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.
"Why do I have to go?" Luke almost whined as Tear none too gently hauled him out of his chair. "I want to stay here." He gestured pointedly at the bed, where Asch still slumbered, though probably not for much longer with all the racket his replica was making. "Take Guy with you, I'm sure he'd be happy to get out some."
"Yeah, I think-" Guy began as he stood up and made a grab for Luke. He wasn't too keen on being left alone with a certain sleeping God-General, one who would most likely wake up while the others were out 'shopping'.
"Guy, is staying here," Tear said flatly, her tone clearly brooking no arguments as she placed her hands upon her hips and glared icily at the two suddenly wilting men. "You," she punctuated the word with a slight jerk of her chin in Luke's direction, "Are coming because I need you. Now come on, Natalia and Anise are already waiting downstairs for us."
"But but," Guy sputtered and waved his hand desperately at the bed, "What if he wakes up before anybody gets back?"
Tear gave him a rather bored look. "I don't see what the problem is, it's not like he's female."
Guy sighed in defeat and hung his head. He really didn't know how to voice his reservations without sounding like a complete and total ass. "Fine, but what do I do if he needs anything? I'm not exactly a doctor, you know, and I sure as hell don't know enough junk to even pretend to be one the way Jade does."
Tear shrugged, completely unconcerned as she grabbed ahold of Luke again and started dragging him towards the door. "Really, Guy, you're not anywhere near being insensitive. I'm sure you can handle any sort of problem that might crop up just fine on your own. Okay? We'll be leaving now."
"Bye!" Tear called out cheerfully behind her as she yanked the door open and stormed through it, Luke still held firmly in his grasp. Luke looked back helplessly over his shoulder as he was dragged along, twisting his lips unhappily at the situation. Tear sure was acting odd all of a sudden.
Guy shrugged at him nervously as if to say 'What can you do?' and waved weakly after them before the door was slammed shut with aching finality. He winced at the loud noise and wondered briefly on whether Tear was purposely trying to wake Asch up on him or not. She certainly seemed to be in a frame of mind where she might actually do something like that. Something was up with her, that was for sure, but he wasn't too sure whether he wanted to know just exactly what it was or not. It might prove to be hazardous to his health. Of course, the fact that she had insisted that he be the one to stay behind kinda hinted that it had something to do with him. Maybe he should start running now while he still had the chance.
Shaking his head, he looked back down at the bed and the enigma laying upon it and resigned himself to the fact that he had been well and thoroughly trapped here. On purpose, no doubt. Everything had been maneuvered perfectly so that he would be stuck at a certain location for the duration and thus could not escape or even follow after them to discover just exactly what doom she might have planned out for him. Damn, but women could be downright scary when they felt like it.
Guy grumbled about the vile evils of women under his breath as he stumped over to Natalia's usual seat and flopped down onto it, crossing his arms grumpily. It figured. They'd force him into doing something he'd really rather not do while they were off scheming over something or other that would still make his life miserable. It was either that or they just kept trying to touch him. He couldn't help but shudder slightly at the thought. Anise had already gotten him bad that morning with one of her horrific bear hugs, he didn't need a repeat of that. Please please, let there not be a repeat of that later on.
Allowing himself one more good shudder of pure revulsion, Guy headed that train of thought off at the pass. If he kept going on like that then he'd be an absolute nervous wreck long before anybody decided to come back up. Sighing soundlessly at himself, Guy glanced at the bed and grimaced. The God-General looked much, much better than he had the day before. In fact, it could safely be said that he was definitely on the mend. Give it a few more days and then they could get back on the road. Unfortunately, he had a sinking feeling that Asch would be going with them when they left Daath.
And he wouldn't be able to work up any sort of argument for that, no matter how much he wanted to. Luke was so... so... happy for once. More so than he had been in a long time, certainly a lot more than he had been ever since Akzeriuth. Hell, he was almost giddy at times. And for some ungodly reason it was entirely because of Asch. How could he possibly deny his best friend the source of his happiness? Somehow, someway amidst all of the pain and suffering they had witnessed in the past few days those two had stumbled upon some kind of connection that actually allowed them to relate. And it was all because of Van Grants. Damn the man.
No. He... he wasn't being fair. By all appearances Asch deserved to have someone who cared for him, someone who could understand him and see through the hard layers he had built up around himself over the years. He was... much colder now than when he had been a child. Admittedly, Guy hadn't given him many chances back then, in fact, he really hadn't given him any chances at all, but he had at least paid attention to Luke fon Fabre's personality quirks. And Asch the Bloody was perhaps one of the coldest and loneliest seeming people he had ever met in his entire life, himself included.
A small, nasty little part of himself wanted to revel in that fact, wanted to crow its enjoyment at how empty his life must have been for the past seven years to turn him into that. But he couldn't, wouldn't let it. When he had been a child he had wanted to hurt the Fabre family in the worst way possible, it would have only been fitting, after all, for what they had taken away from him. And Luke had been such an easy target. It had been the simplest thing in the world to hate him. After all, who could stand such a smug brat anyway? Never mind the fact that he might have been almost as snobbish at times himself. He had been justified in his behavior, hadn't he?
Oh, but that was the child speaking. Still hurting, still frightened and still so very angry at times for what he had lost. But then the kidnapping had occurred and all of his half baked plans for revenge had fallen to ash. Spoiled opportunities and failed chances. And then they had returned with Luke. Dear, precious, clueless Luke. Who could possibly hate such a lovable idiot? He certainly hadn't been able to. Which led them all back to the here and now.
Luke wasn't Luke, had never been. At least, not the one he had wanted to kill. No, that Luke had truly fallen to ashes, to Asch. And regardless of any dark wish he might have still harbored, Asch had nearly died on them and... he hadn't liked it. Not one bit. He might still detest the prissy son of a bitch, but he didn't really want to see him die. Had he ever really wanted him to die in the first place? Or had it all just been the hopeless fantasy of a child faced with too much loss to bear. But then again, they had all lost something. He had lost his family. Luke and Natalia had lost their very identities and were even now still trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. Tear's life was still shattering, and would continue to be that way until her brother was finally dealt with. Anise had lost her position, even though it had been by design. And Jade, well, he didn't really want to think too hard about what Jade might consider a loss. That was just too frightening a concept to ponder upon. And then, of course, there was Asch, who seemed to have lost everything that might have mattered along the way.
How could he be happy about that?
It had been so much easier to ignore the niggling doubts that had been cropping up, to continue his irrational hatred of the ass when he had been so unnecessarily vicious to Luke. Not everything was Luke's fault, and geez, why couldn't everybody else have cut him some slack. By all accounts he was only seven years old, after all, and the babying that had gone on after he had been rescued had certainly not led to him being the sharpest tack in the box. But now, now even that seemed to be changing.
Asch seemed quite... comfortable now with Luke's typical signs of affection. He certainly didn't seem to have any aversion anymore to being touched by his replica, which Luke apparently took a great deal of delight in. It was almost enough to make Guy feel just a little bit jealous. He had always been the favored target for manhandling by Luke in the past, after all. But now that focus was shifting. Everything was changing. Maybe it was time for him to change as well. If he could.
Glancing up from his uneasy ruminations, Guy found himself pinned by a suspicious glare from Asch. Oh great, what a wonderful way to start off on the right foot. Or wrong foot, as the case may prove to be. Asch glared at him for several more seconds, several long, excruciating seconds as far as Guy was concerned, before glancing around the room, as if he were searching for something. Luke. He was looking for Luke. Well, if that wasn't the final nail in the proverbial coffin then Guy didn't know what was.
"He got kidnapped by Tear," Guy explained, rather proud of how even his voice sounded, "And frankly, I really don't want to know what exactly she needed him for." That only earned him a rather scathing glance, as if he were telling Asch something that he already knew. Scratch that, he probably did. "Oh, that's right, you can talk to each other in your head. Never mind then."
Asch shook his head irritably and stared up at the ceiling several moments in thought, then as if he had finally decided upon something he shifted and began to sit up.
"Hey! Wait, no, you shouldn't," Guy sputtered as he shot up out of the chair and reached out, stopping just short of touching the contrary God-General. Somehow he doubted that his touch would be appreciated. "I know you're probably feeling better, but you shouldn't push your luck."
Asch was apparently paying him little to no heed, instead he was just sitting there, holding his face in one hand. Hmm, he probably felt faint, which really wouldn't be much of a surprise considering just how much blood he had lost in the past few days. Steeling himself, Guy reached forward and grasped his shoulder, completely unsurprised when Asch flinched away from him. Well, if that was how it was going to be.
"Lord, but you're still stubborn as all hell," Guy muttered sourly as he glared down at his most unwelcome charge. This was why he hadn't wanted to be left alone with the bastard. "Really, is it any wonder he-"
They both stiffened at his words, and even though Guy managed to cut himself off, the meaning was still clear enough. Guy cursed mentally at himself. What the hell was wrong with him? He hadn't meant that. He would never! "Look, I didn't mean that," he tried, but he knew it was pointless. Asch was already giving him a very dangerous, if thoroughly affronted, look. Well, this was a fine mess he had made for himself. Now if he could just get out of it with his hide -and his friendship with Luke- intact. What to do? What to say?
Asch scowled and opened his mouth, no doubt to rip him up one side and down the other. Something he certainly more than deserved this time. But then the God-General just abruptly stopped, an utterly stricken expression on his face as he looked away and reached up to grasp at his neck.
What the hell? Guy thought vaguely in shock as he just stood there, completely and utterly unsure of what the hell had just happened and what to do about it. And then a little niggling and very unpleasant idea worked its way past his confused dismay and it all made a hideous sort of sense. "Oh hell," Guy murmured in dawning horror as he reached up and covered his mouth with a shaking hand, "You can't talk."
"Son of a bitch," he muttered viciously as he sat down in front of Asch and reached for his neck. Maybe if he could-
Asch jerked away from his questing hands, and in that moment Guy saw something that he would never forget. He had figured that Asch disliked him, how could he not with how horrid he had been to him as a child. But that hadn't been hate, nowhere near it. Something almost akin to fear. Possibly even some old, unnamed terror. Where was that coming from? It wasn't as if Asch couldn't kick his ass from one end of Auldrant to the next, so why would he-
"He told you about me, didn't he?" Guy hissed out, the gears in his mind turning exceptionally fast now with this particular revelation. "I had figured that he had informed you of my past, but not the real reason I entered the service of the Fabre household. Surely you would have taken steps to remove such an obvious threat by now. But he did, didn't he? He told you everything." Asch's answering suspicious glare was more confirmation than he really needed. "That son of a bitch, he used it as leverage with you, didn't he?"
Guy couldn't help but laugh hollowly then as he shook his head. It just figured. "Well, I guess you and Luke aren't the only people that bastard has used for his own ends."
Sighing heavily, Guy chuckled hopelessly. What could he possibly say in the face of seven years worth of mistrust built upon the solid foundation of his own bad behavior. "I don't hate you," he managed at last, his eyes closed as he tried to sort out his feelings into words, Words, words always failed him. But he had to try. "And I don't want to kill you. I'm still absolutely furious at your father, and frankly, if the opportunity arose I can't say that I wouldn't kill him and be happy about it. But it's not your fault." Again, he shook his head and stared solemnly at Asch, hoping against hope that his meaning would at least get conveyed somehow. "It was never your fault."
Asch gave him a thoroughly skeptical look. But maybe Guy wasn't just imagining things, maybe he did look sort of thoughtful there. Just a bit. And maybe, just maybe, he would understand what he meant. It would be...
It would be a good start.