The quiet boy sat watching the sea. In the early morning it was sometimes bright and opaque like crumpled silver paper; sometimes colourless and humped with big formless waves; sometimes bright blue, hard, and enamelled; sometimes pallid and translucent with dancing green lights showing in the banks of the long, unbreaking swell. Sometimes when it was rough a big wave would smash over the rocks in a tumbling lather of foam, and the quiet boy would smile as the salt spray stung him, and as the wave receded rivers like pouring salt would stream from the rocks' weed-covered shoulders. The quiet boy sat and watched the sea in all weathers, from sudden fierce squalls to days of mist and glass-calm when the surface was stippled with pinpricks of gentle rain.
Squall sat on the tumbled columns, watching. At the foot of the steps, Zell was building sandcastles. Snatches of his imaginary conversation came to Squall on the wind, words tattered like war-torn banners. He was engrossed in his game, marshalling the pebbles of his attacking force against the shells of his castle's defenders, too absorbed to have seen the sky turn a leaden grey behind him, or to feel the chill in the wind as it swung around. Too engrossed in his play to notice Seifer coming down the steps.
"Chicken-wuss!" Three steps from the bottom, Seifer launched himself feet-first into Zell's castle, sand and shells and stones raining down around the startled boy. With a shrug, Squall turned away from the knot of feet and fists writhing in the sand at the bottom of the steps, their inarticulate words lost as the wind dropped.
Squall looked up in the sudden stillness. On the headland, the lighthouse was almost invisible, a dark smudge against the grey sky. The sea was a dead mirror, flat and glassy, reflecting nothing. Something's going to happen, Squall thought, as the sky began to crumble.
Slowly at first, but faster, and thicker, like a million birds circling home to roost, and in only a moment the air was full of… feathers? Squall wondered. But they were cold, and vanished at a touch.
Behind him, on the beach, Squall heard the boys come apart; heard Seifer's startled yell and Zell's excited shout; both of them pelting up the steps, their fight forgotten, Zell's high pitched "Matron! Matron! The sky!" the only sound in the whole silent vanishing world.
Only Ellone had known what it was, and no-one had quite believed her until Edea had explained it. Quistis had arranged them into teams to build snowmen in the backyard, and once no-one could feel their faces or fingers Edea had swept them all back inside, where there was a fire leaping up the chimney and hot chocolate with marshmallows bobbing on its surface like a fleet of tiny boats.
After dark, they'd snuck back out, picking their way carefully down to the beach, the long steps shapeless under the drifting hummocked snow. Quistis had slipped half way down, her shriek turning to laughter as she slithered down the slope on her back. Irvine had been the first to throw himself after her, letting out a long whoop as he went, Selphie only a moment behind him and soon they were all doing it, bright-eyed and panting, their breath hanging in the air. Zell was just clambering to his feet, shaking the packed snow out of his sleeves, when Seifer came careering down the slope, feet out in front of him, his "watch it, Chicken-wuss" only a deliberate moment too late, and then it was a fight.
Later, no-one would admit to throwing the first snowball. Selphie said it was Squall; Quistis was adamant that it was Selphie; Squall didn't care. At first it had been girls against boys, but Seifer had caught Selphie on the temple with a piece of ice and after that it was everyone against him.
"Don't you dare throw that snowba-" the projectile caught him square in the face as the children scattered up the steps towards the orphanage, their laughter silvery in the night air.
"Chicken-Wuss! Goddammit!" Seifer spat the snow out of his mouth, only two steps behind them.