Notes: I've been dying to write a slashy, confusing, shamelessly over-the-top high school AU...and here's what came out! I might not continue, based on reader response (or lack thereof!) so if you have an opinion, I'd love it if you dropped me a review! Watch out for profanity, innuendos, and crazy drama. Primary pairings include RikuxSora, RikuxRoxas, SeiferxSora, and AxelxRoxas. This chapter is pretty Roxas-centric, but most of the others characters (especially Axel) will end up playing larger parts.

Hope you'll give this a shot. Thanks for reading; this is only the beginning!

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Middle Ground
by kymble

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Axel's Guide to Social Survival: Getting to Know the Big Fish

Riku Piscottia (handsome, profane, and neurotically loving) has been steady with Sora Boudreau (magnificent, intimidating, unbelievably clumsy) since second grade; record time in Traverse Town. Know them, worship them. They can make or break a rep in a second.

Roxas stared bitterly at the newspaper clipping he'd taped to the bathroom mirror for a moment before tearing it down, viciously.

He hated it when Axel was right.

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The newspaper staff had nixed gossip columns after Axel had printed the story about Leon and Cloud's (dubiously) repressed homosexuality, but that hadn't stopped him from circulating flyers: SO ETERNITY ENDS, read the pamphlet, complete with several action shots of Sora lobbing his textbooks at Riku. The rumor mill was known for its inconsistency, sure, but this time, the photographic evidence was irrefutable. The Super Couple was no more, and the school was in chaos.

"There's just no way," Roxas said for the fifteenth time, his face a mixture of incredulity, anxiety, and shy hope. "I mean, Sora and Riku got together when they were eight, back when the rest of us still thought 'gay' was just a way to describe Christmas!"

Hayner frowned from his spot against the lockers, not looking up from the handout. "That's what I said at first, but this is a pretty convincing recap."

"Read it to me."

"Sure. It's by--ugh, Axel Akuseru, that smoldering stalker of yours." He laughed as Roxas smiled sweetly and gave him the finger, then plowed on. "'Yesterday morning, just before the nine-thirty bells, the lovebirds exited physics class in a rage of unbridled passion. 'What the hell is your problem?' Riku was shouting, hot on his boyfriend's heels. 'Stop PMSing so I can talk to you!'"

Roxas gasped and closed a hand over his mouth. "Oh, shit."

"Shit is right! You just don't mention Sora's mood swings; it's taboo." He flipped rapidly through the pages, scanning for relevant information. "'Sora threw him off and stormed towards his locker. Riku went after him, grabbing his arm, and that's when the little fireball snapped. 'I wish your penis were a lump of chocolate!' he screamed, effectively halting all traffic in the hallway. 'Then at least I'd have half a Hershey's Kiss, and the sex would leave a better taste in my mouth!'"

The friends paused to glance at each other, torn between horror and hysterical laughter.

"Real people can't say things like that!" Roxas sputtered. "Not spur-of-the-moment!"

"Leave it to Riku and Sora. Hell, they do everything full tilt. I'd hate to have to be around them for extended periods of time. They're exhausting."

"They can't be through," Roxas repeated. "Can't."

Hayner smirked at him, crossing his arms. "Oh? I thought you'd be rejoicing by now."

Roxas flushed immediately. "Well, Riku and Sora were such a constant! I mean, they epitomized true love, and blind love, and love at first sight--and now that they're through...after nine years..."

"Riku is free," Hayner finished firmly.

Roxas glanced at him, shocked. "Hayner, I am not going to take advantage of his vulnerability!"

Hayner threw his arms up in exasperation. "Roxas, come on! You've been pining after him since middle school. You may have been too late to beat Sora, but you've been watching him for so long, waiting for an opportunity like this...and suddenly you decide that it isn't ethical?"

"That's just part of it," said Roxas, his cheeks growing even redder. "A very, very small part."

"So what's the rest?"

Sighing, Roxas grabbed the flyer from him and flipped it open to a picture of Sora. Even in high-contrast black and white, he was nothing short of spectacular. His waist was slim, shapely, his smile a perfect mixture of angelic charm and "come-hither"--he did not so much attend the school as he did rule over it, like the queen of his own sovereign nation.

Heterosexual and indifferent, Hayner stared at the photograph. "What? You're scared of him?"


"Then what--"

"I'm freaking petrified."

"Damn, I'm glad I'm straight," Hayner said, shaking his head. "The homo hierarchy is so screwed up. Think about this: if you all stopped treating Sora like he's the supreme ruler of the universe, he'll stop acting like it. He's not scary. In fact, he's got to be the clumsiest person I've ever met. He's just got an incredible..."


Hayner glared at him. "Reputation."

"Ah." Roxas put his books away, impatiently flicking his bangs out of his eyes and placing his hands on his hips. "Suspending reality for a moment, say I, Roxas the Invisible, had the, uh...assets to compete with Sex God Sora. Say Riku considered it. Where would that put me? I'd rather commit ritual suicide than put myself on a pedestal for comparison to a superhuman predecessor."

"First of all, you're highly attractive," Hayner pointed out. "People are always flirting with you."

"Axel's attentions don't count! He'd bang anything with two legs, pulse optional!"

"Second," Hayner went on, ignoring him, "it's all about your timing. Riku's on the mend now. You have to catch him before he says yes to someone else, but after he's well enough to seriously consider it, without thinking you're an insensitive prick."

"And how the hell should I know when that is?"

The five-minute bell went off. The two of them cursed in unison, scrambling to load books into their backpacks. Roxas was just closing his locker when Hayner poked his arm, moved by a sudden burst of inspiration.

"A week. Take one week, then you can ask if he wants to bear your children."


But his friend was already halfway down the hall, melting seamlessly into the crowd of bustling students. He glanced back over his shoulder to give him a smirk and a finger gesture, which Roxas returned automatically, prompting a glare from one of the nearby hall monitors.

Today marks the turning point my high school career, he thought, lovingly touching Riku's picture in the pamphlet. It could be the beginning of something amazing.

There was a flurry of movement, and everyone scattered to make a path. Sora tore around the corner suddenly with one of the flyers balled in his fist, ferocious and frightening and gorgeous, driving the double doors open so forcefully that the whole corridor seemed to shake. Silhouetted briefly against the sunlight, he looked like a beautiful, angry god. "I broke up with him!" he yelled, whipping around. "We're through! And if anyone has a problem with that, you can just kiss my ass!"

Sora turned to leave and promptly fell down the stairs, his feet going over his head and everything. Half the school gasped and raced to help him up.

Roxas could only stare.

This could also be the start of an extremely slow, painful death.

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As per Thursday night tradition, Roxas hit the movie theatre to catch the latest chick flick and weep into his popcorn. Hayner had bowed out that week, wiped from football practice, and Olette and Pence were busy studying for their upcoming science final, so Roxas sat alone in an empty row, obscured by the shadows. It was depressing as hell, but Axel--his only alternative--would've spent the whole time spouting sonnets and trying to lick his neck. Roxas had long since decided he'd rather look lonely than easy, and as he settled into his chair with a soda, he prepped himself for another quiet, lonesome night.

When Riku walked into the theatre, he choked on his Pepsi.

"Hey," Riku said halfheartedly, spotting him on his way to the back seats. "You're in my composition class, aren't you? Isn't it Roxas?"

"Uhh--yuh," Roxas managed, still coughing. Even in the middle of a crisis, Riku looked amazing. The dim lights caught all the silvery-blue highlights in his hair. Roxas swallowed hard, trying to restrain himself from clapping his hands and squealing. "Um, so...h-how have you been?"

Riku sighed deeply, hanging his head. "Pretty shitty. I don't know if you heard, but Sora dumped me."

"R-really?" His voice cracked. Real cool. "I'm sorry!"

"Don't be. It was going to happen, sooner or later...we were just...issues and all, there wasn't...really..."

For a horrible second, Roxas thought he was going to start sobbing. Instead, his hand tightened brutally around the cup he was holding, splattering them both with eight ounces of Mountain Dew.

"Grah!" Riku roared, badly startling everyone in the theatre. "What the fuck was his problem? I swear to God, if he'd tried taking Motrin like I told him to, none of this ever would've fucking happened! That prissy, melodramatic, self-centered, premenstrual drama-queen bitch!"

Roxas looked at him in silence, his eyes wide.

Riku gawked confusedly at his crushed soda, then his face fell again. "I'm sorry, man. I didn't mean to unload on you like that. I'll just...go sit in the back now. I'm so sorry. I promise I won't get you involved in this whole mess anymore. I'll go wallow in my own self-pity, and keep you out of it."

"It's fine, really," Roxas began, but Riku was trudging up the stairs again, looking even more depressed than before.


Wanting to help, but not sure how, Roxas watched him for a minute longer, then turned back to the screen and sat silently through some more advertisements. Hayner was going to love this story. That guy could never get enough "how the mighty have fallen" anecdotes. Good thing Axel wasn't around, or Riku's exploding soda might be on the front page of the next newsletter.

The lights were just going down when Sora walked casually into the theatre, hanging onto the arm of some tall, muscular blonde.

"Oh, shit," Roxas whispered, straightening up. "Shit, shit, shit."

He turned to give Riku a signal, but in those few seconds, Riku had already vaulted down eight rows of chairs and was in the process of scrambling into the seat next to him. He was swearing profusely, sweat beading on his forehead.

"Fuck, I should've known he'd show up here to piss me off! He knows that this is where all the dateless losers hang out!"

"Great," Roxas muttered.

"Help me!" Riku gasped, desperately clinging to his arm. "Please, please, help me! I'll do anything!"

Roxas regarded him helplessly, unable to refuse. "What do you want me to do?"

"Just play along!"

And before Roxas could blink, Riku threw an arm around him, put the other hand up his shirt, and began kissing him passionately.

Roxas froze. His mind went utterly blank. All he knew was the smell of Riku, the taste of Riku--soft, luxurious lips, fingers trailing masterfully along the muscles of his stomach, the light, spicy scent of his cologne. It was not the sugar-coated stuff of dreams; it was better. Riku moved back against him, so solid, so real--he even responded when Roxas tentatively touched a lock of hair, brushing his tongue lightly against his lower lip. Roxas lost his breath immediately.

Damn, this boy could kiss.

"Hi, Riku!" Sora said pleasantly, breaking the moment.

Riku looked up too quickly, as if shocked to see him. "Oh, Sora! What are you doing here?"

"I just thought I'd catch a movie with my new boyfriend," Sora said with an innocent smile, indicating his handsome date. "This is Seifer Almasy, the man of my dreams."

"Nice to meet you, Seifer!" Riku chirped, murderously. He reached across Roxas to take the man's hand, resting his fingers provocatively on his thigh. Roxas shuddered involuntarily.

"And who's this beauty?" Sora asked, eying Roxas with barely concealed hatred.

"My new boyfriend, Roxas. He goes to our school."

Sora nodded energetically. "Oh, I thought I'd seen you around! Roxas, hi. It's really nice to finally be formally acquainted. Maybe you'll have better luck with this bastard than I did...just be sure to make like a convenience store, and you'll be fine."

"C-convenience store?"

"Be open for his business twenty-four seven," said Sora merrily.

Roxas sank down in his seat.

"Aw, don't worry about that, Sora," Riku responded amiably. "I only need a lot of sex when I'm not getting any intelligent conversation."

"Save your breath, Ri. You'll need it to blow up your next date."

Sora squeezed Seifer's hand, smiled dazzlingly, and proceeded up the stairs.

After they had disappeared into the darkness of the back corner, Riku let out a huge, gusting breath. He beamed at Roxas, who looked as if he was afraid to make any sudden movements. "That went so much better than I expected," Riku said, kissing him quickly on the cheek. "Thanks a billion, kid. You're awesome."

And Roxas opened his mouth, ready to respond, but Riku placed his hand gently on his, and suddenly he couldn't find any words.

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"You two did what?"

He grabbed Hayner's lapels and hauled him back against the lockers, looking around anxiously. "Shut up! Do you want the whole school to hear?"

"Newsflash, Roxas. Everyone is talking about what happened at the movie theatre last night!" As a rule, Hayner rarely acted perturbed, but surprise and anxiety was written all over his face this morning. "Dude, I called you four times! I needed to hear it from your mouth! They said that Sora caught you and Riku making out behind the candy counter, practically having sex--"

Roxas felt his cheeks flame. "What the hell! There was no candy counter!"

"But you were playing tonsil hockey?"

"Only to...I was trying to help him...damn it, get lost!" Roxas glared as a group of girls idled nearby, subtly trying to eavesdrop. They dispersed, giggling. After a quick survey of his surroundings, Roxas continued, keeping his voice low. "Sora showed up in the theatre with some new boyfriend, and Riku begged me to help him out. I asked him what I needed to do, and then he grabbed me and started kissing me! It was…it was amazing, Hayner. His mouth was so warm and sweet, like toasted marshmallows...or hot chocolate on a cold winter day...while a dusting of snow falls lightly outside the--"

Hayner snapped his fingers in his face. "Fluffy McSap! Focus, please!"

"Ah, right!" Roxas said dreamily, giving himself a quick mental shake. "So Sora came up and asked who I was. And that's when Riku said I was his new boyfriend!"

"So...are you?"

"I'm not sure." He peeked nervously around the corner. "I was going to catch him before English to see what's between us...if there's anything at all."

At that last, Axel accosted him with a bouquet of roses and a ridiculously huge teddy bear. He'd even set down his ever-present steno notebook. "So I'm not too late!" he cried dramatically, dropping to one knee. "Date me, marry me! Roxas, what does Riku have that I don't?"


"See? It's that sense of humor that I love about you!" Axel proclaimed, trying to kiss his hand. Roxas fought him off, embarrassed.

"Axel, try to contain your hormones."

Hayner turned to Axel. "And what do you think about this?"

Axel sobered, standing back up. "Honestly, as much as it kills me inside, I think Riku owes you, Roxas. I mean, he can't just use you like that. That's bullshit."

"He's an amazing kisser!" Roxas defended him.

"Uh, not my point, Roxas!"


Now Hayner grabbed his shoulders, shaking him so hard that his teeth chattered. "Do you know what you've done?" he demanded. "You're the one who got me worked up about Sora in the first place, and now you don't even realize what's happened!"

Roxas eyed him warily, realization dawning slowly in his face. "Wait. Sora..."

"Yes! Him! By sucking face with Riku, you made yourself public enemy number one! I told you to wait seven days, and you couldn't even wait seven freaking hours!"

"Oh my god," Roxas whimpered. His throat closed up. He wobbled on his feet, pawing at the lockers to stay upright. "Oh my god, Hayner, oh my god, I am a dead man."

"Very shortly," Axel added frivolously. "Sora's coming over here."


He peered down the hall. Sure enough, Sora was walking straight toward him, his backpack bouncing jauntily against his hip with every step. He raised a hand in greeting, offering a large, sunny smile. "Hey, Roxas!" he called brightly, not noticing the way everyone's eyes immediately shot over to watch the unfolding scene. "We should talk about last night! I really didn't mean to be so immature. I hope I didn't give you the wrong impression!"

"What I do?" Roxas shrieked softly, frantically shaking Hayner's arm. "Help!"

"Act casual!" Hayner hissed back. "Pretend you're getting something out of your locker!"

Roxas seized the dial and began pulling. "Shit! It's jammed!"

"Doesn't matter; just look busy!"

He tugged harder. "Hayner!" he cried, his voice rising about three octaves.

"Don't get hysterical! Just stay calm! He's going to try and make peace! So whatever you do, don't do anything that might piss him off! You are on the verge, man. If you accidentally insult his clothes, step on his foot, might very well be the last thing you do."

"Way to reassure me, jackass! What--"

"He's coming! Act casual, damn it!"

Consumed with panic, Roxas grabbed his locker and pulled with all his might.

"Good morning, Roxas," Sora said cheerfully, stepping beside him.

And that's when the latch decided to let go with sudden ease.

The locker door crashed into Sora's face with all the force of a truck. He wavered there for a moment, smiling goofily, then his eyes rolled back into his head and he thudded backwards like a plank. Roxas stared at his prone form in terror, still holding his locker door. Around him, everyone had stopped dead in their tracks. A horrified silence settled on the crowd. Even Hayner had frozen in place, his mouth agape.

For perhaps ten seconds, no one moved.

Axel, of course, was the first to speak.

"Jesus Christ, Roxas! If you wanted to knock him out, why didn't you just use a baseball bat?"

I just rendered the school's Prom Prince unconscious, Roxas thought numbly. In front of the entire student body. By hitting him violently in the forehead with my locker. After making out with his boyfriend of nine years.

To say he was a dead man would be a massive understatement.

Seifer Almasy shoved through the spectators, kneeling next to Sora. There was already a huge bruise forming between his eyes, in the shape of the numbers on the locker. Seifer attended to him briefly, just to make sure he was breathing, then he refocused on Roxas and pointed at him with deadly sincerity.

"This means war."

And that's how it all began.

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End of prologue

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Loved it? Hated it? Would pay me to not continue? Drop me a line and I'll love you. Thanks so much for reading.