The ballroom was filled with people, the finest of Meltokio, looking very expensive, and

very hungry. Lloyd braced himself, and stepped into the candle-lit crystal mirage.

Snippets of conversation engulfed him as he made his way towards the lower end of the

room, praying that he wouldn't trip on the hem of a lacy dress, or his own ceremonial

sabres. They had been lent to him for the evening from the royal treasure chamber, and

the jittery treasurer had made him swear that he wouldn't even unsheeth them.

He spotted an obviously flustered Genis, surrounded by a goggle of people (mostly

women), fawning over him. Occasionally the crowd around him erupted in enraptured

outcries of: "but of course, little master!" or "why yes, little master!", but Lloyd had a

sneaking suspicion that it didn't really matter what his friend was saying…

Just as he decided upon rescuing Genis from the manicured claws of the noblewomen, he

remembered how his friend had taunted him the previous day, at the fitting of the party

clothes. Reflecting upon that, he decided to let him stew for a while longer.

Wandering further, he noticed several of his comrades scattered around the room.

Regal, as the newly pardoned duke, and reinstated president of Lazerano company, was

conversing in a familiar manner with a group of aristocrats. Lloyd noted their awkward

shifting – well, no wonder, considering they were the first ones to turn their backs on the

duke when he was convicted.

Lloyd also saw professor Raine, looking and acting at ease, as if she was at least a

countess. Several Meltokian dandies had flocked around her, hanging on every word that

left her lips. Lloyd was almost sure he had heard one of them calling her "Elven Queen":

They sort of reminded him of Zelos.

At that moment, Sheena swept past him, without as much as a backward glance. Lloyd

was about to call out to her, when he noticed the reason for her quick retreat.

She too had accumulated a fanclub, hounding the "Mizuho beauty" throughout the room,

but unlike the cool and rational professor, Sheena did not know how to cope with the

situation. Lloyd just hoped she wouldn't use any shinobi techniques on them.

Suddenly, he felt a tug at the sleeve of his embroidered jacket.

"Lloyd…"

His gaze swivelled around. Then down. Presea was looking up at him, her face carrying a

slightly puzzled expression.

"What is it Presea? By the by, you look really nice."he said, smiling at her. He had been

worried about her. The maids at the fitting hadn't gotten more enthused about dressing

anybody (except for Genis perhaps) than Presea. She had put her foot down when it

looked like she was going to end up looking like a giant gilded doll which had suffocated

in lace.

After the deflated maids had freed her of a couple of pounds worth of lace and gilt, the

effect became more that of a serene and beautiful child.

Some of the aristocrats had even christened her "Little Madam".

"Thank you," she answered in her usual simple manner. "Have you seen Colette

around?"

"Oh, she's not here?" Lloyd craned his neck to see above the crowd, but the familiar face

was nowhere to be found.

"Maybe she is with Zelos on the balcony?" Presea mused.

twitch

"Lloyd?"

Presea looked at the rapidly disappearing form, apparently heading for the main hall's

stairway. She debated going after him, but while she had been talking to Lloyd, Regal

had drifted closer and was now beckoning for her to come join him. She shrugged, and

went.

Lloyd was quite out of breath by the time he reached the top of the stairs.

The building was constructed in such a fashion that the top floor roomed a lounge and

two balconies overlooking the ballroom.

Due to the lengthy hike which preceeded access to the charming top floor, not many

made it up here.

Lloyd glanced around, noticed the door to the first balcony, leapt forward, flung it open,

and cried:

"Geroff her, smut-peddler!!"

This shocked the amicably chatting middle-aged couple into silence, and their terrified

gazes followed a blushing Lloyd as he backed out the door, stammering apologies.

The door clicked shut, and Lloyd leaned his back against it, eyeing the remaining door.

So it was there the degenerate was hiding!!

"Geroff her, smut…?!"

"Can I help you?" Zelos quirked an eyebrow.

"Uh, Colette?" Lloyd snooped around the balcony, checked behind the curtains and under

the seats.

Zelos crouched down next to a kneeling Lloyd, busy disturbing the dustbunny-population

under the balcony seats.

"Not here."

"What?!"

"She was. Then she left."

"You pervert, what were you doing here, alone with Colette?!"

"Just…enjoying the view." Zelos smirked, as he evaded the punch Lloyd threw at him,

and caught the boy's wrist in one, fluid movement.

"The view. From the balcony. Geez, I'm not the slut everybody seems to think I am."

With that he released Lloyd's wrist, and turned so he was facing away from him.

"Don't sulk." Lloyd was already starting to feel a bit bad about suspecting the other.

"Hey, are you pouting?"

"I am not.", Zelos turned on him, pouting.

"Pft, that's kind of cute for a guy like you, Zelos." Lloyd, couldn't help but laughing at

the childish look his teammate had shot him.

"So, you think I'm sexy?" Zelos purred into his ear, suddenly way too close, and

anything but innocent.

"GAH"

"You didn't have to hit me!" Zelso whined, clutching at the sore spot on his head.

After he had calmed down, Lloyd observed the other man.

"I guess I can't blame you… after all, pervertedness comes to you naturally, like

breathing. I guess I'm sorry."

"Apology, though uncute, accepted." Zelos replied.

Lloyd, after being reassured that Colette was unmolested, leaned at the balustrade,

determined to make the most of the baroque atmosphere, and the fine music.

Zelos joined him, and proceeded to methodically poke fun of the finest of Meltokian

aristocracy, who he seemed to know down to the last dutchess.

"You seem to be enjoying yourself." he said to Lloyd, who was still laughing at one of

the stories.

"You seem pretty chipper yourself." Lloyd countered with a grin.

"Well, after all, I get to see my cute hunnies all dressed up and glittering! And of course,

this gives me a chance to shine in my new party clothes."

"…Pervert."

"Prude."

"Narcissist!"

"I'm surprised you even knew the word, dummy."

Although he was angry, Lloyd had to admit, the mad did look stunning. He was wearing

a white uniform, decorated with golden phoenixes soaring across his chest, and his red

hair tied back into a luscious braid.

"Don't think you can get away with everything just because you're pretty!" he huffed at

Zelos without thinking.

The redhead just stood ther, staring at Lloyd.

Then, to the latter's surprise, he blushed.

"…What?" Lloyd asked, confused.

"Well…you did call me pretty."

It was the younger boy's turn to blush.

"You know what I meant!"

"Sure I do." Zelos smirked, closing the distance between them.

"What are you doing?" Lloyd stammered, as Zelos' fingers rose to rest on the sides of his

face.

"Your reward for calling me pretty…" he whispered, leaning in, and planting a soft kiss

on Lloyd's lips.

He straightened out and smiled at the furiously blushing boy.

"Later, hunny!"

With that, he stalked away, shutting the door behind him.

Lloyd lifted an uncertain hand to his lips, trying to calm his frantically beating heart.

"I'm never going to a dinner party again." he muttered to himself.

But he very much suspected that he would…