Watts meets a stranger.
Watts looked up at Zone, who was lounging in a chair, staring at the ceiling instead of working.
"I don't know, sir. Hopefully capable."
Zone stared at him. "You think they'll even show up?"
Watts frowned. "Well, it's not like we're giving Garden anything for the service. Even if Rinoa said the headmaster there was nice about it. We have to wait and see, sir. Rinoa said we would be contacted if Garden agreed to the request."
Zone huffed and then made slow circles in the chair. Watts was fiddling with a hard drive that had seen better days. He was afraid it was permanently corrupted and that would upset him, having to reenter all the information again. It had taken him days the first time and it was tactical information over Timber they really needed to have handy. Dragging around sacks of paper wasn't the best way to operate.
"It was that guy," Zone muttered.
Watts rolled his eyes, glad Zone's back was to him. He was tired of hearing about the kid. Zone was convinced that Rinoa had gone to Cid now because of him. After all, the guy had spent most of his time with the Owls bragging about how he was going to make SeeD soon, insulting all of their work and generally being annoying. Watts knew he wasn't the most perfect person ever, but he had to be less annoying that that guy had been.
"We don't even know who we'll get," Watts pointed out, like he had time and time before, ever since Rinoa had returned. "It might not even be Seifer."
"It better not be!" Zone swore then and Watts just rolled his eyes again. Zone's jealousy was not something he worried himself with, and it had been almost a year. It didn't help Rinoa spouted things that drove Zone crazy, Seifer-this, Seifer-that. Watts loved her, but thought maybe she should try thinking for herself rather than trusting judgments of unlicensed mercenaries that really knew nothing about the situation in Timber. Rinoa had never shared with them where she had met the guy, but he wished it had never happened. Between Rinoa's chirping and Zone's stewing, Watts thought he might go insane.
"I'm kind of hungry," Zone muttered. "Why don't you run and grab lunch?" He didn't bother even looking down, and Watts didn't hide his glare. It was getting old, being treated like he didn't do important work. He still thought Rinoa had come in with her money and given them ranks just to spite him. She knew he hated them, and he had the lowest one. Not that most people in the Owls took them seriously--most people humored her, because it was her trust fund giving them money. However, Zone had grabbed on to it and gripped hard. Watts had made his displeasure known, sarcastic sir's all around, until it had just become habit. He figured one day both Rinoa and Zone both would pick up on the sarcasm. They lacked the subtlety now.
"Fine," he tossed the hard drive on the table as he stalked out and off their headquarters. The train was rusting, but it was all they had. He tried not to think about what the resistance had been like before Rinoa had come, halfway decent and less immature and petty, because he just got bitter.
They didn't have too much money for food, but Watts and the owner of the local restaurant had worked out an agreement a long time ago for Watts. He had known the man a long time, and he was a good guy, and felt the same way that a lot of people did about the resistance and the involvement of someone from Deling in that resistance. So few people trusted Rinoa and sometimes Watts wondered if his trust was misplaced and if he could believe her story as to why she was doing it.
The restaurant wasn't crowded, so Watts went up to the bar at the front and sat to wait for Martin, the owner, to make his way over. It was a friendly place, clean and well-kept.
"Hey, man," Martin greeted him as he came out of the back. "I see Zone's hungry again. I preempted him. Food's cooking."
Watts smiled. "Thanks. He's driving me nuts today with his SeeD talk."
Martin winced. "Don't know how good of an idea it is to bring them in here. Sounds like a recipe for disaster if you want my honest opinion."
"Rinoa's adamant," Watts muttered. "If she hadn't offended so many of the other Owls, we wouldn't even need the help of SeeD. They don't have any loyalties, not like some of us do."
"You're not saying anything I don't agree with," Martin said. "It'll all pass, and maybe Timber will be free and maybe it won't. Don't worry about it, kid, you'll just stress yourself out."
Watts shrugged. "I guess."
Martin gave him a smile and walked back to the kitchen. Watts slid a coaster along the polished surface of the bar slowly, wishing he had a solution to how he had been feeling lately. Everything seemed off, wrong, like something in the world wasn't quite right. He didn't know how to make the feeling go away at all.
"You look rather sad."
Watts jumped a little and looked up. A man had taken a seat on the stool beside him. He was older, darker, and sounded strange. Watts didn't recognize him at all.
"Um. Just thinking about things," he said. "Do I know you?"
The man smiled. "No. I am merely passing through on business here."
Watts snorted. "Business in Timber? What sort would that be?"
The man laughed, and it was a deep, happy sound. "Old business is all, for a good friend. I have not been back for years. The town has changed."
"You've got that right, sir," Watts said quietly. It was even hard to be angry over it, anymore. The man beside him shifted and held out a hand.
"I am sorry to interrupt you and not introduce myself."
Watts stared at him and then took his hand, carefully. "Uh. Watts. Nice to meet you. Where are you from?"
The man squeezed, and Watts suddenly felt instantly at ease, calm, and that was weird. "My name is Kiros. As to where I am from, well. A faraway place." He winked, and Watts blinked, and it clicked.
"Oh!" He lowered his voice. "Really?" He had never met anyone from Esthar before that he knew of. People that came out never advertised the fact. It wasn't done. It wasn't /safe/. Galbadian spies were everywhere. The man couldn't even know, and he was risking a lot-Watts himself could have been one, and that would've been it.
"It's less mystical when you live there," he said, and then he laughed. "The world at large is much more interesting. Take Timber, for instance. Even though it's changed, the owls are still around." He winked again as Martin came back out with a plate for Watts and a bag with food for Zone.
His face was hot, and he had no idea how the man knew their password. Maybe he had been an Owl once, but he would've recognized him. He was much older and the Owls weren't an organization with that much history.
Martin left to get Kiros a drink as Watts ate his meal, slowly. He was thoughtful. It wasn't a tense silence between the two men, but comfortable, and Watts missed those. He had so few. There were no comfortable ones in his life anymore, so many things floating around his social circle unsaid. He hated it, it made him unhappy, but this was nice.
"When do you plan to go home?" Watts asked.
Kiros hummed. "Soon, I imagine. I have been away for a few weeks. Traveling is nice, but it does wear on me." He rubbed a finger through the condensation on the glass in front of him. "Tell me, is Timber a good home?"
Watts blinked. "Well, it used to be? Now it's work, even when I'm not working. I don't want to give up on it, though. Timber could be a great city."
"I agree very much," Kiros said. "Is that future likely, do you think? The great city of Timber?"
Watts didn't really know how to reply. He wanted to think so, wished for it so often, wished for resolution and peace and for life to be normal like it was for people who lived in other cities. He couldn't see it and that made him sad.
"Oh, well, I've upset you." Kiros placed a hand on his shoulder. "I apologize."
Watts shook his head. "No, it's fine. There's just a long way to go to get there. I can't see it yet."
Kiros looked thoughtful. "Once upon a time I was in your place. Always remember you should first fight for change because you want it and think it is valid. Then you fight for change because other people do. Do not get them confused."
Watts stared. "I don't understand, sir."
Kiros smiled. "I think you will soon enough. Good luck in your endeavors." Then he was standing and leaving, not looking back even though Watts wanted him to, wanted to know what he knew so he could understand.
Martin was back as Watts stared at the empty doorway to clear away dirty dishes. "Was that a friend of yours?"
Watts shook his head. "No, not at all. I've never met him before in my life."
"He's been in here the last few days," Martin commented. "Nice guy, but a little too uptight for my tastes. Like a politician, but not as sleazy."
Watts had to laugh at that, because it felt true. "I guess he sort of made me feel better." It hadn't felt like it until now, but he was less upset than when he walked in, felt lighter and less worried.
"A nice stranger is like a good luck charm," Martin said. "Trust me, I've been in the business long enough to know it'll mean something down the road."
Watts nodded. He hoped so, because he wanted to understand what the man had meant. He left the building with Zone's lunch, heading back to headquarters. Even though his days stretched out ahead of him with no end to Timber's struggle in sight, somehow he felt like, even with all the problems they had, it could really work out for the best.
It was hope, and he would hang on to it.
Word Count: 1,779
Feedback: All reviews, squees, and concrit are hugged close to Renay's heart.
Author's Notes: Written for Mimi. :D