Ugh. I lost inspiration for this story a while ago, but... I keep returning to it, for some odd reason. First thing's first, though - I had to almost completely rewrite (not entirely, but... a lot of) chapter II because Maria felt a little too OOC to me. Yeah, I'm superficial like that sometimes. Rest assured, though, I'm already working on chapter III, so this story will see a continuation.

I do not own Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time, any of it's characters, and what have you. They belong to Tri-Ace.


Chapter II: Closing the Distance


The mirror was a reflection, a picture painted in the likeness of those who dared to gaze upon its tell-tale surface of refracting glass. It became a source of self-observation and soul-searching, mixing and matching thoughts with emotions until some kind of denomination arose from the shards of existence, defining the person with a universal expression that revealed the state of their mind, body, and soul. The answer never came immediately, no. It took days, months, or even years to fathom the depths of the human heart. And, even after making an accurate analysis, the analysis never stays completely accurate. Things are always changing, and unless a person can accept change, they will never truly understand themself.

Maria Traydor turned away, unable to look at the broken girl in the mirror, the girl that definitely was not her. She turned off the faucet and raised a towel to her face, soaking up the water she applied only moments ago, closing her sea-green eyes in an attempt to focus on the texture of the cloth. It was soft, but empty and lifeless. The familiarity struck a painful chord in her heart. Irritated, she glared at the towel and tossed it aside, turning her attention to a white nightgown hanging on the doorframe instead.

There's no reason to be wallowing in self-pity, she thought briskly, sliding the silken garment over her bare skin all the while. However, no matter how hard she tried, her mind couldn't convince her heart to embrace that sort of conviction. Her life was a series of chores and heartbreaks; it was only natural for her to feel a little cheated in the end. As she pulled the nightgown over her head and shook her long, blue hair free of it's confines, she looked down at the pretty dress, a sad, lonely gaze breaking her facade of indifference. In exchange for all of her blood, sweat, and tears, she only wanted someone she loved to love her back...

"I see. I guess finding that person is the hard part."

Fayt didn't know how right he was.

Dejected, Maria fought the tears that threatened to expose her inner turmoil and left the starship bathroom in silence. She refused to cry. Three months have passed; if Fayt's lack of contact (much less a response to her confession) meant anything at all, it's that his feelings weren't mutual. Sure, it hurt, but she had plenty of time to come to terms with it, right? There was no sense in crying over unrequited love. The only one who got hurt was the idiot who fell in love in the first place.

With that thought, a single tear rolled down her cheek. She paused in the dark corridor leading to her quarters and raised a hand to her face lifelessly, tracing the saline stream with her fingertips. A dull, empty throb developed in the center of her chest. Just when she was about to break down, though, the monotone, feminine voice of a computer resonated overhead.

"Incoming transmission."

Maria almost choked on a yelp. Quelling her surprise, she looked at the ceiling panel in wonder. "Who is it?" she inquired hesitantly.

"Fayt Leingod."

Maria felt the entirity of her being go rigid, paralyzed by the sheer irony of that revelation. Fayt Leingod... Seriously? Was it really Fayt? Maria dried her eyes with her sleeves, subconsciously scrambling to make herself presentable. A whirlwind of thoughts and emotions had taken residence inside of her, but nothing held her attention longer than a burning desire to speak with Fayt again. The rest of the hallway was forgotten in a sprint. Seconds later, she was sitting at a communication terminal in the comfort of her bedroom.

"Accept transmission!" she commanded tersely.

There was a brief moment of static, followed by the serene sound of... Crickets? From the looks of the terminal's monitor, Fayt's device must not have supported any kind of video function. A pity, but Maria wasn't going to complain; she was willing to take what she could get at this point.

"Hello, Maria Traydor speaking."

"Hey, Maria," Fayt's voice was unmistakable. "This is Fayt."

"So the computer told me," she chided in good humor. "Have any idea what time it is, genius?"

"Uh, err... What?"

Three months didn't make people any less clueless, apparently. "It's two o'clock in the morning, galatic time. You know, a little past the hour that people think about sleeping..."

"Ah! I'm sorry!"

Maria sighed. "It's okay. I wasn't sleeping or planning on it, anyway."

"Oh, that's good, I guess..." Fayt bumbled sheepishly.

"So, what's up?"

"Um, not too much. I... Was just kinda wondering how you were doing, really."

"Alright," she lied. "I'm still looking for a place to settle down, but other than that, I'm fine."

"I see..."

There was a pause, and Maria could feel the tension building between them. Fayt touched a pretty delicate topic, and he obviously knew it. Maria couldn't bring herself to reprimand him for it, though. It was her fault to begin with. All she wanted right now was a bit of closure for her broken heart.

"...Fayt, I'm sorry, I--"

"Maria," he interrupted in a gentle tone. "There's something I want to talk to you about in person, if that wouldn't be too much trouble..."

Maria blinked. "In person?" she repeated, more to herself than to Fayt.

"Uh, well... Yeah."

It was hard to describe the feelings he elicited with that sentiment. However, it was missing the element of depression, and was closer to... Hope? Joy? Whatever it was, it improved her mood by a few points. She found herself smiling at the idea. Of course, she wasn't about to cling to fleeting emotions.

"I don't see why we couldn't talk about it here," she said pointedly, leaning against the terminal and resting her chin on the back of her wrist. "But... If you really feel that way, I have no qualms with seeing you again."

"Really?" Fayt blurted dubiously before catching himself. "Ah, that's great. Any idea when and where we can meet up...?"

"Whenever and wherever you want. It doesn't matter to me."

"Hmm... Oh, hey! Would you mind visiting Elicoor II for a while, then? I'm sure Woltar wouldn't mind another visitor."

Maria tilted her head to the side. "You're still on Elicoor II?"

"Yep," he confirmed quickly. "I'm practically living here."

"What about your mom and Sophia?"

"They're at Remote Station Six right now. Why?"

"Don't you miss them?" she asked, perplexed.

"Everyday, but... It's easier for me to stay out of sight this way."

Maria bit her lower lip, knowing exactly what he meant. Trying to avoid reporters and Federation scouts never qualified as fun. Still, her curiosity was piqued by the reply. "So I see... But why me, then?"

There was a lingering moment of suspense. "I miss you, Maria," he solemnly admitted.

She recoiled with a blush, struck by the full force of those words. It was almost the last thing she expected from him (the very last thing being another set of three little words). Her heart was pounding furiously now. She adverted her eyes from the glow of the monitor, admiring the metallic wall next to her instead...

"O-oh," she stuttered, something uncharacteristic for her. She struggled to regain composure and finish her response with a little more dignity. "Well, whatever. I guess I can come visit. It would be nice to see Nel and the others again."

"Awesome. Do you need a ride or anything...?"

"No, I'll find a way there. Just expect to see me in Kirlsa in a few days."

"Okay," Fayt acknowledged, seemingly happy with the arrangement. His voice then shifted to a softer tone. "Well, I should probably get going, then... I'm sorry for not keeping in touch."

For once, Maria was willing to forgive him. "Don't worry about it," she almost whispered. "I'm looking forward to seeing you again."

"Same here... G'night, Maria."

"Good night, Fayt."

The communication link was dissolved, leaving Maria in comfortable silence. She reclined into her chair and reflected on the conversation, a small smile brightening her gloomy expression. 'I miss you', huh? Those words inspired that dreadful illusion of hope that she tried to avoid whenever possible. Right now, though, she found solace in it.

As darkness settled in, Maria closed her eyes, wondering if her broken heart would finally be put to rest...