It was a Sunday when he died.

Six religions called it a holy day. Eighteen shops in Timber were closed for it. One country was celebrating a national holiday.

In the Timber hotel, two people could not comprehend what the day entailed.

It was a Sunday morning.

I don't know if I've ever seen him smile before, Quistis said.

(I have,) she thought, but didn't say a thing. (I've seen him smile--he's smiled for me. He smiled when he saved me from the Memorial--he smiled at the ball, on the balcony. ...and he smiled when I said I pitied Seifer for dying. ...he laughed then, too.)

She had told him that he was mean, for doing that. But she hadn't thought so, at the time.

She thought he was evil. Malicious. Cruel. She thought mean was too weak a word for it. At first, she had never loved him. Only wanted to redeem him.

(Because the light angel can redeem the dark devil. Isn't that the way the fairytale goes?)

It was a bright Sunday morning, and the birds were out in full force. The orders had arrived and he had read them and smiled.

There was no way he could have known what would happen, Quistis said, trying to lay down her own forbidding suspicions. There was no way he could have guessed it.

But that didn't make sense, either. Then why did he smile?

Quistis looked carefully at her. He wasn't... like that, Rinoa. He would never want--

(Wouldn't he?) This was the same man who could take an ice spear through the heart and never cry out in pain, who could be tortured and calmly reassume his former duties. This was the man who charged into battle against a Weapon with a gunblade and a weak paramagic reserve, who threw himself into space without any rational hope of getting back to earth. When had he ever been afraid?

It was a bright Sunday morning in early October, and the wind was pulling leaves down from the aspen behind the Timber hotel. There was a chill in the air.

It had taken three hours from assignment to tragedy, three and a half hours from assignment to declared success. Half an hour before the declaration, they already knew it was a failure.

The looks upon their faces had been declaration enough.

She hadn't been able to recognize any sadness in her own emotion. It was there, certainly, but it was masked--hidden entirely by a gripping horror. The impossible had happened.

(No one smiles when they're about to--to--)

From any angle, it was impossible. The question had no answer. The problem had no solution. No one would smile under situations like these.

(But what else was there in that order to smile about?)

I don't know if I've ever seen him smile before, Quistis said, trapped in her own disbelief and her own horror. I can't remember it. Not once.

(Because it isn't something he would do? He doesn't smile often.)

(He smiles for me... and he smiles for Death.)

It was a bright Sunday morning in early October of the last year of his life, and there was nothing to suggest it. As chilly as it was, it was warm for the season--the skies were filled with late-leaving singing birds and the trees were a riot of colour. Not until the news came did they remember that it was a season of goodbyes.

The mission has come just like they always did--a sealed envelope, Garden stamped. And he had opened it, and read it as he always did.

And he had smiled.

And then he walked quietly off to die.