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. Beware.


Sometimes she wondered. Really, really wondered.

But the rest of the time, she just worried. What else could she do?

He wasn't the same.

Oh, he put up a good front, and perhaps he really did feel some genuine happiness to be around his family, his friends. But when he was alone... Oh, when he was alone, his whole demeanor would change. And that's why she worried.

When had her son become such a consummate actor? Susanne thought sadly as she chewed lightly on a fingernail and silently watched him from a distance. She had come to fetch Luke for lunch, a task she would have easily handed off to one of the servants in the past. But not now. No, certainly not now. He hadn't been present at any of his usual haunts, nor had he been off visiting any of his friends... or his fiancee. But then, that wasn't much of a surprise for her anymore. If she couldn't find him anywhere else, then she had become accustomed to searching for him in one particular spot. And he was always there. Always alone.

It was always the same place. Just a little behind his room and a little off to the side, hidden from the mansion's usual residents. He would just be standing there, just shy of the tree's welcoming shade, staring mournfully up at the sky. The weather never seemed to bother him when he was like this, and the noonday sun certainly didn't seem to be causing him any problems. No, he just stood there, his eyes upon the sky, looking more lost than he had ever been before or since.

It was in these moments that she would question herself about whether any of their wishes had truly been granted.

He was Luke. Of course, he was Luke, still a little naive, still a little foolish, but wiser from his experiences. And he was still her little boy. Every morning she thanked Lorelei profusely for returning one of her children to her, and every night she repeated the process. And sometimes, just sometimes, she would allow herself to consider the possibility that both of them had been returned to her after all. Because her precious Luke wasn't quite Luke sometimes. Sometimes he seemed less hesitant, more confident and sure of himself; and sometimes he seemed sadder, darker perhaps, as if he were bogged down by something that weighed heavily upon him. Just like her Luke- No, that hadn't been how he referred to himself. She should respect that. Her little Asch hadn't been so little anymore, after all. He had appeared so strict and determined, all grown up in the eyes of the world. And yet, even in that short time that he had been there within her reach, he had seemed so sad, so lonely.

It had broken her heart.

She had hoped so much for a chance to change that, to make both of her children happy again, but fate had been dreadfully unkind to them all. Her Luke hadn't returned, and neither had her Asch. They had both been lost to her, to the world. Only their friends had returned to tell the tale, though she hadn't even been able to bear their words. Their grim countenances had been more than enough. She had fled their company almost immediately. In fact, she had scorned the company of anyone for a great deal of time. Her children were never to return to her, what good would company do her in light of that? Time had passed, even now she wasn't quite sure how long she had lingered in that haze of grief. It had been so very hard to not give in to her physical weakness then, so very difficult to not wish herself into darkness so that she might seek them out on her own. But then news had reached her ears, miraculous news that spoke of the impossible.

And then her Luke had come home.

He had been different, to be sure, and still was, but he would always be her little boy and that's what mattered the most. Though during that time of euphoric joy, she had finally allowed herself to come to the realization that her baby wasn't quite so little anymore, nor was he just hers. He had grown into a handsome, young man. And while she had let that new, almost bittersweet aspect of parentage sink in, she had listened avidly as that unsettling Malkuth Colonel had explained a strange theory about fomicry to her. "Big Bang", was it? It had sounded so terribly complicated. Couldn't they have just stated up front that her Luke carried something more along with him now.

Memories. Luke possessed her Asch's memories now, on top of his own. But he was not her Asch.

Or was he?

Perhaps she was hoping for the impossible, but hadn't the impossible been delivered to her very doorstep already? Her son was alive, and he had come home, where he belonged. Surely this foolish sort of hope was not beyond the realm of possibility. Even just a small piece of Asch would be enough for her, because then there would be something of him present, something to know her love, to know that he would always be loved.

But Asch wasn't the reason for her worry.

Sighing silently to herself, Susanne shook her head, pushed her fractured thoughts aside and then made her away across the grass towards her son. Smiling pleasantly, she called out, "Luke, dear, it's time for lunch."

A soft "Hmm" was his only response and she briefly wondered whether Luke realized that she was there, that he was no longer alone. Where had her happy child gone? And what could she possibly do to bring him back to her? She would always ask herself those hopeless questions when she found him like this, and she would always come up with the same empty answer.

She didn't know.

"What are you thinking about, sweetheart?" It was always the same question. And despite the fact that her Luke was so far away from her right now, almost beyond her reach, he would answer her. He had to. And she prayed fervently that he always would answer her. If he stopped... she just didn't know what she would do.

"Home," he murmured softly, sounding so terribly lost and alone. But he wasn't alone, not anymore, why couldn't he see that? What would it take to bring him back?

"You are home, dear," she said encouragingly, doing her best to mask the desperation welling up inside her. He didn't need her fears and doubts added to his already substantial burden. She couldn't- wouldn't do that to him. But there had to be something that she could do...

"Yes, of course," he replied vaguely, almost as if her statement had been a question. And perhaps to him, it was. Then he smiled wistfully, as he always did, and glanced over at her.

And she would smile back at him in return, as always, and marvel at how the sunlight from this angle turned his eyes into an almost eerie liquid gold. It had to be the sun, there was no other viable reason for them to be so. And on the days that it rained she would try to convince herself that it was just the daylight still. It wasn't something else. It couldn't be something else.

But her forced, fanciful daydreams never prevented the cautious, often fearful, doubts from cropping up in her mind. As much as she wanted so badly to ignore reality, it always intruded upon her happy family. Because Luke wasn't just Luke anymore. He was something else now. He had brought something home with him, something that didn't quite belong. And some days she wondered, really wondered, about whether he would still be there the next day for her to find, and the next. And she wondered how long he would be able to remain, how long it would take before the alien longing within him became too much for him to bear. Because it wanted to go home too. And this wasn't home.

Sometimes she wondered.