The Gift
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: Uhm, if you don't know who Asch is, it's a spoiler?


It was still snowing -but then it snowed nearly every night in Keterburg-, as Asch slowly sneaked his way out the back door of the inn. Closing said door silently behind him, he waited several long charged minutes before finally sighing in abject relief. He hadn't meant to be anywhere in the vicinity of the group for Midwinter's Feast, for surely Natalia would have forced him to celebrate the holiday with them, but somehow or other a particular lead he was chasing had rather conveniently crossed their path early that morning and he had gotten roped into it regardless of his own wishes. The secretive smile that damned Necromancer had been giving him the entire time had spoken quite loudly of just why their paths had crossed. The man's demeanor was completely unnerving at the best of times, and it was made just that much worse when one realized they had just been the victim of one of Jade Curtiss's suspect machinations.

Damn the man and his scheming anyway. He would most likely have to start this particular investigation all over now thanks to this unwanted respite. The trail must have certainly grown cold by now. Giving the door a rather disgusted glare, Asch turned around and began to make his way down the stairs. The sooner he got started, the sooner he'd get some sort of results. He needed to find out what-

"Finally managed to escape?"

Asch tensed up at that quiet query. Oh lord, what now? He whirled around, his eyes swiftly searching the immediate area surrounding him until they finally alighted upon the source of that painfully familiar voice. So that's where he had gotten off to. Allowing himself to relax somewhat in relief, Asch gifted his replica with just a mild frown for once in acknowledgement. "Oh, it's just you."

Luke smiled hesitantly as he walked out from the inky shadows beside the inn and into the soft light cast by the moon and stars. It was quite strange to him how it could still be snowing when the sky was utterly clear, but it didn't seem to bother the citizens of Keterburg any at all. Perhaps it was a typical phenomenon for them. "I'm surprised that you stayed so long," he murmured as he followed the stairs down until he was standing right in front of his original, "It was starting to get a bit stifling in there."

Asch merely shrugged at that. "You ought to know by now just how impossible it is to say no to Natalia when she gets an idea stuck in her head. You either suffer through it or you simply suffer."

Luke chuckled lightly. "Yes, I am quite familiar with that." Then he shuddered slightly as he recalled the last time he had been one of Natalia's victims of choice. It hadn't been pretty, and he doubted that Guy had forgiven him for it just yet.

Asch looked at him pointedly for a few seconds, as if waiting for something before he finally shrugged and turned around. "Well, if there's nothing else, I'll be on my way."

"Actually," Luke began reluctantly, pausing for a moment until Asch had turned back towards him and given him an annoyed glare before continuing, "There was something. I- uhm... I haven't given you a present yet."

Asch stared up at him with the most confused expression that he had ever seen cross the God-General's face. Well, that was a interesting surprise. Luke hadn't thought he could really affect his original in any other way than pissing him off anymore. Maybe there was room for him to hope, after all.

Shaking his head, Asch finally gathered his wits about him enough to scowl up at his replica and mutter scornfully, "That's not necessary. It's not as if I got any of you anything for the holiday."

"Well, I doubt you were expecting to get waylaid by us," Luke said with fake cheerfulness, laying it on thick in hopes that Asch wouldn't notice his mounting anxiety. He was going to do this. He was. He just hoped that Asch wouldn't kill him for it afterwards. "None of us had anything for you either, you know. Though Natalia did her best to make up for the lack."

Asch couldn't help the rising blush as he remembered the results of his incredibly stupid mistake at not noticing that he'd been standing under a damned sprig of mistletoe. Next time they were in the same vicinity he was going to make sure that none of that crap was anywhere near him. And just to be on the safe side, he'd also make sure that any future meetings with them were held outside. Just in case.

"Anyway," Luke murmured softly as he stepped down closer to Asch, "About your present from me."

Asch eyed his approach with blatant suspicion. "I don't need anything from you."

"Maybe not," Luke whispered quietly as he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around his now thoroughly stunned original. Smiling gently, he closed his eyes and rest his chin upon Asch's shoulder. "But I wanted to give it to you anyway."

Asch just stood there, frozen on the spot, his mind at a complete loss over what was happening and what he should do about it. Just what the hell had gotten into his idiot replica now? "What are you-"

"It's called a hug. You know, something that a lot of people do with their friends and family," Luke muttered in annoyance, sounding almost grumpy at having to explain himself now that he'd managed to work up the courage to actually do it. "And I'm pretty sure that you haven't had one in awhile, so I thought you might appreciate the gesture."

Asch blinked blankly in response to that. Well, what the hell was he going to do now? He supposed he could get pissed off at his replica for even thinking of such a thing, but somehow he just didn't feel like it for once. Beside, knowing how their usual interactions went, the resulting yelling match would probably attract the attention of the party goers inside and then he'd never be able to escape. And if he was going to be honest with himself about it, it... really didn't bother him all that much. Maybe he ought to just allow Luke to have his way. But just this once.

Sighing silently at the ridiculous situation he now found himself entrenched in, Asch hesitantly leaned into the embrace, raising his arms bit by bit until he was hugging Luke in return. "You really are stupid, you know that?" he groused absently as he closed his eyes and simply let himself be. It had been a long time since he had felt like this. And while he still vaguely hated the fact that it was his replica that was doing it, he couldn't say that he completely disliked the results of this unexpected gift. It felt... nice.

Maybe just this once.