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Ten thirty on a Friday night, and Seifer was alone in the Sandlot. He was the first to arrive and the last to leave. As head of the disciplinary committee, he took it upon himself to check the back alleyways and the surrounding areas before heading home. The only real duty he had now was patrol, since Roxas and his friends had moved into the mansion on the outskirts of town.

While he, Rai and Fuu had been on their journey, five newcomers had appeared out of thin air and made the town their home. Their skills rivalved that of Sora’s with their mysterious blades and command over the elements and so, Seifer’s newly gained strength hadn’t been spent on fighting heartless or white coated freaks, but besting Hayner with his struggle bat.

It started as a welcome back kind of thing, a nostalgic weekly brawl that turned daily. With each match, (shouting matches more than anything) their time breaking through defenses and practicing dodges grew longer. Rai and Fuu would leave without saying goodbye when the hour grew late. Pence, Olette and Roxas would quickly wave at Hayner and take their leave.

It’d just be the two of them, struggle bats in hand, fingers calloused and breath short-winded as the hours waned. It didn’t take a genius to see that their spars were Hayner’s way of showing that he’d missed him. They’d been applying their physical abilities to the specifics of their relationship. Spinning out of the way when Hayner’s eyes lingered a bit too long, leaping backward when Seifer offered to patch up the bruises and scratches afterward and weaving through the insults that’d turned endearing,

They both knew it. Or at least, Seifer did. Hayner could be an idiot sometimes. All the time. He was hopeless, and so, earlier in the day when the air was humid and the spar had been cut short due to dehydration, Seifer had taken the first step. If he hadn’t, they’d still be doing their routine. Seifer wanted a change. Waiting for something to happen was a waste of time. There was nothing to lose. Just acceptance of something they’d both known about for years.

Seifer offered Hayner a hand up, rolling his eyes at the blonde’s suspicious stare.

Hayner took it, mumbling a thanks under his breath but avoiding Seifer’s gaze.

“You like me,” Seifer told him, because it was true. Seifer got a laugh out of Hayner playing it up, though. He gawked at him, brown eyes blown wide in surprise at the sheer audacity that Seifer would say such a thing.

“No I don’t you fuckin—!”

“You do,” Seifer crossed his arms. “You have for years.”

Hayner’s mouth would not close. He kept gaping at Seifer in lieu of a response. Seifer had to kick it into high gear or nothing would get done. “It’s the same for me.”

That got Hayner to shut his mouth. He regarded Seifer, brown eyes searching for an explanation to the very impromptu confession. Seifer didn’t have anything to hide and he met Hayner’s gaze evenly.

Hayner pulled back, apparently finding whatever he’d been looking for. “Huh. Really, Almasy.”

Really, chickenshit.”

“It’s chickenwuss, fucker.”

Seifer smirked. “You’d know, huh?”

Hayner huffed and crossed his arms, his right foot tapping impatiently. “You like me.”

“Yeah. Keep up.”

“Oh, fuck off,” Hayner complained, lowering his arms and giving Seifer an exasperated look. “Is that what you went on that journey for? To get some courage to confess?”

Seifer almost picked up the abandoned struggle bat by his feet and wacked Hayner with it to remind him who’d been consistently kicking his ass the past few weeks, but that’d set them back. Seifer, honestly, wanted to get this settled. “Stop changing the subject out of embarrassment.”

“I’m not! I just—” Hayner ran his hands through his hair, sweat dripping down his brow. “You can’t just say shit like that out of the blue.”

“I just did,” Seifer told him. He raised an eyebrow. “Are you gonna respond? Or keep denying it?” Hayner opened his mouth to say something but Seifer kept speaking. “Because we both know we’ve had something going on for years.”

It went without saying that Seifer decided to act because he wasn’t content to keep the game going for another few years, but Hayner was oblivious and the hidden meaning soared right over his head. For a moment, Seifer wondered why he bothered. But the way Hayner stared at him, the way they butted heads and fought and wrestled. It was fun. Fun in a way that it wasn’t with Roxas, the blue-eyed blonde having an underlying seriousness that Seifer wasn’t sure about.

Hayner was simply unique. A reckless, stubborn, idiot that hadn’t left Seifer’s mind once during his entire journey. When he’d returned and spotted Hayner’s eyes through the welcoming crowd, that’s when he knew. Something had to change, and since Hayner hadn’t stepped up (Seifer knew he wouldn’t, but he gave him the chance anyway), he took things into his own hands.

The ball was in Hayner’s court and he was fumbling with it. The idiot kept glaring at him and looking away, crossing his arms, wiping sweat off his face, anything to keep from moving forward. Hayner, being a chickenwuss to the very end.

Seifer uncrossed his arms, taking a step forward. “For fuck’s—”

“Fine!” Hayner faced him, throwing his hands up and looking peeved. “Shit, fine, asshole. Fine. You’re right.”

Seifer was always right, but kept that to himself. What mattered was that Hayner had finally agreed. “Good.”

“Good?” Hayner repeated, raising an eyebrow. “That all you got to say?”

Seifer rolled his shoulders, grabbed his struggle bat and walked over to the storage garage where they were kept. “Yeah.”

What.” Hayner sounded livid and Seifer laughed. He tossed his bat into the garage and made a motion with his head that Hayner should do the same. Begrudgingly, glaring at Seifer all the while. He tossed his bat in the storage garage and watched with an impatient expression as Seifer took his time locking it up.

When Seifer turned, Hayner pinned him with an irritated stare. “So?!”

Seifer snorted. “So, what?”

Hayner gestured between them with his forefinger. “What are we, then?”

Holy shit, did Seifer have to do everything? He’d already brought it up, spelled it out, explained it and now Hayner wanted him to make it official, too? Seifer groaned. Maybe showing was better than telling.

With a one quick, smooth motion, Seifer grabbed Hayner’s jacket. It wasn’t antagonizing, just attention getting. Hayner looked down at Seifer’s hand before he raised his eyes in challenge, brown eyes ready and waiting for a scrap that wasn’t going to happen. Seifer gave him cool and slick to work with and Hayner nearly fell apart, dark blonde eyebrows nearly reaching his hairline.

Seifer decided, then and there, that cool and slick needed to be used more. Flustering Hayner was a new game that he was more than eager to play. He brought their faces close, smirk confident. “You tell me,” he muttered, blonde eyebrow raised as he waited for a response.

Hayner, despite the sweltering heat, turned even redder. Seifer laughed in his face and was pushed backwards with a forceful shove. Hayner straightened out his jacket, wiped his sweaty hands on the back of his pants and glowered with all the energy he had left. “You’re such an asshole,” he hissed.

Seifer crossed his arms, disappointed. “That’s not an answer.”

Hayner paused, licked his lips. He looked down at the dirt between them. “So then… we’re…”

“Dating,” Seifer told him, his voice final. No more arguing or avoiding.

Hayner’s eyes widened but he didn’t look up. “Dating,” he said, tasting the word on his tongue.

Seifer nodded even though Hayner couldn’t see it. “Right. You good with that, chickenwuss?”

Instead of using his words like a normal person, Hayner punched Seifer in the arm. It didn’t hurt or do anything really, but Seifer tolerated it with a raised brow and an annoyed scowl. Hayner raised his head and his expression was somewhat bashful. Cute, if Seifer was being honest. He kept his composure, rolling his eyes when Hayner mumbled, ‘fine, whatever’, under his breath and left the Sandlot with hurried steps.

That had been an hour or so ago. As he cleaned the Sandlot, double checked the nearby alleyways and tunnels, he considered the change in his and Hayner’s relationship. After so many years, it was hard to think of what dating between them would look like. Meetups and conversations that weren’t entirely focused on challenges and one-upping each other? Hand holding? Kissing? Who was he kidding. It’d probably be another year or so before it felt like they were actually dating.

Word traveled fast in their town. One text made the rounds in a matter of minutes. Seifer’s phone kept going off in his pocket. Rai and Fuu asking him questions he didn’t feel like answering. Eventually, their poking and prodding stopped and Seifer had nothing but the sound of the wind and the ambient noise of the late hour to keep him company.

Then he felt it. A spike of electricity. A jolt ran down his spine that put him on edge. Seifer balled his hands into fists and turned, following a rule that’d taken him ages to ingrain into Hayner’s head: face your enemy fully.

Quiet footfalls accompanied a presence he’d felt before. Not an outsider, not anymore, but he was at one point. His silhouette came into view, wild blonde hair and biting blue eyes. Roxas walked toward him, his black hoodie standing out among the backdrop of orange and tan buildings. The change in the air, the look in his eye. Roxas had come seeking something, but Seifer wasn’t so sure he wanted to answer.

The only thing he owed Roxas was thanks for keeping the town safe, thanks that Seifer didn’t want to give. Sora had proven how strong he was, and it was Sora that Seifer had entrusted the town to while he was gone. Roxas and his friends had blown in like a blizzard, making themselves at home and keeping the secret of Sora’s whereabouts to themselves. Roxas had taken Sora’s place, and though Seifer was loathe to admit it, he could fill the burnett's shoes just fine.

Despite that acknowledgement, there’d always been some animosity between them. And tonight, Seifer was determined to find out why.

“It’s almost curfew, punk,” he called, undeterred when Roxas kept walking toward him. “You got a reason for being out so late?”

Cold blue eyes stared straight into his soul. There, in Roxas’s eyes. That underlying confidence. That understanding Seifer couldn’t tap into. Everyone trusted him, trusted his whole group of friends that had appeared out of nowhere, but Seifer knew better.

Roxas let out a breath and it billowed from his mouth into white smoke. It was the middle of spring, yet it looked as if Roxas was freezing. Seifer narrowed his eyes, hair standing up on the back of his neck.

“I could ask you the same thing,” Roxas said, head tilting slightly. “Out late sparring with Hayner again, huh?”

“What’s it to you?” Seifer asked.

Roxas shook his head and lowered it, hands in the pockets of his jeans. They stood there facing each other, air electric with the assurance of a fight. The breeze blew Seifer’s jacket and Roxas’s hood. Something about Roxas just pissed him off. He couldn’t pinpoint what it was. The vivid blue of his eyes, the certainty in his stance, or the way he so flawlessly inserted himself into the town and the lives of its residents.

Roxas raised his head and it felt as if a hurricane had passed through the Sandlot. Seifer stood his ground, unperturbed by shows of power. The punk would have to do better than that to get him to waver.

Roxas, to Seifer’s annoyance, looked impressed. He grinned cheekily and shifted his weight to his right foot. “Let’s spar, Seifer. For old time’s sake.”

Seifer didn’t have the discernment to ask what Roxas meant by that. A whole world stood between them, blocking the two from ever seeing eye to eye. Seifer wasn’t looking to build any bridges and Roxas seemed to feel the same way. The divide between them stretched ever wider, and with a smirk and a hand on his hip, Seifer did his part in keeping the two of them separate.

“Fine by me.”

The garage was opened, two struggle bats were brought out, and the two stood on opposite sides of the Sandlot. Their spar, or brawl more like, would be more intense than the sparring matches with Hayner, or the hard fought battles against beings of pitch black, or even the tricky matches against creatures of white. Seifer took a defensive stance, struggle bat held high, eyes narrowed. He calmed his breathing and kept his eyes on the boy in front of him.

Roxas switched the struggle bat from his right to left hand indecisively. Seifer watched this confusedly. Why the fuck did he challenge him if he had no clue which hand to hold the damn thing in?

Eventually, Roxas settled on the right, but his left hand moved over to clasp the hilt of the bat as well. So Seifer was left wondering what the fuck the point of the indecisiveness had been if Roxas was going to use both hands anyway?

“You’re a fucking mess,” Seifer told him with an exasperated shake of his head.

Roxas had the gall to smile. “You’re right about that,” he agreed, then he was gone.

Seifer took a step back, eyes blown wide as he searched the Sandlot for signs of his opponent. Eyes and ears open, steady breaths, be ready. Seifer spun around, blocking Roxas’s bat with his own. The fucker had tried to get him from behind. Where had that speed come from?

Roxas was suspended in air for a moment, his momentum allowing him to ‘float’ as he locked eyes with Seifer. “Not bad,” Roxas complimented.

Seifer smirked. He had to admit, Roxas had some spunk. “Same to you.”

Roxas’s smile turned sinister, his eyes glowing in the evening light. “Let’s see if you can keep up.”

Again, Roxas disappeared and Seifer readied himself for another incoming attack. It wouldn’t be from behind. Probably from the front or the sides, in his blindspot, or above. To his dismay, he turned out to be right about all of the possibilities. Roxas was a cyclone, appearing in front of Seifer in a flash and attempting to knock the bat out of his hand. When Seifer moved back quickly, Roxas was gone again, appearing on Seifer’s right side.

Seifer dodged, rolled, ducked and dived as Roxas attacked ceaslessly and rapidly. He’d been right to say on the defensive, but with all the moving he had to do, he was getting winded. It had to be the same for Roxas. That amount of speed had to come at a great price. He needed an opening. He kept his eyes focused and his breathing even.

Roxas came at him again, the constant sound of bats hitting each other echoing throughout the Sandlot. Seifer blocked another blow, spun around and parried another. He flipped backward, eyes searching the sky for a streak of black or a glimpse of blonde. Roxas’s movements weren’t as fast as when they’d first started. He tried to get Seifer on his left, but he was blocked easily. The last three strikes had been behind, right, then left. Roxas had gotten predictable. Speed wasn’t everything, after all.

With a confident twirl of his bat, Seifer, raised it above his head just as Roxas appeared. Their bats collided and Roxas had just enough time to be surprised before Seifer pulled back, spun, and swung his bat against Roxas’s abdomen.

Roxas went flying across the Sandlot. He twirled in the air, landing on his feet before stumbling backward on his ass. He stared at Seifer from across the way, bat discarded by his side. Seifer raised his bat, breathing heavily and ignoring the pain in his wrist. In a split second, Roxas could disappear. Better to err on the side of caution than get the shit beat out of him.

A burst of laughter had him faltering, his struggle bat nearly falling out his hand. Roxas’s head was tilted back as his shoulders shook and his rich laughter replaced the sound of smacking struggle bats. Carefully, Seifer lowered his guard. He took a few steps closer to Roxas, his bat held loosely in his hand.

“If I’d had two bats,” Roxas sputtered, wiping his eye with a finger, “it would’ve been over before it started.”

Seifer rolled his eyes. What kind of bullshit excuse was that. “Two bats against one is cheating, dipshit.”

“I know,” Roxas acknowledged. “It’s just been a while since I’ve had to use just one.”

Seifer had no idea what that meant and he didn’t care enough to ask. He stood above Roxas and held out a hand for the blonde to take. Roxas stared at him for a second before reaching up and grasping it firmly. Seifer pulled and the two stood on equal ground, their hands still connected by a grip that had no business being so strong.

Seifer scowled, his eyes narrowed in questioning, but Roxas met his gaze evenly. While before they’d avoided one another unless conversation was absolutely necessary, tonight, fighting one on one, they’d learned something about each other. Seifer had learned that Roxas was a relentless threat, and Roxas had learned that Seifer’s journey hadn’t been all talk.

Mutual respect had been given, but that didn’t explain the hold Roxas still had on Seifer’s hand.

“Listen,” Roxas spoke, a storm in his eyes as he looked up at Seifer. “If you hurt him, you’ll have to deal with me.” The tension came back in full force. Roxas’s grip on Seifer’s hand grew tighter, his fingers pushed together uncomfortably.

Seifer didn’t back down. He was annoyed that Roxas of all people had something to say about a relationship that had nothing to do with him. “You’ve got some fucking nerve—”

“Hurt him,” Roxas interrupted, taking a step closer so their faces were a whisper apart. “And the next time we fight, I won’t hold back.” Roxas released his hand and glared, blue eyes trained on cyan.

It was there that Roxas made his mistake. Seifer could be observant when he wanted to. He picked up on little things that others missed. As Roxas glared in an attempt to be intimidating, Seifer saw the way his lip quivered. That observation led him to another, the way Roxas had wiped his eyes after their match. That connected with the blonde’s sudden appearance not long after a certain text had made the rounds.

Friday, in the Sandlot thirty minutes before curfew, Seifer discovered a truth that Roxas had wanted to keep hidden. He should’ve figured it out sooner. He should’ve paid attention, looked away from Hayner for a second to take stock of the blue-eyed blonde that was always by his side.

Roxas had feelings for Hayner.

Enmity flowed from Seifer in waves. What the fuck was this now. As if the town wasn’t enough, Roxas had to come after Hayner, too? Seifer didn’t even know Roxas that well, but the fucker had been driving him up the wall since he’d gotten back. All the courtesy from earlier left him with an indignant snort and a frown that’d make the bravest shirk away in fear.

Roxas stood tall, unafraid.

The piece of shit was insistent on making Seifer’s life hell.

“Look, you little worm,” Seifer spat, cyan glowing with a bitter coldness. “Mind your own fucking business and go home.”

Roxas opened his mouth but Seifer cut him off with a rough shove that sent him shuffling backwards. “Now,” Seifer seethed, his fingernails digging into the palms of his hands.

Roxas regarded him with a raised brow and a grimace. Seifer stood unwavering, a bulwark of attitude and authority that Roxas seemed to have had enough of for one night. He dusted the dirt off his jeans and flipped Seifer off as a parting gift.

Again, Seifer was left alone. He grit his teeth, clenched his jaw, tightened his entire body up as the new information bounced around in his head. Roxas was an annoying pest that kept coming back, a shadow that Seifer wanted gone. Yet, somehow, as he stood there in the Sandlot cursing Roxas for everything he’d taken from him, he felt… sympathetic. The look in his eyes and the determination with which he fought. Those feelings had been real.

Sometime while Seifer had been away growing physically and mentally, Roxas had been falling in love. And tonight, Seifer had snuffed out any chance he’d had of getting with Hayner. He should feel vindicated and triumphant, but he didn’t. He felt… something. Some conflicted emotion that he couldn’t name. Was there a name for it? The hard rock that sat at the bottom of his stomach and the tiny, twisting pain in his heart?

Seifer didn’t know and as the clocktower gonged, alerting the town of the late hour, he decided that he needed to find out.

 


 

The next day, everyone gave Seifer knowing glances and pats on the back. The word finally was a mantra as people talked about his relationship with Hayner. They spoke with kindness, suggesting places for dates and wondering aloud if Seifer’s influence would help Hayner with his temper. Wishful thinking, to be sure.

Rai and Fuu stuck to his side like the pillars of support they were, and as they neared the tunnels on their patrol, they spotted Hayner’s gang. He had no clue what they were doing, probably sleuthing since that was their favorite pastime, but once Olette turned and pointed them out, a change occurred that Seifer hadn’t been prepared for.

Hayner didn’t frown and ready his fists for a clash. He stared at Seifer, brown eyes flickering back and forth before he crossed his arms and looked to the ground. On his cheeks, the faintest of blushes could be seen and Seifer couldn’t believe he was dating this absolute fool.

“What’re you doin’ down here, lamer?” Seifer asked. He realized a second too late that he’d only addressed Hayner when his entire posse was there with him. Pence and Olette noticed immediately, snickering and exchanging glances like the annoying insects they were. Roxas stood behind them, head turned away from Seifer, his hands in his pockets.

Hayner’s sharp eyes turned to him, his lips raised in a pout. He started walking toward him and Seifer met him halfway. With some distance between them and the meddling eyes and ears of their respective groups of friends, the sharpness in Hayner’s eyes lessened and the domineering presence Seifer commanded dwindled.

“Hiding,” Hayner told him, his hands on his hips. “You’ve been walking around, haven’t you? Everyone won’t shut up about us.”

Seifer read between the lines. “Upset everyone knew about it but you?”

In a flash, Hayner grabbed hold of Seifer’s jacket, brown eyes blazing with anger. “Like you’re any better! You waited till now to tell me!”

Seifer took advantage of their closeness to smirk at Hayner in a very charming way. “Better late than never. At least I said something.”

Hayner fell into disarray, releasing Seifer’s jacket and taking a step back for good measure. Holy fuck, Seifer loved that new trick.

“Prick,” said Hayner, pout back in place.

True, Seifer could be quite prickish when he wanted to be. Still, they were dating and there were a few things that Seifer didn’t mind changing. He tugged on Hayner’s jacket. “Keep an eye on your phone,” he told him.

Hayner eyed him. “Why?”

Because,” Seifer replied.

Recognition flickered in Hayner’s eyes. He sighed heavily, making a big show out of the thinly veiled promise between the two of them. “Fine, but leave! Maybe if everyone bothers you about it, they’ll leave me alone.”

Seifer rolled his eyes but obliged Hayner’s request anyway. The younger blonde returned to Pence and Olette, immediately spouting off excuses when they started teasing him. But then Seifer noticed at the exact same time as Hayner that Roxas had vanished.

That forlorn, hidden look in Roxas’s eyes resurfaced in Seifer’s mind. He frowned as he led Rai and Fuu out of the tunnels.

On his journey, he’d gotten stronger, in his own way and on his own terms. He’d learned more about himself and his comrades. Fuu and her calm, calculating way of speaking and fighting. Rai’s resilience and buoyant personality. With more bruises than they could count, soreness in places they hadn’t thought possible and bloodied knuckles that made them feel alive, they’d all grown.

When he looked at Roxas, he knew the other boy had been on his own journey. Seifer didn’t know the details, but just from the look in Roxas’s eyes, he knew it’d been dire. Worse than what Seifer had gone through. It could be part of the reason Seifer couldn’t stand him. Those eyes… they’d seen things that Seifer couldn’t even imagine.

Sympathy clambered down his throat and settled in his heart. He wasn’t going to make any promises, but he’d… try.

He’d changed, after all.

 


 

The forest stood on the outskirts of town, treacherously mysterious. Classmates and lowerclassmen constantly ventured through the tunnels on late Friday nights as a test of courage. ‘They say there’s weird creatures in there’, they gossiped. ‘Bet you can’t make it all the way to the haunted mansion’, they challenged. There was truth to their claims, but Seifer had made it part of his job to shut those adventures down. Hayner and his gang had worsened things with their comments about the girl in the window.

Now that Roxas and his friends had settled in there, the gossip and feats of strength stopped. People braved the forest, playing games or meeting up with others. No shadows bothered them, no screams, shrieks or accidents. But the girl was still there in the window of the mansion, joined by two others as they watched kids play in the woods.

Seifer hadn’t had to stop by for patrol in weeks. The eerie shades were nowhere to be found. After fighting them for months, Seifer would’ve felt their presence. Would there come a time when the shadows left Twilight Town entirely?

The person who’d know stepped through the double doors of the tunnels with two more by his side. Their names escaped Seifer for the moment, but he tried to recall them. See-on? Shine? Something like that. And… Nami. Whether it was a nickname or her actual one, Seifer couldn’t say. It was what Hayner always called her, in any case.

The three of them paused when they spotted Seifer, the two girls looking at him with wide eyes. The black-haired one glared at him and the blonde girl touched her arm. Roxas stood to the side of them, blue eyes regarding Seifer with a coldness that created distance.

“Need something?” Roxas asked, hands in his pockets, posture lax. The black haired girl looked to Roxas and then to Seifer again. They followed their friends lead, easing up on the aggressive expressions and postures. Seifer smirked. Roxas just seemed to be surrounded by ride or die friends, didn’t he?

“I need to talk to you,” Seifer answered, glancing at the girls, “alone.”

Roxas thinned his lips. His face contorted in reluctance. “Fine,” he begrudged, looking at the two girls with a sigh. “You guys go ahead. I’ll catch up.”

Nami and… the other girl looked to each other and then back to Roxas.

“Call if there’s trouble,” the black-haired one said and Roxas nodded in reply. The two girls gave Seifer a pointed look before they continued walking through the forest.

It was just the two of them. The clocktower sounded, eight bells that echoed throughout the town. Seifer waited patiently until they were finished before speaking up. “Are you gonna tell him?”

Roxas started, eyes wide and eyebrows raised. He knew immediately what Seifer was talking about, which was refreshing compared to the slow slog that was getting Hayner to concede that they liked each other.

With a sigh and a quick hand through his hair, Roxas composed himself enough to answer. “No, there’s no need.”

Not entirely unexpected. Considering how Roxas had shown up last night all ‘protective best friend’, Seifer had suspected as much. It was still good to get verbal confirmation. But, also, he was curious. He knew and Roxas knew so what was stopping him from telling Hayner the truth? It wouldn’t change anything. Was he afraid of how Hayner would take it?

“Really,” Seifer said, deciding to prod. It was the only way he’d get clarification. “You don’t think he needs to know?”

“What good would that do?” Roxas asked, laughter in his voice. He shook his head in disbelief. “Look, I’m not gonna impede your relationship or whatever. You don’t need to worry about me, if that’s why you’re here.”

Seifer couldn’t explain that he was here because sympathy had choked his heart to near stillness. “You sure it wouldn’t make you feel better?”

Roxas stared at him, those blue eyes suspicious, thinking on what Seifer was getting at. He came up empty. There was no ulterior motive to find and bring to light. Just stupid feelings and empathy that Seifer despised.

“I’m not sure,” Roxas replied, eyes turned up toward the evening sky. “I’ve never felt like this before.” His expression was wistful, perhaps longing for fate to alter its course. “But… telling him feels like the wrong thing to do.”

Seifer studied him, waiting for a change in opinion, but none came. “If you’re sure.” He eased himself away from the tree he’d been leaning against and made toward the tunnels.

“Seifer,” Roxas called, his gaze still skyward. “Why do you care? I told you I’m not going to do anything.”

“I know,” said Seifer, arms crossed and glower back in place. He supposed, in order to convince Roxas of his intentions, sincerity was needed. “Your face always pisses me off, but… last night, it was worse than usual.”

He let those words settle in the air between them, in the rustling of leaves and the swaying of branches. When nothing else was said, Seifer took his leave and the boy with tears gathering in his eyes stood in the forest alone.

 


 

<Plaza

>wanna try that again? use more words? try making sense?

<MEET ME AT THE PLAZA

>how about a TIME shitfer????

<NOW

>FINE why didn’t u just send a normal text. r u stupid??

<We can meet up at the lot instead. Kick your ass instead of doing what I originally planned.

>wait whats the original plan??

<Get your ASS TO THE PLAZA AND FIND OUT

Seifer shoved his phone in his pocket with more force than he should’ve and stared out over the town. The view paled in comparison to the one from the clocktower, but Seifer enjoyed it. The multicolored rooftops, the smell of fresh baked goods from the bistro, the sound of laughter and conversation. Twilight Town was alive, it was home, and he’d missed it.

The breeze welcomed him and the suns rays warmed his skin. The clocktower was nearly always occupied, but as Seifer stood on the terrace with it’s wide open space, he wasn’t bothered. He’d take the plaza any day.

“So, what’re we doing here?” Hayner called, strolling up to Seifer with a raised brow. “Cause it looks like a whole lotta nothing.”

Fuck. That was one thing about the plaza he’d forgotten about. The sun was at a perfect angle here and its rays bathed everything and everyone in a warm light. Hayner’s eyes caught the light and held it, brown lightening up to appear almost orange. Seifer stopped breathing, his eyes opening a fraction wider than normal.

Hayner stared at him, arms crossed as he leaned against the stone wall. He waved his hand in front of Seifer’s face. “Hello? You called me here, remember? Start explaining.”

Hayner ruined it. Seifer snapped out of his daze with an annoyed look. He smacked Hayner’s hand out of his face. “Shut it, chickenwuss.”

“I thought the chickenwuss shit would stop now that…” Hayner trailed off with a roll of his hand and a blush.

“That shit is never gonna stop,” Seifer stated, facing the sunset as Hayner came to stand beside him. “And we’re dating. Dating. Do we need to go over it again?”

No, fucker, shut up!” Hayner said with a shove. Or tried to. Seifer didn’t so much as move from the contact.

They were close together, arms a mere centimeter away from touching. It took Seifer a moment to recall that they could touch now. No more almost touches and quick glances. Thank god for that. It was over and Seifer planned on enjoying it fully. He leaned against Hayner, probably a bit too much because the loser let out a shocked noise before leaning his weight back against Seifer.

A whole minute had passed and neither of them had flung a single insult. So weird. Seifer was unsettled but that was overshadowed by the excitement he felt for change.

Hayner observed the sunset for a time, but then his patience ran out. He turned to Seifer, face scrunched up in annoyance. “You called me here to show me the view I see everyday?”

Seifer, personally, didn’t see the problem with looking at the sunset again. It never changed, so they said, but it was never quite the same either. “No. I needed to tell you we’re meeting on Sunset Hill tomorrow.”

Hayner squawked indignantly. “That could’ve been done over text, you fuck!” Another shove, though this one had more force behind it. Seifer actually moved a little.

Seifer rested his chin in his palm, leaning his weight on the stone wall as he kept his eyes on the view. “Would you have preferred I do it that way? Because you looked pretty happy to see me when you came skipping up the fucking street.”

Hayner scoffed, but turned away before Seifer could get a good look at his face. “God, you make me so sick.”

“Funny, cause every time I get in your face you look pretty excited.”

“I don’t fucking get excited!”

“Then what is it?” Seifer asked, turning his head and moving into Hayner’s personal bubble. Those eyes of his, so fucking pretty. Seifer couldn’t stand it. “Tell me.”

“You—I—!” Hayner stuttered, cheeks unbearably pink.

Words, Hayner,” Seifer requested, an amused smile on his face.

Hayner looked shocked that Seifer had used his actual name. Seifer was as well. It hadn’t been intentional. But, quickly, Hayner’s shocked expression turned to one of mischief. Suddenly, Seifer was the one who didn’t know what was going on.

Hayner leaned forward, their lips pressing together with the sunlight shining on their faces. Seifer’s eyes stayed open as Hayner’s were screwed shut tightly. Their first kiss was forceful and powerful and not exactly sweet, but Seifer prefered it that way. A challenge, even in acts of affection. Seifer steadily pushed back, closed his eyes and savored the moment. Just as he’d gotten into it, Hayner pulled away looking smug. He took a step back and pointed a finger in Seifer’s direction.

“Ha! I kissed you first, shitface!” He shouted, all proud and cocky. Seifer’s raised a brow and Hayner hesitated, realization making him drop his hand and lower his head. “Fuck, I kissed you first.”

“I didn’t know how badly you wanted to mack on me, chickenwuss,” Seifer said, furious blush betraying his tease. And here he’d been planning on swooping in and making Hayner get all nervous and embarrassed. Of course the fucker had to turn it around on him.

“I don't!” Hayner protested, smoke practically blowing out of his ears. He faced away from Seifer, trying to keep his dignity in tact. This one time, Seifer was glad for it. He seriously hadn’t thought Hayner would take the initiative.

Their first kiss. At the station plaza, no less. Well… Seifer supposed he’d have to give the win to Hayner, after all.

“Not bad,” he commented, scratching at his chin and inconspicuously ghosting his fingers over his lips.

Hayner glanced at him and Seifer caught his gaze out of the corner of his eye. Hayner turned away first, and Seifer laughed, pushing away from the wall. As he walked past Hayner — who looked like he was going to pass out from heat stroke, his face was so red — Seifer purposely bumped into him. Not too hard, but not gently either. Hayner grunted and somehow managed to make it sound pissed.

“Tomorrow. Around five.” Seifer reminded, his voice carrying on the breeze as he put his hands in the pockets of his jacket. Not exactly the smooth execution he’d wanted, but it would do. He’d forgotten how fond Hayner was of surprises.

He needed to step up his game.

 


 

Every citizen of Twilight Town liked Sunset Terrace. Plenty to do, sights to see, trams to ride, and hills to reminisce on. All that, and to top it off, with a quick turn of the head, the sunset was in perfect view. It showered the terrace in pleasant colors. Seifer enjoyed it. Like the plaza, it was another favorite place of his. A shame he didn’t have much reason to visit, seeing as there were hardly any problems on the terrace. Perhaps the lively atmosphere and the comforting feelings kept trouble away.

It was around 4:30 when Seifer arrived at the terrace. He wanted to get there early in order to intimidate anyone that was on Sunset Hill to leave. A scowl was usually all it took, save for Hayner and his gang.

They’d usually stay there, defiant until the bitter end while Hayner stepped up to tell Seifer off. It had always gone that way. Olette and Pence standing in the background as Hayner got in his face. Rai and Fuu encouraging him to put Hayner in his place as the tough talk started.

They’d always been that way, the two of them. For as long as Seifer could remember. Hayner had always been a bold, rowdy idiot who had no problem saying what was on his mind. Everyone else acknowledged Seifer’s strength, some praised it, agreed with his role in protecting the town. But Hayner was a foil that challenged Seifer every step of the way. A worthy rival, Seifer admitted, but never to Hayner himself. The little shit was already too cocky for his own good.

Blonde hair in his peripheral vision halted his thoughts. Seifer thought it was Hayner, initially, but the sunset had played a cruel trick on him. Golden blonde hair swayed in the wind as Roxas sat on a bench. It was odd to see him alone, which probably meant there was a reason for it.

Seifer, against his better judgement and tight schedule, turned and walked toward the water fountain.

His footsteps were deliberately loud as he walked closer to the bench. Roxas didn’t turn to greet him. Seifer would’ve been pissed about it but as he drew closer, he saw that Roxas was eating a pretzel. The special kind made at the little bakery around the corner.

“Why’re you here?” Seifer asked. He knew Roxas wasn’t up to trouble. For one, he wouldn’t get away with it, and two… Seifer knew he wasn’t that kind of person. Roxas was a dumbass punk, not a spiteful shitbird. Those were distinctly different.

Roxas glanced at him, chewing slowly as he eyed Seifer. He swallowed just as Seifer thought to leave. “Can’t a guy eat a pretzel in peace?”

“You know I’m meeting Hayner here,” Seifer stated, cutting straight to the chase. Why was Roxas acting all chummy anyway? They weren’t friends. Their enemy-hatred-rivalry was still in effect, as far as Seifer was concerned.

Roxas’s smile hadn’t been cheerful to start, but now it was downright tragic. He looked to the sunset, the suns rays comforting him the same way as everyone else in Twilight Town. “I know,” he said somberly. “We took the tunnels here.”

Seifer took that in. “Change your mind?” He asked, speaking his thoughts.

The pretzel sat half-eaten in Roxas’s grasp as he stared out over the town. “No,” he replied, vivacity fading from his eyes. “I thought about what you said and… I couldn’t do it.”

Seifer opened his mouth to ask why but Roxas stood then, walking closer to the small concrete fence. He appeared more mature than Seifer gave him credit for. It was at times like these that Seifer noticed the jarring difference between them. Just as with Sora, there was a weight on his shoulders, heavier than disciplinary committee’s and struggle tournaments. A truth that Roxas kept to himself, a reality that kept his eyes staring ever upward. The divide between them would never be closed. Roxas was lightyears away, floating amongst stars and everyone else was resting in the dark.

Seifer had gazed upon it once. During his journey, he felt as if he’d nearly become a part of something much bigger than himself. But as soon as he’d seen it, it vanished. Probably a good thing. He knew he could take it if he truly wanted to, but he didn’t want the sacrifices that came with it.

He didn’t want his eyes to always be drenched in that underlying sadness that had nothing to do with broken skateboards and unrequited love.

“Y’know, I…” Roxas stopped himself with a shake of his head. He took a deep breath and tried again. “These feelings... are mine. They’re proof that I’m alive and human.”

Seifer looked over at him. “And you’d be fine not acting on them?”

Roxas slowly placed his left hand on his chest, covering his heart. “Yeah. I’ll keep them to myself,” he answered with a slow nod of his head. “I’m no stranger to hurt.”

Seifer laughed, a curt, amused thing that masked the curiosity burning inside him. “I can imagine,” he said, looking out at the same sunset. Silently, they took it in, the sun warming their faces and hearts.

Roxas raised his pretzel to his mouth again, taking a bite. “Better get going,” he told Seifer, mouth full and voice muffled. “He’ll be pissed if you’re late.”

Seifer snorted. “He’ll be pissed either way.”

Roxas laughed around a bite of sweetened bread. “Ain’t that the truth.”

With one last glance, Seifer regarded the sunset and the bittersweet feelings that came with it. He turned away from Roxas and began heading toward Sunset Hill. The eyes on his back didn’t feel as malicious as before.

There was strength in holding onto feelings that were begging to burst out. It was no easy task, but Roxas had made that difficult choice himself. Perhaps they had more in common than he’d thought. Well, they had to if they were in love with the same person. Still, Seifer wasn’t worried. Roxas was a tough punk.

He’d come out of it all right.

 


 

Hayner was sitting on the small wooden fence when Seifer came up the hill. He was scowling at his phone, tapping furiously on the screen with quick fingers. Probably an angry text to him, but Seifer, with his long strides, came up to stand beside Hayner before he sent the message.

“Yo,” Seifer greeted, kicking Hayner’s shoe just for the hell of it.

Hayner looked up at him, keeping eye contact as he pocketed his phone. “You’re late.”

Seifer looked over at the clocktower statue. It was 4:58. “I’m not. I said around five.”

“What were you even doing?” Hayner asked.

Seifer hesitated, but settled on keeping it vague. “I had to sort something out.”

Hayner eyed him. “What was it?”

Seifer shook his head, adjusting his beanie when a breeze blew by. “None of your business.”

With a roll of his eyes, Hayner turned his face away. “Whatever.”

It was no wonder Sunset Hill saw so much foot traffic. The appealing decorations, the little benches that could comfortably seat two, the sun's radiance giving the entire area a light dusting of gold.

Hayner’s voice jolted him from his thoughts. “So, why here?”

Seifer kept his eyes on the sunset despite his want to turn his head. He had to prepare himself for that. The sun highlighted Hayner in a charming way and it wasn’t a good look to be so awestruck. “It’s a popular spot,” he answered.

Hayner rolled his eyes. “Yeah, a popular spot for…” He trailed off, going rigid.

“Dates, yeah,” Seifer finished for him.

“Oh.”

“Hm.”

They both fell silent. Behind them, the city tram ran along the track, whistle blowing obnoxiously loud.

Hayner hummed thoughtfully. “First date, huh?”

“Mmhm.”

Hayner laughed suddenly, boisterous but endearing. He pushed away from the fence to stand in front of Seifer with his hands crossed. “Didn’t know you were such a romantic, Almasy.”

Hayner had him there. The first two places he’d asked Hayner to meet him at had been his favorite in the town. He supposed, now that they were together, he wanted to… visit them with Hayner.

Seifer looked up. Hayner was blocking his view of the sun, casting his face in shadow, but Seifer still squinted. With those brown eyes and that sharp smile, the sunlight may as well have still been on him. “I didn’t know I was either,” he muttered.

Hayner’s smile slowly fell and startlement took its place. With the sun on his back and the tips of his dark blonde hair dipped in twilight, Seifer felt that same overwhelming feeling. He stood up, Hayner’s eyes following him as they faced each other. In a smooth motion that looked like Seifer had practiced it (he hadn’t), he moved his right hand upward onto the back of Hayner’s neck.

Hayner had all of a second to be surprised before Seifer kissed him. Their lips pressed together gentle and warm. The romantic atmosphere had gotten to him, Seifer pulling away slowly and opening his eyes to look into dazed brown ones.

“Unsurprising,” Seifer whispered, his calm smile twisting into a smirk. “My kiss was better.”

Hayner’s eyes widened, spell broken and anger at an all time high as he punched Seifer in the arm. Again, it did nothing, but Seifer allowed him the satisfaction of feeling like it did. “You arrogant prick!”

Seifer frowned. “I’m not arrogant.”

Hayner laughed in a disbelieving way. “That is the biggest pile of horseshit I’ve ever heard.”

Seifer lowered his hand and ghosted it down Hayner’s arm to take his left hand. Hayner didn’t even notice and that had Seifer laughing inwardly. “Like you can talk.”

“Hey!” Hayner shouted, pointing a finger in Seifer’s face. “I am a perfect model of humility.”

Seifer’s surprised snort quickly shifted into a bellowing laugh. No greater lie had ever left Hayner’s mouth, and he knew it, too, with the way he smirked at Seifer. “You’re so full of shit,” Seifer chuckled, his breath catching when he felt Hayner’s fingers shift in his hold.

Tightly, their fingers intertwined and Hayner’s knowing smirk was so cocky and stupid, Seifer’s heart fluttered.

Some things wouldn’t change between them, but Seifer was glad for the things that would. Meeting up at romantic places to just fall into the same habits they always did, trying to one-up each other with kisses, holding hands while simultaneously telling each other to fuck off. The little sparks of interest in Hayner’s eyes when Seifer laughed. The sneaky way Seifer would bring them closer together.

It felt natural, like taking the next step on a staircase. And as Hayner pulled on his jacket, loudly exclaiming that he could kiss better than him and was prepared to prove it, Seifer felt them take another step into their new routine together.