Title: Bitter-Sweet Motivations

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Ocean or its Characters.

Description: Yet another pairing with Sophia and Albel. Warning, future chapters may contain a triangle.

Oh man, I can't believe I'm here again. I got a little push to do another story, and some encouragement from another story (which made me a little mad at first but after a while motivated me). I know there's a flux of these stories but I thought: what the heck…why not. If you want to blame anyone, blame Kay. She told me "If I were you, I would write another one in response." I think she writes better, but she has her own stories to finish so that left the task to me. She did read this through for me, but she tends to doubt her proof reading skills. She did point out a few things to me so – THANKS KAY!

Warning: Yes, the characters will be a little OC. Just thought I would warn you.

Dialog – "Bah"

Thoughts – 'Bah'

Flashbacks are italicized

Actions wrote in past tense

Dreams wrote in present tense

Bitter-Sweet Motivations

Chapter 1: Close Encounters

You've all heard the tale of the heroes who saved us all. The story of heroism and bravery. Now if you will, allow me to explain how much that event changed the life of a once timid girl.

Let me see. Where to begin this story? You see, I am merely the story teller and can only tell you of the things I was told. I guess I should start with that fateful night. Yes, I believe that is were it all began.

Our heroes had been through thick and thin. Battle after battle. For this night, they are aboard a space vessel. The Aquaelie. A planet called Styx was their destination. It was aboard this vessel a girl was desperately trying to sleep.

She was young. Only 17 years old to be exact. And still very much a child in some ways. She had led the life of a scientist's daughter. In the lap of luxury, if you will. There was no want in her household. If she desired something, her parents were quick to oblige.

On the other hand, she was quick to give. She never knew what it was like to be without and therefore was fast to give to those who did not have. She never thought about running out of something. She never considered that one day she would be the one in need.

Most would see her as stuck up. This, however, was not the case. She was just firmly planted in her morals and beliefs. Yet, in this she was also naive. The thoughts of doing harm to another were foreign too her. Well, at least they were at one time…but more on that a little later.

Her name was Sophia and for almost the entire trip, it had been her goal to become invisible. She wanted so much to wake from the nightmare her life had become. She felt suddenly robbed of her innocence. Her future melted before her eyes.

Her mind twisted and turned that night. Images of her time as a prisoner at the hands of the Vendeeni flooded her. After all she had been through, she found freedom. But freedom came at the price of watching her dear uncle die and her childhood friend become a stranger.

Then her life had been turned upside down. The images she had held so dearly too became distant. She was torn from who she thought she was and thrust into a cold reality of what she was. She had been altered, tampered with, and therefore felt incomplete.

She had tossed and turned for hours. Sleep eluded her and she finally gave up on rest. She got up from the bed and changed into her new uniform. The sight of it depressed her. She liked pink and purple, but it did not fit her emotions within.

After she was dressed, she took a quick glance at the remnants of her sleep attempt. The sheets were askew and the pillow thrown to the side. It was a wreck. Normally, she would have set to the task of making the bed. But her heart was not in it and she left the room. The bed remained untouched.

She took a quick look down the hall. No one but the night shift was up at such a late hour. She had traveled the corridors at this indecent hour before and knew that she would be lucky if she ran into one, maybe two others at the most.

She started to make her way to the cafeteria when a small, almost inaudible, cry caught her attention. She leaned against the wall, searching for the noise as she walked. She had just stopped in front of a door when the sounds were issued again. The sounds were coming from the room within.

Sophia took a deep breath and entered the room. Usually, she wouldn't be so bold, but it sounded as if someone might need help.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Now, let me leave you with a small wonderment on what is in store for our young lass as I introduce the other half of this tale. For every day there must be a night. For every up a down and every right a left.

He wrestles with his inner demons. Every hour of every day is spent trapped in his personal prison of solitude. He shuts out all but the thoughts he wields. His attempt to better himself physically is nothing more then an attempt to hide what is inside.

Fear.

He watches as the flames leap and lick at his face. He is surrounded. There is no way out from the entanglement of the burning. He turns only to confront another wall of fire. His breath grows short. His hair is stuck to his face, plastered by sweat and tears.

He cries softly. His voice can barely make a whisper as this throat tightens. So, Death had come and mercy was short on forgiveness. He went slack, waiting patiently for Death to take him in her embrace.

Then her hand reaches for him. Her fiery touch caresses his face, wiping his tears. She calls his name…so sweetly, so much like a mother soothing a child. He reaches up and takes her hand in his. If Death wanted him then so be it…no…he was stubborn.

He grabs Death's hand and grips it hard. She gasps. He pulled in response, pulling her from the flames and to him. He would not let Death embrace him, but in turn embrace Death. If he were to die then it would be on his own terms.

He closes his eyes. Watching from behind his lids, he sees the flicker of flames dissolve. The heat surrounding him disperses. His skin began to cool. This was something he knew well. His dream of horror was over and he was slowly returning to the world away from sleep.

Knowing the worst was over, he opened his eyes. It was not until he saw Death during his awakening, did his fear return. Big eyes the shades of soft emeralds met his own. The face of his lady Death faded, leaving behind one less maleficent.

"Albel? Y-you're hurting me." She spoke softly.

He released his grip. "What are you doing here, fool?"

"I…err…was on my way to the cafeteria and heard you. Sounded like you were having a nightmare."

He sat up and frowned at her. "You should learn to mind your own."

Sophia bowed as she backed away from the bed. "Oh, sorry." She turned quickly and left the room.

"Insolent wench," he spoke to the freshly closed door.

Now, you might say that his ways toward her were cold. For that he was – cold. To everyone and everything he kept a distance. But we all know that the mind is a complex tool. There's a line that separates the conscious mind from the unconscious mind. And some times, thoughts cross that line unannounced to us.

Needless to say, our young swordsman was in such a dilemma.

The girl stood against all he personified himself to be. She was always tucked in a corner and when confronted she always smiled. No one could be happy all the time and why she insisted on seeming that way was beyond his understanding.

What surprised him was that she had actually ventured into his room in a futile attempt to 'save' him from a dream. Everyone knew well enough to leave him alone. Did she really think he needed her help?

He got out of the bed and quickly put his shirt on. He was going to confront her and let her know that he was not an object for pity. He was going to tell her exactly what was on his mind.

Albel Nox didn't need help from anyone.

And that was the event that led to their first personal encounter.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Now we travel to the cafeteria. Only minutes after their brief exchange of words, the two will collide again.

She sat at the sat table she had the night before. It was a corner table with a window. She could gaze out into space or scan the whole room, depending on where she looked. She sipped her coffee, looking into the blank vastness of the space beyond the glass.

She thought back to the encounter earlier. When she had first entered his room, she didn't know who was inside. Then she saw him and immediately recalled the conversation she had had with Fayt.

"Just stay clear of him and you'll be okay."

"Really, Fayt. Is he really that bad?"

"Well, sort of."

"If he's so bad then why did you allow him to stay?"

"It's a long story, Sophia. Just don't get too close. You are just too…well let's just say your personalities don't mix. Just stick to talking to Mirage, Maria or Cliff."

But she didn't talk to anyone...not really. They were nice enough but she found it hard.

Cliff was: first off a guy, and second off all but twenty years older then her. He was okay and she didn't mind him around...but he just wasn't the type of person she could talk to. Maria was nice and all, but too serious and just too busy to talk. She never seemed to slow down at all. Mirage hardly ever spoke. The reason Sophia didn't want to talk to Mirage was because she was the only one who had asked any questions when they first met. She asked about her time with the Vendeeni. Sophia knew she was being nice and concerned but those were things she didn't want to talk about. Just knowing that someone cared enough to ask was enough.

But Albel, well he was an enigma. She'd never known anyone like him. He was so hard on himself and in turn distant to others.

'Must be lonely,' she thought. 'No one really talks to him and they pretty much don't acknowledge him when we travel. Only Fayt seems to be able to get some form of reaction from him.'

When the group would hold a meeting, Sophia usually stayed by Fayt's side. Though she didn't speak and no one really paid her much attention, she got more acknowledgement then Albel. Friendly acknowledgement anyway. No one in the group did (or could) ignore Albel. But they never went out of their way to talk to him either. He never seemed to mind. If he talked at all it was usually to Fayt.

"Every one needs friends, don't they?" she spoke quietly.

"Bah."

She jumped, nearly spilling hot coffee on herself. She was shocked to see Albel seated on the other side of the table.

Calming herself, she forced a small smile as she carefully balancing her drink on the table. "Hello."

"Humph," he snarled. He sat leaned back in his chair. His arms crossed and his eyes fixed on her.

Now, allow me to explain a small detail about the lass. She was shy and not use to confrontation. During her stay with the Vendeeni she had been able to break away from this shell to a certain extent. She had to in order to survive the whole ordeal. But Albel was a friend of Fayt's. She hated the idea of looking bad in Fayt's eyes more then anything. Therefore, she was intimidated by the man before her.

Her fingers fumbled with the cup in front of her. She was at a loss as to what to say to him, so she said the first thing that came to mind.

"What are you doing here so late?" She managed to sound civil.

"I could ask you the same."

She lifted her cup. Frantically not knowing how to deal with the situation, she took a few long sips; hoping her would be the first to break the silence.

He didn't and she had no choice but to return the empty cup to its resting place.

"Well…" she spoke looking into her empty cup. Then it came to her. The distraction she desperately needed to break the tension. "Oh, I'm out."

She stood up slowly. His eyes followed her in a cold stare. "I'll be right back. I need more coffee." She took a step back. He didn't protest.

He continued to watch her as she took another step back. "You want some while I'm up?"

He didn't answer. Something inside her told her she should have expected such a response. Walking slowly, she moved to the kitchen. She was careful with every movement as his eyes weighed on her.

With little fumbling about, she sat two cups of hot coffee on a serving tray. She distributed her preferred amount of sugar and cream into one cup.

'I don't even know how he likes his coffee,' she thought. She added a small cup of sugar and another small cup of cream to the tray. He would just have to make his own.

Moving back to the dining area, she noticed that he had turned his attention to his hands; which were now resting on the table in front of him. She walked freely back to the table, not as self conscious as before.

She sat the tray in the middle of the table. Almost immediately he looked up at her. She could tell by his stare that he didn't expect her to return. She was frightened, but she had told him she would be back. She made a point never to break even the smallest of promises.

She took her seat and tried not to stare back. But she wanted to see just a hint of emotion. His face was virtually unreadable.

'Why shouldn't I stare? That's what he's doing. I mean really…where does he get off having this attitude with me?'

So that's exactly what she did. She just sat there and stared at him, putting her best effort into keeping as blank an expression as he did.

"Humph." He broke the stare as he took the coffee from the tray.

She brought the back of her hand to her mouth and giggled softly.

He shot his eyes back at her. Glaring at her, he growled.

"What?" she asked innocently.

"You find this amusing?"

She only nodded slightly. Regaining her composure, she made sure to smile only vaguely. "How do you do it?"

"Do what, wench?"

She had to restrain from more giggles. He had just insulted her, and yet all she wanted to do was laugh. She had no real idea why she was so overcome with the urge. It was obvious he wasn't sharing her amusement. The only theory she had was that her giddiness was due to the fact that someone other then Fayt was actually paying attention to her.

She lowered her head and looked up at him through her bangs. "How do you keep your face and voice so neutral?"

"You really don't know anything do you?"

"You know, it's impolite to answer a question with another question." She was past her chuckling phase. She took a sip of her coffee and waited patiently for a response.

"Oh, and a little girl like you thinks she can teach me something." His voice was laced with sarcasm.

She shook her head. It was odd, but normally she would not have had the patience for someone like him. "No, I didn't say that. It's just…well you never smile. I mean really smile."

"And all you do is talk nonsense."

She just simply shrugged her shoulders and took another sip. She noticed he had yet to do more then move his coffee. She cradled her cup in both hands, keeping the rim close to her mouth.

'Time to change the subject,' she thought. "Can't sleep huh?"

"And you, fool, can't keep out of other's rooms."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Jeez, I was just trying to help."

"I don't need your help. What could a worthless weakling like you do anyway?"

A spark of anger lit in her. "Well, I might be weak but I'm not worthless!"

He raised his eyebrow. He had not expected her to argue. He had taken her for the submissive kind. "And how so?" he challenged.

"Everybody's worth something."

"Bah. You sound just like your maggot boyfriend."

"Huh?" She blinked a few times. "He's not my boyfriend. He's my best friend."

'She really doesn't know anything. The insolent girl is actually trying to have a conversation with me,' he thought. "Time to grow up girl!"

She frowned at him. "Maybe you should lighten up mister!"

'Spunky huh? Didn't expect that.' He clenched his teeth. "Why waste my time? You're just an ignorant fool who knows nothing."

"I know life isn't worth anything if you don't live it." She sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. She did her best not to let intimidation flood her.

"And I'm to presume you think I don't live my life?"

"How should I know? I just met you and this is the first time we've talked."

"Be glad I promised Fayt I wouldn't kill you. If not for him, then you wouldn't have to worry about living life," he spat.

She sighed. "Don't you ever have fun?"

The only response she got was a growl and a death glare. She suppressed her urge to storm off. She didn't want to be around him anymore, but she didn't want him to have the last word either.

Right now, she was confused. He confused her by participating in this 'argument'; and she was really confused by why she didn't just leave. This just wasn't much like she would have expected herself to act. Her heart was racing. Why did she find this exhilarating?

She wiped her bangs from her face. "Look, Mr. Nox, I'm sorry if I've offended you and I'm sorry for barging into your room earlier."

"Mister? Look I'm no old man!"

"That's not what I meant," she protested. "I was simply showing respect, that's all."

He was about to respond, but was cut off when a third voice intruded.

"Uh…hi guys."

Sophia and Albel both looked up to see a somewhat confused and freshly wakened Fayt standing at the table. "What's up?"

Albel didn't say a word. He just simply stood up and left the cafeteria.

Fayt sat in the chair beside Sophia. "What was that all about?"

"Honestly Fayt, I don't know."

They sat in silence as Sophia finished her now cold coffee. It wouldn't be long until the others were up.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Albel walked back to his room. He sat on the bed for a while, trying to clear his head from her words. "I know life isn't worth anything if you don't live it," he echoed.

'What does she know? And who does she think she is defying me like that? She's never seen the horrors I have. Probably couldn't deal with them anyway. I know more about living then she'll ever learn in her pampered life.'

Still, her words haunted him.

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Well, there you go people. Just let me know what you think, but be warned that flames will be promptly moved to help fuel the fires of inspiration. Constructive criticism (done civilized) is always welcomed.

Thanks :)