CWOTM 2: "Puzzle" - by h34rt1lly

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#1
Story title: Puzzle
Style:
Fan Ficition
Mature content:
No
Summary:
Rinoa convinces Squall to do a puzzle with her - or rather, for her.



“...Seriously, Rinoa? I don’t have time for that right now, I’ve got these repo—”

Rinoa frowned and pushed her lower lip out, showcasing to Squall just how well she knew how to pout. She dropped her arms, resting the box in her hands on her stomach as she stared up at him with puppy-dog eyes.

The stoic commander sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose, willing Hyne to give him an overabundance of patience on this day in particular. His arm fell back down to his side and he gazed down at his girlfriend, who turned her frown upside down into a hopeful smile. His steel-blue eyes flitted down to the box, then back up to her face.

“How many pieces is it?”

“Not that much! Only a thousand!” she reassured.

“Only a thousand…” he trailed off and sighed again, crossing his arms over his chest. “Fine. I’ll do it if you help. The last time you convinced me to do a puzzle together, I did all of it.”

Rinoa scoffed and rolled her eyes before turning her back on Squall and walking out to the center of his office. “That’s not fair! I did at least fifteen-percent of it,” she retorted, crouching down and sitting cross-legged on the plush carpet.

“Fifteen-percent, huh? So, what you’re saying is that I still did about eighty-five percent,” he replied, sitting in the same position across from her.

“In that case, you didn’t do all of it then, did you?” she teased, grinning up at him as she pulled the top off of the puzzle box.

The puzzle itself was a watercolor-styled landscape of Timber in the early morning. Golden rays of sunshine peeked up and over the silhouette of the Timber Hotel, which was lit up from within; the illumination from the hotel windows contrasted with the natural, pale light of the morning sun. Hazy figures trailed across the sidewalk in front of the building and the vibrant shades of their clothing rounded out the color palette of the piece.

Squall had to admit that Rinoa had good taste in choosing puzzles. If she made him do some sort of childish puzzle, he’d go insane. Like a puzzle with a picture of Boko the Chocobo, the one who sang and danced on some children’s television show that ran on Saturday mornings in Dollet. He cringed when he thought of poor Irvine—that’s probably exactly what Selphie made him do. Except, knowing the cowboy, he probably enjoyed every second of it.

Once the lid was off, Rinoa dumped the pieces onto the floor between them and propped the lid up on the other half of the box, so that they could see what the final product would look like. She ran her hands over the pieces to spread them out and began to flip over the ones that had fallen upside down. Squall leaned down and followed suit, and the pair continued righting the pieces in companionable silence.

That was one of the things that Squall appreciated the most about Rinoa. There were many things, of course, but the fact that she seemed to inherently know when and when not to say anything was at the top of the long list. He had enough senseless chatter in his life from Zell and Selphie, so being able to just be around Rinoa, without the added pressure of piping up every few minutes so everyone didn’t think he’d zoned out, was something he was incredibly grateful for.

He paused and watched her as she finished her half of the pile with a childlike smile of pure excitement on her face, and a smaller—though no less happy—smile graced his own face.

She glanced up and met his gaze, and a slight blush spread across her cheeks, the corners of her rosy pink lips still curved upwards. “What?”

Squall shook his head and looked back down at the remaining upside-down puzzle pieces in front of him. “Nothing.”

“Oh please, it’s not nothing. Was there something on my face?” she pressed.

The warm flush of embarrassment rushed up his neck and over his face, and he muttered, “I just thought you looked...beautiful…while you were, you know. You were excited and—”

Her knees came into his view and he glanced up sharply, noticing that she was now kneeling right beside him. She leaned down and planted a quick, chaste kiss on his cheek, causing the warmth under his skin to flare even warmer.

“Wha…” he trailed off.

“Thanks, Squall,” she whispered.

“Yeah, whatever. Can we just start this puzzle so I can get back to work?” he mumbled, his voice gruff. Though he would’ve sounded mean to anyone else, he knew that Rinoa understood him better by now and that she knew he was just flustered.

Instead of scooting back over to the other side of the room, she plopped down next to him and pulled her knees up in front of her, wrapping her arms around them. “Okay, so...I say we start with the middle.”

Squall raised his eyebrow at her and quipped, “Why would we do that? Starting in the middle gives you no structure, no direct path to the finish line. If we start with the edges and fill in as we go around, the puzzle will basically finish itself.”

Rinoa rolled her eyes and let out a long, dramatic sigh. “Ever the mighty strategist. Fine, fine. We’ll start with the corners.”

Squall nodded, satisfied that she saw the logic in his statement, and studied the lid of the puzzle box intently for a few minutes. He turned back to the mess of pieces in front of him and reached out, brushing a few of them aside and grabbing one in between his fingers. After placing it at the bottom left corner, he stared at the picture again for a few silent seconds, before reaching out and grabbing another one.

Rinoa watched him work with a smile on her face as she rested her cheek on her bare knee. As much as he hemmed and hawed about being ‘forced to participate in these sorts of activities’, he always got into them and did them perfectly. She imagined the ambitious, driven soldier that he was didn’t allow him to aim for “second best”; It was all or nothing for Commander Leonhart.

Squall worked in silence and a few minutes later, she started to feel sleepy. He won’t notice if...I just close my eyes for a second...right?

. . .

. . .

“Rinoa…”

. . .

“Rin…?”

. . .

“Hey…”

The motion of her leg being shaken from side to side startled her, and she shot upright, her eyes flying open. Squall’s hand was on her knee and he was staring at her with an eyebrow raised.

“Wha...What?” Rinoa mumbled, wiping the side of her cheek with the heel of her palm.

“You fell asleep,” Squall noted.

“Yeah, I guess I did...Sorry about that!” she apologized with a sheepish smile. Rocking forward onto her knees, she peered over his shoulder and asked, “How’s the puzzle going?”

When she saw the finished landscape of Timber, her eyes widened and she gasped in indignation. “You already finished?! Why didn’t you wake me up sooner?” she exclaimed.

He shrugged and said, “Didn’t I say I usually was the one who finished the puzzles? Besides, you looked tired.”

Rinoa pouted again and complained, “But I wanted to do this one together…”

In an uncharacteristic bout of good-natured ribbing, Squall flicked the tip of her nose and teased, “Maybe you shouldn’t fall asleep next time and we can.”

She tightened her lips for a second before a wide grin spread across her face. “Oooh, can we pick a bigger one, then? Maybe one of the ones that Selphie always finds of Boko? You have to admit that he’s adorable...”

A sigh left the commander and for the second time in the span of a few hours, he pinched the bridge of his nose again.

 
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