QNC: Okaaay, so this one is a fluffy giftfic to Tobi Uchiha that was the other promised "half" of my inspiration. It got out of control, so now it is a Zack/Leon/Cloud fic up to its third chapter. (snorts) I am totally using this as excuse to practice my porn writing, but that'll be much later--cute only for now. Thanks to my beta for proofing! ;)

Disclaimer: Do not own FF7 or KH, but their characters sure are fun to play with.

It was an almost perfect summer day. It was early June, just a little above seventy-five degrees, and the sky was filled with thick fluffy clouds that drifted like cotton balls in the wind. Birds were chirping, dogs and cats were scurrying around, accompanied by the laughter of children, and butterflies and fat honeybees were flitting from petal to petal without a care in the world.

"Cloud, honey," a cajoling female voice was saying, "Why don't you go play with the other kids?"

A small blonde child with clear eyes blue enough to put the sky itself to shame slowly lifted his head to fix his nearly identical mother with a wide-eyed stare, even as one tiny, pale hand clenched hard and fisted in the fabric of a warm, patterned sundress. His head shook and he stubbornly refused to speak as he jammed the small thumb of his other hand into his mouth and buried his face in his mother's skirts.

Rayne Strife sighed as she pet her son's silky golden hair, her heart going out to the little boy. She'd known this would happen, and she could only blame herself for it. Ever since Lionel's death, Cloud had become reluctant to leave her side, mostly likely fearing that she too would disappear, and although she was supposed to be the grownup and reassure him that this would never happen, she had reciprocated the feeling, knowing that the two of them were all that each other had in the world now. Despite her sister's reassurances that she could handle her brand new baby boys, Rayne knew that Freya was struggling with marital problems and was on the fast lane to heartbreak of her own; no, she would have to help herself and her own baby before trying to be there for her sister. Maybe if she'd given her son more time to adjust to his father's death instead of moving to a whole other city in such a short amount of time…

Silently shaking her head and steeling herself, the single mother gave her son a gentle smile and lightly tugged his grasping hands from her skirt, subtly ignoring the small protesting noises he made around the thumb in his mouth.

"Go on, baby," she murmured as she stooped down to the wary five-year-old's level. "Don't you want to make nice new friends here in Radiant Garden?"

Rayne watched as her shy little baby looked guiltily away from her before looking out at the park full of rambunctious children dashing from place to place in a wild frenzy. His eyes caught sight of the sandbox, empty but for one other child, who was quietly dragging his hands through the sand in small shapes as he watched the other kids play a few feet away from a small set of monkey bars.

Well…if Mama really did want him to go play, he supposed it wouldn't be so bad if there was only one other kid there, and he looked like he was quiet. Cloud liked the quiet as long as it wasn't at night. And who knew, maybe he wouldn't be mean and they would get along and play in the sandbox together.

With one last nervous glance at his mother, who beamed and gently nudged him forward with an encouraging nod, Cloud carefully picked his way across the playground, careful to avoid crashing into the other kids, who were unsteadily careening around in impromptu games of freeze tag and hide-n-go seek.

Unfortunately for Cloud, he was spotted before he got near his destination, and he was suddenly being stared at by intense, blue-gray eyes as the quiet boy caught the smaller boy's movement towards him. It made him kinda uncomfortable, like when the old people back in their old house came over and told him they were sorry, then said weird things like how he had his father's nose at least. Cloud didn't see how that was possible since his father had always had a nose of his own to nuzzle against his cheeks with, but then again, he'd never really paid much attention to those kinds of things since he was too busy begging for airplane rides on his father's legs.

Cloud blushed at the unwavering scrutiny as he gave the left side of the sandbox a wide berth and then made his way to the other side in order to sit on the opposite half, his eyes downcast as he settled in the sand. The closest he dared was to sit under the far side of the monkey bars, sneaking glances at the other boy.

The other boy looked at him for a minute longer as Cloud absentmindedly began piling mounds of sand around the base of the bars before looking away without saying a word. That worried Cloud. Did the other boy not like him or something? Had he already done something wrong? Eyes anxious, he took a good long look at the other boy, trying to decide if he'd done a bad thing by pretending not to notice his staring.

He was about Cloud's height and around the same age, with dark, sable hair that reminded Cloud of the chocolate bars his momma would sometimes buy for him at the candy store with a warning not to eat before dinner. And even though he couldn't see the eyes, Cloud could remember the eyes that had been staring at him a few moments ago perfectly. They were grayish-blue, like a stormy sky on Destiny Islands that rocked the flimsy rowboats and lifted the water from the ocean onto the streets over the course of a night.

Dejected, Cloud lowered his eyes to the piles of sand between his legs, his lower lip trembling he wondered what it was about him that made the boy not wanna play with him. His small hands alternately picked up the sand and spread his palms to let it sift through onto the ground, uncaring that he was getting it all over his clothes; he was bored.

"You're doin' it wrong," a quiet voice suddenly said, startling him out of his thoughts. Cloud jerked his head up to meet those gray eyes crouched in front of him in a face much too solemn for its age. When had the other boy approached him? Never mind that, what was he saying to him?

"Ah…" he looked from the sand he was lightly grasping to the other boy's face and bit his lip before asking, "What'm I 'posed to do with it?"

A tiny smile—one Cloud recognized as the one his mom gave when he asked a silly question—lit his serious face, and the boy reached down to flatten the mound into a smooth plane. He then began dragging his fingers—almost randomly, to Cloud's fascinated eyes—through it in small shapes and patterns.

After a moment, he gave a satisfied nod and leaned away from the sand to look expectantly at Cloud, who gave him a confused stare and looked down at the other boy's handiwork before asking, "What is it?"

"It's a dog," the other boy said simply.

Cloud squinted his eyes in confusion at the drawing, twisting and tilting his head at it before giving the other boy a shy smile. "Um…I think you forgot the tail, and he's missin' a leg."

The other boy was silent as he contemplated his drawing; after a moment, he smiled again, this time much wider as he shrugged and murmured, "Guess I did."

Lips twitching, Cloud leaned forward and poked a finger under the lopsided animal and carefully drew a long, awkward line for an extra leg and a faintly upward curling shape for a tail. Then he leaned back in triumph, his blue eyes bright as he sought the other boy's gaze.

"Pretty," the brown haired boy conceded. Cloud, however, was confused, since the brown-haired boy hadn't even bothered to look at the completed picture and was merely staring at him.

"What's your name?" Cloud asked after another one of those not-quite uncomfortable silences.

"…Squall." Came the hesitant answer. "What's yours?"

Cloud ducked his head and started digging his fingers in the sand in nervousness. "Promise not to laugh?" At Squall's nod, he said quietly, "Cloud…"

Squall merely nodded and went back to drawing figures in the sand, his demeanor patient as he showed Cloud the best way to make things like trees and cars like his Sis had shown him.

For Cloud, this was a nice change from some of the other boys who would make fun of his hair; this boy was nice and had a gentle voice--watching him draw more odd pictures, Cloud couldn't help but hope that Squall was less likely to tease him for being shy or scared of bugs and frogs like the other mean boys had.

A sudden war whoop from above their heads broke the peaceful camaraderie between the two; as Squall looked up in abrupt irritation, Cloud followed his fierce gaze with startled fear.

"Yo!" A cheerful voice called to them from its owner's upside down position hanging from the monkey bars. "Whatcha doin'?"

Cloud stared in rapt fascination at the bright deep-blue eyes that peeked out between a nest of messy black spikes as wild as his own. The other boy was a little bigger than both of them and looked older too. Cloud was suddenly struck with shyness as he looked away. "Drawin'…"

Squall on the other hand, was not quite as timid or accepting as Cloud. "Playin'. Alone."

"That's no fun!" the loud kid said as he tried to flip his position in order to make the climb back down the bars. For all his trouble, he managed to loosen his foot at the wrong moment and tumbled to the ground with a faint, "Ow…"

Cloud had to hold back giggles at the pouting expression on the other boy's face as he rubbed his head. He looked kinda like his mom had just told him that he couldn't leave the dinner table till he ate all his greens—he seemed nice enough. He blinked when the other boy kicked at the foot of the monkey bars with a childish grumble then snorted out loud.

That turned those dark blue eyes and a cheerful grin his way. "You laughin' at me, Spiky-head?"

"Hey!" Cloud protested, bristling indignantly as he patted his spikes. "Your hair's just as weird!"

"Yeah, but Mom says it's just wilder than a Grand Horn in ruttin' season, whatever that means."

Squall grunted and folded his arms, his eyes on the other boy, who seemed to be in constant motion as he kicked up dirt and bounced in place while he talked to Squall's new friend, Cloud. He didn't know if this loud kid was a bully or just really friendly, but it was kinda rude to be left out of the conversation when Cloud was his friend first. Who'd he think he was, coming over here trying to steal his new friend with the pretty hair and fairy eyes?

"His name's Cloud," the gray-eyed boy said, defiantly glaring at the older boy.

Zack made a thoughtful noise as he stared at Cloud. "It fits…you're like the sky." He looked at Squall, his eyes still friendly but more curious as he looked at the brunette. "Name's Zack; wha's yours?"

The youngest boy's forehead wrinkled. Was he gonna try and laugh his name or something? "Squall."

A tan hand crept behind black spikes as Zack scratched confusedly at his head. "Umm…kay. You guys wanna play?"

Squall scowled unhappily at the older boy, but when he saw the cautious, half-hopeful look on Cloud's face, he shrugged and grumbled out, "Whatever."

And thus was the start of a beautiful friendship.

QNC: Let me just say, I have not been around a small child in about two years, but some of the ones I knew could talk like some adults I know! Hopefully that hasn't warped their age-speak too much for you guys. And there IS a reason, he introduces himself as Squall guys, so be patient! ;)

Anyway, until the next chapter!