pretty boy. As soon as anyone – even Rai and Fuu - stepped in to disturb their peace, the mask would slip back into place and one could be forgiven for not believing such beauty had been there just a second ago.

"Fuu says we're cute," Seifer said, a crooked smile on his wet, glistening face.

Although the word cute was indeed one that came to mind looking at Seifer with his golden tresses sticking to his forehead and dipping into the green pools of his eyes, Roxas wasn't about to admit that without a fight.

"Us? Cute?" Roxas retorted, one eyebrow raised. "I would have thought Fuu's idea of cute ran more along the line of one-eyed kittens with a wooden legs, balancing cigars between their blood-dripping teeth."

Seifer laughed. "Nice imagery – you're wrong, though, about Fuu. Sometimes she's actually a lot more feminine than you'd think." He paused. "I mean, without the whole chakram slicing sadism...thing."

"Right," Roxas said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Except for that, she'd almost be as cuddly and pedestrian as you."

Seifer made a sound of mock-anger. "Me? But I'm e-bil!"

Roxas's smile fell a little. "I know."

Noting the smaller boy's change in mood, Seifer moved closer, pressing Roxas's body against his until their wet chests were fused together so tightly not even the trail of the shower could pass.

Roxas shook his head to get rid of all those bothersome thoughts and smiled up at his beautiful Seifer, knowing that the evil still existed, would always exist, but that he was beautiful just for him. He slung both arms around Seifer's neck, letting their bodies sway to the drum of the water on the floor, their bodies as smooth as baby seals, Seifer's eyes so large and green against his flushed skin. Emotions surged inside Roxas's throat, forced their way into its mouth and pummelling his lips in an effort to slip out; Roxas, though, kept his mouth shut, unwilling to release them into the world.

Seifer found a way to put it much less poetically. "Man, you look like a fucking constipated anthropoid. Spill it."

Roxas groaned. "Fuck, no. It's cheesy."

Seifer grinned. "I knew you would tell me you loved me soon."

"That was not what I was gonna say!" Roxas growled, "I was just going to..." he hesitated, "you know... thank you." Seifer opened his mouth to say something, but Roxas interrupted him, "I know what you're gonna say. "Thank me for what? For giving you two blow jobs in a row last week?" or something stupid and perverted like that." Seifer made a surprised face and Roxas rolled his eyes, letting his arms drop. "Oh God, you really were gonna say that."

Seifer just shrugged, smiled, then bent down and kissed Roxas and dissolved Roxas's brain into little more than a gray puddle.

It was only when he was kissing Seifer that he remembered how he had actually been looking forward to feeling his tongue inside him again, how he had missed those busy hands running up and down his naked upper body. It hurt a little when Roxas's back connected with the slippery tiles of the locker room wall, but every pain was dulled and forgotten as Seifer's kisses became harder, more demanding.

But despite how great and consuming it felt to have Seifer's need pulsing against him in more ways than one, no matter how nice it was to relish in the burning sensation gathering in his crotch, it didn't feel... right. He realized with a pang that made his eyes fly open and his hands to push off Seifer's body that there was simply no way around it - he had to say it. It was burning in his chest, itching in his throat; it wouldn't let him enjoy what Seifer was doing to him.

"What?" Seifer groaned, looking dismayed. "I told you I was fine with not having real sex, I just want to -"

"It's not about that!" Roxas cast his eyes down, suddenly ashamed of his stark nakedness. "It's just... it's about before."

"Oh," Seifer said, his tone even, "you mean the blow job business."

Roxas smacked his shoulder. "I told you it wasn't about that, goddammit!"

The taller boy laughed; it reverberated many times on the tiles of the shower room. In what was a delicate contrast to the steaming hot water cascading down both of their naked bodies, a cold shower slid down Roxas's back as Seifer's eyes levelled back on his. A smile was on his face – a nice, a beautiful smile, the kind he'd shown him so long ago in the woods, moments before he had wedged that metaphorical knife deeply between his ribs. It was comical how Roxas's eyes widened at Seifer's words, how their meaning ripped right through his chest and dove into his heart.

"I know what you're gonna say, actually. You want to thank me, don't you?"

Roxas only nodded. He spoke, but it sounded hoarse, "For bringing me closer to finding out who I truly am – and who I can be with some effort. I will never love anyone as much as my friends. Nobody will ever come close... but I have to admit that, two months ago, I.. I-" he paused, searching for words. "I... had stopped developing. Moving forward." He paused. "Challenging myself, I suppose you could say."

Seifer nodded. "Most people never dare to step out of their comfort zone, yes." He grinned. "Yanked ya out of it, didn't I?"

He leaned down again, placing soft kisses on the nape of Roxas's neck then, trailing his lips lower still, he caught one of Roxas's rosy nipples between his lips. One glistening tongue darted out to dance around it, communicating a silent message; soft moans coming from the smaller boy's lips were a clear answer. The world around them ceased existing, colours draining like a washed-out painting, background noise quieting down until the pants and breaths were all they could hear. Gone was the harsh, gharish world of reality; arrived had the world in which only hot steam, water, eager lips, pink nipples and soft, wanton moans were real and -

and Roxas pushed Seifer away again, but before the taller blonde could stage his usual snort of protest, Roxas burst out, "so becoming your boyfriend, would that be moving forward, too?"

It wasn't very often that Seifer Almasy was at a loss for words, but right then and there he was as speechless as the smaller boy had ever seen him. When he did reply at the end of one long stretch of heavy silence, his words carried the defeated ring of truth. "It would be quite possibly the stupidest thing you could do."

"But.." Roxas sighed, big eyes huge, "it would be a challenge."

Seifer raised one eyebrow. "So is that a 'yes' then?"

Roxas cast his eyes down. "I suppose."

"You suppose or you know?"

"Fine, it's a yes."

Seifer's lips split into one wide grin. "So let me get this straight: you're only agreeing to officially date me because it's a challenge, amirite?"

Roxas's eyebrows twitched. "What are you getting at, asshole? Be happy I'm agreeing to officially be your boyfriend, something, if you haven't noticed, will pretty much ruin every shred of reputation I've ever had and put me squarely into the ranks of darkness as far as most people are concerned!"

"Before you met me," Seifer asked, amusement dancing in his eyes, "you had a reputation?" Sharp. Efficient. Fuu wasn't the only one who knew how to slice.

Roxas's smile fell. "Forget it, then," he hissed and turned to leave, but knew he wouldn't get very far when he felt that by now so familiar vices gripping his wrist and yanking him around until he was face-to-face with that impossible pair of eyes for what was probably the hundred millionth time, yet always felt like the very first.

"Sorry," Seifer chuckled, obviously not sorry, "You have to understand, you just presented me the perfect opportunity for a little jab."

"Sometimes I don't know why I haven't killed you yet."

Seifer laughed. "But Roxas, that's obvious. It's because you like me – which would also be why you want to be my boyfriend. And I think killing me would sort of intervene with that." A smirk. "Unless, of course, you were into that kind of thing."

Roxas smacked him again. "You're crazy!" Then he moaned to himself. "I must be crazy, too."

"The plight of the beautiful and powerful," Seifer cheered. Roxas wasn't prepared for another kiss, but he found himself opening his mouth and inviting Seifer's into his without a question or doubt when Seifer collected him in his arms yet again. Their bodies melted together, all hands and lips and sizzling energy once more, losing themselves into each other so much that if they had both started floating, they would scarcely have noticed.

Roxas had once, many years ago, played a computer game called The Sims. It had been Pence's game, really – Pence being the most nerdy out of their group, although Roxas had always come in as a close second – and Roxas had borrowed it for about a week before he had given it back, eyes red-rimmed and sleep-deprived, yet several experiences richer.

He hadn't really given it much thought since, but was suddenly reminded of the little mood bars in the game that had been in constant of being re-filled. Representing a human's basic needs, there had been bars for hunger, sleep and similar needs – and Roxas was feeling more like he had an additional bar as well. A Seifer bar.

"You were right," Roxas whispered, voice almost drowned out against noisy kisses.

"About what?" Seifer whispered back, low and intimate, tickling spots in Roxas he hadn't even known existed.

"You know." Roxas murmured, breaking the messy kisses and hiding his face against Seifer's shoulder, breathing in deeply, almost regretting that Seifer smelled of soap and not of spices and cologne like he usually did. "About before." He held his breath.

"You mean," came the quiet, soft voice from above, "about you liking me?"

His voice quivered, but not nearly as much as he had thought it would. "Yes. I don't love you, though," he added quietly. "Not... not yet, anyway."

And as Seifer laughed and squeezed him tightly and the happiness washed over his face like the gentle sea over sand, Roxas didn't even question his sanity any more, didn't even embark on a long torturous journey of asking himself whether deciding to make Seifer part of his life would turn out to be the greatest mistake of his life. He didn't ask, because he knew that it didn't matter, that no answer in the world had the power to change what was inevitable.

Roxas didn't know whether they would raise or fall, hurt or cheer, bleed or laugh, but he did know one thing.

That they would do so together.

Then Seifer made a crude joke and Roxas rolled his eyes, mentally modifying that last sentence.

...for a while, anyway.

- The End