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?

Luke eyed the books on the table in front of him with growing trepidation and winced when yet another thick book was slammed on top of an already substantial stack. Asch didn't even glance at him before heading off to another shelf, no doubt to procure some more large, heavy tomes to add to the pile. "So, uhm," he began warily as he carefully lowered himself down into a chair, his gaze flicking back and forth between the books and the uncomfortably determined seeming God-General, "What's this all about?"

"Not obvious enough for you?" Asch muttered snidely as he studied the row of books in front of him, quickly reading off the titles until he found what he was looking for.

Luke scowled as he watched Asch yank one book off the shelf followed by another. "Is that a trick question?"

"You are completely," Asch said matter of factly as he pulled another book off the shelf, "utterly," and another, "hopelessly," and one more, "stupid." He sneered as he whirled around and walked back to the table, slamming the new stack down before continuing, "And it's high time we did something about it."

Luke blinked in confusion for a moment, then glanced at the countless books littering the table and then back at Asch, his expression growing somewhat horrified as the God-General's intent became apparent. "You can't be serious," he muttered weakly, an almost whine underlying his tone,

Asch's face was absolutely blank as he shot back, "Perfectly."

Luke visibly recoiled as he let his gaze fall back to the book-laden table. "You've got to be kidding me. I can't possibly read all of this."

"You're Luke fon Fabre," Asch announced breezily, then placed a hand on top of the nearest solid stack of books as he leaned over and snarled, "If you're going to be a proper replica of him then you had best get some of those brain cells in that empty cavern you call a head working. As it is, you're a complete and utter failure."

Luke scowled darkly in return, none too pleased with Asch's tone or what he was hinting at. "I'm not reading all of those," he said petulantly and crossed his arms in stubborn defiance.

"Oh yes you are," Asch growled through gritted teeth.

"No, I'm not."

"Yes, you are." Asch's voice was pure ice as he straightened up and glared down forbiddingly at his replica. "If you want to continue to be Luke then you're going to have to put some work into it."

Luke rolled his eyes and shook his head. Why did Asch always have to be so damn difficult? He'd gotten along just fine up until now... Well, okay, he'd had some really astronomically idiotic moments, but he was doing his best to make up for them, at least. Sure, it wasn't enough, it probably never would be, but at least he was trying. And besides, it was Guy who had said he should keep the name in the first place. It's not like he really wanted to replace Asch... Oh! That was good. Yes. Perfect. "Fine, I don't have to be Luke. I can be Asch," Luke grinned, utterly pleased with himself for that little twist of logic.

Asch smirked in pure condescension. "Don't aim for the unattainable, dreck," he murmured silkily as he leaned forward again, "You'll only find disappointment." He eyed Luke up and down for a moment and then frowned. "Luke was stupid, but at least he was smarter than you."

Luke winced openly at the bald connotation in Asch's words. "Don't say that," he murmured softly as he nervously rubbed his upper arms.

Asch smiled bitterly as he straightened up once more. "I can say whatever I like about myself," he stated plainly as he turned around and shrugged, "It is the truth. I was a fool, but at least I knew more back then than what you know now."

Luke sighed in unhappy exasperation and shook his head again. "So, what? You're going to teach me? Is that what this is all about?"

Glancing over his shoulder, Asch sneered before heading back over to the shelves. "Hardly," he said acidly as began hunting out even more books to add to the pile on the table, "I'll let our contemporaries handle that monumental task. I'd more sooner bash your skull in than have to put up with even more inane questions out of you."

Luke hunkered down lower in his chair as he gaze out over the table in helpless disbelief. "You want me to read all of these?" He blanched at Asch's answering nod to that particular question. "But that'll take forever."

"Then I suggest you get started," Asch murmured absently as he pulled a few tomes off of the shelf in front of him. "Forever will last a lot longer if you put it off now."

"This is going to be torture," Luke groused quietly to himself as he reached forward and gingerly picked up one of the thinner seeming books. He grimaced deeply as he glanced at the cover. Anything with Advanced in the title always set him ill at ease. "You're getting me back for something, aren't you?" he asked weakly after prying the book open and swallowing hard at the endless amounts of words scrawled over each and every page in tiny type.

"If you want to be more than a replica, then you're going to have to work at it," Asch explained, sounding as if he had resigned himself to something entirely unpleasant. His fingers stopped for a moment, coming to rest upon the books as he stole a quick glance back at the idiot behind him. "Just like everyone else."

Luke blinked, his eyes widening as Asch's pointed words slowly filtered through his brain. Did Asch just say what he thought he did? Surely not. Luke was just his stupid replica, nothing more. He wasn't a person, not to Asch... never to Asch. Wasn't he? "What are you saying?" he asked cautiously, unable to help himself on this particular subject. This was something he wanted, no, needed to know.

"Hmm?" Asch turned slightly this time, his eyes coming to rest fully upon Luke as he arched one eyebrow in curiosity.

"What did you mean by that?" Luke asked again, trying his damnedest to keep the faint hope he was feeling out of his voice. Asch would just end up mocking him if he did and then he'd never get an answer.

"Hmmph," Asch snorted and tossed his head, "Don't read more into it than there is." Scrunching his nose up in disgust, he turned his attention back to the bookshelves before adding, "It's just embarrassing. Everybody knows that you're a replica because you act like one."

"So..." Luke began hesitantly, hoping against hope that Asch wouldn't blow up at him for his continual barrage of questions, "What you're saying is that you want me to act like a person, right?"

Asch stopped for a moment, appearing as if he were actually thinking it over before finally answering, "Well... yes." He looked back at Luke then with a rather displeased frown upon his face, appearing as if he were expecting an argument. "Is there a problem with that?"

"No! Not at all," Luke responded cheerfully and gifted his surly original with a brilliant smile.

The God-General gazed at him for several long moments in pure suspicion before finally shaking his head in annoyance and turning back to the shelves and the task at hand. "Whatever."

Luke ducked his head down, a huge grin still plastered across his face as he fingered the pages of the book in front of him. "Thank you," he whispered quietly, his voice pitched far too low for Asch to actually hear him.