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Title: Echoes
Part: 42 & 41
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. ^^;;

"Forty-two," Squall mumbled as he scratched his stomach. "Why couldn't I have drawn, like, six of that stupid spell? Why?"

He felt frustrated. He was frustrated. It was the perfect day to head to the Training Centre and kill everything in sight.

He'd almost forgotten that halfway through the morning, Zell would appear and he'd have to figure out what he was going to do in any given direction. Maybe they could just fight as a team, like they had just two (of Zell's days, at least) before.

He'd just finished off his fourth T-rexaur when he saw Zell rounding the far corner of the path. Pausing to sit beside his kill and clean the blood from his gunblade, Squall waited for Zell to greet him.

"Yo!" Zell said as he ran over. "You do that alone? What are you doing out here anyway?"

"Needed to blow off some steam," Squall said. "And besides, after last night, I kept thinking that I haven't been in here in awhile."

"I'm the one who keeps stock on our monsters," Zell said. "I can give you a basic run down, minus one T-rexaur."

"Four," Squall said. "How many did we have?"

"Four," Zell replied with a sigh. "I'll have to order more."

Squall chuckled. "Well, then I suppose it's safe for the students to work their way through to the far deck, then. I haven't been out there - for any reason - in awhile either."

"I don't know if anyone still patrols it," Zell admitted. "Maybe Xu?"

"Xu spends all day doing paperwork," Squall said. "I know, I know, I'll get her an assistant. I just need to get to tomorrow to get everything in order."

"Get to tomorrow?" Zell asked as Squall stood up and stretched, tucking away his gunblade.

"There's only so much I can do with today," Squall said. "But I can enjoy it."

"You sure that spell didn't make you a little fuzzy in the head?"

"Not at all," Squall said as he gestured for Zell to follow him. "Let's do a patrol and then get lunch. If you want to spar against something, I'm available."

"I'd just assume take you up on lunch, sir," Zell replied with a smile.

"What is this?" Squall asked himself as he began to dig things out from the cupboard where he generally dumped everything people gave him. He had no idea how many years worth of stuff was down there, but it was certainly a disaster. From gifts from students to things from even Ellone, he'd just piled it with intentions to do something with some of it.

Zell had been right a few repeats before - his place really didn't look like he lived in it at all and as far as he knew, he'd have the same quarters for quite awhile - standard staff quarters but still enough. He had the small kitchen area, the bathroom, the bedroom, and a sort of everything room with the sofa and coffee table and bookcase that was empty other than some dust.

There was an analog clock on the wall, batteries long dead and permanently saying it was a little after six. It was right twice a day and he didn't look at it when he did have it.

And on the other wall was a sword he'd been given in Esthar - it was mainly hung up properly because there wasn't room for it in the cupboard.

He grabbed a handful of paper towels and went to wipe off the bookcase. Quistis had given him that when she changed rooms. She'd probably tried to give him some books as well, which was what he was looking for.

The first thing he'd found was just a simple and awful knick knack - probably from Selphie. From Winhill - she'd had a mission there. Maybe she thought it would mean a little more to him than it did. The thought was certainly a happy one. He set it on top of the bookcase and went back for whatever was next.

Maybe people just didn't know what he liked. It made sense - he didn't really know what he liked, other than peace and quiet, some semblance of order, and having time to himself. He didn't get most of those, so maybe settling for books and knick-knacks would be okay.

He kept digging, sorting through years of birthday gifts until he found a box of books off to one side. Knowing full well that it was a wasted effort (but one that took time, which he had in spades), he began to shelve them all. He'd pick out one to read on the next repeat, perhaps, now that he knew where they were.

When he was finished, he leaned back against the wall and sighed. Why hadn't he done any of this sooner? Was he really so detached still? It wasn't a good feeling, even though he knew he'd made progress - and not just in the last few repeats of the same damned day.

"Is this it?" he asked. "Some stupid lesson that maybe I opened up a bit but I'm still some sort of unfeeling robot?"

There was no response.

"I'm going to bed," he told the empty space as he stood up and marched toward the bedroom. He didn't turn on the light because he knew the walls were bare and all he had besides a mirror on the back of the door and his gunblade were the digital clock radio and lamp on his nightstand.

He pulled the covers over his head quickly, not bothering to even consider the time. It was probably early. But he was tired and besides, the sooner he fell asleep, the sooner everything would be over.


"What if I cast the spell again?" he asked the bathroom mirror when he walked by. "Probably wouldn't help - might even make things worse. If I even can cast it. But... there are definitely less of it floating around."

He reached over to turn on the water and then let his eyes wander up to the shelves where kept his meager towel collection. How many towels did people have? He had three. Three was a good number, because the same one could be used for a couple of days. Or fifty-some, because time kept resetting and even if he wore it around all day and rolled in the mud, he and the towel would be a fair bit cleaner in the morning. He'd still have his residue from the day before and the towel... Well, it was always hanging on the towel bar beside the sink so he'd used it at least once but he'd been in Trabia... The little details always seemed to escape him, though he wasn't sure if it was Shiva's doing or just that there was no reason to commit them to memory to begin with. Probably a little of both, depending on the situation.

Shiva started chattering away in his head and it certainly seemed more like words he could understand but it still seemed like she was yelling them from downwind of a fan or something - there was a distinct barrier that was keeping him from making distinct words from her sounds.

"You're welcome to my memories," he told her as he stepped into the shower. "Try to leave some of the good stuff, like tying shoes and whatever, but the rest, well, things about towels or how long that stuff has been in my fridge or whatever, that doesn't really matter to me.

"I'm learning things," he continued as he started to wash his hair. "Like, how to deal with people I deal with all the time but in a friendly way. Maybe I've taken everyone for granted now that we're not off trying to save the world and all of that. Maybe I've been so wrapped up in myself that I haven't looked around me to see what's going on with everyone. I need to be more involved. So now that I know all of this, can I please just jump ahead to when this all ends so that I can begin the process of taking care of everything? I know how to do it all right."

He paused.

"I think."

Shiva didn't say anything, but he could sense her.

"I know, I know, spells don't work like that."

About a half-hour later, he had a cup of coffee in his hand and was heading towards his office when he saw Quistis coming from the other direction.

"Good morning!" She waved, and Squall smiled.

"Morning," he said with a slight echoing wave.

"I heard that spell was a complete dud," she commented before stopping. "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."

Squall frowned for a moment.

"Want me to work on them?" he asked. "Just drop them by my office and I'll take care of them."


"They're the Galbadian Political papers, right? No problem. I could grade them in my sleep. After all, we were both there for quite a bit of it," Squall said.

"What do you want in return?" Quistis asked curiously.

"Come patrol the Training Centre with me this evening in a total non-romantic non-date way," Squall said. "Though I will take you for a lovely dinner in the cafeteria if you'd like. And an apple."

"An apple?"

Squall nodded. "It's a deal then."

And he headed off down the hallway, leaving a very confused Quistis standing there, watching him go.

The problem, Squall noted, with trying to help everyone with everything, was that it just wasn't possible. He'd finished Quistis' papers, but he'd had to make his visit with Ellone far too short. Technically he couldn't help Xu, because it would just seem like he was ignoring his own paperwork mess. He was, but that was only because he could do it all he wanted, it would just respawn upon the next repeat. He couldn't hang out with Zell in the Training Center with or without romantic attraction because then he'd even have to skip most of his bagel missions, which he hadn't done anyway. Rinoa and cards were a great combination, but they interfered with helping Selphie not sacrifice herself. And doing anything with Nida and the White SeeDs would interrupt any reading time or room-cleaning, not that he really needed to clean so much as make the place look like a human actually lived in it.

There was no way to find the actual 'right' course for the day.

Leaning back in his desk chair, he realized that might be part of it too. How many times had he kicked himself for one silly little miss on behalf of himself or another member of his team? Sometimes he could let that sort of thing go, but sometimes it just ate at him even though there was no way to go back and change things.

"Great, we have a sorceress concerned with character building running around Trabia," he grumbled as he looked up at the ceiling. "Not fair."

Shiva jabbered something and Squall froze. It seemed a little clearer than even in the morning, but certainly not all the way there yet.

"Almost," he told her. "But I suppose I should be more worried about lunch than what's going on in my head."

He'd decided to help Nida again, after helping Selphie for a bit and doing dinner and the Training Center patrol with Quistis. All he'd really missed was Rinoa and he was fairly sure she'd be interested in helping Selphie if he'd only remember to ask her to help Selphie - if he could remember where she was. Rinoa seemed to appear in different spots depending on his own actions - maybe she was in the most direct path of influence, which made sense since he was still, technically, her knight. His actions would affect her. For all he knew, even what he said to Quistis directed her flow. Maybe whether or not he scratched his stomach immediately upon waking up...

Maybe he could test the theory just a little, but it would require at least a day to set up. And dinner plans, or something.

Or he'd have to find her after dinner after not interacting with her all day, ask what she did all day, and then do things different and find her again... He'd not paid much attention to the science of experimentation - he'd been more concerned about practical things like learning how not to get shot.

After changing into his night clothes and flopping into bed, Squall found himself staring at the ceiling. He didn't really want to know how everything worked. It didn't matter to him. Except it did, because he did want to know.

He rolled over and pulled the pillow over his head.


"About time," he muttered. "About time."



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