Retribution

A sequel to "Bad Blood" by Neb.

"In my opinion, it is that particular tragedy, above all others, that affected my dear friend Squall Leonheart the most. Had the avenger… not been so cold-hearted, so malevolent, then the death which resulted would not have happened, and my friend would still walk this planet with a smile upon his face, as opposed to having to carry the sorrow around in his soul for every moment that he is awake…"

Seifer Almasy, Memoirs of a free prisoner

The asteroid headed towards the planet, the inhabitants of the blue-green world blissfully unaware of the impending catastrophe...

Seifer laid back on the couch in his prison cell. Actually, "cell" was a bit of inaccurate word- it was more like a one-room apartment, complete with soft furnishings, but Seifer was a prisoner nonetheless. A prisoner who had written four best-selling books, based on his experiences and philosophies in the three and a half years that he had been in jail, but a jailbird he was. However, he was a jailbird who was lost in thought.

"What should I put?" He thought to himself out loud, chewing on the pen he had in his hand.

"To Squall," he started, writing down in the greetings card the same words he had said, "Many happy returns? No, that's too ordinary. C'mon, Seifer, think! You're supposed to be a writer, for crying out loud." He racked his brains for another brief moment, before having a revelation.

"A-ha!" He said, loudly. "To Squall, here's to a happy and joyous 21st birthday. May you celebrate many more. And make sure you do celebrate this one. Best wishes, Seifer." He signed the card, then slipped it in the envelope and, after addressing it to his old friend, placed it with the other letters in his "out" tray. Since he became an author, Seifer had received numerous fan letters a day, and he made sure to handwrite a response to each one. They'd taken time out of their daily lives to write to him- why should he not do the same? It did take up his time, however, and just today, he'd received another thirty-odd fan letters. Scratching the stubble on his chin (he'd recently shaved off his beard, but had regretted it and was growing it back), he picked up the latest letter to enter his cell, and opened it. Taking off his glasses (he'd spent so much time reading and writing that his eyesight had suffered slightly), he unfolded the letter, and read it, unprepared for what it was going to say. Seifer gasped in shock, before re-reading the letter to make sure he'd read it right. Unfortunately, he had.

"You die, scum." Three words, but three words with a powerful message. After the incidents, which included terrorism and torture, that had put Seifer into prison, Squall had promised to keep Seifer's involvement in it all under wraps, for fears that he might be targeted as part of a hate campaign. Unfortunately, it looked like Squall had not been secretive enough. Either that or someone really, really hated his books. Regaining a positive attitude, Seifer assumed that it was the latter, and did not bother himself with the matter any further. He opened his next piece of mail, and smirked as he read it- it was from a 15-year old girl who had aspirations of becoming a writer just like him, and she wanted tips. With a broad smile on his face, Seifer pulled his typewriter towards him and began to write the girl a response, but still, he was unconvinced that his hate mail was just literary criticism...

It was just a normal August day. Squall got up at 6:30, same as always, and before heading to the cafeteria for breakfast, showered, brushed his teeth, shaved, combed his hair and got dressed, same as always. What was not the same as always, however, was that his wife was not in bed with him that night. Squall knew that given the chance, Rinoa would have made a fuss over his birthday, and his 21st in particular (her 21st birthday party, just a few months previously, had been huge, and he was sure she'd repay him in kind). Unfortunately for Rinoa, Squall was the Garden commander, and thus was in charge of where, and most importantly when SeeDs were deployed. Whilst he admittedly hadn't sent Rinoa on as many missions as he had with other SeeDs, Squall felt that sending her on a simple peace-keeping mission to Dollet would keep her nicely out of the way, without endangering her too much. He was missing her, however, but comforted himself with the fact that she'd be back the day after tomorrow. Squall finished dressing, and was about to leave. Before he reached the door, however, the telephone rang. Oh god, Squall thought to himself, who's this? Rinoa? Dad? Laguna had made something of a habit of calling Squall on his birthday and talking to him for hours on end. Squall didn't particularly mind- he and his father had built up quite a relationship, and Squall and Rinoa often took holidays in Esthar, just to visit him. Squall answered the phone.

"Hello?" He casually said, expecting his father or his wife to greet him with a chorus of "Happy Birthday". However, neither voice answered him, nor was the voice in song.

"Squall, it's me," came the serious voice of Cid on the other end of the line. "I need to see you over a few matters. Can you meet me in ten minutes in my office?"

"No problem, Cid," Squall said, "but I was planning on eating breakfast first."

"I'll have some eggs on toast sent up- you can eat it here, I won't mind," Cid said. Satisfied, Squall nodded, even though he was talking on the telephone, and wondered (not for the first time) where he'd developed that habit.

"OK, Cid, I'll be there shortly," Squall answered, putting the thought about his habit out of his mind.

"Excellent. Oh, by the way- Happy Birthday, Squall." Squall smirked- Cid hadn't forgotten, or made too much of a fuss out of it. Just the way he liked it.

"Thanks, Cid," Squall said, smiling. "Bye." He hung up the phone, and grabbing his jacket, headed up to Cid's office.

The meeting lasted nearly five hours, and bored Squall stiff- Cid had wanted to go over every single mission report for the past few months, which had taken ages. Normally, Cid trusted Squall, as Garden commander, to deploy SeeDs and acknowledge payment, but Cid had spotted some "irregularities" in the books. Fortunately, the irregularities were all worked out, and Squall, hungry, tired, and stiff after five hours of sitting still, decided to take a couple of hours off to eat and kill a few monsters in the (newly-expanded) training centre. First, however, he had to check his messages, and return the call he'd have inevitably received from his father...

Squall entered his quarters, and looked at the number of messages on his answering machine- 0. Not one person had left a message on his answering machine- not even his father. Maybe he wanted to talk to me in person, Squall thought, opting instead to ring Laguna himself, so he could get it over and done with quickly and then go and have some lunch. Very quickly, Squall thought as his stomach growled. He dialled the personal number of Laguna's office, but it was not Laguna who answered.

"Hello?" the familiar voice of Kiros answered of the other end. Strange… Squall thought to himself before replying.

"Kiros, hi, it's Squall here," he said, still confused as to why Kiros would be in Laguna's office. "Is my father around by any chance?"

"Laguna?" Kiros said, coughing a little bit. "No. Nope. He's out of town for a few days, 'urgent business' he called it. Sorry."

"That's OK," Squall answered, even more baffled, "I only called to say hi anyway." Squall hung up the receiver, more confused than ever. He's never out of town on my birthday… he thought to himself. However, Squall's stomach growled again, and he quickly decided it was best not to think about it on an empty stomach. He grabbed his jacket, and made his way to the cafeteria.

Squall opened the cafeteria doors, expecting to find it busy. It was, after all, nearly noon, lunchtime for the more junior students. However, the whole cafeteria was deserted. Not a soul there. Squall was absolutely stumped. Was there a fire drill and I didn't notice? He thought to himself.

"Hello?" He said to no one in particular, not really expecting a response either.

"SURPRISE!" Came the cry from nearly a hundred people who had been hiding in the room, behind tables, chairs, counters, you name it, they were hiding behind it.

"What the hell?" Squall thought out loud, as all the well wishers started to crowd him. Selphie, typically, was the first to speak up.

"It's a surprise birthday party, dummy!" She shouted, strapping a party hat to his head. Squall began to see the whole picture- they'd wanted to get him out of the way so they could plan this all. Looking around, he could see all of his friends- Selphie, Zell, Quistis, Irvine, Nida, Xu, Ellone, even Cid and Edea were there to wish him well. Shame Rinoa couldn't have been here, Squall thought to himself, before a pair of hands covered his eyes.

"Wha?" He started to say, before being cut off.

"Guess who," came a very familiar voice from behind him. Squall smiled a broad grin, took the hands off his eyes, and turned round to give his wife a long, long kiss.

"I thought I sent you to Dollet," Squall said, cheekily.

"That's me- never where I'm supposed to be," Rinoa responded, as cheekily as Squall. "Are you gonna discipline me?" She asked, a wicked grin on her face.

"We'll talk about that later," Squall replied, impure thoughts starting to fill his mind. Well, Squall thought after feeling a little guilty about those thoughts, she is my wife, after all… Before he could think of any more impure things, however, Selphie, with one hand, dragged Squall away, while filming him with a video camera in her other hand.

"Come on! The food'll get cold!" Selphie whined. She sat Squall down, rather forcefully, in his chair at the special banquet table, which was only wheeled out on special occasions. Selphie then parked Rinoa in the chair next to Squall with equal force. The whole congregation broke out into a chorus of "Happy Birthday to you" as the cake was wheeled out. It was a hugely extravagant cake, and Squall felt his cheeks start to go red from all the attention he was getting. He was, however, about to get yet another pleasant surprise.

"Care for a slice, sir?" The chef who wheeled out the cake asked Squall. Squall immediately looked up at the chef, stunned at the voice.

"Dad?" He asked excitedly, looking into Laguna's grinning face (what part of it that wasn't covered by the chef's hat, anyway).

"Happy birthday, son!" Laguna said. Squall leapt up, and he and his father hugged for a brief moment before Squall parked himself back down.

"I'd love some cake," Squall said to much cheering as Laguna cut the cake. After eating the cake and the following birthday meal (usually it was the other way round, but Selphie had insisted that Laguna wheel out the cake first), not to mention opening the seemingly endless presents that had been brought for Squall, and the inevitable speech from the birthday boy, all the partygoers had eventually dissipated and departed, sadly realising that they did have jobs to go to, after all. That only left Squall, Laguna, Ellone and Rinoa at the table, each of them full and tired from the day's events.