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Title: Echoes
Part: 17 & 16
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. ^^;;

"Where do you want to go today?" Squall asked as he crawled out of bed. "I don't feel like staying in. I always stay in. If we spend the morning in Balamb, I'll still be back to make sure things go according to... whatever. And I totally forgot about about Nida last time around. I feel a little bad about that but mostly disappointed that I somehow forgot him. I haven't spent the day with him yet but he's probably just doing systems maintenance for this whole place and that's about the last thing I want to do..."

There was a bit of indistinct chattering, but Squall couldn't make any of it into anything other than random sounds.

"I suppose I could go help him. I don't like going down into the basement levels of this place though," Squall admitted. "Even if they're no longer occupied except for those stray moombas that Selphie brought home that one time... Hey - why isn't Selphie having her creepy festival down there?"

He paused in front of the mirror, looking for horns or scales. Then he reached over to turn the water on.

"Maybe it's too scary for the little ones," he decided. "Or Selphie. But I can run the idea by her, find out what she really thinks, and maybe we can incorporate that in a bit. If she wants a murder mystery, that would be the place to do it."

Squall hopped into the shower with a smile on his face. Yet another thing worked out, even if he couldn't put it into motion properly for another two and a half weeks. When he got to the real version of the day, he'd be so busy his head would be spinning. But it would be worth it.

Just over thirty minutes later, Squall had a cup of coffee in hand and was heading towards his office. Somewhere he had to have the maintenance schedules for the place and he was absolutely not about to wander around down there without having some basic idea where Nida might be.

He saw Quistis coming and felt a little bad. He wouldn't be able to help her and he couldn't think of anyone who really could. Except...

"Good morning!" she said as she waved to him.

"Morning," Squall replied. "How are you?"

"I'm fine," Quistis replied with a tight smile. "Sorry that new spell was a complete dud, though. I would have liked to have been there, but I've been grading papers for the last week and if I don't keep grading them..."

She sighed without finishing the sentence.

"These the 'History of Political Strife on the Galbadian Continent' paper?" Squall asked. "I know your aide was injured... Um, I don't think Rinoa is terribly busy today. Why don't you ask her to assist you? I can't think of anyone who knows more on the topic."

Quistis's face turned into a huge smile. "That's right! Good idea. That's obviously why you're the Commander."

Squall blinked. More than a month of the same damned day and he'd just now thought of using Rinoa to take care of the task.

Regaining her composure, Quistis offered another wave. "Have a good day, sir."

"You too," Squall replied.

One day of creepy maintenance to go...

Most of the days he'd had so far, Squall didn't think he would mind potentially repeating if the opportunity arose. Maintenance to Garden, however, was simply as boring and as creepy, somehow at the same time, as he had imagined it to be. And Nida's explanations of what things were and what he was doing to them... even more boring. And creepy. He hadn't even realized it, but Nida had begun to pick up a bit of the creepy from the lower levels and was embracing it.

He did rather like the idea for Selphie's festival, though, and was hard at work conspiring with her on how to set something up when Squall had parted ways with him. And yes, he'd gotten the White SeeD training ideas in rather early so they weren't a worry at all.

The rest of the day, Squall had spent reading a book he'd gotten from the library. He'd asked the girl with the pigtails, who he didn't think was the previous girl with the pigtails and was curious if the head librarian just really liked that hairstyle and suggested it to her minions, what books were good and she'd given him one that was downright silly. The fake memoirs of a fictional character. Maybe it said a lot about the world he'd been ignoring or something, but in the end, Squall just found himself suspending his disbelief and going along with it. The ancedotes were good and the wording was pleasant and conversational.

"Do you read what I read?" Squall asked Shiva. He didn't get much of a response, but he wasn't sure how he'd interpret anything he would get. Part of him wanted to render himself near-death just so he could talk to her again, but he knew that one wrong move would really kill him and... Well, he didn't know if the spell would keep working without anyone for it to work on.

The thought was not a pleasant one.

"I guess you probably only take the time to pay attention when it's interesting for you," he said as he crawled into bed and turned off the light. "I can respect that."

He yawned and rolled onto his side, pulling the blankets up over his head as he did so.


"Sixteen," Squall said as he crawled out of bed, stretching on the way. He yawned, a little unsure of just what he wanted to do. Going right back to bed sounded like a good idea, but he'd just done that. He considered spending the day telling everyone's fortunes, but that wouldn't work because every motion he made changed things. By not interacting with Rinoa, he knew that she would have a couple of students yell at her and she would sulk all evening. Maybe he could prevent that for the day. They could play cards again or something. Maybe go into Balamb with the stipulation that they had to be back before dinner, just to keep Selphie safe (though obviously he couldn't say exactly why).

"I don't know," Squall said to his reflection as he stomped through the bathroom, turning on the water and then stepping back to see if his reflection had an answer for him. Instead he only stared back at himself, free of horns, scales, and with a very familiar scar that looked a bit like it was actually starting to fade.

"I suppose I could always activate the steering equipment and take Garden for a spin," he said with a smirk. Part of him almost wanted to do it, except that Nida was the pilot, he was not. Selphie would probably be a good substitute, but he wasn't sure about trying to pull her away from one project no matter how much fun randomly driving around with a giant military academy sounded.

Shiva began chattering in a scolding way. Apparently he wasn't supposed to cause that much mischief.

"But we could go to Trabia or something and look for another stupid repeat monster," he said as he got into the shower. "If I ever find that sorceress, I am going to give her a piece of my mind. And probably a bullet hole or two."

Again, Shiva chattered, a little closer to words this time but not close enough that Squall could understand her.

"What, friend of yours?" Squall questioned as he reached for the shampoo.

"It was a monster of olde..."

Squall froze.

"How old?"

"I do not know," Shiva said, and continued on but it simply became chatter in Squall's mind and he shook his head.

"I can't understand," he said softly. "I'll figure it out. Maybe Ellone will figure it out. I just have to get past it being today so that we can do something. If there's anything to be done. I hope there's something... Quistis is right. I want a grand scheme to foil. I want to stop a corrupt empire.

"I just want something to do."

He continued washing his hair.

"I wonder what I'd be doing with a normal job," he said. "Probably something boring. I don't know what I'd be good at. Not a journalist or anything. Probably not politics - they aren't interesting outside of being paid to care about them..."

He sighed.

About a half-hour later, he found himself yet again walking towards his office, a cup of coffee in one hand as he tried to shake away the last dregs of sleep.

He almost walked right by Quistis, not because he wanted to but because he was trying to make something out of the chatter that Shiva was filling his head with.

"Good morning!" she said with a slight wave.

"Morning," Squall said in response, stopping and staring at her. Still in pink, clutching a thick binder of papers against her side.

"I heard that spell was a complete dud," she said as she looked him over. "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."

"It's okay," Squall said. "I mean, if I'd ended up with horns or scales or something, then you could really be sorry that you weren't there."

Quistis frowned.

"You need help with all of that?" Squall asked as he pointed at the folder. "I can't finish the report on Trabia until I get statements from Ellone and Rinoa, so I have some time this morning..."

"Afternoon is better for me," Quistis admitted. "I can just set those classes up to do console work and maybe I can bring a snack. I have a couple of apples leftover from yesterday... At least my students make sure I get a proper amount of fruit in my diet."

Squall chuckled. "Afternoon it is."

"Thanks, Commander, sir," Quistis said with a wink.

"And hopefully your aide will get her cast off soon," Squall said as he offered another slight wave and headed down the hallway.

He wondered if she'd still bring the cheese tray.

If he asked Xu about staplers, Rinoa would be in her makeshift office area, which mostly consisted of a desk, a couple chairs, and piles of documents which were either scattered or pristinely neat, depending on Rinoa's mood. And since Rinoa was the one to find, obviously he needed to query Xu.

Knocking on Xu's office door, he didn't wait for her response before stepping in.

"Morning, Commander," she said with a terse grin. "Did you need something?"

"When's the last time you took a day off?" he asked as he eyed the stapler on her desk. He didn't actually need it for anything.

"I can't say I remember," Xu admitted. "Perhaps when we had that storm and everyone had to gather in the center of Garden?"

"That wasn't a day off," Squall said with a frown. "That was a natural disaster."

"Oh. You're right."

"You should take tomorrow off," Squall stated as he turned to go. "Just... as a thank you for everything you do."

And she didn't even throw the stapler at him.

"Where did you get this?" Squall asked as he looked at the GameStation sitting in Rinoa's room. Staying in her office hadn't lasted long once he'd mentioned going in to Balamb. But she had to change first, which Squall understood because there was always a certain stigma about going into Balamb in anything with SeeD insignia on it. So he'd followed her back, promised not to peek, and sat down to stare at her latest acquisition.

"Oh, I borrowed it," she said. "I'm not very good, but I'm almost through Final Fantasy VII right now. Someone recommended the story to me and I wanted to give it a shot."

"You're playing GameStation..."

"What?" Rinoa asked. "You think I can't? I wish I had borrowed a fighting game. I could probably beat you. Maybe."

Squall chuckled. "I didn't say that you weren't any good. I just didn't expect to see a GameStation in your room."

"You want to give it a shot?" Rinoa asked as she sat down and reached for a controller. "We can go to Balamb another day. I want to show this to you. I was kinda thinking you're like the main character but he's more of a jerk than... Whoops, not to say that you're a jerk but anyway..."

She turned the power on. Squall began to wonder why this hadn't come up before. Probably because he hadn't asked. Or that could have been what Rinoa was talking to the group of female students about all along, all those times he hadn't been able to get close enough to figure out what they were discussing. A video game...

"You know, I think you'd really like this," Rinoa said as the beginning of the game loaded. "It's all about taking down this big evil company and stuff. World politics. Evil empires. And sort of an inner-struggle thing, too."

"You're playing a game about real life?" Squall questioned.

"Not really," Rinoa said as she chose to continue her saved game. "See, there aren't any sorceresses, but there is a girl who has special power so it's kinda the same. And everyone can use magic if they've equipped these, ah, things. Same with GFs, which aren't GFs."

She paused and frowned.

"Kay, maybe it is about real life, but it's not set in our world, just one kinda like it."

Squall shook his head and leaned back.

"Show me," he said.

Squall grumbled under his breath as he made his way back to his room. He'd only just remembered to go save Selphie and was kicking himself for getting there with only about a minute to spare. Normally he was so much more responsable. But he'd really liked the game Rinoa had and between the two of them, they'd spent all morning and afternoon playing it, aside from a couple hours when he'd zipped back to his office to help Quistis. Rinoa had been right about the game's main character, too - Squall did feel a bit of an odd kinship with him if only because of the accidental leadership role. Main character was an utter jerk at times, too, but that was mainly because Rinoa seemed to like making him into a jerk by picking the responses that would emphasize his, well, jerk-like nature.

Now he wanted a GameStation. He'd need a TV to go with it, and probably some games. Maybe Zell and Rinoa would help him pick things out. He was fairly sure the GameStation would play CDs, so he could listen to the Aching Need CDs he wanted on something better than the tinny radio he had in his room that he normally used just for local weather reports and defintiely not for music that made him alternately want to dance and then slam his body into things.

And books. Though Rinoa's game had been much like an interactive book.

He wished he could make a list, but it would just vanish upon the reset. No use in that. Hopefully Shiva would let him hang onto his wants for long enough to actually buy a few things. Certainly he had more money than he knew what to do with - his Garden salary was more than generous and he'd long-since started just putting it in the bank and forgetting about it. Normally he just bought coffee, socks, underwear, and shampoo. Other than that, he could either get it around Garden for free or he just didn't need it.

"Stupid sorceress," Squall grumbled as he began to pull off his clothing. "Teaching me how to have a life and actually enjoy it."

Shiva laughed and he knew damned well that she was laughing.

"Yes, I know, you probably think it's a good idea," Squall said. "Did you see the little Shiva in that game Rinoa had? She looked kinda like you. Is that what you do when I'm not around?"

He chuckled and put on his night clothes.

"A little over two weeks of this madness left," he said as he shrugged on the same raggety white shirt that he pulled on every night. "You know, once it's over, I might just miss it. But not all fifty-odd days of it. Getting to fix things, though, is sort of... liberating. I don't have to worry about screwing up, because I can always re-do it. Normally... a screw-up is forever.

"But I don't want to find myself wishing for this. Because I've spent this entire time wishing for it to be over."

Shiva chattered something and Squall got into his bed.

"Yeah yeah, I know. Fifteen."


And he slept quite well.



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