Well, this was an unexpected delight. After I finished another fic I've been working on, I was forced to watch Shrek 2 for the 50th time with the relatives and somehow got an idea from it…it all started with Fayt and Maria wanting to make a sequel to Shrek so they got Nel to play the Fairy Godmother. Nel had to promise not to tell the others that she was going to be in the movie, but one day Albel got curious and followed her to the set. Fayt and Maria caught him and forced him to be apart of the cast otherwise they'd tell Nel that he likes her. So Albel reluctantly agreed and was forced to play the role of….Puss in Boots. Yes, this was utterly ridiculous, but some of the romance scenes I thought of during the madness were pretty good, so I dropped all the Shrek 2 stuff and put the romantic scenes in a whole new setting and in a less insane plot. Here is the result:

…But before I let you go read it, I should mention that I don't own SO3 or any of its characters…BUT I WILL WHEN I TAKE OVER THE WORLD AND LET LOR OWN SQUARE-ENIX FOR SHE IS MY MINION! (author slaps herself) Sorry, dreadful habit that I'm still trying to drop…Enjoy the fic!



Fayt flinched from the tone in the red haired Aquarian's voice. True Sophia and even Cliff had begged him not to ask her, but it was an emergency. He was so close to winning in the rank battles in the battle arena in Gemity and he needed help from Airyglyph's best swordsman. But to get Albel to help he needed to convince him to miss his single battle for it. The only way to get him to listen was to get Nel to do the convincing. Why Nel? It was because she was the Wicked One's only known weakness due to the annoyingly considerable affection he held for her. It was adorable to the girls, hilarious to the other men, but annoying for Albel.

So the problem was to convince Nel to convince Albel. Explaining the problem was the easy part, it was the requesting that became the problem.

"Please? He won't listen to anyone else," Fayt begged as he attempted puppy dog eyes. Unfortunately for Fayt, Roger had long since abused the look and earned no reaction from Nel.

"What makes you think he'll listen to me?" she asked with a roll of the eyes.

"Because he likes you," he blurted out without thinking. That was supposed to be a secret because knowing Albel, he would : 1. want to tell her himself and 2. destroy all who knew about it. The Aquarian's eyes nearly bugged out as she took a few involuntary steps away from the group's obviously insane leader.

"What?" she repeated, even louder and twice as shocked.

"He's head over heels, madly in love with you! He'll listen to anything you say even though he might not do it, but the chances of him agreeing to fight in my team are higher with you than if I asked him myself," Fayt pleaded, knowing that Albel was going to murder him for this. They had already gotten away with teasing him about his crush, but letting out the secret was a one way ticket to the underworld.

"We are still talking about Albel, right? You know Albel the Wicked?" she inquired nervously, earning a shrug from the young leader.

"He's still human and besides, you're his type."

"His type?" she echoed, a little outraged, "How am I his type? We used to be enemies and don't forget that we constantly tried to kill each other!"

"…You have a lot of things in common," he persisted before Nel really got offended.

"Do I kill random things when I'm upset or yell at people when they try to help?"

"Yes," Fayt muttered under his breath and then added in a louder voice, "Well, you both had famous fathers who died in action and you both are in high positions in the army."

"Still…I refuse to believe that someone like Albel could ever fall in love."

She seemed to be calming down as Fayt quickly thought of what to say next to get her to cave in, "Okay fine, then let's just say he has a lot of respect for you, after all, you're the only one he calls by name, everyone else is called by his three favorite words."

"How about I help, I'll join the team," she offered as Fayt thought it over.

He couldn't exactly say that Albel was better than Nel, but he had been training more than she had. Still, Nel was a lot nicer than the Glyphian, "…Sure, if you want to join, then Cliff and I are glad to have you."

"So what is the name of your team?"

"Onward! Defrosted Tuna Team," there was a slight pause, "…it was Peppita's idea."

Nel only stared at him blankly before she turned and walked away, "I'll see what I can do about convincing Albel."

"Thanks!" he called out to her retreating form.

At the hotel in Gemity, Nel paced in front of Albel's room as she thought over how to ask him. Talking to him wasn't that hard, he had the attention span of a toddler so she needed to get the point out quickly. She had also learned that if she could successfully counter his insults, then it was certain that he would listen. Unfortunately such a task was difficult because his words easily shattered her self-restraint and made her angry. There was something about the way he'd say her name that set her on the edge and before she could decipher what the feeling was, he would say something rude and catch her off guard. It was unnerving and it always resulted in her wanting to wring his neck. Needless to say, they will get into an argument soon.

But that wasn't what was keeping her from knocking on his door. It was what Fayt told her. Albel was…in love with her? It couldn't be true! Fayt must have been desperate and said the first thing that came to mind. For all she knew, he could have said that Cliff was in love with her. …But what if it was true? Would Albel ask for something in return if he gave into her request? And what would that something be? A kiss? Or maybe something more than that? Wait, it was Fayt's request so he shouldn't want anything from her. Oh, what was she worrying for? Fayt couldn't be right! With that in mind, she raised her fist to knock…

The match was beginning in thirty minutes so Albel needed to leave to prepare. He grabbed his katana and headed out the door only to find Nel about to knock as the door hissed open. Their eyes locked together for a brief moment, both surprised, before Albel stepped back into a relaxed slouch. What was she doing here? Nel was a little hesitant to say anything, almost afraid to break the silence. Or maybe it was because she had no clue what to say.


"What are you doing here, Zelpher?" he barked, quickly getting impatient, but rather happy to see her even though he would never admit that. Even if she hadn't appeared before him, he had planned to search for her later. Getting a rise out of the Aquarian was enough to amuse him and gave him enough of a drive for battle.

It was now or never, the Crimson Blade thought with a sigh, "I have a favor to ask of you."

She quickly realized that it didn't come out right as Albel let out an evil smirk. She made it sound like she was desperate for his help, "W-well actually, it's Fayt who is requesting the favor."

"That fool? Why doesn't he come here and ask himself?" the Wicked One replied as his smirk turned into a carefully disguised disappointed frown.

"Because he's afraid you'll say 'no'" Nel thought with a wry grin before saying out loud, "He probably wanted me to explain it to you slowly since he can't break away from using big words."

That earned her a dark scowl. He certainly isn't acting any different than before, he's acting like his usual 'I hate all of you maggots' self, leaving Nel to believe that Fayt was just making the crush thing up. But…she did recall that other people tried to ask him something only to have a door slammed in their face without him hearing them out. It was probably because she figured out his tendencies or maybe Fayt was on to something when he said that Albel respected her.

"Bah, what is his request?"

"He wants you to join his team in the rank battles and help them get to the top of the list," she answered, hoping that he hadn't heard the team name yet.

"You mean that team with the ridiculous name? I'll pass."

So he had heard of it, but she wasn't going to let the team's lousy name stop her from winning this persuasive argument, "Really? I thought the team name wouldn't matter to you as long as you get a good fight in the competition."

"Hmph, then why don't you go fight with them?"

"Uh…" Well she couldn't tell him it was because of the team name, not after what she told him so far. Unfortunately, he caught the reluctant look on her face and figured it out quickly.

"That's what I figured," he said smugly as he crossed his arms, "Besides, I have a match coming up in the single battles, I don't have time to play with the fools."

Whether he knew it or not, he fell into a trap as Nel faced away from him with a smirk of her own, "You mean the single battle competition that even Roger won?"

Albel froze before he faced another way, "The maggot cheated."

"Even so, the mere fact that Roger even won must tell you something about the competition. Is the oh-so-terrible Albel the Wicked going to stoop so low as to fight the weakest teams in the Battle Arena?"

Suddenly Nel found his good hand fisted in her shirt and her face just mere centimeters away from his. His breath was warm on her face as he growled in a low tone, "Just what are you implying, Zelpher?"

She felt her stomach lurch when he said her name and she was suddenly very aware at how close he was holding her. She struggled to maintain her smirk and looked him straight in the eye before bringing up her hand to his chest to get him off of her.

"I'm just saying, why not drop out of the final battle and help Fayt take on monsters more in your league?" That had to hit a mark, there was no way she was going to lose now.

"Bah, why should I give up my match to go help those worthless worms?" his features didn't look any less stubborn than before. She still hadn't gotten through to him. Nel let out a sigh and placed a hand on her forehead for the incoming headache. Suddenly she froze as an idea came to her, but if she used it, then she would have to hope Fayt was telling the truth. If he wasn't, then her next move would be pointless and she would look like (as Albel had said so many times) a fool.

Albel resisted the urge to back away in shock as her lips pouted and she gave him pleading eyes. What was this? Some Aquarian trick? It's bad enough that she made him want to pin her against the wall and kiss her senseless when she's angry, but this…this was worse. He suddenly felt compelled to do what ever she wanted, his hand and claw twitched slightly as he crushed down the desire to grab her and hold her to his body. He refused to cave in to this. He wasn't going to let her order him around!

"Please Albel, it would mean a lot for Fayt, not to mention the challenge you'll get from fighting the top five teams."

"F-fine, I'll do it," he blurted out before his eyes widened. That was not what he had wanted to say! Nel hid her surprise when she detected a gentle shade of red burning his cheeks. He couldn't possibly be blushing!

"Really? You'll do it?" she asked, successfully keeping her relief and excitement (from finding out she had a way to control him) out of her voice.

"Don't put too much into it, I'm not doing this for you or those maggots. …I just want to see if the worms they will be fighting are as tough as everyone says," he said quickly to cover up his sudden slip.

"Thank you, Albel."

If it were possible, Albel's cheeks would have reddened more, but he wasn't some sentimental sap like their foolish leader. He shook off her gratitude and started walking away. After a few steps, he realized that he had no clue where the maggots were. The rank battles were held in a different part of the Battle Arena, a place he'd never been, but he wasn't going to ask the Aquarian behind him. He stopped and turned around only to find that she had followed him. But that was not what made him irritated, it was because her arms were crossed and she had an all-knowing grin on her face.

"You do realize that rank battles are being held in the opposite direction?"

"Of course I do," he growled as he brushed past her to head in the correct direction. Both of them held in shivers when their arms brushed against each other. Albel took five steps before glancing back at her, "You coming?"

She was shocked out of her smug grin at his offer. His voice wasn't filled with malice, it wasn't threatening at all. It was an invitation, there was even a gentle tug at the corners of his mouth that resembled a small smile rather than a wicked grin. Suspicion quickly filled her mind. He had to be up to something! She knew she shouldn't jump to conclusions about him trying to stab her in the back. After all, they weren't enemies anymore, but old habits die hard. True, she knew he wasn't after her blood anymore, but he was still after her temper. He seemed to like angering her before battles as if it were some hobby. Well she wasn't going to make it easy for him this time.

"Why? Afraid you'll get lost?" she inquired in a sweet sounding tone, making his features harden into a scowl.

"I know my way, woman and even if I didn't, I wouldn't need your help…Are you coming or not?" He was starting to get impatient and began walking again, but at a slower pace so she could catch up if she wanted to.

"It sounds to me like you need my help," she thought as she followed after him, thinking that it was his way to cover up the fact that he was enlisting her help. She wasn't going to help him find his way unless he asked and watching him get lost was bound to be amusing. Not a word passed their lips as he effortlessly found his way to the correct stadium where the rank battles were being held.

So maybe he did know the way or it was dumb luck. Nel stared at the dark warrior's back as they traveled through the stadium to the waiting rooms. If he really didn't need her help, then why did he ask her to accompany him? He didn't like anyone's presence unless they were useful for some task. It wasn't long before they caught sight of Fayt and Cliff or rather Cliff spotted them first.

"Hey!" the Klausian shouted as he waved his arms over the crowd, "So I see the young lady has persuaded you. What? Are you wrapped around her finger now?"

"Shut up, maggot," Albel sneered as he glared daggers at him, "Hmph. Why did I bother to come here? I could just leave now and still make it to my match."

Fayt's eyes widened before he elbowed Cliff in the side, "You don't have to. He'll shut up, I promise!"


"Feh." Albel rolled his eyes and turned away, "Whatever fool. When is this thing starting anyway?"

The blue haired leader allowed a relieved smile to break out as he realized that Albel was going to stay, "In ten minutes."

Fayt mouthed 'thank you' to Nel before walking off with the others to go prepare. Nel sighed as she realized her job was done, but just as she was about to leave, Cliff stopped and looked back at her.

"Hey, Nel are you going to stay and watch? We could use a cheerleader in the stands!"

"I'm not quite sure what a 'cheerleader' is, but I guess I'll watch…it's not like I have anything better to do."

"Whoa, that response was all…Albel like," Cliff commented before Fayt hissed at him to be quiet. He didn't want Albel to get upset again. Even Nel had to admit how Albelish she had sounded just then, but couldn't help it. It was the truth, she really didn't have anything better to do. She had already competed in the single battles and fought in the team battles with Maria and Sophia. She even went with Sophia to the bunny races after that until she was bored to tears.

"What I mean to say is that I would love to go see your competition, good luck," she said quickly as Albel stared at her bemused.

"Nice try," Cliff replied with a sly smile, "But I think you've been hangin' around Albel too much that you're turning into him. …The last thing we need is another- Hey!"

Fayt quickly elbowed Cliff yet again so he wouldn't finish his sentence, "Jeez, how does Mirage put up with you?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"…Onward! Defrosted Tuna Team, please report to the arena. Once again, Onward! Defrosted Tuna Team, report to the arena. Thank you." A voice called out, making the two men cease in their argument.

"That's us," Fayt called out before running off with Cliff to the place where the voice sounded. Albel watched them go with a bored expression before he slowly moved his feet to go follow them. Suddenly, some unexplained reflex made Nel reach out to stop him.

"What do you want now?" he grumbled as he stared into her startled features. She didn't even know why she had grabbed him nor had she any idea what she wanted to say, but it didn't matter because her next action surprised them both. She jumped up to give him a quick peck on the cheek. The expression on his face was priceless when she pulled away. His eyes were wide and his mouth was partly open before a light shade of pink adorned his cheeks.

Thinking quickly, Nel tried to come up with an excuse for her actions before he was pulled out of his daze, "I-it's for good luck. Maria told me people do that to wish someone good luck."

She half expected him to blow up at her and tell her to keep her distance from him, but instead he slowly brought his fingers up to the place where her lips were. Nel backed away nervously, inching towards the exit, when his eyes focused on her again.

"I don't need luck," he muttered as he trailed after her with an unfamiliar gleam in his eyes. Nel's heart was beating frantically in her chest and her face was beet red when he towered over her body and brought his face closer to hers.

"O-of course not," she agreed as she tried to move away again, but he had wrapped his hand around her wrist to prevent her from getting far.

"Hey hotshot! It's time for battle! Get over here or we'll fight without you!" Cliff called in the background, making the Glyphian pull away, almost reluctantly. Nel's breathing returned to normal as he walked away without so much as a word or a glance towards her. Why did she do that? And why did she want to run over to him and wrap her arms around his slender frame?

Her feet began moving of their own accord towards the exit where the crowds were lining up to get into the stadium. She wandered almost in a daze as her mind tried to explain what had happened. She knew she didn't like him let alone was attracted to him in any way to want to do that…or did she? Maybe it wasn't her doing this. Cliff had been playing around with potions when they last visited her homelands so maybe he had slipped her some kind of potion that made her act strange toward the people she hated. …Wait…she didn't hate Albel, but she did dislike him, didn't she? What was there to like about him? He was rude, heartless, bloodthirsty, and had an attitude that could match Crosell's temper. He was strong and very thin, but his body was all muscle. She actually kind of liked his hair. It was long, black at the top and ended with blonde at the tips, and his two braids…she always wanted to untie those and play with the long blonde locks. And those eyes that held such a brilliant ruby color…she could get lost in those eyes…

Nel blinked. What was she thinking about? Her errant thoughts certainly were rebellious today, she could have sworn that she actually was attracted to him. When her eyes finally focused on the line, she realized that she wasn't going to get in. Apparently Onward! Defrosted Tuna Team had suddenly become the crowd favorite in the battle arena. There was barely enough seats for everyone.

"Hey Nel!" a voice near the front of the line called out. Nel soon found a girl with long blue hair and an energetic brunette trying to get her attention before yet another girl, who was shorter than the rest, ran towards her and pulled her by the arm.

"You're here to see the fight right?" Peppita asked as she pulled the Aquarian to the others, "Get in line with us otherwise you'll have to forget it!"

"Ooh, will you sit next to me miss?" Roger inquired excitedly as he suddenly appeared from behind Sophia's legs. Peppita narrowed her eyes before she grabbed the back of his shirt and pulled it over his head. The 'ladies man' had previously asked Peppita out and now had ruined his chance by trying to flirt with Nel.

"So you guys are here to see the fight too?" Nel wondered, completely ignoring the Menodix. Sophia shrugged and tossed a stray lock of her hair back.

"Yeah, it should be pretty exciting to see Fayt make it to the top."

"Plus, once they are done playing around, we can go to this Sphere Corporation and meet that Blair person Flad was talking about. …Although I guess this fight may prove useful. After all we may find some tough opponents ahead of us and this would be good training," Maria explained.

Nel only nodded before the gates opened to let the crowd in. The girls and the Menodix managed to snag good seats in the front as the lights dimmed down for the next battle. First out was the opponent Tornado before the gates opened to reveal Fayt, Cliff, and Albel.

"WOO! GO FAYT! SHOW THEM WHAT'S WHAT!" Sophia cheered joyfully, earning amused grins from Nel and Maria. Maria's gaze soon shifted from Sophia to Fayt before her smile softened and a small blush appeared on her cheeks.

"Yeah, if I were down there, then I'd really give the ladies something to scream about," Roger bragged as he examined his nails.

Peppita rolled her eyes, "Suuuuure you would! They'd be screaming 'It's a rat!' and flee for their lives!"

The battle began before Roger could make a retort and the crowd went wild as Fayt's team promptly wiped the floor with Tornado. Soon after that was Knights of the Bloody Sword. While Fayt and Cliff took care of their opponents in their own rhythmic style, all of Nel's attention was focused on Albel as he gracefully dodged all the attacks and countered attacked in several swift, deadly strikes. His fighting was like an age old dance that was horrifying yet beautiful all the same. He had the look of absolute joy in his eyes as his enemies fell by his blade, although they were only going though simulated death. He…seemed so comfortable in battle, like it was his 'happy place' as Sophia would put it. It was no wonder why he was named 'the Wicked', he was a true warrior and had no qualms about taking other people's lives, but there must be a redeeming side to him. Sure, he was only named Albel the Wicked because of the way he fought against her people. Aquarians gave him that name. But what if she were born a Glyphian and fought on their side? Would Albel still seem like a heartless, bloodthirsty monster from a Glyphian point of view?

Now that she thought about it, Albel must be loyal to his people, especially his king because if he really didn't care about them, then he'd go off and fight whomever he pleased whether they'd be Aquarian or Glyphian. After all, despite the rumors, she had never witnessed him kill his own comrades, though he did do nothing to help his subordinate, Shelby. And speaking of Shelby, right after they had defeated him, Albel had let them go, no fights, a few threats, and a lot of insults, but he really did nothing to stop them from leaving, proving that he did have a sense of honor. He also wasn't as …mindless as she had first thought. Fighting wasn't always his answer to everything, he actually did have strategies and used them often whether it was getting what he wanted to avoiding the others in odd conversations to taking out as few people as possible in small border clashes between the two kingdoms. And of course, from stories she had heard of Glou Nox, it would be logical for someone like Albel to be searching for fights just to get stronger. He's now living for his father because Glou sacrificed his life for him.

Thinking this way did make a lot of sense to her now because before, she couldn't figure out for the life of her how the people of Airyglyph could speak so highly of him when he would only sneer at them for being weaklings. She was so mesmerized by the way he fought and her new realizations that she hadn't noticed that they had long since defeated Knights of the Bloody Sword and had just now conquered Knights of the Sacred Beasts. Their next challenge, the team known as Demon Lords, was being summoned as Fayt and Cliff absorbed the cheers of the crowds. Albel only cast dull eyes over the screaming fans until they landed upon Nel. Suddenly he had that look he had while he was in battle, but it was slightly different from before. A slow wicked grin appeared on his lips when their eyes locked on to each other. They only stared at each other until the Demon Lords made their flamboyant entrance into the arena and began the battle.

Nel's heart was pounding wildly in her chest for no reason at all when eye contact was broken. He was staring at her so intensely with a predatory look in his eye that she could have sworn he was going to run over and tackle her in front of everyone. She should have felt disgusted or angry at how he was staring at her, but instead felt …she didn't even know how she felt. Her own heartbeat was loud enough to drown the sounds around her, her limbs felt numb, she felt lightheaded, the air around her seemed hotter, and her insides felt as heavy as lead. Was this…fear? Was she afraid of Albel? No, she had felt fear before during points in her life on the battlefield, this was different. She had never felt like this before…

"Nel are you okay?" a gentle voice asked as a cool hand pressed up against her forehead, "You don't look so good…and your face is all red."

"No it's…all red and beautiful…and it's not a skirt," she replied dreamily in a rather disoriented way

Sophia slowly pulled her hand away gave the Crimson Blade an unsure look, "…Uh yeah…I hate it when that happens?"

The Aquarian jolted as if she had awakened and found that she couldn't see straight. She had to spend a few minutes trying to blink the stars out of her eyes before her body seemed to go back to normal. What was that? Was she ill? She was soon aware of the worried glances her friends were casting at her and quickly told them that she was okay and didn't need anyone to escort her to her room. Once the others were satisfied, she moved her attention back to the fight and found that they were fighting someone else. …The Dragoon Knights? What happened to Demon Lords? How long was she out of it?

They were all slightly injured from the previous battle and it didn't seem like they were going to cure themselves anytime soon. Cliff continued to pound his way through while Fayt or Albel stopped to cast a spell every now and then. They seemed to be doing well until Fayt prepared to cast a spell and one of the enemies started charging straight for him. Suddenly Albel was there to take the blow for him while driving his katana into the knight's exposed neck. There was now a gash in Albel's side that was bleeding heavily, but before Fayt could cast a healing spell on him, he quickly grabbed some berries out of his item bag. That was enough to allow him to continue, but not heal him completely. It was a rather peculiar trait of his, he never wanted anyone to cure him, unless it was Nel, but she always figured it was because she'd always insist on curing him to the point where he would give up and allow it.

Even now Fayt's words echoed though her mind, "He's head over heels, madly in love with you!" When she had first heard it, she didn't believe it. She didn't want to believe it. It was impossible to believe that the captain of the Black Brigade could even hold such feelings, but now…it was still impossible to believe it and yet she wished it were true. Albel wouldn't be capable of romance. He wouldn't do anything nice for anyone he liked, like give them flowers or take them on romantic dates. It was evident, however, that he was capable of passion from how he had looked at her moments ago. She could see him being possessive and protective over someone. If he did held feelings for her, she would expect passionate and private kisses and hot nights in bed, but no gentle caressing or him telling her that he loved her. In a way, Nel could get used to that, she was never one for sappy romances either.

Before another thought could cross her mind, Onward! Defrosted Tuna Team was victorious over the Dragoon Knights, making them the number one team in the rank battle competition. But before they could get out of the arena, the host suddenly announced that they had received a challenge from the retired champions of the arena. All the fans were in for a surprise when the host, Dima Hamilton herself came out along with the commenter Solon Solute. When the battle began, the two certainly proved that they were strong, but it didn't seem fair that they challenged Fayt and the others without letting them tend to their injuries first. Still Onward! Defrosted Tuna Team came out victorious and Nel soon found herself back in the waiting room congratulating Cliff and Fayt on their victory. She would have congratulated Albel as well but he was no where to be seen. Then again, with the way she had been reacting to Albel, she didn't think she could look him in the eye, let alone speak with him. But still, where could he have gone? No one had seen him leave the arena and she definitely wasn't going to ask Fayt or Cliff.

Eventually, Fayt pulled her away from the others to inform her of the man she couldn't get out of her thoughts, "Um, I'm sure you saw the wound that was inflicted upon Albel, right?"

"Yeah. Is he okay?" she asked, hoping she didn't sound too concerned. It's not like a mere flesh wound could bring him down…but he was bleeding heavily from it…and it could get infected…

"Well, he acts like he's okay, but I heard that one of the Dragoon Knights had a poison coated sword and well…It's nothing that an aquaberry or an antidote spell couldn't fix, but you know how he is."

"Hmm, I see…where can I find him?" Not that she was too worried about him of course, she just needed to make sure that Albel was going to live to fight another day.

"He's in there." He jabbed his thumb at a door behind him. Nel nodded and proceeded to head towards the door, but when she looked back to see if Fayt was following her, she found that he had disappeared.

She was hoping to have someone come with her because she wasn't too keen on the idea of going to see Albel alone. Not after how he'd been acting lately. Still she urged her body forward when the metal door hissed open and searched for him. She may have not wanted to see him any time soon, but something was making her care about his well being. What was it? Could it be that she was madly in love with him too? The thought made her freeze in place. No it couldn't be that, Albel was her comrade, she has to care about him just like she cares about everyone else. Never mind the fact that they used to be enemies.

There didn't seem to be anyone around as she slowly walked around the wall of small metal doors and around the wooden benches. What was this place anyway? There was a sign on the front door, but she didn't understand what it meant. It had said 'Men's Locker Room'. She understood 'room' and 'men's' but what were 'lockers'? Suddenly she heard water being shut off and a tall sender figure appeared from the mist that was billowing out of another room adjacent to one she was currently in. Standing before her, clad in only a towel was Albel. She trained her eyes on the large gash across his side to prevent her gaze from exploring the trim muscles of his abdomen or his bare chest.

The injury in question was cleaned and seemed to have stopped bleeding, but the skin around it was starting to turn green. Nel shook her head slowly, despite the situation. Albel continued to head toward one of the benches while keeping his eyes on her. He didn't say anything, not even a 'What are you doing here, Zelpher?' or the usual 'I don't need your help, leave me alone' speech he always started with when he needed healing. His expression didn't show anger, disgust, or the rare amused look he made when getting a rise out of her, it was just neutral, but his eyes did appear to be deep in thought. Nel crossed her arms and shifted her weight to the other leg. She was used to silence from this man during the journey, but now she felt like she was going to go crazy under the heavy pressure it was creating.

"…So I see you got hurt," she eventually said just to break the silence. Albel didn't respond, leaving her to think that he hadn't heard her, but when she opened her mouth to repeat herself, he cut her off with, "Are you going to cure me or just stare at me all day?"

"What? Not going to put up a fight this time?" she inquired to cover her surprise.

This time he let out a dark chuckle as he carefully sat down on a nearby bench, "I guess not."

The tone of his voice was unsettling and every instinct told her to run away and yet something inside her felt excited as her body began to heat up. She cautiously approached him. Nel circled the bench and sat down next to him so she was facing him. Albel didn't make any sudden moves as she raised her hand above the gaping wound and summoned her runological powers to first purify the poison and then close the gash. Once the gentle light green symbols disappeared into the newly formed skin, her hand continued to hover over the area. Perhaps she was waiting for him to mutter a thanks and then tell her to leave, because she didn't know why she hadn't pulled away yet. How soft was his skin anyway? Her sudden curiosity got the better of her as her fingers inched closer to his body…

Nel nearly jumped out of her own skin in shock when Albel's good hand grabbed her wrist. It took all her years of training not react as he held her hand before him like he was inspecting her hand. She forced herself to look away when she felt her face heat up and when her heart began pounding in her chest. What was he doing? And why hasn't she pulled away yet? Why was her body reacting to him like this? She stifled a gasp when she felt something cold pressing up against her palm and glanced back to find him tracing the contours of her palm with his left hand. It was then that she noticed he wasn't wearing his claw.

So this was what's left of Albel the Wicked's arm, a finely crafted metal arm that works like a real one. She watched in awe as he continued to trace her hand like a little child trying to figure out where the magic came from. She had never seen him without his claw before, it almost seemed like a privilege to see him without it.

"Why did you do it?" he suddenly asked, startling her out of her thoughts. Her brow furrowed slightly. Was he talking about his cut she just healed?

"What do you mean? I had to do something otherwise you would have died from-"

"Not that," he snapped, "Why did you kiss me?"

All the words died on her tongue. How was she supposed to answer that? She didn't even know why she had kissed him and it was obvious that he wasn't going to believe the 'good luck' excuse. Nel took a deep breath and tried to get the air back into her lungs since it had been knocked out of her only seconds ago. The only thing she could do was tell the truth, but something told her that he wouldn't believe that either.

"I-I don't know. It just …happened…almost like it was the right thing to do," she finished quietly. Time seemed to stop as she waited for his response, but she never did get one. Just as she turned to look at him, his left hand took her wrist and pulled her closer to him. He then brushed his right hand across her stomach and rested it at the swell of her hip as he leaned his face over hers.

"Don't know, eh? Then I guess you won't know how to react to this," he muttered near her lips, his hot breath sending shivers down her spine. She could easily feel the heat radiating off of his body even before when she was approaching him earlier. How did she get into such a situation? Before today, she never thought twice about Albel save for the times she felt the need to reprimand him for his rude behavior to others. Now she was struggling to make sense of her feelings for him while being trapped in his arms and with his lips hovering over hers. And, of course, she couldn't forget that he was pretty much naked except for that blasted towel that seemed to be dipping lower and lower off of his waist! She knew that her face must be completely red by now and that Albel could clearly see it, but didn't care as she felt the urge to press her body against his and…

"Hey, is everything all right in there?" a voice called out from the front entrance. Nel glanced at the wall of lockers that separated them from the intruder's vision. She wasn't sure if she was relieved that Fayt decided to check up on them or completely frustrated that Albel would have to pull away. Suddenly she could hear footsteps coming closer to them and noticed that Albel wasn't going to move. She tried to push him off her, but he smirked and refused to budge.

"Uh, yeah! Everything is fine! We'll be out in a few minutes," she called out, not feeling one bit guilty about shouting in his face. He was the one who refused to move. The approaching footsteps ceased and then started walking away.

"Okay, I just came in to let you know that Dima and Solon are throwing a banquet for us in the hotel lobby." Fayt's voice started fading away as he went past the doorway, "I'll wait for you guys."

When they heard the door close, Nel focused her attention back to Albel. Her mind blanked out and her eyes rolled to the back of her head when he quickly captured her lips in a searing kiss that sent little shockwaves through her body. Albel pulled away before she could respond to it. He then proceeded to let go of her and stood up to go retrieve his clothes. She was too stunned to move, but her eyes managed to follow his every move and watched every muscle flex as his hands began removing the towel. Suddenly she was aware that he was going to get dressed in front if her without caring if she was there or not. Despite how hard it was tearing her eyes away from him, she stood up and began heading towards the exit to give him some privacy.

Before she could disappear from his sight, he had one more thing to tell her, "I want to talk to you later…alone."

She didn't give any confirmation that she heard him as she rushed out of the locker room and passed Fayt who was leaning against a nearby wall. The blue haired boy could only watch as the Elicoorian nearly ran out the door, offering no explanation to her sudden departure. Nel kept moving forward when she reached the hotel, pausing once at the archway that led to the hotel's lobby. She briefly thought about going, but then decided that she needed some time alone to sort out her thoughts. Plus, seeing Albel there really wouldn't help her troubled mind. Nel had planned on going to her room and locking the door so she could avoid everyone for the rest of the night, but it seemed that someone had other plans for her. Standing at her door, effectively blocking her way was Cliff.

"Where do you think you're going? The party is downstairs," Cliff asked playfully as he leaned forward to smile at her.

"I'm not feeling to well, I just want to go to sleep early," she replied bluntly, not wanting to play around.

"Sure you are," Cliff crossed his arms and tilted his head to the side to give her his 'I don't believe you' stare, "Come on, don't be a party pooper! Everyone's going to be there and will be upset that you're not there …Albel's going to be there."

"Albel is the reason why I don't want to go you oaf!" Nel scowled slightly before letting out a long sigh, "Please…I'm not in the mood to talk or yell at anyone. Just let me though."

"But…it's to celebrate Onward! Defrosted Tuna Team's victory. Fayt's gonna cry when he finds that the woman he thinks of as his big sister isn't coming. Please Nel? …Don't make me beg!"

The Crimson Blade rolled her eyes at Cliff's act and crossed her arms when he gave up in favor of chuckling over his joke. She knew that Fayt thought of her as his sister just as much as Roger thought of her as his mother. It was a blatant lie that definitely wasn't going to put her though a guilt trip. Suddenly she began to suspect Cliff was up to something. Why would he care if she went to the party or not?

"Why do you want me to go so badly?"

His expression quickly changed into a sly one as he glanced at her through half-lidded eyes, "I have a hunch that you are avoiding a certain someone…a certain 'blonde' you could say."

Nel was well aware that Cliff had an ego that could match Albel's arrogance, but did he really think that she may have feelings for him? Either this was another one of his 'jokes' or she had a big misunderstanding on her hands. She decided that he was joking and gave him a blank stare, "I'm not avoiding you."

Cliff coughed in surprise before he began to laugh and raise his hands up in defense, "I didn't mean me! I was talking about another blonde…and technically he's not a full blonde."

Almost immediately, a mental image of Albel's hair wraps and the blonde ends filled her mind. So he knew about what was happening between her and Albel. What was he hoping to accomplish by making her go to the party? She gave him a heated glare and stormed over to her door while hoping that he would move out of the way, but he stood firm ground. Cliff raised an eyebrow and looked at her expectantly, practically demanding her to surrender.

"You're not going to rest until I go, is that it?" she muttered dejectedly as a wide grin spread across his face.

"You betcha!"

Nel felt like screaming at this point but instead let out a quiet growl as she asked, "Why?"

"I want to see you and hotshot make fools of yourselves," the Klausian answered with a casual shrug.

"You despicable-!"

"Now, now, no need to thank me," he interjected, "You know, I'm pretty good at helping others with their problems. Mirage said so herself!"

"I know this may be shocking to you, but I think you're full of hot air," Nel grumbled as Cliff brought his hand up to her upper back and gave her a slight push towards the lobby.

"No really! Mirage said that 'I'm always sticking my nose into other people's business without thinking of the consequences'. In other words: a problem solver!"

"More like a 'troublemaker' if you ask me."

"Well I didn't ask you," he said in a mocking tone, "You, Fayt, and Albel are pretty rude, you know that right?"

"I'll keep that in mind…"

The minute they entered the lobby, Nel instantly spotted Albel and went into panic mode when his crimson orbs locked onto her. She quickly turned around to leave, but Cliff blocked her way with his arm and forced her to move forward, "Leaving so soon?"

She forgot about her anger towards Cliff when Albel started heading their way. She tried thinking of any excuse that could get her out of the mess she was in.

"I, uh…have a run in my stockings," she took another glance at Albel, "…I-it's very hard to master, bye!"

"I'll pretend to understand what that means for now, but," the large man made a coughing sound that sounded suspiciously like a laugh, "…you're not going anywhere!"

He prevented her from leaving once again when she made another attempt and enjoyed the absolute fury she held in her eyes for him. No wonder Albel has so much fun teasing her! It was fun!

"By the way, do you know what porno is?" Nel's anger quickly changed into confusion. She had never heard of such a word before, but she was certain that it was bad.

"No?" he guessed from the look on her face, "Well that's not important, you'll know soon enough. I've been letting him read my magazines…just thought I should give you the heads up…"

She wasn't sure if this was supposed to be good news or bad news, but didn't really want to find out. They both watched as Albel continued to gracefully navigate through the crowds to reach them. Nel was getting more and more nervous the by minute as he drew closer. By the time he was 5 yards away, she spied the girls taking to each other out of the corner of her eye and came up with an idea.

"Oh, I hear Maria calling! Coming!" she called out before bolting to her unexpected saviors. She was relieved that Cliff didn't try to stop her (probably because he wasn't expecting it) and immediately sought sanctuary within the group.

The party was rather uneventful as Nel made sure she had either Sophia, Maria, or both around her at all times. Albel did make a few attempts to get her alone, but she'd counter it by asking one of the girls how to use, or what is the purpose of any random object they came across. Sophia and Peppita answered all of her questions enthusiastically, but Maria kept casting concerned looks at her. She knew there was something going on, but didn't bother prying because she knew if there was something wrong, then Nel would tell someone about it. The party ended in the late hours of the night and Nel was relieved to find that Albel had long since given up and left the room.

Fayt had announced that they were going to the Sphere Corporation tomorrow and ordered everyone to get some sleep and to be ready by late morning to head out. Nel felt that she would have no trouble complying with the orders because her mind and body felt drained of all energy, she was ready to sleep. But to get to her room, she had to pass by Albel's room. True, the Glyphian was no spy, but she wouldn't put it past him to be able to recognize the sound of her footsteps as she crept down the hallway. With her eyes trained on his door, she slowly made her way down the hall, ready to run if the door should suddenly open.

This was getting ridiculous if she had to go to such extremes to avoid him. Thankfully they were leaving tomorrow and both warriors shouldn't have time to even think about the events of today, they would be too tired or exhausted to care about each other when the journey started up again. The Aquarian sighed as she leaned against the wall next to the door to her room. Should she really let it drop like this? She knew that they would have to talk sooner or later, but what if she couldn't wait? Albel may have affected her to the point where she wouldn't be able to concentrate in battle. She needed to know what these feelings were. She wanted to know why she couldn't stop thinking about him. She …wanted to kiss him again… Oh Apris, she could still feel her lips tingling from the kiss!

There was no point in denying it anymore. She did feel something for him. …But…of all people to fall for did it have to be that egotistical, arrogant, rude, bloodthirsty…impossibly sexy, and incredibly strong Glyphian? She really had it bad for Albel. Now the question was, did he really like her, or was he teasing her like he always does? She may have been a plaything to him all this time…

Perhaps this wasn't the time to be thinking about it. It should wait until everything has settled…that is if the situation can be settled. With a sigh, Nel pushed herself off of the wall and headed into her room. She was suddenly met with darkness when her door closed. Strange, she could have sworn she had left the lights on when she left. She carefully navigated her way to the nearest light switch and bit back a startled cry when the lights came on. Albel was standing right in front of her with a grin that could be described as either playful or wicked.

"What are-" was all she could get out before he pinned her to the wall. She watched with bated breath as he stared down at her. His eyes held a mixture of several different emotions, making him look confused and lost. That was how she was feeling earlier. Did that mean…?

"By any chance…have you been feeling strange? Like becoming lightheaded, can't see straight, and losing feeling in your limbs?" His eyes widened slightly, but he made no sound or indication of an answer. That look did bring a sense of relief to her, it meant that they both had the same thing, "I think I might know what's wrong…"

"I know what it is…" he said gruffly as his features contorted in slight anger, "What I don't understand is why. Of all the weakling maggots known as the fairer sex, I knew that none of them would ever catch my eye. I wasn't going to waste time constantly protecting those pathetic worms! …And then you appeared, a lowlife Aquarian scum no less."

Nel matched his furious gaze and prepared to tell him off, but he wasn't done yet, "In one single battle you managed to destroy three of my units, you helped defeat my second in command, you made me feel weak! I should despise you like all the other Aquarian trash!"

"I should be the one asking how in world I ever fell for a man like you!" she retorted, angry that he was insulting her people. She had wanted to call him a monster. That was how she used to view him as. But now she couldn't bring herself to say it because somewhere during the journey that 'monster' slowly melted away into a human being …with a monstrous personality.

"Why can't you be like the other Aquarian scum…like those other women?" His voice lost its hard edge as he turned his head to glare at the wall behind her.

"You can despise me all you want, I don't see anything that could stop you," she replied softly.

"But I can't…you're the only one who understands, you're the only woman who ever saw me as a person and not a beast. …Argh! Damn you, Nel! …You've reduced me to a pathetic maggot."

She couldn't hold back the small chuckle and earned a glare from the man towering over her, "You don't seem that pathetic to me. Considering what you been through, I'm amazed to see how far you've gotten all by yourself. …If Clair hadn't been there when my father disappeared I wouldn't know what would have happened to me… I probably wouldn't be here now, I have thought of killing myself several times before Clair convinced me that I'm not alone. You're stronger than you think, and you need to realize that emotions other than rage don't make you weak."

Albel just stood there, taking in her words silently. He almost looked like he wanted to roll his eyes when he shifted to rest his forehead against hers. Nel suddenly realized that his hands had moved from her shoulders down to her waist during the conversation and that her hands were now resting on his upper arms. She didn't feel nervous in his embrace anymore, she was quiet comfortable. …That is until she noticed the heat coming off of his body and was suddenly aware of his scent. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't smell of dried blood and rotting flesh, he smelled of Glyphian spices and sandal wood.

"Hmph…whatever. At least you make sense. That fool only goes on about 'emotional and psychological disorders' or some senseless drivel." Nel wanted to say something, but instead moaned when she felt his good hand trail down her outer thigh. His expression quickly changed back to the playful one from before. He was thrilled to know how responsive she was to his touch. He then leaned down and brushed his lips against hers in a kiss that was gentler than the first and just like the first one, it was intended to be quick, but Nel protested when he began moving away and wrapped her arms around his neck to keep him still.

Albel had been holding back up to this point, but it was all shattered to pieces by her actions as he pressed her against the wall and forced her mouth open with his tongue. He immediately explored her mouth, searching for her tongue as she ran her fingers though his two toned locks. She smirked inwardly as she avoided his tongue until he finally found it and brought his right hand up to fist in her hair so he could deepen the kiss. They broke away minutes later, both breathless from the lack of air. The kiss was electrifying, it left her wanting more… Albel eagerly complied with her unspoken request and slowly moved their bodies away from the wall. In the back of her mind, she registered that he was leading her towards her bed and briefly wondered if she should stop him before it went too far.

Without warning, he tore his mouth away from hers and trailed kisses down her jaw line until he reached her neck. She knew she was gone when he placed his knee between her legs and cupped a breast with his good hand while his claw kept her body firmly against his. After that, he placed one more kiss on her lips and then pushed her unto the bed. The impact didn't harm her, but she had to regain her senses before she was able to sit up. Nel glanced up at his flushed features in confusion before he turned away from her.

"Albel?" Why did he stop? Wasn't he about to…? She couldn't finish that thought without blushing heavily.

"Keep your distance from me," he growled in a deep tone.

"W-What?" She felt her heart stop when his words registered. Did she do something wrong?

"We're going into enemy territory tomorrow to most likely fight the person who apparently 'created' us. We can't afford to start something like this, it would only affect our fighting. …That's what I wanted to talk to you about…before you so thoroughly distracted me."

"Are you saying this is my fault?" she sneered as anger welled within her, "You're the one who started it."

"I didn't say it was your fault now did I?" he said coolly as he glanced back at her from the corner of his eye, "But you did start this the second you kissed me back in the waiting rooms."

Oh how this man could infuriate her! She almost wanted to get up and hurt him, but then realized that he was right. …Well, right about the first part, she still thought this was his fault.

"It's a little too late to be telling me this, I doubt I will be able to forget what just happened."

"I don't want you forget, I want you to focus on your fighting so you'll stay alive. I have felt this way for you for quite some time and I had to meditate to keep it down. …You easily broke through that and now I will have to try harder to suppress it. …But I really don't blame you, I blame myself. I shouldn't have come here…" He started walking away as Nel lowered her gaze to the floor. She was thankful that he did decide to stop because even though their countries were going through a truce, something like this wasn't allowed. She could only imagine how disappointed the queen and Clair would be if they were to find out. She was very close to allowing Albel the Wicked to take her. But despite her thinking, Albel had one more thing to say to her as he stopped at her door and stared at her with a feral gleam in his eyes.

"Zelpher," he practically purred as a smirk graced his lips, "When all of this is over, you might want to watch yourself."

"What do you mean by that?" she inquired as she wondered what made him so amused all of a sudden.

"…Because I am going to hunt you down and make you mine…Don't bother telling me that it's forbidden, I will find a way whether our kingdoms like it or not," he replied, making his prey unconsciously shudder in delight at the tone of his voice.

…You know somehow I can sense that you think this ended to soon…Well guess what? This is a one-shot with two parts! The next part will be posted either before or after the update to Aquios High. Once again I want to thank Lorelai Kline for helping out with this fic and for creating Fluffy the fluffball because now Prissy has a friend that truly understands her. If you want to learn more about Fluffy, check out Lor's fic 'Blind to Heaven' (It's an Alnel!). C ya next chapter!