Part: 40 thru 20
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. ^^;;
"Twenty days left," Squall told the mirror as he stared at it. "I've survived an entire month of this same stupid day without horns, scales, being killed more than four times, being punched more than a half-dozen times and I almost, almost managed to get past a first handful of kisses with Zell. That actually doesn't say much about me, does it?"
"So what are you going to do today?"
"Well, Shiva," Squall began as he got into the shower, "I thought I'd start off with a nice hot shower. Maybe I'll shave my head again. That was kinda funny. Then I'll grab a round of bagels for everyone and brighten days or something. I could go on a stapler hunt or announce over the public address that I'll give fifty gil for every one that people bring me. I bet I could fill my office with them and just tell everyone to stop back tomorrow for their money. But everything will reset. You know, I almost want to try being awake just to see a giant pile of staplers vanish."
He laughed. He knew he was toeing a dangerous line between sanity and whatever came after sanity. He was off in his own little world.
"Or maybe I'll stay in and say I have a headache. None of that sounded like a good idea," he continued. "I know where all of those books are and I could probably get through one if I read all day. I'm going to have so many notes to write when time straightens out. Maybe they'll send me more. Maybe I can put aside some time to read every day - reading about people who don't exist is helping me relate to the ones who do."
He reached for the shampoo and started to wash his hair.
"I've lost it. I'm going to spend the day on the sofa, reading. The door will be unlocked, but I'm not going anywhere."
Not surprisingly, Ellone was the first one to pop her head in.
"Squall?" she asked as she stepped in and closed the door. "Are you okay?"
"Just a headache," Squall replied. "I took something. But the thought of paperwork and going through the unjunction process to remove the spell just didn't sound like it would help me any."
Ellone nodded as she glanced around for a place to sit down.
"Here," Squall said as he scooted into a sitting position, leaving room on the sofa for her to sit.
"Would you like me to tell everyone to leave you alone for the day?" she asked as she reached over to feel his forehead. "You feel a little warm, too. Maybe that's just from being up in Trabia - you might be fighting off a cold."
"I was the one wearing pants," Squall commented. "If anyone should have a cold, it's Selphie and Zell. Do you have any idea why even their uniforms are altered to look like their preferred every-day attire? It's just not right."
"You're the commander," Ellone reminded him. "Do something about it."
"Nah," Squall said. "They're my friends, too. If they want to do silly things, they can do silly things."
"And that's probably why you're the commander," Ellone said as she leaned back. "Mind if I stay for awhile? We haven't had much of a chance to talk. Though maybe it's better if I put you to sleep first."
"I don't mind," Squall said as he set down his book. "Might be nice. And you're right, we haven't had much of a chance to talk since you've been here. I haven't even had time to meet the students you brought."
"If you're feeling better, maybe we can have dinner with them," Ellone said. "They have a night repair mission with Nida and that will pretty much finish up what they need to learn here."
Squall nodded as he heard Ellone begin to cast her spell.
"What is going on in here?"
Squall blinked a couple of times - either Ellone wasn't feeling exceptionally creative or the best thing she thought to help him involved making his head space look just like his barren sitting room. Except it wasn't exactly barren. Instead, it was a composite of the last month's worth of the same day repeating over and over, piled up to make an utter disaster of memories and emotions and thoughts and plans.
"No wonder you have a headache," Ellone said as she produced a broom from some sort of magical space and began shooing everything away until there was only the beginnings of clutter peeking around the edges. "You need a serious memory clean-up in aisle five."
"I can explain," Squall said as he flopped down on his mental sofa. "You didn't believe me at first the last time I told you, but now you can see it..."
"See what?" Ellone asked. "It's like there's an echo in here that..."
She froze mid-sweep and looked at Squall.
"You're in a time-warp?"
"I've spent the last month reliving the same day over and over again," Squall explained. "Because of that ridiculously stupid spell. I can't unjunction it and I can't re-cast it and every time I just try to stay in bed, you come and find me. And if I do stay in bed, Rinoa is irritable all day, Selphie dies while trying to save a student, Nida and your White SeeD students have a disasterous class, Xu doesn't get breakfast, Quistis' stress level overloads and Zell... You know, it's weird that one of the people who's closest to me has a completely normal day without me in it."
"I can see why I wouldn't believe you without proof, because that sounds crazy. Really, really crazy."
"I spent two weeks of today finding out what changes depending on what I do - it affects Rinoa the most, because we're connected," Squall continued. "If I spend the day with her, however, other things begin to skew off in other directions. In a way, it's been fascinating. Except it's driving me crazy."
"Everything re-sets?" Ellone asked. "It must, if... Selphie..."
"Don't think about it," Squall said. "She's really easy to save as long as you don't try to actually be the one to catch her. That just ends up breaking your neck and talking to Shiva until the reset happens."
"She's in it with me," Squall said. "She's probably around here. I can hear her sometimes, talking. Not much of a conversationalist, but she snarks a bit in the mornings to get me out of bed, at least."
"Squall, if I didn't know about that spell, I'd say you'd completely lost it. But given your previous experience with all sorts of sorcery, time compression and everything else, you're a prime candidate to come through something like this and be sane," Ellone said as she sat down beside him, crossing her legs and thrusting the broom out as if she was daring any mangled mess of memories to come and bother them.
"I don't know," Squall admitted. "But being able to tell someone helps."
"That's what sisters are for - poking around in your head when you're asleep," Ellone said with a smile.
"I'm not sure normal sisters do that," Squall replied.
"Do you know any?"
"Well then, let's just pretend it's as normal as you getting stuck in a repeating time-loop," Ellone said. "So other than figuring out how your sleeping habits affect everyone around you, what have you been doing?"
"If everything resets, you should at least be doing all sorts of odd things you'd never normally do," Ellone explained. "Run around in drag, or kiss Quistis or... oh, I don't know. Nice, non-Squall things. I think I'd borrow one of your uniforms to see how I looked... Whoops."
"You want a SeeD uniform? I can..."
"Yours," she said. "I didn't mean to ever tell you that, but... well, I won't remember doing it, right?"
"You won't, and eventually, I won't," Squall said. "Shiva told me that she wouldn't let me remember all of this once it was over."
"Smart spirit," Ellone commented. "And we totally got you off topic - I want to know what you've been up to."
"I've just been spending time with everyone," Squall admitted. "I've spent a couple days playing cards with Rinoa, and almost every day helping Quistis grade papers. I can do all of them in about an hour now because I've seen them so many times. Um..."
"Let's do something crazy today, then," Ellone interrupted. "Something neither of us would normally do. No one will remember... Even me... But you will, for awhile."
"What did you have in mind?"
"I don't know," Ellone said, poking at one of the stray memories trying to skitter across the floor. Squall wasn't sure whether or not Ellone could tell exactly what it was, but it looked like something happening to Selphie.
"As long as I have someone help Selphie," Squall said. "Or we both go help her. But we have all afternoon."
"I can make lunch," Ellone said. "And we can figure it out."
"Don't you have anything around to make?"
"I promise you, if you look in my mind-fridge, it probably looks just like my real one. Unless we're having baking soda and mustard on moldy something-or-other, I'd suggest we hit the cafeteria." Squall chuckled. "Actually, I wonder what's in my mind-fridge. Maybe it's full of..."
He didn't get to finish his sentence as he was dragged back to consciousness with only a sad look on Ellone's face.
"Sorry," she said as he blinked a few times. "I suppose I should have let you check your mental fridge. Maybe it's full of interesting things."
"Doubt it," Squall admitted. "Probably just the mind-mustard and half a bottle of soda."
Ellone started giggling. "Mind mustard," she echoed as she stood.
"Okay, I'm sorry I said it..."
"Don't be," Ellone interrupted. "I like that. I wish I could go inside my own head and poke around. I'm sure my mind fridge is filled with all sorts of interesting things... Cookies from Matron and fancy leftovers from the dinners Uncle Laguna and I get dragged too... I don't know how he ever gets through them without me."
"Awkwardly," Squall suggested with a slight wince.
Smiling, Ellone nodded. "He's like that even when I'm there."
There was a pause.
"So... lunch?" Ellone asked. "You don't really have a headache, do you?"
"No," Squall admitted. "Not really. But I suppose you'd let me put on something a little dressier if I'm going to escort you around Garden...?"
"Of course," Ellone replied with a smile.
"You too," Squall said. "I have more than one uniform. If I'm going to dress up, so are you."
"I didn't mean..." She frowned and glanced away.
"Yes, you did," Squall said. "And besides, no one will ever remember."
Nodding, Ellone slowly began to smile again. "Okay. Promise not to laugh?"
"Promise not to laugh if I can show you how to do your hair properly?" Squall asked. "There's supposed to be an actual protocol for it, but no one follows it. Just something that looks good in the books, I suppose."
"You think I'd know, for all the time I spend with the White SeeDs," Ellone said softly. "But I'm more of an escort to them than any sort of... authority figure. Just like they escort me, I suppose, because I'm not supposed to travel by myself."
"Ellone, you'd be a terrible weapon in the wrong hands," Squall said. "So would Rinoa, which is why she has the same guidelines inflicted upon her."
He had not quite used the word he wanted to use.
"Inflicted - that's it exactly," Ellone said. "But I suppose it's okay, in the end. I mean, I know what I'm capable of and... Well, best not think of that."
"Haven't you ever wanted to cut loose?" Squall asked her as he pulled her into his bedroom and opened the closet doors. "Today would be the day. You can do everything you've always wanted to do and it won't have any effect on anything in the end."
"No," Ellone said. "Not like that. We can run around all dressed up and play pranks, but I couldn't hurt anyone or go snooping around in heads I absolutely have no right to be in."
"And that makes me respect you all the more, Sis," Squall said as he handed her one of his uniforms and gestured towards the bathroom.
In a full uniform and with her hair up properly (Squall did find her a copy of the illustration, just so she knew he wasn't just playing with her hair because he could), Ellone was enough to make him do a double-take each time he glanced in her direction. It was almost impossible to believe they weren't genetically related - they looked like siblings. But without his mother, there really wouldn't be any way to figure out Ellone's exact relation, if there was one. He'd never gone looking for his mother's side of the family, and never intended to.
"You look amazing, Sis," he said as they headed down the hallway towards the cafeteria.
"I know," Ellone replied a little stiffly. The male version of the uniform was a little tight on some of her more curved areas, but nothing that looked too forced. And he'd probably pulled her hair a little tight, but that was also part of the point - not supposed to have stray curls while gunning down an oppressive regime or random terrorist. "You've told me, ah, three times already."
"You're not going to remember anyway."
"Quit reminding me," Ellone said. "Or keep doing it, if I lose my nerve. This whole 'do anything' concept is just..."
"And I've already been through a month of 'do what you feel day'," Squall said. "It's not hard. But I wish it would be over. It is a little boring not being able to move on."
"What are you going to do tomorrow?" Ellone asked as they arrived at the cafeteria. Heads turned in their direction but Squall didn't outwardly respond. Inwardly, he smiled, but outwardly, he...
"Oh, it's fish sticks or mac-n-cheese," he said as if he somehow didn't know. "Go on ahead of me."
"When we're sitting," Ellone said, " I want to know."
"What if I haven't thought about it?" Squall questioned. He had, a bit, but not enough that he had any definite plans.
Together they gathered their lunch and headed to the small, sequestered staff area that was thankfully empty except for a couple of the younger students' instructors who were so busy with their own conversation that they barely glanced at Squall and Ellone when they entered.
"Okay," Ellone said as they sat down. "What do you have planned?"
"We haven't even finished planning today," Squall said as he poked at his fish sticks. He'd gotten completely and utterly tired of mac-n-cheese about a dozen repeats ago and as much as he didn't really like fish sticks, they were an acceptable meal. "What makes you think I have ideas for tomorrow?"
"I don't know," Ellone said. "Just think you would."
"Probably just the usual," Squall admitted. "Get up, shower, run into Quistis, stop by Xu's office, find you... And see what happens from there. Maybe I'll help Selphie or maybe I'll have Zell help Selphie. Or Rinoa. I have started to enjoy spending entire days playing Triple Triad with Rinoa."
Ellone laughed. "I'm glad you still get along with her so well."
"Why wouldn't I?" Squall questioned with a shrug. "She's useful and easy to work with."
"Well, when people break up..."
"You say that like you date a lot," Squall interrupted. "Do you? You've never mentioned anyone."
"For me, it's difficult," Ellone said with a frown. "Generally, everyone I come into contact with knows that I have a special ability and are intimidated by that. So... finding someone who wasn't afraid that I'd do odd things to them or poke into their business - well, it isn't easy."
Squall nodded. He'd never thought about it, but he could really understand how that would be a damper on any relationship. Maybe that was why Rinoa was staying single. That or no one else met her princely standards.
"I did date an Estharian soldier for a few months," Ellone continued. "He was really nice, but I don't spend most of my time there and I couldn't imagine asking him to wait around for me, or even worse, follow me. He's... partly-converted which might seem a little odd to you, but..."
Squall raised an eyebrow. He'd always wanted to learn a little more about Esthar's unique cyborg soldiers.
"Tell me whatever you'd like," Squall said. "You won't remember that you told me and... I won't remember much, in the end."
"Not over lunch," Ellone replied with a giggle. "If at all."
The idea of finding out more about Ellone's love life flew straight out the window the second Selphie arrived in the cafeteria.
Within seconds, she'd rushed over and was fawning over Ellone.
"You're so cute!" she exclaimed as she circled around. "We need to get you a couple pistols or a whip or something so you'll totally look like you can rain black death over the terrain!"
"I... I think I'd be better with administrative work," Ellone said with a half-smile.
"Like Xu?" Selphie asked. "You know, she's got a wonderful record. She's fierce and skilled and keeps Squall in line."
"Perhaps," Ellone replied. "Though I can't help but wonder why we have to keep training these children to follow after us as ruthless soldiers."
"It's what we do," Squall said. "It's not that we aren't working for peace. We assist with negotations and squash rebellions and whatever as well. Do you think I like this? And besides, we need to be ready in case another sorceress appears."
"I suppose you're right," Ellone admitted as she poked at her lunch with her fork. "It would just be nice to have a world without fear."
"Today, you do," Squall said with a knowing smile. Ellone smiled back quickly before glancing over at Selphie.
"Squall said you were working on a big project," she said. "I'm sorry that I haven't had a chance to come take a look."
"It's okay," Selphie said. "As long as you're here when it's done - we're going to have a big creepy costume party. You should wear what you're wearing now because it's shocking, if nothing else. Maybe get those pistols and... wait, you could just borrow Squall's gunblade and we could draw a scar on you... The effect would be near perfect."
Squall chuckled. "I don't know. I mean, I don't know if I could watch myself walk around all evening."
"Well, we could dress you up like a sorceress or something and..."
Thankful he wasn't drinking, Squall managed his way through a good dozen expressions.
"No," he said flatly. "Not a chance. Creepy as it would be, just no."
"You're no fun," Selphie said. "I'm going to dress up as something really scary, like, um, Quistis on a bad day."
"Well, if we're doing that, I suppose I could be Xu when I haven't finished paperwork," Squall said. "I thought you wanted skeletons and ghosts and stuff."
"I do," Selphie said. "Hey, how do you know that?"
"You told me in Trabia," Squall 'reminded' her. "Remember?"
"Nope. Nothing new about not remembering though," Selphie admitted. She'd made a little pile of her fish sticks.
"Isn't that hard on you?" Ellone asked. "I've always wanted to ask... And do you forget simple little things?"
"I'm not sure," Selphie said with a wink. "I don't remember forgetting anything."
"Selph..." Squall warned.
"What?" Selphie asked. "It's all in good fun. I mean, we do what we have to, right? And there's a little side-effect. It's worth it to keep everything the way it should be."
"It's a little odd when someone reminds me of something I just can't remember," Squall said. "Simple little things, like going into Balamb and having lunch with Irvine before a mission or something... He'll remember it and I won't. Or we'll both think we did something, maybe, except we're not sure because it's hazy."
"Just don't forget me completely," Ellone said as she stared at both of them.
"Well, we have all afternoon to make memories," Selphie said. "Lots of them, involving mostly you two helping me a bit just maybe?"
"Definitely," Ellone said quickly. "I can't think of anything I'd rather do, as long as my SeeDs are well taken care of."
"I'm sure they're in good hands," Squall said. He reached over and touched her arm as a bit of a reminder that just because they knew the potential outcomes of the day, no one else needed to.
"I know," Ellone said with a soft smile.
"Great! I want to show you everything," Selphie said. "Ellone, this will give you so many ideas of things you can do with the group you work with. Because keeping morale high and having lots of fun is super important!"
"As is them not thinking their commander is off his rocker," Squall added.
"If it's all in good fun, they'll understand," Selphie retorted. She knocked her fish stick pile over.
"We'll meet up with you in a bit, then," Ellone said as she began to stand. "Squall and I did have a few more things to do today but we can squeeze them all in quickly."
"Of course, go have fun," Selphie said with a wave. "But don't forget me, okay?"
"Never would, Selphie," Squall replied as he got out of his chair as well. "Don't worry."
"Okay, maybe I didn't want to try this," Ellone stammered as a very confused Grat stared at her. Squall was happy that all of his other magic spells worked properly because if the Grat hadn't been confused, it might have tried to stumble into one of them and leave a bruise.
"Go on," Squall said. Shiva was happily chattering in his head again as he watched Ellone stare down the grat, gunblade in hand.
"I mean, how do you even lift this thing?"
"Just go up and poke it," Squall said. "Don't even worry about pulling the trigger. Just use the sword part."
"But it'll die. I'm not sure I want to do that."
Squall tried not to roll his eyes. It was a Grat. They practically respawned. Actually, he was quite sure that there was a healthy colony over on the far west side and that was what was happening to any T-rexsaur remains that weren't cleaned up right away.
"Bop it on the head and I can heal it after," he tried.
"I don't know."
The grat stumbled off. So much for trying out actual weaponry.
"I'm a failure," Ellone said almost with a smile.
"You know, you could kill it today and it would reset and be alive tomorrow," Squall reminded her.
"I forgot," Ellone admitted as she handed the gunblade back to him. "It isn't easy to remember - that this is all real but it isn't. I don't like to think about it. I mean, at this time tomorrow - er, today but, um - when this comes around again for you, you won't be with me and I won't be with you and everything will be really not like this. It's weird. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with it."
"We can just go help Selphie and not think about it," Squall suggested. "Let's go back to my room and change, okay?"
Ellone nodded and reached for Squall's hand when he offered it.
Squall fell into bed absolutely exhausted. Ellone had stayed with him until well after eleven thirty and she only left when he explained that thus far he hadn't been awake for the reset and really didn't want to be awake for it if he could possibly help it. And she'd had only one request for him - to say something about the weather in Winhill, which was apparently something she liked to check online but no one knew that she did so. She also liked to check the fanpage that Selphie maintained for Laguna, but that didn't need to ever be mentioned again.
Maybe that was why Selphie was so fond of Ellone - Laguna information. Squall shook his head before burying it under a blanket. It wasn't worth thinking about. He needed to get to sleep.
"And you?" he asked in a hushed whisper. "Did you have fun today?"
There was nothing more than a feeling of contentment from Shiva until he truly began to drop under.
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