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Title: Echoes
Part: Prologue, 54
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. ^^;;

"There it is!" Selphie yelled as the group crested a hill a few miles from the rebuilt Trabia Garden.

"And now it knows where we are, too," Squall grumbled as he readied his gunblade. "Thanks, Selph."

"Let's get this over with," Zell commented as he bounced in front of Squall. "It's cold out here."

Squall didn't reply - he was too busy looking at the monster. It was definitely unique enough that he was glad Trabia Garden had called him out specially. The thing had apparently already injured several of their students and they wanted it quickly exterminated.

"Try to draw from it," Selphie suggested as she waved her nunchaku around to try to get its attention. "Zell and I will hold it off. Maybe it has a GF within it or something."

"Do you think it's from the Lunar Cry?" Zell asked. "What is it?"

"I don't know," Squall said with a frown. He cocked his gunblade. "I'll try to draw. But... I'll shoot if you two have any trouble."

"Us? Trouble?" Zell said with a grin. "You're talking to professionals."

"Professionals who aren't wearing long pants in the snow."

"Oooh, not fair," Selphie declared.

The monster attacked.

Squall was surprised at what he found when he tried to draw from the beast - he could hear Shiva whispering to him but he couldn't understand her. There was just power but he kept trying even as Zell pummeled the creature. Whatever spells he was receiving, he was compressing and compacting and holding inside until the monster managed to knock Selphie down.

She staggered up, but not before Squall unleashed a volley of slashes and shots.

The beast went down almost immediately, twitching for a second before stopping.

"So what is it?" Zell asked as he kicked the thing.

It turned to dust and crumbled into a tiny pile a second later, before Squall could even open his mouth to gape.

"Dust," Selphie said with a frown. "What kind of weird creature does that?"

"Something magic," Squall said. "But there's no way to know when it was created. Unless another one turns up, I don't think we need to worry about a sorceress."

"We should report back," Zell said. "Mostly because it's cold out here."

"So did you get anything from it?" Selphie asked. "Spells?"

"Something," Squall admitted. "I just don't know what."

"Why don't you try casting it?" Selphie questioned.

"Not out here, not without knowing what it does," Zell said as he bounced around in front of her. "We were all taught that years ago - never unleash anything that you don't know what it is and aren't sure you can do anything about."

"Zell," Selphie said sharply. "Different Garden... But yeah, you're right."

"Shiva hasn't complained too much," Squall said. "But she's probably just enjoying the weather right now and not worrying about all the magic I've given her. I was expecting someone to get injured."

Selphie pointed at her leg. "Totally freezer burn."

"Pants," Squall suggested. "Seriously, I have no idea why I'm the only one dressed for the weather."

"I still want to know what you managed to draw," Zell said. "Is Ellone still in Balamb with her White SeeDs? Maybe she and Rinoa could take a look at it."

"If anyone asks again, I'll cast it on them," Squall warned.

For a few minutes, they walked in silence.

"Hey, Selphie?" Zell asked once Trabia Garden came into view.

"What?" Selphie replied.

"Does the cafeteria have..."

Selphie hit him with a snowball.

"Hey!" Zell tried to lob one back but missed and hit Squall. A handful of students saw them approaching and came running over.

But by then, the fight was on.

"You'll be right back," Squall whispered softly as he un-junctioned Shiva. He knew the summon spirit was upset, but Rinoa was not like Ellone and couldn't just pop into his head to see what was rolling around in it. Ellone said that she'd spent quite a bit of time talking to Shiva and that neither of them knew what the mysterious spell was.

Still, Rinoa had insisted on giving it a try. Squall didn't mind - Rinoa had more than a few back-memories of various sorts of magic that definitely weren't her own and he hoped that something might seem familiar to her.

During the time Ellone had spent with Shiva, Squall had been unconscious by necessity. However, with Rinoa, he was awake and sitting anxiously beside her while she frowned and puzzled.

"Ah... no," she muttered. Squall rubbed his temples. He felt ridiculously empty. His head was clear and crisp and he felt like new-fallen snow except without the delightful ice that he normally was comforted by. Strange, really, how he had gotten so used to having another creature living within him, feeding on his memories as he happily gave them. While many of the other SeeDs unjunctioned their GFs for shared use, Shiva belonged to him alone. And he was fairly sure that she felt the same way.

...in love with the voice in his head, he thought to himself as he glanced over at Rinoa again.

She was wincing and shaking her head.

"Sorry, sorry," she murmured as she began the process to return Shiva to him.

The familiar fullness was wonderful and Squall smiled for a moment before turning his attention to Rinoa. He could hear Shiva very softly saying something, but the words were muddled and unclear. Maybe someday he'd really be able to hear her, but the sacrifice...

"I think you should cast it," Rinoa said. "Maybe in the Training Center or something, where no one's going to get hurt if it's a massive fireball spell or something really strange."

"Not alone," Squall said firmly. "I'd want you there, and Ellone and probably Zell and Selphie since they want to see."

"This evening?" Rinoa suggested. "When the Training Center is empty of students..."

"Sounds good," Squall replied. "And if you'll excuse me, I have a report to begin about the entire expedition, including Selphie's freezer burn and the snowball fight and the auto-pilot acting up on the way home, even if Zell managed to fix it."

Rinoa smiled.

Squall was just happy to have Shiva back where she belonged.

"Stand back," Squall said as he prepared to cast the mystery spell. "All I've managed to learn about this is that it has some sort of echo effect."

"Echo effect?" Selphie asked. "Like how?"

"I don't know," Ellone said from beside her. "All I could get from it was that it was some sort of loop or repeat or echo. And that might just be an after-effect, not what it actually does. It might be a series of fireblasts, for example."

"Well, now's as good as time as any," Zell commented.

"We're all ready," Rinoa said. "I have a selection of water-based spells."

"I have electrical spells and fire magic."

"I've got healing and about everything else," Selphie chirped. "You're covered. Go for it!"

"Fine," Squall said as he took a deep breath. Shiva was saying something. He was tempted to summon her instead in hopes that she'd tell the others what she was trying to tell him.

He cast.

Throughout his entire body, he felt the spell like a ripple. It coursed through him and back out, streaking along invisible lines until it faded. But there was no visible effect. In front of him, the dim vegetation of the Training Center was unchanged.

"Er, Squall?" Selphie asked a few seconds later.

"I don't know," Squall replied. "I felt it, but it didn't do anything. It wasn't a healing spell or a speed spell or anything."

"Something happened," Rinoa said in a strange, detached manner. "Something happened..."

"I agree," Ellone stated. "There was some effect but it doesn't seem to have altered anything. I think it's something best left alone."

"I'll remove the spell in the morning," Squall said with a nod. "And I'll put it in the vault where no one can get to it. Maybe at some point I can take it to Esthar and see what their scientists make of it."

Everyone nodded, a little disappointed that nothing truly exciting had happened.

"Are you feeling okay?" Ellone asked as they stepped into the hallway.

"Fine," Squall said. "A little silly, though."

"If anything - anything at all happens, I want you to come to me," she said as she pulled Squall into a rather undignified hug. "If Shiva isn't upset by it and if you're feeling okay, I'm going to try not to worry, but..."

"Everything's fine," Squall said. It really was - Shiva's chatter had died down and he thought that she might possibly be relaxing for the first time in a very long time.

"Then get some rest," Ellone said with a smile. "You have that report to finish tomorrow, don't you?"

Squall frowned. Yes, yes he did. And he was not looking forward to it because now he had to add in several paragraphs describing the very unexciting spell that did nothing.

Once back in his room, he didn't give it any more thought.

But as he was falling asleep, he thought he heard a very distinct voice...




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