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.
Tear gingerly sipped on the cup of tea Jade had forced upon her after he'd had Anise bully her into eating the dinner he'd had brought up for her. "Now comes the hard part," he had said, "You'll need your strength more than ever." He was right, of course, the next time she dove into the hyper resonance, she'd be dragging Asch back out with her. And she did need to bolster what little strength she had left after hours spent singing the hymns of Lorelei to apparently appease said being. She would have to start healing Asch almost immediately after she had freed him from that timeless void if they were to have any chance of saving him, slim though that chance might be. But Jade still could've just asked her to eat though, he didn't have to sic Anise on her. She wasn't a petulant child, unlike some people in their group.
Hiding her scowl behind the rim of the teacup, Tear glared across the room at the older man. She'd include him as another victim of her plan to scar Guy, but she knew that it would ultimately backfire on her if she showed herself to be fool enough to even try something with Jade. The colonel was too much of a conniving, smug bastard to fall for any trap she might set up for him. She could dream though.
Jade felt Tear's eyes on him, but ignored her for the most part. She was annoyed with him, which wasn't exactly anything new, he was more than used to people and friends being vexed with him. But her annoyance was really nothing to worry about, he knew that she was smart enough to not even try to get even with him, as it were. There was no such thing as getting even where he was concerned, he had always made sure of that. He smiled slightly as he directed Guy to set up the cot for Luke. He very much doubted that the boy would be awake anytime soon, but leaving him slumped on the floor wouldn't be very nice. There were two other cots as well, for himself and Ion, but he would set them up later. The others would be spending the night with Anise's parents. The old adage of not putting all of your eggs in one basket being paramount in his mind for making that particular decision.
The others had argued with him about it, of course they had. They wanted to stay close, just in case, and it was hardly any surprise that they felt that way. However, his decision had been made long before they had known anything about it, thus their arguments had swayed him very little. True, it might be handy to have a seventh fonim healer immediately on hand, but he was well aware of the fact that both Tear and Natalia would be dangerously depleted by the time they were through. They wouldn't even be able to heal half of the damage done to the God-General before they neared collapse. Which was where he came in. He wasn't exactly a surgeon, but being the "Necromancer" had left him with a vast array of knowledge about the human body. Knowledge that he could put to very good use in this type of situation. There were advantages to having an odd hobby or two, after all.
"Uhm, where do you want this?" Ion asked hesitantly as he held up a rather thick sheet. The swath of cloth was longer than he was tall.
"Spread it across the floor. We'll be doing most of the work on it," Jade explained, "It'll soak up the blood and the water well enough and keep us from slipping up too badly. Though, I'm afraid it won't stop your floor from getting stained. My deepest apologies for the mess ahead of time, Fon Master."
"Oh, no, don't worry about it. It's fine," Ion mumbled as he glanced over at Luke and Asch with a pained expression. His eyebrows were scrunched up in mild confusion when he finally turned back to Jade. "But... the floor?"
"Easier access and he'll definitely need to be cleaned up before being put in a bed," Jade replied absently as he stripped off his gloves. They'd just get in the way for the delicate work ahead. Looking up as Anise and Natalia entered the room, he nodded them over to the sheet Ion was laying out. They were each carrying a box of the supplies that he had organized a bit earlier. Everything they would need initially had been crammed neatly into both boxes and would be easy to set out. Which he should probably start doing now since there wasn't much left to do that really needed to be done. Over half of the things he'd had Anise running all over the cathedral for had been left out in the office area for later use, assuming there would be a later.
"Go ahead and start whenever you're ready, Tear," Jade said grimly as he kneeled down and began to lay things out at the very edges of the sheet. There were bandages of course, stacks of them, scissors, a handful of surgical grade scalpels, a bushel of antiseptic herbs, several wide, shallow bowls and towels, lots of towels. "Anise, go fetch one of those water jugs of yours."
The Oracle Knight shrugged and went to do as she was told while Tear gulped down the last of her tea. She had a moment of deja vu as she set the cup down off to the side where it wouldn't be in the way. She'd started the day out with tea and worry, and now here she was nearing the end of the day with tea and worry. Funny how the same things always seemed to occur in the most dire of moments. Was it fate or just the simple human habit of doing familiar things in times of adversity to retain some semblance of sanity?
Tear settled back down in front of the pair and took a deep breath. Her throat was one big ache, feeling as if it had been rubbed raw with sandpaper these past few hours instead of the simple air it took to sing. Her voice was hoarse, almost bordering on a croak, but the hymns rolled off her tongue in a gentle melody. The power buried in them did their work well. The golden glow of the hyper resonance was still warm and fluffy, still safe, but it wouldn't be for much longer. The warmth of the seventh fonons didn't seem to affect Asch at all. He was still ice to the touch, still as cold as the first time she had managed to reach him. Don't die, she thought desperately as she carefully slid one arm underneath Luke's grasp and around his precious charge, Please don't die because of this. And then she pulled. It was like fighting against quicksand, the harder she strained the more resistance she came up against. Instead she settled for a simple, steady pressure and soon enough she was laying his head against her shoulder and scooting back, dragging him further away from Luke. They still both glowed, but it was dimming fast, becoming almost a haze.
Luke was watching her now in contemplation, his eyes at half mast, glimmering a dull, burnished gold. She could feel something behind that gaze, something infinitely powerful and old studying her. Was it really Lorelei? They blinked after a moment, flicking down and alighting on the wounded man sprawled out in her arms, then finally closed, taking the light with them. It was darker now, and there was a dead weight held within her grasp. Rain and blood were already soaking through her clothes. Time had returned to its normal procession. And he still wasn't breathing.
Tear looked down, the fingers of her free hand gently brushing a stray strand of hair out of his face, skirting his cheek and further down to the raw, ragged mess that was his neck. An ancient, horrible memory played out in her mind as her hand hovered there, seventh fonons racing through her blood: a healing touch. She remembered being scared of her brother once long ago, when he had gone off on a rage in the garden out back about the injustices of the Score and how all the evils in the world should be left to hang, left to suffocate in their own blood. Because that way they'd suffer just long enough to appease the beast for awhile, long enough to placate the fury. But it had only been for a moment and then he had gone back to the kind, loving Van she had always known. She had only thought it a nightmare, a product of loneliness and an overly vivid imagination. But it had been real, hadn't it? It had all been real, too real.
Please don't die.
She had lost her mother and now her brother. She didn't want to lose anyone else. She couldn't. No more loss. There had already been too much. Too many gone.
He coughed raggedly then, blood trickling down from the corner of his mouth, and took a shuddering breath. Glassy green eyes, familiar and strange, squinted up at her, seeing and yet not.
"Asch? Asch, stay with me," she said frantically, pushing even more of her flagging strength through her veins and into her spell. But it was already too late, he was fading again, his eyes slowly sliding shut. "Damnit!" she cursed furiously as a dark, savage rage settled deep inside her. This wasn't right. It was all wrong. He couldn't die! She wouldn't let him!
The others were clustered around her now, she wasn't sure when they had gotten there, they just were. They were talking to her, but their voices were just a soft muffled drone compared to the rush of blood pounding in her ears. She couldn't make out what they were saying. Jade was kneeling in front of her now -when had he come-, giving her a long, hard piercing look. He saw what she now knew, and somehow, someway, he knew too, and that just made it all the worse. He shook his head sadly, then lifted Asch from her weakening hold. She wanted to protest, she tried to, but she couldn't. She couldn't even move. Stupid of her. She had put too much power out too fast. She'd be lucky if she didn't pass out right there and then. She wavered where she sat, and then there were hands on her shoulders -or had they already been there- guiding her down to the floor. Yes, that was good. She would just rest for a little while. Just long enough to regain some strength. And then she'd fix it. She'd fix everything.
"Don't worry, she'll be fine after a little rest," Jade tossed over his shoulder as he swiftly strode over to the sheet and carefully placed his burden upon it. "She just did too much too fast." He scowled as he raked his gaze over Asch's body, stopping short at his neck. Those wounds... had been caused by the noose Ion had hesitantly told him about earlier, no doubt. Nasty business. "Though perhaps it was for the best, he'd probably be dead already if she hadn't." He raised his left hand then, quirking his finger imperiously and commanded, "Now get over here."
He paid scant attention to the scramble happening behind him, instead working to remove the God-General's tabard. His scowl deepened further at the many wounds hidden beneath the heavy cloth. The neck would have to wait until last, they needed to stop the bleeding now before he lost anymore. "Natalia, do what you can. Anise, hand me some scissors." He grinned bleakly as the cold, metal tool was placed almost instantaneously in his outstretched hand. He'd have to cut away from the collar, he couldn't risk tearing the flesh there any further.
Natalia kneeled just above Asch's head, his sodden hair pooling around her knees. The tears she could no longer hold back cascaded down her face unnoticed as she brushed stray wisps back off of his forehead. She sank into herself as she stared down at him desolately. There was too much for her to heal right away, but if she just focused on one pinpoint of hurt at a time then perhaps she could get it done.
Anise nodded encouragingly at Ion as he used a wet towel to wipe off what blood he could, revealing the jagged wounds that had produced it. She had busied herself with threading needles in between handing Jade whatever he requested of her. She had decided after a moment's consideration that she would do most of the stitching, she was better than the colonel at stuff like that anyway. His would just end up all crooked and junk, he never could draw in a straight line anyway. And that way, she wouldn't have to think about what she was doing and just who she was doing it to.
Guy frowned at what he had found after stripping off the God-General's right glove. He wouldn't think about who this was. He wouldn't. He was far too conflicted about Luke fon Fabre and the man he had become as it was already, and had been conflicted for a very long time now. But times had changed, and so had he, yet the old hurts still lingered. He couldn't let it affect him, not right now. Luke would never forgive him if he did. "It's broken," he murmured as he flexed the wrist and probed at it with deft fingers. Very broken by the feel of it.
Jade glanced up at him momentarily before returning to his own task. "Set it if you can, there are some thin, metal rods in the box behind you. Use them to immobilize it."
Anise just stared resolutely at Jade when he held out his hand for the threaded needle she held. She shook her head and gave him a sickly smile at his questioning look. "Just hold him together while I stitch him up. If I let you do it, it'll just come out looking ugly." He blinked at her for second, then shrugged and did as she had instructed him to. Who was he to argue with her? She was right, after all. His stitches always turned out horrid in one way or another. Sewing had never been his forte.
Anise made quick work of each suture, but there were many and it took time to do them all. By the time they were through, both of their hands were a brilliant, slick red. The knight grimaced down at her palms, refusing to think about it, then looked over at the colonel and asked wearily, "Okay, what's next?"
"Now we move on to his back," Jade answered in a monotone as he used a damp towel Ion had offered him to wipe his hands off. He too was growing tired, but there was still much left to be done.
Anise snorted as she glanced over at Natalia, "Good luck prying him away from the princess for that."
"Oh, it won't be too difficult," Jade smiled weakly, his fatigue showing through just a tad. "She's nearing her limit. I'm not sure if you've noticed it or not, but the bleeding has slowed down considerably since we started." Anise blinked in surprise, then nodded her understanding. Using that much energy would wear anybody out. "She will have to stop and rest soon, otherwise she will collapse just as Tear did."
"I'll wake her," Ion announced as he climbed to his feet and crossed over to Natalia. He sighed sadly before taking ahold of her shoulders and shaking them gently. She was too far buried in her healing trance to notice words alone. "Natalia? Natalia, you need to come back now," he called out firmly, punctuating each word he spoke with a soft shake.
Natalia blinked, her eyes unfocused and distant. She could feel that someone was behind her, but she couldn't tell who. She was too busy, there was too much to do, but they were calling for her, summoning her back. Who was it? Couldn't they see that she had important work to do? She blinked again and flinched as a bone deep weariness settled over her unexpectedly. When had she gotten so tired? Blinking once more, she felt a gentle shake and a voice calling after her again. Ion, it was Fon Master Ion calling for her. Perhaps she should answer him.
"Natalia, please come back now. You need to," Ion pleaded with her.
"I'm," she murmured and shook her head, "I'm awake. I'm here. What is it? What do you need?" She glanced up and was caught in Jade's thoroughly appraising gaze.
"You need to rest," he answered simply.
"No, I can't." Natalia shook her head again and looked back down. He was still there. He still needed her. Asch. "There's still too much left to heal. I can't stop now."
Jade shook his head at her foolish sentiment. "No, you must stop now, my dear, lest you collapse along with Tear. Get some rest, he will still be here when you wake."
"Are you sure?" She asked fearfully, biting her lip as she waited for some kind of reassurance from him. She couldn't, wouldn't leave if he wasn't sure.
"For the moment, yes. Go rest, princess."
She nodded shakily at his pronouncement. If Jade believed that Asch would be all right, then she would believe it too. Letting Ion help her to her feet, she looked back at them, at him for a long moment before allowing the Fon Master to gently lead her out of the room.
"Guy," Jade ordered as soon as the shaky pair had departed, "Help me lift him up, then I want you to go after them and keep Natalia company."
Guy blinked in surprise and did as he was instructed, wincing as he propped the sickly pale God-General up against the colonel and brushed his half-dried hair out of the way. Asch's back was just as bad as his chest had been. Not a good sign, not good at all. "Are you sure-"
"Yes," Jade interrupted before Guy could finish, "She needs you more than we do right now. Go give her your support, we are more than well equipped enough to deal with the rest."
"Fine." Guy sighed and straightened up, stopping short as he glanced over at his best friend. "What about Luke?"
"We'll take care of him once we're done, do not worry about it," Jade said absently as he watched Anise gently wipe crusted blood off of their patient's back, revealing long, jagged wounds that almost mirrored the ones they had just finished suturing.
Guy shrugged helplessly and headed out after Ion and Natalia. Anise finished up just as the door closed shut behind him and quickly threaded her needle again. "You're doing very well," Jade commented softly as she began to stitch up one of the larger wounds.
"I'm good at sewing," she mumbled, not taking her eyes off of her work for a single second, "I have to be for Tokunaga, you know. Those damn monsters put too many holes in him."
Jade rolled his eyes heavenward. "I was not referring to your stitches, which are incredibly neat, all things considered."
"Bite me," Anise grumbled, "And I know you weren't, but I don't want to think about that right now. I'll have a nice little cry later, but I just can't afford it now."
"Of course," he murmured, allowing a companionable, if strained, silence to descend over them. Asch could still be counted amongst the living, so far, but that didn't mean much in the long run. The true test would come later. There still remained the very real chance that his body would simply give up the fight. It was a distinct possibility, the chill and paleness of his skin more than hinted at it. But there was something more there, something else he could almost feel now that the young man was resting against him. A familiar sensation...
And then it struck him like a lightning bolt out of the blue. Yes, it was something he was intimately familiar with. "He tried to seal you," he muttered in pure, abrupt shock.
"Huh?" Anise glanced up at him quizzically, but he paid her no heed.
It all made perfect sense now. He could feel how Asch's fon slots were half closed, almost locked, but not quite. It hadn't worked because there was one connection that existed there, one unique bond shared only by two, that could not be closed. That explained why Luke had been so out of sorts the night before, the instant it had happened the connection between them had opened up in an attempt to save itself and sensation had begun to trickle through. That's why his wrist had been bothering him. He had been feeling his counterpart's pain.
"That wretched bastard."
Anise eyed him skeptically, then shook her head and bent back down. There was no telling with him and she still had a lot of stitching left to do. She'd ask him about it later, though he probably wouldn't tell her a damned thing. Like usual.