Fandom: Star Ocean 2
Rating: PG
Pairing: very, VERY minor hints of Dias/Claude
Warnings: Original character (no, NOT a Mary Sue, for the love of holy!), a bit of angst
Disclaimer: TriAce pwns, me plays.

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The Voice

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"I have given up on waiting... for the call that will never come."

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She digs her fingers into the ground, tearing open the mossy carpet, her palms sinking into the soft wet earth beneath. Digging is messy business, and her mother will scold when she comes home with her hands dirty, but she is hunting for treasure.

"Maya, listen to me. You stay with Tomah and the others... no wandering off on your own."

But Tomah and the others are weird, they say that sticks are swords and rocks are jewels. What do they know about jewels? Rocks are not half as pretty as the jewel around her mother's neck. She will go and find a real treasure, and then they will all feel stupid for playing with rocks.

She tugs at the roots; the small ones are easily ripped out, like the weeds in the garden, but the bigger ones are tough and wrapped around stones. Sweat is running down her forehead and into her eyes, and she has to stop because it stings, tries to rub her face on the short sleeves of her blouse.

She is beginning to feel tired from all the digging. She knows treasures are buried deep, though, they have to be if they are not guarded by dragons. Otherwise anyone can—

Her fingers bump into something hard and smooth. She looks down, sees something white gleaming from between the roots. A diamond?!

Excited, she shovels the earth away as best she can, wrapping her fingers around the top of the diamond and pulling. It gives with a plop, and she tumbles backwards into the ferns, prize clutched tightly in hand. Giggling to herself, she wipes the precious jewel off against her trousers, careless of what her mother will say, before holding it up to catch the light... and freezing.

The thing in her hand is no diamond.

It is shaped like an especially big and odd egg, gleaming dully in the refracting light. Looking at it closely, it is littered with various grooves and depressions. A crack is running across its shiny surface. She shakes it, and it makes an odd whirring noise.

Maya turns the thing over in her hands. She has never seen anything like it. It is not exactly pretty, with its cracks and its strange shape, but there is something about it. She shakes it again, to hear it go rrrrr. Not exactly a treasure. She runs her fingers over the grooves, pressing and poking.

BLEEP!

Maya drops the thing to the ground in shock.

----

When she comes home, her mother scolds her for getting herself dirty, and sends her to wash up before dinner. Maya thinks only briefly of showing her the weird thing in her pocket, digging into her thigh when she walks up the steps. Her mother might know what it is. But then she remembers what her mother did to the baby snails and the cold, stiff little bird she brought home, and worries that her mother might take the thing away, too.

She has decided to take it home with her, despite its shrill shriek. It has been silent the entire time, but ever since the shriek it has been glowing and blinking all over, in red and blue and green. Maya thinks it's very pretty, even if it is broken.

She will keep her treasure a secret.

----

The first time it happens is in the morning, when Maya is trying to tie her hair up into pigtails, without her mother's help. The shiny thing is sitting on her dresser, between her lamp and her alarm clock, blinking and whirring softly at intervals.

Incoming transmission.

Maya whirls at the sound of the strange hollow voice, staring at the thing, which is flashing bright red. For a moment, nothing happens, and then the thing speaks again, in a different voice, a woman's voice, crisp and cool:

Ensign Kenni, this is the Strahl. Do you read, over.

Silence. The red lights flash and fade, the thing returning to its former state of blinking.

After a long while, Maya moves, hesitantly shuffling over to the dresser. It is still longer before she picks up the thing. She shakes it, and it goes rrrrrr.

More silence.

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The second time, it happens in the afternoon, when Maya comes running back into her room because she forgot her ball. She ducks beneath her desk to grab it, but it has rolled into a corner, wedged between the desk and the wall. She crawls under the table and pulls.

Incoming transmission.

Startled, Maya bumps her head painfully on the desk. She crawls out again, ball forgotten. The thing is still sitting on her dresser, flashing bright red once again.

Ensign Kenni, this is the Strahl. Do you read? Please activate your tracker, over.

She stares until the flashing stops, then moves towards the thing again. The same voice as before. She does not understand what the voice wants, or where exactly it is coming from. She picks up the thing, tries to pry it apart, take a look if there is a little person inside. Maybe it's a fairy?

Creak, says the thing, but it does not give. Sullenly, Maya sets it down again.

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The third time.

The fifth time.

The twentieth time.

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Maya is sitting at the breakfast table with a bit of milk staining her upper lip, and she still does not know what to do with her secret. The voice keeps sounding, sometimes more than twice a day, sometimes the thing is silent for more than a week, but the voice always comes back. It is always the same woman, too, asking the same questions, over and over again.

Maya does not understand the words. She does not know whom the voice is talking to.

Ensign Kenni, this is the Strahl. Do you read, over?

Ensign Kenni, this is the Strahl. If you are receiving this transmission, please reply.

"What's wrong, darling?" her mother says. Beneath her billowing dress, her belly is rounded.

Biting her lip, Maya hesitates. "Do fairies live in boxes?"

Her mother blinks, then laughs. "I doubt it, honey."

Maya scowls into her milk. She does not like being laughed at.

----

"Daddy, do fairies live in boxes?"

Her father looks up from the writing on his desk, squinting down at her over the rim of his reading glasses. "That's an odd question to ask, sweetie."

Maya pouts. "But do they?"

Her father considers. "I'd imagine boxes are rather dull for living," he says gently.

"But what if they are, like... trapped in there?"

"Who would do such a thing?"

"Maybe an evil wizard. Maybe..."

Her father laughs. "Go do your homework, Maya."

He blinks in surprise when she pivots on one foot, marching out and slamming the door.

----

All grown-ups are stupid. They laugh at her when she asks about the fairy in the box, and laugh even louder when she claims she can show it to them. That makes her angry, and she never ends up doing so.

Nobody believes her, and after a while, they sigh at her like she is the stupid one, and tell her to do something "useful". Maya does not understand why freeing a poor fairy trapped in a box is not useful. She has taken to talking to the fairy, tries to ask it if it is hungry, or thirsty, or if it knows how to open the thing. But the fairy does not respond, only asks the same questions, again and again, and Maya does not understand, so she cannot answer.

She is afraid the poor fairy is going to die, though, because nobody will help her. Nobody, except...

Maya's face brightens. She knows someone who might.

----

Uncle Claude is not her real uncle, but she still likes to call him that, because having him for an uncle is the next best thing to marrying him, which she can't do until she is older, and even then, she might have to challenge Uncle Dias to a duel, first.

They rarely visit, because they are out traveling the world—"working," her father says; "having adventures," Maya knows—but when they do, Uncle Claude brings her candy (honey-filled sweets from Cross, her favorite) and the most awesome stories, and he does not laugh when she says that she is going to be his bride.

Maya is in school when they next stop by, so by the time she gets home, the grown-ups are talking about the baby in her mommy's belly—

"Who knows, I might name him 'Claude'," her mother says.

"Pfft," Uncle Dias says politely into his hand.

"Oh gods, Rena, don't do that. The poor kid will get beaten up in school!" Uncle Claude says, laughing.

"How do you know it's going to be a boy, anyways?" her father says.

—and have no time for her.

Later, Uncle Claude lets her sit on his knee and slips her candy while her parents aren't looking, and starts telling her the story of an evil bandit king, so she listens with eyes wide and mouth agape, completely forgetting about the thing and the fairy in her room.

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Ensign Kenni, this is the Strahl. If you can hear this, please activate your tracker. Ensign Kenni...

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The days are a blur. The baby is born, a boy like her mommy said it would be, and they don't name him 'Claude', for which Maya is secretly grateful because she cannot imagine anyone else having that name.

Reiko is pink and happy, gurgling and cooing and waving his little arms, laughing at everything—at Maya's silly faces, and their father's terrible singing, at their mother splattered with baby mash. He laughs and babbles until one day he stops, all wheezing breaths and weak, horrible cries.

"It's just a cold," her father says, but he is looking worried even as her mother is calling forth the healing glow, again, and again, and by the third time her father sends her to her room.

Maya curls up on her bed, angry, hurt and upset, silent tears rolling down her cheeks.

On the dresser, the thing crackles and whirrs.

Ensign Kenni... do... read... ease activate...

"Please stop," Maya whispers. "Please stop, fairy. My brother is sick, please."

A pause, a click, a shaky breath; then, Ensign Kenni, this is the—oh, screw this! Claude, can you hear me, Claude?

Maya sits bolt upright in bed, staring at the glowing, crackling thing.

...Claude?

----

The next morning, Reiko is better, her father tells her through the closed door. He knocks, but Maya does not answer.

She is staring at the thing, resting in the palm of her hand. There are dark circles under her eyes; the voice has not stopped calling all night, hesitant, pained, interrupted by more and more crackling.

Claude...? ...aude...there? Please, please... Claude... swer me...!

She does not know what the thing is, or who the voice is, what it wants from Uncle Claude, but now she is certain that it is not a trapped fairy. She has heard all the stories from her mother, about the man who fell from the sky.

She has never thought on them too much, but now she is wondering. What if there are more people like her Uncle Claude in the sky? What if they are jealous, because he is living here, with them? What if the thing will help them find him?

Maya stares angrily at the thing, thinking, 'You tricked me. You tricked me, you stupid box.'

----

In the evening, she climbs out of her bedroom window and runs back into the forest, the evil thing clutched tightly in her hand. She will bury it, bury it where she got it from, deep and good, so that nobody will ever find it again.

She won't let the sky people take her Uncle Claude.

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"Are you sure about this?"

Claude nodded. "I'm sure. This thing barely even works anymore."

Dias did not reply, instead folding his arms and watching as his partner began digging a hole between the roots of an old oak tree with his bare hands.

"I have given up on waiting... for the call that will never come," Claude explained, smiling wistfully. "There was a time when I wanted nothing more than that... to hear a voice. Her voice. But now... there are so many things I would miss here."

He paused, unhooking the communicator from his belt and placing it gently into the hole. Sighing, he shook his head. "I'm so selfish, aren't I. Wanting her not to believe that I'm dead. Saying that I would have left if she had called."

Dias tilted his head to the side. "Would that have made you happy?" he asked, tone curious and calm.

Claude considered only for a moment. "I'm happier here. With you."

"Hmph," Dias said, turning his face away.

Claude began scraping the earth back into the hole, on top of the shiny silver device with the crack running across its hull, until it stopped winking up at him, beckoning, pleading. Finally, he put the ripped-out moss back into place. It would grow roots again, with time.

Dias straightened, and began walking back in the direction of the village.

Claude remained for a moment, looking down at the ragged patch of green, before getting to his feet.

"...Goodbye, mom."

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Claude... Claude please—

In the darkness of the earth, the red glow fades for the last time.

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FIN

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A/N: Oh gods, why am I tormenting Claude's mommy? I'm so sorry, Iria! grovels

Also, as for the question why Iria has not contacted Claude sooner… the universe is big? She was searching high and low, and has just been out of range until now. And she can't locate Claude because the tracking device is broken. Yes, I'm evil.

"Strahl" means "ray".

Also, no hating on Maya, plz. She's a kid. But other than that, C&C is very much appreciated.