Disclaimer: Tales of the Abyss belongs to Namco. I apologize for any butchering of canon or characters.

Author's Notes: The first few lines demanded to be written. The rest just kind of happened. I never write fic in present tense, so I don't know what the hell this is.

Spoilers: Everything to right after Luke gets the locket. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're not far enough. Keep playing.

by: butterflie

Sometimes it doesn't feel real.

He is Asch, but Asch is not him. Somehow they are the same, and yet they are not really the same at all. They are mirror images, a reflection of each other, but for all their similarities, they are still really quite different.

It is strange to think that. Strange to think that there is another him out there, another whose life he had unwillingly stole. Someone who looks just like him, someone who once had his name, his friends, his home. It is stranger still to think that this original him had been out there his whole seven years of living, and he had never once suspected this.

Most of the time he does not know what to make of it. He is a replica, a fake, a mere second rate copy of someone else. Sometimes he feels like he should not exist. It is a heavy, weighing thought, and often it scares him, though he cannot stop thinking it. Sometimes though, when that thought gets to be too much, he shares it with his other. He is not even sure what compels him to share it with his original, or why it should matter if he does. Other times, he thinks that perhaps he shouldn't tell his other, but yet he voices the thought anyway.

But Asch always gets angry when he says such things. Luke cannot figure out why. It is the truth, and doesn't Asch hate him anyway? This is how he sees it, but he knows the others do not. They see what Asch sees, and they believe the answer is obvious. Luke just sees it as more proof that he is the worthless dreck Asch always calls him.

And the others, they get angry too. Though mostly "others" is just Guy and Tear. They always say, "don't put yourself down" and "you aren't worthless," but neither of them have really given him a reason why. He remembers Master Van saying, "Can you not live unless you were born for some purpose?" right before they fought him at the Absorption Gate. Sometimes he thinks he should have answered yes.

He wonders what his purpose in living is, or if he truly has one. Does a replica even deserve to exist? Luke thinks, and he knows he will not voice this thought aloud. The others will only get upset if he does. And even if he does not fully understand why, he cares for them and does not want to hurt them, so he tries to mostly keep such thoughts to himself.

He hears footsteps crunching in the snow behind him, then. Instinct tells him who it is, or maybe it is just their strange bond of sorts. He does not turn around, though he does wonder what the other is doing here.

"Are you stupid? You'll freeze to death out here."

Luke frowns, and glances back at Asch. His original is an interesting contradiction of sorts, and sometimes he cannot tell whether Asch truly hates him or not. He would like to think that on some level Asch does care, but he recognizes this is not likely. Asch seems to be annoyed just by acknowledging him.

He goes back to watching the snow fall. "What do you care?" he says at last, and then winces, for it comes out more dejected-sounding than he likes.

Asch rolls his eyes. He seems frustrated, but then, he is always frustrated when around his replica. Luke wonders sometimes if Asch even knows how to feel anything other than anger and hatred. Then he realizes how stupid that is, of course Asch has other emotions.

"I don't care," Asch says as he scowls. "But I'm not in the mood for a hard time from your friends if you die."

Luke shrugs. They're your friends too, he thinks, but it is yet another thing he will not say aloud. It will just make Asch angry with him, whether he believes it or not.

"Why are you here?" he chooses to ask instead. He turns around, finally, and looks at his original. He cannot help but think of him that way, when he sees him. He is my original. I am his replica. It is hard to think of it in any other way, when a mirror reflection of himself is standing right before him.

Unbidden, he thinks of Guy saying, "You're you, and Asch is Asch." He knows there is truth in what Guy had said, but he also thinks that Guy was not entirely right, either.

Asch never answers him. Luke doesn't really expect him to. Asch will always do his own thing. He remembers being connected to Asch after Akzeriuth, seeing everything that was happening through him, and he remembers how Asch would simply ignore the things he didn't want to respond to. Asch is doing the same thing now. Somehow, Luke can't really bring himself to mind. He supposes it is because Asch just wouldn't be Asch otherwise.

"So have you found the Jewel?" Luke eventually asks, just to be saying something. Silence with his original is somehow awkward. It is almost weird to not have Asch yelling at him.

"If I had, I would have told you," Asch says, and the implied 'idiot' is more than apparent in his exasperated tone.

"Ah, shut up," he mumbles half-heartedly as at last Asch steps up beside him. He turns back around yet again to resume watching the snow, though at an angle so he can also watch Asch too. He takes comfort in his original's presence, even if he is not too sure why the other is here, or what he wants. He's beginning to think that even Asch doesn't know the answer to that. "If I'm an idiot, then I must have got it from you."

His original twitches at that, fists clenching tightly at his sides, and Luke knows that Asch wants to hit him. He grins a bit, absurdly amused. "You anger so easily."

Asch takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself, or perhaps to restrain himself. It is obvious the hold on his patience is very thin indeed. "Shut up, replica," he manages to say.

Luke just shrugs, though he resents being called replica, just as he has every time before. Idly he wonders how Asch would react if he were to start calling him original. He thinks he just might try it sometime, if only to get a rise out of his other.

"You've been out here awhile," Asch says abruptly.

Luke is taken completely off-guard. Out of all the things he thinks Asch is likely to ever say to him, that is not one of them. The words are gruff, but at the same time Asch sounds almost concerned. And just why does his original know how long he has been outside, anyway? It is almost unsettling, in a way that Luke can't really put a name to. But of course he will not say any of this to Asch. "Spending seven years trapped in a manor doesn't leave much chance for experiencing the outside," is what he says instead.

"Hmph." Asch snorts, and rolls his eyes at his replica. "You can see the snow just as well from inside, stupid," he points out.

He frowns. "But then I can't feel it," he near-whines.

Asch huffs, his nose wrinkling in disgust. "Fine, stay out here and get sick then," he snarls.

Luke blinks, and then grins. It is definitely beginning to sound more and more like his original just might actually care what happens to him. Of course, he is probably just reading too much into it, Asch probably only wants him alive to spare himself the grief of being pestered by his--their--friends, but even if this is so, he still doesn't mind.

"Are you sure you don't care?" Luke asks him, teasing a bit.

Asch, predictably, glares at him. "Shut up," he growls irritably. "Why are you such an idiot all the time?"

He scowls. "You're the idiot. I'm only seven. And I'm just the worthless replica. I'm not supposed to know much of anything." He is, of course, not above using his replica status to suit his needs. And pissing Asch off with it is an added bonus, though why he suddenly wants his original angry with him, he is not really sure. Perhaps because the world feels more balanced, more right, when his original is angry with him.

"Don't use that as en excuse!" Asch shouts, and Luke is almost relieved--Asch is genuinely angry with him now.

He is also frustrated, because it just leads him yet again to wonder why hearing that makes Asch so upset. It is no less than what Asch himself thinks. Why would he say it so much, otherwise? "Why not?" he asks, turning to fully face his original. He takes a few steps closer, noting the tautness of Asch's posture, and the fists once more clenched again at his sides. Yes, Asch is definitely pissed off.

"Because, you moron! Why don't you think about what you're saying for once?" Asch continues to glare at him.

"Wh-what?" He glares back and wishes that his original would be less stubborn and difficult for once. He really wants to know what it is about the phrase, and he hates that no one will tell him.

"It's not hard. Figure it out yourself," his original says, as he turns around and starts to walk off.

Luke doesn't know why, but suddenly he panics. He has watched Asch walk off too many times. "A-Asch, wait!"

Asch stops, but he doesn't look back.

"Come with us," Luke pleads for the millionth time. He doesn't know why he wants this so badly, but he does. He perhaps somehow has this inane notion that if Asch travels with them, he can get his original to see him as he really is, a person separate from him, not just a replica doll of his original. He thinks that maybe he could just get Asch to actually accept him--

"No," Asch says. "I have to look for the Jewel that your idiot self failed to get."

"Then," he says desperately, frantically, "We can look for it together--"

"No," his original repeats harshly. "I told you, replica, I have no intention of getting friendly with such dreck."

"Then why are you always helping us?" he blurts out without thinking. "Why did you come out here to me if you really hate me that much? Why can't you just admit you really care? Or am I really that worthless after all?"

Asch is on him in an instant, hands shoving at him roughly, angrily. Luke's back thuds painfully against a nearby tree, and his breath leaves him in a whoosh of stunned air. He stares up into his original's angry face, his eyes wide with surprise.

He licks his lips nervously, and waits for Asch to say something, but though Asch is clearly about to explode with anger, he doesn't say anything. He just continues to keep his replica pinned to the tree, glaring fiercely at him.

It feels like an eternity before Asch takes a deep breath and releases him. Luke watches him as he whirls around and stalks off, and this time he doesn't say anything, he just lets his original go.

He doesn't know what just happened, or why the world suddenly feels a little more real. He doesn't know that he ever will. But staring into the mirror reflection of green eyes staring back at him, even for just a minute, has given him a glimpse of Asch that his original has never--and probably will never--shown him.

He thinks he might just be starting to understand why his original is so angered by him putting himself down. And he thinks that perhaps they are just a little more alike than he had realized.

He wonders if they are as really both as worthless as they feel, or if either of them are even really worthless at all. He wonders how they can both end up feeling the same way about themselves, and if it because of their upbringing or because they are original and replica. It is strange and somewhat unsettling to think that, for all their differences, they are really quite similar. He is Asch, and Asch is him.

He doesn't feel like watching the snow any longer.


Author's Notes: I really, really don't know. It's so random, and it came out of nowhere. And Asch, of course, had to be stubborn and difficult and do things his own way. I suppose I shouldn't have expected any less from him, though. Anyways. -flails- Sorry if this doesn't make sense or anything. It's my first fic for this fandom, so I'm sure I'll end up hating it in six months time anyways.