Summary: Put your music on shuffle and write ficlets based on what comes up. You only have the duration of each song to write - not a second more.
Notes: Squall/Rinoa, Irvine/Selphie, Seifer/Rinoa, maybe even a touch of Zell/Quistis. Some of these are post-game, so beware of spoilers. I definitely think a few of these are weak (and a few are strong), but I guess that's the nature of the exercise, right?
1. Fill in the Blank – Jimmie’s Chicken Shack
The answer’s always temporary.
Fill in the blank.
Up close, beauty is far more scary.
Can’t fill in the blank.
“Have you wondered...”
Rinoa trails off, and Squall gives her a quick sideways glance. “What?”
“It’s just,” Rinoa tries again, shrugging her shoulders as if she doesn’t quite understand what she’s trying to say herself. “Ultimecia. Do you ever stop to wonder why she’s doing this?”
Yes. Over and over. It bothers him more than he’d like to admit.
Carefully directing his gaze back onto the gunblade in his lap, in pieces and grimy with unwiped polish, Squall says, “Not really.”
2. Candy in the Sun – Swirl 360
’Cause I know a place
Where the sun is always shining,
And I won’t forget the face,
The one who’s going to keep me smiling.
It takes Selphie smashing a popsicle against his lips for Squall to finally speak up. “You’re acting like idiots.”
“Oh, lighten up!” she giggles, whipping the broad straw hat off her head and depositing it on his. “We’re on vacation!”
“No, we’re not.”
“Close enough,” Irvine says with a grin. “Surveillance over a suspected beach base, and no base in sight. May as well have fun.”
Squall throws the hat off his head with a growl and glares down at its flower-cluttered top. “We may as well do our jobs!”
“Ooooor,” Rinoa says softly, “you could let your troops unwind. Stress doesn’t help their performances, you know.” She nudges him. “An easy day like this might actually be a tactical advantage.”
It’s a good excuse, he reasons. Something the enemy might not have. If it occurs to him that there isn’t really an enemy to fight at the moment, he doesn’t voice it, instead opting to sneak attack both Selphie and Irvine with casual popsicles down their backs when they’re not looking.
3. Heaven – Persona 4 OST
Those long days passing by from that door,
Like late summer they slowly fade away.
If there’s anything more unsettling than sitting spectator to Rinoa’s Wishing Star, it’s being in the same position when Selphie rolls out The End. It’s not that he’s averse to flowers and sunshine – as much as people may consider him a master of gloom, he’s actually fond of nature and can appreciate beauty where he finds it. It doesn’t hurt that flower fields have a bit of personal significance to him, either. That’s what makes her attack more troubling. There’s a flood of relief when he sees the spread of yellow, bobbing and rippling like an ocean of sun, and then where there was life, monster life, but still life, there’s nothing.
And when Selphie just smiles, Squall has to suppress a shudder.
4. In This Diary – The Ataris
I guess when it comes down to it,
Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up.
These are the best days of our lives.
A few months ago, if you’d told Quistis Trepe, child prodigy and one of the youngest instructors ever, that she’d be happy to have paint flung at her by one of the most reckless and immature of her students, she would’ve ignored the statement and gone about her business.
“You’re responsible for this, aren’t you?” she tries to say in her most stern voice, but the gasping laughs ruin the effect.
Zell shrugs. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She whips her brush at him, spraying blue paint across his shirt.
“Hey! I like this one!”
“Who else would graffiti the cafeteria?”
“Not fair,” he grumbles as he cracks open another can of paint. Any pouting going on dissipates as he adds bright red to his arsenal.
Quistis shields her face and shouts, “Why?!”
“Same to you!”
“You were my student!” she blurts. “I’m responsible for you!”
“Yeah,” Zell snorts, “and the cafeteria is responsible for giving me hot dogs! Jerks!”
It’s the worst answer ever. F-worthy, really. For some reason, it doesn’t bother her.
5. Ride On – Final Fantasy VIII OST
No joke. This is really what my iTunes came up with.
Piloting the Ragnarok is just about the best feeling in the world. Except maybe for driving a train. Riding trains is really fun; driving one must be amazing!
“Hey Irvine,” Selphie shouts over the ruckus from the impromptu Triple Triad tournament going on behind them. “What do you think driving a train is like?”
“Like this but more grounded?” He shrugs. “Less speed?”
She scrunches up her face. “That’s no fun!”
“Okay, okay, gimme a minute... it’s... like riding on a train... but... you have.... power?”
“Oh, that’s good!”
Irvine ruffles her hair and dodges the flailing hand that tries to smack his face. “I think I’m scared of you.”
Selphie grins wider. “That’s good too.”
6. Up All Night – Unwritten Law
And we’re alright,
We’re up all night,
To see the sun come up again now.
Just one more time,
No reason why,
To see the sun come up again.
“I’m with Fujin.” Raijin picks his line up out of the water and grimaces at the wilting, untouched bait. “This is borin’, ya know?”
“You’re missing the point. It’s about patience.” Seifer slaps a fresh hunk of meat on Raijin’s hook and drops it back into the water.
“Yeah. Night is dark, ya know? Can’t we do this durin’ the day?”
Seifer shakes his head. “More fish are out when it’s quiet. Our luck is better now. Just wait.”
It takes a few minutes for casual conversation to pop back up again, but shutting his eyes against the stream of “ya know”s and clipped syllables, Seifer thinks the wait is always worth it.
7. Remember Me – Hoobastank
Now he claims
That he’s known me for so very long,
But I remember being no one.
He has a reputation now for being a great sharpshooter. Among the best a Garden has ever produced, they say. He’s in demand constantly. Any mission that needs a sniper, they need him. Squall deflects most of the requests, insisting that Irvine is part of his unit and can’t be spared, but every once in a while, he gets roped into doing a side mission.
It’s the worst when the group’s from Galbadia.
“What have you been up to since we last talked?” The guy – Snat? Cran? Something like that – laughs casually and pats Irvine on the back. “I mean, besides the obvious. Saving the world and all that.”
“Yeah.” Irvine rechecks the sight on his gun. “Not much.”
“O-oh? Well... that’s...”
“Could you get me some water?”
The guy stares at him blankly for a moment before the friendly facade snaps back into place. “Of course, buddy!”
Irvine watches him go and runs through his memory once again. He can’t be 100% sure, of course, but it’s close enough. They’ve never spoken before this mission.
8. Promise – Eve 6
Run away with you if things don’t go as planned;
Planning big could be a gamble.
I’ve already rolled the dice.
In the few moments they have alone, he wants to let her go. She’s talking to him quietly, a jumble of quick words in soothing tones with an undercurrent of panic. He almost wants to laugh.
“What’s wrong?” Seifer sneers. “You were having fun before this, weren’t you?”
He jostles her arm just a bit past comfortable, and when Rinoa mumbles, “It’s not about fun,” he laughs.
“Sure it is.”
“We were fun.” Rinoa shakes her head. “But my mission-“
“Wasn’t real to you. You’re all mixed up.” Seifer’s voice is somewhere between amusement and sympathy.
“It doesn’t have to be mixed up. You could still step down. We could be friends again.”
His grip on her loosens, just a breath, just a hint, and then Squall comes running in, all business and bristling with heroism, and once more Seifer knows nothing but the challenge.
9. Train Under Water – Bright Eyes
So don’t be fooled,
Now don’t get lied to.
Love was always cruel.
Don’t act strange,
Don’t be a stranger.
It happened to me, now it’s happening to you.
“Do you ever think you could make a difference?”
Seifer rubs his cold nose. “All the time.”
“You’re so confident,” Rinoa giggles, and it fades off into a sigh. “I mean a big difference, though. The kind they write about in history books.”
The images come to him quick, the first time he picked up a gunblade, a perfect score on an exam, Zell curled on the ground in defeat after a sparring match. “That’s what I mean too. I’m gonna be a SeeD. I’ll be the best.” It takes effort to ignore Squall’s indifferent look in his mind.
Rinoa rolls to her side to face him, and the damp grass reaches up to trace faint lines on her skirt. “Me too. My resistance group, we’re going to change everything. People won’t have to live in fear anymore.”
“Yeah?” Seifer lifts himself up on his elbows. “How’re you planning to do that?”
“Oh, lots of ways.”
He sighs. “You’ve got nothing.”
“Hey, we have plenty!” Rinoa struggles up onto her knees, huffing angrily and with her eyes narrowed. “We have ideas, good ideas. The sort of stuff that could really work. We just...” Her shoulders slump. “We just don’t have the means to do them right now, is all.”
Seifer’s not sure what he’s going to say until the words are already out of his mouth. “I could get you the means.”
Then there are hands on his, warm and strangely chapped yet soft, and Rinoa breathes, “Really?”
“Sure,” he says with forced nonchalance as he shrugs lopsidely. “I am the best student Balamb Garden’s got. I could get you in with the Headmaster. No sweat.”
It’s all arrogance and no substance, and he knows it, but Rinoa must not. Not with the way she’s smiling at him, open, unchecked, and the empty field of grass and dark night sky shrink away from them at the brilliance he’s witnessing. So what if he’s not really the best student? That’s just one dream. He has others, ones Squall doesn’t know about. Ones he can’t touch.
Rinoa’s hand closes around his, and he grabs on tight.
10. Hit the Switch – Bright Eyes
I’m staring out into that vacuum again
From the back porch of my mind,
The only thing that’s alive.
I’m all there is.
It’s silent in the dorm. Squall’s spent too much time like this, limp on his narrow bed, murmuring ceaselessly in his own head. It’s easier this way. He used to tune out everyone all the time, no matter how many, no matter how loud. Lately, though, they’re getting in. Zell asks if he wants to go boarding sometime, or Selphie demands they check out that new bakery in Dollet, and he turns them down like always, but something in him moves when he does it. He’s not still like he used to be.
He asks Rinoa one day what’s happening to him, and she laughs. “I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you that,” she offers brightly.
Squall scowls. “Useless.”
He scowls again, but there’s no force to it this time. He sighs. “Sorry.”
“No worries. I really don’t think I can tell you that, though. It just wouldn’t be fair.”
“Can you...” Squall buries his face in his hands. How pathetic. “... give me a hint?”
She pauses for a moment, tapping her chin, before she says, “Sure. You asked me.”
“That’s the hint.”
“You got it!” Scurrying away, she waves over her shoulder and adds, “Think about it. You asked me for advice.”
The door shuts, and he thinks he gets it, just a little. He has to concede slightly – that was a pretty good hint.