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: Up to the search for Spinoza, with just the hint of a few smatterings of bits and pieces from later on to add flavor.
"Where are you?" Luke whispered brokenly, his soft words easily drowned out by the steady roar of falling rain. The storm had abated somewhat in the few minutes since his arrival. The wind didn't whistle quite so horribly anymore, but the rain still fell ceaselessly and lightning still flickered across the sky, giving the city a spectral backdrop. He didn't like Daath, had never liked Daath. The cathedral city just didn't seem real to him. Then again, he'd never found a place that seemed real. Even home didn't really feel like home when he got right down to it. But then, it wasn't really his home in the end, now was it? Luke fon Fabre lived in Baticul, but there really wasn't a Luke fon Fabre left to claim it as home. Asch refused to go back to being that person, probably couldn't after everything that had happened. And he... he didn't feel like Luke fon Fabre. Luke, yes, he was Luke, as much as anybody could be Luke now. But the rest, it wasn't either of them. They were... someone else.
Where are you?
All the streets looked the same at night, similar yawning holes of inky, forbidding darkness. But one of them might lead him to where he needed to be, and so he took them one by one, doing his best not to slide along the slick cobblestones and desperately hoping that he could find his way back out again. He needed to hurry, he could feel that, but he couldn't find him. He was there in his mind, a dim focus of pain, but it was vague and it was... fading. He doubted that Asch had opened the connection between them on purpose. No, he knew better. The God-General would never have done anything that might show any sort of weakness on his part, most especially not where Luke was concerned. But whether he had meant for it to happen or not, it was there and impossible to ignore.
Luke was no stranger to pain. He had done a lot of stupid things while growing up and the journey after his having met Tear had been more than trying as far as physical -not to mention mental- ailments went. But this went far beyond mere pain, this was the type of agony that could kill and would kill if he didn't find him. Daath was a veritable maze, it seemed, but he couldn't have gotten too far, could he? No, he couldn't have, not with the echoes of torment that Luke could even now still feel. But they had been diminishing in intensity since shortly after his arrival, and that did not bode well.
He was dying. And Luke could almost believe that he was too, and for some strange reason, that didn't really bother him all that much. Maybe this was the way it was meant to be. They were two separate people, but here in the dark and the cold and soul smothering loneliness, it didn't feel like it. He was near. They were close now, so close that if one fell then the other would follow without fail. It seemed inevitable.
Luke stopped as the world dimmed around him. The rain and the lightning fading as he turned, the walls surrounding him dissolving in his mind's eye as he looked for the first time in his life. The only real obstacles between them were ones they had erected themselves, both recent and ancient, barriers that seemed so inconsequential now. A step here, and then there, follow that path and then this one. The dark didn't matter now, he didn't need to see to know where he was going. He was still there, had always been there, if only he'd had the courage and foresight to reach then he would have found him.
But that didn't matter anymore, because he was here. Now. The rain had returned, along with the biting cold and the heavy darkness. But he didn't really need the brief flashes of lightning to see the figure huddled up against the alley wall below him. He didn't need to see at all, he already knew what was there, who was there. The endless rain had plastered his hair to him like a bloody shroud, but there was still real blood in there amongst the mess. Too much. It was freezing here, he should be cold, enough to shiver, but he didn't. He didn't move at all. Too weak, too drained, his body too worn to even bother. And he was too pale, almost gray in the soft golden glow that enveloped them now. Too far gone, but not beyond his grasp. Not just yet.
Luke reached out, gently rubbing shaking knuckles against a soft cheek that was so much paler than his own. He didn't remember crouching down, not that it mattered. All that mattered now was that he was here. It wasn't too late, he wasn't too late. There was time still, not much, but enough. Enough time to make the difference if he hurried. There was a head resting against his shoulder before he even realized what he was doing, arms hooking under an unresponsive body, pulling him closer and lifting, staggering to his feet while an unfamiliar weight urged him back down. A precious burden, one he never would have even considered as such before this very moment, but then, that all seemed a lifetime ago now. He needed help, immediate care. But where to go, what to do...
Luke sighed helplessly and looked down. Asch was still there, still a presence in his mind, but only just. He was getting weaker as the seconds ticked by, and what time they had left was slipping through Luke's fingers like veritable sand. But Daath... Daath was not friendly territory. Even if Van had left... after... there were still the remaining Oracle Knights to contend with along with Mohs. It wasn't safe here, perhaps never would be, but he didn't know where else to go, who he could go to, and even if he tried to go elsewhere he wasn't even sure he'd be able to make it in time. There had to be somewhere close by that he could go, someone he could turn to. Something. Even just a friend would help at this point.
Ion was still in Daath. He would help, and even if he couldn't, he could probably provide a safe haven, a desperately needed sanctuary. Anything would be welcome at this point. It might not be enough in the long run, but it would have to do for now. But how to get to Ion... he'd have to trudge through the entire cathedral and that just wasn't feasible. There were too many enemies between here and there and it would take too long. But perhaps there was another way... Luke closed his eyes and reached deep within himself once more, searching for that golden glow, a flickering flame now, one that threatened to go out, but it was still there, for now, still strong enough to make another, shorter journey.
"Ion," he whispered, and he, no, they were no longer there. It wasn't raining anymore, though he could still hear it pattering against the windows. It wasn't cold or dark here either, it was warm and dry. Safe. A familiar face swam into his view. Ion. Concern and something akin to fear was blossoming across the Fon Master's face as he turned to them, his mouth moving, no doubt asking what had happened, but Luke couldn't hear him. He couldn't hear anything anymore, nothing except a deafening roar in his ears. He couldn't breathe. He wasn't breathing. Neither of them were. Time had run out for them, apparently, and now they were both falling. Falling into an endless sea of gold.
Sunlight was just beginning to ghost over the mountains, revealing yet another new layer of snow in Keterburg, a typical happenstance for the village. No doubt the children would take great glee in burying each other in it throughout the following day as they did just about every other day. But the children still slept at this hour, as did the vast majority of the residents. It was mostly at the hotel where there were restless stirrings, stirrings that had been present for a good portion of the night.
Tear frowned worriedly as she sipped on a cup of tea and gazed out the window, her sight trailing vaguely over the snow covered village. She had not been able to sleep after being woken up by those horrible screams: Luke's screams. They would, no doubt, haunt her for a very long time to come, of that she was quite certain. It didn't help that none of them had any real explanation for what had happened either. Something had happened, obviously, something horrible by the sound of it, something that had drawn him to it like a moth to a flame. But they didn't know to where, or even why. Who could get any sleep after that? Natalia and Anise hadn't had any better luck getting further rest than she'd had. They were all worried, regardless of the griping and complaining that had gone on the day before. Luke had not returned, not that she was surprised. It was true that he had gotten better at controlling his hyper resonance, but transporting to another place was something else altogether. He couldn't do that at will, at least, not when he was in his right mind, and from the sound of those screams last night he had been so far from being in his "right mind" that it was questionable that he had even known where he was much less where he had gone.
According to Guy, Luke had been hysterical, and it had definitely sounded like it. Luke was quite... resilient, for lack of a better word, it took a lot to get him to that level of agitation. Even at Akzeriuth he'd managed to keep hold of some bits of sanity until Asch had shown up. Tear's frown deepened as she considered the implication. After everything that had happened, it was generally only when Asch was involved that Luke became so irrational. She suspected that something had happened involving the God-General, something that had managed to leak over their "connection". She was quite sure that the colonel suspected that as well, nothing seemed to escape his notice. But as for what might have happened, she had absolutely no idea. Perhaps it had something to do with her brother... But no, she wouldn't go there, not unless it was necessary. It was better not to think about Van, it made everything much easier to deal with.
"I still don't like it." Tear glanced up as Guy, followed by Jade, entered the room. The colonel was as unflappable as ever, but Guy was visibly upset by what had happened and what they were doing about it, not that they really could do anything about it and not that she blamed him for feeling that way. Certainly not. She, herself, was quite unsettled, though she liked to think that she hid it better.
"Duly noted," Jade acknowledged, his ever present calm not unlike that found in the eye of a storm, "However, there is nothing we can do about the situation at hand, thus we will simply continue to move forward."
"But what if he needs us?" Guy grumbled, obviously unwilling to let it go without a fight. He refused to give up, he'd never give up on Luke. Never.
"If he has need of our assistance, then I am quite sure that he will find a way to contact us," Jade replied smoothly, his eyes glinting with either slight humor or slight annoyance. Tear could never really tell with him. The colonel was extremely difficult to read at best and thoroughly impossible at worst. "In which case, we should move on to Daath as that is where we are supposed to be going."
"Don't worry, Guy," Anise piped up as she skipped into the room with a few breakfast rolls in hand. She wasn't as perky as she let on. Tear knew this well, for the young guardian had gotten just about as much sleep that night as she had, which was to say, very little at all. But Anise always tried to be upbeat regardless, so her cheerful facade was hardly any surprise. "I'm sure Ion can help us figure out what happened with that idiot. Isn't that right, colonel?"
"Indeed." Jade smiled pleasantly as he accepted a roll that Anise had just offered him. "The Fon Master can be quite resourceful when he has a mind to be. In fact, I would be rather surprised if he couldn't assist us in locating our wayward comrade."
"I guess," Guy mumbled finally in apparent defeat and shrugged helplessly, "I just... don't like not knowing."
"None of us do, Guy," Natalia said softly, fighting a yawn and trying her best not to slump unladylike as she walked sedately into the room. She was utterly exhausted, much like the rest of them, but she knew Luke well enough to know his penchant for getting into and out of trouble before anyone was the wiser. Surely he'd be all right. He could stay in one piece, at least long enough for them to find him... couldn't he? "But Jade is right, there's nothing we can do for him in our present location."
"To Daath then," Tear murmured decisively before draining the last of her tea. It had cooled considerably, but it served its purpose. It would be enough to keep her awake and alert, not that she really needed it. The knot of fear and uncertainty that was growing in her stomach would do that on its own. Luke, please be safe.