Tricks are for Kids

Summary: Albel teaches Sophia a lesson in the dangers of matchmaking, but he seems to have ulterior motives…

Disclaimer: This authoress does not own Star Ocean Till the End of Time or any of the respective characters. If she did, she would be a very rich woman. Sadly, she is not.

Warnings: OOC-ness due to humour.

A/N: Just a silly bit of Alphia fluff humour that I felt compelled to write for my birthday. Read, enjoy, and review!

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"ALBEL NOX!"

The disgruntled swordsman looked up, a bored look in his crimson eyes. "What do you want now, wench?"

The scarlet haired woman glared at him, her fingers twitching above her daggers. "You know very well what you did!"

"Do I look like I care what I did?"

"Well, no- hey, stop that!"

"Stop what?"

"You know what!"

"Enlighten me with your wisdom then, Aquarian. As far as I am concerned I have done nothing to you." Privately though, he wished that he had: sewing her yapping mouth shut so he could get some peace while he was busy sharpening the claws of his prosthetic hand. The woman was forever trying to find fault with him, to pick a fight simply because peace bored her. And he was her chosen scapegoat.

Her hand drifted closer to the hilt of her dagger and he watched the movement with one eye. "Nox, you ate the last chocolate muffin when you knew I was specifically saving it for myself!"

"I did not see the name 'Zelpher' written on the damn thing. And how do you know I ate it? You have no proof!"

"I saw you watching me at breakfast, I saw you eyeing my muffin when you finished your own! You saw me taking my muffin, putting it on a plate and setting it on the counter and you clearly heard me say 'I'm saving this for later'! And don't deny it, Glyphian scum! There were fresh claw marks on the counter!Undeniable proof!" she stabbed a finger accusingly in his direction.

"Wench, I did not eat the blasted muffin!"

"You dare take me for a fool, Nox?" she shrieked angrily, drawing her daggers in a swift movement.

Albel rose, his eyes narrowing dangerously. "Maggot, I am going to give you three seconds to put down your blades. I did not eat the damn muffin!"

"You liar! I cannot believe your nerve, you dare steal what belongs to me! Take up your sword, Nox!" she snapped, her face as scarlet as her hair as she took a defensive stance.

"Why are you making such a fuss over baked goods?" he growled, grasping his sword in his good hand. "For gods sake, wench, it was a muffin!"

"Hah! So you admit to eating my muffin!" she yelled furiously, a wild smile of triumph twisting her lips.

Albel looked at her incredulously before a look of mingled fury and indignation crossed his face. "Woman, you are trying my patience! Do you want me to kill you!"

"You better believe it, Nox! I am challenging you!"

"Over a muffin?"

"Why not?"

He paused for a second, a frown on his lips. "Good point. I need the exercise and my blade has not tasted blood in a long time since this infernal peace between our countries."

"Outside?"

"Outside, wench."

The door slammed behind them as they stormed out of the room, barging past each other in the doorway since neither would stop to let the other through first (with the result that both would have very bruised shoulders come tomorrow morning).

"Go to hell, Nox!"

"What was that, Zelpher? Why the hell should I let you through first!"

There was a pained shriek and a crash that signalled the demise of what was probably a vase. "Now look what you did, you asshole!"

"You hit the damn table, woman, do not blame this on me!"

"Oh, so this is my fault? Youhit me first!"

"Forget this outside business, I cannot wait that long to kill you, Aquarian!"

There was another sharp thwack and suddenly the air was full of angry snarls and shrieks of fury, coupled with the crashes of delicate pottery that turned the house into a catastrophic symphony of noise.

"I've been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, Nox, I hope you know that!"

"Bah, not as long as I have been waiting to cut off your head!"

As the echo of their voices faded into the distance, a familiar bluenette head popped up from behind the couch, followed by a brunette. Sophia glared accusingly at her friend, who only gazed defensively back.

"You know, if they kill each other, it's yourfault."

Fayt crossed his arms over his chest and shuffled his feet. "How was I supposed to know that they would react like that? It was only a muffin."

She gave him a look that was beyond sceptical. "Fayt… this is Albel and Nel we're talking about. Of course they're going to try and kill each other. But no, you had to try and set them up! You should have known that Nel would only use the muffin as an excuse to get into a fight with Albel!"

"But Sophia, you can't ignore the chemistry those two have… I mean, he couldn't take his eyes off her this morning!" he argued, his green eyes widening.

"Chemistry? Chemistry?" she shrieked, feeling almost as angry as Nel. "Those two want to rip each other apart and you call that chemistry! And I know for a fact that Albel was staring at the muffin!"

"Well excuse me for not being perfect! You've hardly tried to help me, so this is partly your fault."

"Fayt, if they wanted to be together, they would be together. We shouldn't mess with things like this, it's dangerous! Especially for us if the two of them find out that it was us who set them up!"

"How would they find out? Cliff is the only one who knows and he wouldn't snitch."

Sophia sighed irritably, hating the fact that once again she was caught in the middle. "Are you sure about that?"

"Positive. I made him pinkie promise!" Fayt beamed.

"…"

"What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Unbelievable. You are nineteen years old, Fayt, and still a child." She tossed her head and stomped out the room in a huff. Fayt did not bother to follow her, since he knew that it would be pointless to argue with her in this mood. He sighed and strolled over to the window, leaning his arms on the ledge and listening to the angry shouts echoing across the grounds.

"I swear guys, I don't know nothing 'bout no muffin!"

Huh? Wasn't that…

Cliff?

"You may as well confess your crimes, worm. We can see the chocolate crumbs on your ridiculously tight shirt! Undeniable proof that you ate Zelpher's muffin!" Actually, there were no crumbs but Albel was in the mood for a fight and Nel just couldn't care less.

"You pig, you ate my muffin!"

There was a thwack and a shout of pain. "Ow, that hurt!"

"Obviously, fool. It was meant to hurt."

"Albel, shut up. This is my punishment to deal out."

"If you remember, maggot, it is his fault that my daily claw sharpening was interrupted. I am entitled to exact my revenge!"

There was a growl of frustration from the scarlet haired warrior that could even be heard by Fayt. "Fine. I don't want to waste any more time arguing with you. Now, how are we going to punish him for his greed?"

There was a dark grin on Albel's face that Cliff didn't like one bit. Uh oh. He somehow got the feeling that he was in big trouble. The feeling worsened when Albel bent his head to whisper in Nel's ear and an identical evil grin threatened to split her face in half.

"Nice one, Nox. I'm surprised that you would have the brains to think up something as evil as that."

"Well, they do call me Albel the Wicked, you know," he said modestly, flicking a braid over his shoulder.

A miracle! Albel and Nel were agreeing with each other?

Now was the time to panic.

"Uh…" Fighting the urge to run away screaming, Cliff stood uncertainly between the two soldiers. "Nel, I didn't eat your muffin. But I know who did, I can tell ya!"

Fayt almost fell out of the window. "Cliff, you jerk!" he yelled, clinging to the ledge.

All three of them glanced up in shock to see the bluenette hanging out of the window. "Fayt, you idiot! I wasn't going to say it was you!"

"Oops."

"Fayt? You ate my muffin?"

"Yeah, and Sophia was in on it too!" Eh, Cliff figured he might as well save his own ass since Fayt had spilled the beans. He might be willing to protect Fayt, but he was not prepared to get in between Albel, Nel and the target of their wrath. "Sorry kid, you're on your own!"

"Thanks a lot, you jerk!"

He glanced around suddenly and realised that both Nel and Albel had disappeared. Uh oh.

Fayt had a bad feeling.

"Albel, you take care of Sophia! Fayt is mine!"

A very, very bad feeling.

Fayt jumped down from the window and raced across the room, skidding out of the door. "Should… probably… warn Sophia…" he gasped, running down the passage as fast as he could.

But Albel wouldn't kill her, would he?

Would he?

"There you are, muffin thief!"

"Nel, wait!" he shrieked breathlessly as the Aquarian thundered towards him, daggers outstretched. "I swear I had nothing to do with the muffin!"

"You fool! You admitted to stealing my muffin!"

"No, Cliff said I was behind it. But Sophia was the one who ate it!" he said craftily.

"Sophia?" she glared at him suspiciously. "Are you telling the truth, Fayt?"

Hell, he would have told her that a flying lum ridden by a green Martian with glowing antennae had crashed into the castle and eaten the muffin if it kept her from kicking the crap out of him. "Uh, yeah. Of course I'm telling the truth!" For extra emphasis on his innocence, he gave her the puppy dog look.

Her stern exterior melted a little and she gave him a grudging smile. "Okay, so maybe I forgive you… but what was that you said about you being behind it?"

Fayt was halfway through his self congratulations at managing to sucker her with the old puppy dog eyes trick when what Nel said registered in his brain. "Uh… oh, crap!"

"What now?" she asked irritably, tapping her foot impatiently. "I'm waiting for an answer."

"Sophia! You sent Albel after Sophia!"

There was silence as she stared at him, realization dawning on her face. "I guess I did. Oops."

Without another word, Fayt took off down the passage towards Sophia's room with Nel hot on his heels.

"Wait, you still owe me an explanation! Fayt! Why are we rushing to the rescue of a muffin thief?"

"Nel, shut up! Sophia may have eaten your muffin, but that doesn't mean she deserves Albel!"

"…It was a very good muffin."

"…"

"Fine, we rescue Sophia from Albel. And don't you dare blame this on me if he cuts off her head!"

Meanwhile…

Sophia stomped into her room, kicking her shoes off as she flopped down onto her bed. Phew, matchmaking sure was tiring. Good thing she and Fayt didn't do it every day. As she lay there, she wondered if Nel and Albel were alright.

"I hope they don't hurt each other too badly," she said aloud. "I don't want to run out of MP healing Albel again! It'll be the tenth time this month. Silly man keeps on getting into stupid fights…"

Suddenly, she sat up as a loud thudding noise filled her ears. "Huh?"

Footsteps?

The door burst open and Albel stood in the doorway, one boot drawn back. "You've been a very bad girl, worm."

Her mouth hung open. "Albel, you kicked my door open!"

He glanced back in surprise as he entered the room. "Well, what do you know. I did. And there's now a hole. Hmm, what a pity. You should know by now, girl, that it is not in my nature to knock."

"Yeah, I guess I should… hey, what are you doing barging into my room?"

"I told you: you've been a bad girl."

"What? Me?" she asked, giving him a hurt look with her big green eyes.

"Interfering in other people's business and all… when you should really be minding your own."

All the while, he was drawing closer to her and she began to sweat. "I- I have no idea of what you're talking about, Albel. Me, I mind my own business, you know, like a good girl and all!"

"I know what you did, Sophia. And I'm here to punish you for it." He leaned closer to her, bending over the bed. "I know about the muffin that you ate!"

She squeaked involuntarily. "H-How did you know! It was that rotten Cliff, I knew we couldn't trust him with a secret like that! Ooh, when I get my hands on him, I'm gonna…"

"More importantly, girl, I know why you ate the muffin."

"Oh, well, it was chocolate and I love chocolate…" she spluttered, "and it was just sitting there looking all yummy on a plate just for me and I thought 'why not' and Fayt was saying how we needed to get the two of you alone in a room somewhere and well, oh god my mouth is running away with me again..."

He placed both hands on either side of her, leaning closer to her face. "Why are you and the bluenette fool trying to get me involved with the Aquarian wench?"

"Oh… you know? Well, uh, it's an interesting story," she laughed nervously as a blush deepened on her cheeks, highly aware of his very close proximity.

"Hmm, I bet it is." He leaned even closer, so that the blonde tips of his hair were brushing her cheek lightly. "Hah, I can smell the evidence of you crimes, Sophia. Chocolate on your breath. You tried to play matchmaker with me, which you will never do again and almost certainly not with that wench. I guarantee that I will cut off her lips before I would even dream of kissing her."

"Albel, it wasn't my idea, you know. Fayt thought the two of you had a kind of chemistry going and, well, uh…"

"You thought that you would do us both a service by letting us almost kill each other?" he looked at her as if she was an idiot and for some reason, it irked her. It really irked her.

"No, I didn't want to do it but I wanted…" she paused and the blush turned a deep crimson.

"Wanted what?"

"The muffin," she answered in a small voice. "Chocolate muffins are my favourite."

A slow grin spread across his pointed face, that was more like a leer than a smile. "So much trouble for a little muffin?"

"Um, yeah. But it was a really good muffin, you know."

Albel shook his head, he could not help but be amused. "Silly girl. But now you have to accept your punishment like a grown woman."

Her eyes widened fearfully as his hand reached for her head. "Albel, wait-!"

But her words were lost as Albel pressed his lips to hers in a sweet kiss and entwined his hand in her brown locks to bring her closer. She blinked in surprise, but returned the kiss hesitantly, amazed at how soft his hair actually was and how warm his lips were…

Albel grinned as she relaxed on the bed and he deepened the kiss, tasting the remnants of chocolate. Just as she was really getting into it, he drew back and she made a small noise of protest, grabbing for his braids to pull him back down.

"Enough punishment for you, girl?" he asked smoothly, licking his lips.

Her face on fire, she stared at him. "How was that punishment!" Because damn, he was really good (not that she had many comparisons in the first place but that was beside the point).

"It was punishment because I will not kiss you again. Once you have experienced Albel Nox, nothing else satisfies!"

"…"

No, there was no way he could possibly be that arrogant. No freaking way.

"Besides, you tried to trick me into getting along with Zelpher. Didn't your mother ever teach you that tricks are for kids? And we are not kids."

She stared at him, speechless in the face of his egotism.

"Yes, I know…" he continued with a wide smirk and a wink, regarding her stunned silence. "I tend to have that effect on women."

Or perhaps he was really that egotistical.

"Albel, you… you…" as she stammered, the smirk on his pointed face grew wider. "You insufferable JERK!"

The smirk vanished instantly. "What was that, maggot? How dare you insult me!"

"GET OUT!"

The pillow hit him in the face and he snarled, ripping it away with his clawed hand. "Worm, you are going to regret that!"

"Albel, what is Apris's name are you doing?"

He whirled around to see Fayt and Nel standing in the doorway. There was an identical look of shock on both of their faces.

"Well, I was not going to hurt the girl, but she…"

"I don't mean that, you idiot, I'm talking about the other thing! You kissed Sophia!" Nel yelled.

Tears immediately filled Fayt's green eyes and he sniffed pathetically. "Sophia, how could you!"

Her mouth fell open. "What are you talking about? He kissed me!"

"Yeah, but you didn't exactly push him away, did you!"

"Oh, yeah… I didn't. Oops."

"Hey, wait. Why am I being sympathetic to you?" Nel said furiously. "You ate my muffin!" The Aquarian warrior unsheathed her daggers in the blink of an eye. Sophia squeaked and took off running, shoving a sobbing Fayt out of the way as Nel gave chase.

"Wait, Nel… don't kill her!" Fayt cried, running out of the door, with his nose running all over his shirt.

And thus was Albel left alone in the room.

After a few moments, a blonde head poked around the doorway. "All clear, Albel?"

He gave Cliff a satisfied grin. "All according to plan."

"I take it you got your opportunity to kiss Sophia."

"Bah, of course I did. I've been planning this muffin scam for weeks."

"Great," he said, shuffling into the room with one hand outstretched. "You know the deal. 500 Fol."

Albel rummaged in his moneybag, giving him an irritable glare. "Damn expensive, maggot."

"Hey, the price of a kiss is high. What can I say? Besides, it took me a helluva long time to convince Fayt that you and Nel had the hots for each other. But how can you be sure that Sophia is going to come back for more? What you were saying to her sounded pretty final."

"Humph, didn't you hear what I said to the girl?" he asked before a smug and triumphant grin stretched his thin lips. "Once you have experienced Albel Nox, nothing else satisfies! I guarantee the girl will be back for more!"

"…Are you for real?"

"Bah, I couldn't expect an overgrown lummox like you to understand. Get out of my sight, I've had enough of you to stomach a lifetime of nausea!"

Albel stomped out of the room and Cliff shook his head dazedly, hearing the angry shrieks in the distance of Nel and Sophia, accompanied by the pitiful whines from Fayt.

"Boy, I guess what Albel said was right," he murmured, scratching his head absentmindedly.

"Tricks really are for the kids."

The End.