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Title: Echoes
Part: 48
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-eight," Squall mumbled as he groped around at the bed beneath him. Definitely his room. He yawned without meaning to. It made him feel a little better, really, that he wasn't waking up in the clinic, because that would have meant that Xu really had punched him and knocked him out cold.

Well, she had, but she hadn't. He knew now, however, that she had a terrific right hook and could go against Zell any day of the week.

Squall chuckled for a few seconds before letting out a sigh of relief. Selphie was safe, somewhere, as well. He really did need to remember to assign someone to help her. Or just do it himself as an apology for things that hadn't really happened.

And he hadn't gotten to do anything with his new, temporary stuff.

Was this the day he wasn't going to take a shower? Squall stretched and headed towards the bathroom anyway. He was fairly sure that he had to take a shower in order to be sure he was really still repeating things.

Shiva started chattering happily in his head as he looked in the mirror.

"Yes, I know you're there. Did you like the treats I bought you yesterday?"

Happy. He could feel the sheer happiness radiating out from her.

"I'm glad you aren't being reset like everyone else," he commented as he turned on the water. "Maybe because you were a part of me when I cast the spell. It is attached to you, after all."

He paused, thinking for a moment.

"It isn't hurting you at all, is it?"

There wasn't a response.

"I'll take that as a 'no'," Squall said as he climbed under the water. "If it does, try to figure out how to let me know. I'll try harder to do something - I'll tell Ellone about the repeat and see what she thinks, if she even believes me."

He leaned back against the wall and let the water pour over him for a minute. The day needed to be fairly normal, with all the normal interactions and such. He needed to be sure to take care of Selphie, talk to Ellone, and maybe help Quistis. He could drop off breakfast for Xu and find Nida to explain the night repair training. And he could do it all quickly, if he really wanted to. There had to be something new to add to the day that wouldn't start rippling things off in directions he wasn't sure he wanted to explore.

Coffee in hand, he had just dropped off breakfast to a very surprised Xu when he saw Quistis in the hallway, wearing her traditional pink.

"Good morning!" she said as she waved. Same paperwork in hand, demeanor friendly. Definitely a new, same day.

"Morning," Squall said as he waved back.

"I heard that spell was a complete dud." She stopped and 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."

"Your aide broke her wrist..." Squall said as if he was actually trying to remember. "Why don't you bring everything by my office this afternoon and I'll help you out. They're the History of Political Strife on the Galbadian Continent midterm papers, aren't they?"

"Did I tell you that much before?" Quistis asked incredulously. "Or did that spell make you psychic?"

"You told me about a week ago," Squall fibbed. He knew he'd talked to her then, but most of it was a little fuzzy. Shiva chattered something and he assumed that was her way of saying that yes, that memory had been tasty.

"Right," Quistis said. "Thanks. I'll take you up on that."

"Well, I'm off to see Ellone. I think she said she'd be in the library," Squall continued. "Need to tell her that the spell didn't make me grow a tail or horns or anything."

"No scales?" Quistis questioned. "Remember when Rinoa accidentally gave Zell scales?"

Squall sighed. He remembered.

"And all because she though Zell was spending too much time staring at you," Quistis said before clamping a gloved hand over her mouth. "Er, I mean..."

Squall raised an eyebrow. "Normally I'd discourage this sort of conversation, but since I had to write up a report on that..."

"That's really about it," Quistis said nervously. "For all I know, Zell wasn't staring at you, he was staring at the wall on the other side of you. Or your earring was crooked. Or anything. But Rinoa took it as a threat to her claim over you, which she doesn't even have now, and figured out how to give him scales."

She shook her head. "Probably more about Zell than you wanted to know."

"It's okay," Squall said. Well, that certainly made things interesting. He wondered if Zell suffered from the same condition he did - Zell was certainly attractive and would be a suitable partner. And he could find out without real life penalty thanks to the looping nature of his current life. "That was nearly a year ago. Though I can't say I'm happy with Rinoa at the moment."

"Don't get mad at her," Quistis said. "She's matured since then."

"I know."

"Anyway, I have class and you need to go see Sis," Quistis continued. She offered a wave and headed off down the hall. "See you."

Squall wondered where Zell would be in the middle of the morning. He had Ellone to take care of first, and a call to make to Nida if Nida was around and call-able. Then he could find Zell and maybe see just what Zell had been staring at.

With Ellone and Nida taken care of, Squall swung by the stage-in-progress to see if Selphie was there. Thankfully she was, as alive as she'd ever been on any other day where she wasn't dead.

"Squall!" she called from on top of a scaffold. "You came to help me?"

"Not right now," Squall admitted as he watched her scramble effortlessly down. "I'll send Zell to help you later. Have you seen him?"

"He was heading to the Training Center," Selphie replied with a smile. "You doing okay?"

"No horns or a tail," Squall said as he turned to go. "And be careful, would you?"

"Always am," Selphie chirped. "Most of the time."

Shaking his head as he left, he hoped that he wasn't rippling things off to an early conclusion.

Finding Zell in the Training Center was easy enough - all Squall had to do was follow the howls of a T-Rexsaur in agony. Zell had just finished the beast off when Squall arrived, which was fortuitous because he didn't have anything with him other than Shiva and she would have been a very special kind of overkill.

"Not bad," Squall said as he stepped up next to Zell. "Just practicing?"

"Yeah," Zell admitted. "Felt good to get out and fight that weird thing the other day."

Squall nodded - Zell had a point. That was probably why he'd gone off the day, er, repeat, er, whatever before for gunblade modifications. Deep inside, he liked a good fight.

"What are you doing here?" Zell asked.

"I ran into Quistis in the hallway," Squall said. "Said good morning, told her that useless spell hadn't caused me to grow horns and she mentioned that time Rinoa accidentally gave you scales..."

"Coud we not go there?" Zell asked, looking down. "That was..."

"Apparently you all lied to me," Squall continued. "Quistis said it was intentional and Rinoa didn't like you looking at me."


"Why were you looking at me?" Squall asked forcefully. He reached to cup Zell's chin and force his gaze upward. Normally he'd never do anything like this, but knowing that if it didn't work, it was free from reprecussions, well, it was worth doing. He had power - he just chose not to use it. Normally.

"I... was... I was just thinking that your hair had gotten longer," Zell admitted, fidgeting. "Looked nice on you. Look, guys don't say this kinda stuff if they don't want to get beat up."

"Who would be able to beat you up?" Squall asked as he stepped a little closer to Zell. "Other than Xu?"

"You, probably," Zell said. "Squall, I..."

Squall kissed him.

And Zell didn't do anything. Not at first, at least. He just kind of stood there for a few seconds before grabbing Squall's jacket with both hands and holding on tight. Then he kissed back, awkwarly and without opening his mouth. It was just lips touching and holding, pressed together by both of them.

"Squall," Zell murmured when they finally both drew back a bit. He didn't let go of Squall's jacket.



"Yeah," Squall replied. He thought it might be a good time to kiss Zell again, except Zell was too busy hugging him. Thankfully they were very, very alone in the expansive center. "Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"Me?" Zell asked as he bounced back and looked up at Squall. "What about you?"

Squall shrugged.

"Not the easiest thing to bring up, I guess."

"But you just brought it up," Zell insisted.

Squall shook his head. "No. Quistis did."

"I should thank her," Zell said, smiling.

"Actually, I should. I'm supposed to help her this afternoon with some papers," Squall admitted. He wasn't entirely sure what to do next - probably kiss Zell again. Or ask him to lunch or something. He supposed he could always screw it up and get it next repeat but that wouldn't be any fun.


"But that's after lunch," Squall said. "We still have plenty of morning left. Want to find another T-Rexsaur? I only have magic, but..."

"That's probably best," Zell replied with an almost sheepish look. "We probably should be a little, um, careful."

Squall made a mental note to eventually grab Zell and kiss him in front of a bunch of people. He'd probably end up with a black eye.

Indeed, he was fairly sure that he was slowly going crazy.

Turning to head back towards the entrance, Squall wasn't surprised by the pack of Grats that wandered out onto the pathway. He kicked one and Zell was right behind him, taking care of them before he could even ready a simple ice spell.

Shiva chattered loudly and for a split second, Squall wanted to tell her to shut up. And then he remembered.

"I have another question for you," Squall said as they walked onward.

"What?" Zell asked almost nervously.

"Could you give Selphie a hand with her scenery tonight?" Squall questioned.

Zell's face fell. "Er, sure. But... you wanted to ask me that?"

"Since earlier," Squall said. "Before I ran into Quistis. I suppose I could ask someone else, thought. Nida's busy with the White SeeDs and Quistis has her lesson planning. Irvine is still on that mission in Esthar. Maybe Xu could do it... She's as strong as you are if not stronger."

"Hey, I can do it," Zell said quickly. "I just thought maybe..."

"Come over after," Squall said with a smile. Even if it was only for a couple of hours and even if he had no clue what he was doing, he was sure that they would enjoy one another's company.

"Yes, sir, er, Squall," Zell replied with a smile.

And then they found their T-Rexsaur.

Squall wasn't entirely sure how many times he'd already gone over the same papers, but he didn't mind. The work was quick and easy and Quistis hadn't commented on his unnatural speed with them. Maybe she thought he was just really well-read on the source material. He just found himself remembering where most of the mistakes were.

Even though he'd managed to catch a quick lunch, he was grateful that she'd brought the same little cheese and cracker plate with her that she always did. Something about the little things in the middle of the day staying constant made him feel a little better about what was going on.

"How come you decided to bring a snack?" Squall asked as he set down a stack of papers.

"Huh?" Quistis said as she looked up. "Oh, actually one of the students brought them for me just before I headed here and since there was enough for both of us, I figured I'd share."

Squall nodded. Made enough sense.

"I was just curious. I thought you normally got apples."

"Apples," Quistis said in a tired voice. "And pears and oranges and once, a watermelon..."

Squall chuckled. That sounded like something to remember.

"You're lucky it doesn't happen to you," she continued. "But I guess all that fruit is good for me."

"I missed you in the field the other day," Squall said after a minute. It was true. He had always liked having her at his side.

"Really?" she asked. "I..."

"You've always been there for me," Squall admitted. Might as well say it. He could probably tell everyone everything. "And... thanks for telling me about Zell and the scales this morning."

Quistis frowned. "That...?"

"I went to talk to Zell about it and he confirmed everything," Squall said. "I'm not going to waste my time with confronting Rinoa - I know she's well past it, but... I think Zell and I have plenty of new things to talk about.

Pausing with a piece of cheese at her mouth, Quistis broke into a smile.

"You - You're... Well, that explains a lot!"

"Give me another stack of papers, would you? You've got some good students this time around," Squall instructed. Probably better to divert.

"Of course, sir," she replied as she handed over a pile. "And I'm rather proud of them myself. They'll be ready for every bit of testing we can throw at them."

"That's because they have a good instructor, Quistis."

Finally making a reaonable bit of progress in the book that Cid had given him, Squall had completely lost track of time and was genuinely startled when his door's buzzer rang. He could understand why Cid had given him that particular book - it was something he could lose himself in and normally he was not a large fan of fiction.

There was no point in marking his place, but he did take a look at the page number just in case he got back to it during the next repeat or so.

Shiva commented madly as he went to the door but he tried to ignore her.

"Please, let me try?" he whispered as he put his hand on the knob.

She promptly shut up and put out a few waves of contentment before doing what she could to make her presence little more than an afterthought.

"Hey," Zell said when Squall opened the door. "I was expecting a real workout with Selphie but it wasn't bad."

"I helped Nida with a few things," Squall said as he stepped aside to let Zell in. "But for the last hour or so, I've been reading. Cid gave me a book... quite awhile ago and I've been trying to finally read it."

"I didn't think you actually had free time," Zell said as he looked around. "Man, when's the last time I was over here? At least a year ago."

Squall closed the door and locked it. He knew for a fact that nothing had changed in that last year. His living space was small, cramped, and consisted mostly of a place to sleep and dump off his few belongings. Following Zell's gaze with his own, he spotted one thing that had been replaced, at least.

"New coffee maker," Squall pointed out. "This one's black, the old one was white."

Zell chuckled. "But no posters or pictures or knick-knacks - even if men don't have those things. I mean, you could at least have a picture of a car or plane or something."

Squall shrugged. "Get me one?"

"I could draw you something," Zell said. "That reminds me - I need to draw that monster tomorrow. Ellone wants to send a copy to Esthar to get their opinion on it."

"Oh?" Well, he hadn't heard this from Zell's point of view yet. Might as well. It would save time later.

"Yeah. She popped into my head for a look earlier but she can't very well send my memories," Zell explained. "And apparently she's not much of an artist."

Squall smiled. "You want a drink?"

"Sure," Zell replied.

Things were certainly awkward, if nothing else.

"I think I just have soda," Squall said as he headed toward the kitchen area, past the new, black coffee maker. "And hey, make me a copy of that drawing for my report?"

"I can do that," Zell said. "You need a statement?"

"Nah," Squall said. "I was there and I'm the one who drew from that thing. Didn't end up with scales, though."

There was a bit of silence as he retrieved two mostly-clean glasses and poured red soda into both of them.

Zell had settled onto the stiff, low sofa that had come with the room and was looking at his hands.

Squall sighed mentally. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but he should have figured in that two boys who knew nothing of romance would obviously be failures at small talk, dating, or even whatever they were supposed to be doing. Fooling around. All their crazy teenage hormones had been channeled into killing.

"Here," Squall said as he set Zell's glass down in front of him. "I'm sorry there isn't much here to do."

Zell shrugged. "You don't even have a TV."

"There's a radio in the bedroom," Squall said. "If it's important, Xu or someone will let me know about it. And we get the Balamb newspaper."

"You should really get a TV," Zell continued before downing half of his glass in one go. "That's one of the things that people do."

"You wanted to watch TV?" Squall asked.

"Well, no," Zell admitted. He looked up at Squall and smiled. "Have a seat."

"In my own place?" Squall questioned with a slight smirk as he sat. "I don't know."

This time, Zell kissed him. Zell kissed him hard, forcing his lips apart with his tongue and burying one hand in Squall's hair while the other slid down his back. Squall was momentarily surprised but he responded, letting Zell kiss him and slowly kissing him back. He slid a hand up Zell's chest, double-checking that the lack of breasts wasn't a bad thing.

Shiva made a quick comment but it wasn't anything worth listening to.

And they kept kissing - and talking and drinking the rest of the bottle of soda that Squall had until Squall glanced at the clock on the coffee maker during one of his trips to the kitchen and realized that it was ten minutes to midnight.

"Zell," he said half-panicked as he popped back into the main room. "It's almost midnight."

"Oh," Zell said as he glanced at the watch Squall hadn't even noticed he was wearing. "I should probably go."

Nodding, Squall headed over to the door and undid the lock.

"Come over tomorrow?" he asked. There wouldn't be a tomorrow, but Zell didn't need to know that."

"Yeah," Zell said as he kissed Squall one last time and then headed out.

Almost too quickly, Squall locked the door again and ran towards the bedroom, changing quickly to his nightclothes and ignoring the fact that he really, really needed to masturbate.

"Sleep!" he cried as he pulled the pillow over his head. At least he always woke up well rested.


He slept with a very slight smile on his face - for all of half-a-minute, at least.



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