Eye of Apris

BY : Mishaela
Category: +S through Z > Star Ocean 3
Dragon prints: 2060
Disclaimer: Star Ocean: Til the End of Time is property of SquareEnix. I'm just borrowing them for a little while to appease the muses who have taken me hostage. I'm not making a profit off this. It's just for entertainment purposes only.

Eye of Apris

by Mishaela

Disclaimer: Most of the characters represented here are property of SquareEnix. I'm just borrowing them for a little while to appease the muses who have taken me hostage. This story is homo-erotic in nature: if you're not a fan of yaoi/slash or you're too young to read this, turn back before it's too late.

* * *

It wasn't easy to drown out the assorted sounds coming from the streets of Kirlsa, but Albel Nox did his best. Today marked the first day of the Mid-Winter Festival, a time of sentiment and generosity. He stood at the window of his own estate, one that he'd spent very little time at since the death of his father. The cold season had come on strong this year, practically brutal, with harsh winds and an early snowstorm. However, the people of the once-thriving mining town were not to be so easily kept from their love of celebration and hope.

Albel had poised himself close to the glass, so much so that the severe chill seeped through to his face and chest. He never really liked this time of year. His artificial arm was highly susceptible to abrupt changes in weather, cold being the absolute worst for him. It brought on an ache that he felt all the way up to his shoulder and, as a result, made him very irritable so long as it lasted.

That was not the only reason he hated the season. It brought on his own sentimentality, made him weak, as past memories gripped him more strongly than his left hand could. His warm fingers reached up, the callused pads making contact with the glass, creating misty outlines because of the cold. Despite everything, this was his favorite spot in the whole house.

The reason had nothing to do with comfort, except perhaps the kind he'd felt as a child. His father, Glou Nox, would stand in the same place, watching young Albel often while he played or trained. The head of the Dragon Brigade took pride in his son, had loved him more than his own life.

"Father… I'm sorry."

Peeling his fingers from the glass, Albel used them to wipe away the twin trails of damp that had, miraculously, formed under each eye. Silently, he chastised himself for such a display of weakness. He felt useless. The King of Airyglyph and the Queen of Aquios had started even more intense talks of peace. There would be no more war.

Albel Nox was a warrior. Without conflict, he had no existence.

A knock at the door of the private study briefly startled him and his head whipped around to level a glare at it. "What is it," he snarled out, his voice harsher than usual.

The single servant he allowed to stay at the Nox Estate spoke softly through the door. "A messenger from Airyglyph arrived moments ago, milord. His Majesty has summoned you for the royal Mid-Winter Celebration."

While he wasn't surprised at the words, they did little to soothe his emotional state. A request to appear could be refused without incident. This was not a request. He had no choice; he had to attend. Unfortunately, with how things had been to now, it also required the leader of the Black Brigade to dress to suit. Albel looked down at the clawed gauntlet and frowned. Over time, he'd collected, or created, a variety of artificial limbs. There was one in his collection that he never used. It had no benefit to him at all except, perhaps, for the complete and utter lack of decoration.

It had been fashioned to look like a normal limb. The craftsmanship had been exquisite, of course, since it had been a gift from the King himself. Now, it seemed, that pushy bastard was going to force the swordsman into using it just this once.

"Damn him… He knows I don't care for his court and the maggots that writhe within it."

Growling in his throat, Albel turned away from the window and exited the room. The idea of prettying himself up for the court made his stomach clench, but there was no way he could get out of it. Being famous, or infamous, had its own disadvantages.

* * *

The celebration was in full swing by the time Albel arrived at the castle. Resigned to his fate, the swordsman straightened his spine and started brusquely walking towards the wide open doors. It was as he expected inside: revelers dressed in gaudy costumes, enough food and drink to feed them all ten times over, and his Majesty off to the side talking to someone with azure hair.

It was the hair and its color that had drawn his gaze. There were only two people he knew of with hair like that and the person beneath it was too tall to be the woman. That left only one person: Fayt. It had been nearly a year since he'd seen the youth last, since all that nasty business with the Vendeeni, 4D beings, and Luther.

Why was Fayt here? The young man was, at best, a trouble-magnet. Albel started moving between partiers, his gait full of purpose. He would be the first to find out just what was going wrong this time. Halfway there, the swordsman and leader of the Black Brigade stopped so he could cast his crimson gaze around the room. Something else had occurred to him. Where was the blond giant, Cliff? Had he given up his role as the youth's protector? Had Fayt come alone?

With a single shake of his head, Albel resumed his determined stride across the room. Briefly, he wondered if he should offer the younger man a life-threatening greeting, as he'd done in the past. However, one look at the King of Airyglyph's face shattered that fleeting notion. Whatever he and Fayt were discussing seemed to be pleasing him.

If the king remained in a good mood, Albel might be able to slip away from the party early.

"Ah, Albel," Arzei, the King, said as the swordsman approached the pair. He gestured towards Fayt, a pleased smile on his face while he spoke to his subordinate. "We were just talking about you."

Albel frowned at that, his crimson gaze shifting to the youth before returning to his liege. "Oh?" He disliked pleasantries and small talk, however, it seemed he was going to have to endure for the time being.

"Our young hero is going to be staying for a while. I offered him room here at the castle, but he seems reluctant to impose." Arzei gave Albel a smile that, to the swordsman, foretold some sort of doom.

The next words from the king made him realize that Albel should have kept his distance.

"Since you're at the new training facility so much, would it be presumptuous of me to suggest he stay at your estate?"

Schooling his reaction carefully, Albel let his gaze again drift towards the youth in question. At least the boy had the decency to be ashamed at the suggestion. While the leader of the Black Brigade didn't hate the young man, he wasn't exactly ready to just let the teenager make a home for himself in his late father's residence. Unfortunately for Albel, the king was all about politics, subterfuge, and sometimes even downright dirty, under-handed tactics.

This was another example of the latter of the three.

Albel knew that the king expected him to explode over the idea, and part of him did. However, he wasn't feeling up to being predictable or obliging. The king was putting him on the spot, of course, but Albel knew how to turn such a thing to his advantage. Disliking royal politics and not knowing a way around them were two different kinds of lum entirely.

"Staying in a royal suite would make him soft." Albel turned his gaze towards Fayt again, the look in the scarlet eyes unreadable. "I'd hate for that to happen. I still have yet to defeat you in battle. Your Majesty would coddle and pamper him… I would do no such thing."

"It's okay, Albel," Fayt said, finally, in his own defense. "Yeah, I'm sticking around, but I didn't come here trying to beg for a bed or anything. I wanted to come to Elicoor so I could deliver some Christmas presents."

"Oh, yes," the king said, pouncing on the last part of Fayt's sentence. "I still find it strange how your Christmas sounds so much like our Mid-Winter Festival."

It wasn't long before Albel became disinterested in the change of conversation and he drifted away from both King and Fayt. Likely, he wouldn't be able to vanish too early and he placed the sole blame for that on the otherworldly visitor. Because Fayt was there and the two of them had a sort of history, the king would fully expect Albel to remain for the entire party.

Sometime later, he found himself leaned against one of the supports, close to the roaring fireplace, trying to get some heat back into his artificial arm and the flesh attached to it. Unconsciously, Albel rubbed slightly at the exposed flesh, close to where both were joined. A voice at his shoulder caused him to whirl around in irritated surprise.

"The cold getting to you?" Said voice belonged to Fayt and his eyes regarded Albel in concern.

"It's nothing," the swordsman snapped, hoping to cover his reaction to the startlement by driving the youth away.

Ignoring the tone, the blue-haired teenager smiled and held up something small. It appeared to be some kind of enclosed pouch, but the exterior was transparent and it was filled with some viscous liquid. "Here. It generates about eight hours' worth of heat." Fayt moved to Albel's left flank, plucking up the sleeve that covered his upper arm, and tucked the small pouch in place before letting the fabric go.

"I'm surprised you came back," Albel said calmly, though stiffly, his voice lacking the usual malice and scorn. He averted his line of sight to the fireplace and resettled his back against the stone behind him.

Fayt offered a smile in response. "I'm not the kind of person to make friends and then just leave them behind, Albel."

"Idiot, who said we were friends?"

"The king seems to be under that impression." Fayt let his gaze follow the taller man's. "I'll be heading to Aquios in a couple of days. I wanna see how Nel's doing. I might even stop by Surferio for a few hours… though, that'll be if I can come up with a good excuse to make an escape later."

"I've no interest in those maggots."

"No, I didn't figure you did." Fayt actually sounded somewhat disappointed in Albel's words. "I, uh… I have a gift for you."

At that, Albel's head snapped around so he could stare at the boy so quickly, one of the vertebrae in his neck audibly popped. There was no way to hide the complete look of shock and surprise on the man's face. He even pulled his back away from the stone pillar. "What kind of gift?"

Fayt chuckled at both the look he was getting and the question asked. "Only one way to find out. But," the youth looked around, taking in all the revelers. "I don't think you're very comfortable in here. I'd rather give it to you somewhere else."

"You're right," Albel admitted lowly. "I don't like being here around all these squirming worms."

"Fine, then. Let's skip out. If you need an excuse, we can just tell the king that I got tired."

"That would imply I'm letting you stay at my home," Albel pointed out.

Fayt's response started with a chuckle. "What the king doesn't know won't hurt him or us."

The swordsman smirked at that. "For once, you've said something I can whole-heartedly agree with."

Continued in Part II

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