I had no idea what to do. I'd been locked in the room for three hours and I was going stir crazy. I took a long bath, washed my hair and let it dry, but on a plain white dress that had been sitting in a chair and then surveyed every inch of the room I was stuck in. The only thing I refused to do was think about Tyce and Azel. I had no idea what to do about either, so I just didn't think about it.

Just about when I thought I'd kill myself with boredom, the door opened. Azel stood there, looking distant, then walked into the room and shut the door behind him. He was eerily detached. He walked straight up to me and sat on the bed. After a moment's hesitation, I sat beside him.

"Esmaria?" he didn't look at me, just stared into the distance.


"Why did you come back here?"

"I was on a job," I took a deep breath, then let it out. "I was living in Tsuna... I became an unofficial thief."

"If you'd told me that was your future when we first met, I would have laughed," he said, looking at me for the first time. "But now... I can see it."

"I know," I touched the scar on my face.

"No," he took that hand in his. "Not the scars, it's in your eyes Maria, you're not the same girl that ran from this nation two years ago."

"I know," I looked into his eyes. "Do you understand that? We're different people, so many things have changed."

"I know that," he released my hand to lay a hand in my hair. "But something's haven't changed."

I blinked up at him, not liking where this was going.

"I'm still in love with you Maria," he said, his tone perfectly serious. "And you are still in love with me."

"Azel..." I looked down. He just tilted my chin back up.

"If you're not still in love with me, why are you wearing my necklace?" He smiled faintly. "Even when you thought I killed your parents, you didn't take it off."

"No, I didn't take it off," I held his stare. "For a long time I loved you Azel... but that was before Tyce. I- I'm so, so sorry... If I had found out the truth sooner... it might have been different. There are a hundred other girls in the world that could be perfect for you Azel, it's just not me anymore."

"Yes it is," his eyes hardened. "If you had been strongly in love with that boy for a long time, you would have already thrown away my necklace, but you haven't.

We are still perfect for each other Esmaria, you just can't see it right now."

"Don't do this," I pleaded. "I can move back, to my land, with Draven. We could know each other, be friends... please do not ruin what we could have with this. I do not love you Azel."

I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't a kiss. Before I could react Azel had leant forward and captured my lips with his. For a frozen second, all I could do was sit there, stalk still. Then a strange feeling flooded me, something warm and blissful... my mind was reeling. Somewhere in my brain someone was yelling at me to pull away, get away, think of Tyce... but my body wasn't listening to that. To my horror I slid my arms around his neck and melted against him.

I let him press me against his body, let him hold me like nothing ever changed. I even let him lower me down against the bed, it was when his hand curled around my hip that I snapped out of it. A vivid memory of Tyce's touch there sent me jerking away from Azel. I couldn't- I couldn't do this. I honestly have no idea what I felt for Azel, but it was nothing like what I felt for Tyce. I felt safe with Tyce, felt loved with Tyce... the only thing I felt for Azel was physical; there was no comparison.

"Maria?" Azel sat back, watching me pull myself together from across the bed where I'd crawled to get away from him.

"Let me out of here," I wouldn't look at him. "If you love me like you say, you wouldn't have me locked up in this room."

"It's not like I want you locked in here," Azel sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Maria I'm scared."

"Scared?" I stared at him.

"Yes," he met my eyes. "Scared that you'll leave before you have a chance to see that we are still meant for each other."

"Azel please-" I tried again, but stopped. He wasn't listening, I saw it in his eyes. I tried something else. "I need to see my brother."

"I have no idea where he is," he told me. "But if he turns up here, I will make sure that he is brought to you."

"Fine," I stood up. It was better than nothing. "Now let me out of this room."

"Esmaria," he stood up too, looking wary.

"Esmeralda," I corrected him. "I haven't gone by Esmaria for a while now."

"Esmeralda," Azel rolled the name off his tongue. It brought an involuntary response out of me. "I like it, it reminds me of your eyes."

"That's why Draven chose it," I admitted. "First thing he thought of."

"What was it like?" he asked, not relaxing his guard. "Living in Tsuna? Living as a thief?"

"I wasn't an actual thief," I said. "I never joined the network, I was a free-lance 'whatever needed to be done'. They called me the Emerald Thief."

"You always were brave," Azel smiled like he was recalling some distant memory.

"No I wasn't," I stared at the ground. That day... I'd been so scared. If Draven hadn't been the rebel of our family, hadn't been on his usual night on the town drinking with Trent, hadn't come back and saved me, I would have died in that fire too.

"Esmar- Esmeralda," Azel took a step towards me. "I-"

"Let me out of this room," I threw my mental barriers back up, dissolving the pain before it could really get to me. "I can't stay in an in-closed space for long Azel."

"Are you going to try to run first chance you get?" He stared into my eyes.

"Yes." I wouldn't lie to him.

"Then how can I just let you out?"

"I- I didn't want it to come to this," I took a deep breath.

I didn't want to fight him, I really didn't. I shouldn't have talked this long, I should have attacked the moment he opened the door... but after everything, I couldn't bring myself to do something like that. I watched him tense, ready for whatever I was about to throw at him, but he didn't stiffen his muscles, didn't prepare for an attack. Despite what he said, Azel still didn't think that I would fight him, probably still didn't see it as a possibility from me. Well, I'd learnt a lot in two years.

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