Birthday Blues?
by Meimi


Request fic written for LadyUsada's birthday.

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: End game spoilers abound!


Staring up sourly at the entrance to Fabre manor, Asch unconsciously shifted his weight from one foot to the next. He did not want to be here. He did not want to have to enter that door. He did not want to have to endure fake pleasantries from the staff again and he damn well didn't want to have to endure yet another session with his parents trying to convince him to come back "home". Just because the idiot had somehow managed to sweet talk Lorelei into returning them both to life, as it were, didn't mean that he was at all interested in picking up the pieces of a life that had died years ago. He was a God-General in service to the Order of Lorelei, not the heir to a duchy in the kingdom of Kimlasca-Landvaldear. Not that Luke seemed interested in respecting his wishes in regards to that particular subject.

Asch glanced down at the crumpled piece of paper in his hand and growled sulfurously before roughly stuffing it back into his coat pocket. When he had first received the letter, he had been more inclined to ignore it than anything else. And he had succeeded in that for awhile, but even so, there had been a constant niggling doubt in the back of his mind. What if something was wrong? What if he was needed for something important? What if? What if? What if? He hated "what if"s more than anything else. They always, always, always got him into more trouble than he cared for. Which is exactly what had happened when he had finally given in and opened that damnable letter.

Well, referring to it as a letter gave it more importance that it really bore. It hadn't been a letter, it had been an invitation: an invitation to the birthday party of one Luke fon Fabre. He should have burnt it on sight, and he did actually singe the damned thing before managing to get his fury under control. Fonons seemed so much more eager to answer his call ever since their... return. That little oddity could be quite embarrassing at times, especially when he let his temper get away with him. He'd set far too many things on fire before he'd finally figured out what was going on. Not that he didn't get angry anymore. Oh hell no. Fury was something that he would always be familiar with, but he did have a more controlled hold on it now. It was better to swallow his pride than to inadvertently set someone he found annoying on fire, no matter how appealing that thought might prove to be later on. But he had not set the invitation on fire, though by now he was a bit beyond reconsidering that little rein in of his temper.

And he would have tossed it, or turned it into ash, were it not for the marked out R.S.V.P. on it, marked out with heavy strokes and then circled with another message indicated just below it: COME HOME. It was an easy enough message to ignore, he had done it many, many times in the past. Besides, he didn't have a home. Where exactly was he supposed to "come home" too? But despite every single corner of his mind screaming at him to ignore the presumptuous order from that idiot, he hadn't been able to forget about it. Which is why he now found himself in the last place he had ever wanted to be again.

Damn him.

Sighing irritably, Asch shook his head then started forward. The sooner he got this done with, the sooner it would be over. He ignored the White Knights who saluted smartly at him as he passed by, better to ignore them entirely than admit to the discomfort that such attention engendered within him. He was not their lord. He was not their lord's son. He was nothing to them. That's how it should be. Unfortunately though, he couldn't ignore all of the household inhabitants. He did need to know where the idiot was so that he could set him on fire, if nothing else.

Asch mentally grimaced as the maids bowed to him, but kept his face blank and expressionless. Better to be perceived as cold and emotionless than to suffer through uncomfortable questions he had no intention of answering.

"Master Asch!" One exclaimed in surprised delight.

"How wonderful to see you again!" Another said cheerfully, instantly following on her compatriot's coattails, as it were.

"Will you be staying long-"

"Where's Luke?" He asked brusquely, cutting that particular question off before it came to any sort of fruition. Let them think him rude. It was better than having to acknowledge the expectations that he would never meet.

The maids blinked curiously at him, then turned to each other for a moment to commiserate. Finally, one of them turned back to him and smiled gently, almost appearing as if she seemed to understand his curtness on some level. He hoped not. If anything, he didn't need a stranger's pity added on top of an already substantial pile of good wishes. "The last I heard, Master Luke was doing something or other in the kitchens. No doubt, he is probably still there making a horrific mess we will have to clean up later, Master Asch."

Asch nodded and muttered his thanks as he swept past them. He did not look back. He didn't want his suspicions confirmed by a visual of them gossiping amongst themselves about their poor, lonely "Master Asch". Being here in this damnable place was bad enough. Ignoring further bows and salutes from the maids and household guards he passed along the way, Asch quickly made his way down to the kitchens and decided that, yes, he would set the moron on fire for making him do this. In his mind, it was more than well deserved at this point.

Sadly, it appeared as if Luke was well on his way to doing that very thing once Asch had finally reached the idiot's location. His fool of a replica was covered in flour from head to toe, along with other unmentionables that Asch did not care to identify, staring, utterly dumbstruck at the pillar of fire raging out of the skillet in front of him.

What the hell?

Asch quickly glanced around the room, grabbed the still half-full bag of flour sitting on the counter and pushed the idiot out of the way before dumping the entire contents of said bag out on top of the raging fire. The flames sputtered and sparked brilliantly, but died down swiftly as the flour did its job and smothered them out.


The miserable sounding utterance from behind him caught Asch's attention and he chanced a glance back. Yes, miserable was the right word for Luke's appearance. He looked even worse from the front: still covered in flour with smears of something or other here and there. Truly a sight to behold, but as per usual, Asch's anger -and worry- won out over his amusement. "What the hell did you think you were doing?" He snarled viciously as he swept the smoking skillet across the stove, setting it down as far from the heat as possible.

Luke blinked blankly in obvious confusion for several moments; then his face fell, his shoulders drooping, looking even more miserable than before, if that were at all possible, as he simply answered, "Baking a cake."

"You don't fry cakes, you fool," Asch shot back snidely as he surreptitiously gave Luke a studious once over. It didn't look as if he had managed to burn himself anywhere at least. That was one less worry.

"Well," Luke laughed weakly as he shrugged helplessly, "I've never really been very good at reading instructions, I guess."

Asch sighed heavily and shook his head at the expected idiotic response. "You know, they have cooks for this sort of thing," he offered irritably as he checked the skillet. The smoke was already starting to dissipate, and it didn't appear as if the remains of whatever it had been were still smoldering. That was good.

"Yeah, but I wanted to do it myself." Asch arched an eyebrow curiously as he glanced back at his replica expectantly. Luke colored in embarrassment at Asch's questioning look, but only muttered "It's just something I wanted to do." in answer to it, which really wasn't much of an answer at all.

Asch scowled darkly at the non-answer, but decided to let it be for now. They were still in the kitchens after all, and he didn't want to have to explain why he was strangling the idiot to anyone who might pass by. No, his room was a much better place for something like that. "Whatever," he grumbled in annoyance as he reached forward, spun Luke around and forcefully started marching them both out of the room.

"What are you-"

"We're going to your room so you can clean up before your damned birthday party," Asch answered waspishly as he continued to push the moron ahead of him, "Or did you forget about that little detail?"

"Oh right," Luke said gloomily, his misery seeming to return full force at the mention of his birthday. "Well, at least they're not having it here."

Asch blinked in confusion at that, but only hesitated for a half a second in their forward march before continuing on. "Why not?"

"I told them that I didn't want one," Luke mumbled unhappily as they passed through a door into the central courtyard. "But they kept on insisting, and then uncle got involved in it and now everything's turned into a total mess."

"I see," Asch said blankly, trailing along closely behind Luke as they climbed up the stairs to his room, though in all honesty he didn't see a damned thing. Why in the world would the idiot not want to have a party? He supposed that the main party might be more of a chore than anything else. Luke was still the son of a duke, after all, and he well remembered his own distaste at them back when he was still a child. But that didn't explain everything. Didn't Luke have those friends of his to actually make sure he enjoyed it? Surely at least Guy would want to do something. Odd that.

Luke chuckled weakly as he waved Asch into their room, closing the door tightly behind him once they were both inside and setting the lock into place. He smiled cheerlessly at Asch's curious look, but didn't answer the obvious unspoken question. Instead he started rambling on as he crossed the room and started digging for another, cleaner set of clothes, "Don't worry, I have no intention of going to that one either. Now where did I put that. Ginji should be here in a few minutes. He's going to fly us to Keterburg. I- I like the snow. You did too, didn't you?"

"Yes." Asch answered simply, tuning Luke out as the idiot continued to ramble on about this and that. What in the hell was going on here? This was turning out to be one of the most confusing days he'd ever experienced in Luke's arguably erratic presence. He'd been expecting to have to sit through a horrendous birthday party for the two of them arranged by their mother, but apparently that was not the case. So why exactly did Luke want him to come to Baticul? And for that matter, why did he not even want to have a party in the first place? "Why don't you want to go to your birthday party?"

"It's not my birthday," Luke muttered absently as he yanked a shirt out from one of the drawers he was digging through, sniffed at it, then shook his head and tossed it aside.

"You have egg on your nose, nothing is going to smell right," Asch supplied oh so helpfully before prodding further, "And why do you say that? Of course it's your birthday."

"No it's not," Luke argued breezily as he wiped his nose off on his coat sleeve, earning him a look of disgust from Asch for his trouble, "It's yours."

"That's true, but it's also yours too," Asch shot back in rising irritation. If that idiot started getting all depressed again, he swore he was going to maim something. If there was one thing he couldn't stand, it was that look of complete and utter failure on his replica's face whenever he started bemoaning their lot in life. Really, Luke just needed to learn how to emulate him better. At least when he was depressed he didn't let all and sundry know about it. Better to suffer through the misery on his own than to let others have the chance of taking advantage of it.

"No, it isn't." Luke frowned as he gifted Asch with a look of annoyance before returning to his task. "Do you even remember what day I was created on?"

Asch opened his mouth, ready with a whip fast response, but then shut it again in thought. He actually didn't know the answer to that. He had been so disoriented from all of the drugs coursing through his system at the time, not to mention the excruciating pain he had endured throughout the "experiments", that he honestly had no idea how many days he had spent beneath Choral Castle. And he certainly didn't know which day in particular they had finally succeeded in making a perfect replica of him. "No," he said finally, his voice soft and thoughtful, "I don't."

"See?" Luke grunted as he yanked another drawer out and started digging through it. "If you don't know, then nobody knows, thus I don't have a birthday. What's the point in celebrating if you don't have a birthday?"

Asch scowled darkly at that ridiculous line of logic. Why would he- No, wait, he didn't want to know the answer to that, nor did he want to listen to anymore of the idiot's supposed feelings on the subject. And frankly, he didn't even want to be here. Raking Luke from head to toe with an angry glare, Asch allowed his control to falter a bit. The high pitched screech his utterly stupid replica emitted thanks to the deluge of water that rained down upon him as a result of that little lapse was more than enough to appease Asch for the moment. That's what he gets for being such a moron.

Luke whirled around in indignation and almost yelled, "What the hell was that for?!"

Asch smiled serenely and did it again. "What-" And again. "Why are you-" And again. "Stop it!" His smile widened ever so slightly in amusement as Luke reached a new octave on that last scream.

Luke glared at the now smirking God-General, breathing hard and fast as he stood amidst a rather substantial puddle of water, the remains still dripping heavily off of his drenched form. He scrunched his nose up and shivered, waiting to see if another spell would follow, then stripped his sodden coat off and wrung it out before giving up and just tossing it to the side. The waterlogged mass joining all the other crap he'd thrown out earlier. He stopped for a moment in confusion as he began to pull his shirt off. "When did you learn that spell?" He asked curiously as he resumed the motion, the drenched shirt squelching disgustingly as it joined the pile on the floor.

"I didn't," Asch answered slowly, unsure about whether he really wanted to tell anyone about that little development. But if not Luke, then whom else did he have to confide in? He just... didn't trust anybody else enough for that.

Luke shot him a confused look before prompting, "What do you mean?"

"It's just," Asch began hesitantly, then shrugged to himself as he plowed on, "Ever since my de-"

"Don't say it," Luke snarled uncharacteristically as he shot Asch a forbidding glare, one that seemed more appropriate on the God-General's face than his naive replica's.

Asch blinked curiously at that reaction, then shrugged again. "Fine. After that unfortunate incident, I've noticed that the other fonons seem to be much more eager to answer my summons, whether I'm really calling on them or not."

"Oh," Luke said dumbly as he slithered out of his wet pants, scrunching his nose up again as he held them up before him. They weren't as dirty as they had been when he and Asch had entered the room, but there was no way he'd be able to dry them off in time for their departure. Oh well, surely there was something else still hiding in his drawers that he could wear. He reluctantly tossed them aside as he returned his attention to his chest of drawers, thus missing the speculative glint in his original's eyes.

"Be that as it may," Asch murmured silkily as he reached up and started to unbuckle his tabard. There were certain opportunities that even he wouldn't pass up, and the idiot had just put up one hell of an invitation, whether he knew it or not. "We are going to Keterburg?"

"Yeah," Luke answered absently as he yanked out a pair of pants, giving them a decent sniff before laying them on top of the chest of drawers. That would do, now he just needed a shirt, another coat, some socks, another pair of gloves, some underwear- "I asked Ginji to get here by noon," he explained as he glanced out the windows, halting his mental checklist for the moment, "shouldn't be too long now."

"Noon, you say?" Asch asked for confirmation as he stripped off his gloves and laid them down on the side table along with his tabard. Smirking evilly at Luke's answering nod, he stalked silently across the room. "That's more than enough time then."

"Eh? Time for what?" Luke muttered curiously, squeaking a moment later when a forceful yank and then a shove were his only answer. He was sprawled out across the bed before he even knew what was happening and could only stare in shock as Asch crawled up over him. "What- What are you doing?"

"Giving you your birthday present," Asch answered matter of factly as he straightened up, his knees planted on either side of Luke's waist as he began to unhook the coat for his uniform.

"Uh," was all Luke could manage, doing a fair impression of a fish as he tried to find his voice and hoped that he didn't sound like a complete and utter moron when he finally did. "But I didn't really get you anything... and I ruined the cake too..."

Asch smiled indulgently as he shrugged out of his coat. So that's what that had been about. Little idiot. "Don't be ridiculous," he said airily, as if his following statement was the most obvious thing in the world, "Of course you did."

Luke blinked in confusion at that, then blushed brilliantly as Asch leaned back down, using his elbows to prop himself up. "I don't understand."

"You are my present, dreck," Asch explained, using the old insult which had become more of an endearment than anything else of late. He smiled gently at the resulting look of shock on Luke's face before leaning down further, his lips ghosting across the other's. "You have been ever since you were born. Haven't you figured that out yet?"

Luke lay there for a moment as Asch's unexpected words slowly sunk in, not moving, not breathing, not anything, then he took in a shaky breath and chuckled softly, "Oh."

Asch hummed in agreement as he pressed down, claiming Luke's lips in a kiss that was nothing short of consuming. He had missed the idiot, far more than he had realized when he'd gotten that stupid invitation. His resolve to not come back to this place more than was absolutely necessary kept them apart longer than either of them liked. It had been far too long since Luke had had the chance to seek him out. But despite that unfortunate distance, he wasn't going to ask Luke to leave the only home he'd ever known; and he was more than thankful that the adorable idiot seemed to understand on some level his own reluctance to return to this place. It was an awkward situation, made even more awkward by the countless messes they had returned to: friendships and relationships that had altered drastically in the interval of their absence. Still, life was better than death, he supposed, and he would make the most of it.

Besides, just because his birthday present had unwrapped itself didn't mean he couldn't play with it right out of the box, so to speak.