Disclaimer: still not mine
Author's Notes: To The Writer. Always for you, honey.
"The thing is, the poor boy never really stood a chance." - Kairi
It was a beautiful Wednesday. The sky was a gloriously bright azure, and marshmallow clouds dotted the blue like so many pale bonbons. A soft wind played with the leaves of the trees, fluttering them across each other and creating a beautiful tableau of near-perfection.
Sora hated it. For a few reasons, actually. Firstly, he was in a crowded bus driving across campus, and thus could appreciate neither the soft breeze nor the idyllic sky. Secondly, if the Lord God smiled down upon them and they actually reached class—the chances were looking slim; did this guy even have a driver's license?— he'd be forced to sit inside a crowded classroom for an hour and a half, and thus would still not be able to appreciate the too-perfect breeze and the too-perfect sky.
And thirdly. Lately, Sora had been starting to appreciate grayer weather. Stormier weather. Squalls, to be precise.
There was no reason for this, of course. A rainy sky did not remind him of a certain someone's all-too-gray eyes. It did not remind him of the fiercely determined look a certain someone possessed at times. And it most certainly did not remind him of anyone in particular, not even a certain Squall 'It's Leon, Dammit!' Leonhart.
Sora sighed, clunking his head against the bus window. Stupid breeze. Stupid sky. And stupid, stupid Leon.
The bus slowed, and Sora jerked out his daydreams to verify that it wasn't yet his stop. A few students boarded, grabbing the nearest available seats and slinging their book bags onto the dirty floor. Sora sighed, once again turning his gaze outwards and his thoughts in.
He couldn't quite remember when he'd begun glancing at Leon with anything more than curiosity in his eyes. It might have been during their shared class last semester. It might have been during the summer, when Leon had taken a part time job at Cid's Auto Shop and begun walking around sans shirt. More likely, though, his infatuation dated back three weeks, two days, and—a quick look at his watch verified the time—four hours ago. The first day of Sora's second year of college, when he'd stepped inside his psychology class and had spotted Leon there, staring out the window with a gaze so full of desperate longing that it had stolen his breath away almost instantaneously.
Sora hadn't been able to catch a glimpse of the object that had enraptured Leon's attention. In the end, though, it was obvious. There was only one person alive who could command such attention from someone like Leon, and that was Cloud.
Maybe Sora's affection had been born of pity, or some deep-rooted instinct to make his friend's happy. He didn't care. Sora liked him, and that was all that could be said about it.
The bus ground to a halt and Sora grabbed his book bag off the floor. He swung it onto his shoulder and made his way down the bus, sidestepping bags and books and feet. He didn't see the white sneakers sprawled in the center of the aisle until his left shoe caught on them and he stumbled into their owner.
The tall, white-haired boy he'd tripped over looked up at him blankly. He raised an eyebrow and gently pushed Sora off his lap.
"Sorry about that," Sora called over his shoulder, already continuing down the aisle. "Should have been watching where I was going."
He sighed, stepped off the bus, and entered the large, brick building standing before him. Inside, he walked into his classroom, waved hello to Axel and Yuffie and his younger brother Roxas, and plopped into his seat. He tilted his head back onto the wall behind him and cocked it, staring out the window.
Bright, sunny day.
"It was over before it began." - Yuffie
Friday. Sora sat in the last row of bus seats, hunched over his 600 plus page textbook on existentialism and highlighting the paragraphs he should have read the previous night. It would have been easier, but the boy he'd tripped over on Wednesday was sitting three seats away and talking loudly into his cell phone. Which was pretty irritating, given that Sora was definitely not the only person on the bus trying to cram last-minute theory, but kicking up a fuss would be more trouble than it was worth. It still made it somewhat difficult to concentrate.
"It doesn't matter," the guy sighed. "I'm not the one who missed class last Wednesday. Just meet me in the commons room today at five and I'll lend you the notes."
Sora frowned and brought the textbook closer to his eyes.
"Just tell Cloud you'll be a bit late, idiot," the boy growled. "Do you want the notes or not?"
Sora sat up. Wait…
"All right, I'll see you later. Call me when you get there, Leon."
Every muscle in Sora's body clenched. When the bus halted at his stop, he almost forgot to stand up.
"That's the thing when you deal with someone like sky-boy. He pretty much throws a wrench in your plans no matter what you do." - Axel
The bus was crowded, but there remained a single seat directly beside Sora's own. He didn't notice—it was Wednesday, and he'd yet to finish his literature essay. He was typing furiously at his laptop, ignoring the bumps of the bus as it sped through the roads running through the large campus.
The bus slid to an abrupt halt and students climbed aboard the already full bus. Sora ignored this, typing theses and conclusions and supporting paragraphs as quickly as the thoughts flashed across his brain.
A hand suddenly waved across his screen and Sora started, sitting up and turning to stare at the boy from last Wednesday sitting beside him. The boy smirked, reached over Sora's shoulder to save the word document, and gently closed the computer screen.
"Hey," the kid said, a mocking grin spreading his lips apart. "I'm Riku."
Sora stared at him for a moment, then looked down at his closed laptop. He blinked at it twice, then glared up at the boy smirking down at him. "I have to e-mail that by midnight!"
Riku grinned, smoothing his hair behind his ears. "It's only eight in the morning," he said, voice lilting slightly. "Plenty of time. And besides, if you're typing away at that thing, we can't talk."
Sora frowned, and Riku continued. "You're the kid I tripped, right? You always take this bus; I figured I might as well extend the hand of friendship."
Sora lifted an eyebrow, but shrugged. His stop was coming up, anyway. He could deal with the guy for a few more minutes. And anyway, if Mr. Riku was acquainted with Leon…
"I remember that day, though—he showed up for class with the oddest grin on his face." - Lexaeus
Riku sat beside him on Friday, and again on Wednesday. Neither said much, but the silence was comfortable. When Sora arrived at his stop and grabbed his book bag, Riku grinned and waved goodbye. Sora smiled back and stepped off the bus.
"He used to laugh about it. Said he didn't fall in love. Naw, it was more like he tripped." - Wakka
It was Saturday night, and Axel had dragged everyone to the arcade. Most every student on campus was crashing some frat party or another, but Kairi didn't drink and Roxas didn't dance, and it would have felt wrong to go without them. So every Saturday night, their group went to the arcade, commandeering the large room and wiling away the hours on DDR, first person shooters, and races.
Riku showed up half-way through Sora's death match with Selphie as their basketballs each made perfect arcs through the air and into their respective hoops. Selphie glanced at him, her ball missing the hoop entirely and slamming onto the board behind it. Sora's went almost as off-center.
"Sorry if I'm crashing your party," Riku smirked. "But I got bored with Leon and the rest and I figured I could use some entertainment."
Hayner bristled behind him, but Sora straightened slightly at the name. "Leon?" he asked, struggling to keep his voice even. "Leon's here?"
Riku nodded, sliding onto the floor beside the small basketball game. "Yeah. He dragged me, Yuffie, and Aerith along so that it wouldn't look too awkward if Cloud caught him spying on his date."
Sora winced at the name, but grabbed the basketball and cocked his hands back. "So Leon's still in love with Cloud?"
"Yeah," Riku said, shrugging. Sora closed his eyes, missing the shot entirely. When the soft thump of rubber against plastic sounded, Riku looked up, staring. Sora looked away.
"Yeah," Riku repeated. "He is."
When Sora raised his head, Riku was still staring at him, an odd look in his eyes. Neither said much for the next hour, even as they played every game in the large arcade.
No one was quite sure how much time had passed when Leon arrived, his two other friends in tow. There was a deep scowl on his face, and he squinted to adjust to the dim light of the room.
"Riku," he yelled. "Get your ass over here or we're leaving without you."
Riku slumped into view, strolling out of the arcade with his hands in his pockets. He turned around at the mouth of the room, grinning brightly at Sora, still watching from inside. "See you Wednesday."
"Sora?" Leon asked quietly. His eyes sought out the slim form of the boy smiling at him, and his stern expression melted into something softer. He lifted a hand in farewell and led his entourage out of the mall. Riku only glanced back once, that same odd expression wrinkling his brow.
Behind them, Sora smiled, thinking wistfully of stormy grey eyes and long brown hair.
"I bet he thought that was clever." - Cloud
On Wednesday, the bus was heavily crowded, even more so than usual. Demyx sat beside him, drumming a wild beat on the seat. He was a cousin twice-removed or something along those lines, and Sora had known him since diapers. Demyx normally hitched a ride to class with his boyfriend, but Zexion was sick with some sort of flu and was taking the day off.
When Riku boarded the bus, he automatically began walking towards his usual seat beside Sora. His mouth widened in an automatic smile and his hand began lifting in a greeting. It froze halfway when he caught sight of Demyx sitting there instead, laughing at some joke Sora had made.
Both Riku's hand and smile fell, and he slid to a halt half-way along the aisle. Sora mouthed Sorry, shrugged apologetically. Riku snorted, shrugged in a gesture that said he didn't mind. He glanced out the window once, grabbed a hold of the guardrail, and stood for the remainder of the bus ride.
When Sora disembarked, Riku's eyes were elsewhere. Sora clutched his chest as it tightened uncomfortably. It hurt.
"It wasn't his fault. There's love, and then there's love, and Riku was in love." - Selphie
Riku didn't ride the bus on Friday. He didn't show up on Wednesday, either. Sora saved the seat anyway. When he reached his stop, though, the bus was still Riku-less, and it felt lonelier than he wanted to admit.
"He looked like he'd discovered the meaning of life." - Aerith
Riku stepped onto the bus the next Friday, and Sora grinned, moving his books out of the seat that had become Riku's own. "Where were you?" he asked. "I was starting to think you were sick."
Riku shrugged, glancing downward as he rearranged his book bag. "My classes were cancelled."
Sora smiled, and readjusted his headphones. This was nice. He'd felt so strange the past few days, but the world seemed happier now.
"Do you like Leon?"
Sora's head jerked up and he turned to stare at Riku with wide eyes. Riku was looking at him with a slight smile on his face. There was something off around the corners of his mouth.
"It's not obvious," Riku continued, his eyes crinkling as his smile widened. "Pretty sure he doesn't know. Not that he pays much attention to anything except Cloud, but you haven't been transparent about it or anything."
Sora shifted, eyes glancing away. He thought about how to answer. He wondered why he suddenly felt as he had last week, when Riku had gone and left Sora to ride the bus alone.
"I can set up a date, if you want," Riku said lightly. "You can get to know each other better. The best relationships begin with friendship, right?"
Sora looked up. Strange, strange, it all felt so strange. Riku's eyes were dull…or were they bright? He didn't know, he couldn't tell, but if he hadn't known better, he'd almost have thought that Riku was…
"He'd show up late to class every Wednesday and Friday, just so that he'd be able to ride the later bus with Sora." - Roxas
On Thursday afternoon, Leon sat down with Sora for lunch. Sora straightened, confused, but scooted over immediately to make room. He said hey, said how have you been. After that, though, he came up short. He felt mildly irritated with himself. Here was Leon, the boy he'd been mooning over for more than a month, closer to two, and he didn't know what to say.
"How was class last Wednesday?" Leon asked, popping a fry into his mouth. "I overslept."
"You weren't in class?" Sora asked.
Leon raised a single eyebrow, then shrugged. "It's a pretty small class," he said. "I'm surprised you didn't notice."
SOra flinched, feeling almost guilty. "Sorry," he said softly. "I wasn't paying much attention on Wednesday." He hadn't. He'd spent the entire class staring out the window and wondering about why the conversation with Riku had left him feeling odd. "I'll can e-mail you the notes."
Leon shrugged, turning to gaze at the students entering and leaving the cafeteria.
It took a full minute for Sora to realize that Leon had frozen, staring fixatedly at a couple carrying their trays inside and sitting in the furthest corner of the dining hall.
Sora closed his eyes. He didn't know what he was feeling. There were so many thoughts milling through his mind, so many emotions tugging his heart in a thousand different directions; pain and regret and sadness and empathy and happiness and who knew what else.
"You love him?" he asked.
Leon turned to glare at him sharply. Sora shrugged.
"Cloud, I mean," he said. "You love him."
It took an eternity, but Leon finally looked away. "It doesn't matter," he said. "Sephiroth had him first. I've known Cloud since freshman year. Sephiroth's been with him since birth."
Sora's smile stretched, quivering a bit at the seams. "You don't know what will happen. Your feelings might reach him. Things always turn out okay."
Leon said nothing for the longest while, turning to stare at the two students eating together on the far side of the cafeteria. "That's optimistic," he responded finally, placing his fork onto the tray.
Sora shrugged. "Yeah. "I guess it is."
Leon left then, waving goodbye and promising to see him the next day. Sora remained at the table, staring down at the last remaining scraps of his food.
It was strange…but it felt as if some forgotten strand in his heart had shuddered and snapped into place.
"He just looked so happy. I couldn't find it in myself to yell at him." - Leon
It was Friday. Beside him, Riku was flipping through his homework, double-checking it half-heartedly. He sighed suddenly, placing the sheets of paper roughly into his bag. "How did it go?" he asked finally.
Sora leaned his head back against the window, closing his eyes. "It didn't," he said. "But he's in love, you know. That's not the sort of thing I feel comfortable interfering with."
Riku turned to look up at him slowly, the expression heavy underneath his thick bangs. He said nothing for the rest of the ride, and said nothing when the bus arrived at Sora's stop and he walked off the bus. Sora sighed as he pulled his jacket tighter around himself, closing his eyes momentarily. Such a bright, sunny day. He had begun walking towards the large brick building when a voice called out from behind him.
"Sora? Can I ask you something?"
Sora turned around, his eyebrows raising in surprise. Riku was standing there, hands in pockets and looking strangely abashed.
"This isn't your stop," Sora said. "You're gonna miss your class."
"My class was canceled," Riku sighed, kicking at a pebble. "But the bus was the only place I knew for sure I'd see you, so…" The pebble flew across the road, bouncing twice before it stilled. "A friend of mine has tickets for that movie the film department just finished. Except he already had plans on the opening night, so he gave them to me. I figured I'd ask if you wanna go with me, if you had nothing else planned for Saturday."
Sora stared at him for a moment, unblinking. "You rode the bus just to ask me that?"
Riku fought something that looked mysteriously like a flush. "I guess so."
"You could have called me."
"I didn't have your number. That's not the point. Do you wanna go?"
Sora looked at him curiously for a minute, his gaze scrutinizing. And then he grinned. "Okay."
"Even when he was sad, he looked happy." - Tifa
The movie was fun. The acting was wonderful, the editing was great, and the director—Sora knew him through Demyx, he was this pink-haired senior named Marly-something-or-other—was rumored to be some sort of genius.
Riku only had enough extra money for a single soda and a large tub of popcorn, so they agreed to share. They started a quiet popcorn war during the previews, and it was nice. Riku walked with him back to his dorm, the two laughing all the way. Sora couldn't remember ever having felt so happy.
"The thing was, he started looking sad more and more often." - Demyx
Riku didn't show up on Wednesday. After class, Sora tracked Leon down and grilled him for information.
It wasn't until after he'd left that he remembered that even looking at Leon was supposed to make his heart swell in his chest. He bit his lip, then dismissed the thought. There were more important things to worry about at the moment than his crush on an upperclassman who was so hopelessly in love it hurt just to watch him.
Sora showed up at Riku's dorm room an hour later with a PS2, an extra blanket, and a can of chicken-noodle.
"And sooner or later, even when he smiled the expression came out wrong." - Tidus
There was new bus driver on Friday. He was even worse than the previous one was, and Riku's leg bumped repeatedly against Sora's with the force of the vehicle's movements. Sora noticed more than he probably should have. The weight of Riku's leg against his own was a gentle warmth, and there was nothing in the world more conducive to the memorization of random historical dates than that.
"It's what happens when love is unrequited, I suppose." - Zexion
The next Saturday, Sora slumped into his sofa in the corner of the third floor of the library. Mid-terms were looming, and there wasn't a student in the entire school who wasn't pulling their hair out in frustration. Sora had half a mind to set the place on fire. He'd have done it, actually, but Axel had already laid claim to the idea, and he'd be pissed as hell if Sora stole it from him.
He groaned, lolling his head around in a mostly futile attempt to rid himself of his headache. He squinted at the tiny print, growled, and chucked the textbook across the reading room.
"Sora?" someone said.
Sora turned around, raising an eyebrow when he saw Riku sauntering slowly towards him. "H'lo," he muttered through a yawn. "What are you doing here? It's almost midnight."
"Pot, kettle, college student," Riku said. "What kind of geek spends his Saturday night at the library?"
"The kind who has three tests on Wednesday, two essays due on Thursday, and a mid-term on Friday," Sora said, rolling his shoulders. "Hypocrite."
Riku laughed, but plopped down onto the sofa beside Sora and began reading his own textbooks. When the sofas grew too comfortable, they moved to the floor. When the floor grew too comfortable, they took turns punching each other awake.
When Sora awoke the next morning, he was lying on his back, a comforting weight resting on his chest. He sat up, and then smiled. Riku was lying there, his head resting on the Sora's clavicle and an arm spread comfortably across Sora's stomach.
Sora smiled, and gently extracted himself from Riku's unconscious embrace.
"He didn't eat as much, did you notice? He'd grab something from the snack machine, but that'd be it. You could hear his stomach growling all through class." - Olette
By silent agreement, both Sora and Riku showed up the following night. And the next. And the three after that. Every morning, Sora woke up cradled in warm arms. It felt strange. Peculiar. Like bubbles swirling in his chest.
"Could you really blame us if we started helping the kid out? No one deserves to look that pitiful." - Hayner
On Friday morning, Sora woke up to warm lips pressed against his cheek. He froze.
When Riku pulled away a moment later, wide blue eyes were staring into his own.
Riku gaped, crab-walking backwards before he could stop himself. "I'm," he said, shooting to his feet. "I…I'm—"
"What," Sora asked, sitting up slowly. "Why would you—"
"I'm sorry," Riku said, raising a shaking hand as if to maintain a healthy distance between the two. "I'm sorry."
By the time Sora figured out how to respond, Riku had disappeared. The only evidence of his presence were the large textbooks he'd left splayed on the couches. Sora ran a quivering hand through his hair.
His heart fell as if it would soar.
"A little insider information never hurt anyone. If Riku happened to show up at the arcade, at the library…well." - Pence
Riku stopped riding the bus after that. When Sora asked Leon about it, Leon informed him that Riku had been waking up an hour earlier than usual. Leon wasn't sure he'd been getting enough sleep. Leon also told Sora that the previous night, he'd convinced Riku to sleep over, just to make sure he wouldn't pass out at the dining room table, and that when he'd finally passed out, a little later than he probably should have, Leon had heard Riku say a single name.
Sora raised a hand to clutch at his suddenly-spasming chest. And then he smiled.
"It worked didn't it? Just look at them now." - Rinoa
The next Wednesday, Sora woke up an hour early, and he grabbed the 7 o'clock bus across campus. It was quiet. The usually crowded bus was empty of everyone save himself, and the silence pressed down upon him awkwardly.
It didn't matter.
Five minutes passed, then ten and fifteen. A lifetime later, the campus bus pulled into Riku's stop, and one solitary boy climbed onto the vehicle and began walking down the aisle.
Riku didn't notice the Sora's presence until there was but five feet separating them. He caught sight of the shoes, first—those huge black and yellow sneakers Sora was so fond of. Then his eyes traveled up, past the large black cargo pants, past the black and red t-shirt, past the crown pendant brushing against Sora's clavicle with every breath he took.
"Sora," Riku said.
Sora grinned, wide and bright. He outstretched a hand. "Come on," he said. "Sit with me."
Riku didn't move. Sora's smile trembled and crumbled upon itself.
"Please," he said.
Riku stared at the hand for a moment. And then he closed his eyes and sat down.
Sora lowered his head, clasping his fingers together in his lap. "Why did you do that?" he asked quietly.
Riku shook his head, twisting the fabric of his jeans within his hands. "You know why. It's not hard to guess."
"You never said anything," Sora said. He released a deep, shuddering breath. He didn't know what he was doing, not really. But if he didn't speak now…if he didn't do something— "Why didn't you say anything? I would have—"
"Why'd you think, Sora," Riku said. His fists were clenched on his thighs. "There was you and then there was me, and for you it was always Leon Leon Leon, and—"
"I don't love him," Sora interrupted quietly. Riku stopped, and Sora continued. "I don't even like him. Not anymore. I told you, didn't I? I'm not Leon's happiness, and he's not mine."
Riku froze, his fingers flexing and unflexing. "And what does that mean?" he whispered. "What does that matter?"
Sora smiled then. He leaned forward and brushed his lips against Riku's, just once. "That's what it means," he answered, his voice whispering across the air like so many fleeting butterflies. "I like you. I care about you. I've never been happier. The sun's never been brighter." His lips spread, and they did not tremble.
"I love you," he said, realizing it even as the words flittered from his lips. "I do."
Riku's eyes widened, and a sudden, joyful bark of laughter burst from his lips like dancing fireworks. He reached forward and brought his mouth crashing down upon Sora's in a messy, awkward, blissfully perfect kiss.
"I love you," he laughed, sweeping kiss after kiss across Sora's cheeks, eyelids, nose. "I love you."
"And they lived happily ever after."