Chapter Four: The Grand Finale

Fayt and Cliff stopped and stared at the scene before them in shock. Mirage was dragging both Albel and Nel away from the door. Sophia was backed up against a wall with a terrified look on her face, staring at Nel, who was struggling against Mirage and seemed bent on getting to the Earthling girl. Albel was staring at Mirage, annoyance flickering across his face as his eyes shifted between her and Nel. Cliff didn't miss this and frowned, a hunch beginning to form in his mind. Fayt didn't seem to be paying any attention to Albel, though.

"What's going ON out here?!" Fayt demanded, wondering if his whole party was going insane. Sophia pointed accusingly at Nel.

"She... she's after me!"

"Let me go, Mirage!" Nel cried, struggling fiercely. With a bit more effort, she wriggled free of Mirage's grasp; the Klausian woman swore softly and snatched at the redhead, but Albel took the opportunity to slip free while she was distracted. Taking a page from Peppita's book, Mirage nabbed a hold of Albel's braids to keep him from going any further; sure enough, he stopped dead in his tracks, pain flashing into his ruby red eyes as he yelled death threats. Nel had, by then, reached Sophia but been blocked by a rather annoyed-looking Fayt. Cliff was rather alarmed at the glare Nel had summoned up on the blue-haired Earthling and shot a surprised look at Mirage, who looked rather ready to punch somebody through a wall.

"Cliff! We should tell them!" she shouted. The other Klausian nodded as Albel's threatening came to an absolute halt.

"Tell us what? What's Koas talking about?"

Cliff's eyes narrowed as he immediately picked up on the sudden use of her last name. "Oh, no, no. Fayt was bad enough, but you're not going after her! Let 'im go, Mirage!"

Mirage did so. Albel folded his arms over his chest and glowered at Cliff while Nel broke her own death glare to peer over her shoulder at the Klausian curiously. The two stood there, absolutely still, eyes bright. Cliff smirked as his hunch finished forming. And his hunches were always right. Except for that time with the asteroid, but that didn't count.

"What's the matter, Al?" he asked, grinning at the Glyphian (who gave a noticable twitch of rage). "Tears of Venus worn off?"

Fayt, Sophia, and Mirage all looked at him. He tried not to break down and demand 'what?!'. Mirage sighed, obviously of the opinion that Cliff needed lessons in sublety. All eyes shifted to Albel when he replied, though.

"Thoroughly embarassed yet, oaf?" Albel the Wicked had a grin on that matched his nickname.

"Out with it, Cliff," Nel said, turning around finally. "Why did you put that stuff in our tea?"

"How long have you known?" Cliff asked evasively. It clicked in the minds of the three others and three pairs of eyes turned to Nel for her answer.

"We heard you talking to Peppita," Nel replied.

"So you've been acting out all of this?" Fayt asked slowly, green eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"The potion didn't work?" Sophia asked plaintively.

"No," the Elicoorians said in unison. Sophia seemed to take this as both an affirmative and negative and frowned thoughtfully.

"Damn!" Cliff grumped. "Foiled again! Stupid Gossam!"

"Serves you right for trying to trick us," Nel muttered, glaring at him darkly from beneath her bangs and over the rim of her scarf.

"Yeah, sorry," Cliff muttered, scratching the back of his neck nervously. He stopped suddenly, blinking. "Waitaminnit... if you heard me talking to Peppita, then...."

"Yeah," Nel said quietly, her cheeks tinting red. "I know."

"I would've preferred she found out from me instead of the brat, you imbecile," Albel growled. Cliff laughed sheepishly.

"Sorry, Albel," Mirage apologized for him, knowing her partner's habit of being stubborn on such things. "It was just so frustrating watching you, so we got the crew in on it."

"Beh," was Albel's answer. All six of them paused, each wondering if this nightmare was over yet. Which, of course, was when Sophia spoke up.

"...The potion really didn't do anything?" she asked.

"NO!" Albel snapped, his claw clenching at his side in sheer annoyance. "Why the hell would we lie?"

Sophia pouted.

"Sorry to disappoint you," Nel muttered sarcastically.

Silence again. Albel started to drift down the hall.

"Sooo...." Cliff drawled lazily, "when's the wedding?"

Albel wasn't far enough away to miss when he swung the Crimson Scourge's scabbard at the Klausian. It slapped loudly against his arm, but he didn't so much as wince. The Glyphian stormed off down the hall, Nel not far behind him. Mirage glared at Cliff.

"What?" he asked innocently.

"Subtlety, Cliff," Fayt said, "is a virtue."

"I'd always heard honesty was, too," Cliff replied, grinning. Mirage shook her head.

"It's over, Cliff."

"Dream wrecker." Sophia giggled and started back to her room. Fayt rolled his eyes and turned around, going back into his own room. Mirage sighed and walked in the direction of the bridge. Cliff, belatedly realizing the he really had truly ruined this opportunity (no, wait -- Gossam had ruined it, that bastard), walked back to his room as well. It was well past midnight. He yawned, stretched, and walked through the airtight door, rather pleased with the thought of sleep.

On the other side of the Diplo from the sleepy Klausian, the two self-satisfied Elicoorians stood outside of Nel's room. Nel grinned at the Glyphian, who snorted amusedly.

"Told you we'd get them back," she said. Pause. "You didn't go after Mirage."

"Beh. I was distracted. Besides, it had gone on too long by the time she caught us."

"I guess." They stood in comfortable silence for a while before Nel sighed. "I wonder if Gossam knows this potion of his doesn't work at all?"

"Old fool probably has no clue," Albel drawled. With a shrug, he turned and started to walk off. "'Night, Zelpher."

And that was when the Tears of Venus kicked in belatedly. For the fourth time that night, his braids were grabbed and used to steer him backwards, but this time, he had no complaints.

Although at the space equivalent the next morning, when Sophia came in to wake up Nel, some fancy explanations had to be thought up.

The End?

Author's Note: I'm really not pleased with how this chapter turned out, so I might eventually overhaul it. ; I wrote with writer's block just to get this thing done; the final stuff was plotted out ahead of time, but the actual wording was done with the Block in place, so I don't like how it sounds. It's pretty obvious that I had the dialouge scripted and no real action written out. But whatever. I can come back to it. Shout out time! (Where were all my reviewers this time around...?)

nanatsusaya-san: Ah, well, I put the "FA" in the summary to drag in you unsuspecting yaoi fans for the impliedness. I admit to unfair play. Glad to know you like it anyway!

SapphireDemon: Here's the last update (at least until my writer's block is gone and I can fix what I hate about this chapter). Hope you enjoyed this bit as much as the rest!

Ice Neko: Yes, I watch Lost religiously and am terribly addicted to itIn fact, I just finished watching today's episode. My eyes are still burning from crying so hard when... well, you'll see. But I wigged out over nothing. XD Yes, they knew all along. Nel's a decent actress, but Albel just couldn't take it anymore. Poor boy. Hope you liked this chapter too!

PrismaticMage: Haha, glad to know you liked the idea. Poor Cliff; didn't even know he was on the end of a prank. Good to know there's more Cliff/Mirage fans. I honestly thought Mirage's ending was for both of them at first and then felt stupid. XD I'm no fan of Albel/Fayt (I'll be honest), but I'm glad to know you like Albel/Nel as well. Thank you for reviewing!

Magus Black: Ah, well, Cliff's not about to take all the credit. Once the Crimson Scourge is against his neck, he'll tell all. :D But you are very right. An angry Albel equals much badness.

Miyabi Ningyou: Haha, you're an inspiring person, luv. ;) And I was considering using the 'shutting up' technique, but I liked the subtle ending better.

Promise I'll torture Roger in the next one. Once my muse gets off his lazy Elven ass and inspires me, I will. (Elrohir: Now that was uncalled for!)

Skweeshy: God, I love your screenname. XD Glad to know it held you down. Hope you liked this last bit!

BiBi Tenshi: Haha, Albel got distracted. The opportunity to go after Fayt presented itself before Mirage. But they knew. And it did wind up working. Eventually. Wonder if Gossam did that on purpose. :)

Anyone Who Signs A Review On This Chapter: Thank you so much! I promise I'll update again once my writer's block is gone and I'll fix this atrocity! It's up to stop reviewers from getting cranky, but it will be fixed one day! Thanks again!