The Last Mission
story by mintbaby
background image by Arrowleaf

The tall blonde man standing at the bar of the Timber pub slammed down the shot glass and glared hard at the reluctant bartender. "Another."

The bartender pressed his palms against the bartop. "I think you've had enough, mister."

The young man's green eyes hardened as he shot out a hand and grabbed the bartender by the shirt, jerking him nearly over the counter. "I said give me another one," he said harshly.

"And I said you've had enough."

The man scoffed and pushed the bartender away. "Mind your own goddammed business," the man barked, and the scar in the center of his face grew taut with the anger and rage.

The bartender straighened his shirt. "I am. You keep up and I'll call the police."

"Call them. I'll take them all."

The bartender stepped toward a phone under the counter to his left. "Fine."

"That won't be necessary," came an amiable voice approaching from the entrance of the pub.

The blonde and bartender both looked sharply toward the voice. A middle-aged man wearing glasses, brown cordouroy slacks, a stained white shirt, and a red sweater-vest approached. The blonde clenched his jaw and moved his glare away.

"What's it to you, mister?" the bartender asked.

"Oh, nothing I suppose, but I would hate for the police to come and shut down your pub because of a Garden investigation."

The bartender raised an eyebrow. "Garden investigation? What the hell are you taking about?"

"Top secret, I'm afraid. Now, can you give us a moment alone? Thank you." The middle-aged man turned toward the blonde.

The bartender regarded the middle-aged man a moment before shaking his head and stepping out from behind the bar counter with a mumbled collection of phrases about fate and bad-luck.

"Hello, Seifer," the man greeted.

Seifer Almasy returned his glare to the shot glass, absently twisting it between his fingers. "What d'you want?"

"Actually, I came to ask you that question."

Seifer clenched his jaw.

The man, Headmaster Cid from Balamb Garden, continued watching Seifer's profile. "I read a report that you turned down Squall's offer."

Seifer scoffed. "Offer," he sneered. "What a joke!"

Cid regarded him a moment before asking, "How is Head of Network Security a joke?"

Seifer's jaw muscle worked as his hand clenched the shot glass. It wasn't. It was damned better than any job he'd had so far working as security and bodyguard to freaks that didn't know their ass from their head. Some of them Seifer was sure had one so far up the other they wouldn't have been able to hear a missile blast.

"Seifer, Squall has offered you a position of complete authority over all security matters involving all Gardens," Cid carefully observed. "Even against everyone's recommendations and opinions. Ignoring your own record and actions against him and Garden."

Seifer's green eyes flashed as he turned on Cid. "And what the hell does he want from me? Gratitude? A kiss on the ass? Hell no!"

Cid held Seifer's gaze. "He wants you to re-join Garden and do the job he and I both know you can do."

Seifer scoffed and turned his face away. A job that would finally put Seifer's name where it had never been: on a SeeD rank-roster.

"Seifer, while you were enrolled at Garden as a candidate, I saw your potential. I saw it with your involvement in the Disciplinary Committee. Laws and structured rules are very important to you, because you understand how they affect what goes on around us. But you're not defined and restricted by those laws and rules. You know when to bend them to get to the deeper mission. True, you sometimes act in a hot-headed and unorthodox manner, but you're a natural leader who only needs to learn the importance of following another leader."

"Puberty boy?" Seifer scoffed again, this time followed by a collection of colorful phrases.

"This is your chance to be a part of something again. To be more than a gunblade. To be more than a collection of harsh experiences." Seifer didn't respond. Cid released a slow breath. "Seifer, if Squall can put aside your pasts, why can't you?"

"I'd rather die than go back like a whipped dog," Seifer said harshly.

Cid regarded the young man for a long moment before resting a hand on his shoulder. "This is a choice to accept a position, son," he began carefully, still studying Seifer's profile. "Squall doesn't see it as a defeat or a victory. It's a simple offer to the best man for the job. Wouldn't your death be answering 'no'?"

The question soaked in as the truth it was. ' a part of something. To be more than a gunblade... more than a collection of harsh experiences. ...a simple offer to the best man...'

Seifer clenched his jaw, his hand tightening around the shot glass. It was a damn good offer. He knew it. And 'Puberty boy' had beaten back his pride to offer it. And that pissed Seifer off. Pissed him off because he knew it had taken guts.

Seifer swore a blue streak before snapping "I'll report to work on Monday," as gruffly as possible.

Cid gripped Seifer's shoulder while smiling that fatherly twist of lip Seifer had loved to hate. "See me for your office key."

And then he left. Seifer glared down at the shot glass and then pushed it roughly away. The last mission he would ever accept. The last mission he would ever need.

The End