Hayner crawled through the familiar crack in the Mansion's outer wall, grazing his hands and knees a little on the rough stones. When he was through, he straightened up and brushed the grit out of the shallow cuts, only a few of them deep enough to bleed. He looked around with a relaxed sigh; this place really was beautiful, it a ruined, broken sort of way. Abandoned and all but forgotten, the once-glorious garden was now a tangled mess of weeds and roses, bluebells, daises and dandelions growing everywhere they could. He smiled when his eyes lit upon the patch of cornflowers and poppies he and a certain someone had sown many years ago, their number having multiplied beyond his belief by now. The fountain with its sandstone lady and shell was cracked, the poor woman missing an arm and half of her head, her side having crumbled when the ice set in during the winter. Even the house itself was decrepit, covered in ivy and other creepers.
Yes, this place was beautiful. It was a melancholy, haunted beauty, and might not have meant much to anyone else, but to Hayner, this garden was gorgeous.
Maybe it was just because it was so hidden away and forbidden, maybe it was because this was the only place he had ever grown flowers that lasted, or maybe it was, pure and simple, the one place he could enjoy being with his rival.
Sure, they hated each other and yes, they were sworn enemies, but here, in this garden, in their shared history, they could let all of that go and just think.
Hayner smiled and stepped out of the shade of the crumbling brick wall and into the sun, stretching his cramped limbs. He sighed again, the smile lingering as he picked his way around flowers and debris, ducking under the ruined archway further in and avoiding the brambles that were rife in the garden. He passed the old, creaking swing where it was rumoured that a little girl had died from falling off and ran his hand up the worn rope, brushing his fingers over the coarse bark of the apple tree it was tied to. He glanced up at the small, unripe apples that would be red and rosy, and deliciously juicy before long.
He felt all of the tension within him unwinding as he walked slowly through the lonely area, the warm sun making him drowsy, the soft rustles of wind in the grass sounding like a lullaby while the birds whistled their hearts out in the trees, undisturbed by this visitor to their domain. He paused and stood still, closing his eyes and just listening to the sounds. He stood like that for some time, just listening to the bees buzzing, the birds singing, the wind whispering in the trees, even a few grasshoppers sawing in the rustling grass. In that moment, even the soft creaking of the swing sounded warm and welcoming, instead of lonely.
Hayner slowly opened his eyes again, feeling like he was asleep, or in paradise. Running a hand through his hair, his eyes caught movement in the shadows under some of the taller trees; a fox with cubs. He smiled and watched them for a while, until the mother caught him looking and they scurried off.
Walking a little faster, Hayner made his way around to where another apple tree was. There was nothing special about that particular tree; it had just been the one they'd silently chosen. He didn't smile when he saw the familiar blonde sitting under it, watching him as he'd been watching the foxes. Instead, he just went over and sat silently beside Seifer, leaning back against the tree.
They sat in silence for a while, until Hayner sighed and leaned sideways to rest his head on his rival's shoulder. Seifer tilted his head towards him and rested his cheek on his head, closing his eyes.
"Go on Seifer! I dare yus!" Hayner said, smirking at his new half-friend, half-rival. They'd only met a few weeks ago and he was still unsure of their relationship.
"Ok. Fine. Then I dare you too! We'll go together!"
The two small boys stood and stared at each other for a moment, their eyes challenging the other to go first. Eventually, Hayner grinned ferally and scrambled through the small crack in the wall, wriggling out of the other side with little difficulty. Seifer had a bit more trouble, as he was built along more muscular lines to begin with.
The older boy stood and brushed off his hands and knees, Hayner quickly following suit before they both just stood and gazed around.
Eventually, Hayner voiced what was on both of their minds.
"Wow…"This was evidently what had once been the beautifully kept garden of the mansion, but now everything was overgrown and shambolic. There were brambles and briars everywhere, roses blooming out of every edifice and plant, or so it appeared to the two of them. Daisies, buttercups and dandelions carpeted the ground, the grass dry and curled with the heat. Bees buzzed and grasshoppers sawed, but other than that it was eerily silent. There was no wind, at least, not in the garden, and even the birds were making no sound. Seifer was the first to break away from the drowsy, enchanting appeal that the garden held.
"Come on." Hayner blinked and turned after his friend.
"What? Where are you going?"
"Exploring. There's no point in sneaking in here if we don't explore. Or are you chicken?" Hayner scowled at the older blonde, feathers ruffled.
"I'm not a chicken!" He strode forwards, past Seifer and continued on ahead, Seifer snickering as he followed behind the defiant young boy.
They had explored the abandoned garden for hours, gleefully discovering birds' nests, some still with broken eggshells below them; a badger's set hidden in the side of a small hillock, even what looked like a little nest hiding in the brambles (Seifer was adamant that it was a mouse's home). Eventually, though, tired and scraped, their hands and arms covered in scratches from the briars, they flopped down under an apple tree, lying in the warmly dappled shade and thinking of nothing much at all. It was the simple, pure bliss of a childhood afternoon.
Seifer opened his eyes, blinking a few times and realising that he must have fallen asleep on the Chickenwuss. Hayner, meanwhile, was happily oblivious, curled into Seifer's side and breathing quietly, evidently having nodded off too. For a moment, the taller male felt too comfortable to move; it was beautifully warm, even with the coolness of the tree's shade shielding them from the harshest of the sun's rays. He contemplated simply going back to sleep, but quickly came to his senses and it registered in his mind that he had just been snuggling with the goddamn Chickenwuss. He shuffled away awkwardly, but Hayner didn't wake up and just ended up with his head in Seifer's lap. The beanie-wearing teen wondered if he should prod the younger one awake, but before he had made up his mind, his hand was already gently threading through the tangled blonde hair of his nemesis, and in his still-tired state, he just went with it and stayed there, petting Hayner's hair until he woke up.
Hayner's eyes opened slowly and he quickly registered the fact that he was not at home, followed by remembering he was in the garden. Then there was the question of who was playing with his hair in that slow, sleep-inducing manner, and whose lap he was apparently resting his head in. He slowly shifted and the hand on his head froze before retreating. He made a small sound of protest but sat up and saw that it had been Seifer, his rival, who had been… He gaped at the elder, who was blushing profusely.
"Oh, shut up." The taller blonde muttered, looking away. Hayner closed his mouth but replied cockily,
"I didn't say anything."
"You were thinking it."
"Touché." Hayner rubbed his nose and kneaded his eyes with the heels of his hands before stretching and yawning.
"God, you have a big mouth." Seifer said, snorting with laughter. Hayner glared at him.
"Shut up, dickhead."
"You kiss your mother with that mouth?" Seifer leaned forwards and Hayner mirrored him.
"You kiss your boyfriend with yours?" Seifer scowled at the smirking teen before him and rolled his eyes before turning away.
"Girly boy." Then Hayner was up and running, laughing as he leapt over the plants and rubble, Seifer charging after him.
A few years after their first visit to the mansion, Hayner and Seifer had taken a few packets of wildflower seeds and scattered them, hoping that they'd grow and spread. Most of the seeds were eaten by the birds, but those that weren't grew into cornflowers and poppies and all sorts of flowers, resulting in a proud pair of boys the next year, when the plants had grown. After that, the number of plants had doubled nearly every year.
Seifer stared around, trying to locate where Blondie had disappeared to, when he heard laughter from the direction of the swing.
When the swing came into view, Seifer saw, to his surprise, Hayner sitting on it and singing back and forth, the branch above him shaking and making the leaves rustle. He came up behind the younger boy and watched for a short time, feeling oddly warmed by the smaller blonde's evident joy.
Later, on their way back towards the hole in the wall, Hayner noticed a grey, stiff rope hanging from a branch. He gave it a tug and cried out as a piece of wood clonked him on the head, sending him sprawling into the grass.
Seifer turned back, eyes widening in alarm as he took in the sight of his friend lying spread-eagled on the ground, face-down. He sprinted back and knelt beside the younger boy, who groaned and rolled over before sitting up to gingerly touch his head.
"Ow… What was that?"
"You ok, Hayner?"
"Yeah, just… Ow… Wait…" Seifer followed Hayner's suddenly smiling gaze to see a wooden swing attached to the rope Hayner had pulled.
Within a second, the smaller child had jumped up and given the swing a good tug, to make sure it wouldn't fall when he sat on it. The next minute saw him sitting on it and trying to swing back and forth with his short legs.
"Push me! I'll push you." Hayner entreated the taller blonde, who smiled tolerantly at his friend's childishness before acquiescing.
Hayner let his head fall back as he swung up, high into the air, closing his eyes and imagining he was flying. Seifer pushed him higher and higher until his arms got tired and he let Hayner swing on his own momentum, each one shorter than the last, until he was almost stopped. The younger boy hopped off and stood behind Seifer as he sat down, then ran forwards and pushed the swing as hard as he could.
"Hey, Chickenwuss!" Seifer called, and he saw Hayner's eyes open as he grinned down at the scarred teen. There was a single moment then, when time almost seemed to slow because it recognised the rarity of such a peaceful, joyous instant. But then time returned to its normal pace and Seifer was half-tempted to grab the swing if went past just to see what would happen. But then the warmth and beauty was shattered with the sound of a snapping rope. Hayner let out a cry as he found himself suddenly flying through the air unaided and came crashing to the ground with a sickening thud, rolling into a tangled nest of brambles and stinging nettles. Seifer felt like his heart had stopped; sure, he and Hayner fought a lot, but this was different. What if he was seriously hurt? He ran to the younger boy's side.
There was once a pretty little girl who lived in the house in the woods on the hill in Twilight Town. She lived with her mother and father and was very happy. Until one day, she went out into the garden and decided it was missing something. Her father built her a swing and tied it to her favourite tree. She loved the swing and played on it as much as she could. But one day, she went outside and started to swing as high as she could, wanting to touch a cloud, and when she let go with one hand, she lost her balance and flew off the swing. Down, she tumbled, until she hit the ground and lay, broken like a little china doll. They found her a few hours later, her little neck broken. Poor little girl.
"Chickenwuss?" there was no reply. "Lamer!" He didn't dare shake him in case he'd broken something. "Hayner, wake the damn up!" He decided to risk it and rolled the boy over – he couldn't have broken his back or anything from that, could he? He put a hand on either side of Hayner's face and leaned closer. "Hayner. Come on, Blondie, wake up. Wake up!" He shook the smaller teen's head from side to side gently. "Come on. Look… Wake up or… Wake up or I'll kiss you!" He said threateningly. He felt movement under his hands and repeated himself.
"Nnn… Seifer, what the fuck?" Hayner opened his eyes to see his arch nemesis right in front of them. The older blonde forgot himself and quickly hugged the shorter boy.
"Oh thank God, you're not dead."
"Feels like it." Hayner grunted, not particularly objecting to being held by his rival. He needed something to take his mind off the pain in his hands, knees and arm. And his head – he'd hit a rock on the ground. Seifer quickly released Hayner, suddenly aware that he'd been on the verge of nuzzling into his tangled blonde hair.
"Can you get up?" Hayner wasn't sure so he attempted to sit up, hissing with pain as his grazed hands and elbows made contact with the gritty ground, thorns digging even deeper into his flesh. He sat up, registering a horrible ache in his right forearm. Picking small stones and thorns out of the cuts on his hands, Hayner glanced down at his gouged and bleeding knees. He was going to have some scars for this.
"I think I broke it." He rolled his shoulder with a disquieting snap and focused on his forearm. Seifer sighed and realised that they had nothing to use for a sling. Except… He took off his sleeveless trench coat.
"Here, hold still."
"What are you doing?" Hayner eyed him warily.
"Making a sling for your damn arm." Seifer muttered, hastily tying it around Hayner's neck.
Once it was secured, he sat back and looked at his handiwork with a critical eye.
"Damn thing's gonna need a wash now. I only just put it in the machine this morning." Hayner gave him a guilty half-smile.
"You should be; you broke our swing." Seifer punched him gently on the other arm. Hayner blinked and stared at him. "What?" Seifer asked edgily.
"You said 'our' swing…" Hayner trailed off, feeling ridiculous. They had never referred to the garden or anything in it with any sort of possessive term, let alone one that included them both – it had always been 'the garden' and 'the swing' or 'the flowers', not 'our'. Because 'our' suggested a kinship that they had never really shared, even when they were tentative friends. They'd tried, but they'd never felt any sort of shared selfhood, despite their interminably intertwined histories.
Seifer looked away.
"So what? We're the only ones who come in here, so I guess it is kind of our garden by now." Hayner felt a smile tugging at his lips.
"Yeah." And with that, they finally seemed to have connected, understanding each other a little better and feeling slightly warmed by that knowledge, as well as awkward around each other. Self-awareness is a curse and blessing that comes with puberty, and there, in that garden, they finally left behind their years of antipathy and misunderstanding, leaving the slate washed clean to start something beautiful.
There, in their garden.
AN: I've had something like this brewing since I first played KH2 and made Roxas go up to the glass window so I could see the garden. I thought it looked so beautiful and lonely that it needed a fic written about it. Originally, this was going to be a multichap where something scared them in the garden when they were little and since then they've kept apart because it always reminded them of it, but this came out when I was thinking of those wonderful, drowsy days in summer where you feel almost as though you're in paradise.
PS: I know I used 'little' a lot in the 'little girl with the swing' part (that was meant to be the story of the girl that died that was mentioned earlier, fyi) but it was on purpose, so yeah.
Hope you enjoyed.
Also, if you do review, could you tell me what you think the overall tone was please? I was aiming for sort of warm/sleepy with a moment of creepiness before going back to the warm/sleepy, only more active. So... Yeah, I'd like to know if I succeeded or not.