It was a sunny day on the Spooner Continent. The sun seemed to shine especially bright on the mountain village of Mount St Hordic, the hidden village of the Sorcerer Hunters. However, hunting Sorcerers was the furthest thing from the minds of two such individuals in the village. Even if Apricot and Onion Glacé hadn't given up their positions as Sorcerer Hunters in order to settle down and raise children, the two of them wouldn't have been thinking of Sorcerer hunting on this day. Every other day perhaps, depending on the mood of Big Mama... but not this day. Even Big Mama would have respected that.

In the village; Apricot stood in the front garden, smiling quietly to herself, not really thinking about anything, content to water the flowers in her flower border. At this time of year, so many pretty flowers were in bloom... she tended to them with as much care as she could give them, and they returned the care by growing to be beautiful; many different plant species, all lovingly tended to throughout the year. Occasionally trampled through by Carrot. Still, he was only young, Apricot liked to think that he didn't know any better, even though she felt that he should, by this point.

Apricot looked up at the sky, wiping her brow with her wrist. A few white fluffy clouds dotted the sky, but for the most part, it was a clear blue sky up there... the sun shone brightly, the sky was clear, it was pleasantly warm... life was good.

"I love yooooouuuu, darling!"

Onion ran up suddenly behind Apricot and hugged her tightly around her waist. Apricot stood up suddenly from where she was tending to her flower border, momentarily shocked out of her activity... she smiled once she realised who it was who'd disturbed her, not that she'd suspected anyone else. She leant her head against Onion's chest, then gently wrapped her arms around his. His arms were warm, comforting, protective... he could still be the immature Sorcerer Hunter she'd fallen in love with, but... that was what she fell in love with, him, how he was... Onion was how Onion was, Apricot didn't want to change a single thing about him. She turned her head, smiling up at him.

"I love you too, Onion."

"I'm glad..."

They smiled at each other for a few peaceful moments, not having the pressure to do anything else... it was a nice day, they had each other, why bother about anything else? The peace they found in each other's eyes was enough. In each other's eyes, and each other's embrace. She was warm in his arms, his arms were warm... they just watched each other, then kissed. No reason not to, after all. They kissed softly, they kissed lovingly... they kissed increasingly passionately, to the bemused confusion of the four children standing nearby.

Marron just watched, before tugging at Carrot's shirt.

"Niisan, what do you suppose they're doing?"

Chocolat blinked, glancing up at Tira and then at Marron. "They're... lickin' each other's faces, or trying to eat each other, or something..."

Carrot grinned, waving his hand at the others. "Idiots, it's 'cause it's their avvinursary! It's cause they're been married forever!"

The others just blinked at Carrot; Tira looked her most wide-eyed innocent as she blinked behind her large glasses.

"Carrot... what's married?"

Carrot smiled, his arms folded.

"Well, y'know, it's when..." he shook one hand around, holding his sentence off.

"Carrot?"

Carrot sighed, not wanting the others to know that he knew as much as them on the subject. Instead of admitting defeat, he decided on another tactic.

"... 'kay, let's go ask them!"

Tira and Chocolat called Carrot's name as he ran off in the direction of his parents. Marron had been holding onto Carrot's shirt, and was surprised at him suddenly running off... he followed with a concerned 'niisan!', running behind Tira and Chocolat.

When the children reached Apricot and Onion, the two were standing a little apart, holding both hands together, staring at each other happily. They didn't seem to notice the children until Tira stepped forward, tugging slightly on the hem of Apricot's skirt.

"A... Aunty Apricot?"

Apricot and Onion noticed their little audience; Apricot blushed lightly, laughing.

"Oh! Ha ha, children..." She smiled kindly at the four of them. "Did you need something?"

"Aunty Apricot, what's married? Carrot said that you and Uncle Onion were doing what you were just then because it was your avvarunsury because you were married, but we don't know what that is... Carrot said we should come ask you..."

Apricot glanced at Onion, who smiled. Apricot smiled back, and knelt down in front of the children, putting a hand on Tira's shoulder.

"Well... alright. Sometimes, children, two people love each other a lot. And they decide that they want to spend the rest of their lives together... that's what me and Onion decided; that's when you go to the Stella Church to have a special ceremony called marriage... after that, it's like, you're officially together for life..." She smiled. "I'm not too good at explaining this. Onion, you try?"

Onion looked a little surprised, then knelt down too. "Well, yeah, it's basically what she said. Ya love someone, ya marry 'em, ya have kids. Ya help the kids grow up, then watch it all happen again." Onion slapped his knee, grinning madly for a moment.

"Bwa ha ha, Marron, Carrot, if you grow up anything like your dear old dad, you'll be fighting the girls off! And Chocolat, Tira, I'm sure you'll end up wowing all the guys. Pick someone special to love, okay?"

Apricot smiled, nodding. "Don't be in a hurry to fall in love. Falling in love is something slow and beautiful, it takes time... it's like a flower blooming."

"But... Aunty Apricot, you can make a flower bloom in a second with your magic!"

"That's true... but isn't it much more satisfying to raise a flower from a seed, and watch it grow into a shoot, and watch that shoot grow a bud, which then blooms?"

The children just blinked up at Apricot; she smiled back, standing up. Perhaps the metaphor was a little complex for the children to grasp.

"... don't worry about it. You don't need to worry about love or marriage for a long time... you're only young, you've got the rest of your lives to worry about love and marriage and other such things. Just let it come naturally, and things'll take care of themselves."

Apricot let Onion pull her into a sidewards hug, and she watched the children as they thought about this. Their innocent concentration was a sweet thing to watch... Marron stepped forward, looking up at Apricot with innocent eyes.

"... we shouldn't worry about love..." He glanced at Carrot, then back at Apricot. "... I love niisan..."

Apricot paused for a moment, taken aback by Marron's straightforwardness. Then she smiled again; they were so innocent, all of them.

"There are many different kinds of love, Marron. There's the love that's shared amongst you children, the love that me and Onion share... love is still love, love is always love, but there are many ways of showing that love."

Tira wrapped her arms around Apricot's legs, that being the only part of Apricot that Tira could reach.

"I love Aunty Apricot! And I love Uncle Onion, and I love Carrot, and I love Chocolat, and I love Marron..."

"... I love niisan..."

Chocolat grinned, waving her arms in the air. "I love EVERYBODY! But... how will we know who to marry?"

Onion reached down and ruffled Chocolat's hair.

"Hey, didn't we say you don't haveta worry about that for ages? One day, you'll meet someone who'll take yer breath away. You'll be like 'wow, that person makes me feel like no-one else! I want to be with them forever!', and then, maybe, you'll be in love. It's a different kind of feeling to anything you've ever had... but you'll know the feeling, once you have it. It's hard to explain, but... you'll know. You'll just know."

Chocolat just nodded, quietly thinking.

Apricot gasped slightly. "Oh! Look at the sun... I should make us something to eat."

Onion smiled, "Hey, c'mon, today's special. Let me cook for you today!"

"And have you smoke out the kitchen? You have many strengths, Onion Glacé... but cooking isn't one of them, darling."

"Well, at least let me hang over yer shoulder while you cook!"

The two were already walking back to the house, Onion still hugging Apricot around her shoulders. She pushed at him slightly, not really meaning it, "I'll never get away from you, will I?"

"No, 'cause I won't let you!"

"... I know."

The children just watched as the two adults went inside. Chocolat put her hands on her hips, tipping her head to the side. "So... they're married and stuff 'cause they love each other, right? And... love is... uh... marriage... is... something to do with flowers!"

"Oneesama, I don't think she meant that..."

"What DID she mean, then? But don't they seem really happy? I wanna get married! Tira, don't you wanna get married too? Sure you do! Who do you wanna get married to? I wanna marry... uh..."

Chocolat glanced around; she looked at Tira, then at the Glacé brothers. Marron stood behind Carrot, holding onto his brother's arm. Carrot just stared at Chocolat, "Whaat?"

"Yeah, okay! I wanna marry Carrot! I'll marry Carrot, and I'll call him darling, and we'll be happy, like Apricot and Onion are! YEAH!"

"O-Oneesama, I don't think that's something you can suddenly decide like that..."

"Tiraaa, it's FUN! How about I marry Carrot and you marry Marron?" Chocolat turned to grin at Marron. "What about Marron? How would Marron feel about marrying Tira?"

Marron seemed to shift further behind Carrot, unsure of what to say. "Ni-niisan..."

Carrot took hold of Marron's hand, holding it reassuringly. "Chocolat, you made Marron nervous!"

"Sorry, Marron. So Marron doesn't wanna marry Tira... Tira, you wanna marry Carrot?"

"O... neesama..."

Chocolat jumped around, as if she'd discovered some new game. "Me and Tira both love Carrot and wanna marry him! But... I think you can only marry one person, so... how do we decide who gets to marry Carrot?"

Chocolat looked around again, trying to come up with some solution. The first thing she noticed was Apricot's flower border, with all it's pretty flowers... an idea seemed to come to her.

"I know! She said it was like a flower, right? Or something... Tira! How about you and me go off and gather flowers, and the person with the most flowers gets to marry Carrot! Hm? Whaddaya think?"

"... can we make pretty things with the flowers afterwards?" Tira thought about making daisy chains. Chocolat just shrugged, "Sure, whatever you want."

Tira smiled, then nodded, already running off from the group. "I'll find more flowers than oneesama!"

"Tira, WAIT UP! I won't let you beat me! I'll get more flowers than you! I'll be the one to marry... darling!"

Carrot watched as Chocolat dashed off after Tira; they'd run off from the garden and the house... still, it wasn't like there was any danger to worry about in the village. If they wanted to run off, Carrot wasn't going to stop them.

Carrot wandered off to a small hill nearby the house, followed by Marron. Carrot sat down, then rested on his back, looking up at the sky. Marron quietly sat next to him, smiling down at his big brother.

"Tira and Chocolat are a bit scary, niisan..."

"Oh, I know. Still, if they both wanna marry me... I dunno, if they wanna love me, then I'll let them love me. I wanna wait until I have that feeling that father talked about, the one you've never felt before kind of feeling... even after that, I don't think I feel anything different for those two... do you?"

"... I don't think I'd want to marry either of them, niisan."

"Nah, don't think I would either. Well... I dunno... Chocolat seemed to like the idea, didn't she? I wonder what made her want to marry me so quickly?"

"She's headstrong, niisan. You happened to be there."

"Yeah... well, that's those two busy for the rest of the day, they'll both probably come back at sundown with huge bunches of flowers they've been getting from other gardens..."

There was a silence. Carrot closed his eyes, happily letting the cool breeze play itself over his body. Marron just watched Carrot; he looked happy, lying there like that... it made Marron happy that Carrot was happy. He idly wondered where the Misu sisters had got to... or where they were, where they'd be, what they'd be doing...

"Gathering flowers for niisan's love... niisan, what'll you do when we find out who managed to get the most flowers? W-will you... will you really marry the person who has the most?"

Carrot opened one eye, and noted his brother's worried expression. He sat up, smiled, and hugged Marron briefly.

"This is really worrying you, isn't it? Hey, I won't let them make me do anything I don't wanna do! Who says I have to marry Chocolat or Tira?"

"N... niisan..."

"... but just 'cause I'm curious... if you had to marry Tira or Chocolat, who'd you marry? Hm, you'd probably go for Tira, Chocolat always ends up beating me up, and if she started beating you up, you'd cry. Not that I'd let her beat you up... if she beat you up, I'd beat her up!"

The two sat there for a few moments, Carrot watching Marron as he thought. Marron looked deep in thought, before he shifted on the grass, moving so he rested against Carrot, his head in his brother's lap. Carrot smiled softly, his hand on Marron's shoulder. "So... who'ja think?"

"Out of Tira and Chocolat, or...?"

"Who'd you marry?"

Marron closed his eyes, smiling warmly.

"I'd rather marry niisan."

Carrot frowned for a moment. "You'd rather marry me?"

"Y-yes... mother said it was when you loved someone and wanted to spend the rest of your life with them, didn't she? W-well... if it's alright... I'd like to spend the rest of my life with niisan... you always protect me, I love you... is it alright to say that?"

"Well, uh... I guess so... I mean..."

Marron sat up slowly, blushing, looking like he was about to cry. He tried to keep his voice level.

"Niisan... I don't want to spend my life with anyone else, but if you didn't want to... I... I... I can't change that, I just want you to be happy, like mother and father..."

Carrot leapt onto Marron, almost randomly. Marron looked at Carrot in confusion, but felt some relief at the huge smile plastered over Carrot's face.

"Marron, don't get so worked up! Of course I wanna spend the rest of my life with you, you're my little brother, it'd be weird if you weren't around, so don't go anywhere! You're not as scary as Chocolat, and you're just different to Tira... I guess I'd rather be with you than them... like always, huh?"

Marron smiled warmly, wrapping his arms around Carrot.

"Niisan makes me happy."

"Marron makes me happy too." Carrot pulled away from Marron's hug, smirking. "Hey, but if you wanna marry me too, shouldn't you be out there with Tira and Chocolat, getting flowers, or something?"

"Do I have to get flowers to prove my love for niisan?"

"Nothing like that! Just wondered if you wanted to, that's all. Well, as I said, those two probably won't be back for a while... I think I'll sleep for a bit. Wanna sleep too? The sun's warm..."

Carrot laid back onto his back, closing his eyes.

"I'll watch you while you sleep, niisan. I'll warn you if Chocolat appears and tries to put frogs down your shirt again."

"Sure, you do that." Carrot sounded sleepy; Marron just smiled as Carrot's breathing measured out in a soft sleep. He didn't mind watching Carrot while he slept... after all, he WAS his big brother, and he did love him more than anything else... Marron thought about it. Spending the rest of his life with somebody... could there ever be anyone other than his niisan? Was there anyone else he'd really rather spend his life with, than Carrot? How could there be someone else? How could there ever be anyone else? Marron hadn't really thought about it before, but... he nodded to himself. As long as his brother didn't mind, then it was alright with Marron; the two of them would spend the rest of their lives together, no matter what. Marron wondered what marriage was like... was it really okay for him and Carrot to get married, if they loved each other enough?

Marron remembered Carrot's words, "Marron, don't get so worked up!"... he smiled, maybe he was thinking about the situation too much. What they had at the moment was enough.

Still, Tira and Chocolat were out gathering flowers... they had a headstart, but... even though it wasn't necessary, Marron felt... maybe it'd be nice if he got flowers for his niisan too. Him and Carrot had something deeper than just flowers, but it'd be nice...

Marron quietly stood up, being careful not to disturb Carrot as he went. He dusted his robe down, and looked around; there was the direction that Tira and Chocolat went in, the direction of the rest of the town... then there was the house, there were no flowers in there, but... there was Apricot's flower border...

Marron shook the thought from his mind. He'd seen how angry Apricot got if Carrot dared go near her flower border... it made him feel worse that it was usually he who'd told Apricot in the first place. The desire to preserve the truth and the guilt at dropping his brother right into it were often conflicting emotions within Marron's mind.

But the flowers there were so pretty... Marron found himself wandering over before he could help himself, walking along the front edge of the house, marvelling at all the bright colours, and the pretty flowers... blue flowers, red flowers, pink flowers, white flowers, all different shapes, sizes and types... which would be the type that Carrot would like? What kind would be the type most meaningful? Marron walked up and down the flowerborder, putting his finger to his lips, pondering. The more he walked up and down the flowerborder, the more one particular flower caught his eye; compared to some of the others growing out of the ground, it wasn't too spectacular, but... still, there was something about that flower...

Marron paused in front of it, then reached out, gently running his fingers over the red petals. They felt good to touch... somewhat soft, somewhat velveteen. The look of the flower, the feel of the flower... Marron's mind was made up. That was the flower he wanted to get for Carrot.

He ran his hand to the underside of the flower, trying to take hold of it. He made a noise of surprise as he felt pain and drew his hand away quickly... inspecting his hand, he noticed a thin yet visible seam of blood on his hand. Was it some kind of spell that Apricot had put onto the flowers to prevent people like him picking them? Would his mother do something like that? He looked closer at the flower, and at the stalk. Running down the stalk in some kind of order were thorns, sharp thorns... so those were what caused the pain. But Marron didn't want a different flower... Marron had made up his mind and nothing would change it - just as he wanted his niisan and no-one else, he wanted no other flower for his brother. He ran his hand down the stalk, trying to find some place a little more devoid of thorns than the rest; he couldn't find a place on the stalk. But he was determined. He steeled himself, wrapping his hand around the stalk... as he wrapped his hand into a fist, he felt the sharp pricks of pain against his skin... but it didn't matter, pain didn't matter if it was pain for Carrot's sake. Besides, it'd feel a lot more satisfying to give his brother a gift he'd had to fight for... all Tira and Chocolat had to do was pick flowers, but... this flower was the flower that Marron would give Carrot...

He still felt relief when the flower came away from the rest of the flower in his hand, though. He quickly transferred the flower from the hand he'd picked it with to his other hand, and looked at his bleeding hand. The thorns had left deep imprints on his skin, not all of them had been enough to draw blood, but all of them were enough to hurt... the ones that bled were enough to sting. Marron shook his hand, trying to distract his mind from the pain. He looked at the flower... it WAS beautiful. And he was going to give it to Carrot, so... it was worth it.

Marron ran from the flowerborder back to the hill where Carrot had been sleeping... Marron ran to his brother, slowing to a kneel next to him; he was still asleep. Marron gently shook Carrot.

"Niisan... wake up?"

Carrot just mumbled slightly. "... Ch... Chocolat... frogs... no..."

Marron smiled. "Niisan... don't be worried, it's not Tira or Chocolat, it's only me..."

Carrot softly opened his eyes, recognition dawning on his fact at seeing Marron.

"Oh, hey Marron." He yawned. "You wanted something?"

Marron looked to the side, blushing eversoslightly. He brought the flower up, pressing it to Carrot's chest.

"I... I got this for you..."

Carrot brought his hand up, holding it against Marron's hand. He saw the flower, Marron removed his hand, letting Carrot see the flower. Carrot picked it up and looked at it, turning it around in his hands. He sat up.

"Hey... isn't that one of the flowers from mother's flower border? Whassit called... a... oh, I forget the name... one of the ones with the really soft petals..." Carrot felt the petals. "Yeah, it is... Marron... why?"

Marron looked away.

"I wanted to get Marron a flower, but... Tira and Chocolat wanted to get you loads of flowers... I... I didn't want to get niisan lots of flowers, I wanted niisan to have something special, so... does that flower count against Tira and Chocolat's flowers?"

"You've got blood on your robe, Marron..."

Marron followed Carrot's pointed finger to the side of his robe where his hand had been resting. "Oh, it's nothing, niisan..."

"Don't say that, lemme look." Carrot leant over, grabbing Marron's right hand. He turned it to him, and saw the small cuts on it. He ran his finger over them, looking at Marron with a degree of sympathy.

"Hey, otouto, how did you do that? Looks painful! Should we go see mother and get her to heal it?"

"N-no, I don't want her knowing where I got my hand cut from..."

"Where did you get them from?" Carrot was turning the flower around in his fingers as he spoke, he ran his fingers over the points of the thorns, and realised. "Oh... Marron, you got those cuts from the flower, didn't you?"

"D-don't worry about it, niisan... it's nothing... I just wanted to get you something beautiful, it doesn't matter..."

"It matters if you got hurt!" Carrot pressed his lips to each one of Marron's cuts, then looked up. "Mother always used to talk about kissing things better... dunno if it works, though. You sure it's okay? I just hate that you got hurt for me!"

"Y-you don't like it, do you... you'd rather have Tira and Chocolat's flowers..."

The quiet sadness in Marron's voice bit at Carrot. "Man, he's still thinking about that? He doesn't care that he got hurt, he's just worried about what Tira and Chocolat got me... though... I guess since those two have been around, he HAS kinda had to have shared me a bit... didn't think it got to him THIS much, though..." Carrot sighed and smiled. "Hey, how could I hate something you gave me? It's a really pretty flower, and I'm sure it's more beautiful than the flowers Tira and Chocolat are gonna bring. Right?" Carrot smiled, winking at Marron. Marron's face lit up.

"R-really?"

"Yeah, really!"

"Is it... meaningful to niisan?"

"Meaningful? Marron, you get deeper by the day, what meaning is there in it? You wanted to get me something beautiful, and you got me something beautiful, and even though you hurt yourself, you're only worried about me... uh... well... yeah, sure it's meaningful!"

"You'll marry me?"

Carrot watched Marron for a few minutes, then took him into a hug, taking Marron's injured hand in his own hand, holding it in his hand, holding it tightly. He smiled, holding the flower in his other hand.

"Yeah, sure, why not? I love you, you love me, what else do we need?"

"Niisan... I love you." Marron nestled against Carrot, who just smiled, nestling back.

"I love you too, otouto. I'll always love you... and... we'll be together forever!"

"Together... forever..." Marron closed his eyes, feeling a different kind of happiness within him. Almost, he might have thought, a kind of feeling he'd never felt before... a happiness, an elation, a beautiful feeling... something powerful... he'd never felt before. "... yes... niisan... together forever."

"One day, you'll meet someone who'll take yer breath away. You'll be like 'wow, that person makes me feel like no-one else! I want to be with them forever!', and then, maybe, you'll be in love. It's a different kind of feeling to anything you've ever had... but you'll know the feeling, once you have it. It's hard to explain, but... you'll know. You'll just know."

Marron heard Onion's words in his head, and let himself dwell on them as he relaxed in the warm embrace of his brother.

"... nobody else makes me feel like niisan does... and... I never want to be apart from him, I want to be with him forever... what if... I don't find love, like father and mother said... what if... I had it all along...? Is that... possible?"

After that, Marron supposed he fell asleep in Carrot's arms. And since Carrot didn't seem to have moved either, he suspected that Carrot fell asleep holding him... the next thing the two of them knew, the Misu sisters were back, and the sun was going down. The Glacé brothers were curious as to how the flower hunt had gone, even Marron. The situation ended up somewhat amusing in the end; Tira and Chocolat had decided that they didn't want to totally strip the neighbourhood of flowers, so they set a little rule. Instead of how many flowers they could find, it became how many different types of flowers they could find... this had then become a game in itself, locating different flowers... due to the teamwork element, Chocolat and Tira found, to Chocolat's consternation, that, in the end, they'd ended up with the exact same number of flowers. Chocolat had been annoyed, but Tira had just smiled, "I suppose this means... we both marry Carrot?"... no-one had said anything to that, not least Marron, who just held his brother's hand.

Eventually, the children heard Apricot's call from the house, calling them all in for dinner. They went in and ate, chattering happily to their parents about the day's events. Chocolat was the most vocal.

"Aunty Apricot, Aunty Apricot, me 'n Tira got a whole load of flowers! Cause... we decided that whoever collected the most flowers could marry Carrot, so... we got loads of flowers!"

Apricot poured herself a drink and sat down at the table. "You're still thinking about marriage?"

"Yeah!"

"Well... it's something new for you to think about... so who won?"

"Umm... well... me 'n Tira kinda got the same amount of flowers... so... no-one won... maybe we can BOTH marry Carrot, huh?"

Apricot laughed, shaking her head. "I don't think that'd work, somehow."

"Whyyy?"

"People only tend to get married to one person..."

The conversation continued; Onion noticed that Carrot wasn't eating much of his food. Instead, he seemed preoccupied with the flower in his hands, the one that Marron had given him. Onion watched Carrot's concentration with quiet amusement, wondering which one of the girls had been the one to give him that flower. The flowers that Tira and Chocolat had gathered were on one of the sidetables... Onion wondered why there was only one of that flower if the girls had managed to get an equal amount.

Eventually, dinner was over, and Apricot busied herself with the washing up, helped by Tira and Chocolat. Marron was on his way to bed, but noticed that Carrot had been stopped by Onion; curious, Marron stood in the doorway behind the door, listening to the conversation.

Onion indicated to the flower. "So, Carrot, who gave ya the rose?"

"Rose?"

"That flower. Here, c'mon, sit on my knee and tell me about it." Onion sat down and patted his knee. Carrot hurried over, and Onion helped him up onto his lap. Onion smiled. "That's a pretty flower... Tira and Chocolat were fighting over who gets to marry you, huh? Heh, why don't you marry whichever one gave you that one? Wonder if it came out of Apricot's border? She grows nice roses... so who gave you it? I won't tell your mother about it if you don't."

Carrot turned the flower over in his hands, "... Marron gave it me..."

"... huh? Marron gave it to you? How come he was giving you flowers?"

Carrot smiled up at Onion. "Well, we were talkin' about it after Tira and Chocolat went off to find flowers... and... we decided that we'd rather marry each other, 'cause, well, Chocolat's scary, and Tira's... well, I dunno, but... we decided that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, and we love each other, so there's no problem! I don't haveta wait to meet someone new, 'cause Marron's always gonna be there for me... and we can be happy like you and mother!"

Onion stood up abruptly, Carrot managed to jump off of his knee before he fell; Onion scowled down at Carrot. "No son of MINE'S gonna be gay..."

"Huh?"

Onion dropped to a kneel, sighing. He put his hand to Carrot's shoulder, looking him in the eyes.

"Look, I guess you guys mighta got the wrong idea... there are other things to love and marriage... I mean, it's okay to love each other, and of course you and Marron are gonna love each other, you're brothers, it'd be wrong if you didn't love each other... but when Apricot said there were different kinds of love..." Onion tried to speak gently. "Carrot, you can't marry Marron."

Carrot looked confused and slightly hurt, still holding the rose to him. "W-why?"

"There are two main reasons... first off... you guys are brothers, you're related, and you just don't marry people you're related to... Apricot and I didn't know each other, then we met, and we got married... but if we'd been, say, brother and sister, we wouldn't have got married, because we'd have had a different love, the love between a brother and sister... I guess that's how Chocolat and Tira are, though it's slightly different with them, 'cause they're not really your sisters... there's nothing to really stop you guys growing up and falling in love when you're older, but... that's a special case. People don't do things like that with people they're related by blood to, do you understand?"

Carrot nodded, still looking sad. "And... um... the second reason?"

"Well... uh... jeez... it's, uh... you and Marron are both guys. Guys don't get together with guys."

"Why?"

"Cause it's disgusting! Guys shouldn't... guys don't act like that together, got that? Guys and guys don't get together, and, I guess, girls and girls don't either. Guys and girls is okay, but... not two guys. The way you're talking about it... if Tira and Chocolat got together, that'd be wrong too. It's just wrong."

Carrot didn't say anything.

Onion looked slightly pained as he stroked Carrot's cheek with his large hand. "Look, Carrot, son, just promise me something here... promise me you'll never grow up to be like that, okay? Promise me you'll find a nice girl in a coupla years, a nice girl who you'll fall in love with, and get married to, and forget this whole thing ever happened... okay?"

The look in Onion's eyes scared Carrot a little. Not wanting to disobey his father, he nodded slightly. "Uh, okay, I, I promise..."

Onion stood up. "Good.", he then reached down and took the rose from Carrot's hand. "I better take this... like I said, just forget this whole thing ever happened, okay?"

Carrot was still confused. "... O-okay, but... I still kinda don't get it... why it wouldn't work..."

"You wouldn't eat an apple with a spoon, would you? It's kinda like that. Like... if you were the apple, and Marron was the spoon, and... no, forget that. Uh... oh yeah, one of the main things about getting married is to have kids and stuff, right? Guys can't have kids together, ain't got the equipment for it."

Carrot frowned, having a small mental image of Apricot and Onion with a toolbox, somehow ending up with children. He shrugged that off, Onion continued.

"There are guys and girls on the planet for a reason, Carrot. Guys were put onto the planet to get with girls, and girls were put on the planet to get with guys... does that make sense?"

"I... I guess..."

"You'll forget this happened?"
"I'll try."

"You won't grow up to... be like that, remember? Promise?"

"I promise."

"You okay?"
"M'fine."

Carrot quietly made his way off to bed; at seeing his brother move, Marron had quickly run to the bedroom, so that his brother might not think that he'd been spying on the conversation.

Onion looked over the rose he'd taken from Carrot, and sighed. Apricot came over, followed by Tira and Chocolat. She ushered the two of them over to the door, "It's time for bed! If you're good, and you're in bed by the time I come up, I'll tell you a bedtime story!"... Tira and Chocolat cheered, running off to their bedroom as quickly as they could. Apricot noticed Onion and the flower.

"You look uneasy, Onion..."

"... Yeah... look, uh... that thing with the flowers..." Onion handed the rose over. "Carrot got this one from Marron."

"Marron gave Carrot a flower too? Oh, how sweet! Perhaps he felt left out."
"No, not like that... me and Carrot were just talking about it... Carrot said that Marron gave him the flower, and, uh... they'd decided to marry each other. Carrot said pretty much that he didn't see why he had to wait for someone who he'd fall in love with, 'cause him and Marron already loved each other, and... we shoulda told 'em, there's a difference between love and being in love, I shoulda said that to him..."

".. What did you say to him?"

"Well, I told him that him and Marron couldn't get married, 'cause they were related, people who are related don't get married... and I tried to explain that two guys just don't DO things like that, but I don't know if Carrot really got it... it's kinda complicated for him to understand, I suppose..."

Apricot walked to the dinnertable, and put the rose into a waterjug. "No reason to let a flower go to waste. So... yes, I suppose it is. You seem anxious, though..."

"I dunno if I pressured him a bit much... I kinda... made him promise that he wouldn't ever be gay..."

"Onion, that..." Apricot sighed, and walked over to Onion, letting him hug her. "I don't think that's really something you can promise for or against... I know you don't want to end up rearing someone like Milphey, but... they're only young, Onion. After this, Carrot might think about it... what if he does decide that he feels like that? And that his main memory of that is you telling him how wrong it is?"

"Are you saying you want Carrot to be gay?"
"No, I just think that perhaps you were a little insensitive, that's all. It'll probably blow over, and in a year, he'll have forgotten... I just hope you haven't started building a barrier between the two of you, that's all."

Onion just sighed, "... c'mon, let's just go to bed."

"I said I'd tell Tira and Chocolat a story before bed..."

"You do that, I'll still be there afterwards." Onion smiled a certain smile at Apricot, who smiled back, nodding. "I know you will..."

And so, the two of them went up to bed. Onion went straight into his and Apricot's room, and Apricot visited Tira and Chocolat's room. Meanwhile, in Marron and Carrot's room, Carrot was having a hard time trying to calm Marron down. Marron wasn't crying as such, but he was very on-edge.

"Marron... what is it?"

"Nothing. Nothing."

"You're acting all weird suddenly! Tell me what's wrong?"

Carrot sat in his bed, and Marron sat in his, both in their nightclothes. Carrot was sitting up, and Marron was hunched over, looking away from Carrot. Carrot couldn't see the tears that were perilously close to falling from Marron's eyes, but he could hear their effect in Marron's voice.

"There's nothing wrong, it doesn't matter!"
"Marrronnnn... there IS something wrong, I can tell! Come on, tell me!"

There was a pause, and then Marron did start to cry. "Ni... niisan, we... we can't LOVE each other anymore!"

"... huh?"

"I... I was... I was listening to you and father talking... I saw him take the rose from you... and... he said that we couldn't get married, because we're brothers, because we're both male... but... I can't help it, even if niisan isn't a girl, I still love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you! Just because we're brothers, does that mean we can't be together forever? I don't want to grow up and meet a girl and fall in love with her and get married, I don't want niisan to grow up and meet a girl and fall in love with her and get married, I want to be happy with niisan forever! You said to me that we'd be together forever! Niisan, you can't even comfort me, because I'm sure that even THAT'S wrong, by father's reasoning..."

Marron still didn't look at Carrot. Carrot watched Marron, feeling torn. On one hand, he'd promised his father... but on the other hand, Marron was upset...

Carrot climbed out of his bed, and slipped in next to Marron, putting his arm around him. Marron gasped slightly, turning around, looking at Carrot.

"Nii... san?"

"Hey... I promised him I wouldn't end up like that, whatever that is... he didn't make me promise not to comfort you when you need to be comforted, right? I don't care what he says! I'm your big brother, I gotta protect you, I wanta protect you! And if I'm not allowed to protect you, well, that's just stupid! Let's break the rules... let's still be close, let's still comfort each other... and even if we can't get married, wanna stay together forever anyway? I'm pretty sure we can stay together even if we're not married..."

"R-really?"

"Hey, I'll stay with you if you wanna stay with me."

Marron just blinked at Carrot, unsure. Onion had seemed almost angry earlier on, and this was disobeying him... but Carrot's smile was reassuring, and his arm around Marron's shoulders was a warm comfort... his father may have forbidden it, but... Marron felt a little sneaky. Him and his niisan were going to break the rules, they were going to stay together, even if their father said they couldn't... Marron smiled, putting his arms around Carrot, snuggling against his nightshirt.

"Niisan, niisan, niisan! I love you!"

Carrot laughed, holding Marron tighter with his one hand, before wrapping the other one around his brother's body, holding him close. "Heh, I'm glad. I love you too, let's always love each other, no matter what anyone says, okay?"

"Mm!"
"Promise me?"

Marron wriggled one hand away from Carrot, and grabbed one of Carrot's hands. He put his pinky finger to Carrot's pinky, wincing slightly - he'd forgotten about the cuts on his hand until then. Carrot took Marron's pinky in his own, then held Marron' hand in his. "... Marron?"

"Y-yes... I... I promise, niisan!"

Night had fallen on the Spooner Continent; the woods were foreboding, even with the campfire nearby, the woods around were dark. The light just served to remind how much more darkness there was, after all...

Tira and Chocolat were sat at the campfire; they stared at it quietly. Somewhere to the side, Gateau was asleep. In the next glade, Carrot was asleep. Marron had gone somewhere earlier and he wasn't back yet, but there didn't seem to be any cause to worry. The Sorcerer of the day had been dispatched, the group were just making their way back to Eden and Big Mama. And Tira and Chocolat were getting a little nostalgic.

"Né, oneesama..."

"Yeah?"

"Isn't is... that time of year... maybe I'm wrong, but... isn't this day... Aunty Apricot and Uncle Onion's wedding anniversary?"

Chocolat moved, lying on her chest. "Hey, yeah, I think it is... how come you thought of that?"

"I'm not sure... I just suddenly thought about it... and that time, all those years ago..."

The sisters fell silent, thinking about their memories. Chocolat smiled softly, partly to herself.

"Was that time when I first realised I loved Darling? Or was it because of that day? I remember Apricot and Onion telling us about marriage and stuff, but we didn't really understand at the time... didn't we go off and try to get flowers, to see who'd marry Carrot?"

Tira nodded, smiling. "Yes... if I remember, we both got the same amount of flowers..."

"It started so small... yeah, we did. But..." Chocolat smiled, "Didn't Marron try to get Carrot flowers too, or something like that? For some reason, I remember something like that..."

"Oh, I'm sure he did..."

Chocolat laughed. "Man, we were so naive back then! Ya think Marron really wanted to marry Carrot?"

Tira pushed at Chocolat's shoulder good-naturedly. "Oneesama, don't even suggest that, that's just wrong! Marron and Carrot... that's just a scary idea!" Tira couldn't help laughing alongside Chocolat, despite the manner of the joke. Chocolat nodded, sitting up.

"Yeah, yeah, I know! But hey, doesn't Marron act scary with Carrot sometimes? He's always been like that though, but still! Maybe Marron wanted to marry Carrot... maybe he still DOES want to marry Carrot!"

Tira shrieked with laughter. "Oneesama, STOP IT! That's like saying me and you wanted to get married or something like that!"

Chocolat tried to keep a straight face. "Oh, but haven't you noticed? Marron's always so protective of Carrot, he never reacts whenever Gateau flirts with him, he never even notices when we meet pretty girls, but he always blushes or gets angry or sad whenever Carrot's flirting and getting hurt by other girls, so..."

Chocolat exploded in giggles. "It's just so SCARY!"

"I know, I know! But... hahahaha, really, haha, you think?"

"Ha-uh?" Chocolat's laughter abruptly stopped. "What's that?"

"Well, do you think that maybe there's something really going on there? I know we wonder about it a lot, but... maybe Marron's not heterosexual OR homosexual... maybe he's... " Tira sniggered, giggling. "... maybe he's Carrot-sexual!"

"Tira, that's not funny! That sounds like some sort of weird vegetable perversion! 'He doesn't love girls, he doesn't love guys, he loves ORANGE VEGETABLES'..."

The two girls were abruptly stopped in their activity as someone entered the glade; the two of them blushed to their ears as they realised it was Marron; had he heard anything they'd spent the last while laughing and giggling none too quietly about? He didn't seem angry, though. He just smiled at the two of them.

"Sorry to disturb you. I was just... surveying the land."

"Hey, Marron, you don't need to do that, we already beat the Sorcerer, remember? Anyway... um... you gonna go sleep now?"

"Yes. Goodnight Chocolat, Tira."

The girls nodded in response as Marron made his way off to the glade where Carrot was sleeping. They waited until Marron was gone, then sighed loudly in relief, smiling nervously.

"Tira, that was too close!"
"I know... we have to be careful!"

"But ya gotta admit, it IS fun to speculate..."
"Oh, yeah..." Tira yawned. "Maybe we should get some sleep too?"

Chocolat was already dragging her sleeping bag out. She nodded. "Yeah, might as well. Hey, uh, Tira...?"

"Mmm?"

"Joking aside... what... what do you think, about, uh, those two?"

"Joking aside? Oh, they're just extremely close siblings, oneesama. Why, were you worried?"

"Just wondering what you thought. But yeah, I agree with you, they wouldn't be having a relationship like that, not really." Chocolat smiled as she pulled her sleeping bag over her shoulders, shutting her eyes. "What weird ideas we have sometimes..."

Marron smiled quietly to himself. The Misu sisters might never realise that they weren't as far off the mark as perhaps they'd like to think, he thought. He'd heard them giggling away into the night, anyone in a five-mile vicinity would have heard the laughter, but Marron didn't mind them talking behind his back like that. They joked about it, but they didn't know the truth, and in that way, he had the upper hand. Him and Carrot had the upper hand, at least.

They'd been right, though. It was that time of year again, Apricot and Onion's wedding anniversary. Chocolat liked to remember it because of the flower incident; the earliest memory she had of feelings for her darling. Tira remembered it whenever Chocolat reminisced on it. On the other hand, Marron and Carrot liked to remember that date too, for a slightly different reason. Yes, there was the whole flower thing... but on that day, the two of them had made a promise.

Marron walked into the glade, and looked at Carrot as he slept. Or at least, he appeared to be asleep... Marron slipped the rose he'd found out of his robesleeve, and looked at it happily. Onion wasn't on hand to take this one away. Or the ones he'd been giving his niisan for the past couple of years. Marron was caught offguard slightly by Carrot's voice - he hadn't been asleep.

"Hey, Marron."

"N-niisan..."

"Come over here..."

Marron did so, kneeling down next to Carrot in his sleeping bag. Carrot looked at Marron, smiling... his smile widened as Marron silently pressed the rose into his hand.

"Oh, Marron! You got one! Where did you find one? I kinda thought you weren't gonna get me one this year... n-not that it matters, but..."

"Don't be silly, niisan... it's tradition, I wouldn't break it. It's the symbol of the promise we made all that time ago... niisan, do you remember the promise?"

"That we'd love each other no matter what anyone said..."

A look of subtle, beautiful happiness spread over Marron's face. Carrot watched Marron's joy, then gently took one of Marron's cheeks in his hand. He stroked his fingers against Marron's skin, then sat up in his sleeping bag, half knelt, half balancing.

"I don't care if we're going against what the old guy said... we're a bit too far gone for that."

"We couldn't have known the extent of our current relationship back then..."

"Father'd never know that his two boys were sleeping with each other, would he?"

Marron smiled shyly, shaking his head. "The Misu sisters would never know either... did you hear them earlier?"

"I heard them laughing, but I didn't really catch what they were laughing about... why, what were they saying? Talking about the whole flower thing?"

"... in a way. They were talking about me... saying that I might not be heterosexual or homosexual, but, well, Carrot-sexual..."

"If you're Carrot-sexual, then I'm Marron-sexual. Doesn't sound so bad... just a shame our group's so close these days. I mean, not that that's a bad thing, but... if we went off into the woods to celebrate our little promise, someone'd notice, wouldn't they?"

Marron nodded softly. "Yes, niisan... and the forests would echo with the angry cries of the Misu sisters."

Carrot leant up, kissing Marron's lips softly, a light loving gesture. Marron blushed lightly, then a little deeper as Carrot lost his balance, falling into Marron's lap.

"Woah-!"

"Niisan..." Marron helped Carrot back into a decent position. "Not with the Misu sisters so close by."

"Hey, Marron... I know they'd freak if they found me missing, or if they found us doing... y'know... but... it'd be kinda a shame not to do something today, since it IS like, well, ages since we first made that promise... seems like things always happen on tonight, of all nights..."

"I can't deny that, niisan..." Marron nodded, quietening in thought. Carrot was right... the little promise had been remembered throughout childhood, then as the two of them had started to grow up, things had suddenly started to happen... the first deep lingering kiss... the first exploration of physical pleasure... the second, the third, the fourth, the... well. Once they'd discovered just what their bodies were capable of, it was as if they couldn't stop. It was hard sometimes, especially when the Misu sisters were always so close by, but... somehow, they managed it. "... perhaps... once they're asleep... we could... go?"

Carrot paused, as if listening out for something. He couldn't hear anything... he smirked at Marron. "Why wait?"

He got up, stepping out of his sleeping bag, placing the rose on his pillow. He grabbed Marron's robesleeve, pulling him into a standing position. He wrapped his arms around Marron's waist, pulling him close, kissing him like how Onion had kissed Apricot, all those years ago. Marron pushed against Carrot's chest initially, but soon gave up; there was no fighting against his brother's passion.

Carrot pulled away after a few moments, smiling softly at Marron. Softly, with the hint of... something deeper, in that smile.

"Doesn't matter if we can't get married. Don't need to get married to spend the rest of our lives together, right, otouto?"

"Right, niisan... oh, and I was so upset, when I thought that father had said we couldn't love each other anymore. He never said that at all... but that was what it felt like. Would we be like this now if he hadn't spoke like that back then?"

"I... I don't know... we're rebelling, aren't we? It's us against the world... but I wouldn't have it any other way. I still mean what I said... I don't care about what anyone else thinks, I don't care if anyone else thinks it's wrong, thinks it's disgusting, thinks it's perverted, thinks it's un-natural... we've had these feelings for so long, it's natural to us, isn't it?"

"Yes, niisan... I can't even remember a time when I didn't feel this way. Even back then, my thoughts on you were deeper than they perhaps should have been..."

Carrot silenced Marron with another kiss, his arms looped around his brother's neck. "Hey... if we stay here talking about the past for long enough, it'll be sunrise, and we'll have missed our chance for another night. Don't say anything, let's just go, okay?"

Marron looked at Carrot, then nodded. Carrot smiled, taking hold of Marron's hand as the two of them retreated further into the forest.

"Only thing I wanna hear you say tonight, is my name..."

"Nii... san?"

"Not like that." Carrot smirked. "You know how I mean."

Marron blinked, then smiled craftily at his brother's smirk. He knew exactly what his brother meant... and he wasn't about to disappoint him tonight.

- Fin -