Part: 15 thru 1, Epilogue
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII
Disclaimer: No implied ownership, no financial gain, only fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Squall/Zell eventual, Full Cast
Rating: M overall
Summary: Squall draws a strange spell from a strange beast, but when he casts it, nothing seems to happen -- until the next day...
Notes: 2007's NaNoWriMo fic, edited. May contain gratuitous butchering of game mechanics and also, lots of Shiva. Some of this has been posted randomly in unfinished forms. ^^;;
"Okay. Blank slate again," Squall said as he stretched. He stared upward in the darkness for a couple of minutes before sitting up and scratching his stomach. "I'm stuck - what should I do? I could go after Zell again. That actually works out if I make an all-day project of it. But somehow the thought of starting over after... it's just not right. I shouldn't have done that."
He got to his feet and headed towards the bathroom.
"Fifty-four chances to keep screwing this all up," he grumbled as he turned on the light and headed for the shower. Turning on the water, he let his hand run under the tap as the water went quickly from cold to almost too warm.
"I wonder what anyone else would have done," he said as he stepped back and began to take off his night clothes. "What do you think, Shiva?"
She chattered for a moment before pausing as if she wanted Squall to speak.
"Zell first," Squall said as he got into the shower. "Um... once he realized it, he'd find some way to find Seifer and do minor evil. Um... maybe try to go after me like I've gone after him. You know, that'd be kinda funny, because he'd probably have the same luck with me that I've had with him - like a one in ten chance of things going right at all and then feeling totally awkward about it."
Squall chuckled. The more he thought about it, the more he could picture it - after all, until Quistis had let it slip about the incident with Rinoa and the scales, he'd never even suspected. So if Zell had come up to him and tried to flirt... Zell probably had in the past and he just hadn't noticed. Half the time he didn't notice when girls tried to flirt with him.
He shook his head. He'd learned way too much over the last several weeks of repeating the day. He was almost happy at the thought of unlearning some of it.
Shiva chattered for a moment, as if she was agreeing.
"Okay, who's next?" he asked. "Nida? Nida would just keep doing everything the same, save for the one day he decides to drive Garden to Trabia and I end up trying to shoot him or something because I figure he's possessed by a sorceress or something completely off the wall. Then again... I don't know. It would certainly liven things up around here. But the vibrations... last time we moved Garden, everything fell off every shelf in the entire place and I didn't think I'd ever stop hearing about it."
"Laugh all you want - you weren't on the receiving end of about a thousand pages of itemized damages," Squall said. "I can show you that - I can read it and try to make you pay attention..."
He grabbed for the shampoo.
"No, I don't want to even bother finding it. It's probably in a box somewhere, maybe in Xu's office."
Shiva chattered and Squall tried to think of who would be next.
"Selphie?" he asked. "Okay, she'd wear something different every day, walking around in her underwear at least once and trying to convince other people that they were dreaming. Um... You know, I think it would work. If it was Selphie, I mean. She'd be able to convince people that they were the ones dreaming and that they must have some pretty messed up fantasies if they were picturing her naked."
Squall shook his head, forgetting that it was covered in suds. Little foamy bubbles hit the side of the shower.
"No, I'm not going to try it," Squall said before Shiva could throw in a response.
"Other than that," Squall continued as he moved to wash his hair, "Um, she'd play pranks, start silly art projects, make costumes. She'd have the time of her life."
He frowned. "Why couldn't it have happened to her? Next time, she gets the weird spells and I'll go with batting the darned thing around a little.
"Then again, would she learn anything from it?" Squall asked himself (and Shiva). "Probably not. She'd just have fun. I feel like I'm stuck learning... everything. At once."
"This is it," he said to himself as he strectched and crawled out of bed. "Finally. Today's the day."
Somehow, the thought that he was on the final day of his repeat-spree was almost sad. He'd gotten entirely too used to it being the same day over and over and over again and the thought of something completely new happening in the future was almost a little overwhelming.
He yawned and stumbled towards the bathroom, a little surprised that Shiva hadn't commented. He could feel her there, but she was quiet. Maybe she was going to let him go this alone.
It made a good bit of sense, really. He had to make all his own decisions today - and the right ones, because he knew quite well what the outcome would be otherwise.
"No horns, no scales, no summons, no re-dos," Squall half-sang to himself as he turned on the bathroom light and went over to turn on the shower taps. He knew he had about a minute until the water was the right temperature, but he didn't bother looking in the mirror. It didn't matter. He knew what he looked like and he knew that it probably hadn't changed - or that it couldn't really change. Instead he tried to start making a list of things to do.
He had to run into Quistis, and offer to help her. That always turned out well. Then visit Xu and take her breakfast. He could call Rinoa while doing the paperwork that he actually needed to do, get Rinoa to help Xu... Ellone would appear after that, they'd talk and then he could go find Zell. He'd drop a slight hint to Zell and then ask Zell to help Selphie. After that, he could grab a light lunch and wait for Quistis. Once that was taken care of, he could spend some time making his room into something livable. Then he could drop by the garage and help Nida with plans for the White SeeD repair training.
Squall climbed into the shower. It was pretty easy, actually.
Somehow, it all seemed to be pretty easy. Probably just because he'd done each little thing at least a dozen times before.
"Well, you ready to move on?" he asked as he grabbed for the shampoo. "I'll miss today, a bit."
"Not much, actually."
About a half-hour later, Squall was wearing the better part of his uniform as he headed towards his office. He'd skipped the jacket for the time being - it was a nice day, afterall, every version of it, and he wasn't worried about looking proper since it was an otherwise uneventful day.
He'd just taken a swallow of coffee from the cup in his hand when he saw Quistis approaching. She did seem to wear a lot of pink, Squall realized as he thought back to days beyond the repeating one. Maybe she always shopped at the same place.
"Good morning!" she said with a wave. Her face brightened into a smile for just a split-second.
"Morning," Squall replied, echoing the hand motion.
"I heard that spell was a complete dud," she said as she stopped. She frowned. "Sorry I had to miss it, but I've been grading papers for the last week and if I don't keep grading them every waking hour, they'll never get done."
"Your aide was injured, right?" Squall asked with a bit of feigned concern. "I remember seeing the report on that - something about rescuing younger students from a confused grat?"
"Something like that," Quistis replied almost bashfully. "I can't believe how work has gotten away from me."
"What papers are they?" Squall asked. "I think I'll have some time after lunch if you'd like a hand grading them."
"History of Political Strife on the Galbadian Continent," Quistis said. "Your favourite?"
"Not too bad," Squall replied. "So you'll let me help?"
"Only if you don't tell anyone," Quistis said with a smile as she headed on down the hallway.
Squall doubled back to the cafeteria. He'd almost forgotten Xu's breakfast.
With a bagel in hand, her door was his next destination.
He knocked, waiting a few seconds before opening the door.
"Morning, Xu," Squall said as he stepped inside. "Have you had breakfast?"
"Didn't have time, Commander," Xu replied as she looked up.
"I brought you an everything bagel," Squall said as he walked over to her. "Do you think you could find me a stapler later? The one from my office has vanished."
"...sure," Xu answered as she took the bagel and looked at it as if it was some sort of illusion.
"Thanks," Squall stated as he looked around. "You look like you need an aide. I know Rinoa's generally free in the mornings and she has experience with secretarial work, kind of. I'm sure you could teach her."
"Sir?" Xu questioned uncertainly.
"Just trying to make your job a little easier," Squall said. "And remind me to give you an extra week's vacation next month. We can discuss the details over dinner... maybe next week?"
"Sir, I know you had an experience with an unusual spell last night and..." Xu began, only to be interrupted.
"I know," Squall interrupted. "I didn't really sleep. Instead I thought about all the things that would happen if something had happened to me and I'm just trying to make sure everyone is set, just in case."
"Um, have a good day then? I'll bring that stapler by in a bit," Xu commented as she began to spread the cream cheese on her bagel. "And thanks."
Squall let himself out and then headed for his office. The paperwork would be a cinch, he knew, and then he'd just wait for Ellone - wait, he had to call Rinoa...
Quistis was set, Xu was set, Rinoa had happily accepted the position as Xu's assistant and Ellone hadn't made more than a few comments when Squall had explained that he was suffering no odd effects and would like a write-up of her impression of the spell as soon as possible so he could finish his report.
Every bit of paperwork on his desk was in the 'out' box. He'd stopped by the training centre and flirted almost covertly with Zell.
He had even made his way to lunch early, grabbing the choicest selections of what he'd been eating for the same damned almost two months of his life.
Now, he was just playing solitaire on his computer and waiting for Quistis to bring him a snack and some papers that he could quite literally fly through. Then off to find Nida and see what Selphie was up to. He had a few books to borrow from the library...
There was a knock at his door.
"Come on in," he called as he minimized his game and headed around to take a seat at one of the low black leather sofas that had quite honestly come with the place and were not his doing even though everyone assumed that they were. He was fond of them, however, so it wasn't a big deal.
"Thanks for the hand, Squall," Quistis said as she entered. In one hand she had a plate of cheese and crackers and in the other, a fat file of paperwork.
"Thanks for letting me help," Squall replied. "It's not going to damage your pride too much, is it?"
Quistis shook her head. "Not at this point. At this point, I think I'd take help from Selphie."
She paused and set everything down before seating herself.
"No offense, I mean."
"None taken," Squall said as he reached for the exact same handful of papers he always reached for. "Not exacly apples..."
"At least they've stopped with the chocolate," Quistis said. "I'd put on almost ten pounds before I got them to stop bringing me junk."
"You don't have to eat it all yourself," Squall reminded her.
"I know that now." Quistis laughed and grabbed a paper herself. "Well, here's to misguided youth and mangled history."
"Of course," Squall said. "And afterward, perhaps you'd be willing to escort me to see how Selphie's doing with her current idea?"
"Her haunted house?" Quistis asked. "I had to hear all about it before you went to Trabia. Sounds like a nice enough project, but..."
"It's a fun idea," Squall said. "I think the students will like it as long as it isn't too scary for the younger ones."
"You're worried about scaring..."
"I have very vague memories of Seifer scaring the both of us with ghost stories he was making up on he spot," Squall reminded her. He didn't know if she'd actually remember, but it was worth a shot.
"Sounds like Seifer," Quistis said with a sigh. "But I don't remember. Don't you ever get sick of not remembering things?"
"Yeah," Squall said. "Sometimes I feel like I'm repeating the same day over and over without ever remembering it."
Shiva chose that moment to laugh and Squall had to look down to the paper he was holding in order to keep his own straight face. Maybe he'd loosened up too much.
"Am I dead?" Squall asked as he looked up at Shiva. He was naked again, and flat on his back.
"You're asleep," Shiva replied as she spun a quick robe from the shimering ice that surrounded her and dropped it down to him. "Walk with me."
"Asleep - so you've been able to..."
"No," she interrupted. "This is taking a lot of power. This is taking most of your memories - the ones I don't wish you to keep anyway. I'm sorry, but I have to..."
"I know," Squall said. "All of them..."
"Most of them," Shiva corrected as Squall stood and wrapped the cloak around himself.
"You know the answer to that," Shiva replied almost sadly. "You need to be true to both of you. I could have stopped you then, but I chose not to - this is who you are and you've needed to learn. There weren't consequences for him, but for you..."
"I know," Squall replied. They began to walk towards a bleak white horizon. Snow began to fall around them, but it was not cold. Squall was not cold. "I know. And... even earlier, I kept looking at him and thinking that I should be kissing him, touching him and..."
"I'll take that and keep it safe for you," Shiva said as she reached over to rest a hand on his shoulder. He had never noticed how tall she was. "You don't have to worry about it. If it's meant to be, it'll be even when you wake and tomorrow is a new day."
Squall tried to smile.
"And everyone else..."
"Squall, you make your own choices and affect lives. It's a responsability you need to learn to live with, not just in the heat of battle but outside as well during times of peace," Shiva said. She looked down at him and smiled. "I believe in you."
"Makes one of us." Squall glanced downward, at where his bare feet were walking through weightless, temperatureless snow.
Shiva chuckled, a surely odd noise from the summon spirit.
"Squall Leonhart, who fought a great sorceress without looking back..."
"I think we all agreed that we're soldiers and peace stinks," Squall said. "I know, I know, doing what we need to every day and all that, but...
"Am I even going to remember this conversation?"
"No," Shiva replied. "You aren't. Is that a bad thing?"
"I don't think so."
"Selphie is safe."
"I know. That's good to know," Squall admitted. "I can't imagine what I'd have done if something had happened to her on today of all... todays. I'd blame myself forever, even after you took the memory of why I blamed myself. I'd just know, somehow, that it was my doing."
"You can't protect everyone," Shiva stated.
Squall frowned. "Not making me feel better."
"Would Selphie want you to protect her?" Shiva asked. They kept walking.
"No," Squall said. "And I've ordered her into some amazingly awful places without a second thought. She's a soldier and she enjoys what she does. Her life is full and she's happy."
"Would you let me keep one thing?" Squall asked. He wanted to touch Shiva back and see if she was as cold as she looked or if she was just the same non-temperature as everything around them.
"What is that, Squall?" Shiva asked.
"The weather in Winhill," Squall replied.
Everything went black.
Squall woke up in a cold sweat, clutching his blankets. He rolled over to look at his clock - it was after midnight.
"Tomorrow," he rasped as he scrambled out of bed and raced for the light. "It's tomorrow. It's tomorrow!"
The clock in the kitchen - the one he never used - it had the date on it. He raced for the kitchen, forgetting to turn on a light and that he'd left debris all over the floor. Tripping and falling, Squall just laughed. And he lay there in the dark, pain racing momentarily through his leg before he mumbled a healing spell.
Then he laughed as he got up and turned on the light. There were books everywhere. He'd just plowed into them and the knick-knacks and everything else. Stuff he'd left laying out the day before.
Because it wasn't the same day.
Because it had been the same day?
The thought struck Squall as odd. He'd had a dream but he didn't remember it and the feeling that he'd done this all before was fading. He'd had a very normal day - productive, but normal. Nothing odd had happened. Nothing odd had been happening, really, other than that weird creature in Trabia.
Feeling around for the mysterious spell that he thought he'd drawn from the beast, it was gone. There was only space, and Shiva, and his other spells. But Shiva was little more than a thing he knew he had with him. Somehow he'd always expected a little more than an occassional chatter or warm feeling. However, that was all. It wasn't like she spoke to him.
As he picked up the books, he wasn't even sure why he was awake. But it did seem like a good idea to read more and make the room a little more like a normal room - like a home. He needed to loosen up. Someone had told him that. He just didn't know how. But maybe he did. Maybe...
It was going to be a long day. But it was a different day, Squall thought for a reason he didn't really understand.
And he would enjoy it.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!