Ellone pulled herself weakly back into the holding bracket, ignoring Piet as he swore at Squall's rapidly-diminishing form out of the porthole. Quistis stared at him, too--but in disbelief and worry instead of annoyance. She couldn't quite discern what surprised her the most--that Ellone had given his sudden disembarkment her tacit approval, or that he had gone through with it.

And even though Ellone had given the endeavor her blessing, Quistis couldn't get rid of the cold knot of dread in the pit of her stomach.

Piet was struggling to find a way to articulate whatever it was that was eating at him. How could you let him go like that? You have any idea what the chances of him ever showing up alive again are?

I had to, Ellone protested calmly. She didn't seem at all put off by Piet's aggravation.

Quistis began, uncertainly. Do you think that was really a good idea?

Of course it wasn't a good idea! Piet snarled. It was a very, very bad idea! I'm just thankful that he didn't have the mass to throw us off our trajectory--

Don't panic, Ellone warned. Piet, it's all right. I knew what he was doing.

And you still let him out there? Piet fumed.

At the moment, Quistis was all too ready to echo the query. She empathized, of course--Rinoa had turned into a good friend over the course of their time together, but Squall of all people should be aware of one of the basic truths of SeeD: sometimes, people died.

She hadn't been eager to lose Rinoa, but she had been willing to admit that it might be inevitable.

Ellone was staring after him, a faraway look in her eyes. There are too many things in the world we can't hope to change, she said sadly. If there's a chance to do something--even a little chance--doesn't that mean we have to try?

You think he has a chance? Piet demanded.

...I do. Quistis swallowed, forcing herself to stand up for him--for Ellone's sake, if not her own. I'll trust him. Squall's pulled off the impossible before.

Ellone smiled. If he really cares that much... I think he'll make it. He'll go to lengths no one else would. ...I know.

Piet nearly shrieked. How do you know this?

At that, Ellone picked up a trace of good cheer. Now, really, she said, mock-scolding. Do you think I wouldn't know my baby brother?

At that, Quistis chuckled--surprising herself. At once, she found herself the object of Piet's disapproving stare. Is there something funny about this now, ma'am?

Quistis smiled disarmingly. I'm just not used to hearing people refer to Squall like that, she explained herself. At Garden, it's mostly SeeD Leonhart' or the Commander.'

Well, for a SeeD and a Commander, he's certainly shown a distressing lack of foresight and discipline, Piet sniped--and was rewarded as Quistis burt out laughing again. Even Ellone was beginning to smile. Oh, what is it?

Quistis managed between laughs. If you knew Squall--

I don't think I'd care to. Piet leaned back in his holding bracket, closing his eyes and doing his level best to inform them that he was removing himself from the conversation without saying so many words.

Quistis got ahold of herself, and sobered. ...aren't you worried about him?

Ellone looked over--smiling. Of course, she said. Constantly. But I have to trust him. If I don't trust him just a little--

Piet made a definite hmph noise, which Ellone ignored.

--then what sort of a big sis am I? She glanced up at the stars--Squall was no longer visible. If I kept him here, he would have never come down with us at all, she said. He would still be up there, wishing that there was something he could do--wondering if there was something he could have done. Every day, he'd go back to that moment and worry at it and never, ever be able to forget it. She sighed. And I would know how it felt, and I would never, ever be able to forgive myself for keeping him here.

Quistis digested that. She could see what Ellone meant--she wondered why she'd never seen it before. If Squall ever just sat back and allowed something to happen to Rinoa....

Ellone asked, voice somewhat smaller. Do you think he will come back?

It was Quistis's turn to smile, as reassuringly as she could. Of course he will, she said. If it means riding the Lunar Cry down, he'll find a way home.

I'll trust you on that, Ellone said.

The escape pod shook as they began the first stages of reentry. Slowly, the black sky was fading to red-tinged blue.

(He'll make it back,) Quistis assured herself. (...I trust you, Squall.)