It was a night like any other on the Destiny Islands. Sora and Riku had spent the day doing what they usually did in their summer vacation: they had gone to the island, their island, they had fought with swords, sought for treasure, and finally changed into their swimming gear and taken a swim in the shimmering sea water.
Now they were lying on the beach, side by side, perfectly content, taking in the sunset; an explosion of warm yellow and red.
"You know you're my best friend right?"
"Hehe, no need to say it. Of course! Riku, you say some weird stuff sometimes."
And just like that, the silver-haired boy jumped up and ran off to the tiny island that was connected to the main island by a rickety wooden bridge. Sora wondered what his friend was up to. Then he looked at the beautiful sky again, and felt completely relaxed.
Until Riku dropped something heavy on his tummy.
"Here, you lazy bum."
Sora examined the odd-looking, star-shaped object his friend had brought it.
"A paopu fruit?"
Riku nodded solemnly. "It is said, when two people share one, their destinies become intertwined. They will remain a part of each other's lives, no matter what."
Sora let it sink in, looking at the fruit with newly found fascination.
Then Riku broke the serious atmosphere by grinning sheepishly.
"Come on, I know you want to try it."
They broke the fruit in two perfect halves, but Sora hesitated as he brought his piece to his mouth.
"Isn't this paopu sharing... sort of a boy girl thing? I don't know, that's just the impression I get from Selphie."
Riku smiled, "It doesn't have to be."
Chapter one – Welcome back
"Uhm… Hi guys!" Sora squeaked uncertainly, as a group of four boys who were all considerably taller, more muscular and altogether more masculine than he was closed in on him.
"What up, squirt?" The leader of the pack, a particularly vicious senior named Seifer asked in a nasty imitation of an innocent voice. "Had a nice holiday?"
"Err.. Yeah, nice. It was nice. Really nice." Sora said, desperately looking for an escape route. It was no use. He was in the dingiest corner of the back ally, cornered by the four bullies who hadn't left him alone for longer that a week since word got out that he was gay. There was Seifer, of course, the self proclaimed king of the school and a rather stereotypical bully. Then there was Rai, his trusty lieutenant whose brains were in his biceps and who had an annoying tendency to end every sentence with "you know?" while looking at Seifer for some sign of approval. Hayner, who, according to Sora's dark speculations had only started bullying him so he could get closer to Seifer, with whom he had a sickly obsession. And, finally, Riku.
Of all four of them, Riku was the one for whom Sora felt the deepest loathing. Not because Riku pushed the others into making Sora's life miserable; that was Seifer's job. No, it was because he and Riku had been really good friends once, back in the days when they were both still living on Destiny Islands. When Riku's parents and Sora's brother Leon had decided to move to Twilight Town together, they had trusted Sora and Riku would help each other fit in at their new school, Twilight High. Riku was a year older than Sora, so his protection would prevent Sora from being bullied for being a little scrawny and girlish, Leon had reasoned.
He could not have been more wrong. The moment Sora set foot in Twilight High people were whispering about the way he walked, his funny accent and his dubious sexuality. Riku, on the other hand, with his great good looks, his funny and often flirty jokes and his talent for the most popular sport in the world, blitzball, had fit in immediately. All the girls were talking about him with lots of giggles; the hot new guy who came from some tropical island and who had replaced Wakka as captain of the blitzball team the moment coach had seen him play.
They never mentioned Sora though. Sora had, logically, clung to Riku after arriving this new, big, jungle-like school. At first, Riku kept spending time with him, kept walking to school with him and kept having lunch with him. But when Riku discovered he was slowly becoming one of the most popular kids attending Twilight High, he had, to Sora's horror, begun to push the younger boy away, slowly but steadily.
He started having lunch with new friends that seemed to fit in the picture of the popular, handsome and extremely cool guy he wanted to be way better than Sora. This included Seifer and his gang, a quiet but very pretty girl called Namine, a good looking but deranged pyromaniac named Axel and, to top it off, a vivacious and exceedingly slutty girl named Kairi, who quickly became Riku's girlfriend, to Sora's astonishment and disgust. Finally, as he started spending more time with Seifer and his two admirers, he started coming along when they bullied Sora, though he never took an active part in the embarrassment and the beatings. Instead, he hung back with a sort of guilty look on his face, just like he was doing now.
Their former close friendship was what caused Sora to look up at Riku with the nastiest expression he could manage right now. Riku averted Sora's eyes.
"I think a good old dumpster toss would welcome our favourite little squirt back to Twilight High properly, don't you guys?", said Seifer, clearly enjoying his power over the little teen cowering before him.
"Yeah, show him who's boss, you know?" Raj cried in agreement.
"No, please guys, it's the first day back – aaargh!" Sora squealed, as Seifer lifted him off his feet like a fireman. And it was in this fashion that Sora entered Twilight High for his second year there, carried by his tormenters. Sora hated it. He hated the looks people threw him when they saw how he was being carried around by Seifer. He hated both the looks of pity and the looks of amusement. But mostly, he hated Riku for not sticking up for him.
As Seifer closed in on the dumpster that had been affectionately nicknamed "Sora's second home", Sora could not help noticing how nice Seifer smelled; musky, masculine and very sexy. He also had a very nice view of the bully's behind from where Seifer held him, his very well-toned behind…. He must have worked out over the summer… Before he realised what would happen if someone saw it, Sora found himself looking at it with a very strange sort of fascination for how good-looking his blond tormenter was… And how nice he smelled.. But then, Hayner, who was probably looking at Seifer's butt himself, noticed excactly where Sora's eyes lingered. "Seifer," he cried gleefully, "that nasty little fag is checking out your butt!"
Seifer froze in his tracks. Sora felt cold fear streaming up his veins as Seifer threw him off his shoulder and in front of the dumpster. The tall blond senior looked down at the scrawny sophomore in front of him with a very menacing glare that caused Sora to shiver.
"You dirty little pervert," he said in a deadly soft voice, "I would beat you down to the ground if I didn't think you would enjoy it very much."
Hayner grinned at this, looking at Sora with a very mean look in his eyes. Riku was staring at the ground with great interest. Raj was just grinning stupidly.
"Raj, Hayner. Throw away the thrash." Seifer said with a lazy sort of hand gesture, walking away with Riku. Before he knew it, Sora found himself lifted off his feet.
"In you go you little psycho." Raj growled, throwing Sora into his "second home". He walked away after that, but Hayner lingered and bent over the dumpster. Sora knew what was coming.
"Seifer is a god compared to you, and you're an insect compared to him. You dreaming about his body makes you a total pervert, not that I have not always known you were a pervert. Dirty squirt."
Hot fury took hold of Sora, and before he knew it, he hissed back: "I wonder if your idol will keep you around for long if he noticed how often you check out his butt, and that you can't keep your eyes of him whenever you think he's not looking. At least I'm honest about who and what I am."
Hayner, not the brightest junior around, didn't know what to say to this but simply stared at the brunet with an expression of shock and dislike. "Well…. At least I have friends!" He said when it dawned upon him that Sora had just insulted him, and he hurried away after Seifer, Riku and Raj.
Left alone inside the dumpster, Sora felt very much like crying as he thought about how right Hayner was about him not having any friends. He used to be pretty popular at Destiny High; best friends with the blitzball captain and reasonably good looking with his big blue eyes and his cheerful smile. But at this new school, he was stuck at the very bottom of the food chain, and it didn't seem like that would change anytime soon. Then the bell ringed. Swearing at his bad luck, Sora hurried toward his classroom where he would be treated with double physical sciences by professor Vexen. He had almost reached the science classroom when a poster caught his eye.
It was hung on the message board next to ads for local businesses and a poster for the struggle tournament. It said: "Want to compete in the struggle tournament but lack the brawl? Time to MAN UP! Sign up for fighting lessons today and be the toughest guy around in no time! Private lessons by martial arts expert and licensed instructor Cloud Strife" Before he knew it Sora had written down the phone number. He didn't know why he did it, perhaps because he knew that it was definitely time for him to man up, or maybe because of the picture of this Cloud guy that was shown on the poster, under the text.
He was simply gorgeous, with eyes even bluer than Sora's own, a confident smile on his face, spiky blond hair and very well toned arms. As he hurried into his classroom just in time before the second bell, Sora made a mental note to call the number he had just written down as soon as he got home later that afternoon, and suddenly he felt much more optimistic about the rest of the day and, in fact, the rest of the school year.