Disclaimer: I do not own Star Ocean or the characters from the game. They belong to Tri-Ace and Square Enix respectively. I don't profit financially from writing this story.

Author's Note: Written as an impromptu birthday story for Maria Traydor of Till the End of Time. Until such a time is noted for the characters in all but The Last Hope, I'm assigning birthdays to the characters, including some of the NPCs.

Happy Birthday, Maria! For my little universe, her birthday will be June 29. Enjoy!

Some days were never easy.

It was such little truths that Maria often consoled herself with when things weren't the way they were supposed to be – computers malfunctioned, supplies ran short, and the arguing amongst her crew when they'd been away from home too long . . . not to mention the seemingly endless bickering of diplomats who wanted everything their way or no way at all. No matter how hard she tried to keep supplies in her ship and her crew happy, something was bound to go wrong at some point. It was simply how life worked, and, as the leader of Quark, Maria learned to accept such days.

However, there were some days when such incidents were more than what she could bear. Sometimes, she couldn't always pinpoint what was wrong when a particular day arrived or why it bothered her . . . she simply awoke irritated and ready fight whoever was of the mind to argue against what she wanted. On the anniversaries of her parents' deaths . . . and Fayt's . . . those were her worst days, and sometimes . . . so was her birthday.

There was so much that she'd wanted to tell him in the aftermath of the Creator's defeat, thoughts and emotions she couldn't tell him before. They weren't related to each other so she'd felt safe in nurturing her feelings towards him even as she envied him for the life he had at the same time. All they needed to do was survive.

And survive Maria had. She'd led the charge against the Creator, even as Fayt hesitated and ultimately stayed out of the fray. She had delivered the killing blow to Luther, showing him no mercy as he'd done the same for countless of innocent people across the universe. In her mind, someone who tried to control her very thoughts and emotions didn't deserve to live or forgiveness. If she allowed Luther to live, he could continue to harm and threaten her and the people of her universe. For that, she delivered justice.

In rendering her justice upon Luther, however, Maria failed to notice that Fayt, too, was dying, sustaining the same injuries as the Creator. Only at the last moment, Albel had noticed, had made the connection to Fayt's pain and Maria's actions, and he'd tried to stop her. Too little, too late, he reached her. Luther fell dead at her feet, and, behind her, so did Fayt.

Maria stared forlornly at the cake in front of her. Sophia had sent it to her for her birthday, had done so for the last five years. Every year it said "Happy Birthday". In the holo-card the younger girl sent, it said "I hope all of your wishes come true". Lieber tried his best to cheer her, always attempting to say more to her but always losing the courage. She thought he might have a crush on her, but they were feelings and thoughts she couldn't return. Her heart had always been with Fayt and, upon his death, it, too, had died in a sense.

With Fayt gone, she knew wishes were never granted. Not the ones that mattered, anyway. If they were, he'd still be alive, and she could celebrate to a life of happily ever after.