Warnings: Still apply. Um…not too much here.

Author's Note: Happy Halloween, all! Glad to be finally posting this, as I take horribly long with these sorts of things (and I've been sucked into the awe-inspiring fandom of Sherlock). First chapter with different viewpoints! Hope you all enjoy it.

And uh…how fond are you guys of Cleon? Because…I can guarantee it's not going to end the way you'll prolly want it to. Sorry in advance. And Seiner has been officially added to the story!

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Chapter Ten

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Cloud Strife would like it to be made perfectly clear, for the official record, that he is not a stalker. While there have been suspicious circumstances in the past that may appear to support such a theory, he insists that the goings-ons at those times were rather unfortunately and unfairly misconstrued.

Which is why when a voice from his doorway curiously asked "what are you doing?" he jumped about a foot and a half and hit the kill button on his computer monitor.

"What?" Cloud asked, still staring at his now black screen.

"What were you doing?" Naminé asked again, and he could feel her gaze crawling over his back.

"Nothing," Cloud replied, clearing his throat slightly.

"Were you watching porn again?" his sister asked with mock suspicion, although her tone was only half-teasing.

Cloud whipped around to glare at her. "No," he snapped indignantly, his face miraculously free of unnecessary color.

Naminé just watched him calmly. "Oh, don't give me that," she said, voice turning matter-of-fact. "I know you used to watch it with the sound off so Mum and Dad wouldn't hear."

Cloud leaned on his computer desk, slid his hands over his face, and rubbed his eyes. He didn't want to know how she knew that. The answer would probably involve more embarrassment than he could handle.

She was the older sister—according to the Strife hierarchy, no one had secrets from their older siblings. Demyx wheedled information out of Roxas, Cloud knew everything about both Demyx and Roxas, and Naminé was an enigma that had blackmail on all three of them. The only person more powerful than her was their mother.

"No," he repeated darkly.

"So then…?" she prompted.

"It's classified," Cloud said, crossing his arms.

She stared at him. "Cloud, you work for the postal service."

He raised an eyebrow at her as thought to say '…and?' As if he didn't already know that; of course he did. He looked damn good in the uniform, too.

"The postal service doesn't have classified information!" she protested, frowning at him.

"That's what you think."

He internally cringed as her eyes went soft and sad as they flickered to his screen.

"Were you looking up Mr. Leonhart again?"

"Dr. Leonhart," Cloud muttered, his jaw clicking shut as soon as the words were out.

"Oh Cloud." Naminé invited herself in and closed the door before settling herself down on his bed. "He's really thrown you for a loop, hasn't he?"

"I don't get it," Cloud exploded, reaching forward and jabbing the monitor on again. "This doesn't make any sense, Ne. I don't like men."

"Mmhmmmm," said Naminé.

"I dated girls all through high school, and I wasn't compensating for something, or in denial, I just never looked at boys that way. Never."

"Uh huh," his sister agreed neutrally, making it clear that she was here to listen, not to judge.

Cloud shifted in his chair to look at her face. "So why now? I mean, I'm not suddenly gay, am I? Wouldn't I have noticed this back in high school, or college, or something?"

"Cloud—"

"And why him?" he pointed accusingly at the screen without looking.

Naminé glanced at the snapshot of the brunet man on someone's website, caught in the process of teaching.

"Cloud," she started carefully, catching his eyes and intertwining her fingers in her lap. She had to do this in a delicate, cautious manner or he would shut down in Does Not Compute mode the way nearly all men did when trying to decipher their feelings. "You do know that despite what society presents, most people aren't solely heterosexual or solely homosexual, don't you? Haven't you ever heard of the Kinsey Scale?"

"…what?" asked Cloud, frowning back at her.

"Sexual orientation is more along the lines of a scale, with heterosexuality and homosexuality falling at opposite ends. And most people fall somewhere in between. There's more to it than just gender."

There was a pause for a few moments.

"This is getting kind of deep here, Ne," Cloud said finally with a slight clearing of his throat, fingers tapping uncomfortably on the armrests of his computer chair. "I don't think I should continue this conversation with you."

"Shut up and pay attention to what I'm saying," Naminé said, not unkindly, but still not willing to deal with wishy-washy squeamishness.

"You know," her brother said, avoiding her eyes and opting to look back at his desk. "I really think this is something I should be talking about with Mum. She's probably been waiting ages to have this talk with one of us, and I wouldn't want to rob her of that one bright point in her life."

"Now Cloud," Naminé began, hands folded in her lap. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. When two people love each other very much—"

"Muuuuum?" Cloud called plaintively and turned to the door, sounding like a lost child locked in a room with a bad, bad man, and nothing at all like his twenty-three years.

"She's not here right now, you know." Naminé bit her lip for a second so she wouldn't laugh at him. "Cloud, attraction is attraction and there isn't much you can do about that. Sometimes gender makes a difference and sometimes it doesn't, but most of the time you're not really in control of that. And I doubt your brain has been keeping this a secret just so it can shout, "Surprise! You're gay now!" when you're least expecting it. It doesn't work that way."

"How does it work, then?" Cloud asked grumpily.

"Cloud," Naminé began wisely, bringing her clasped hands up so she could set her chin on them. "The reason why poets, musicians, and authors are still talking about it is because no one knows."

Her brother snorted. "This doesn't even make sense, Ne. I've only seen him twice, talked to him once, and he doesn't even like me."

"As I said—"

"Do you know what he said to me?" Cloud demanded, crossing his arms as his expression turned thunderous and borderline-incensed, eyes narrowing.

"Well, no, I—"

"He said," Cloud continued, completely steamrolling anything his sister was about to say, "that he already had his hands full dealing with juvenile, almost-adults six days a week. That he didn't need another one, another lovesick one, Ne, following him around while he was trying to do his job."

"Cloud," Naminé said quietly, and he could see the humor melting from her face.

"I am not a 'juvenile, almost-adult', Ne," Cloud spat, just this close to trembling with anger. "And I'm not lovesick. I don't follow him around. Where does he get off making assumptions like that? It's not like that, it's not like that at all! I just—"

His sister didn't say anything as he struggled for the right words, trying to find a way to properly give voice to the ideas in his head.

"I don't know, okay?" he growled after several unsatisfactory seconds. "I don't know, but whatever it is, it's not that. I'm not lovesick, I'm not in love— that's just ridiculous. He doesn't know what he's talking about, and he's rude."

Naminé coughed discreetly. After all, Cloud could be pretty rude when he wanted to be. And when he didn't mean to be. It was sort of the pot calling the kettle black, to be honest.

"Cloud," she started gently, "do you think that—"

"Who says that to someone they don't know?" Cloud barreled on, glaring at her as though she were the subject of his grievances. "He doesn't know me! I'm not some scrawny, newly-graduated teen he has to put up with in his classes, so why should I put up with him?"

"Umm," Naminé started hesitantly.

Cloud ignored her. "I don't know what Roxas told him, the little brat, probably blathered something about how I like tall, dark, and handsome, which is awfully cliché and not true, but he's clearly got the wrong idea now. Roxas doesn't have any idea what he's talking about either—he's never even been on a date, that Olit girl or whoever doesn't count, so how could he? Roxas has the worst way with words—"

"Errr, well," Naminé added unhelpfully. "That seems to be a common male thing, in this family."

"—and did you know Roxas apparently tried to explain the whole 'pretty teacher equals not paying attention in class' theory, and he initially thought Roxas was trying to say he had a crush on him. On Leonheart! Did you know that?"

"Uhh, no," Naminé admitted, watching Cloud's increasingly agitated face with interest. He made the most intriguing faces when he vented. "No I didn't, actually."

"As though anyone could fathom liking that insufferable ass," Cloud muttered under his breath, spinning back to face his computer and furiously closing every internet window he had open with very forceful clicks. "Rude. Implied Roxas needed a babysitter! No one is allowed to say that to my littlest brother! I have full jackassery rights regarding Roxas, not him! How dare he! And you know what?"

"Now Cloud—"

"If I wanted to be a lovesick juvenile almost-adult, which I don't, but if I wanted to, who's he to tell me I can't? Huh? I can be as lovesick as I want, I can be as juvenile as I want, I can follow him around, if I want! And who's he to tell me 'no'?"

Naminé frowned. "I think that's called stalking, Cloud," she said. "There're laws against that, I'm pretty sure."

"Stalking, smalking," her brother snapped, powering down his computer and slamming a fist on his desk. "He pisses me off. He was probably intolerable in school, and now he's a teacher? What have these kids done to deserve that? Nothing, no one deserves that, Ne, no one. He makes me so, so—"

His sister leaned back on his bed and wordlessly watched Cloud's brain try to push steam out his ears in rage.

"—so angry," Cloud finished in a rather anticlimactic way. "You know what else? This is all his fault. It's all his fault, it has to be, so goddamn him and any spawn he manages to create. This is not my—this is his problem, and he better fix it! In fact, I'm going to go tell him so right now! What's he gonna do to stop me?"

"You know they have campus security, right?" Naminé pointed out calmly.

Cloud said some rather uncomplimentary and offensive things about campus security. "Yeah well, if that #*%&-ing $$ calls #*%&-ing security on me he's going to #*%&-ing wish his %+#& ^#%%$ had decided to become a hermit," Cloud snarled, throwing himself out of his chair and snatching up his keys off the desk. "That #*%&-ing $*(%."

Naminé sat up, bemused. "Cloud, did you just censor yourself by pronouncing keyboard symbols? It's not as though I can't figure out that you're cussing up a storm, you know."

"Shut up," Cloud snapped, stalking across the room and slamming open his bedroom door. "Some things aren't meant to be heard by a lady's ears."

"Awww, that's sweet, Cloud! Unnecessary, but sweet."

"I'm going to go have a talk with Dr. Asswipe about his unappreciated jackassery," Cloud responded, narrowing his eyes at her. "Hold down the fort until I get back." He turned and went to pull the door shut, but turned back. "Oh, and if you see Roxas, hit him." The door closed with a bang that made the walls tremble for several seconds.

Naminé just sat contemplatively on her brother's bed, tracing patterns on the worn comforter with no real intent. This was not the way this conversation was supposed to go at all.

"Oh bollocks," she sighed.

~x~

Hayner had a fiery, burning hatred for public transportation.

He squeezed his way off the bus and onto the sidewalk, relieved at the increased space and freedom of movement the street now afforded him. Scrunching up his face, he threw his arms above his head and stretched, grabbing both his own wrists and pushing towards the sky. With a sigh, he dropped them again, feeling his shoulders complain a little less at the aches they'd accumulated on his cramped bus ride home.

It really sucked, having a driver's license and no car. Life could be such a cruel, cruel, dominatrix.

Mistress? Ha. Life was nobody's mistress.

He swung his mostly empty backpack over his shoulder again and headed down the street in the direction of the supermarket. From there, he had about a three minute walk to his house. Overall, he wasn't that far from campus; just a twenty minute bus ride and then a couple minutes of walking. As long as he timed everything right, it usually wasn't a problem—unless the summer sun tried to fry him like an egg, or winter rains attempted to drown him, or a blizzard decided to move in…

Oh no wait, this completely sucked.

Hayner sighed and cut through the grocery store parking lot, keeping an eye out for moving vehicles and runaway shopping carts. He'd had occasional run-ins with both in the past, and well…repeating those experiences wasn't on his to-do list. The last time he'd spaced out and been hit by a—

"Hayner? Is that you, Hayner?"

The boy in question froze for a moment, creating a couple seconds of awkward silence before his brain kicked in and activated its voice-recognition software. He spun on his heel, turning to look at the woman hovering by the door of a blue pickup truck.

Hayner blinked. "Mrs. Almasy?"

The blond woman took a few steps toward him and smiled, her eyes brightening. "I told you, Hayner, just call me Quistis. I haven't had the chance to talk to you in a while."

Hayner shuffled his feet and stuck his hands in his pockets, letting his eyes drift over every other car in the parking lot instead of looking at her face. "Um, yeah. I've just been busy with school, and all."

"Oh I know, I know," she chuckled, waving his answer away. "I understand; I remember when Seifer first started. He couldn't wait to get out on his own."

"Yeah," Hayner agreed dully, because he really cared about what Seifer went through when he left home. Not.

"So, I was talking to your mother earlier today…" Quistis started, keeping her voice calm and eyes kind as she moved into the subject she really wanted to discuss.

The brunet cringed, feeling a little stab of irritation in his chest. What was with everyone wanting an answer right now? Was a little time to think things over so much to ask for? Was the world going to end if he didn't make a decision in the next thirty seconds? Somehow, he didn't think so.

"Oh yeah?" he asked casually, glancing at the shopping cart she'd left by her truck.

"Yes," Quistis replied serenely, hands clasped loosely in front of her. "And I can understand your hesitation—I know you and Seifer don't see eye to eye—"

Hayner couldn't stop himself from snorting at the unbelievable understatement in those words.

The same ice-blue eyes Seifer had inherited narrowed at him. Hayner quickly wiped his face of any expression.

"—so your hesitation to accept our offer is well within your rights," the blonde woman continued. "I certainly wouldn't want to intensify any antagonism between the two of you. My husband and I, however, would be happy to have you."

"Um, yeah," said Hayner, finally looking up at her and thinking of how he could say this as politely as possible. "I don't really think it would be a—"

Seifer's mother lifted her glasses farther up the bridge of her nose with one hand and roughly readjusted the sneakily sliding strap of her purse with the other, causing the contents of her bag to jerk and shift noisily.

Hayner's eyes darted to the bag at the sound, his gaze catching on a narrow, braided strip of black protruding past the zipper that made his heart stop. The rounded end curled around the section he could see, flexible and not unlike a dangerously coiled snake hiding in the woman's purse.

How had he forgotten that Seifer's mother was a well-versed professional in the art of handling whips? Not that Hayner really thought Quistis would whip him into submission in the middle of a grocery store parking lot, but…she was carrying a black snake! That was one mean mother of a whip!

And really, who had the balls to say no to a woman like that? Hayner certainly didn't.

His wary gaze flickered from Quistis, to the whip, and back. She raised her eyebrows at him. Hayner swallowed, mouth suddenly dry.

"I think I should probably go talk things out with Mom," Hayner said finally, forcing the words uncomfortably past his reluctant lips.

Quistis smiled gently and nodded, and despite what Hayner had thought, she didn't look displeased at his answer. Hayner wondered briefly how her son could look so much like her, yet have none of her temperament. It was a shame, really.

"That sounds like a good idea, Hayner," the blonde replied instead, letting the boy in question relax an inch. "I probably shouldn't keep you long—I'm sure you have homework or projects or something to be working on."

"Oh yeah," Hayner somehow said with a straight face. "Papers and research and stuff. Lots of it."

The blue eyes that ran over him were mischievous and amused. "I'm sure. There just aren't enough hours in a day, are there?"

"Nowhere near," Hayner responded promptly, smothering a grin. "I hardly have time to Struggle anymore."

Quistis laughed, her whole face brightening in a way that made Hayner feel a little bit lighter. He liked Quistis—she was easy to talk to, treated him like he was her own son, was patient, a good listener—and could still put the fear of Jenova in him when the situation called for it. She visited occasionally, since she and his mom went way back; had known each other since their own college days. She was like Hayner's second mother, and was everything a mother should be.

So how the hell had Seifer turned out to be such an asshole?

"Say hello to your mother for me," Quistis interrupted his disgruntled thoughts, giving him a fond glance. "Let me know what you decide, alright? Just ask if you need something."

"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind," Hayner said with a nod at her, a faint smile tugging at his mouth. "I'll get back to you on that."

"Take care, Hayner," Quistis said, nodding back at him and turning back to her truck. Moments later, he heard the sound of her engine revving into life, followed by the grinding skid of tires as she tore off for home.

Two minutes later found Hayner unlocking the front door of his house, kicking it shut behind him and immediately dropping his backpack by the threshold.

"Mom, I'm home!" he yelled up the stairs, making a beeline for the kitchen. His announcement prompted the soft thumping of footsteps from the staircase, growing slightly louder as they descended.

"Got anything I can eat?" he asked the otherwise empty room seconds before his mother rounded the bottom of the stairs and pattered gracefully into the kitchen with her nose stuck in a book.

"Hmmm…" The cover of the book remained unwaveringly in place for what felt like several long minutes to Hayner's starving mind, and then his mother seemed to realize she wasn't alone in the kitchen. With a surprised gasp, she lowered her new book abruptly and pressed a hand to her chest, then quickly closed it and set the object on the table. "Oh, Hayner dear, I'm so sorry, I just get so involved…what was it you asked?"

"No, it's fine, Mom," Hayner insisted, used to this by now. "Is there anything I can snack on?" he asked hopefully.

"Well…" she replied, going over to the pantry and taking a look at its contents. "We have more of those cookies I made yesterday," she began slowly, eyes roving over the shelves before closing the doors with a sharp snap. "But you're going to want something healthier than that."

Hayner whined and wasn't afraid to make it as drawn out and immature as possible. "Moooooom! Health food?" He almost couldn't comprehend an idea that horrific.

His mother frowned at him, her large brown eyes reproachful. "Don't whine at me, Hayner, you should know better by now. There's oranges and bananas in the basket on the table, and carrot sticks in the vegetable drawer in the fridge—"

"But Mom," Hayner protested, trying to give her the saddest look he could with his own large brown eyes. "I'll wither away if all I eat is rabbit food!"

She stared at him, clearly undecided, uncertain, and entirely distrustful of her only son. It only took a few short seconds for her to cave with a resigned sigh that didn't hide the affectionate expression on her face. "Just like your father," she said fondly with a smile, coming over to kiss him on the forehead. "I suppose you can have some cookies if you have a piece of fruit," she conceded.

"Deal," Hayner grinned, yanking open the fridge and fishing out an apple to wash.

His mother took a seat at the kitchen table and returned to her book. When Hayner was finished, he sat down opposite her and took a bite, trying to get a look at what she was reading. She'd always been fond of myths and fairy tales, heroes and princesses and magical creatures that didn't exist in real life.

Real life.

Hayner paused, but really, he may as well just broach the subject already.

"Mom?" he questioned tentatively.

No reaction.

He cleared his throat and tried again. "Mom?"

Nothing.

He sighed, reached forward, and tapped the page she was reading with a finger.

In an instant, her eyes snapped up to his, searching his face for the source of the problem. "Is something wrong, Hayner?"

Hayner took another bite out of his apple and shrugged. "I saw Mrs. Almasy on my way home today."

Hayner's mother sighed quietly and bookmarked her place with the napkin he'd meant to use for his hands later, giving him her undivided attention. "Hayner…"

"No, I mean, she wasn't pushy or anything," he said hurriedly, trying to swallow the mashed up fruit in his mouth so he could talk clearly and without spitting too disgustingly. "But I promised I'd talk to you about it, and whatever."

She evaluated him quietly, and Hayner was reminded that you couldn't really hide anything from your mother. "I know the situation's not ideal—"

"No, Mom, that's not it—"

"Let me finish, please," she said quietly.

Hayner obediently pressed his lips together.

"I know the situation isn't what you would like," his mother started again, folding her hands on top of her book. "And I know you don't like Seifer. But your father and I are moving in less than a month, and right now we don't have the money to get you your own apartment, and it's too late to get you into the dorms."

Hayner nodded, glancing at the sealed cardboard boxes across the hall in the living room. They'd been over this already.

"We can only give you two options, dear. You can come with us—"

He made a face. Moving wasn't really something he wanted to have to do while in college.

She noticed his less than enthusiastic look. "It's quite nice in France, you know. I think you'd like it, Hayner."

"I guess I'd get to see Great-Uncle Lumiere more often," he acknowledged with half-hearted thoughtfulness.

"Do you want to move?"

"…..no," Hayner admitted, staring at the apple in his hand without really seeing it. "I don't want to, Mom."

She smiled at him sadly, understanding. "It's alright, Hayner, we understand. Your friends are here, your school is here, your life is here—you're old enough now to make your own decision, to go or stay where your heart tells you you should."

Yup, his mother was reading fairy tales again.

"Your second option," she continued, watching him carefully. "Quistis—Mrs. Almasy—has kindly volunteered to house you while you go to RTU. I know you don't get along with Seifer, but he's almost done with school; he only has one more year. You can last another year, can't you?"

So…move to France, or move in with his arch-nemesis's family. Why didn't Jenova just smite him where he sat? That would have been less painful than the choice he knew he'd have to make. No way in hell was he moving to another country at this point in his life.

On the other hand, Hayner didn't think he could last six hours in the same house as Seifer Almasy, but it was impossible to say so out loud with that oh-so-hopeful expression on the face of the woman who'd spent fourteen hours in labor giving birth to him. Fourteen pain-riddled hours of her life that she'd never get back. He just couldn't do it, so he didn't say anything.

His mother seemed to take this as a willingness to try, and she really wasn't expecting much more than that. "I really do think you should accept her offer, Hayner," his mother told him after a while, when it became clear Hayner didn't have a response. "There are very few people willing to open their home like that to others, and Quistis would be more than happy to help you with anything school related. She's not charging rent, but maybe you can help with groceries after you get a job—"

The echoing chime of the doorbell made them both jump in surprise, making Hayner's apple fall out of his hand and roll across the table. He grabbed at it as he shot to his feet, stumbling awkwardly in his attempt to stand as his chair skidded across the floor behind him.

"I'll get it," he muttered, eyes darting from his mother's face to the floor and striding to the front door.

He squinted through the peephole, barely managing to see the blurry brown colors of a delivery service uniform. With an internal sigh, he opened the door—and promptly found himself with a face full of flowers.

Hayner sneezed on principle, and glared fiery lava at the smiling delivery man.

"Is there a Belle, here?" the stranger asked an in excessively cheerful manner, holding the bouquet in front of him like a weapon and checking a clipboard in his other hand. "From an…Adam?"

Hayner eyed the flowers—not just flowers, actually, but a bouquet of red roses—with dismay. Honestly, the house never smelled like anything but flowers, they didn't really need any more. They practically lived in a greenhouse.

The smell was the whole reason he and Seifer didn't get along in the first place—one fateful recess in elementary school, the older boy decided Hayner was actually a girl because he always came to school smelling like roses. What kind of boy smells like roses? Not a real boy, certainly. Seifer promptly christened him 'Hayley', which prompted the first fight the two had ever had. Hayner never got over the indignity of having his gender re-assigned, Seifer never stopped being an ass about it, and neither of them believed in settling their differences like mature adults, so the not-so-civil unrest is history that continues to this day.

Hayner heaved a disgruntled sigh and turned to the kitchen. "Mom, Dad sent you flowers again," he called resignedly.

Belle appeared beside him like magic, face positively shining with happiness and pleasure as she subtly forced him out of the way using a quickly executed hip-shove. "Why thank you!" she told the surprised delivery man while embracing her new gift. "Thank you, very much!"

Hayner's eyes narrowed as the delivery man returned her smile and tipped his hat at her. "Thank you, ma'am! Pretty ladies like you deserve flowers every day!"

His mother blushed, smiled, and thanked him again. With a scowl, Hayner grabbed the man's clipboard, scrawled a horribly illegible signature that gave him large amounts of sadistic satisfaction, and tossed it back at the still-beaming man.

"Thanks," he said caustically, and pushed the door shut in his face.

Belle hummed happily as she brought the half-full vase from the hallway into the kitchen with the new roses and went about replacing them, trimming down stems and getting new water.

She practically had her own little glowing aura of happiness. His parents were hopeless romantics, the both of them.

"Oh, and Hayner!" His mother called. "You'll want to call Quis—Mrs. Almasy. And start packing. Sooner would be better than later!"

Hayner rolled his eyes, and dutifully went to make the phone call everyone seemed to have wanted him to make yesterday. Sheesh.

~x~

If there was anything Roxas actually liked about his roommate Riku, it was that he definitely knew his calculus.

However, Riku's idea of helping him (in reality, Riku didn't care about helping Roxas at all, he was just curious about what his roommate was cursing so vehemently over) was hovering over his shoulder and occasionally saying things like—

"You're doing it wrong," Riku said suddenly after nearly five minutes of silence, other than the sound of Roxas's pencil scratching across the paper.

Then Roxas would freeze, like he was doing right now, and stare in bewildered confusion at the numerical mess in front of him.

And then Riku would just turn and walk away.

That's it. No quick, concise explanation of what he was doing wrong, no gesturing to whatever problem Riku was referring to, nothing. Just turn and walk away.

He'd busy himself by reading Warfare and Harmony, or going back to whatever new computer program he was designing, or something else equally nerdy and intelligent that Roxas was sure the other boy did simply to rub his higher IQ in his face.

It drove Roxas absolutely bonkers.

"You can't just say that and leave," Roxas snarled, spinning around to glare offended fury at his roommate. "What am I doing wrong?"

"Everything," Riku said casually without sparing him a glance, typing away on his laptop like his fingers were one with the keyboard.

Roxas took a deep breath and tried to convince himself that throwing things at Riku wouldn't help the situation. "Okay, look, Riku. Could you, for maybe, I dunno, twenty seconds, not be the asshole you truly are and tell me what I'm doing wrong? Just once. I swear I won't ask you to be so out of character ever again."

Riku gave him a disgusted, irritated look. "No."

"Riku," Roxas growled, rather impressively similar to a very angry Chihuahua. Let's face it, he really isn't big enough to be compared to any other canine species.

"It's not a big deal, Roxas," Riku said snidely, still focused solely on his computer screen. "You're just taking the derivatives of functions instead of integrating them. You'll only have to do the whole assignment over again."

Roxas stared at him before slowly turning to look back at his paper. "Fuck."

Riku snorted and otherwise ignored him.

It took him about another hour and a half to correctly redo his problems, the sound of Riku and his keyboard typing the only other noise in the room. After quickly double checking his work and frantically rifling though the crap on his desk for a stapler, he stole a glance at the clock. He had eighteen minutes to get his work to Professor Leonhart's office.

"Thanks, Riku," Roxas muttered as he went out the door ("Hnn," replied Riku), patting himself down for his ID card. If he had to, he could sprint across campus to the office, but there should be a bus coming by in two minutes or so.

Roxas burst out of the dorm building just as the bus pulled up.

He fidgeted through the entire ten minute ride, every so often remembering not to crinkle the paper too horribly. Stealthily, he made his way back up to the front of the bus as they drew nearer his destination. A little ninja never hurt anyone.

The moment the bus doors opened Roxas took off like Sora on Pixie Stix and made a beeline for the chemistry and mathematics department.

Well okay, maybe not a beeline. It's possible he strolled along at a pace not unlike and certainly as graceful as a determined, high-powered workout walker out for her daily exercise. Or sauntered along with a speed that reinforced the purpose in his gaze, keeping a wary eye out for bicycles and other pedestrian traffic. Or travelled sedately along at—

Okay. Not the point.

He was in sight of the Ansem E. Wise building for physical sciences, and that's all that mattered.

Roxas was checking his phone for the time, glancing up for a second to make sure he wasn't about to run into anything, when his eyes locked onto the back of an awfully familiar figure. His stomach dropped past his shoes when he recognized who he was seeing, everything—his heart, his lungs, his muscles—freezing for a few precious seconds before soaring into hyperdrive.

Then his fight or flight response kicked in and decided he needed to establish a direct flight path in that direction, now, now, now, nownownow.

He hit Cloud with a full-body tackle…or, really, it would have been a full-body tackle if Roxas had been about five inches taller, at least forty pounds heavier, and Cloud wasn't buff. As it was, Roxas basically ran into Cloud with enough force to make his brother stagger three steps to the right, and that's about it. It was sort of like running into a brick wall. Not that he did that on a regular basis, or anything.

"Roxas?" Cloud wheezed, grabbing his brother by the back of the shirt and pulling him away.

"Cloud, what are you doing here?" Roxas hissed, refusing to give ground and clinging to Cloud's shirt like an angry cat. "Why are you here?"

His brother frowned, looking far more irritated then he had any right to be. "None of your business, Roxas. Let go."

Roxas backed up but didn't let go of his shirt. "You're not here to talk to Professor Leonhart, are you?"

Cloud glared at him but didn't respond as he pushed stubbornly forward and methodically pried his little brother's fingers from his shirt.

Cloud," Roxas protested fervently, wincing at the unnecessary strength being employed against his hands. Cloud, stop. Can't you just—ow, ow!—alone? Just let it go; I know it's not—ah! Okay!—one of your strong suits and all but—Jenova's light Cloud, steps, there are steps here! Ow!"

"'Tall, dark, and handsome'?" Cloud asked abruptly, walking his clinging relative backward up the stairs.

"What?" Roxas asked, bewildered.

"Tall. Dark. And handsome."

Roxas's brain spun its wheels and dug through his speech history wheels since those words were clearly supposed to mean something to him. Where would he have even used that phrase around Cloud before? Nope, nope, nope, nothing. Who could be described that way? Nope, nope, Zack? No, haven't seen him lately. Nope, nope, he's blond, nope, Professor Leonhart?

Oooooh, Professor Leonhart…oops.

Roxas cleared his throat haltingly as Cloud dragged the last finger from his clothing and pushed him out of the way. "Yes, um, well…I didn't mean that. Well he is, a bit, if you like that sort of thing, but that was more my brain-to-mouth filter malfunctioning—"

"You actually said that?" Cloud growled, narrowing his eyes. "You actually said that. Roxas, my last two girlfriends were blonde!"

"I said it was a brain-to-mouth malfunction!" Roxas huffed, following his brother into the building and glancing at his phone again. He had about three minutes.

Cloud turned around and socked him in the shoulder without holding back, complete with the gift of a dirty look.

With a surprised yelp, Roxas retreated out of range, rubbing furiously at the fist-shaped bruise that would undoubtedly appear in a matter of minutes.

"Cloud," Roxas said irritably, trailing a safe distance behind as they started up the stairs.

"Sod off, Roxas," Cloud said flatly.

"Cloud," Roxas repeated with a scowl, stomping along after him and twisting laser eye daggers into his brother's back. "Can you at least wait five seconds while I turn this in?" He brandished his homework ineffectually at the air.

"Sure," Cloud said in a voice that promised he would make like a tree and leave the second his brother left him alone.

Said brother gritted his teeth and clenched his fists, further wrinkling the paper in his hands. He gave Cloud one last nasty glare and sprinted past him to the third floor where Professor Leonhart's mailbox was located, five doors down from Professor Zexion's classroom…

When he got back to the second floor, Cloud had vanished.

xxxxxx

Author's Note: Review? :D