Day 24
by Meimi


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.


It was with some surprise that shortly after lunch Luke abruptly found himself alone with Asch. Not that he really minded it all that much, but their immediate abandonment by the others was strange at best and certainly quite perplexing. He was almost, almost to the point of being slightly alarmed, but the drowsy contentment rolling off the man leaning against him took the edge off of his concern. Luke glanced down at the head resting upon his shoulder and couldn't resist a small affectionate smile. He had crawled up on to the bed earlier, it just hadn't been comfortable talking up to Asch from the chair. It really gave him a horrible crick in the neck to do that. And it hadn't taken long at all for them to both be propped up against the wall, their legs stretching out across the bed, side by side. And somehow or other Asch had decided that he'd make a splendid pillow. And well, here they were.

Not that he minded.

He supposed that he should be surprised at how easily they seemed to fit together now, but then again, it hadn't exactly been an easy process in the first place. Not at all. Asch had fought him every step of the way as he had grown closer and closer to death, and he had almost been willing to let him have his way. Almost. But thankfully his -or should he say their- innate stubbornness had won out in the end and thus they were both still very much here, and both still very much alive. He could almost thank Van for that. But again, only just, and there was no way in hell he'd ever forgive the bastard for what he had nearly succeeded in doing. Never again.

/Stop thinking so hard. It's annoying./

/Sorry,/ Luke murmured softly as he leaned his head down against Asch's. /I was just musing over everything that's happened lately./

/Mmm./ Asch shifted slightly, curling up a little closer to Luke. /I suppose it is rather strange all things considered./

/I guess./

/But it doesn't really-/

/-feel that way./ Luke grinned as he finished the thought. /No, it doesn't feel strange at all. But I do wonder-/

But before he could even finish that particular train of thought a distant scream echoed out across the cathedral, a very familiar sounding scream.

"No! Stop! Gah! Get away from me! Stop touching me, damnit! Augh! Stop it!"

Asch stiffened in alarm and raised himself up, giving the bedroom door a look of trepidation. Luke merely crossed his arms and sat there, a look of mild annoyance working its way across his face. Trust them to ruin his good mood. "I guess it finally arrived," he muttered sourly after a few more moments spent listening to the hysterical yelling.

Asch glanced over at him in moderate dismay, one eyebrow arched in query.

Luke shrugged in mounting irritation. Was it his imagination or did the screams sound like they were getting closer? "Yesterday morning when you were deciding on whether to gut Guy or not, which, at this point, I am totally behind one hundred percent. But anyway, Tear was using me as a pincushion at the time. And well," he tilted his head as another high pitched wail pierced the air. Yep, that did sound closer. "It sounds like the results of her, uh, plans just got delivered."

Asch gave him one last, short disbelieving look before the door burst open and a remarkably pink confection stumbled into the room. Asch and Luke just stared at him, both of their brains instantly shutting down at the thoroughly unbelievable image presented to them. Guy gasped, gulping in air like a drowning man as he looked wildly around the room before zeroing in on them. One second he was standing in the doorway and the next he was diving into their laps, clinging to them as if they were his last hope. And all things considered, they probably were to some extent. Though, it was far too late to rescue his dignity. That was most definitely a hopeless cause if ever there was one.

"Please please, help! Save me! Do anything! Just make them stop!"

Luke blinked blankly down at Guy. /She dressed him up like a maid./

/A very frilly maid./ Asch added dryly as he brushed more than a few stray ribbons off of his shoulder. Yes, those were definitely ribbons. Lacy ones, in fact.

"Guuuuy," Tear's voice singsonged from out in the hallway, "We're not done yet."

Guy shuddered in fright and tried to bury himself in between the two. "Please! Kill me if you have to! I don't care, just make them stop!"

Luke and Asch merely glanced at each other and smirked in amusement. Well, this should prove to be interesting and quite entertaining to boot. And Guy certainly did look... cute like that. Yes, cute seemed to be the proper term to use in this particular case. Sickeningly cute.

"Guy," Tear grumbled as she stalked into the room, Natalia and Anise trailing along behind her, "You can't just up and leave like that. We weren't anywhere near being done."

Guy trembled in pure, unadulterated horror and started to worm his way around behind Asch, jostling the God-General more than he cared for and yanking sporadically on his braid.

"Do you mind?" he growled out quietly in irritated exasperation, his throat aching slightly from the unexpected use, as his head was jerked back one too many times by the idiot holding his hair hostage.

"You're an invalid," Guy hissed in terror as he wrapped the braid tightly around one hand, "They won't dare go through you."

"Don't bet on it," Natalia said flatly as she stood beside the bed, her arms crossed and her expression nothing short of forbidding.

"And if you hurt him," Anise purred menacingly as she leaned over, her fingers tapping incessantly at the covers. "We'll make it that much worse for you." And then she grinned, and everyone present felt a small thread of unease work its way up their spines. That grin was nothing short of malevolent, something that even Jade would be proud of.

"Believe it." Tear nodded solemnly, but still took a surreptitious step away from Anise.

Luke snorted in something akin to disgust, leaned over, and with no small amount of difficulty, pried the braid out of Guy's clutches and yanked Asch over onto his lap. Smiling triumphantly, he announced to all and sundry, "You can't have him, he's mine. Go find your own."

They all froze there for a moment as Guy's face took on the most horrified expression any of them had ever seen, and then they all just fell out into nigh hysterics. Natalia and Tear were giggling so hard they were having trouble standing, and eventually did end up sinking down to the floor. Anise grasped the bedcover in a tight death grip to keep from joining them, and she barely managed even that. Luke, in the meantime, had wrapped his arms around Asch, buried his nose into his neck and snickered for all he was worth. Asch simply sat there and shook his head, but couldn't resist a small, if bewildered, smile at their shared mirth. Really, what had he gotten himself into?

"Well," Guy huffed once the laughter had died down somewhat, "If that's how it's going to be from now on." Sniffing daintily, acting all the world as if he were a scorned school girl, he edged his way off of the bed and stood up, smoothing down the rumpled ribbons and sticking his nose high up into the air. "I'll just leave you two lovebirds to it." Thus said, the thoroughly affronted 'maid' flounced his way out of the room.

Now, where exactly had he learned how to do that?

The women glanced around at each other, grinning like fools, and then burst out again into peals of laughter. Luke peered over Asch's shoulder at them, still shuddering every now and then from the occasional snicker he wasn't able to fight back down. "Are you three having fun?" he managed to get out, though honestly he wasn't quite sure how, before having to bury his face in Asch's neck again as their laughter jump started once more at his ever so innocent question. Oh, but this was just too damned funny.

"Well," Natalia muttered after a time and began to pull herself up the side of the bed, peeking over the top once she was up high enough. She was almost breathless now from her continual giggles, but somehow she managed to make her next statement somewhat coherent. "I hope you don't mind sharing."

Anise snickered hard as a telltale blush lightly graced Asch's cheeks at that and waved her finger pointedly up into the air. "Yeah, he's ours too now, you know."

Luke hummed deliberatively at that, then hugged Asch tighter to himself as he glared dangerously over the God-General's shoulder at them. "You're not dressing him up in that thing."

"Oh, certainly not," Tear said pleasantly, too pleasantly, as she picked herself up off the floor, brushing dust, imaginary or otherwise, off of her legs before straightening up. With one finger placed thoughtfully on her chin, she eyed the pair up and down appraisingly. "No, I don't think that would be appropriate. Pink is definitely not his color. Or yours either, for that matter. Maybe something in blue. Baby blue, perhaps? Hmm."

Luke narrowed his eyes suspiciously and glared even harder at her. "No. Not now. Not ever. N. O. No."

Anise snickered as she stood up and helped Natalia climb to her feet. They both leaned heavily on each other for support as they looked speculatively over at the pair. "Somebody's feeling protective," she singsonged, her tone nothing short of chipper.

Natalia nodded in agreement and smirked. "Definitely a mama bear syndrome if ever there was one."

Tear chuckled and shook her head. "Don't worry, we won't do anything to you," she murmured, smiling softly at a rather apprehensive looking Asch. "Unless, of course, you do something to deserve it." Her flippant addendum didn't do a thing to soothe his nerves or appease his skepticism. Maybe he should just stay away from them for awhile.

Shrugging her absolute lack of concern at the God-General's plight, Tear finally seemed to remember something and swiftly unfolded the bulky swath of white cloth that had been hanging off of her arm. "Your coat came in too, Luke. Hope it meets with your approval," she smiled sweetly as she handed it over to him, her previous dastardly plans apparently forgotten for the moment.

"Oh good." Luke hummed appreciatively as he immediately twisted it around to the back and dubiously eyed the image emblazoned there. "I don't know, does it look happy to you?" He asked Asch conversationally, not even waiting for an answer as he plowed on, "It's not supposed to look happy, you know. It's supposed to look menacing. Fearsome even. All growly and stuff. You know, fierce."

"Oh lord," Anise moaned, shook her head and rolled her eyes heavenward, "Shut up, you moron, I got it right the first time."

Luke scowled at her. "It's not Tokunaga."

"If you keep it up, I'll show you Tokunaga," she threatened and stuck her tongue out at him.

"Ah, excuse me," Asch interjected, his voice still soft and quiet from disuse, and waved a hand hesitantly to garner their undivided attention, "I hate to interrupt this sparklingly witty conversation, but your maid is getting away."

Tear gave him a severe frown at that. "You shouldn't be talking yet." Then she tossed her head irritably and swiftly headed out after Guy.

Natalia and Anise blinked curiously, then glanced over at each other and grimaced before racing out of the room after Tear and their chosen prey. "Guy! Wait up! Get back here! We're not done yet!"

/Are they often like that?/

/Yep. Women are scary./