Title: With all the untold
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII
Character: Quistis Trepe
Theme(s): #01, Prophecy
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: Quistis knew who she was going to meet there, sixteen years before she found out. That's one of the reasons she hates Time Compression. Set at the end of the game.

With all the untold

"Make you sure don't fall into a time warp!"

Surrounded by the bright light that had exploded around them upon Ultimecia's defeat, Quistis took a deep breath and fought off the knee-jerk anxiety that the bright whiteness caused her. Although she knew it was silly, she felt like she was being smothered by the all-consuming brightness of the light even as she took steady, calming breaths one after the other. She reasoned that it was the adrenaline pounding in her veins from watching Squall land that last, fatal blow; or maybe even the fear that now gripped her -- how were they supposed to make it back to their own time?

"Selphie? Zell? Irvine!"

Quistis squinted against the light and concentrated on her friends, as President Loire had instructed them before they'd dove into Time Compression. Love. Friendship. Family. She clung to the few memories that she still had of her childhood at the orphanage, wavering images of firecrackers, and days on the beach, and hidden treasures in the lighthouse sparking through her mind. Seeing nothing against the white expanse, she continued to move through the negative space, hoping against hope that she would find her friends and her own time. Of course, given the nature of Ultimecia's Time Compression, she could end up anywhere in history or, worse, nowhere at all.

Comforting thought, she chided herself, speeding up.

When it reached the point where it felt futile, Quistis stopped trying to make any headway. She came to stop, gasping for breath, almost surprised that she was hot, sweaty and bone-weary before she remembered that she'd spent the last few days trapped in an enchanted castle belonging to an evil Sorceress and had spent the last few hours battling her into oblivion. She recalled the panic she'd felt when she'd watched not one, but two of her friends absorbed into space and time but she quickly squelched the thought.

Good memories, she reminded herself. Happy Memories.

Fragments of colors floated by in the distance.

A spot of yellow...Selphie?

A long line of pale blue...Rinoa?

Where had they all gone?

Quistis slowly turned in a circle, forcing her eyes to trace the endless horizon for some sign of anyone else. She looked so hard, in fact, that black spots began to dance in front of her eyes -- or so she thought. It took her a moment to realize that the light was fading.

Not just fading; the light was flying away, only to be replaced by a darkness as terrifyingly black as the light had been white. Momentarily blinded by the shift, Quistis blinked, shaking her head to clear it. Still grasping her Save-the-Queen fiercely in one hand, she used the other to brush back an errant strand of her loose bangs. She looked around, but there was nothing to see. Nothing but a darkness that shrouded her in mind so completely that she was once again fighting against the illogical thought that she was drowning in it.

Suddenly, a spark of color burst through the darkness -- an amaranthine dot just beside her dusty boot. Quistis knelt down, her eyes completely focused upon it, trying to ignore the darkness that had swallowed everything except for her and the purplish smudge.

The smudge began to waver, flickering like a candle flame threatened by wind. She reached out for it instinctively, shocked when her fingertips brushed against the dot and it was soft, like goose down or a dandelion petal. The black began to ebb as she examined the soft colorful smudge and the smudge began to grow into a single flower, then a smattering of them as the darkness melted into a blue sky high above her and lush green grasses beneath her boots, the colors and textures spreading and taking over the darkness like a bottle of spilled rainbow ink.

The earth and sky had unfurled around her.

Quistis glanced up into the wide expanse of azure sky lazily dotted by white clouds, then swept her eyes downward, over the smudge of gray-blue in the far distance that she knew was where the sky and sea met, then inward across the pristine plains, green grass spotted with thatches of brightly-colored wildflowers. It could have been anywhere on the Galbadian continent, she thought. She could be in Dollet or near Timber or, more likely, near Winhill where flowers grew plentiful on gentle undulating plains.

But at least she was somewhere. She didn't know when or where but it was heartening to be wherever she was, breathing the slightly-perfumed air and feeling the sun beat down on her hunched back. Sighing, she stood, brushing at her coral-colored skirt in a nervous gesture born from years spent keeping her military uniform fit for inspection. Just as she had done in the middle of the vast whiteness, Quistis slowly turned in a circle, taking in her surroundings -- when she had turned one-hundred-eighty degrees, she stopped in her tracks.

One, there was the shadowy shape in the distance that told her she'd landed somewhere near Winhill. Two, not more than 30 yards away from her stood another person, back toward her. With determination in her step, Quistis headed toward the figure.

As she approached, she began to notice some details: the willowy figure was obviously a woman -- tall, slim, dressed in dark blue, a garment that could have been a dress or a skirt from Quistis's estimation. Once she was within the last few meters, she could see the long, heavy braid in which the woman wore her golden hair and make out the fine-boned hands that lay empty at her sides. Before Quistis could speak to warn the woman of her approach, the lady turned to face her as if she sensed her presence.

Quistis stopped, an involuntary gasp escaping her as she gaped in utter bewilderment.

The woman smiled, a small but amused smile. "Hello, Quistis."

Quistis felt like she was looking into a mirror, but a distorted one; "moon-blurred," someone had once called it. There, right before her eyes, she stood -- herself. The same height, weight, same blue eyes, tilting chin, same thin mouth and small smile, same calm, modulated voice --- except it wasn't. It wasn't a carbon copy. Quistis could tell that this other Quistis was older, thinner in places -- through the face, her cheekbones surprisingly sculpted considering the rounded visage she usually saw in the mirror -- but rounder in others, and there was something indescribable in her eyes, an expression that made the differences all the more apparent.

She wasn't sure what to say, what to do -- all this, she knew, meant that she had landed in the future -- her future -- and she had no idea how to get back to her own time. Icy panic was threatening to set in.

"I know for a fact that you're very worried and very scared at the moment," the older Quistis told her sympathetically. "But you needn't be either." She raised her eyebrows at the expression on her younger counterpart's face. "How do I know? I remember being exactly where you are now. Exactly," she emphasized.

Quistis almost protested but then she understood -- this older woman was her, so she had already met her older self. History was repeating for the older Quistis, just from a different perspective. "So you already know everything I'm going to say or ask, don't you?" the younger one wanted to know, merely to confirm her own conclusion.

The older one nodded, still giving her that small, enigmatic smile. "Yes, I do. In fact, I've said it all myself."

"And you already know what you're going to say to me, as well," Quistis pointed out. "Or are you deviating from what you remember being said to you?"

"I suppose I could if I wanted to," she told the younger girl. "But I don't see the point in doing so."

Quistis looked at her older self with palpable disbelief. "So there's nothing that happens between here," she pointed to herself, "...and there," she gestured toward the older Quistis, "...that you'd like to offer me some warning about?"

Something dark and deep flashed over the older one's face and her eyes were shadowed. "No," she finally answered quietly, her voice rough and low.

The younger Quistis knew herself well enough to look at the older versiion and know that what she'd said wasn't quite the unvarnished truth. "So everything is fine, after this? No more sorceress threats or worldwide wars? All my friends remain safe and sound?"

The older Quistis's eyes looked almost black as she gazed steadily at her younger self. "I didn't say that," she told her.

Quistis felt something lurch in her chest at the thought that one of those statements were not being -- especially one about her friends being unsafe. If something terrible had happened, why wouldn't the future one tell her so? "So everything isn't fine," she surmised. "But there's nothing about the future you want to tell me?"

"That's right," the older one nodded. The wind swirled around them, plucking at the older Quistis's skirt and heavy braid, ruffling the younger Quistis's loose bangs.

"Nothing at all?"

"No," the older Quistis repeated. "Nothing at all."

The younger Quistis let out a harsh sigh, mostly fueled by confusion and frustration. "That doesn't make much sense to me," she finally admitted, head bowed as she coiled up her whip before tucking it into its sheath on her belt.

"I know," the older one sighed. "But things change in sixteen years. You'll change. Things will look differently when you're here instead of there." Her face softened with a hint of amusement. "You should at least be comforted. My presence should ease most of your anxiety about your personal future. You must know that you have to make it out of Time Compression for there to be a you sixteen years in the future."

"That's true," Quistis admitted grudgingly, thinking about those interim years. In sixteen years, she'd thirty four years old, almost twice the age she was now. Looking at the older woman she'd become, there weren't too many physical differences to see but she said that she'd change. What had those sixteen years done to the woman standing across from her? What did they have in store for her? The question, though asked differently, had the same answer. "I still can't believe that there's nothing you want to change," she murmured. "Not if something terrible is going to happen."

She wanted to be angry about that fact, to rage against anyone who had information that could perhaps save herself or a friend of hers from heartache. But instead there was just a kind of sadness in her, a calm acceptance that made her wonder if being this close to her future self allowed for their emotions to bleed through into one another. "I can't believe that I've changed -- will change -- that much."

The older Quistis laughed, a tinge of bitterness to the sound that made Quistis wonder if that was an actually possibility. The older woman slid her eyes away from the younger girl's face and let her eyes linger over the horizon. "You can't know how many times I told myself that I'd tell you everything," she revealed. "How many times I cursed my future self for not warning me when something terrible happened." Her eyes snapped back to look at Quistis and, for the first in their meeting, the icy facade fell away from her face and the younger girl could see it all -- the pain, the sadness, the memories -- but only for a moment.

"Then what's stopping you now?" the younger one wanted to know. She didn't want to live with those dark echoes in her eyes if she didn't have to. "Why don't you just tell me?"

The sadness was replaced by a wise, knowing look that Quistis knew had never been on her own face. She'd only glimpsed it on the faces of others -- Matron, after she'd been released from Ultimecia's control; the headmaster, when he told them they'd have to kill his wife to stop her; and maybe even Rinoa, after her first possession by Ultimecia.

Quistis, the older one, bowed her head for a moment before answering. "You're so young," she said, a waver in her usually smooth cadence. "You don't feel like it -- I didn't feel like it -- but you are. You've spent your entire life being a SeeD, someone who fights, protects and lives for that duty. What I can tell you is that there will be changes. You'll see and do things even more spectacular than what you've already done. They'll change you."

She smiled gently and folded her hands in front of her -- an elegant action she'd always related with Matron. "You'll grow up, Quistis."

"That doesn't answer my question," the young one pointed out. "You're ignoring the topic at hand."

She shook her head. "You don't know the topic at hand," she disagreed. "And you can't know it, not until for another year, or two or five. When it's time for you to know. When you're the you that the situation needs."

"It seems to be me that I 'grow up' only to make very little sense," Quistis remarked dryly. "You're talking in riddles."

Her older counterpart turned away for a moment, looking back toward town, over the pretty flowered plains and gentle sloping lines that slid down to the riverbed. "You only say that because you don't understand what I'm saying," she finally said, smiling, because it was exactly something that the younger Quistis had said to Irvine only a few days before and it had caused all of them -- Rinoa, Selphie, Zell, and almost even Squall -- to laugh and it was a pleasant memory that still lived in her heart -- both their hearts, it seemed.

Quistis smiled, too. She motioned toward the town that stood in the distance behind the other woman's back. "I have to admit I'm curious about how you knew to be here, today, outside of Winhill. I don't suppose you can tell me even that?"

"No," Quistis replied wittily, crossing her arms as the wind whipped up again, making the hem of her long, dark skirt ripple and swirl. "But I can tell you that I didn't know that this was going to happen today. It was fate, I suppose."

The younger one sighed. "Fate?"

"I know. You don't believe in fate but you will. One day," she assured her. "And that will be the day that you'll know that you won't come here to tell your younger self anything that you didn't hear when you were the young one."

"I don't see how," she stated quietly. "And don't say that I will," she warned.

The older Quistis laughed at that. "But it's the truth," she told her, serious once more. "Fate is very powerful, Quistis. It has to work in its own way. I...you...we can't unravel it because we want things to be different."

They stood there looking at each other, searching each other faces, looking at the different facets of themselves, the future, the present, the past. The young Quistis looked into the eyes of the older one and asked, "Are you...am I...in sixteen years, am I...?"

"Yes," she answered to questions that never formed. "I am happy with what and who I am. Here. At this moment. The woman you'll be when you're me. But it took everything that happened between then and now to make me that way. That's the way it was to work, you know. The good and the bad have to happen in their own times. Some of the best things comes out of the worst."

"Like Squall and Rinoa," she nodded, understanding a little. If not for the Sorceress, would have they come together? She wondered if Squall felt like it was all worth it, to find Rinoa. If it were she who'd found that kind of love, Quistis knew that it would, for her.

"A good example," her older counterpart acknowledged. "Everything will come to you in time, Quistis. Don't give up."

She shrugged, elegant even in her youth. "I guess I'll just have to trust you on that." She looked away from the older one, out over the darkening sky and sea behind her. "I guess I'd better start looking for a way back to my own time," she sighed. "I can't linger here for too long."

"You'll make it back," she told her firmly. She pointed out toward the sea. "Head toward the coast. You'll find your way."

Quistis nodded, wondering what it would look like, this way she was to find. She took a few steps, brisk strides more like, before she was halted by her older self's voice calling for her. She turned back to see her tugging something off her finger. A ring.

"Take this," she called, throwing the small, metallic ring through the air in a slicing arc. It landed perfectly in Quistis's gloved hands and she turned it over in them, inspecting it. It was a silver ring, carved in a zoomorphic pattern of a great sea dragon -- an old representation of Leviathan, she presumed -- swallowing its own tail, so that its scaled body formed the band. It was an old symbol, she knew. She glanced from it to the woman who'd given it to her. "What's this for?"

"A gift," she told her. "A talisman if you like. Something to remind you that you'll be standing here one day, telling the same things to your younger self even after you thought it'd be impossible. It's a sign of faith, Quistis. Keep yours."

She pulled her glove off and slid it onto a finger on her right hand. "Where did you get it?" she called back.

"The same place you just did," she explained. "From myself when I was your age. I gave it to you because I received it from myself."

Quistis's face was creased into a frown. "But where it come from, originally?"

The older Quistis was smiling again. "It's the paradox of time travel, Quistis. You and I aren't going to figure it out. We just have to accept it."

"Like fate?" she asked archly, eyebrow raised.

"Maybe," she said enigmatically.

"It's a self-fulfilling prophecy," the younger one complained. "It only happens because you knew it was supposed to happen."

"Fate is mysterious that way." The older one laughed at the utter lack of belief on her younger counterpart's face in response to her comment. She then bowed in farewell, her long braid sliding over her shoulder in the action. "Good-bye, Quistis Trepe. It was nice to meet you again."

The younger one shook her head as she pulled her glove back on, but she did raise a hand in farewell before she started heading toward horizon. She was almost over the hill when she heard the faint echo of her older self, calling out to her.

"Don't worry so much, Quistis. Things will turn out alright in the end, I can pro..."

Quistis didn't hear the rest because she was thrown into darkness, into lightness, into blueness before the bright white lights burst in front of her eyes again. But she wasn't afraid this time before she instinctively knew that the end of the journey would be home.

She had that much faith in herself.

The rest would come in time.

Fate, Time, Future -- they were all mysterious that way.

the end.

Author's note: Quistis's ring is supposed to be an ouroboros, a symbol that stands for the eternal cycle of time -- how creation comes out of destruction, life from death. This story was written for the livejournal community 30 fantasies and this is my 2nd piece out of 30 Quistis-themed stories that I have to write to meet the challenge. Please review.