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.
Everything felt... disconnected. Yes, that was the right word to describe it. Tear felt disconnected. The world was coming back to her in bits and pieces, but they were so disconnected and disorganized, she couldn't make sense of them just yet. Something or other was cold. She was cold? The floor was cold? All she knew was that it was cold. It was damp too. Her clothes were damp. When had she gotten wet? Rain? No, she was inside, she realized. It couldn't have been rain, so why did her mind keep going back to the concept of rain? Rain and blood... Blood... not hers, but someone else's, someone important. Someone she had to save. To fix.
Her eyes flew open as she remembered what had happened, but her vision whited out almost immediately as a bitter fatigue crashed over her. Oh, but that hurt. She had pushed herself too far, overtaxed her body beyond its endurance and it was quite intent on making her pay for it. But she couldn't have done it any differently, she mused as she slowly curled up into a fetal position. He had been dying, she had felt it. If she had done nothing, he would have quickly departed the world. He couldn't leave. If he died then her brother would become that much more of a murderer; and even though Van's victims numbered into the thousands now, this one would have been that much worse.
What type of madness had ahold of her brother now that would make him do something that horrible? Did the Van she love, had always loved, even exist anymore? Had he ever existed, or had it all just been another fantasy concocted in her own mind? But no, surely he had, the Major wouldn't follow in the footsteps of an unabashed monster. So where was the real Van? Had he given up on the world so completely that he had let his own inner demons take over? He wasn't that foolish, was he?
She was so, so very angry with him right now. This was... this was unforgivable. Even if he considered Asch's unwillingness to aid in the death of millions -and could anyone blame him for saying no- as some form of betrayal, it didn't justify this kind of suffering. Damn him, he was going to force her hand, after all. He really was going to make her kill him.
If she had only... if she had only succeeded on her first attempt then none of this would have happened. Asch wouldn't be hovering near death's door. And Luke wouldn't be slumped against the wall in front of her, possibly still possessed by a creature whose existence had only been speculated about for the past two thousand years. Granted, he would have still been hopelessly stupid, but at least that way he would have retained some of the innocence he had lost at Akzeriuth. And maybe, just maybe, she might have been able to live with herself afterwards.
But she had failed, it wasn't meant to be and wishing for it would solve nothing at this point. The horrific situation she found herself awakening to was her reality now. She had to accept it. Her brother was gone. She was alone, and nothing she could do or say would ever change that.
"Why do I have to do it?"
Well, maybe she wasn't entirely alone. Tear smiled minutely as the familiar sound of a squabble began behind her. Luke was still here with her, perhaps not fully in mind, but surely they could do something about that. And that was Anise grumbling halfheartedly behind her, which meant that the colonel was somewhere near. And Asch must still be alive, she didn't think Anise would sound quite so much like her normal self if he had died. The others couldn't be far away either. She wasn't anywhere near being alone, after all, it seemed.
"My dear girl, you can't tell me that you haven't fantasized about playing with it." And there was the colonel's teasing, like clockwork. "You females are all the same about this particular subject."
"I don't want to play with it. I am not that kind of girl." What in the world were they arguing about?
"Mhmm, I don't believe you." There was a snarl then, followed by the sound of a considerable amount of water splashing out over something. "Anise! That was uncalled for!" Jade sounded absolutely scandalized. Oh dear, what had happened?
"Oh yes it was!" the young Oracle Knight growled, though there was a note of smug amusement in her voice now. "It was completely called for."
Her curiosity piqued, Tear stretched out, wincing as her body protested the movement and carefully rolled over. The sight that greeted her wasn't exactly what she had been expecting to find. Anise was grinning in absolute glee at a thoroughly drenched Jade, who was giving her a sour scowl in return. Sighing in a put upon manner, he reached behind him for one of the few remaining towels that were still dry, pulled his glasses off and began to wipe them clean. Asch lay beside them, completely swathed in bandages from what she could see, though a blanket covered him from the waist down. The original sheet that had been laid out earlier had apparently been switched out for a cleaner one. There was no way it would have remained so pristinely white in the state he had been in. A small tilt of her head revealed the rumpled ball of red soaked cloth in question up against the wall. They had to be almost done if they were starting to clean up.
"Regardless, you're still going to have to wash his hair," Jade said blandly as he pushed his glasses back on, "As I'm sure you don't want to get Ion's bed needlessly dirty."
"Ugh, fine," Anise grumbled as she grabbed a bowl and the last jug of water -which hadn't gotten poured over Jade... yet-, scooted up around Asch's head and glared down at the mass of blood soaked locks. If his hair hadn't been such a deep red already, it surely would have gotten dyed to something close thanks to all of that crap. "This is going to take forever."
"I'm sure you'll persevere, it is only hair, after all." He silently watched Anise begin the grueling task of washing the dried blood out of said hair for a few moments, his hands crossed primly in his lap, before asking, "And how are you feeling, Tear?"
Tear blinked in surprised, though she really ought not to be. Very little ever got past the colonel's keen skills of observation. He probably would have known she was awake even had she not rolled over. "Sore and exhausted," she answered honestly, her throat aching horrendously at the use. Perhaps she should keep the act of talking to a bare minimum for awhile to give her vocal cords a chance to stop hating her.
"You sound lovely," he said dryly, "And before you ask: he has more stitches than I care to count, a compound fracture to his right wrist, a broken fibula that he apparently walked on for a bit, and the neck wound, which is much better thanks to you than it would have been."
"I'm glad," she murmured quietly and allowed herself to drift while they both watched Anise work her way through the snarled mane bit by bit, slowly washing the blood out. "He looks like somebody's half baked idea of a what a mummy should look like."
"Better that than a corpse," Jade shot back, wholly unconcerned by the stricken looks of stunned shock that crossed both Tear and Anise's faces.
Anise shook herself after a bit and scowled darkly at him, "You have the worst sense of humor of anyone I have ever known. And that includes Dist."
"I am not joking," Jade countered flatly. "He may be counted amongst the living for now, but I have serious doubts about whether that will continue."
"Then... all of this was for nothing?" Anise mumbled helplessly as she sadly gazed down at Asch, her hands still buried in his hair. She didn't want him to die. If he did, then who would Natalia have to moon over? Who would annoy the ever living hell out of Luke with just a snide comment or two? Who would be left of the Oracle Knights to remind her that they weren't all psychotic bastards? He was a good person, wasn't he? Good people weren't supposed to die.
"The spirit may be willing, but the body doesn't always agree," Jade said gently, his eyes closed in what appeared to be almost pained contemplation. "His pulse is thready at best and his breathing is shallow. He is... very weak, much weaker than any I have seen who managed to survive."
There was a long, pregnant pause before she reluctantly spoke up again, "Why are you telling us this now?"
"Because it is later," he murmured apologetically.
"I'm not going to cry yet," Anise whispered and resumed her work. She wouldn't give up until she had to. It wouldn't be right. He deserved to have someone's hope, even if it turned out to be a futile gesture on her part. "I won't until I'm ready."
"As you wish."