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Title: Echoes
Part: 45
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. ^^;;

"I hate this," Squall said as he stretched. At least he was in his bed again. "I hate all of this."

Shiva began her running commentary.

"I don't get it. I'm listening and I just don't get it," Squall said. He brought his hands to his ears. "Just... be quiet."

She complied, but he could feel her disappointment.

"I wanted to have fun with this," Squall said as he got out of bed and stumbled towards the bathroom. "Or figure out how to have fun, at least. Yesterday wasn't any fun."

He turned on the water in the shower and stepped back to look at his reflection in the mirror. Horns would be better than having to spend the next forty-five days repeating the same damned day.

"I don't want to do this," he mumbled as he stepped under the water. "I just don't..."

"Well you have to."

Squall froze.


Soft chattering, nothing more.

"I know," he said as he reached for the soap. "I know."

About a half-hour later, wearing his full uniform and with a cup of coffee in one hand, Squall found himself walking through the hallway, just like he usually did. And he saw Quistis before she saw him.

"Morning," he said with a slight wave.

"Good morning!" she replied, waving back. "Hey, I'm sorry to hear that spell was a complete dud. It could have been really interesting. But I had to work on grading papers - been doing it for the last week and if I don't keep grading them every waking hour, they'll never get done."

"If you need a hand, stop by my office after lunch," Squall said. "And maybe bring an apple?"

"Bribes," Quistis commented. "Fine. Thank you."

"Anything but my paperwork," Squall replied as he headed off down the hallway. He had to get a bagel for Xu and then find Ellone. Maybe he could kiss Zell and wrangle up someone to help Selphie. Anyone.

Maybe he could help Selphie instead of putting it off on everyone else. He could help Selphie and Nida and Quistis and Ellone and... himself. At some point, he had to help himself.

He still hadn't finished the book, either.

Stopping by the cafeteria, Squall grabbed a bag of bagels and headed off to visit everyone he could think to visit - Xu, Ellone, Zell, Nida, Selphie.

Xu's office was the first stop on his list. He knocked once and then opened the door.

"Morning," he said as he entered. "I brought you an Everything Bagel with light cream cheese."

"What do you want?" Xu asked suspiciously.

"Nothing," Squall said as he pulled a bagel and packet of cream cheese from the bag. "Little bird told me you skipped breakfast again to try to catch up on the paperwork neither of us can ever catch up on."

"Thank you," Xu said as she took the bagel. "I meant to get something, but... Well there are new arrivals to take care of and a housing change request form and there was a spat among some of the younger teens yesterday and... it just goes on. I don't know what Quistis and I were thinking when we decided to be your administration - especially since she went back to teaching. Now I have..."

"I'll find you an assistant," Squall interrupted. "I didn't know you were so swamped."

"You never stop by. I just drop papers off to you."

"Sorry," Squall said. "I've been neglecting a lot of things. Just wrapped up in my own little world, I guess."

Xu shrugged and started spreading the cream cheese on her bagel using one of her fingers. "It happens. But sometimes you need to wake up and realize you're not the only person in the world dealing with stuff."

"Well, maybe today I am," Squall said with a smile.

"Weird after-effects from that spell?"

"Does everyone know about that?" Squall asked.

"Well, considering you, Zell and Selphie went on a mission, yes, everyone knows. It's been a constant source of speculation. And then a bunch of you disappeared into the Training Center last night..." Xu trailed off as she took a bite.

"Total dud," Squall said. "But it did get me thinking about things."

"Like bringing me breakfast?"

"Yes. But I have more bagels to deliver," Squall said as he headed for the door. "No crumbs on my reports."

"Yes, sir, Commander, sir," Xu said with a wink. "Have a good day."

Squall headed down the hallway, trying to decide who to find next. Selphie sounded like a good bet. And just before he turned the corner and the area where she was building the stage came into view, he had the best idea he'd had since sometime earlier in the morning.

"Selphie!" he called, waving. "Want a bagel?"

"Wha--? Squall, did that spell make you nice or something?" she asked as she skipped over to him. "Where's my favourite ice queen?"

"I just asked about a bagel," Squall replied flatly.

"Much better," she chirped as she took the bag and dug around in it. "Thanks. You came here just to give me a bagel?"

"Actually, I have an idea, but I need to talk to Nida first," Squall admitted. "I think he was planning to do a night repair scenario with the White SeeDs tonight - maybe he can work something in with your scenery building."

"How did you know what I had planned for tonight?" Selphie asked.

Mentally, Squall kicked himself until Shiva spoke up.

"You told me when we were in Trabia. You were going on about the productions you helped put on there," Squall fibbed. She had definitely done the latter, but not the former.

"I don't really remember," Selphie admitted with a frown. "Guess Siren grabbed that little bit when I wasn't thinking about it. Maybe I came up with the same idea twice! Wouldn't that be fun? But I usually write things down, just in case. Of course, in Trabia I wouldn't have been able to write it down because we were on a mission and were out in the snow... Hey, how are you feeling?"

"Fine," Squall said. "Total dud of a spell."

"Drat! I wanted it to do something really cool - I mean, last night I wanted it to blow things up and everything! You could have grown some scales or something," Selphie considered.

"Horns," Squall said. "I was hoping for horns, if anything."

"You'd be cute with horns," Selphie commented before taking a bite of her bagel. She mumbled something to him with her mouth full and Squall just waved.

"More bagels to deliver," he said as he left. "Expect Nida and the White SeeDs at some point."

And he went off to find Nida, who was obviously next in line to be bribed with food.

Squall ticked every little detail and meeting off on his fingers - Xu needs an assistant, Nida has night plans and will help Selphie, Selphie has help needed, Ellone knew he was safe, Zell had been invited over for reasons unknown that he accepted anyway, and... He had one bagel left.


Mostly Rinoa divided her time between Garden and Timber, teaching one class per semester and trying to weed out any SeeD candidates with sorceress potential - just in case. She visisted Esthar quite often as well. But when she wasn't doing anything... Well, Squall wasn't sure what she did most of the time.

He found her just outside the main doors, playing Triple Triad with a handful of students.

She looked up just as he approached, smiling her usual bright, vibrant smile.

"Rin, can I speak to you?" Squall asked as he offered her a hand. "And would you like a bagel?"

She giggled and gracefully retrieved her cards. "Another time."

"Another time," one of the students said with an echoing smile.

"Are you okay?" she asked Squall once they were back inside. "I mean, the spell yesterday and..."

"I'm fine," Squall replied. "I just felt like causing panic by bringing everyone bagels. Apparently I haven't done a thing for anyone this year."

"That's not true," Rinoa retorted. "You help Selphie and take students through the Training Center and help Doc and a billion other things."

"Then what's so unusual about the bagels?"

"Maybe we take you for granted," Rinoa admitted. "I don't know. But you're always there if someone needs you - or you've figured out how to have someone there."

"I need you to be there for someone," Squall said. "If you can."

"Who?" Rinoa asked. She took the bagel and smiled. "Everything."

"Everything," Squall echoed. "They're Xu's favourite, which would be good to remember. She's the one I'd like you to help. She needs an assistant, at least part time."

"I'm free until noon," Rinoa said quickly. "I mean, if that's good."

"I think it'd be great. Can you start tomorrow?" Except there was no tomorrow, of course. Squall mentally kicked himself again - he thought he'd been doing so well.

"Of course!" Rinoa chirped. She took a bite of the bagel. "Do I get an assistant?"

"Not yet," Squall said with a smile. "Want to grab lunch in about an hour? I'm meeting Quistis in the afternoon to help her with some term paper grading, but we haven't really talked lately. I'd like to catch up."

Rinoa nodded, her mouth full.

Quistis had brought him an apple. A sweet, juicy delicious apple. He spent more time eating the apple and enjoying it than he had so far on marking papers, but Quistis hadn't noticed. She had her head down, feasting off her own cheese and cracker tray - obviously she'd been so busy that she'd skipped lunch.

"What happened to your aide?" Squall asked as he circled a couple of false facts and set the paper down. He knew he'd forgotten to ask earlier and it seemed like the proper conversation.

"Broke her wrist," Quistis explained. "She was helping a couple of younger students practice on some grats and things went... stupid."

"You could have asked for help sooner," Squall commented. "Next time, ask for help sooner. That way you can go on missions to Trabia with me."

"You wouldn't want me along," Quistis said with a shake of her head. "Not your dumpy old instructor."

"For a dumpy old instructor, you get given some nice apples," Squall replied. "Besides, I still consider you a valuable part of my team."


"I missed having you out there, yelling at me not to draw some weird mysterious spell without knowing what it did even though it ended up not doing anything..." He leaned back and picked up another paper. "Could you bring me more apples?"

"I heard everyone else got bagels from you."

"I'll take you to an early dinner," Squall said with a smile. "And then Zell is stopping by.

"Oh?" Quistis nearly dropped a cracker. "Zell..."

"Ever since that incident with Rinoa and the scales, I've sort of thought that maybe he..." Squall trailed off, far too amused by the varying expressions crossing Quistis' face.

"You... You're... You mean..." Quistis started laughing. "Well that explains a lot!"

Squall marked a few things on the paper. He really did have most of them memorized already. Quickly he thanked Shiva for not eating any of those memories yet - they were coming in exceptionally handy.

"Good luck," Quistis concluded with a wink and smile.

"You know, I probably shouldn't have said anything."

"Dinner will keep me quiet," Quistis said before grabbing another piece of cheese. "At least until tomorrow or whenever one of you two appears with a giant hickey or something."

"Men don't do that," Squall said. "I hope."

"Okay, now this might be bordering on too much information, but... you haven't..."

"No," Squall said. "I've tried with girls but... No."

"Normally you wouldn't admit to this," Quistis said as she leaned closer. "Was it a truth spell or something?"

"It's not the spell," Squall said flatly. "I don't know why I just told you that. Because I trust you, I guess. You're one of my best friends."

"I'm going to get you another apple," Quistis said, mock-standing. "Because you weren't saying ridiculous things when you had your mouth full."

Squall shook his head and kept grading.

"I meant that 'good luck'," Quistis said a minute later.

"I know."

"There's at least one helpful book in the library, you know."

Squall frowned.

"I'm not sure... Well... I mean..."

"I'm not suggesting you two ravish one another until sunrise," Quistis said. "Take some time and figure stuff out. But if you need it, there's a book in the library. And the internet, too, no matter how much you dislike logging on to any terminal here because Selphie's set every home page to your fa-"

"Quistis," Squall warned. "I think I should be getting you an apple."

They both started laughing.

"Zell?" Squall asked as soon as he'd closed the door to his room and had locked the door. "Can I kiss you?"

Zell went pale for a few seconds before dumbly nodding. Apparently apples weren't necessary to shut him up.

And Squall kissed him, pinning him against the wall and almost expecting to get punched. But Zell did nothing of the sort. He simply moved into the kiss and slowly responded, letting his lips part as Squall pushed onward.

They both forgot to breathe. Squall pulled back and started chuckling.

"Squall?" Zell asked. His face was bright red, tattoo aside. "What was that for?"

Squall shrugged. "Just an idea I had."

"Could you have it again?"

Nodding, Squall pulled Zell over to the sofa and sat down.

"You sure?" Zell asked. "This is... This isn't from that spell, is it?"

"What if it is?" Squall asked as he began to push a hand up under Zell's shirt. "Is it such a bad thing?"

"I can't take advantage of you if you're under the influence of some weird spell," Zell said as he pulled back and stood up. "Squall, you're my friend. I can't..."

"It was a joke."

"Are you sure?"

Shiva was laughing and Squall knew she was laughing. Inside, he was laughing a bit too but mostly he just... wanted.

In a second, he had Zell down on the floor, mouth on his as he pinned the fighter down. Zell didn't struggle but he didn't respond.

"Squall, you're scaring me..."

Squall gave up, picking himself up.

"Go," he said as he gestured towards the door. "I have a book to finish anyway."

It didn't matter. It wouldn't matter. He could try again. But he felt really, really silly as he heard the lock click behind Zell as he left.

"Laugh all you want," he said to Shiva. "This is just some lesson I needed to learn. You sure I can't keep any of these memories? I mean, I am learning..."

"Ideas," came the response.

Squall nodded. He could keep the ideas, but not the distinct memories. Xu needed help, liked bagels, etc. That was a pretty good deal, actually. His head would be full of useful things and he'd just assume they were rescued fragments from Shiva's feast.

He sighed. He needed a cold shower before he even thought about finishing that book.




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