Author: Sorceress Fantasia
Warnings: AU, POV, kid!Squall and kid!Cloud, sap, fluff
Word count: 3139
Disclaimer: As much as I would love to lay claim to Cloud, I'm kinda scared of Leon's gunblade. So well, I don't own Kingdom Hearts, the various Final Fantasies or any of their characters.
Summary: He used to be the front right tyre of a truck, until the truck was abandoned and left to rust. Then, he was removed and taken home to become a child's swing. A story about growing up and growing out.
He used to be the front right tyre of a truck. An old, beaten and weathered truck that had, in its better days, taken its driver across the country, village to village, city to city. Those had been his proudest days. He could still remember them, the roughness of the dirt tracks that it traveled across, the coolness of the wind that rushed by, the smell of the petrol and the constant humming of the engine.
And then the truck broke down. It was quickly fixed, but the truck was already old. It broke down again much too soon. He still remembered the force of the kick the driver had delivered to him, cursing gruffly about how it wasn't worth it to fix the truck anymore. Before he knew it, the truck had already been abandoned in a large, open field, its paint peeling and gears rusted stiff.
At first, he'd haboured hope that the driver would come back for them one day. After all, they'd served him so faithfully. But he soon lost count of the number of sunrises and sunsets, got confused about the number of moons it'd been, and the rain beat down on them with such distaste as though it were mocking, "Forget about that man. He'll never come back."
He missed the engine's humming.
But it was so much easier to sleep and not care about anything else without that steady buzz.
So he slept. And waited. Waited.
It could have been a minute, a day, a month, a year, or even more, but eventually, he woke up. In that large, open field, under that rusting truck, he felt hands removing him from the wheel. And like how suddenly he'd found himself abandoned with the truck back then, he found himself taken home by man he'd never seen before.
On the way, as the man held him securely under his arm, he secretly hoped to be fitted onto the wheel of a new vehicle, any vehicle, just to feel useful again. Vaguely, he wondered if the road still felt that rough, if the wind still felt that cool, and if this new engine would hum noisily as the old truck's had. What sort of vehicle would it be? Where would he travel to this time? How many people would depend on him?
All those questions were still racing across his mind when the man tied him to a rope and hung him from a thick, sturdy tree branch in his lawn. It was only when a child came running out of the house and dashed into him that he realized, quite belatedly, that he wasn't fitted to a vehicle. Or even a wheel of any sorts, as a matter of fact.
"Sq-Squall!" the man who'd brought him home yelled, scampering over to the child that was now sitting firmly on the ground and rubbing his head in obvious confusion. The tyre had once heard his old driver mention something about what goes up must come down, and after the child dashed into him, he'd been flung into the air and then come back down, hitting the child squarely on the head. Ah, that explained why it felt like he'd hit something earlier during his reverie.
"Squall! Are you alright? Are you hurt anywhere? You silly boy! That's a swing for you to play with, not to slam yourself into!" the man continued to fret as he dusted the boy's knees and checked over his forehead.
A swing? Is that what he was now? What was a swing, anyway?
Squall did not answer. Instead, he gave the tyre a good, hard look.
The tyre quickly learned what a swing was over the next few months. Squall seemed determined to teach him almost every time he left the house, giving him a good shove and quickly scurrying off to avoid being hit. Sometimes he still missed and when that happened, he'd shove him again in retaliation for knocking him over and getting his pants dirtied by the dust on the ground. This usually happened in the afternoons, when the boy got back from something he called 'elementary school'.
While it wasn't too bad living out his life as a swing for the boy, sometimes the tyre still wondered about the old truck and if he'd ever hear an engine's hum again.
Time usually meant little to tyres like him, so he wasn't sure how long he'd spent his life as a swing before the family across the street moved out and another family moved in. Things like this happened rather often in this old neighbourhood, so he usually took no notice, except this time the front left tyre of that family's truck had bade him farewell before moving off so the memory stuck. That, and because there was another young child in the family that moved in.
That boy was quite different from Squall. Where Squall had dark unruly hair and a rather hard gaze that was unbefitting of his young age (at least that was what the tyre thought every time the boy glared at him from the ground), this new boy was blond and looked at the world through a pair of big blue, unsuspecting eyes. It kind of reminded the tyre of the animal his truck had crashed into and he'd run over back when he was still fitted on a wheel. The boy had the exact same look as that animal –his old driver had called it a stupid blind deer- before it was knocked down.
It was little wonder why the tyre had almost felt the need to warn the child, give him a holler to run, when Squall gestured for him to come across the street. The child barely hesitated for a moment before crossing the road.
"I'm Squall. I live over here," his child said as he pointed towards his house, a dainty little place with white-washed walls and a mahogany door. "You? What's your name?"
"I'm Cloud. I'm moving in there," the new boy replied, his hands clutching the hems of his oversized shirt as he bit his bottom lip. He was seemingly oblivious to how apparent his answer was, since the movers were still busy unloading cartons of white boxes and shoving them into the small house.
Squall was usually a reserved child, from what the tyre knew, but he always kicked up a fuss faster than the tyre used to make one revolution when someone treated him like a dummy. He was getting into that 'rebellious age' thing that Laguna – ah, that's the name of the man who'd brought him home – had said was inevitable, and one of his current favourite phrases was, "I know, you didn't need to tell me."
To his surprise, Squall merely nodded. Squall then grabbed Cloud's small hand and walked them into his house, despite Cloud's timid protests that he should go home and help.
The tyre thought that it was interested how humans made friends with one another.
Despite the addition of another child, nothing much changed for the tyre. Squall still snuck a punch or a shove at him every time he got home from elementary school, though the number of times he didn't manage to duck got lesser and lesser. Occasionally, Cloud would give him a curious glance from across the street, like he was wondering why his new friend always liked shoving him. Maybe Cloud didn't know he was a swing now, and being shoved was what swings do?
Then Cloud started visiting a lot. Or rather, Squall would refuse to let the blond boy go home and they'd do something called 'homework' together inside the house. Sometimes they finished early, and Cloud would immediately scamper out of the house, preferring to be out in the open, and Squall would follow.
It was during one of these days that Cloud asked Squall if he could play with the tyre.
"You want to play with this thing? What's so fun about it?" Squall replied.
"Because it's a swing, and swings are fun!" Cloud said, a small smile on his face. After a while, when Squall did not answer, he bit his bottom lip again, just like how he'd the first day he moved in. The tyre remembered seeing that little action. "I can't play with it?"
Squall appeared flustered at this, a bit of red dusting his cheeks as he began scratching the tip of his nose. His eyes looked away, as though anything was more interesting than Cloud and the tyre.
"It's… It's not that…"
"So I can play with it?" Cloud did not give Squall another chance to protest. The next second, he had already crawled through the hole in the tyre and settled himself nicely, his tummy lying on the tyre.
It felt a little awkward, the tyre thought. He was used to being stretched over a wheel. Having a child where a wheel used to be felt… strange. It wasn't uncomfortable. Cloud didn't weigh much, so it wasn't uncomfortable. It just felt strange. And didn't Cloud want to play with him? Shouldn't Cloud be shoving him and then ducking somewhere? That was how Squall played with him. What was Cloud planning?
Then he felt himself being propelled forwards, then slightly upwards, like in an arc. He didn't go too high up or too far - the rope that tied him to the tree bunch wouldn't let him - and he soon swung backwards. Just when he thought he was just going to sway a few more times and then still, just like every time it happened after a shove from Squall, he began to propel forward again. This time, the tyre could feel Cloud kicking the ground.
"Cl-Cloud! Be careful! The swing doesn't like kids! It hits them!"
An anxious cry from Squall.
"Don't be silly, Squall! Swings don't not like anyone!"
That afternoon, as Squall remained tense and kept on eying him, and as Cloud continued to kick the ground and propel them both higher and higher as though Cloud's fingers could almost touch the green leaves on the huge tree or even higher, the tyre felt accomplished for the first time ever since he stopped traveling.
The leaves on the tree turned yellow and fell, and they grew out again after being replaced by white snow. Squall and Cloud graduated from elementary school and went on to middle school. Squall still shoved him when he came home from school, and his tense demeanor surfaced every time Cloud tried to play with the tyre.
"You'll fall and hurt yourself!" Squall would yell as he stayed by the side, his hands held out as though ready to catch his friend if he did fall.
"No I won't!" Cloud always answered, smiles and laughter accompanying his voice.
Then Squall's father changed their family sedan for a bigger, newer car, and the tyre looked at the new tyres every time the car was left by the roadside. If the car was left in the garage, the tyre would look at the closed garage door. And before he realized it, Squall and Cloud finished middle school and got admitted into the same high school, just like how they'd gotten admitted into the same middle and elementary schools.
Squall stopped shoving him every time he came home. His hand was too busy holding Cloud's.
And Cloud stopped playing with him. He'd wanted to, once, but Squall had calmly told him that Cloud was too heavy now and the rope wouldn't be able to take it.
So instead, sometimes, Cloud would drag Squall over to the swing, just to sit close by the tyre and talk. The tyre learnt a lot of new things just by listening to them chat. Like the girl next door had gotten together with the boy next, next door, and that everyone in school knew about them but pretended to not know anything. Like Cloud was doing well in literature but frequently needed help with physics. Like how Squall always volunteered to help Cloud with physics just so another boy in their class would not need to tutor Cloud.
They shared their first kiss by the tyre too.
It was one of those chatty afternoons, while Cloud was telling Squall about going to another city for university, that Squall suddenly closed the distance between them and claimed Cloud's lips. Cloud blinked for a moment, reached out a hand to touch his lips, then smiled.
"Twilight University's great for majoring in physics too, you know?" Cloud said, entangling his fingers with Squall's. "We could go together."
Squall only nodded, his face red and burning.
It was then that the tyre first wished that he could hit Squall without someone shoving him first.
About three months after Squall and Cloud left together for university, a heavy storm visited the neighbourhood. The thunder rumbled loudly in the distance and lightning flashed across the sky in great, white streaks. One of these great, white streaks struck the huge tree the tyre dangled from, and the crying wind and weeping rain swept across the area.
It wasn't long before the tyre plummeted onto the ground together with the tree branch, among others.
Once the storm let up, the front lawn was cleaned up and the tyre was taken into the garage to be stowed away. It wasn't necessary to have a swing anymore, since the children were away.
The garage was a quiet place compared to where he used to be. And the family car was eventually squeezed out to the roadside by the amount of things strewn inside, so the tyre could not even hear the roar of the car's engine whenever someone drove it out anymore.
He missed the children's laughter and their sweet nothings.
But it was so much easier to sleep and not care about anything else without those loud shrieks of joy, hidden feelings and bright blushes.
So he slept. And waited. Waited.
It could have been a minute, a day, a month, a year, or even more, but eventually, he woke up. In that dark, cold garage, lying in a corner filled with saw dust and wooden blocks, hidden under tins of dried-out paint, he was aroused from his slumber by voices talking nearby.
"Sorry, Cloud. If I'd known that dad was going to make us clear out the garage for him, I would never have answered his phone call."
"Idiot. What's wrong with helping your dad once in a while? You know he's getting old and all this dust is not going to help his coughing. And the garage does need some cleaning up anyway. When was the last time someone cleaned this place?"
"Probably seven, eight years ago? As far as I remember, the garage's been used as a storage area ever since we moved out for university."
"That long? No wonder this place is a breeding place for dust colonies. We are not letting this happen to our apartment, understood?"
"Did I hear something? Because if I did, then someone is going to sleep on the couch tonight. I could do with having the bed all to myself."
"N-No. I didn't say anything."
Then there was a rapid succession of the sound of the broom sweeping against the floor and the clanking of metal tins hitting each other. This was the noisiest day the tyre had heard in a very long time.
Suddenly, the tins of paint, those that had been piled on top of him for so long it almost felt they were a single entity, were lifted away. There was a soft glow, illuminating the silhouette of a man, and the tyre felt lighter than he'd ever been before.
"There's a tyre here… but hasn't Laguna's car been sold for a few years already?"
That voice felt a little… familiar.
"It was probably a spare. Dad always leaves things lying around everywhere, so maybe that's why."
"That's true. Hey Squall, do you remember you used to have a tyre for a swing on your front lawn back when we were kids? The swing you claimed to hate kids?"
"I said that?"
"Of course you did. You were a weird kid who said weird stuff and did even weirder things. I remember thinking you were going to strangle me and dump my body in a ditch somewhere the day I moved here and you asked me to come over."
The tyre seemed to remember something like that.
"I never did that! I was… I was just being friendly to the new kid!"
"Right. That explains why you never said hello to Tifa when she moved here. And Aeris. And Yuffie. Anyway, we were talking about the swing. Do you remember it?"
"Yea. Dad took it down after we left. You can't think that tyre you have over there was the swing, can you?"
The blond man shrugged, dusting away the dirt that'd gathered on the tyre. The tyre felt a lot cleaner than he was used to.
"It could be, but it doesn't really matter. I was just thinking… maybe we should get a swing set when we have kids."
The tyre felt a rumble.
"Are we going to adopt? We've never talked about this before! I didn't even know you wanted kids!"
"Too bad. That's something you should have asked before you put the wedding ring on my finger. Well, good thing we only just got married. We're still under the probation period, so if you're so opposed to having kids…"
"…Th-That's not what I mean."
There was a smile, and suddenly the tyre could see the young Cloud who'd left this place all those years ago, the child who'd insisted on playing with him and caused Squall to worry excessively. And while his hair was longer than he remembered, Squall still kept the same tense demeanor, the one the man carried every time Cloud played with him.
"We can have a pet first, you know, just to make sure we're ready for the responsibility. I'd really like to have a puppy."
"You mean that puppy that wouldn't stop barking and licking your hand the moment we stepped inside the pet shop the other day? …Fine, we'll get it."
"Right! Let's finish cleaning up the garage then! The pet shop closes at 5!"
And then Cloud picked him up and took him away, out of the garage and tossed him into the trunk of a white family sedan. The tyre wondered if he was going to become the puppy's swing. He wondered if Cloud had a car and needed a spare tyre.
He didn't dwell on it. He just went back to sleep again. It felt like it'd be a long journey, and he'd know when he woke up.
A/N: It's really been quite a while since I last wrote something Leon/Cloud, so ha ha, I was still trying to rediscover the dynamics and everything while I was writing this. Well, hope it worked out!