I don't own Star Ocean. I've written this story just for amusement.

Self-Imposed Responsibility

It had all started good. In celebration of kicking 4D butt and restoring some sort of order to the galaxy, Fayt, Cliff, and Adray had taken the girls out drinking. Albel had declined, saying that Aquarian wine was weak and only for maggots. It still didn't stop him from going out drinking, just he did his in Arygliph.

But about six weeks later, all four girls were sick. Fayt at first dismissed it as a cold or something, since he'd started out sick as well. But when he got better and the girls didn't, there was evidence something was seriously wrong.

"Fayt!" Sophia cried. She came running from the washroom, her face soaked in tears, and a little pink stick in hand. She came bawling to her childhood friend and showed him the stick. It was pink.

"What is it, Sophia?" Fayt asked, not understanding what she was holding. Then he saw, the other three were holding similar sticks, and they were all pink. "Am I missing something?"

"You could say that." said Maria. "What happened that night we went drinking?"

"You got drunk. Really drunk. I think we all did, 'cause the next morning we were hung over pretty bad and all piled into one room. Albel was watching us from the doorway, saying that they'd sent a messenger to get him from Arygliph."

"A little more than that happened, apparently." said Nel. She looked about ready to cry herself. "Fayt, we're pregnant."

That was it for the coffee Cliff had been drinking nearby. "What?" he asked. "That's impossible. We all still had clothes on."

"If I remember correctly, the men still had clothes on. The girls were wrapped in the blankets, maggot." said Albel. He glanced up to see Nel on the verge of tears. Returning to his book, Albel wasn't prepared for what he heard next.

"I don't want it." Nel sobbed. "Not if I don't know the father."

If it was one thing Albel had learned to cherish in all of Arygliph, it was children, the future of their pathetic country. To say one wasn't wanted was like saying you didn't need your heart to live.

"We don't know who fathered ours, either, Nel." said Mirage. "I'm kinda scared about this, too. I mean, Klausians aren't supposed to interbreed. We're not built for it."

"Well, then, fool, that tells you who fathered yours." Albel got up, but his book on the counter, and kicked Cliff. "Congratulations, maggot-breath."

"Huh?" Cliff looked at Albel. "What?"

"But what of Maria, Sophia, and Nel?" asked Fayt.

"You and Adray were there." Albel replied.

Nel broke down in tears again. "No. Not those two." she sobbed.

Albel sighed. Why did he have a sore spot for the unwanted children? Still, if it made her keep it, he was willing to risk a little white lie. "Nel."

"Hmm?" she sniffled, noticing Albel was getting closer. "What?"

As he passed, Albel whispered, "It's mine."

"Huh?" Nel spun around, watching his back as he left the room. "But . . ."

"We can always do a test, once the babies are bigger." said Maria. "That will tell us who fathered them. Or we can wait until their born."

Sophia nodded. "I'm keeping mine, no matter what, but I'd feel better knowing who my baby's daddy is. But it can wait if that's ok." She noticed Nel just staring at the doorway where Albel had left. "Nel, are you ok?"

But Nel didn't answer. She only sighed.

Fayt noticed it, first. Albel was taking care of Nel. When he tried to bring it up with the other, Albel just ignored him. Finally, Fayt cornered the Arygliph soldier in the only place Abel didn't bring weapons: the bathroom.

"Albel, there's no point denying it. You're looking after Nel, aren't you?"

The soldier sighed. "Yes." he admitted. He didn't like the position he was in, which was flat on his back with only a towel wrapped around his skinny middle, and another over his charred arm, where the Crimson Scourge would have been. "Now get off me."

"Why?" Fayt asked.

"Because this is a compromising situation!" Albel half-shouted.

Fayt got up. "No, I mean why are you taking care of Nel?"

Albel felt awkward. "I lied to her." he said. "I told her the child was mine." He sighed. "Did you know that in Arygliph, it's a crime to kill the unborn willingly?"

"What?"

"When she said she didn't want it, I figured I'd take the baby after it was born. Find it a home, someone who would want it." Albel sighed again. "She said if it was mine to take responsibility, so I've been doing what I can to care for her and the child."

"So, that's why your away working with the Black Brigade so often." said Fayt. "But she's going to find out you lied eventually."

"I think she already knows. She saw me come up to the room when you were out drinking. It was morning, almost noon, when I arrived. There's no way I'm actually the father. Like I said when they found out, it's more likely to be you or Adray."

"Albel!" called Nel.

"I'm getting dressed!" Albel called back. He turned away from Fayt and put his clothes on. With a sigh, he left the bathroom and headed over to Nel. "Yes?"

"I just got back from the doctor." Nel told him.

"And?"

"She said the babies are healthy."

"Babies?" Albel took her by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes. "There's more than one?"

Nel nodded. "Yeah. She said that with how big I am, it's probably twins."

Albel let one hand slide down to Nel's stomach. "Twins, huh?" he muttered, still unsure of what he should do. He swallowed as he felt the children move around inside her. This was going to make things a little more difficult.

"Albel, is something wrong?" Nel asked.

"We need to talk." Albel said. He sat her down in one of the chairs.

"What is it?"

"I haven't been honest with you."

"Albel, I know you're not the father." Nel said. "I know that. But the fact that you were willing to take the responsibility for someone else's actions meant you cared, either about me or the babies."

"The later." Albel admitted. "Nothing against you, but in Arygliph, it's a crime to kill the unborn. I figured if there was any chance of making you keep the children until after they were born, I had to take it. For their sake."

Nel sighed. "Albel, I'm having the children tested when their born. To know who the father is."

Albel nodded. "You have that right." he replied. "Just, be careful."

The day came sooner than Albel would have liked. It started with Sophia, two weeks early, when she had her and Fayt's daughter. Then, three nights later, Mirage broke Cliff's hand birthing their twin sons.

It was two days after that, while on a wagon trip from Kirlsa to Arygliph, that Nel went into labor.

Farleen was driving, and Albel was riding in the back with Nel when the first signs began.

"Nel? You look uncomfortable."

"Pain." Nel whispered. "I think . . . the children are coming."

Albel was at a loss. He'd never seen a child born, only heard it from his neighbors (who had seven, all born in the home). All he knew was that Nel needed to lie down propped against something. There were a few sacks in the wagon, so he leaned her against those.

Nel panted as the contractions got harder. A sharp shriek escaped her as her water broke, soaking the floor of the wagon.

"What going on?" Farleen asked.

"Just drive!" Albel shouted at her. "The sooner we reach Arygliph, the better." His clawed hand brushed some of Nel's hair from her face. "It'll be alright."

Nel gasped, the first baby coming. It was as the child was born that they reached Arygliph.

"Where were we going?" Farleen asked.

"The palace!" Albel shouted. "Shh, it's alright. We'll be there soon." He wrapped the first child in a brown fur, knowing it was cold in his home.

Nel whimpered. "I'm sorry, Albel." she gasped.

"Fayt said they come on their own time. Little maggot was right."

Nel sighed, only to gasp as the second baby started to arrive.

Farleen stopped the wagon in the stable of the palace. "We need the doctor." she told the stable hand. The boy nodded and ran off for the palace doctor.

"It's alright, Nel." said Albel. "They're both here."

Nel sighed, glad the ordeal was over. It was then that the doctor arrived, as well as three maids. She was bundled off with the children to a room, while Albel was taken and treated for shock after having witnessed the twins' birth.

It was late the next day that Albel got to see the two babies again. It was obvious, just by looking at them, who the fathers were. One was Fayt's child, the other was Adray's. Nel had been knocked up by both men.

Albel sighed. He'd had every intent on giving the children away, but now that he saw them, he couldn't help but want them to stay.

"They're adorable, aren't they?" asked Nel from the doorway.

"Yeah. They'll make their new parents happy."

"Who did you pick?" Nel asked.

"Woltar." Albel said. "He'll take them for me."

"You're taking them?" Nel asked.

Albel nodded. "There's no Nox children to take the name after me, so I figured . . . I've kinda grown attached to them."

"You'll be a good father." said Nel.