The Crystal Coffin
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: End game spoilers, baby~


"I don't know what to do anymore."

The heartbroken words cut through the silence like a blade, but they failed to fill the emptiness of the place. Nothing could succeed in that, at least, nothing that he could do. Luke flopped down beside it and stared forlornly out into the heavy blackness that lingered just beyond the light's reach. He supposed that he could pass the time by trying to find some sort of wall in this place, but he was afraid that if he ever ventured out into that all encompassing darkness he would never find his way back. That- He couldn't do that. He wouldn't do that. It was only here in this place that he could be found. He wouldn't risk never seeing him again... even if he was just a body in a coffin made of glass.

He couldn't quite remember exactly how he had found his way to this place. He had just... laid down to rest for awhile and found himself here. Sometimes he thought that this was just a fanciful creation of his own desperate imagination. And at other times, it was almost as if this place was the only real thing that remained in his life.

Luke had come back, just like he had promised. And his friends had been waiting for him. Everything had been as it should have been: the happy fairy tale ending. Except it wasn't really. There were still so many problems to deal with in the world, so many enduring injustices, so much lingering hatred and fear. The remaining replicas were still reviled by so many for just existing in the first place, regardless of whether they had a choice in their births or not. And then there were the old tensions that remained between Kimlasca and Malkuth. Such things did not just vanish in a day's time, no matter how much they had cooperated with each other to save themselves from Van Grant's insanity as well as the Score final prophecy. But even all of that, the endless troubles that people refused to let go of regardless of the peace, they were not the end of his troubles. Not even close. No, when each day came to an end, when all that they could possibly accomplish was over and done with, his own personal demons still remained.

He slept and he remembered.

"They don't talk about you," he said blankly as he leaned back against the cool glass -or was it crystal?- and continued to stare out into the darkness, "Hell, they don't even mention your name anymore."

He stopped then, his brows crinkling as he thought for a bit upon his last statement. "Actually, I don't think you've ever entered a conversation without me bringing you up first. And then..." he sighed as he hugged his knees against his chest, "they always find a way to change the subject."

Rolling his head against the glass until he could glance within, he softly asked, "Is that what you were expecting? To be forgotten? Is that why you were always alone?" Scowling, he rolled his head back, his gaze focusing back upon the nothingness without. "I never really thought about it before, you know? There really wasn't much time to think about much of anything. But you never really welcomed anyone. Always so standoffish, always unapproachable. Were you that way because you didn't want anyone to grieve, or because you were expecting it to turn out this way?"

He let his voice falter then, and allowed the silence to reign once more for a time. Words just didn't help much anymore. No one wanted to talk, at least, not about this. And if he told them about what he did every night, then they'd just think he was going crazy. But he wasn't, at least, he hoped not. He very much hoped that his grief hadn't created this place, that it was real, that he was here. But the niggling doubt always remained, and no matter what he did, he couldn't get rid of it. Not just yet.

"You knew you were going to die, didn't you?" Luke hunched over, his hair drifting down across his shoulders as he rested his chin upon his knees. "You did. I really ought to have noticed it, but you were right about one thing at least. I am an idiot. I missed it all, and yet I was the one who should have seen it most of all. We were in the same boat, after all. Time kept ticking away, slipping through our fingers before we could ever hope to catch it."

"We both died."

Shaking his head at the turn his mind had taken, Luke slowly climbed to his feet. He stood there for a moment, frozen in indecision, then finally turned towards the coffin and its most desired occupant. Nothing had changed since the first time he had found this place, since he had found him. Nothing at all. Asch still lay within its confines, sleeping. Yes, sleeping. It couldn't be anything but. He wouldn't allow it to be anything else. He was much the same as when Luke had last seen him in Eldrant, still wearing the uniform of the God-General, Asch the Bloody, his hands clasped atop him, holding the hilt of the Key of Lorelei. The complete key.

It was true that Luke had returned to life and the world with the Key of Lorelei strapped to his back, but it had been incomplete. The Jewel had been missing, it was missing still. But here, in this place, the Sword and Jewel were both present and fused to each other -together- as they were meant to be. He didn't quite know why, but it gave him hope, and hope was something he very much needed now.

"When will you wake up?" Luke whispered mournfully, one hand on the edge of the coffin to brace himself as he leaned over, reaching within. "I need you, more than anything. I'm lost and they can't help me find my way again. They won't even acknowledge the problem." He ghosted the fingertips of his free hand down across Asch's cheek, frowning sadly at the chill present there. He was cold, always so very cold to the touch. "Maybe they did grieve, maybe they still are. And maybe this is their way of coping, to forget, but I can't do that. I can't do something like that with you here."

"You're not gone," he mumbled, his words barely escaping past his lips as he sunk his hand into crimson hair just that much darker than his own. "You wouldn't be here if you were. It wouldn't be here if you were. But I don't know how to wake you up. I don't know what you need. I only know that I need you, desperately. Please."

"They can't forget you if you're awake, if you're there," he said softly as he traced his fingers up along Asch's jawline and then over to rest just above his heart. "Asch... there's only so much I can do to keep your memory alive, to keep you alive. I need your help."