Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts. I also do not own the Flying Pie Pizzeria, but I wish I did because their pizza is awesome.

Pairings: Riku/Sora main

Warnings: Rose-tinted 90's nostalgia, boy/boy situations, the use and abuse of several cliches, excessive presence of flannel, Riku driving, Sora expressing badass-ocity, grunge rock, recreational drug use and references to stoner culture, language, conveniently placed trees, cheerleaders in glitter makeup, people who know the alma mater, teenagers, smoking in the boys' room, fistfighting in the boys' room, and more to be added, probably.

Summary: It's about growing up, mostly. Sometimes it's about the guy you totally didn't kiss in the locker room and sometimes it's about the guy who climbed in your window. Sometimes it's about hockey. But sometimes it's about the difference between what's real and what's fake, between what you own and what you fight, between being a boy and being a man.

Casey would like you to note: It was really, really hard to pick which two character tags to use, because this story revolves heavily around Sora, Riku and Roxas--so although the main pairing is Riku/Sora, there's also a heavy Sora/Roxas friendship development, and Roxas might almost get more attention than Riku sometimes, though I try to keep it equal. I'll probably go back and change the tags several times because I just can't be happy with only picking two when there are three main characters. Oh well.

1: Cumbersome

November, 1995

The world ended on a Monday. No one was particularly surprised by this.

Because really, the world had no business ending on one of the good days, like Friday or Saturday, or the ubiquitously quiet Sunday. Even Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday--although still part of the school and/or work week and filled with the mundane detritus of pens and paper and deadlines and the eternal and futile struggle to just get by--were relatively good days, being the stepping stones along the path to Friday.

But there was nothing good about Monday. Ever. Therefore, if the world was going to skid to a halt and fall into the endless abyss of Apocalypse, Monday was the day to do it.

Unfortunately for the rest of the human population, only one person in the entirety of the world thus far actually knew that their insignificant corner of the universe had come to an end. And he, rather than proclaiming this in the streets with a cardboard sign and a tin can, was currently locked in his tiny little dormitory room, flung haphazardly on the lower of a set of bunkbeds, attempting to suffocate himself with a pillow.

Teenagers have a penchant for the dramatic like that.

Sora figured that his imminent suffocation was probably for the best. Were he to cease breathing, and therefore thinking, and therefore living entirely, he would no longer be able to hear the cat-calls each and every dormmate who walked by his room was making. Some of them went so far as to bang loudly on the door and cackle madly. Some of them stood outside and sang little playground ditties at top volume. Some of them, he was pretty sure, were the RA's--and that was just beyond mortifying. It was bad enough being teased incessantly by one's peers without adding cool older college students to the mix. Insult to injury.

This was what the Apocalypse sounded like. The raps on the door were the steadily approaching hoofbeats of the Four Horsemen. Their cries and songs and cackles were actually those of anguish as they all drowned in lakes of fire. Or something like that.

(He rather liked the idea of fiery lakes, actually. That would be a fitting retribution, should he fail in suffocation.)

Death by fire aside, why none of the over-exuberant people outside his door ever got bored with this routine was something Sora, now with a rapidly diminishing oxygen supply, could not discern. Not even with every single one of his asphyxiating brain cells.

It was only the first day. They would get tired of it, that or the Rapture would happen and half of them would be gone--end of the world and all, right? Sora told himself this. Told the pillow and the blankets smothering his face this.

They had to get tired of it sometime.

He scored the winning goal--Sora remembered that, clearly, remembered the scrape of kneepads against blacktop and the goalie flung low across the net, pads blocking all but that one tiny upper corner Sora was aiming for. Stick still flung out to one side and one bruised hand holding his face off the ground. The ragged groan behind him from the guy who'd nearly knocked him flat while he was taking the shot. He remembered how they froze like a tableau, like the slow-motion scene in the movies. Froze and held while the little orange ball sailed past the goalie's head and right into the net.

Sora was the hero. For an entire thirty blissful minutes out of his life, he was the fucking hero.

The locker room was a cacophony of cheers and whoops and hollers, of flying towels and win-crazed teenagers jumping all over each other. It was chaos. It was insane. It might as well have been a street hockey game of its own (that or a mosh pit, but some days it was hard to tell the difference). Sora's feet didn't touch the ground for at least seven minutes straight, his teammates passing him off to each other over their heads until someone finally took pity on his equilibrium and deposited him in front of his locker.

And he was still the hero.

"Sora, Soooooora, way to clean the fuck up!"

"Sky-boy's got game. GAME."

"Yo, Sora. Sora! Party at the Flying Pie, like now!"

"SHOWERS GOD DAMMIT." (That was the coach.)

"Okay, so not like now. You live in the dorms, right? We'll send a car."

"GAME. The boy has GAME. Hell fucking YES."

He took a shower. He dried off, pulled on his street clothes. The locker room thinned out and the noise died down. And he was still the hero.

A month ago, he wasn't anywhere near being the hero. A month ago he was the space-case transfer student the hockey team dubbed "Sky-boy" whilst everyone else in the school followed suit. A month ago he wasn't doing much aside from holding the varsity bench down and was only given a five-minute sprint when the coach decided his team needed a shot in the arm. He was like a pair of hot tongs; no one was sure where to put him or how soon he would cool off, but if they just dropped him he'd end up burning their feet. Kid gloves were put on and a careful perimeter was marked out.

Mostly, though, it probably had something to do with the fact that anytime he stayed in the game for longer than five minutes his only accomplishment was racking up his team's penalties.

Two months ago, he'd been nothing approaching a hero. Not even hero material. Two months ago he'd sat in the office with his mother and the coach and the principal and said that yes, please, he wanted a second chance. That yes, he would be good and yes, he would play clean.

And he was, and he did. Mostly. Today he had, at least. The body-check had been clean, the pass had been clean, the shot had been clean and the game was won. Clean.

And he was the hero.

Sora stayed behind even when the locker room was nearly silent, only a few rattles of metal and squeaks of sneakers against waxed tile betraying human presence. Stayed sprawled on the wooden bench with his head leaned back against the locker door, because he was sure he was glowing. He was radioactive and lighter than air.

Maybe being clean felt like this. Maybe it went along with being the hero.

"'Sup. Heard you won."

He mostly knew Riku by the back of his head--the general shape of round with ears and iridescent silver hair trailing down to a ragged curve. Where the hair ended, there was usually some text on a t-shirt, or a silk-screened band photo, or a broad expanse of black or green or charcoal-gray.

He knew Riku by the safety pins that perpetually clung to his person and backpack and general area like a minor infestation of miniature silvery crickets. He knew the left hand that pushed his hair back from his face, sometimes with green or orange highlighter painted on his nails, and the two hemp bracelets around his wrist. One had a yin-yang in the center, the other had beads alternating in yellow and blue.

He knew this because Riku sat in front of him in English, and at the lab desk two rows ahead in chemistry, and because Riku's gym locker was directly across from his. His back was a constant as far as the average school day went, kind of like the unexplained pock-marks on the windows in the economics classroom or the math teacher's drooping plant that withered and wilted but never quite kicked the bucket. Riku's back was simply there, essentially the same from one day to the next.

Most of their conversations occurred in profile. And despite Sora's intimate knowledge of his back, he had never quite figured out why someone who wore safety pins and hemp and thermals under his t-shirts was also on the swim team. And that supposedly he was really, really good at it.

Although, come to think of it, with those shoulders...

Shoulders aside, at that particular moment Riku's hair was trailing water down his back, bare of anything but skin, making little rivers along his spine that ended at the waistband of his yellow swim trunks. Sora was smiling far too much to care that he noticed this. "Yeah. I won. We won."

"You scored the winning point, right?" Profile conversation. Riku's head was turned to the side just so, smirk on his lips and one bright melon-green eye regarding Sora, splayed out on the bench and grinning like a fool.


"Good job."

That should have been the end of their exchange. Nothing further could be said involving English or chemistry notes, and Sora didn't know the first thing about swim team other than being pretty sure they hadn't had a meet today. That was the extent of their relationship. Riku was a classmate he tended to see the back of a lot. Sora was the new kid who lived in the dorms and played on the street hockey team. That was it.

And none of that mattered anyway, because he had hero-ish things to think about, and a pizza party to go to.

Sora grudgingly pulled himself out of his victory-induced daze enough to lean forward and start tying his skates back on, smiling down at the floor like it was the most wonderful puddle-covered white tile he'd ever seen. He stood up and steadied himself on the wheels, pulled his backpack out of the locker and smiled at the messy interior like dirty gym clothes had the sweetest scent on earth. He turned to wish Riku goodnight and smiled like--

"You're bleeding." Riku was nearly dry and dressed, barefoot still, towel tossed over one shoulder. And facing forward. Forward. Both eyes frowning along the embarrassing number of inches between them and the top of Sora's head.

"Huh?" Sora said, mostly because he'd just realized why a small but dedicated portion of the student body's female population spent an alarming amount of their time making a hobby of staring at Riku.

Apparently, he pushed his hair out of his eyes so often because it hung over them rather a lot--it looked, actually, if Sora thought about it enough (which he didn't, but it should be noted anyway), like he'd just let it grow without cutting from whatever style it had been in previously for quite a while. And aside from that, the face that the hair was hanging over, that was now very much not in profile, was probably what one--one being someone like Kairi, with a grin and a girly chuckle--would term pretty.

Apparently, he was very stare-at-able.

That was beside the point (again), however. Sora was the hero. HERO. He was dazed and ecstatic and he was pretty sure he wasn't supposed to be having a conversation with Riku that was not in profile. Particularly as doing so made something strange and nervous in the pit of his stomach jump like he'd accidentally swallowed one of Riku's safety-pin-crickets.

"Here." And with that word being the only warning, Sora's personal space was assaulted by a Riku who not only was not in profile, but was also very, very close, who happened to still be a bit damp and smelled quite a bit like bar soap and chlorine. "Right here." Pale fingers lifted, past Sora's line of sight and pressed against his forehead, pushing aside a few brown spikes.

Something stung, and Sora hissed--vaguely recalling that he might have been beaned in the head by something during the game. No big deal, but he asked just to be polite, tilting his head back enough to look Riku in the eyes. If they were graduating to face-to-face conversation, Sora preferred that it actually be face-to-face and not face-to-chin. "Is it bad?"

"No, it's just bleeding a little." That same light smirk on Riku's face. It looked nice on him. Teasing. The cricket in his stomach jumped again to remind Sora of its presence. "Might want to clean it up when you get--"


The words echoed off the lockers and the tile and the shower and bounced around the room like one of those rubber high-bounce balls that someone had the misfortune of passing with a hockey stick (and Sora had a story about that and a Woolworth's and a flower display, but there was no time to relate it now).

And in the echoes of this bouncing there was another tableau, another movie freeze-frame, one that lasted just long enough for Sora to realize three things:

1. Riku was standing very close to him, with his hand in Sora's hair, looking down. Sora was standing also very close to Riku, with Riku's hand in his hair, head tilted to one side to facilitate Riku's impromptu examination, and looking up.

2. From behind Riku, were someone to be standing there, it was very possible that it might look like they were doing something that had absolutely nothing to do with attending a small head injury. Something that in high school, particularly, was instantly incriminating and furthermore subject to extensive rumor and speculation.

3. At that particular moment, half the starting lineup from the varsity street hockey team--returning to the locker room to track down their new star player for the aforementioned pizza party--were standing behind Riku.

By the time the tableau broke, splintering and scattering across the room like the fine china from the top of your mother's kitchen cabinets that she told you and told you never to touch, Sora had a coarse red heat spreading across his cheeks and Riku was staring over his shoulder. Oh, sure, they got the profile talk--only he didn't. Talk. Riku didn't say a word, in defense of the awkward but innocent position they'd been caught in. Nothing to prove the misunderstanding.

He glared. He glared, while Sora blushed, and the comedy of errors was complete.

The team captain, who clearly had no appreciation for drama or the series of coincidences that had brought them all together in this moment of total incomprehension, continued to gape at them for a full minute--the last minute in which Sora was still mostly the hero--before spitting out, "What the FUCK?"

This was the precise point at which Sora's normal, happy life--and thus, the poor unsuspecting world--came to an abrupt and untimely End. Capitalized.

Sora remembered this clearly, several hours later into the night with his head stuffed under a pillow. If the tableau had broken like family-heirloom china, then the point at which The End came was when your mom screamed and grabbed the wooden spoon. It was inevitable.

He wondered if Riku had known that--the inevitability of The End. Wondered if that was why he didn't bother to talk, to try and reason.

He could have wondered longer, but his thoughts were derailed by the third rendition (so far) of someone outside his door caterwauling, "SO-RA AND RI-KU SITTIN' IN A TREE!" Tap, tap, tap of knuckles against the wood in time with the tune. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"

The Horsemen were coming.

Sora wondered, once the noise had ceased, if it was possible to die of public humiliation.

Tuesday didn't start any differently than any day previously, as far as essentials went. Sora had a routine. Crawl out of bed at 6:25 and stumble blindly to the bathroom. Fill the sink with ice-cold tap water and stick his head in it until his brain woke up. Wash face. Brush teeth. Finger-comb his hair because he'd given up on such useless appliances as combs and brushes years ago.

Clothes. Backpack. Stumble around the floor to find wherever his pager had landed the night before (under the desk, today). Skates.

He took the banister down the dormitory stairs in the morning because climbing down in rollerblades took too long. Also, because that way the dorm mother would yell at him from behind the front desk and wake up the parts of his brain that had decided to go back to sleep.

Breakfast was a grab-and-go affair set up in the lobby and ready as the students began slowly filtering out of the building--because no self-respecting teenager ever woke up in time to actually sit down for breakfast before racing off to school. Sora grabbed a bagel sandwich and a juice bottle. He ate while rolling steadily down the sidewalk to the main building.

Normal day. Normal like every other morning, normal like himself, transfer student from somewhere in California where everyone had a perpetual tan, personable, friendly, okay to look at but demure enough to never make a scene of himself. Normal enough to blend in with the rest of the senior class like he'd always been there. Sora liked it that way--liked being able to just exist and live out the rest of his high school days without significant notice.

Mostly because if he didn't, his mom really was going to come after him with a wooden spoon and he'd find himself grounded until his fortieth birthday, age of majority be damned.

The moment he skated through the front doors on Tuesday morning, however, he came to the staggering realization that somehow, things were definitely not normal.

'Realization', it seemed, came in the form of a tightly-wound knot of underclassman females, decked in entirely too much glitter and spandex, who squealed loudly as a single entity and shrieked his name the moment they laid eyes on the undergrown and half-asleep senior rolling down the hall.


Sora, to his credit, blinked once and uttered a sound rather like "Huh?" before they descended on him and he found himself trapped between a sea of giggles and pink and something digging into his back that felt suspiciously like a drinking fountain.

"Oh my god, Sora, you have to tell us everything."

"We had no idea really but--eeeeeee, it's so adorable!"

"I've been imagining the two of you together all night, seriously, it's SOOOOOO CUTE."

Adorable. Cute. Tell us everything. Sora looked from one set of purple eyeshadow to the next, blinking to perpetuate the churning wheels in his brain, trying to play catch up. Two of who together? What?

"Please, you've just GOT to tell us."

"How long have you been seeing him, anyway? Waaaaah, I'm sooooooo jealous."

Seeing... him?

The ton of bricks that landed on Sora's head should have, by all rights, not only knocked him to the ground, but crushed him to unrecognizable bits before he had to actually address any of this.

Riku. Oh. Right.

Sora opened and closed his mouth a few times, which turned out to be beneficial as the girls, noting that he was going to speak, abruptly ceased in chattering and giggling and leaned in closer, faces sparkling with body glitter, certain that his words would grant them all some great epiphany.

"I... we're not... I'm not seeing him." Sora's voice stuttered at the same rate as his brain, which complained furiously at the early hour and the proximity of so much girly perfume.


"That is SO SWEET!"

As though that was some sort of cue, the entire group once again squealed as a single entity. Sora was starting to feel dizzy. "It... it's not... like that..."

The press of girls leaned in again, far enough that Sora was all but sitting in the drinking fountain for trying to shrink away, and wouldn't that be perfect if he had to walk around all morning with a wet ass. Icing on the cake.

The girl closest to his face (he figured she was their leader, what with the amount of glitter spread across her cheeks--it had to be some kind of tribal mark, placed there so the others knew whom to follow) gave him a devious smile, once again silencing the group so they could hear both the question and the answer.

"So, Sora... tell us. Is Riku a good kisser?"

"I bet he is!" One of the girls of lower-rank piped up out of turn, but all the others seemed to offer little gestures of agreement. Staring down Sora and waiting for his answer.

"I didn't..." Sora's voice caught, but his brain had mostly caught up, also, and he was sure now of what had to be said. He straightened up just a bit, as much as he could with the fountain half-underneath him, and raised his voice to something above a whisper. "I DIDN'T KISS HIM."

He realized as soon as he said it that his face was burning. His ears, probably, too.

The girl-entity was silent for a few slow, dead seconds, then it gave a collective, "Aww."

"He's in denial!"

"Oh you poor thing."

"That's so sad! Poor Riku, he must be so hurt..."

"Don't talk like that, Sora! You shouldn't worry about what people think."

"Yeah, it's not important, anyway. You just follow your heart!"

"That's RIGHT! Be yourself and follow your heart! Straight to Riku."

"STRAIGHT TO RIKU!" The entity cheered.

"Go find him!" The leader commanded. "Go forth, you adorable little boy, you, and confess your undying love!"

The press of girls parted, again as if on cue, and Sora rolled away mostly on just the momentum it took to get off the drinking fountain. He took a few deep breaths--fresh air, god, fresh air--and heard their giggles following him down the hall.

"Good luck, Sora!"

"We left you something nice in your locker!"

"Be good to him, you hear me?"

Sora rolled through the crowds to his locker without really seeing or hearing anything. There was a slight awareness that people were staring, people were pointing, people were shooting him jealous glares and sneering scowls, and they were whispering. None of it quite got through the fog hanging around him, though--those girls. He had told them. He told them flat out, it wasn't what they thought. He hadn't kissed Riku. He hadn't.

And they didn't believe him.

He didn't arrive at his locker so much as crash into it, limp against the cold metal and giving his forehead a few cursory bangs against it. It wasn't fair. It wasn't even fucking true. It was all a big, giant, bone-crushing mistake.

The shift in air flow caused by opening his locker door made the sparkly heart-shaped confetti inside fly and settle around him in a terrifying red-and-pink cloud.

Sora remained frozen in place while it settled in his hair, on his shoulders, clung to his skin and scattered across the floor, and wondered if he could restart this game and try again. The princess was in another castle. Princess. Not prince.

Or, failing that, if he could go back to bed and resume his pillow-suffocation act.

No, no, no. Normal routine. Normal. Skates off, sneakers on. Jacket on the hook. Books out of his backpack and then others back in (shake the confetti off, first). Pick up the slip of folded, raggedy notebook paper off his chemistry text, and--


Note. There was a note in his locker with the remains of valentine confetti, Sora's name scrawled across the front in blocky pencil text that clearly did not belong to any self-respecting girl who thought that heart confetti was a wonderful surprise gift.

Sora picked it up, turned it over and sideways and upside down, a small, tight frown on his lips that never would have been there, ever, not at this school--had none of this happened. Had he not been half-knelt in front of his locker wondering if he was about to unfold a threat or an insult or an invitation to a fistfight out behind the football stands. Or maybe just a swirly in the bathroom, if the note-writer felt lenient. That sort of thing happened, right? When boys found out that another boy had intentions toward one of their own, right? That's what boys did. And no one, no one was going to believe him now, that it was all a mistake. Even with the bone-crushing giant wandering around.

He pulled the paper open, slowly. There were still spiral-holes on one edge from where it was ripped out of a notebook.

Hey man,

Don't worry about it. I got your back. Tell Riku.


Sora blew out a breath that made the paper flutter between his fingers, shoulders relaxing a bit. Not a threat of imminent pain or humiliation. In fact, it might have been solidarity of some kind. Tell Riku.


Riku had started all of this. All of it. Riku could have denied it, could have turned and showed them the cut on Sora's hairline and explained everything. Riku could have ended it.

Sora slammed his locker shut, spinning the combo dial, and kicked in the corner that never quite closed. He shrugged on his backpack, pocketed the note, and broke his routine entirely by tromping down the crowded senior hallway in search of the boy who caused this mess.

Riku was hard to miss, height and broad shoulders and silver hair (and general gorgeousness, not that Sora necessarily took note of this first thing in the morning) aside. He was standing half-concealed by an open locker door with the word 'FRUIT' scrawled on it in bright orange capitals. Both boy and locker were given a wide berth by passing student traffic, aside from a few lingering females standing at a carefully measured distance with hands clasped, who stared and sighed like they were slowly deflating.

Riku was murmur-singing a little tune to himself, backpack between his feet and rummaging through the locker's insides.

"Uhm..." Sora could think of nothing better to announce his arrival.

"I'm your lover, I'm a zero--"

Sora cleared his throat and tried again. "Riku?"

Riku stopped singing abruptly and leaned back just enough to look at him past the open door, taking in his presence and his posture and the confetti clinging to his person, before that same smirk--teasing smirk--tugged up the corners of his mouth. "Morning, Sora." He gestured at the orange graffiti before returning to the depths of the locker and resuming his rummaging. "Like the new decor?"

Sora tugged at his backpack strap.

"I'm kind of disappointed, actually," Riku continued, lifting his own backpack finally and pushing the locker closed, waving dismissively at the scrawl once again. "They should have made it pink and sparkly."

Sora tugged again and wondered if he should be bothered by how totally un-bothered his alleged other half was. Then Riku was looking at him again and his eyebrows were crawling up under his bangs and he was a little too close, yet again, one hand up--

Oh crap, no.

"PDA no way!"

"Get a room!"

The voices behind him spun for a moment, but Riku didn't move any closer. Just reached out, two fingers, and plucked a tiny pink heart off of Sora's chin. "Looks like you got some new decor, too." Small smile, something like fondness as he leaned back into his own personal space. "How come you get pink and sparkly?"

Sora was aware, aside from the voices and the stares all around, that he was breathing far too fast, and that his hands were clenched in fists around his shoulder straps, and there was still confetti dusted on his shoulders and shedding from his hair each time he moved. He stared down at his toes and couldn't help feeling like he'd suffered some kind of crushing defeat. "What... what the hell is all this?" A wave of his hand to indicate that 'all this' was just that--all this. Everything.

When he looked back up, Riku wasn't smirking anymore. He jerked his head to the side, an 'over here' motion, silver hair dancing over his shoulders. Turned and leaned forward against the lockers so his backpack was propped on one knee while he pretended to adjust the contents and the safety pins clinging to the front.

Sora leaned against the locker next to him, a careful span of inches away, close enough to hear but not close enough that it looked like something else. Whatever that something could have been.

"I'm really sorry about this." Riku's voice was low and serious, spoken directly to the spine of a math textbook. "But there's noting either of us can do about it now. The whole school knows. The students, the teachers, the coaches, the lunch ladies, the principal. The janitors probably know."

"But we didn't--!"

"I know that." Riku hissed, turning just enough to look at Sora out of one eye. Profile conversation. "But what really happened doesn't matter. It's over. This is your new life." He was scowling, Sora noticed. Scowling not at the lockers or the backpack or Sora or his math text, but at something that wasn't actually there.


Riku turned. Face-to-face conversation now, backpack sliding onto his shoulders, pulling his hair out of the way. "You have two choices, Sora." Riku said the words with the grim certainty of a trigonometry teacher explaining logarithms. "You can fight it. You can kick and scream with every step while they keep beating you down harder and harder with each try."

Sora tilted his head, counting the inches between his eyes and Riku's. Well, yeah, he could fight it--that was what he figured the best option was. Fight. That made sense to him, on the primal male level. That was what boys did. "Or...?"

That smirk tugged at the corner of Riku's mouth again, not teasing this time. Bullied and determined. That smirk belonged to someone who didn't get beaten down. "Or, you can own it."

Sora scowled. "You mean, resign myself to this?"

"No. Resignation is giving up. I'm talking about acceptance. Owning it. Standing up to those girls in the lobby and telling them, 'Why yes, actually, I kissed Riku in the locker room, and by the way his tongue is incredible.'"


"You're blushing again."

"Wait--" Sora backtracked for a minute, shoving aside unwanted mental images of Riku and whatever kind of tongue he might have. "You saw that?"

"It was a golden opportunity to get past them before they spotted me." Riku had the grace to look away sheepishly. "Sorry."

"So what you're saying is..." Sora dropped his head back against the lockers with a metallic thud, staring up at the panel ceiling--all those little pinholes. "Instead of denying the mistake, I could admit to it instead. Just let everyone keep thinking that we're... like... together or something."

"Basically. That's what I'm doing."


"I let on that you're a bit shy. Hope that's not a problem." And it was back, that teasing smirk.

"Hey, I didn't even agree to this yet!" Sora shoved away from the lockers, spinning around and maybe--just maybe, that bone-crushing giant would stomp on his head. Or his mother would appear with a wooden spoon.

His face was definitely red, now.

"You're going to, though." Riku said it with all the confidence in the world and a light tap of one index finger on Sora's nose. "Right?"

"You're not--" Sora's mouth opened and closed a few times, thinking back to the note of retribution in his locker that turned out to not be a note of retribution at all. But the concept was there. "You're not worried about this at all? Like... you know. Bullies."

"You're on the hockey team." Riku rolled his eyes like this should have been patently obvious. And it should have been. That unspoken I know you can take care of yourself--that felt kind of warm.

Despite the warmth, however, Sora narrowed his eyes in something like affront. "I wasn't talking about me."

It was kind of funny, the way Riku stared at him and his eyebrows slowly crept up along his forehead. Like he was just now taking Sora into full consideration while at the same time disbelieving that such a question would come up. After a long enough time of offering Sora this expression, he didn't even have to say anything in explanation. "So, with that established. Anything else you have left to stall with?"

Sora kicked his heels against each other. Sora tugged on his backpack straps. Sora was adept at dealing with many things and many situations with a fair amount of grace and pluck and a winning smile. And, when necessary, the appropriate amount of violence.

This, clearly, was not one of them.

"Well? We have chemistry in two minutes."

Sora deflated, like the girls who followed Riku around and sighed, only his deflation was far more full and immediate. "Okay."

"Good." Riku promptly draped one arm around Sora's shoulders and propelled him down the hall, tight against his side and walking in step.

There was no routine, now. No normal, never, ever again. Sora wasn't sure, yet, if he was okay with that, but figured that all of this, everything--it was all going to go on without him whether he liked it or not. Whether he was sure or whether he was ready--or not.

And Riku--Riku's side was warm, and his arm didn't feel as heavy as it looked.

"Hey," Sora murmured when they were deep enough into the crowd that the catcalls were being drowned out. He reached into his pocket, pulling out the slip of notebook paper. "Someone left this in my locker."

Riku took it when they paused at an intersecting corridor, where the flow of traffic was bottlenecked and down to a shuffle. Read it over and stopped entirely.

"Riku." Sora chanced a look up at him and away from the toes of his sneakers, where his attention had been focused once they started walking. "Who's R-O-X?"

Above Sora, Riku's face dropped with a smack into his hand. "Oh, god."