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.
Luke wasn't very fond of getting poked and prodded. However, some sacrifices must be made in the face of adversity, and certain hell bent women definitely ranked up there on the adversity scale. Tear was scary when she was on a mission, which she very obviously was. He wasn't quite sure just exactly what that mission was yet, but the many pastel fabrics that the seamstress was pinning onto him gave Luke a fairly decent idea of what the outcome might be. Whatever it was, it was going to be cute and utterly horrifying and was, no doubt, intended for Guy. Poor Guy. He didn't know what his best friend had done to piss her off so bad, but he'd just have to hunker down and take it like a man... and probably scream the whole cathedral down in the process.
Maybe he should pick up some earplugs for Asch on the way back. It wouldn't hurt.
He flinched slightly as a stray needle poked him in the side. "Please to be staying still, young master," the seamstress commented, an amused smirk plastered on her face as she glanced up at him, "It will go much quicker that way."
"Yeah yeah, I'm trying," Luke grumbled sourly as he glared darkly across the room at Tear and Natalia. The two were riffling through a stack of pinkish colored fabrics and chatting amiably with each other, but every now and then they would look back at him and giggle. It was those damned giggles that were setting him on edge. He just hoped that they wouldn't decide to include him in whatever the hell Tear had planned for Guy. He had enough problems already, he didn't need the added fun of being their new toy on top of everything else.
Anise, on the other hand, was being quiet for once, not that that counted for much. She had plopped down somewhere behind him and had started drawing on something or other. It was probably some ghastly pattern intended for the seamstress. He didn't doubt for one minute that she wasn't in on whatever was going on. It was Anise, after all. If she wasn't the one causing the trouble then she was gleefully helping it along, usually with Jade in tow. But thankfully, Jade was off doing something else this fine morning. There was always a silver lining to everything, no matter how miniscule that lining might seem to be.
"I think this one will do," Tear said decisively as she stepped up beside the seamstress, a pale, ice pink fabric draped across her arm, "This one and that magenta one you've got there should work wonderfully."
Rubbing her chin thoughtfully, the seamstress nodded encouragingly as she peered over the two colors with a calculating eye. "Yes, those two should go nicely together. It will be a splendid outfit." Grinning impishly, she pointed up at Luke before asking, "Are you sure you don't want me to make one for this young fellow here too? He'd look smashing in it."
"No, I don't think so. We'll spare his dignity," Tear chuckled evilly, making Luke's skin crawl, "This time." Smiling in a manner that almost reminded him of Jade, she went on to further describe a few more important details. "Now there are a few inches of difference in their height so you'll want to have some generous give at the seams and along the length, and he's a bit broader in the shoulders. Maybe a bit more in the hips too, but they're roughly the same shape and all. It shouldn't be too hard."
Luke fought back a shudder as he did his best to tune her out. He didn't want to know. He really didn't want to know. By the Score, but he didn't want to know. He knew far, far too much already for his fragile peace of mind. The crazy woman could just keep her cute things the hell away from him and he would be happy.
A soft movement in the back of his mind instantly distracted him from his growing hysteria. Luke smiled softly as he tuned the rest of the world out around him. This was much more welcome. /You're awake./
At first the only acknowledgement he received for his trouble was a mild brush of drowsy thoughts against his own, but soon it sharpened, becoming almost alarmed. /Where...?/
/Tear dragged me out shopping. She wouldn't take no for an answer. Natalia and Anise are with us./ Luke explained dryly. /But Guy's still there in case you need anything./
This scenario apparently did not sit well with Asch. /When are you getting back?/
/Uh,/ Luke blinked curiously at Asch's brusque tone. What was up with that? /I don't know./
Yep, Asch was very unhappy about something or other. What was the problem? /Look, if you're worried about something, Guy is there./
/I don't trust him./
/I don't trust him./ Asch thought with a steely finality. /Surely he's shown his true colors to you by now. Haven't you had an incident or two where you've almost gotten stabbed in the back?/
/Well, yeah, but that wasn't his fault. It was the curse slot.../ Luke trailed off, remembering the hard, ugly truths that had been revealed because of it. /Oh./
/Yes, oh./ Asch almost snarled back. My, but he did sound on edge.
Maybe he should see about extricating himself from this ever so pleasant scene and getting back up to the cathedral before the inevitable bloodbath occurred. /Okay, look, I know it's complicated,/ Luke began, hoping he could talk Asch down from doing anything irreversible, /But really he's not-/
He didn't even have the chance to finish his thought before Guy's careless words came crashing down over them both. "What?" Luke burst out, earning curious glances from the women present. /He said what?!/ He mentally yelled in obvious outrage. /Oh man, that idiot. I'm gonna kill him./
/I'm just-/ Asch barely managed to form into conscious thought, the extreme insult he felt more than obvious.
/Yeah, right, let him have it. He deserves it,/ Luke grumbled in complete agreement to Asch's almost incoherent derision, though there was a very obvious tinge of disappointment to his own thoughts. Really, what the hell was Guy thinking? Couldn't he see that-
And yet again his thoughts came to a screeching halt, this time from pure, unadulterated shock filtering down to him. /What? What is it? What's wrong?/ He asked in mounting concern.
/What is it?!/
/...I can't talk./
Luke stared up unseeing at the ceiling above him. /What- what do you mean?/
/Exactly what I said./ Asch answered with a ghost of irritation, but there was real, genuine fear buried there in the slowly diminishing shock. Luke... didn't like that. He shouldn't ever feel like that. /I try but there's nothing there. It doesn't even feel right./
/What, your throat?/ Luke asked impatiently, but didn't wait for an answer as he looked back down. "Tear?"
"Yes, Luke?" She answered as she glanced up at him curiously.
"Can you look at Asch's neck when we get back?" He asked, his mind divided now between the conversation he was having with her and the hard words filtering down through their minds. Guy...
"Certainly," Tear answered readily enough, "Is there a problem?"
"He can't talk," Luke supplied, his brows drawing together in pained contemplation. He had never considered that. No wonder they were both so very angry about it all. Damn Van anyway. Did he have to ruin every single little thing he touched?
"What?" Natalia and Tear both cried out, glancing at each other in dismay before looking back up at him.
"Well," Tear began, her lips twisting down into a concerned frown as she reached up and tugged nervously on a lock of her hair. "I'm sure it's probably just the wound being problematic. It should be easy enough to heal."
"I guess," Natalia murmured in uncertainty and nibbled gently on her bottom lip.
"Good," Luke muttered vaguely. /Don't be angry with him, please./
/You heard him yourself, he wants to kill father,/ Asch shot back viciously.
/Can you really blame him? If your positions were reversed, you'd be the same damn way,/ Luke grumbled. He would make Asch see reason in this, one way or another. He wasn't about to lose either of them to something that wasn't their fault in the first place. /And even if he did have the chance, he wouldn't do it. I know he wouldn't./
/How can you be so sure?/
/Because, even though life has twisted him up into hard, angry knots, he's still Guy./ Luke explained wearily. Asch's anger and distrust were almost like a weight bearing down on his mind, but he wouldn't give in. He would make him understand. /He still has a kind heart. Just like you do./
Asch didn't say anything to that, but there was an almost lightening of the pressure then, as if he were thinking it over.
/He's a good friend. He'll be one for you too if you'll let him./
/Fat chance of that,/ Asch growled back in outright disdain.
/Trust me./ Luke sighed unhappily. If he would just listen.
They both paused in wonder as those half-remembered words from the night before floated gently through their minds, leaving behind a trail of unexplained warmth. Is that what it meant? To trust each other? Or was it something else entirely?
/I.../ Asch began hesitantly after a few moments spent in contemplation, /All right. I will. For now./
/But don't expect me to hold back if he does anything./
/I wouldn't dream of it./ Luke sent back cheerfully, a pleased smile curling at his lips.
"Here we go," Anise crowed in triumph as she skipped around Luke and handed the seamstress the paper she had been working on. "It looked like that."
Tear hummed thoughtfully as she glanced down at the drawing and nodded in satisfaction. "Yes, that's perfect. Can you have it ready tomorrow along with the, uhm, 'outfit'? I know it's short notice and all, but we'll pay you handsomely for the trouble."
"Hmm," the seamstress nodded thoughtfully as she turned the paper one way and then the other. "I think so." She grinned knowingly as she glanced up at Luke. "I have all the measurements I need now, it shouldn't be too difficult to pull off. Though, I wish you'd let me sew together another one of those cute little numbers for this sweet young man here. It'd be a great advertisement."
Luke eyed them suspiciously as Tear laughed at that. What were they up to now? "Oi, what are you doing?"
Natalia smiled up at him in amusement. "You need a new coat," she began.
"So we thought we'd go ahead and have one made for you," Anise finished gaily.
"Okay," Luke muttered lamely and peered skeptically around at them, his eyes finally coming to rest on Tear, "I had been wondering about that. Where is my coat?"
Tear coughed indelicately. "I burned it."
"You what?!" Luke yelped, his expression completely horrified.
She shrugged helplessly and explained, "It was stained. There was no way it was going to wash out. I had to burn my old uniform along with it too. It was for the best."
"Oh." Luke winced as he realized what she meant by 'stained'. All of that blood. No, he certainly didn't have any qualms about getting rid of that then. But still, they wanted to make him a new one? Well, that was nice of them. Humming curiously, he hopped down off of the stool the seamstress had forced him up onto earlier and peered down at the paper. "Hey!" he cried as he yanked it out of the hapless woman's grasp and gestured wildly at it. "It doesn't look like that. It's not Tokunaga, you freak. It's much fiercer."
"What do you mean by freak?!" Anise yelled, taking obvious exception at his poor choice of words.
"Oh dear," Tear murmured quietly, wincing as the expected argument swiftly escalated into a yelling match.
Much later, after their rather spectacularly explosive row, Luke waved the others on up to the Fon Master's quarters and headed off into the Oracle Knight Headquarters on his own. He didn't really want the others tagging along with him for this. It was... personal. Well, granted, it didn't seem that way on the surface. He was just going down to fetch Asch some decent clothes. But he wasn't very sure of how he felt about being down there just yet, and he didn't want the others to know just how uncertain he was.
His face taking on a severity that perfectly mirrored the God-General whose very steps he was trailing after in his mind's eye, Luke marched his way down into the hulking structure, ignoring the few knights he came across as he followed a path that should have been unknown to him. He had never been this way before, had never been down so far, but the memories seeped through. Ancient and sometimes unpleasant, they were nonetheless a road he could have followed in his sleep.
He had been here for seven years, after all. Seven long, hard years.
And then there was only a door barring his path and a light switch that needed to be flicked up to provide illumination.
It's empty here. Luke thought vaguely as he stepped fully into the room, glancing around at the desk and then the bed. And lonely. But then, he hadn't been expecting anything else really. He knew, could feel, that Asch'd had little use for knick knacks or other such frivolous things. What was the point? He would die, it was his fate, had always been his fate. Why leave anything behind? For remembrance? Who would be left to remember him? As far as the world had been concerned, he hadn't even existed. Luke fon Fabre had been rescued, hadn't he? His ashes were of little concern.
/Don't get so sentimental./
Luke sighed brokenly as he sank down onto the bed, his hands shaking as he reached up and raked them through his hair. /How could you stand it?/
/It's just a room./
Luke almost laughed helplessly at Asch's tone. It was so straight forward, but he knew it had to have hurt. At least for a little while. /You're not coming back here. I won't let you./
There was a long pause then, as if Asch were actually considering his future for the first time in a very, very long time. And Luke couldn't help but feel a tiny curl of pleased satisfaction at that small sign of progress. He hadn't even yelled at him for telling him what to do. /I don't have anywhere else to go./
/I know, but that's okay. There's nothing that says we can't make a place for ourselves./
/I appreciate your enthusiasm,/ Asch remarked dryly, his pessimism very prominent in his thoughts, /But have you really thought about what you're saying?/
/Yes, actually, I have,/ Luke smiled softly as he wrapped his arms behind his head and leaned back down across the bed. /And I've come to the conclusion that even if we don't have a home to go back to, we can always make a new one. We do have friends now, you know. I don't think they'd let us just drift around aimlessly. They're a bit stubborn that way./
/...you're probably right./
/Of course I am./
/You just can't help yourself, can you?/ Luke grumbled in mild annoyance.
/No./ And then Asch did something that surprised him. He laughed.