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.
Natalia grumbled softly, rolled over and pulled the covers up over her head. The light coming in from the window was very bright, but she didn't feel like getting up just yet. The bed was far too warm and comfy for that. They had all gotten to bed rather late the night before anyway, and she was still a little sleepy. But she didn't mind that at all. Natalia grinned impishly as she snuggled herself even further down into a veritable cocoon of blankets. Yesterday had been... interesting. She couldn't help a small, little giggle as she recalled the events of the previous day. Things had gotten a little bit out of hand. Well, all right, more than a little. But it had been worth it. Even Tear had agreed on that point. Just to see those two happy... She was sure that even Guy would suffer through that again if just to see that look on their faces once more. It had been priceless.
And Luke. Dear, precious Luke. She never would have believed he would've ever made a joke like that if she hadn't heard it with her own ears. Really, what had gotten into him? He seemed so... different now, more so than he had ever been before. He had been so painfully unsure of himself ever since that horrible disaster. And though she was ashamed to admit it, she hadn't really helped much in that regard. She shouldn't have abandoned him so readily. But there had been so many shocking revelations there in such a short amount of time and she had been so angry at him and then there had been Asch. But no, there really was no excuse for her behavior. She could only hope that he didn't hold it against her too much. But even before... Akzeriuth, he had always been a bit unsure of where he fit into the scheme of things -and really, was it any surprise knowing what they knew now-. And while he had tried to hide it behind a false sense of bravado, his efforts had only been transparent at best.
Luke was Luke.
And yet, he was not. At least, not anymore. He seemed so much more confident now, so much more sure of himself. And definitely a lot happier. It had all happened in the space of a few days, but the shift in his emotional state was blatantly obvious to anyone who took the time to look. And the reason for such a drastic change, as baffling as it was, was just as obvious. Asch. Somehow, someway he had found a sort of balance within himself thanks to Asch, and apparently it had made all the difference in the world.
To both of them.
She couldn't deny the staggering effect this apparent meeting of minds had had on Asch either. Even now that he was almost recovered from those ghastly wounds, he was still so much more comfortable around them all. It was as if some sort of tension, perhaps even an unconscious suspicion, had vanished entirely from his behavior. He even smiled now. Genuine smiles. He was happy. Perhaps they were all just now coming to realize just how unhappy and horrifically lonely he had been. Just trying to imagine what had to have happened to him to make him like that was enough to make her start crying even now. But no, she wouldn't cry today. She would be happy for him because he was happy. And it was entirely Luke's fault.
Score, she wasn't sure which of them she loved more now.
Not that it probably mattered. There had been several odd occasions in the past day or so where it had been difficult to tell the two of them apart in their mannerisms. There were times when it almost seemed as if they shared the same mind. A disturbing thought, but by Luke's own admission their 'connection' was completely open now. They knew what the other was feeling and sometimes even shared in those feelings. And she had no doubt that they were constantly talking to each other. That was as plain as day. There wouldn't be a peep from either of them, and yet their expressions would change like wildfire. How strange. And yet, she had always heard that old myth of couples who had been together for ages and how they could almost guess at what the other was thinking. How much closer, how much more intimate could a relationship become when those involved could practically live in each other's mind. Was their behavior that much of a surprise even after only a few days?
Oh dear. That might prove to be a problem.
Would she have to marry both of them?
Natalia chewed on her bottom lip nervously as she carefully dissected that possibility in her mind. She couldn't honestly say that it really bothered her much -if at all-. She did love them both dearly. She was brave enough now to admit that to herself, at least. But both of them? At the same time? She didn't think there was enough of her to go around... They were both so... active. Natalia shivered slightly at that thought and buried her face in her hands, doing her level best to fight back the raging blush she knew was swiftly working its way down her body. Oh lord, what had she gotten herself into?!
But no. No, there might be a saving grace in this entire sordid mess, after all. She was certain that Tear had grown some sort of attachment to Luke. Maybe it went further than that? That might work. At least there would be two of them then. She didn't think she would mind sharing them with Tear. No, she wouldn't. The woman was the least threatening possibility she had ever run across, which probably made her more threatening in the long run. But unlike the vast majority, Tear was a friend, a very good and dear friend, in fact. They both might have their own idiosyncrasies -boy did they ever-, but surely they wouldn't fight over something like that. There were two of them too.
But she'd need to find out how Tear felt about Asch first. Yes, that would be a good place to start. Because regardless of how everything might turn out in the end, there was no way either of them would ever love anyone who didn't like the both of them to some extent. That was so blindingly obvious at this point that even someone like that disturbing fellow, Dist the Reaper, would probably catch on to it.
...Ew. Natalia grimaced and gave herself a little shake at that particular thought. She had been spending far too much time around Colonel Curtiss if her mind was dipping down so easily into such distressing subjects. While it was true that she had her whole future ahead of her now to plan out properly, it could percolate for a bit. They still had that little problem of saving the world to deal with. Along with making absolutely sure that Van Grants never had the opportunity to ever do something like that ever again.
Natalia sighed sadly as she pushed herself up. There was still so much heartache left for them to bear. But they would weather it, she was sure of that. They were all together now. And as long as they were together, then they would outlast whatever storm may come their way. They had to.
Nodding in pure determination, Natalia slid her legs off the side of the bed and glanced around, noticing for the first time that she was, in fact, completely alone in the Tatlins' bedroom. Oh dear, had she really overslept that much? How very unladylike of her. Anise's parents, themselves, were early risers, but they rarely made enough noise to really rouse their guests more than just a fraction. But the others, surely they had been as exhausted as she had been, especially after chasing Guy around all over the place yesterday. And yet, their beds were made with nary a sign of them having been present at all. How strange. But no, that couldn't be right, she surmised as she glanced behind her and out the window. It wasn't as bright out as she had first thought. It was only just past dawn. The first bell to break fast was still some ways off. Why were they all up so early?
Curious now, Natalia reached down, pulled her boots on and then hopped out of bed. She grimaced mildly as she brushed her clothes down, trying to straighten them and smooth the wrinkles out as best she could. She truly detested having to sleep fully clothed, but it was just safer to do it that way. If they had to 'make a run for it', as it were, then having to take the time to get dressed might prove disastrous. Sighing softly, she turned around and began to make up the bed. Back home such trivial things would have been taken care of by the servants, but then again... she wasn't a princess anymore. Had she ever really been one? The others still referred to her as such on occasion, but she couldn't really say that she felt like it anymore. She... No, she was just one single person among millions. She had to take care of herself just the same as anybody else now. Princess Natalia or no Princess Natalia. She would stand on her own two feet and find her own place in the world. Just like they had to. She wouldn't dishonor them by doing anything less.
She did love them, after all. And she wanted to be someone worthy of being loved in return. Yes, that was what she wanted most of all. She wanted to be someone worth loving. Then maybe her father... No, now she was just being silly. Natalia shook her head and firmly thrust that particular thought completely out of her head. One thing at a time. Just one thing at a time.
Smiling tightly, even if it wasn't a real one just yet, Natalia finished making up the bed and crossed over to the dresser in search of the hairbrush. Unfortunately, it wasn't there. A quick exploration of the entire room produced no results either. Well, that was quite irritating. Scowling in annoyance, Natalia raked her fingers through her hair, yanking out what tangles she could find and then did her best to smooth it down into a presentable style. Really, what was the world coming to? Every woman had need of a hairbrush, it just wasn't right if there wasn't one available.
Grumbling under her breath, Natalia stalked out of the Tatlins' quarters and started making her way towards the Fon Master's quarters. She had begun the day in such a good mood too. But alas, for lack of a hairbrush her good cheer was lost. It just wasn't fair! Sighing in a very put upon manner, she glanced down at the cathedral's entrance hall as she was passing overhead and frowned in confusion, her steps faltering slightly at what she saw. My, but there certainly were quite a few people awake at this hour, far more than there usually were. And weren't those Oracle Knights down there? Strange. Was there a problem? Or was there going to be one?
Scowling worriedly at this turn of events, Natalia quickened her pace. The faster she got to the Fon Master's rooms the sooner she would know what was going on, for surely Colonel Curtiss already knew about it. She didn't think anything of any importance ever really escaped that man. He was certainly an asset to the Malkuth Empire. It was a pity that they had been on 'opposing sides' for so long, but then again, there really were no sides anymore. Not as far as she was concerned, now if only the rest of the world would realize that then they wouldn't have anything to fear from people like Commandant Grants or Grand Maestro Mohs. But there was no point in crying over spilt milk. They would save the world from itself and hopefully, maybe, somewhere down the line people would realize that there was more to life than fighting over preordained prosperity. Such a flimsy excuse for such horrible conduct. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Even her father...
She just... couldn't seem to stop thinking about him, the more she tried the more it cropped up. Did- did he really hate her so much now that he would order her death? Had everything, her entire life, meant nothing to him? She wanted so desperately to feel something, anything, about it. Surely anyone else would have been angry, horrendously furious to have been thrown away so callously. But she couldn't seem to manage it. Whenever she thought about it, all she felt was... empty. Was this- Was this how Asch had felt? To have everything taken away from him and to have then been replaced so easily, so readily? To have been made into nothing in such a short amount of time?
Why... Why didn't he hate them all for it? Surely he was justified, more than justified.
But he didn't really hate anyone, not that she could tell. He had been angry, but never so overtly vicious to show any genuine hatred. How strong did someone have to be to not hate anyone for what had been done to them? And what did it really cost them in the end? Happiness? Peace of mind? How empty could life become when a person lost everything and yet refused to become the monster that their tormenters seemed to want of them? Did she... did she have the strength to not blame people for what had happened, to not hate them?
But no, their situations were entirely different. Foolish of her to think otherwise, even for just a moment. She still had friends, still had people she loved who counted on her. She may have lost... everything, but they had filled up the empty places, the voids where things had been ripped out, and they had given her reason enough, more than enough, to keep on going. And if she felt empty when she thought about... him, then she would find something to make it better.
And if the opportunity arose, then she would show him that she didn't hate him for what he had done. Maybe she wasn't his real daughter, but she was still his daughter. The past eighteen years had been worth something, whether he acknowledged it or not. She wouldn't throw that all away.
She was still Natalia, princess or otherwise. She would stand on her own two feet. She would make a difference. And she would still love her father, regardless of whether he wanted to be that person for her anymore. No one could take that away from her.
And one day, it would stop feeling empty.