Break My Fall

As far as houses went, it was all right. It was a small house, no bigger on the inside than it appeared from outside, sadly. Just small. It wasn't tiny, and he wasn't going to hit his head on any of the arches connecting the rooms any time soon – or ever – and the lounge room was certainly an area that gave off a feeling of space, but he was sure that once his sound system and impressive collection of media moved in with him that would change.

The kitchen was more of a kitchenette, and a good size for him. He didn't want more than the two hot plates on the stove; he only needed the small microwave and not the one Tifa had sworn would be better. The fridge contained the bare essentials – milk, bread that he'd had a habit of putting in the cool since he was a child, some eggs, a carton of yogurt and two bags of cherries. He had up to four of each basic style of crockery, and only two mugs, since more were not necessary.

His bedroom had an en suite, something he was ridiculously excited about. It meant a bare four steps to get to the bathroom from his computer and his bed both, and probably meant that he would spend most of his life in his room, something that didn't bother him.

Perhaps one thing that might have bothered Cloud, had Goofy been larger, was the lack of space outside. Not so much the back yard, per se, but along the sides of the house. Goofy loved to be able to run all around the yard and into the front as well, and Cloud realised with a little sigh that he would probably have to take Goofy back to his parents' spacious home when the pup grew to an adult.

A few boxes of necessities were still out in the car he'd borrowed from Tifa. He was wary of using anything belonging to any of his few friends, particularly Tifa – her left hand gave as good as her right did, Cloud knew well, and she tended to use them one after the other – and his mum had always warned him to take care of his own things, and better care of those that weren't his. The door squeaked a little behind him as he made his way down the concrete path to the faded blue car with the boot still up.

A minute yipping alerted him to Goofy. He quickly grabbed at a towel that sat atop the nearest of the cardboard boxes, and swung the dog out of the boot. He'd almost forgotten about putting the pup in the back so he wouldn't leave him in the car while unlocking the house. The black-eared pup glanced up at him, stumbling a little on the hot tar, before wandering clumsily up the side of the gutter and sniffing the brown grass there before peeing absently. Sighing, Cloud tossed the towel back into the box; he'd expected the dog to have done his business in the car already, as he'd done several times on the way over, which had caused no less than four quick stops to clean out and keep going.

Hefting two of the boxes, including the one containing the yellow towel, he nodded at Goofy, who'd finished and was now inspecting his boot. "Inside," he said, stepping up the gutter, avoiding the two post boxes beside his path and the path running parallel. He waited a moment for Goofy to join him and awkwardly walked back up the path, halting a few times either for Goofy or to adjust his load. Once inside, he dumped the load in the lounge room – already the walls were closing in – and repeated the process three more times with the minor exception of leaving Goofy behind the flyscreen door to inspect the place.

Once done, he slammed the boot and locked it, checking the four doors before moving inside. His mum had cautioned him against carelessness in any neighbourhood, particularly a new one. The sky overhead was somewhere between overbright and clouded, a peculiar combination and one that made his scenery appear even more drab and grey than he thought it should have. The house, with its nice brown tiles on the low window sills, had seemed a more attractive place when he'd inspected it.

He didn't regret the decision, though. It did one good to have one's own space.

-x-x-x-

He'd collapsed about halfway through Serenity, unable to take the constant flickering of the monitor. When he awoke, his two-minute noodles from the night before were glued to the bowl. Goofy snored softly in his little puppy bed four metres away, on his back with his paws twitching in the air, probably dreaming of chasing that rabbit with the carrot that was always on TV. Cloud almost went to stroke his round belly before deciding not to wake him.

It was only 6:33 a.m., and he hadn't actually slept in his bed. He wasn't particularly rested. Nonetheless, he managed to make more of a mess of his hair before cleaning his dishes from last night. He really didn't want to do something he'd been adamant about just because he was tired. The housework would just pile up then, a lesson his mother had also taught him when she'd left him to take care of himself for a week and then come home and inspected every inch to make sure it was the way she'd left it. She was a formidable woman.

There was nothing to be done about the boxes in the lounge room, since half of them were clothes and he was still lacking a closet. Cloud had a perfect image in his mind of what his room should look like, and a large standing closet like the one from Narnia stood front and foremost in this picture. He would settle for a cheaper one, and it didn't have to be made of sapient pearwood or anything, as long as it suited the image.

The kitchen tiles smelled of puppy food; Goofy had spilled some during dinner, apparently. Goofy woke up around quarter to seven for a feed, anyway, so the blond rinsed the pup's bowl and filled it. Setting it down beside the spillage, he wiped the hard mess from the cold surface and washed the cloth, before deciding to wander outside.

The morning was as grey as the afternoon before had been, but a chill wind gave a hint of a storm, and Cloud liked that. He sniffed the air appraisingly, and was rewarded with the faint smell of rain on soil and grass.

The swinging of a door alerted him to someone else's presence, and Cloud turned quickly, in time to catch a brunet man pull said door closed before heading down the path to where Cloud stood.

Being Cloud, he didn't speak. He sort of ducked his head when the man reached him, worried he was in the man's way, before taking in the sweat pants and white shirt the man was wearing. When the man pulled at the lid of the maroon mail box beside Cloud's navy one, Cloud finally understood.

"You're that neighbour to the left of me." The brunet broke his silence at last, nodding slightly. In his hand he held a roll of junk mail and two letters. "The one who just moved in."

"Aren't you to the left of me?" Cloud asked, a little baffled. How did you get that scar? He wanted to ask, but he knew it wasn't something one asks a person they have just met, be they a neighbour or not.

"Depends which way you look at it."

Cloud turned and inspected his house. It was almost identical to the one that stood about three feet away – definitely to the left of his. Turning back to his neighbour, he cocked a quizzical eyebrow.

"I'm looking out onto the street." The stranger clarified.

"Oh." Said Cloud. That made more sense. He'd never met someone who had defined their house's position from their house and not from the street. He'd never really met anyone to talk about house positioning with aside from that real estate agent, Reno, and his own previous neighbours, to be sure, but he was still certain that it had never been put like that before. "I guess you are to my left, then."

"No, you're to my left." The man's lips twitched, although in laughter or annoyance Cloud couldn't be sure.

"Right," he said quickly. "Sorry."

"Whatever." A roll of glossy mail in hand, his neighbour nodded at him – no, to him – and turned back to his house.

Cloud watched him go.


Very short, because I'm thinking maybe very short will mean more updates. Three not-so-subtle references to other popular books and such – first person to get them all can choose the name of Cloud's mum? :3 Thanks to The Glass Slipper – I finally decided.

Tally.