Disclaimer: I own neither Tales of the Abyss nor any of the characters in this fic.
Author's Note: There was some demand that I continue this and clear a few things up, so I decided to tack on an epilogue to the story. This one has a bit of a different tone that the others, but that was pretty much unavoidable. Hopefully you'll still enjoy it.
"…You idiot. What took you so long?" Tear demanded as she broke out of the hug.
"I… uh…" Luke started to say, before a gurgling noise from below interrupted him.
Before Tear's eyes, Luke's face lost all color and his knees started to buckle. "Luke! Luke!" she called out as she supported his collapsing body.
"Don't worry, he's going to be fine," Dr. Shu informed them. After Luke's collapse, they'd rushed him onto the Albiore and to the doctor in Belkend. Tear had wanted to carry him herself, but the sheer physics of the matter forced her to cede the task of carrying Luke to Guy.
"But what's wrong with him?" Tear asked.
"As far as I can tell, it's simple malnutrition. His stomach is completely empty, and it looks like he hasn't eaten for weeks. I gave him some crackers I had on hand, but he could really use a good meal and lots of rest."
"Just leave that one to me!" Anise said. "I'll go ask at inn to get some food for him, and be right back. You all can keep him company."
Anise rushed off as the rest of the group thanked the doctor. Tear, Guy, and Natalie then headed in to see Luke, but Jade hung back.
"Dr. Shu, can I ask you something?" he said once the others had left the room.
"You remember when you examined Luke a bit over a year ago, you said that his fonons were separating?" Shu nodded, and Jade continued. "How's he doing now?"
"I didn't notice anything wrong with his fonons this time. I guess whatever was afflicting him back then has passed."
"Yes, I guess so," Jade said.
"Hey there, Luke. How are you feeling?" Natalia asked as they entered the room. She and Guy approached his bed, while Tear hung back. She'd already had her moment with him, and figured it would be nice to share. Besides, she planned to steal him away for a private conversation later, and they could talk then.
"I'll live," Luke said. "That's the important thing, I guess. Where did Anise and Jade get to?"
"Anise is grabbing you some food more substantial than crackers, and Jade wanted to talk to the doctor for a bit," Guy explained. "Knowing him, he's probably trying to figure out exactly what happened with Luke so he can have me explain it to Duke fon Fabre, King Lanvaldear, Emperor Peony, and pretty much anyone else who'll listen." Guy let out a sigh, silently wishing that Jade wouldn't figure anything out.
"Well, we actually have access to Luke, so maybe we can figure some things out on our own, and then you can get Jade to do the explaining." Natalia suggested.
"I doubt it'll work," Guy replied. "He'll just say that I was so good at explaining it the first time, I might as well explain it again."
"Well fine, I'll explain it to Jade so he won't have that excuse." Before Guy could reply, Natalia turned to Luke and prodded him, "Okay, enough delays. What do you remember happening for the last year, Luke?"
"That's right," Tear interjected. "You still haven't explained to me why it took you a year to get back." She'd tried to glare at him with this, but she couldn't hide the smile that had been stuck on her face since Dr. Shu had said he was alright.
"Heh… I wish I had more to tell you," Luke said, unconsciously scratching the back of his head. "It didn't even seem like a year for me."
"Well, just go over what you do know," Natalia pushed him.
"Okay," Luke said. "Well, you probably know about how Eldrant started to collapse. The platform I was on seemed to be caught in the fonon flow or something, so it descended pretty slowly and safely. Somehow, Asch's body then ended up with me." Luke glanced shyly at Natalia at this mention of Asch. She seemed alright, so he continued. "With all the seventh fonons around, it looked like some of them were healing the wounds on his body, though they couldn't bring him back to life. After that, I could feel my body start to fade away. I tried to hold on to life, but it was no use."
Tear caught a look in Luke's eye at this, and she moved over to him. She grasped his hand and reassured him, "You're back now, though. Maybe it was some use after all."
Luke met her gaze and smiled. They shared a brief moment this way before a shout from the doorway startled them out of it. "Dinner time! Who needs a year's worth of food?"
"Luke's back," Jade said by way of greeting.
"Really? Which one?" Spinoza replied, too engrossed in his current work to turn around to face Jade.
"Hmm, I guess that makes sense," Spinoza said. After a few more quick keystrokes, he closed up his current project and turned around to face Jade. "The original was dead after all. The replica was only mostly dead and dying. But still, this contradicts the results we had with Star. Would have made more sense for neither of them to come back, if you ask me."
"I'm used to Luke defying my expectations," Jade said. "He'd already managed to overcome Asch in combat, and Luke was the one suffering from fonon separation at the time."
"He was, was he?" Spinoza replied, a glint in his eye signaling to Jade that an idea was starting to form in his mind. "And the original was still completely solid up until his death."
"It was the other way around with Star," Jade said, testing to see if Spinoza had come to the same conclusion he had.
"Yes. If the replica were to start to completely separate… But no, I don't see how the replica could have pulled the original into his body. It just doesn't work that way."
"Do we know that?" Jade pressed. "We really only have the two cases, after all. For all we know, Luke's situation could be normal and Star's the fluke."
"Do you actually believe that?" Spinoza asked, lifting an eyebrow.
"Not really," Jade said. "As I said, Luke was exceptional. Not to mention, so were the circumstances in which he separated."
"Oh, that's so sad!" Anise said, suffocating Luke with a hug. "I know you're back right now, but it's still hard to hear about you dying, Luke."
"Is that why you're hugging him so tightly he can't catch enough breath to continue his story?" Guy chided her.
A blush formed on Anise's face as she giggled and backed off. "Heh, sorry about that. I really should try to be more composed if I'm going to become the Fon Master. Okay, Luke, you can breathe now, so continue. What's the next thing you remember?"
"Well, it's a bit hazy after that point," Luke said. "I know I heard Tear singing, and I started to think of, um…" Luke trailed off as a blush formed on his face.
Tear's eyes widened as she assumed the worst at his blush. "Luke!"
"What!? No, not that! I was just thinking of some of the times I spent with you, honest!" Luke protested.
"Well why would that make you blush?" Anise said. "It's sweet!"
"I think that's the point, Anise," Guy explained. "And maybe Luke was worried that Natalia would get jeal- oof! Hey, what was that for?" Guy exclaimed more from surprise than pain. He didn't think Natalia's elbow was capable of moving that fast.
"That's because you should know better by now," Natalia replied sternly. "I've accepted that Tear's the one for Luke for a fair bit longer than he has." Noticing the crimson blushes that had formed on both Luke and Tear's faces as they tried to pretend this conversation wasn't taking place in front of them, Natalia decided to quickly change the subject back, "So anyways, what happened after that, Luke?"
Grateful for the reprieve, Luke focused his gaze on Natalia – looking at Tear would just make the blush return – and said, "Well, that was about when I started thinking clearly enough to realize that I was still alive. I couldn't see or hear anything at first, but once I could I found myself in the Selenia field in Tataroo valley. I was lying down in a heap as if I'd fallen, and the Key of Lorelei was in my hand, its tip stuck in the ground. After that, well, I came over to where you guys were and you pretty much know what happened there."
He said he loved me… Tear had gotten lost in her own world at the thought of his words once he'd met up with her there. She was eventually jolted out of her reverie when Guy snapped his fingers in front of her face. "Huh, what?" she said as she started.
"I was asking you if remembered what we were talking about before you started singing the hymn," Guy said.
"Oh, um, it was about how the hymn was supposed to summon Lorelei if we had the Key, wasn't it?"
"Exactly," Guy said. "Don't you see? Luke had the key with him, and he has the same fonic signature as Lorelei! Apparently the summoning also works if the key is at the other end!" Guy was grinning at his deduction, but this just earned him a punch in the shoulder from Tear as she scowled at him. "What is this, Beat-up-Guy Day?" he complained.
"Are you telling me that all I had to do to get Luke back was sing the Grand Fonic Hymn?" Tear yelled at him. "You idiot, why couldn't you have figured this out a year ago?"
"Oh, come on, Tear," Luke said, trying to calm her down. "It's alright, I'm here now, aren't I?"
"It hasn't been a year for you," she growled. "Do you have any idea how many nights I spent sleepless in worry over whether you'd ever come back?"
"…I'm sorry," Luke said, not quite sure what he was apologizing for. "I'll make it up to you, okay?"
"You better," Tear said. "We've got a year's worth of dates to catch up on." Her glare faded into a blush as she realized what she'd just said and who she'd said it in front of. "Uh, I mean, er…"
"Give it up, Tear," Guy said. "It's nothing to be ashamed about, and everyone already knows anyways."
"And we're all happy for you," Natalia added.
"So, uh…" Luke said, "How does, um, tomorrow for dinner sound, Tear?"
"I'm afraid that won't work," Jade interrupted from the doorway. "Tomorrow you're meeting with Duke fon Fabre and King Lanvaldear. The day after that, I've arranged a meeting with Emperor Peony."
"Jade!" Anise protested. "Don't you have any sentimentality at all?"
"Of course," Jade replied. "That's why I scheduled the meeting with his parents first."
"That's not what I meant," Anise scowled.
"Oh really? Then what exactly did you mean by it?"
"I meant that Luke and Tear would like some time alone together after all this time apart!" Anise said.
"Well if that's the case," Jade said. "Then what are all of you doing pestering them right now? Come on, let's leave these two lovebirds in peace."
"Jade!" Tear snapped.
"Now what are you mad at me for? Isn't this what you wanted?" Jade replied, his slight smile perfectly rigid. "Alright, let's go now."
Jade turned to leave, with Guy, Anise, and Natalia following soon after. Luke and Tear were left alone, staring at each other uncomfortably.
"Our first date?" Tear asked.
"I guess," Luke said. "You want some food? Anise brought enough to feed the entire city."
"Sure," Tear said, as she sat down on Luke's bed and helped herself to the meal.
"So, aside from spending sleepless nights thinking about me, what have you been up to this past year?"
Author's Note: Yes, I realize that I could well write more and continue the story, and there's a chance I will. But if I do, it will be in a sequel story; one epilogue is enough.
Also, I'd like to give special thanks to Ladynadiad for supplying a game script for TotA and sistaofpeace1 for her analysis of what happened in the ending (most of which I took here, with a little extra interpretation of my own). And thanks also to everyone who read and reviewed!