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Title: Echoes
Part: 53
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. ^^;;

"Fifty-three?" Squall asked himself as he yawned and stretched. It was still dark, and he didn't know why the number was on his lips.

Wait - that was the sum of the mystery spell that he'd drawn from the mystery creature that had turned to dust when it had been killed... minus one. Because he'd cast it. He'd be locking up fifty-three applications of a spell that did nothing once he got dressed and had breakfast.

But who had said it - someone had said...

"Shiva?" he asked out loud. But there was no reply. She was there, and she was... smiling. She was watching, almost amused. Squall wasn't used to her being so docile.

He knew he had heard her voice.

"Oh, fine," he grumbled as he pulled off his sleep clothes and headed for the shower.

He turned the water on and closed the curtain, choosing to stare at himself in the mirror for just a second. Everything else seemed normal - hair sticking up all over from being asleep, scar where it was supposed to be, ears on the correct sides of head... Nothing to worry about. And he felt fine - a little hungry and a little not-quite-awake but that was perfectly normal.

After locking up the mystery spell and reporting in to Ellone, he'd finish the report and maybe head in to Balamb to look at a few possible gunblade modifications and order some office supplies - they were perilously low on staplers for some reason.

The water was the perfect temperature when Squall climbed under it. He had the wonderful feeling that it was going to be a very good day.

A half-hour later, dressed properly in his uniform and with a cup of coffee in hand, Squall passed Quistis in the hallway.

"Good morning!" she said as she waved.

"Morning," Squall replied with an echoing wave.

"I heard that spell was a complete dud," she said as she stopped. "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."

"What happened to your aide?" Squall asked curiously. Ever since Quistis had returned to teaching, she'd been running an intensive honors course and part of her stipulations involved having an aide available for assistance grading papers.

"She sprained her wrist against a pack of Grats," Quistis explained with an eyeroll. "At least you never did that. But she can't do any writing for at least another week."

"I should be free this afternoon," Squall said before he'd fully thought about it. "Bring me a stack and I'll work on them."

"History of political strife on the Galbadian continent?" Quistis questioned.

"Sure," he replied. He didn't really need anything from Balamb, after all. Other than staplers.

"Thanks, Squall - er, Commander," she said. "Knew I could count on you."

"Yeah... Have you seen Ellone? I need to let her know that there weren't any strange effects from that spell."

"Haven't seen her," Quistis answered. "But if I see her, I'll let her know that you're looking for her."

"Thanks," Squall said. And then he headed off down the hallway to his office. In order to put something into the vault, he had to fill out paperwork. And then file that paperwork with his report on the Trabia mission. He'd probably have to get statements from Ellone and Rinoa about the mysterious spell. He wondered if he'd need a comment from Shiva, even if she wasn't talking.

Unlocking his door, he wondered if he even knew where the vault paperwork was. As often as someone had inquired about finding him a secretary, he always refused. If he really needed something, he'd call Xu. Xu knew her way around his office as well as he did, and she could probably do something about the staplers as well.

Squall set his coffee down on his desk and started in the first file cabinet.

An hour later, Squall had papercuts on three of his fingers and his coffee was long-since cold. He'd been through every file cabinet in his office, both his desk drawers, and was beginning to contemplate if such a form really did exist or if he was just making it up for the sake of his report.

When in doubt, he figured, call Xu.

Xu answered her phone on the third ring. Within a minute, she arrived, located the form, and was on her way.

And Squall still had cold coffee. But he couldn't complain - Shiva had begun to softly speak to him and it put him at ease.

Just as he touched his pen to the form, there was a knock at his office door.

"Come in, Sis," he called. No one else he knew would knock, after all. Xu hadn't even said a word to him other than 'here'.

"Quistis said you were looking for me," Ellone said quickly as she entered and closed the door again. "Are you okay?"

"I think so," Squall replied. "I don't feel weird and I slept okay. Xu just came and found a form for me and didn't say anything about me suddenly growing horns."

"You'd be cute with horns," Ellone said with a giggle. "So you just wanted to let me know you're okay?"

"Actually, if you wouldn't mind writing out a statement for the report I have to write about all of this..."

"Can I sit at your desk to do it?" she asked, interrupting.

"Sure," Squall said as he stood and began to walk around the desk. "I need to un-junction Shiva and..."

He frowned. Ellone frowned.

"I can't," he said. "I can't remove Shiva."

"Echo," Ellone said in a hollow voice. She seemed to be looking more through Squall than at him. "Whatever that spell was, even if it didn't do anything, it needs to run its course. Then you'll be able to remove Shiva, but the spell will be gone."

"Then I don't need that form Xu found for me," Squall said. He was not happy about letting a random unknown spell run its course even if it didn't seem to be doing anything. He didn't like that it was so personal, at least.

"If you need more pages," Ellone said as she snapped back to her normal composure, "Zell is going to draw a picture of the monster so I can take it to the Estharian scientists and scholars. I took a look at it in his memories, but I can't very well drag those in to show off."

Squall chuckled. "It'll fill space."

"Are you sure you're feeling okay?"

"I'm fine, Sis. I promise that if anything happens, you'll be the first one I call."

Ellone nodded and seated herself at Squall's desk. "Can I use the back of this?" she asked as she held up the vault form.

"Yeah. Where will you be if I need you?"

"Same place I was this morning - the library. You don't have many high level books, but I have a few clues, at least," Ellone explained. "Now let me do some work."

Squall frowned. He still had a half-empty cup of very cold coffee to contend with, along with a mystery spell that was echoing around inside of him and...

Well, Shiva wasn't ready to comment.

Squall found himself all but forgetting about the mysterious echoing spell as he sat with Quistis, grading papers. He found that he knew the material well enough to mark anything he thought was fishy and then Quistis could fill in the details and make the little red-pen notes about what exactly was wrong.

And she'd brought food with her, which was rather nice since Squall had completely missed lunch while trying to sort out an argument between students. He'd come across them on the way to the cafeteria and that had been that - he'd spent almost an hour listening to both sides of the problem and then made a ruling - a good one, at that.

Though Quistis probably wondered why he was practically inhaling the small plate of cheese and crackers that was probably a gift from one of her students. He wouldn't mind an apple the next time, too...

"Next time, you're coming too," Squall said as he picked up another paper.


"When there's a report of something truly strange," Squall continued. "I want you on my team."

Quistis blushed.

Squall went back to grading. He hadn't meant it that way. He never meant it that way and he was fairly sure that Quistis was thoroughly aware that he'd come to the conclusion that as much as he liked girls, his body rejected the idea of trying to be intimate with them.

One of the things Squall had utterly forgotten about was Selphie planning yet another festival. After spending three hours of his evening hauling around wood for a stage, Squall was fairly sure they should just invest in a permanent one. It would be so much easier than these ongoing projects, if there was actually room for it without ruining...

He just couldn't bring himself to follow that train of thought. He was tired and the nagging feeling of things not being quite right was finally beginning to really get to him.

Hastily he changed into his night clothes and crawled into bed, closing his eyes and wishing for sleep.

"Fifty two..."

Squall sat straight up in bed and reached for the light he hadn't even originally bothered to turn on.


But he was alone and Shiva was silent. Frowning, he turned the light back off and rolled over onto his side, staring at the wall in the dark until sleep finally washed over him.



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