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"You're impossible!"

"You're not exactly easy to deal with either!"

Fayt sighed for the umpteenth time tonight as he crossed his arms. Why was it that the only way he and Albel seemed to communicate nowadays were through verbal arguments?

It was only a few months before Fayt had decided that he wanted to stay on Elicoor II. It wasn't received very well by some of his companions, especially Sophia. And he knew from the mixture of shocked expressions when he announced his traveling companion was Albel didn't earn him any positive points. In fact, both Cliff and Sophia had raised their voices asking Fayt if he had lost his mind.

"No, I haven't lost my mind, and no, I feel quite fine. It's just... something I need to do."

Mostly, everyone seemed to trust Fayt's decision. Some people had their doubts, but weren't hard to convince. Nel had a frown on her lips the entire time, but she didn't protest, she simply said that she trusted his decision and clearly made it known that if he was ever in trouble, he knew where to find her.

However, there were some people were harder to convince.

Cliff was one of them, a scowl on his face, his arms crossed the same way Fayt's were now. Perhaps it was the fact that he didn't trust the company that Fayt would keep. Or perhaps he was genuinely worried. Whatever the reason was, it took a few minutes for Fayt to assure him that he could take care of himself, that he trusted Albel, and that he was going to be okay.

"I'm not going to talk you out of this, kid, am I?"

Smiling, Fayt had shaken his head. Cliff sighed and resigned to the fact that Fayt was going to do what he was going to do.

Sophia was harder to convince on this matter, especially when she kept asking him what they were going to do. When he looked into her disappointed eyes, he almost changed his mind. Especially when he handed her a letter and told her to deliver it to his mother. With each corner of her mouth twitching downward, he could feel the guilt piling up inside him even more.

"Sophia, if I don't stay... I may regret it forever... It may seem selfish, especially since I haven't seem my mom in a long time, but... I can't go back. I just... won't be happy."

After he had said that, like a calm in a storm, her frown simply vanished. Instead of a scolding he had expected, she gave him a hug, whispering that she understood.

"I promise I'll give this to Aunt Ryoko. Just... promise me that you'll visit me one day?"

"I promise." He wasn't even sure if he could keep that promise, but he had a feeling he would see her again someday.

And after that began their travels. They had no real destination in mind, neither of them familiar with the continents outside of Gaitt, and just wandered aimlessly.

And for a while, they seemed to get along relatively well. At least, in Fayt's opinion. Albel was less hostile for a few weeks than he had ever been before. The sparing practices they had on occasion were good lessons for him. In fact, they sometimes were able to carry on civil conversations.

However, it was a brief moment in time. Maybe it was Fayt's fault, since he had gotten them lost and they had to spend many nights outside in the rain. Or it could be said it was Albel's fault. Although he seemed less hostile towards Fayt, he seemed more prone to verbally attacking others; especially important pompous people, who more times than most chased them right out of town. Fayt never thought that they didn't deserve it, but sometimes, you just had to tolerate others. When Fayt had started warning him about it, Albel turned his attitude towards Fayt and another day of fighting would come about.

Maybe again it was his own fault, because instead of letting the insults and banter go, like he had done in the past, he fought right back. The first few weeks had taught him that Albel could carry on normal conversations. Besides, Fayt noticed that when they traveled together with everyone else, much of what Albel said he really didn't mean, even if the words carried a sting of venom on it.

Fayt was just tired of it all, mostly due to the way Albel didn't watch what he said, they were thrown out of town or ended up in a lot of needless fights.

Shaking his head out of past thoughts, he looked straight into smoldering red eyes. "I'm not the one picking fights where ever we go!"

"The fools only got what they deserved."

"I highly doubt that just because someone looks in your direction means that they wanted to fight."

"They didn't just look, they stared at me!"

"Looking at you for five seconds doesn't count as 'staring'!"

A knock on the door interrupted his companion's retort. The hot glare that was so focused on Fayt just a moment ago had now turned its attention towards the door and Fayt almost expected the door to burst into flames. "What!?"

"Um, sir, could you please keep it down? We have other guests..."

"They have pillows, they can cover their heads with them if they don't like the noise!"

Sighing yet again and not wanting to sleep outside again, Fayt answered, "I'm sorry about my friend here. We'll try to keep it down."

"...Thank you." Was it Fayt's imagination or did the pitch of the innkeeper's voice sound a little higher?

"Hmph, fools..." was the murmured reply from Albel as he sat by the small table in their room.

Okay, that was the last straw for Fayt. This time, he wasn't going to be pushed around. "Albel, you need to stop picking fights everywhere you go. This is getting ridiculous now." When all he got was a silent stare in return, he continued on. "I tolerated it up till now, but there's really all I can take and all I can do to get us out of trouble. I can't keep making excuses every time someone stares at you or asks you a simple question."

"And what are you going to do?" A smirk crossed Albel's lips. "Are you going to leave?"

A challenge. Every voice in Fayt's head said, 'Don't fall for it. He's just baiting you.' Just ignore it.

But, instead, he lifted his chin up and answered, "Maybe I will."

"And what if I tried to stop you?"

That wasn't a question Fayt was anticipating. He also didn't expect Albel to rise out of his seat and walk right up to him, staring at him like a hawk to it's prey. He took one step back for each one of Albel's steps forward and soon enough, he found himself backed totally against the wall. A hand to one side and Albel's metal claw to the other prevented escape as he continued to stare at him.

At that moment, Fayt knew he was trapped.

"Well?"

"I...” All the confidence that Fayt had built up a moment ago had vanished under the scrutinize gaze of one man. He could play stupid and say, 'Well, what?' but somehow, he knew that wasn't a good idea. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he looked up at the bemused expression on Albel's face, trying to avoid looking into his eyes. "I... I'd fight you..."

"Really?" That cocky attitude was starting to get on Fayt's nerves now. That smirk on his lips, the way Albel's eyes kept staring at him, daring him to try...

"Yes."

The smirk didn't falter for a second. It seemed that every answer only amused Albel even more. His body froze when Albel leaned down closer. He could feel the end of Albel's bangs brush against his cheek.

"You're a bad liar, Leingod."

Fayt didn't know whether to feel insulted or to go into shock considering this was the first time Albel ever referred to him by name. "W-what do you mean?"

"You're not fighting me now, are you? You could push me away right now, but you're not."

The tone of Albel's voice was no longer amused and when Fayt's eyes finally looked back up, the mirth had vanished from red eyes. Albel just continued to stare at him, as if an answer lied somewhere within him. Fayt knew he should say something now, but every time he tried to move his lips, nothing would come out. The longer the silence went on, the more ill at east he felt.

Albel was the one who eventually broke the silence. "You should hate me." He paused for a moment before he spoke again. "And I should hate you. You're nothing but trouble. You slow me down. You get in my way. You annoy me with your happy perky outlooks. I should kill you right now, and be done with you for good.

"But...” He put a finger under Fayt's chin and lifted his head up, the predatory smile coming back. "Killing you would just cause more trouble. I'll decide when it's time to kill you. Your life is mine, you are mine..."

"I... I'm not a piece of property..."

Albel didn't even seem taken aback when Fayt had finally spoken after a long time of silence. "I never said you were my property. You are mine...” The tint in Albel's eyes seemed to darken to Fayt. Or perhaps it was the faint light in the inn room that was playing tricks on him. "I think it's time you learned that. Let me prove to you that your boast a few minutes ago was a lie too."

When he felt cold steel trace up his arm, Fayt felt afraid. But it wasn't because he feared Albel's threats of bodily harm. It was something else, those strangely colored eyes scanning him from head to toe, the faint tickle of the other's breath, the way he was leaning closer and closer, those warm wet lips on his own...

Wait a minute.

Of all the things he expected Albel to do, kissing was not among one of them. In fact, that was the farthest thought from his mind. Okay, so he had thought about it before, what it would be like. But it was just a fleeting thought, a passing case of a sudden burst of hormones. Pigs would fly before that happened.

He glimpsed out the window briefly, perhaps for a sign of pink.

A tongue brushing against his lips brought him back to the present. Since when did Albel know how to even kiss? He didn't even let people come within a dozen feet of him, and here he was, kissing him without hesitation.

Fayt wasn't sure what to do. It's not like he didn't know how to kiss and it's not like he didn't know what Albel wanted. That was pretty damn obvious. But shouldn't he push him away? Should he just stand there and pretend not to be the least interest? Or should he just not respond at all?

Apparently, Albel's patience for a response was at an end. He suddenly bit down on Fayt's lower lip. Hard. Hard enough to draw blood.

His yelp of surprised was lost as a tongue made its way through. Apparently, standing still was not going to work so well. And not responding wasn't going to work either, he couldn't prevent the little shiver as a hand made it's way under his shirt, and it took most of his willpower to suppress that whimper building up at the back of his throat. If it took that much energy to stop that, what would happen if...?

"See?"

When did Albel stop kissing him? Fayt had to stop spacing out like that. "What?"

There was that smirk again. "You're not fighting back. Although, I wouldn't have thought you gave up battles so easily, Leingod."

A duel. That's what it was to Albel. Just another method of fighting. For some reason, that really pissed him off. That Albel only thought of it as some sort of game. Or perhaps he was pissed because Albel's words had a sting of truth to it.

Whatever the reason though, he was determined not to lose this fight. Briefly, he wondered if he had lost his mind by even considering challenging Albel to this... sort of battle. He reasoned that he probably was insane just by deciding to stay by Albel to begin with.

"Who said that I gave up yet?" He looked up, his eyes meeting the challenge that awaited before him. "You just caught me by surprise, that's all. There's no way I'm going to go easy on you now and I'm not going to give up without a fight."

"Big words, Leingod, big words." The smile on Albel's lips clearly showed that he was pleased with the response from Fayt. "Let's see you put them to action."

This time, when Albel's mouth descended on his own, Fayt was ready. The duel had officially begun now.

Tongues twined together in a ferocious battle. At first, Fayt just mimicked Albel's moves and kept his hands to himself. Learn his 'opponent's' moves first. And then he let his own instincts guide him, moving his right hand up to run his fingers through locks of hair while his other hand caressed bare skin at his opponent's waist. He smiled to himself when he felt his opposite shiver under the touch.

But Albel was not someone to underestimate, coming back with counter moves of his own. Starting with light touches, he slipped his right hand back under Fayt's shirt, trailing farther and farther up. He tried to ignore the way Albel purposely pressed up against him and tried to suppress a moan that was slowly building up at the back of his throat. Fayt tried to block out the tingling sensation spreading across his skin and concentrate on what he was doing, not wanting to give in so easily.

It proved to be a futile effort at the first touch to his nipple. If he wasn't holding Albel's waist and tightly pressed against the wall, Fayt would've fallen to the floor for sure.

Okay, so charging and meeting Albel head on failed. There's no way he could attack Albel and hold his defense at the same time. Maybe defense would be the best offense.

Tensing up his body, Fayt closed his eyes and recalled his notes from his symbology class. He tried to picture certain symbols for the elements first; their effects, and what spells could be learned from them. He tried to forget the way that warm tongue lapped away at his neck, and tried to remember the exact precision of the way a symbol needed to be drawn. He ignored the way that hand ran up and down his spine, the way a pair of lips were now suckling at his collarbone, the way...

His eyes opened when he heard someone cry out. For a minute, he was going to tell Albel to stop what they were doing, but realized that he was the one who had made that noise.

So plan two had failed. Big time.

Or maybe it didn't, since Albel was now backing away from him. It was then he realized that his shirt was pulled up almost all the way, his vest mysteriously gone. He felt himself involuntary blush as he looked up at Albel.

"I can't take off your shirt when you're backed up against the wall."

There was that damned smirk again. "And whose fault is that now?"

"Yours, since you're the one who backed up towards the wall."

"And it's your fault because you didn't give me any choice!" Dammit, was he the butt of every joke for Albel tonight?

He felt both of his arms being lifted as the shirt was pulled up and tossed towards the floor, sitting along with his vest. When did his vest get to the floor?

'Focus, Fayt, focus...' He repeated to himself as Albel started to step towards him once again. "No fair."

"What?" Ah, it was about time he caught Albel off guard tonight!

"You made the fighting ground uneven," Fayt said as he gestured to Albel's... Well, technically, it wasn't a shirt. It wasn't a tunic either. Well, whatever it was, it had to go. "You have an unfair advantage now, so...” When Albel didn't make a move, he crossed his arms. "Well!?"

"Shouldn't I say that?"

"What do you mean?"

"I took yours off, so...” Well, that little victory went flying out the window again. Hesitating only a little, he grabbed the end of Albel's... whatever it was called, and lifted it above his already up-straight arms. Sadly, Fayt landed into some trouble, as the cloth ended up getting caught on the metal claw he always wore. He tried to untangle the cloth from whatever it seemed to be stuck on. He was so focused on the task, as when he finally managed to get it off (Miraculously, it didn't rip in the process), he found himself pushed right back towards the wall. His protests were swallowed up by the other's mouth and the battle proceeded once again.

If things proceeded as they were now, Fayt was definitely going to lose this fight. He couldn't go on the offensive, Albel would just attack him back, full force. And going on the defensive was as futile as remaining on the offensive.

Well, he needed to think of something quick, especially when he felt a hand unbuckling his belt.

Conversation? But what? He looked down towards the floor and the first thing that caught his eye was the glittering metal.

"Doesn't that get in the way?" Oh yeah, that was really smart to say.

It, at least, distracted Albel from his task. "Your point?"

"Well, I mean... Um... It would probably be easier if you took it off?"

Maybe that was the wrong thing to say, especially since Albel totally stopped with what he was doing. But a moment later, Albel straightened up, saying, "Fine," before he walked away towards one of their traveling bags in the corner.

That was something Fayt didn't expect to happen. "Albel, I didn't mean to offend you. It's just that...” He heard a few clicking sounds. A 'thump' sound echoed in the room as Albel turned back around, the metal claw on the floor.

Fayt swallowed the lump that formed in his throat as he looked at Albel's left arm, totally bandaged up, from his fingertips to his elbow. He had heard that Albel lost his left arm from some of the people in Airglyph. It wasn't like it was old news, although he wished he had heard it from Albel's own mouth and not the mouths of strangers. He had expected to see nothing there.

"I thought..."

"It's not important," Albel interrupted, walking back towards Fayt, his cold eyes clearly stating that Fayt better close the subject right now. When he was sure that Fayt wouldn't say anything more, he coolly walked back up to him, pressing his mouth against his once again.

But Fayt had noticed something different. Whatever fieriness Albel had before was gone. He wasn't as persistent as before, not nearly as aggressive. Even the kiss felt like it was devoid of... something.

"It is important..." He found himself suddenly saying when their lips parted. He expected a retort or for Albel to tell him to be quiet, but when none of that came forth, he continued. "I mean, it's important to talk about things that bother you, Albel. I don't mean that you should tell me everything about you or tell me all your secrets. It's just that... There's so much I don't know about you. We've traveled together for quite a bit, and I feel like I sometimes don't really know you.

"I guess... what I'm trying to say is that I'll always be there to listen when you need to talk. You should share your problems or concerns sometimes with someone, and... Well, I'll listen to them."

Fayt wondered if he had said something wrong, especially when he saw the look on Albel's face, looking as if he was thinking, 'What planet is this guy from?' Or maybe he would get angry with him. Or maybe he would just walk away and go to sleep, leaving Fayt in the state he was in. Oh, he would hit the bathroom after that. That or a cold bath...

"Stupid fool..."

Blinking, Fayt looked at his companion. "What?"

Chuckling, Albel shook his head. "You are perhaps the most stupid man I've ever met."

Surprisingly, Fayt found himself smiling at the insult.

"But...” That smirk was back, and somehow, Fayt found himself inwardly sighing with relief. "But don't think that speech changes anything. And don't think that you can get out of this fight."

"I wouldn't dream of it."

"Good," was all Albel said as he unclasped the belt, yanking it out and throwing it to the floor. Fayt expected his pants to go right then and there. He had to bite his lip, wishing that Albel would stop taking his sweet time at it.

But what he didn't expect was for his hands to be suddenly pinned above his head. Surprised, he looked at Albel. "What... What are you doing?"

Grinning like a cat, Albel leaned down to Fayt's ear and whispered, "What do you want, Fayt?"

Did he hear Albel right? Not the question, but hearing his own given name coming from Albel's lips. "What did... you say?"

"I asked you what you want. You have to tell me exactly what you want now."

"What... I want?"

"Are you an echo now? Yes, that's what I said, fool."

"I...” Was this another stupid tactic on Albel's part? "I... don't know!"

"Then we're going to stand here all night until you know what you want."

"I...” Dammit, he was tired of fighting now. It took too much effort on his part, and right now, all he wanted was some release. But... was this another trick? He had to test it... "I... want you to kiss me."

"Where?"

"What do you mean, 'where!?'"

"You have to tell me precisely what you want."

"Where do you think!?"

"There are plenty of places where I could kiss you." To prove that point, he placed a kiss on Fayt's forehead. "Like there." A kiss to the cheek. "There." A kiss to the chin. "And there. Is that what you wanted?"

Fayt could feel his cheeks burning as he mumbled, "I... want you to kiss me on the lips."

And that's exactly what Fayt received. Sighing in relief, he hoped this little game was done.

But it was far from over in Albel's case. "Now what?"

"I want you to touch me."

"Where, exactly, do you want me to touch you?"

Shaking a little, his face burning with embarrassment, Fayt hissed, "Dammit, Albel! Stop torturing me like this!"

Chuckling against heated skin, Albel answered, "Fine, but only because you're taking too long." Fayt let his arms drop to his sides, flexing his tingled fingers.

A hand slid down his pants, tugging them downwards and for the first time, the realization of what was happening dawned on him. It wasn't that he didn't know what was occurring, but the fact was here he was, totally exposed in front of a man he thought that hated him. So many questions flew by his head. Was this love? Was this just a one-night fling? Was this really a game?

"You better not disappoint me, Leingod."

When he looked into Albel's eyes, all those questions seemed to melt away. Somehow, although the statement was blunt, he knew that it was Albel's own way of comforting him.

Nodding his head, Fayt said, "I won't. But... Don't you think it'll be hard when you're still wearing that skirt?"

If, in another situation, the glare that was shot in Fayt's direction and the way Albel spat, "It's not a skirt, you fool," would've surely shut Fayt up instantly. Instead, he found himself laughing. And the longer Albel glared at him, the harder he laughed.

One pinch to his nipple shut him up easily.

Albel continued to watch Fayt, not moving. It took a few seconds to realize that he wanted Fayt to take it off for him, just like before. It took one tug to one of the laces and it fell off easily. And now all that just needed to be removed was...

Wait...

"You're...” Looking up at Albel, Fayt shook his head, his face paling just a little. "You're not wearing..."

"I've heard just enough of your prattle to last a lifetime."

Fayt still couldn't wrap his mind around that fact, even when his lips were being occupied. He soon forgot about it when skin met skin, Albel pressing his body closer to Fayt, their naked erections brushing against one another. His fingers gripped Albel's shoulders as he found himself pushing his body right back, his patience for wanting it to last a little longer gone.

For a brief moment, Fayt forgot about wanting to win. At this point, he didn't care if Albel was going to point and jeer at him later. What was important was happening now, their slick coated bodies pushing against one another. His moan was swallowed as he felt himself hit his peak, warm wetness splattering against his abdomen.

Lips parting, Fayt looked up and felt those questions coming back to him.

"Albel... I..."

A finger to his lip silenced him. "I said I heard enough of your babbling tonight. Whatever questions you have can wait." Nodding, Fayt started to make his way towards his own bed.

A hand on his wrist stopped him. "Where are you going?"

Confused, Fayt answered, "To my bed?"

"First, you are going to get cleaned up." Blushing slightly as he looked down at himself, he nodded, not trusting his voice. "And then you are coming to sleep with me."

A spark of hope ignited within him. "You mean..."

"If you say one more word, I'm going to make you sleep on the floor just the way you are. And then, I'll gag you tomorrow so I won't have to hear you drone on endlessly."

Knowing that this time, Albel meant it, Fayt simply nodded.