Better Than Cookies
by Meimi


Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Namco or anyone who hold rights to Tales of the Abyss. It isn't mine, I'm just playing with it.

Spoiler Warning: Uhm, if you don't know who Asch is, it's a spoiler?


The door opened slowly, but smoothly, giving nary a creak or a crick or anything else that might alert any of the possible denizens within to the presence trying to sneak his way in. Luke practically held his breath as he poked his head halfway into the kitchen, his eyes scanning the room beyond carefully and studiously. It wouldn't do for him to get caught now that the most tasty of prizes were almost within his grasp. And besides, if he got caught then there would be yelling, there was always yelling, but he wasn't quite sure what other horrors he might incur in the process. The designated Master of the Kitchen hadn't been in too pleasant of a mood earlier -Honestly, when was he ever in a good mood?-, and Luke just didn't want to push his luck too much. He liked his hide right where it was, thanks all the same.

The kitchen was empty, save for one lone figure hunched over something or other on the stove. Excellent. Luke couldn't resist a cheeky grin of triumph as he slithered his way past the door, keeping a strong grip on it as he swung it back into place. He didn't trust gravity in this particular instance. All he needed was one little sound, one little noise out of place, and it would be curtains for him. Taking a moment to make sure the door was good and steady, Luke then slinked his way silently across the tile floor, each step taken on his tiptoes. His destination: the counters nearest the industrial size oven but still a decent distance away from the kitchen dictator. Those counters were laden with tray after tray of delectable looking pastries. But it was the cookies, oh those delicious cookies, that sparked his interest most of all. All he needed was one, just one, and he would be as happy as a peach. Well, maybe more than just one since he was here and all. Smirking gleefully, Luke reached forward, ready to snatch up an enticing handful, or two, or three.

"Don't even think about it."

Luke's grimaced sourly, his hand frozen in mid-snatch, before he shot an aggravated look over towards the stove. "Man, you can't even see what I'm doing."

Asch snorted in mild disgust, but did not remove his gaze from the skillet sizzling before him. "I don't need visual aids to know where you are and what you're doing."

Luke sighed heavily in annoyance and dropped his arm back down to his side. Visual aids, his ass. Asch just had eyes in the back of his head, that's all there was to it. "All right, fine," he grumbled and rolled his own eyes. Well, if he couldn't steal them, then maybe asking nicely might win him some points... and hell might freeze over in the process too. But eh, it was worth a shot. "May I have a cookies, please?"

"No," Asch answered simply enough, his tone flat and irrevocable. "You can wait just like the rest of them."

"Tyrant," Luke groused snidely as he stumped his way over to the snarly God-General, whose attention had been glued to the stove the entire time. What was he doing, anyway? It had to be something important to partly ignore him quite so effectively.

"Why thank you," Asch murmured blandly, "It lifts my spirit to receive such a heartfelt compliment from someone like you."

"Har har." Luke scowled irritably as he sidled up next to the master chef and peered over his shoulder. Hmm, looked like some sort of crepe thing, but why would Asch be frying it? Weird. "What are you doing?"

"What does it look like?" Asch asked scornfully as he finally deigned to glance over at Luke. "I'm cooking."

"Yes, I know that," Luke shot back in exasperation. Trust Asch to be completely and utterly difficult even about something as banal as this. "What I do want to know, however, is just what exactly it is that you are cooking."

Asch gave him a long and obviously forced blank look before returning his attention to the thing he had sizzling in the skillet. "If you can't figure out something that simple on your own, then I'm not going to tell you what it is."

"Lord, you really revel in being impossible, don't you?" Luke almost snarled as he crossed his arms and huffed disdainfully. It just figured.

"With you?" Asch smiled mockingly as he picked up the spatula lying nearby and carefully lifted up the edges of the crepe. Ah, good, it was starting to brown. "Always."

Luke grimaced as he watched Asch mess around with whatever that thing was supposed to be. It smelled... sweet, but he couldn't quite place the aroma. Caramel, maybe? Eh, well, he could always find out later. At least Natalia and Tear were decent about answering his questions, regardless of whether said questions seemed stupid or not. And if they couldn't or wouldn't explain it, then he could always ask Guy. Guy always had an answer, and even when he didn't he'd still try to find one. Yeah, that might work.

Now, as for Asch...

Luke speculatively eyed his surly original up and down and decided that a change of subject would probably suit the situation best. And really, Asch's appearance and the possible explanations for it certainly looked to be interesting enough. It was always odd to see Asch sans his tabard or gloves, but the addition of the almost frilly white apron and that ponytail really painted a vivid picture. "You know," he began, doing his best to smother his rising amusement at the sight, "That is so..."

"What?" Asch prompted sharply, glancing back suspiciously as his supremely annoying replica's voice trailed off into bated silence.

"Well, it's just," Luke muttered, his lips jerking up every now and then into a delightfully amused grin before he could fight them back down again, "That is just so... well, you know, that look, it's so..."

Asch growled viciously under his breath. Of course, it would be about that. "I'd quit while you were ahead."

Choking back a chuckle, Luke cajoled, "Oh come on, surely you realize-"

"I'm warning you," Asch snarled acidly. Why hadn't he killed this idiot already? He would certainly have less headaches that way. Though, perhaps not, because then he'd never hear the end of it for depriving the world of dear Luke's precious presence. Damn, but life really sucked at times.

"But it's so-"

Asch whirled around, brandishing the utensil he still held in as threatening a manner as he could manage in this kind of situation. "I have a spatula and I am not afraid to use it." Maybe he could get away with killing him this time. Surely even they would realize and understand the extreme duress he was working under. It's not like any of the rest of them were getting bullied around by a conniving princess who knew just what buttons to push to get him to do something this inane. And if they didn't understand then he would make them... in as painful a manner as possible. And he would most definitely start the much needed lessons in pain with this particular idiot.

"Okay okay," Luke said soothingly as he held his hands up in apparent surrender. But just as it seemed that Asch might start to relax out of his threatening posture, Luke grinned daringly and added, "It's just that you look so feminine like that."

Asch just glared death at him for that. "You really want to die today, don't you?"

"Not especially," Luke muttered and shrugged. Holding a conversation with Asch was always an exercise in "not dying", this one wasn't any different than usual. Why mince words when the results would always be the same? "But you've got to admit that you're more likely to see that sort of ponytail on a female archer rather than a stately God-General."

Asch snorted his response to that and turned back towards the stove. "I'd like to see you say no the next time she has a deathgrip on your hair," he muttered in obvious disgust.

Luke smirked knowingly. "Oh. Natalia, I take it?"

"Who else?" Asch grumbled back in answer.

"Well, you know how it goes," Luke said airily as he twirled his hand vaguely in the air and peeked over at the nearest counter. Were those little miniature cakes? "Once she gets one of those great ideas of hers, she just pretty much ignores anything else her victims might have to say about it."

Asch merely hummphed in disdain at that particular statement of fact. As if he needed that idiot informing him of something that he was more than well aware of. What did his replica take him for anyway, a naive moron like him?

Luke eyed the little cake things appraisingly then gave his dour original's back a long, hard, searching look. When it appeared as if Asch wasn't paying him one whit of attention, Luke took an experimental step towards the counter, grinning a moment later when no further threats of bodily harm were sent his way. Well, maybe he didn't have eyes in the back of his head after all. Sauntering over the last little way, Luke leaned over the pastries then gave Asch one last curious look and asked, "So what exactly did Natalia threaten you with to get you to cook all of this crap, anyway?"

"She didn't threaten me," Asch said absently as he checked the underside of the "crepe" and then expertly flipped it over. The browning looked even and uniform enough for his liking now.

"Oh ho!" Luke crowed, his fingers hovering a hairsbreadth over the yummy looking icing on those little cake things as his mind gleefully started supplying ever so interesting alternatives to threats. "If it wasn't a threat then it had to have been something else, something exceptional to spark your interest. A promise of something, maybe? It had to have been something good to get you in here without the usual arguments, so what was it?"

"No- Nothing! She just asked nicely," Asch bit out hastily, his eyes glued desperately on the skillet below as he did his best to fight back a rising blush at Luke's obvious innuendo. Trust his idiot replica to think up something so impossibly absurd when a simpler explanation was more in order, and fit the situation better to boot. "Something which the rest of you can't quite seem to manage," he added sourly in afterthought.

"You're no saint in that regard either," Luke muttered vaguely as he dipped the tip of his index finger into the soft, barely there icing. He had yet to admit it to anyone, and probably never would, though he seriously suspected that the others felt the same way, but he preferred Asch's cooking to anyone else's. His cranky original certainly knew what he was doing in this particular area of expertise, and he definitely fit the part this time what with that apron and all.

Asch grunted noncommittally in response to that. So what if he seemed a bit... rough around the edges at times. It's not like anyone could blame him for it. He'd like to see how mild mannered they'd turn out to be after having to endure countless missions spent in close quarters with Legretta, Sync, Arietta, and horror of all horrors: Dist. At this point, he was just thoroughly relieved to still be in possession of his sanity. More or less.

Luke smirked triumphantly as he raised his icing slathered finger up to his lips. Didn't need visual aids to know what he was doing, huh? Well, he just proved that statement completely wrong. How embarrassing, the vaunted God-General, Asch the Bloody, had already failed at his interim dictatorship of the kitchen. Tragic. But just as he was about to stick his finger in his mouth something flashed out of the corner of his eye, barely missing the tip of his nose as it smacked hard into his hand.

"Ow! Damnit, that hurt, you bastard!" Luke swore viciously as he shook his smarting hand and glared hotly back at his usual attacker.

"I told you no, but like the moronic fool that you are, you didn't listen," Asch snarled as he jabbed Luke none too gently in the ribs with the spatula, his weapon of choice at the moment. "Well, I hope you're paying attention this time, because if it happens again, I will most assuredly make it hurt worse. And you can trust me on that one."

"Whatever." Luke scowled and rolled his eyes, all the while still trying to shake the sting out of his hand. Oh yeah, he trusted Asch all right. He trusted him to be as snooty and prissy as he possibly could. Even dressed up like that, looking like the proverbial happy homemaker, Asch was still a thoroughly arrogant son of a bitch. Though, now that Luke thought about it, his dear pissy original did look moderately ridiculous with that smear of flour on his cheek, which was made even more apparent by the fading remnants of his teasing. Really, Asch could blush with the best of them when his buttons got pushed. And they were so easy to push.

Asch opened his mouth again, no doubt to deliver another blistering epithet or maybe even to threaten bodily harm to his stupid replica again, but a familiar feminine voice wafted into the kitchen from somewhere behind the door, giving its own perilous warning, "Don't get any blood on the food, boys."

They both gave the door long wary looks before glancing suspiciously back at one another. Trust Natalia to defuse the situation at hand without even really being present, and while still making them feel like squabbling children. Women sure could be awfully scary when they put their minds to it.

Shuddering minutely at that thought, Luke shrugged and reached forward, intent on wiping the flour off of Asch's cheek. They didn't need Natalia telling them how to behave. Well, okay, maybe Asch did, but he certainly didn't.

Asch jerked back even before Luke could touch him, raising his hand up to cover the cheek his replica had been reaching for. "What are you doing?!"

Luke sighed in annoyance. Man, as if the apron wasn't bad enough, now he could almost say that Asch was starting to sound like a virginal school girl. Honestly, he didn't have to act so damned suspicious all the time. He could try relaxing for once. Assuming he even knew how to do that. "You have some flour on your cheek. I was just going to brush it off," he explained irritably.

"Oh." Asch blinked blankly for a moment, then swiped angrily at the aforementioned cheek. "Well, I don't need your help with something like that."

Luke smothered a chuckle as Asch only managed to succeed at smearing it even more. It looked as if he had flour all over his hands too and just hadn't realized it yet. Shaking his head, Luke reached forward purposefully, grabbing his original's wrist in a firm grip while brushing Asch's cheek off with his free hand. "Here, let me do it, you're just making it worse."

Asch huffed in a mildly affronted manner, but allowed it. If he blew up now, Natalia would most assuredly make an appearance, and since Luke was helping him out at the moment then the blame would most definitely fall solely upon his shoulders. He just didn't feel like having to suffer through yet another lecture about being nice to the idiot.

"There we go," Luke murmured absently as he brushed the last bits of pale white powder off of the God-General's cheek, "All better now. Well, as good as it gets with you anyway."

"Whatever," Asch growled snidely as he yanked his arm out of Luke's grasp and took a few steps back, widening the distance between them. Giving his damned replica one last disparaging glance, he returned to his spot in front of the stove, quite obviously attempting to write Luke's presence off as something not even worthy of his attention. "You can leave now."

"Uhuh," Luke grumbled unhappily and crossed his arms. It figured. "Not even a thank you then, I suppose?"

"For you?" Asch hummphed in disgust at the very idea. As if he would thank that idiot for insisting on doing something that he could have handled just fine on his own. "Not a chance in hell."

Luke shook his head and rolled his eyes again. Asch could be so utterly predictable in certain areas, his behavior around him being one of the easiest ones to predict. Didn't mean he had to like it though, or to actually do what he wanted him too. Because while for most people revenge might best be served cold, he didn't have to wait anywhere near that long where Asch was concerned. If there was one thing he had learned well in the short time they had actually known each other, it was just how extremely easy it was to push his dear original's hot buttons.

"No thank you, no cookies, not even any gratitude for keeping you company during your hour of drudgery," Luke said smoothly as he slid up behind Asch, plastered himself against his original's back and wrapped his arms around his waist. "Whatever am I going to do with you?" Asch stiffened up immediately under his touch and Luke couldn't help the victorious smirk that crossed his lips as he rest his chin upon the now very frazzled God-General's shoulder. Really, he made it so damned easy at times. Too easy, to be perfectly honest, but he wasn't going to complain about it. After all, if Asch ever did learn how to rein in his immediate reactions, then it wouldn't be half as much fun to mess around with him.

Asch simply stood there, ramrod straight, and ground his teeth together in impotent rage. He would not give his stupid replica the satisfaction of making him blow up, no matter how much he wanted to right now. He would keep his temper. He would. Besides, he could always spend the night trying to figure out just how many holes he could poke in the moron before he bled to death. Knives and swords were such excessively wonderful inventions, in more ways than one. They certainly helped him to relieve some of his overbearing stress, after all. Forcing himself to relax as much as he possibly could given the current situation, Asch finally managed to hiss out through gritted teeth, "Do you mind?"

"Not at all," Luke said breezily as he scooted his chin a little bit closer to Asch's neck. If this wasn't the perfect opportunity, and if he didn't take it, then he was definitely in serious need of getting his head examined. "Feel free to carry on with whatever you were doing." Humming pleasantly, he tilted his head a bit and then proceeded to bury his nose into the collar of Asch's uniform, something that was made infinitely easier to do without the tabard in the way. Though, Luke did rather silently bemoan the lost opportunity of having Asch's silken hair brush against his face. But eh, beggars can't be choosers, he supposed.

Shuddering from the overwhelming urge to beat the ever living hell out of his infuriating replica, Asch ever so slowly mentally counted to ten, and then he did it again, and finally a third time for good measure. Natalia had warned them about getting blood on the food, after all. It wouldn't do to disappoint her, no matter how appealing the thought of ripping into Luke might be. Though, the mental imagery of the smear on the floor, all that would be left of Luke after he was done with him, was quite compelling. If only... Shaking his head, Asch forcefully pushed those ever so pleasant thoughts out of his mind and adamantly stared down at the stove. He would not give in. Luke would not win this time, not if he had anything to say about it. "Fine then," he grumbled irritably, "But don't blame me if you end up getting burnt by spatters."

Luke snuffled into Asch's neck, sounding almost as if he were giggling over something or other that he found to be utterly amusing. "... don't mind... burned... you," he mumbled, though his words came out more garbled than not.

Asch blinked, his brows furrowing in confusion at Luke's broken, incomplete mumbling. "What was that?" he asked suspiciously after a moment spent trying to decipher whatever the hell that idiot had said and failing miserably. Why couldn't the fool speak normal human language like everybody else?

Luke really did giggle then as he shifted slightly, but just enough to be audible. "Nevermind, it wasn't anything important," he snickered cheerfully before burying his nose back into Asch's neck. He truly wouldn't mind getting burned by a certain someone, but hell if he'd say that where Asch could actually hear him. His original could be such a prissy bitch at times, but there were so many obvious holes in his behavior that it didn't take a genius to figure out that it was mostly some sort of defense mechanism. Not that Luke let on that he had actually managed to figure that out, certainly not. It was so much fun being the precocious, lovable idiot after all. He could get away with so much crap that way. Though, even he had to admit that he was getting a little tired of the typical song and dance routine with Asch. Maybe a different approach was in order, and such a splendid opportunity too.

Asch scowled at that, but didn't comment. He was having enough trouble as it was to keep himself from shivering at the warm breath puffing gently against his skin. Did the moron always have to invade his space? It wasn't as if he crawled all over Luke at every given opportunity. In fact, he barely ever touched his replica, and usually only when he was pissed off. Which, granted, did seem to happen rather frequently, but it wasn't his fault. Who wouldn't blow up as such blatant stupidity? Did the fool have no sense of propriety? Surely their mother- Asch froze, his train of thought instantly derailing at the feel of something warm and moist caressing the sensitive skin of his neck.

What was- He couldn't possibly- Why would- What the hell? Asch drove his elbow back into Luke, not even allowing himself to enjoy the pained "Oof!" that whooshed out over his shoulder as he whirled around and shoved the crazy fool away from him. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he snarled, brandishing the spatula wildly as if to ward off any further approach from his stupid, idiotic and thoroughly insane replica.

Luke shrugged carelessly and rubbed his aching side. Damn, but Asch knew just where to hit somebody to make it really hurt. "I thought it was obvious," he grumbled in mild annoyance. "I mean, come on, can you blame me? You wouldn't let me have any cookies, or anything else for that matter, so I thought I'd go for the next best thing."

"What?!" Asch almost bellowed, remembering only at the very last second of just what had happened the last time they had gotten a little loud. He didn't need Natalia barging in on, well, whatever the hell this was. Damn him anyway, why did Luke have to make his life so fucking difficult? Why couldn't he just leave him alone? Was that so damned hard to do?

Luke smiled slowly, his expression bordering on predatory. Oh, this was just too perfect for words. Shrugging again, he swiftly pushed the spatula out of the way, grabbed ahold of Asch's wrist and yanked him over, pulling his dear original flush against his body. "Well," he drawled, his voice sounding like pure silk and laden with as much suggestion as he could manage, "To be perfectly honest, I think you might be better than cookies." And then he swooped in, covering Asch's lips with his own before his most sought after prey could work up any sort of protest. Yes, this was exactly what he had been craving, cookies aside.

Asch just stood there as Luke's lips worked against his own, his mind completely unable to cope with what was happening. When had- Why would- How had- What the hell?! He just couldn't seem to manage much more than that, his thoughts just kept hanging up at the what the hell point. Though judging from the warmth spreading up his cheeks, his body seemed to have a better grasp on the situation. You damned traitor, he silently cursed at it rather hysterically.

Luke hummed appreciatively as he leaned back for a moment, his eyes gleaming with something that Asch didn't want to give name to. "Yep, definitely better than cookies," he murmured, his tone low and filled with a promise that made Asch shiver at the implication. And then he was leaning in again, his movements a bit more deliberate now as he tilted his head slightly for a better angle. Reaching around with his free arm, Luke grasped the back of Asch's head in a firm, but still somewhat gentle, grip.

Asch was no fool, and while his mind might still be in what the hell land, Luke's purpose was more than obvious to him. But even before he realized what he was doing, he was reaching up, his replica's coat bunching up beneath his fingers as they curled up convulsively into a tight fist. And Luke's tongue was sliding past his lips, stroking gently against his own, encouraging him to kiss back... and he did, he drank in the intimate caress as if he were a drowning man. It felt so damned good. He tasted so damned good.

Luke wasn't sure how long they stayed that way, he was just too ungodly elated that Asch hadn't pushed him away, hadn't rejected him, and was, in fact, kissing him back. But he did need to breathe, they both did, and so finally, and very, very reluctantly, he tore himself away, but only just. "Much, much better than cookies," he panted breathlessly as he nipped gently along Asch's jaw. Oh, but he cursed himself to the depths of hell for waiting so ridiculously long to do this. It was so much better than he could have possibly imagined.

"You're... insane," Asch murmured softly as he closed his eyes and tipped his head back, unconsciously allowing Luke better access.

Chuckling deliriously in answer to that, Luke worked his way up Asch's jawline and towards his ear, licking and nipping at every single bit of skin along the way. "What can I say," he mumbled absently when he finally reached his destination, "I prefer my sweets to have a bit of a bite to them." And then he wrapped eager lips around Asch's earlobe and gently sucked on it.

Asch bit his bottom lip to keep from gasping at the beyond pleasant sensation. His replica might be a fucking moron in most things but he seemed to know what he was doing in this particular case. Now if he would just shut up with the stupid quips and keep doing whatever it was that he was doing. "You're... really... pushing it... you know that?" Of course, it would probably help if he would stop rising to the occasion... or perhaps that was Luke's ultimate goal. Asch grimaced slightly, his cheeks turning a brilliant scarlet red as his mind took a nosedive into the proverbial gutter. It wasn't that he felt like objecting at this point, really, but there was always a time and place for certain things, and this really wasn't one of those. Not that he seemed to be able to make himself tell Luke to stop...

Luke chuckled again as he released the lobe and instead licked behind it. "All right, I'll give you that. You're not exactly sweet," he murmured in between soft nips as he worked his way back down to Asch's neck, "But I still want you all the same."

Asch didn't feel like commenting on that, in fact, all he felt like doing at that very moment was feeling. Luke had released his grip on his wrist, not that the his weapon was much of a threat at this point, somewhere between then and now he had dropped the damn spatula in favor of grabbing at his replica. Luke, in the meantime, had wrapped his newly freed appendage loosely around Asch's back and was even now gently scraping his nails up and down his original's spine. Even through the material of his uniform, it felt very, very good. Now if he would just go a little lower...

Luke stopped then, just when Asch thought that maybe some suggestions about just what he should do and where he should do it might be in order, and the God-General was hard pressed to not snarl in frustration. What the hell was he doing now? Stopping to sniff at the air wasn't how these things went... wait, sniffing at the air?

"What is that smell?" Luke asked curiously, scrunching his nose up at the acrid aroma wafting over the room.

"Smell?" Asch mumbled vaguely as his other senses finally woke up enough to tell him that something wasn't quite right. There was an almost acrid scent to the air, almost as if something were burning... It took a moment for his mind to work up enough brain power to connect the dots. "Oh hell," he snarled viciously as he abruptly pushed Luke away and turned to the stove. Unfortunately, it was much too late to salvage the "crepe". His culinary creation was now a black, gooey mess sizzling along merrily in counterpart to his swiftly mounting irritation. Well, it just figured. Even when he was doing something right, Luke still managed to fuck something else up.

"Oops?" Luke muttered guilelessly as he peered over Asch's shoulder at the smoking disaster, his tone completely unapologetic. Damn, that thing might have been good too. But oh well, he had gotten something that tasted much better in the meantime.

Asch turned slightly and glowered death at him, his demeanor thoroughly unamused. "Get out," he ground out, punctuating his command with a sharp poke at Luke's ribs.

"Oh come on," Luke almost whined, though he did allow his bottom lip to pooch out some in an obvious pout. He wouldn't whine at Asch, or beg for that matter. He knew that doing so wouldn't win him any points at all for the moment, if ever. "You want to stop now? But it was just getting good."

"I have better things to do with my time," Asch growled as he gave his replica a rough shove in the direction of the door. "I still have to cook dinner for those idiots, I don't need you distracting me."

Luke scowled at Asch's initial comment. Better things to do, his ass. But he couldn't help but grin at the last bit. So he was a distraction now, huh? Well, he certainly hoped that he had been a good one at least. "All right," he finally conceded as he slowly backed up towards the kitchen door, "I'll leave you to it then. We can always... continue things... later." He grinned wickedly at the last before whirling around and giving his dear, delicious original a careless wave. "In fact, I would count on it if I were you."

Asch silently watched him leave, staring at the door for several long minutes after Luke had departed. Finally, he gave himself a very hard, deliberate shake before forcing his fingers out of the tight fists they had curled up into. He glared down hotly at the red line of half moons across his palms. Damn him for letting that idiot affect him this badly anyway. It didn't mean anything. It didn't. Really. Giving himself another shake, Asch began to methodically clean up the mess. He had better things to do than think about what had happened, that kiss, or how it had felt. Yes, he had much better things to do.

But Luke's promise of later still lingered at the forefront of his mind.