Author's Notes: Contains m/m relationships. ONLY read if you are of age and open-minded!!! Prestory: This whole chapter is a flashback sequence.
"Catch me, Irvy!"
A russet-haired young girl ran to the edge of a huge boulder. Just as she was about to plummet to the sandy ground below, a pair of strong, young hands reached out and caught her. Seven-year-old Selphie and freshly-turned eight-year-old Irvine tumbled together in the sand, laughing and shouting gaily. They came to rest when they rolled into a pair of shoes strapped to one very serious-looking Squall Leonhart.
"Guys," Squall admonished, small hands fisted on his hips. "We're supposed to be collectin' rocks for Sis, not playin' around in the sand."
Selphie made a face, scrunching her nose up cutely. "Don't wanna c'lect rocks. 'Sides, playin' in the sand is more fun!" Irvine giggled, clasping onto Squall's arm and dragging him down into the sand with them. He began tickling Squall, who bubbled with laughter in spite of himself, futilely swatting at the offending hands. Selphie let out a high-pitched squeal, falling on top of both boys, and the trio began wrestling, sand flying everywhere. Soon Squall was pinned under both of his honey-haired friends, pleading mercy from their barrage of tickling.
"Selphie, Irvine, quit tormenting Squall and come up here this instant!" came an authoritative voice from the distance. All three heads shot up at the sound, Selphie perched on Squall's chest while Irvine was frozen in place from tickling the backs of the stoic boy's knees. A bold young woman with long, raven hair was glaring sternly at them, though a smile tugged at her lips, unnoticed by the tussling trio.
"Yes, Matron," Selphie and Irvine chorused disconsolately. They both scrambled off of Squall, who instantly missed their close company. Selphie ran up to Matron's side hurriedly, but Irvine hesitated a moment longer. He turned quickly and brought his lips up to Squall's ear. "Don't forget about tonight," he whispered, making sure only Squall could hear him, though Selphie already knew what he was saying. He placed a quick, sandy kiss on Squall's cheek before running after the skinny girl. "See you later, Squally!" they both yelled as they trooped behind Matron, waving. Neither saw the smile gracing Edea's face as she gazed down at her orphans.
Selphie waved the boy over. Squall looked apprehensively behind him at the imposing stone house, half-expecting to see Quisty or Matron peering out the window, catching him out of bed in the middle of the night. Clutching his basket in small, childlike hands, the silver-eyed boy hopped down the last rock onto the sand below, moonlight casting large shadows about the small beach. A second later, another body dropped down next to him.
"Hey," Irvine said, grinning wide, his reddish hair muted to a soft gold in the darkness. He stood and held out a hand for Squall, helping the smaller boy to his feet. "Whatcha got there?" he questioned, surveying the large basket.
Squall looked down inside of it. "Oh," he said, lowering his voice as they made their way over to where Selphie was impatiently waiting, tapping her foot. "Sis let me have this basket of flowers, so I thought I'd lace them together." Reaching the anxious girl, Squall dug in his basket for a moment. "Here, I made you this." He handed over a circle of flowers to the small girl.
"What is it?" she asked, holding it up and peering through the ring.
"It looks like a crown to me," piped up Irvine, plopping down in the sand. Squall nodded, taking it from Selphie and placing it gingerly on her head.
"Oh! Thank you, Squallie!" she squealed, lunging herself at the serious boy, wrapping her skinny arms about his neck. The pair tumbled backwards into the silvered sand, Selphie laughing joyously, and Squall with a goofy smile plastered on his face.
Irvine just lay where he was, smiling quietly at his two friends. He picked up one of the clipped flowers from Squall's basket and began twirling it twixt thumb and forefinger, briefly inhaling it's sweet fragrance. When the sandy pair finally made it back to sitting positions, Irvine sat up and leaned over Selphie, sticking the white flower behind his ear. Selphie giggled.
Squall frowned at his friend, shaking the small bud out of his brown, sun-kissed hair. "I'm a boy, boys don't wear flowers in their hair," he said staidly.
Selphie giggled some more. "Irvy'll wear flowers in _his_ hair, won't you, Irvy?" The aforementioned youth shrugged nonchalantly; Selphie took that as a yes. "An' _he's_ a boy," she stated, as if that settled things.
Squall looked at Irvine for a minute, lips pursed cutely. He then reached into the basket and withdrew another flower, this one a large, violet-colored one. He stood up and positioned himself behind the honey-haired boy, twisting the long-stemmed bloom into a lock of Irvine's shoulder-length tresses. He sat back and admired his handiwork.
"It is pretty," he said appraisingly, cocking his small head to one side. Selphie nodded enthusiastically, clapping her hands together. Squall took another flower, this one a paler lavender, and wove it through Irvine's tawny hair. Selphie joined in, and soon Irvine's long tresses were covered in a wide range of color, ranging from palest white, to brilliant orange and dusky red.
There was one solitary flower left, a large white and blue one with wide, delicate petals. Irvine picked it up and sniffed at it before placing it in Squall's hair where the smaller one had resided. "It's only fair," he said seriously, as Squall made to pluck it out. "Seffie and I both have flowers in our hair." Squall, seeing Irvine's juvenile logic, let it stay.
"Alright, now that we're all prettied up, let's start celebrating!" Selphie mock-whispered excitedly, leaning towards the two bedecked boys.
"Celebrate what, Seffie?" Squall asked, crinkling up his nose a bit in confusion. Irvine tossed him a toothy grin, but let the energetic young girl answer the question.
Selphie looked at Squall with wide eyes, barely able to contain her excitement. Finally, she flung her arms wide and said, "Happy Birthday, Squallie!"
"Seffie, you don't know when my birthday is. I don't even know that," countered Squall, brushing his brown hair out of large, silvery eyes.
"It's your made-up birthday, then," Irvine interjected, fingering one of the flowers stuck close to his ear.
"Don't wanna have a birthday," Squall said petulantly, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
"Why?" This coming from both Selphie and Irvine.
"'Cause, that's just a 'me' celebration. I want an 'us' celebration." He made wide, sweeping gestures with his hands as if to include the other two.
"Well," Selphie said thoughtfully, chewing on a ragged fingernail. "What kind of an 'us' celebration?"
"Hey!" Irvine cried, shooting up from where he lay in the sand. "Let's have a wedding!" He grinned expectantly at his friends.
Selphie looked at Irvine dubiously. "Who's gonna get married?"
"You an' Squall could get married!"
Both young orphans scoffed at this idea, Selphie saying "P.U." while Squall scrunched up his face as if he had just eaten a gysahl pickle.
"Don't wanna marry Seffie, wanna marry you, Irvy," Squall pouted, tightening his arms across his chest.
Irvine looked at Squall for a long moment. "I thought _you_ thought boys didn't do stuff like that."
Squall shrugged. "I just said that boys don't wear flowers. 'Sides, why can't I marry you? Matron said that people marry the ones they love. Don't you love me, Irvy?"
Irvine placed an arm around Squall's thin shoulders. "'Course I love you, Squally. I love all you guys."
"Oh." Squall's face fell. He brightened up, however, when the honey-haired boy leaned toward him, whispering loudly in his ear.
"I love you an' Seffie the mostest, though."
"Hey, I have an idea!" piped up Selphie, her face lighting up. "Why don't we all get married! Like, the three of us marry each other!"
Irvine grinned at the skinny girl, then turned to the boy next to him, thin face framed by the flower at his ear. "I like that. Whaddaya say, Squall?"
"Ok," Squall agreed, nodding his head, looking from Selphie to Irvine solemnly.
"Yay!" Selphie jumped up, clapping her hands. "Ok, well, we need flowers-- oh wait, we already got 'em. Um, well," she paused, scratching the back of her head. "I don't really know what goes on at a wedding." She looked at her two friends questioningly.
"I don't either," Irvine drawled, still playing with his flower. Thinking, he pulled a dull blade out of the back pocket of his shorts. "We could, ya know, do a ritual-type-thingie," he finished slowly, fishing for words and coming up empty-handed.
"What?" Selphie said. Squall looked at him dubiously.
"Y'know, like in that one movie we saw, where the two boys did some kinda 'blood-brother' thing, where they cut each other and pressed their fingers together. Like that."
"Yeah! An' we can make promises an' stuff!" Selphie squealed, warming to the idea, her words stringing together in her excitement. "Like how we'll never f'get each other n' that we'll always be there n' stuff!"
Squall frowned at this, eyebrows knitting together in a look that would become his signature in the not-so-far-off future. "I dunno. How can we make promises like that? How do we know we can keep 'em? What if we promise all this stuff an' then one day one of us leaves the orphanage?" He looked worriedly down at the ground, swirling his finger in the pliable sand.
Irvine cocked his head to the side to see Squall's downturned face. "I don't think that'll happen," he said softly, suddenly sounding years older. "And anyway, if it does, then we'll make a promise ta always come back for each other. Whaddaya think of that?"
Squall nodded, silver eyes looking up at Irvine hopefully. Irvine smiled sweetly at him, taking Squall's hand in his own small one. He raised the knife, pressing it to Squall's thumb. Blood welled up easily to the surface. Squall drew a sharp breath.
"Did that hurt?" Irvine asked, concerned. Squall shook his head no, but bit his lip. Irvine turned to Selphie.
The skinny youth held out her hand eagerly, always ready for a new adventure. Irvine took it gently and repeated the act. Soon both Selphie and Squall had little pinpricks of blood on their thumbs.
"Okay, me now," Irvine muttered, pressing the bloodied knife to his own hand. He slashed the blade down, red pouring instantly out of the tip of his digit. "Oh, I think cut too deep!" he gasped as blood trickled down, reaching his delicate wrist. He brought the injured thumb up to his mouth, sucking noisily. Finally, he was able to get the blood flow under control, and looked at the others expectantly; holding his hand up to his chest, mimicking his friends.
"Okay, now, I guess we should say some vows," Squall said quietly.
Selphie wriggled in her seat. "Oh, me first, me first!" When she got no objections, she took a deep breath, face growing solemn, crown of flowers silvery in the moonlight. "I promise to always tickle-glomp Irvy and Squally, and to always kick you guys' butts if you ever get outta line, an'..." she bit her lip, thinking. "An'... I promise to love you both forever an' ever an' _ever_!" she finished happily, warm eyes glowing softly at the two boys.
Squall smiled at Selphie as Irvine reached over and gave her a one-armed hug. Her crown caught briefly in Irvine's hair, and it took the two a minute to untangle themselves.
"Okay, Irvy, your turn!" Selphie said.
Irvine took a deep breath, letting his gaze fall to his bloodied thumb, then looking at the young girl. "Seffie, I promise ta love you forever and ever, too. And I'll always tease you!" Selphie grinned at this. Irvine then swung his gaze to Squall, his large eyes glinting a silvery lavender in the moonlight. "Squall," he paused, staring intently into shimmering silvern eyes, "I promise ta always be there for you, whenever you need me. An' I promise ta love you with all my heart. Well, most of it," he grinned, catching Selphie's miffed look. "And," his voice grew softer, "I promise if we ever, _ever_ get separated, I'll always come look for you."
Squall bit his lip at the words, tears welling in his argentine eyes. He grabbed at Irvine's hand with his own, squeezing hard. "Promise you'll never forget me." His face became desperate.
Irvine leaned close to the smaller boy. "Never," he said adamantly.
Selphie sucked in her breath at the site of her two best friends. Somehow she knew, deep inside, that Irvine meant what he said with all his heart.
Assured, Squall opened his mouth to begin his vows, but stopped. Finally, pressing his thumb to Selphie's first, then to Irvine's, he proclaimed simply, "I promise ta love both of you forever, and to always come back for you guys. I don't wanna say any others, because I'm not sure if I can keep 'em. Is that okay?"
Selphie and Irvine both nodded gravely. They pressed their bloodied thumbs to one another's, and the russet-haired girl let out a whoop. "Yay! We're um, 'blood-bondeded' or something."
Squall giggled at his friend. "'Blood-bound,' I think, is what you meant."
Irvine grinned at both of them. "We're better than that. We're married to each other!" At that, Selphie laughed loudly, flinging her arms wide and embracing both her friends. She kissed them both sloppily on the cheek, Squall blushing and Irvine just grinning toothily, their eyes meeting over the honey-haired girl's.
The trio spent the rest of the night out by the ocean, playing with flowers and watching the dark, hypnotic waves roll in and out.
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