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

Description: One's the owner of a lonely heart and the other harbors thoughts of revenge. Can a gentle touch soften the hardest of souls? Or will innocence die in an attempt to save a demon?

Notes: Here's what happens when two authoresses get together – one on a sugar high and the other on a coffee high. Thanks to everyone on the forum who said they were interested in this… we aim to please (but if not then you have two of us you can blame :D) This is the combined efforts of Dragon Chyld and her editor.

Blue Persuasion: I'm not your editor. Really, just look at my fics. There're errors throughout all of them. Well, besides the ones that were pointed out to me and I fixed. It's not editing – it's proof reading. Proof that you only need half a brain to read XD

Dragon Chyld: -ignores Blue- Well, as stated in the forums, here's a…what's it called?

Blue: Wait, you mean you're going to post this and don't even know what it's called?

Dragon: Yup, why not? You did the same thing with your first Clirage fic didn't you?

Blue: Well, yeah. Guilty as charged. Let's just go with Luphia. Maybe Sother. Um, neither hit me as right. O.o

Dragon: Whatever it is, here's our attempt at a Luther/Sophia story.

Blue: Just don't bail on me like my last 'partner in crime' –grumble- I really need to try and finish that fic.

Dragon: … Good luck with that – my humor attempts suck.

Blue: Yeah well, back to the fic at hand. All the good parts were my idea –laughs while pointing a finger at Dragon-

Dragon: Ha, Ha, funny…

Blue: I thought so. Besides, you always stick to the same disclaimer - you need to mix it up a bit.

Dragon: Ignore her and just read if you're still interested.

Blue: -mumbling under her breath- I'll get you Disclaimer and your little colon too!

Tender Kisses on a Blackened Heart

Chapter 1: Blue Ribbon

Sophia sat perfectly still and surveyed the group that had gathered at the tavern in Arias. They had reached their year anniversary and it was sweetly nostalgic to have everyone back together again.

Adray sat in the corner with Clair. He told his endless stories about all the things he had done that were not accomplishable by most human standards – yet he didn't come across as boastful or egotistical. Clair kept him off the topic of her lacking love life with a nice painful jab in the side every time he brought up the subject.

Cliff and Mirage were married. They had gone their separate ways a year ago, but they weren't apart more then two months before Cliff was back on Klaus. A week later they were married and her father was overjoyed.

Albel and Nel were only waiting on more things to be settled in the peace treaties before extending their 'non-existent' – as they claimed – relationship. It was obvious to everyone that there was something between them. They still argued just as much as before but there was something there even if it was only a deepened respect. No one seemed to be able to define it and no one was brave enough to ask. The last thing any of them wanted was Albel AND Nel after them.

Fayt and Maria had gotten into a serious relationship shortly after Luther was defeated. At first, Sophia didn't like Maria and her attitude, but Fayt saw to it that the two would not be bitter enemies. After some time of getting to know the real Maria, Sophia found a friend and someone she hoped would be a good choice for her best friend.

No one even tried to analyze Peppita and Roger. The two had a strange relationship or friendship – no one knew what exactly it was. But they were both happy and that's all that mattered to Sophia.

In fact, it would seem that everyone paired off. Everyone with the exception of herself and Adray. And there wasn't any chance of anything happening there. Adray treated Sophia like a daughter, as he did Nel, Maria, and Peppita. This was a fact she was happy with. Her romantic endeavors didn't involve him or anyone else in the tavern. In fact, she had no romantic endeavors and she was starting to feel the weight of being on her own.

As her vision drifted among 'the crew' she couldn't help but to feel the same deep seated loneliness she had been dealing with for the past year. She didn't cry – she had used up those tears a long time ago. She simply smiled sincerely with a true happiness for her friends. But her happiness came hand in hand with her loneliness. The others were so wrapped up in discussing their relationships – or lack there of if you were two certain Elicoorians - for her to have a part in the discussions. She felt like the spare wheel.

She touched Fayt gently on his shoulder to get his attention. "I'm going for a walk. I guess I'll meet up with you guys tomorrow."

"Okay, Sophia. Is anything wrong?"

"Um, no, not really. I'm just…well…"

Fayt saw the message in her eyes. "Oh, I understand. I hate to see you go, but we'll be here for a whole month. Maybe sometime tomorrow you can come to the workshop with me?"

"Yeah, it would be good for him," Maria said looking at the brunette. "He needs the company. Believe it or not, I think he misses everyone and you mostly since you two grew up together."

Sophia smiled. "That sounds like fun. Well then, I will see you tomorrow."

She left the tavern without bothering the others. She didn't worry whether they noticed her leave or not, it wasn't important. She stopped at the edge of the village and gazed over the landscape she hadn't seen for a year. Not much had changed on Elicoor. Arias was rebuilt but everything else was the same.

The monsters roaming the areas were still being infected by the Vile Wind. Every now and then a story would circulate about a person being infected, but there was no solid proof to this. Sophia closed her eyes briefly. There was somewhere she wanted to go and she had to walk through the Aire Hills to get there. She didn't want the others aware of her motives. She couldn't explain her reasoning to herself, but she didn't feel like fighting it either. So that meant the burden fell on her to handle and the trip though the hills was for her to face alone.

She fought back the urge to turn around and give up as she stepped out of the village. She treaded carefully and avoided any fights she could. Sure she had kept her skills up during the year, but the 'final fight' had left her with no will to kill anything ever again.

She was in luck. The hills were nearly vacant thanks to the efforts of both kingdoms. It would seem that their forces were used to fight off a growing monster population rather than fighting each other. Still, no matter how many beast they slay, the land didn't go long before more took over. It was like an endless battle.

When she reached her destination, she noticed the portal had been blocked off. She couldn't blame them for blocking it off. The people of Elicoor treasured their privacy and didn't want to risk anyone coming and going so freely. She was also sure that children would be curious and parents frantic that their little ones would visit 4D space.

She circled the large boulder which had been rolled over the entrance. The rock covered it completely. She let out a tired sigh of frustration as she leaned on the boulder. It was probably for the best that she didn't go back to 4D space. She had wanted to check up on Blair, but her plans were halted.

The Federation had destroyed the original portal on Styx. The one on Vanguard III was demolished by an earthquake (that luckily missed Whipple). Sophia wasn't surprised to see this one rendered useless. The only one left was the one at the ruins, but she was sure that one had been taken care of also.

She lifted herself from the hard surface and patted it a few times. "Guess that visit is out of the question." No sooner had the words left her when her hand became surrounded by a circle of symbols. She knew the feeling as the same she had felt a year ago on Styx and at the entrance of Firewall. She tried to pull away, but an unseen force kept her in place. A small pain infested her hand to match the headache of using her Connection power. The symbols dance circles around her hand. Her eyes transfixed on them with eerie curiosity.

The symbols left the air around her hand and embedded themselves in the rock. The perfect circle of symbols pulsed with a faint light before dulling.

She stood unflinching for a minute before pulling her hand back. The same pattern that had once surrounded her hand was branded into the surface of the boulder. Even through the solid barrier, she was still able to make contact with the portal to 4D space. Or more appropriately, she made a connection.

She studied the pattern before drawing enough courage to touch the circle. As soon as her fingers came in contact with the circle's center the symbols lit up in a radiant blue. Still embedded in the rock, they rotated. Sophia let out a small gasp when she realized that it was like a door and she had just provided the key for entry.

In the blink of an eye, the rock was gone and replaced with a flat wooden surface. Sophia pulled her hand back and surveyed her new surroundings. She was no longer on Elicoor. She was in Gemity and standing beside the costume shop. The symbols were present in the shops side wall. She was fairly certain she could go back to Elicoor if she wanted to.

But there was no need to rush. She had wanted to visit Blair and now she had her chance.

As she rounded the corner of the building, the first thing Sophia noticed was that the crowd was unbelievably large. Every time she thought back, she was sure there had never been so many people in this one spot before. There were literally too many people for her to get around to even see the transporter to Sphere.

She stood up on her tippy toes and rocked from side to side in a futile effort to see over the crowd. She really hated being so short sometimes. She was just about to try and push her way through the crowd when a hand stopped her.

"There you are. Wow that is a great costume!"

Sophia gave the man who had grabbed her a confused look before looking down at her cloths. Because it was their year anniversary, the whole crew had decided to dress the same way they had a year ago. "I'm sorry…"

"Oh, yeah. They're starting the competition shortly. I'm going to definitely put my money on you. You really look just like her." He held up a small sheet of paper with the number 13 printed on it. "Here, you dropped this. I'm glad I found you in time."

He reached over and tacked the number to her shirt just below her left shoulder. "There, now we're all set. Come on, you don't want to be late."

Before she could protest, she found herself being pulled through the crowd. Trying not to trip, she noticed that the man dragging her was dress fully in black with bold white letters across the back of his shirt stating he was a 'CONEST OFFICAL'. Her eyes darted around. She was able to spot other's wearing similar outfits, each labeled with words like: JUDGE, SECURITY, and STAFF.

When the man finally stopped she was thankful. Her arm was starting to hurt from his grasp. He opened a door and shooed her in. Things were happening so fast, Sophia felt it was better to do as instructed and forget about Blair for the moment. She watched as he closed the door behind her unsure as to what to do next.

When she finally looked around the room she was awestruck with amazement. She was in a large room full of chairs and couches. The room was packed full of people. Some were seated and others standing. The part that rendered her speechless was the fact that all of them were dressed like her or her friends. The costumes of all the people she had fought alone side with ranged from almost exact look-a-likes to obvious fakes.

They were all there. Fayt, Maria, Nel, Albel, Adray, Roger, Peppita, Cliff, Mirage, herself and even Luther. She paused. So many people were dress like 'the crew' but that didn't explain all the Luthers that were in the room. She shivered slightly but was brought abruptly out of her daze when one of her own look-a-likes passed by.

"Humph, not even close."

The voice drew her attention to her left. One of the Luthers stood beside her and was watching the Sophia that had just walked by. His gaze turned and caught her stare. He gave her a quirky smirk before stalking off.

"Attention all contestants," the announcement came from over head. "The contest is about to begin. Can we have all our Peppitas gather at the front exit? Thank you."

She shivered again before finding her mobility. It was like she had entered a surreal universe and she wasn't sure what to make of the whole ordeal. First, she needed an answer – a reason behind the scene she was faced with. Glancing around, she decided to try the closest person.

Sophia shuffled the short distance required and cleared her throat. In front of her was a 'Cliff' and she felt awkward just looking at him. The outfit was dead on, but his face wasn't square enough to be the real Cliff. "Excuse me, sir. What's going on?"

He turned and looked her up and down. Not the real Cliff but so far he was 'in character'. "Not bad babe. That outfit must have cost a fortune. Wow, you might just get first prize for Sophia."

"Um, thanks," she replied bowing slightly as she backed away. She felt herself start to panic.

Sophia decided against further questions and wandered about a bit. The announcement had called all Rogers and she was beginning to get a fairly good idea on what was going on. Her suspicions were confirmed when she spotted a poster on the wall.

Sphere would like to announce its first annual Eternal Sphere Convention

Come and reminisce with us. Observe the Milky Way in this once in a life time event.

Activities for all ages

Sign up for the Competition of Heroes – dress as your favorite character for a chance to win a trip to the Eternal Sphere itself!

Disclaimer: Winners will be allowed only one trip limited to two nights and three days in the Milky Way. Log on to Sphere Co. for more information

It would be the day she decided to visit that there would be a convention. At least she understood why all the 'cones' were gathered in one room. Somehow she had been confused for a contestant.

She had been lost in thought as the Cliffs, Mirages, Albels, Nels, Adrays, and Marias were called. When she heard her name she nearly jumped before realizing it was just the next announcement. She glanced around the room as she treaded toward the door. The only ones left were the Fayts, the Luthers, and the winners of the previous rounds.

She sighed amusingly as she left the room. She didn't know whether to be flattered or offended, but either way it was oddly amusing.

Once she was on stage, she did as instructed. She walked, smiled and posed with her staff. She had long forgotten the neglect she had felt earlier when surrounded by her 'real' friends. She was having fun and found herself secretly cringe every time they announced for another Sophia to leave the stage. For some reason she wanted to win. It was almost a matter of pride. Why shouldn't she win? She was, after all, the real Sophia.

It came down to the final three. Sophia stood in the middle and glanced at the other girls. It was like looking in a mirror, with a few exceptions. The girl on her right was half an inch too tall. She stood twirling her hair and chewing gum. The girl on her left was half an inch too short and just smiled while holding her hands behind her back. Both looked like a couple of idiots.

"We will now announce our winner."

The sound of the host caused Sophia's gut to drop. She forgot about the two other girls and grew nervous. She knotted her hands in front of her and looked blankly at the floor. The host glanced at the card the judges had given him before walking behind the trio. He hovered right behind Sophia, causing her heart to race.

He placed his hand on her shoulder and nudged her forward a bit. "You're it girl," he whispered.

She heard the other two girls grunt as she stepped forward. She smiled half unbelieving she had won. But then the whole silliness of the situation hit her and she giggled.

"Great act," the host said as he pinned the blue ribbon on her. "That's what won it for you. None of the others quite had the right personality. Now, just go back the way you came and someone will be there when it's all over to tell you what to do next."

Back in the room, she seated herself in one of the chairs and watched all the Fayts leave. Now the room was nearly empty, consisting only of the nine winners and the Luthers. After a long while of just staring into nothing, Sophia couldn't help but to giggle more over the ironic turn of events.


Sophia blinked and turned her attention to the chair right beside her. One of the Luthers looked at her with a cold stare. No, not one of the Luthers; but the same Luther that had talked to her earlier. He was leaning on the chair's arm that separated her seat from his.

"Excuse me?" She drew back a bit, uncomfortable at how close he was. For a contestant there was an unexplainable familiarity about him.

"You. You're pathetic," he replied coolly. His voice sent a chill down her spine. He was certain to win the contest. He looked just like Luther and even sounded like him. "You had an unfair advantage."

"Unfair advantage," she repeated. There was no way he could know. No way. She caught a small peek at his white teeth as he parted his lips barely to speak. His words were postponed by the friendly sound of a female's voice.

"Attention all contestants," the announcement came once again from over head. "The final contest is about to begin. Can we have all our Luthers gather at the front exit? Thank you."

He leaned closer and whispered in her ear. "This contest was meant for real people and not for the authentic data." He drew back and smirked at her confused expression.

"How did you know?" she whispered back.

He stood and dusted himself off. "You were actually created many times." His voice was calm as his stare held her in a frightened captivity. "The urge to design you a certain way lead to many failures and illnesses from your predecessors. To my disappointment, the one that turned out unflawed was the same one chosen to help in my downfall."

He turned abruptly and followed the line of Luthers. At the door he glanced back at her; his blue eyes finding her in a state of horrid confusion. "My dear, a creator can always pick out his creations. Especially the ones he created himself."

Sophia couldn't move, little less blink as she watched him disappear. Either he was completely playing the part, or she was in trouble. Her mind screamed that it was an irrational fear, but her gut warned her otherwise.

Ending Notes: Alright, there you go – the best idea of how to start a Luther/Sophia fic that the two of us could come up with. Hope everyone picked up on the Ameena reference. There's one explanation why the two looked alike.

We decided to pair everyone off, but it's likely that a lot won't be seen of the others – unless one of use gets some kind of idea to involve anyone else. We've both realized that the fewer characters involved, the easier it is to write; and since we both have other fics we're working on then it's better that way. That and if you think about it - take Adray out of the picture because he's old enough to be everyone's father and that leaves one too many females. We decided to play on loneliness in this to add a little to the emotional stress Sophia finds herself under.