The Loving Son
SPOILER LACED FNFIC, don't read if you haven't finished the game!
A/N: This is an attempt to get a "what if" scenario out of my head and onto paper. Right now it's kinda cannon centered, but that will change. I've written this sucker eight times, and it's been deleted, lost, etcetera, but I want to get this out before I lose it. So hopefully ninth time's a charm, eh? Too short to be a novel, to long to be a short story, I think this is a novella, and it should be done in a few day's time. But it might take me over a month to transfer it over due to my upcoming lack of computer access. I'll do what I can, as time permits. Story's pairings are Luke/Tear, Jade+Anise (friendship only), and Asch/Natalia, poor Guy... he's not healed enough to be dating anyone yet. Set during the Asch Batical scene, where Asch visits his and Luke's parents.
He sighed, bowing his head, he took in her scent and was relieved. The faint whisper of incense hung about her, that much was unchanged. He was aware, faintly, of her hands sliding though his hair. So much like hers… In length, in texture, their hair could have been twins, save for the dusty, lighter quality, of hers compared to his.
Tousled ruby gleamed between her fingers, soft as silk. It fell from her limp grasp, brushed against the pale green silk sleeve, and then fell away to cling to his black armor. She gasped weakly, as familiar pains pierced her back. Still, despite her pain, Susanne Fabre smiled and spoke the first words to her wayward son. Breaking the awkward silence and loosening her embrace so that she might step back and look at him in full.
Her voice was chocked, not by illness, but by tears. Though pain must plague her she seemed happy. She was happy he was home… So pale, so fragile, that had not changed. Out of all his hopes and dreams that he had nurtured… out of all the changes he would have wanted, the one he prayed for had not come to pass.
His hands were pale, the gloves he wore to keep the blood from staining his skin had seen to that. But when he reached to wipe away her tears he saw that her face was paler than his hands, and without the aid of cosmetics. She was shaking, and he feared that her legs were going to buckle. With a briskness given to him by years serving in the military he ordered his father out of the way and lead his mother to the edge of her bed.
Madam Fabre, and Duke Fabre, had once been in love. But once upon a time, neither had even liked the other, and this room, their room, still held testament to that time. While it was some eighteen years distant the relics of it lingered in the form of two beds. Both Fabre's had separate beds, and while they seemed at peace with one another it might have been his Mother's ill health that kept them apart.
Or perhaps it had been some sadistic doctor's orders.
Regardless, Asch didn't care. Mother's bed was closest. He would have carried her there had he been allowed, but the steel in those emerald eyes persuaded him that "escort" was as far as he was going to get with her. Awkwardly his father tromped behind him, his leather riding boots clomped and rung across the rug with no heed to their value.
Riding boots, a working ceremonial sword strapped to his side. While seeming occupied with his mother's comfort he considered his father out of the corner of his eye. Dark smears underscored the blue eyes of the sire of the Fabre line; his face was pale, but not as ghastly as his wife's.
"You should lie down." Asch ordered gruffly.
In response, Susanne shifted a bit. Then, as he turned to regard his father, she impishly reached up and with a trembling hand tugged his hair. He winced, instinct, and then turned and smiled for her. So she remembered. And seeing her remembrance he remembered more clearly.
The times she'd been so ill, too ill to put in any force behind her playful tugs of his hair. But he had winced and mock whined and complained… It was his way of saying that he knew she was trying, and his response had always humored her. Her laughter at his antics had been enough, or perhaps had given her enough from without, to fight within. To struggle away from death's door time and time again.
"I'll get scissors." He mock growled over his shoulder.
"No you won't. You like it long." His mother quipped.
Sighing, he rolled his eyes at his father, who was looking on with some confusion. But of course he should be confused. He'd shunned his child, the child marked for death by the Score. Distance had been dubbed better than the pain of knowing and losing.
So of course he wouldn't know of the hundred and one games between child and mother. The playful teasing, the talks…
Strength fading fast, Susanne tugged his cloak, and he turned. For now, he would forget the stranger who shared his blood and name. He looked down and she looked up and patted the bed besides her.
"You've… been away a long time…"
She hesitated, and his lips curled into a hard biting smile. She saw the hardness, the subtle glazing of steel to his emerald eyes. She didn't cringe back, never that, but she did wince.
She winced, from his pain, as if it were her own.
"Just… call me Asch… Mother. It will be easier… for everyone."
She leaned against him, and he could hear then, the faint catching of her breath in her lungs. The ever so slight rattle of encroaching illness. Looking past his mother, for a moment, he gave his father a meaningful look that said one word and made it a command.
Her Medicine, now!
Unable to read his son's glare, perhaps not willing too, Duke Fabre looked at some tapestry on the far wall and didn't do a damned thing. Asch almost curled his lips back to form a snarl, almost, but fear of upsetting and making Susanne sicker stayed him.
"Tell me… of your day. We've so much… to catch up on."
Gently he held her, and cursed his father for an insensitive fool. Then, thinking of Natalia, he managed a bit of a chuckle.
Must be a Fabre trait, gross insensitivity…
"That might take a while." He warned, managing to hold his smile in place.
"I've… all... the time… in the world… Asch."
Hearing her say... that name. The name that was a parody of what he was supposed to have been, it drew the soul's blood. Still, he had insisted, and she had honored his wishes without protest.
He could not do anything else, save return the favor.
Looking upon Manor Fabre, his childhood home in Batical, he sighed. The memories were there, but when memory met reality something was lost. Blinking back an irritating stabbing pain from behind his eyes, Asch drew a deep breath.
He was aware of his mother's presence. It was an omnipresent warmth by his side even the walls around him blurred. He shuddered from the force of will it took to make the wave of weakness down, he banished the tears from his eyes with a stern mental reprimand, and turned to face her.
"Of course…" He whispered, his voice harsher than normal, made harsh by suppressed tears. "I'll tell you, like when I was little…"
He took her hand in his own, then began to talk of the small simple things that entailed his days. Skimping on no detail, no matter how miniscule it might seem to him, he knew it was not... Not to her.
His manner was that of a trusting, loving, son, of a young man who had nothing to hide from his parent. He showed his love now as he had then, though his honesty and forthrightness, and Susanne beamed at him. The edge of illness and age was taken from her by her wide dazzling smile, and his smile picked up a shred of warmth in response.
At last, she slept. He hadn't even finished half of his story, wasn't even though the day…. But it had been enough, to see the pain and hesitance leave her face, it had been enough.
I'm an adult, reunited with a mother who thinks she knows me, but doesn't.
The thought was bitter sweet, and he savored it for a moment. Because under the cynical thought, was a shred of hope. Not for a place here... but for reconciliation. Some part of him, a selfish angry part, wanted to reach out, shake her shoulder, make her listen... He had so much more to tell. He wished he could have told her about the world within a faith, of the town amongst a ruined land that thrived despite nature's damndest. She would have appreciated the stories about Noir and the members of the Dark Dream... he knew that. Remembered distantly how she had once told him of seeing them when he was just a child.
Still... could have... all were possibilities, unfulfilled at that. The rare smile that graced his lips curled in bitterness, as he realized how much his life was ruled by that... by unfulfilled denied possibility.
His father came then, Duke Fabre tended his sleeping wife with seemly gentleness, even gently kissing his lady's brow before departing. Silent, sullen, Asch followed, the black and red cascot rustling about his ankles. His armor, well cushioned by leather padding and the ceremonial robes of his office, was muffled, it's clanking's minimal. That much Asch could not say for the spurs that adorned his father's riding boots. Biting his tongue, to keep a hot torrent of rebuke behind his teeth, Asch left his mother's room, and after spending a few moments with his wife the duke followed him.
They were alone, the polished stones that served at the manor's floor and walls gleamed dully in the miasma laden air. With a hand, Asch brushed the stone. The motion was done in the vain hope that he could wipe away the unreal tinge of violet from the stone, as if doing so he could wipe it away from the world. He stared at the wall, ignored the tapestries declaring with vibrant colors the exploits of the Fabre family. He stared at the violet tinge, and hated it. His hatred was so intense that it make his body quake. From a world away, his father's voice intruded upon his rage, and melded with it, becoming an underscoring symphony that was carried into his mind on red tinged notes.
"It's obvious that your mother's health has declined... it seems cruel to hide it, so with her consent I am being open about it."
"I doubt that Luke has noticed." Asch spat. He brushed past his father, ignored the hand that would have settled on his shoulder and offered comfort. "The drek wouldn't know where he's going if there wasn't that brown haired girl dragging him about." Mutely he stared out the window, unseeing. Mentally he cursed the maisma, Van, the Score, and the replica, with all his heart and soul. He indulged in his moment's safety to actually waste some time and properly seethe, making a small show of it. Going so far as to clench his hands into fists and allow his control to slip so that color could rise to his face. "Damn it!" He punched the unoffending wall and he hissed in pain, some of his rage abating due to his pain.
"We think it might be the mias-"
"Oh really?" Asch whirled from the window to stare at his father. His green eyes flashing, his face turning a shade or two darker. "Could it possibly be that the poisons of the earth, now being exuded into the atmosphere by the shortsightedness of your false son's plan, might possibly be contributing to Mother's ill health? Who'd have guessed?" He continued callously, ignoring his father's look of shock and pain. "Was it her history of repertory problems of the fact that she has acute asthma attacks that tipped you o-"
Shock resolved to anger, and while Duke Fabre did not lift his hand, there was a glimmer in his green eyes that cut Asch off mid word.
"That is enough, son." The elder Fabre snapped, the anger in his town cowing Asch in, for the moment. "That is more than enough."
Asch shelved his anger for the moment and took a deep breath. He was aware of his father's gaze on him, and strove to cool the fire in his blood. Eventually the heat around his face dissipated, and he unclenched his fists.
"Luke's plan was somewhat short sighted, but considering the desperation of the time, I would say that my younger son's plan wasn't half bad. Perhaps if my youngest and eldest sons would have ceased fighting one another to work together things might have been different." The eldest Fabre snapped, biting of the proclamation that both Luke and Asch were his like one would spit a curse. Just the idea made Asch's head spin. Anger faded though, and after a deep breath that was coupled with a sigh, Duke Fabre continued. "That however, is neither here nor now. The country, the world, both come before all of us, you know duty. I've had enough time with you to teach you that much."
Nettled by his father's reprimand, Asch studied his own reflection in the glass, cast in shades of green earth and violet hued skies.
"So you have." Asch admitted quietly. "I... was twelve... when Van... made the switch."
"And I was an ignorant fool, who never noticed that something was wrong. And... when I finally did notice... I thought of it not in terms of compassion... but shame. The replica of you, Luke, he shamed me. Where was my son, my real son? I asked that to myself, and cursed the fact that the boy that had your name and face was so... ignorant."
"You and me both." Asch growled, thinking of Akzeriuth with a grimace. Then he turned, faced his father a tired sigh passing his lips as he corrected his parent for the second time on one day. "And it's Asch."
"You're Luke, both of you are my sons."
"Luke is the barer of the flame, I am Asch..."
"-The charred remains left by the flame. So Natalia said in her last letter."
Raising a brow, Asch looked at his weary father, a small smile curled his lip in one corner.
"She still writes to Daddy and Aunty, hmmm?"
"Unlike irresponsible others who skip simple correspondence for years, yes."
"It wasn't my fault, Van would ha-" Asch stopped, then stared at his smiling father in shock. "You... just made a... a joke..."
Silence stretched between them, and Asch nearly laughed at the incredibility of the situation. His father only looked at him, the few wrinkles on his hawkish face smoothed away by the uncharacteristic smile. Of all the shocks, of all the changes Asch would have expected from his father... Running a calloused hand though his graying hair, Duke Fon Fabre shrugged off his son's scrutiny, moved closer, and stared out the window. After a span, Asch looked over his shoulder, and considered his father in a new light.
"When did mother get the time to retrain you?"
"This year... after your younger brother's disappearance. We had... a lot of time together. I was unaccustomed to that, but I'm getting old... too old to be running from war to war in my brother's name." Duke Fabre chuckled. "You know what Susanne said when I finally got the nerve to confess that to her? She said; 'Finally, it took you long enough. A man your age, going off to war every chance he gets, it's undignified... Now sit, we've a lot to talk about.' It's the first time I've talked to her.. in years."
Thinking on the moment, when he'd finally seen her, for the first time in years, Asch nodded. He swallowed the hard sharp lump that formed in his throat, and looked again over his shoulder. There was a distance between them, still, but hopping for some miracle, for some inner healing was a farce. As if time would somehow knit the distance of an estranged relationship that dated back to his childhood. Licking his lips, Asch tried his voice, and was pleased that it didn't break, as much as it wanted to.
"I know the feeling."
When his father put his hand upon his shoulder it took all of Asch's will not to shrug it off, to jerk away. He shook though, ever so slightly, and mentally smirked as he realized what Duke Fabre must be thinking. Let his father think him holding back tears of joy for a home-coming long denied, the lie was gentle where the truth was not.
Asch looked out the window and as he had before his father had drawn near... He cursed the miasma, cursed Van... cursed everything. In his mind he burned it away, all the taint and filth born of the Score was but ashes in his eyes.
And in the light of the newly made, the clean blue sky he saw light brown locks and dancing hazel eyes.
In the clean, spared from the flames of his fury, he saw Natalia, the flame, the soul, of Kimlasca Laventeer, and Asch smiled.