Fandom: Star Ocean 3
Pairing: Albel Nox/Nel Zelpher
Blurb: In Star Ocean 3, Albel Nox and Nel Zelpher are optional characters that are very important to the plot of the first disc of the game. They are both from Elicoor II, and are from opposite sides of two countries embroiled in a war. (By the end of the time you spend playing on Elicoor II, however, the war has ended and the two countries are working to preserve the newfound peace). Nel is a spy for Aquaria, while Albel is the captain of the Black Brigade, one of Airyglyph's three main military branches. Neither of them is what you'd call a delicate flower. Nel is tough and can be ruthless-- she tells Fayt and Cliff that if they don't help Aquaria, she'll kill them-- but when she cares about someone, she's fiercely loyal and caring. And then there's Albel, who's pretty ruthless himself and tends to look down people who he perceives to be weak. He's earned himself the nickname 'Albel the Wicked', and refers to other people as 'worms', 'fools', or 'maggots'. He's not the nicest of people, but he's not evil either.
So why them together? Well, for starters, Albel is one hard guy to put in a romantic relationship. There are only a few characters in the entire game that he doesn't seem to look down on, and there are quite a few hints that Nel is one of them. While you can't really say he treats anyone nicely, he does treat her better then he treats quite a few characters, suggesting that he at least respects her. And, although this is overused, their affection levels at the beginning of the game are interesting. To give you an idea of the average rating, the main character's affection level for the main female character was 22. Albel's level towards most character is around 15, but for Nel it's 20. On it's own, this wouldn't mean anything to me, but coupled with all the little things I saw during the game, I find this extremely cute. Plus, their interactions are quite amusing. There's this one scene in Vanille's workshop, a bit before you face Crosell, when this exchange occurs:
Albel: Bah... I told you this place was a waste of time. Fool.
Nel: I don't remember you saying that.
Albel: Me neither. *closes eyes*
This pairing has a fair amount of popularity, considering the relatively small size of the fandom. Still, it's pretty much completely overshadowed by the super-popular Albel/Fayt pairing, and to make matters more annoying, a great deal of Albel/Nel fanfiction is completely out of character and/or badly written. Still, I finally managed to find ten, and here they are. I used the ratings each author chose to rate theirs as.
Fic Rec #1: The Nature of Strength
Rating/Warning(s): T; none that I can think of!
Why This Must Be Read: This is my favorite Albel/Nel I've read so far, hands down. I've already read it twice in a row, something that's pretty rare for me. They are both characterized SO WELL, especially Albel, which makes me happy due to how easily he's butchered. I loved his conversation with Woltar in the first chapter, and his reaction to his request. And it's even been updated this year, which means it hasn't been abandoned like so many other fics for this pairing! Honestly, I find it difficult to believe that this is the author's first fanfiction ever. My only complaint is that she hasn't written more of it already!
Seriously, though. If you only read one fic from all the ones I rec, let it be this one.
Fic Rec #2 Halo
Author: Chevira Lowe
Rating/Warning(s): T; nothing I can think of.
Why This Must Be Read: This hasn't been updated in six years, but I couldn't help but rec it. It's just so well-done. The romance is slow enough for my taste, the overarching plot intrigues me, and there are cats in this. Yes, cats. I just love how one of the characters interacts with those kittens. Just so adorable. Don't take me wrong, this does have a serious plot, and the cats don't have a big part in it. It's just something that really drew me in.
Fic Rec #3: Finding Motivation
Author: Lucrecia LeVrai
Rating/Warning(s): K+; none that I can think of
Why This Must Be Read: If The Nature of Strength is my favorite fanfiction for this pairing, then this one must be my second favorite. Nel doesn't show up in this oneshot, but she is important to the plot of it. Albel's characterization is lovely, as are his interactions with Woltar. I'm not really sure what else I should say about this one. Just read it, okay?
Fic Rec #4: Memories That Burn
Rating/Warning(s): M; some gory violence in later chapters, mentions of cannibalism done by ocs
Why This Must Be Read: I'm going to start with the things I didn't like first, as I did have some pretty big problems with this fic. I hate, hate, hate the backstory Zosocrowe makes for Albel. I'm not going to say what it was, as I don't want to spoil anything, but it's just a huge petpeeve of mine. Also, the chapter where Albel and Nel are in Plum was way too gruesome for my tastes (although I warned for that above), and it's a little slow getting started.
But once Albel and Nel start traveling (and barring the part with Plum), I really began to enjoy this fic. It is pretty well-written, and they don't fall in love in about five seconds (the biggest reason why I have such problems finding fic I enjoy for this pairing). In fact, Albel and Nel's interactions are pretty much wonderful. Truly, the only reason I don't fangirl this story to death is because of Albel's backstory. Other then that, it's pretty amazing.
Fic Rec #5: To Hell And Back
Author: Lucrecia LeVrai
Rating/Warning(s): T; some mild torture, and there's a scene where Vox kisses Albel.
Why This Must Be Read: I've never been fond of torture fic— I like things with happy endings, thank you very much, not to mention I hate how grotesque they can become— but this was is actually quite well done, without delving into anything disgusting. In fact, I didn't get squeamish at all. There is very little Albel/Nel so far in this fic, but it is more of a Albel-centric fic then a pairing fic, and it's not completed yet, so I'm okay with that.
Fic Rec #6: Prelude to the Soul
Rating/Warning(s): T; none that I can think of
Why This Must Be Read: This is actually a (much, much better) sequel to another fic that the author wrote that's...not so good. You don't really need to read that one to understand this one, but keep that in mind, as it's the reason for one childish plot device that is used in this. I may have spent most of this comment warning you, but I'm obviously reccing this for a reason. There aren't that many good Albel/Nel fics out there (as I mentioned above), and this is one of the better ones.
Fic Rec #7: Confidence
Rating/Warning(s): K+; none that I can think of
Why This Must Be Read: This actually wasn't meant to be an Albel/Nel fic, but there are enough shippy undertones that I can't help but read it that way. I liked seeing how Nel's opinions changed slowly changed at least a little bit, and how the author dealt with his left arm. My only complaint is that Albel seemed too open at the end of the fic.
Fic Rec #8: Necklace of Fear
Author: Raven the Dark Angel
Rating/Warning(s): M; and the battles get a little graphic, but it's not too bad
Why This Must Be Read: The lack of good fic for these two made me look at this in a different light, despite it being something I decided against the first time I went through the 'good Albel/Nel fic' list I compiled. It's not bad. Nothing to rave about, but good enough. My biggest complaint is that Nel is too tempermental.
Fic Rec #9: Before Dawn
Rating/Warning(s): K+; none! Unless the thought of a shirtless Albel disturbs you. =P
Why This Must Be Read: Third fic by the same person? I think it's clear I'm really running out of good fic. But this is a pretty fun one to read. Not stupid-funny, but amusing. I was giggling through the whole thing.
Fic Rec #10: Long Journey Home
Rating/Warning(s): T; none! Well, Albel beats up a twelve year-old at one point, but he was totally asking for it, and it's the opposite of graphic.
Why This Must Be Read: I can't believe I nearly missed this one! After all the struggle to compile this list, and then I find a perfectly wonderful fic just sitting in my bookmarks. This one really puts a smile on my face, especially with all the scenes with Adray.