By: seraphimstarlight


Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of the Abyss.

Author's Note: Many thanks to ladynadiad, drachemeister, LatyfeSurLeSora , and Dragnotchi for the kind reviews!


For a long moment she simply stared.

"What did you say?" she asked at last, half-angry, half-incredulous.

Asch felt the precious seconds ticking away as the metal-shod feet of the soldiers approached ever closer.

"There's no time for this," he said, trying to hide the frustration building in his voice, "either you come with me now and get an explanation or you stay here and remain in the dark. The choice is yours, Princess."

She did not seem at all unnerved by the gruffness of his tone nor by the inherent peril of her situation. Instead, she calmly contemplated the pros and cons of both choices. After a painfully long moment she nodded.

"Very well, I will go with you on one condition."

Truthfully, he worried what she might ask, but there was no more time for delay. "Just name it," he said with a sigh.

"Return me to my companions when this is over."

Behind them the door cracked open.

"Fine," he said as he grabbed hold of her arm and pulled her around the corner of the structure they had been standing in front of just in time to avoid being spotted by the group of Oracle Knights. The Knights herded the two captives through the door, stopping momentarily in front of Luke's unconcious form. The Knights motioned to the prisoners to pick up their companion.

As he knelt down to comply, the Necromancer glanced around surreptitiously, turning away when one of the guards prodded him with the end of his spear, and the trio was led out of sight.

"I can only wonder what that man is planning," Asch muttered to himself, readjusting his hold on the princess who, despite her vow of compliance, was trying to squirm her way out of his grasp.

"Whatever it is," she replied, still struggling, "your group is certain to be on the receiving end."

"I don't doubt that," he replied grimly.

She stopped struggling for a moment. "You're agreeing?" she asked, eyes wide. "Shouldn't you at least be a little worried about your comrades?"

At this he let out a short, if uncharacteristic laugh. "Comrades? You must be joking. We simply work together. That's all."

"Disgraceful," she muttered, turning away so that all he could see was the back of her head.

He frowned. "Are you saying that you'd help someone even if they were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves?"

"Yes," she said sharply. "It's my job as a noble of Kimlasca." She cast a critical glance over her shoulder. "And if you were who you claimed to be, you would have known that."

The frown deepened into a full-fledged scowl. "That dreck doesn't know it either."

"Dreck? You mean Lu—"

His grip on her tightened involuntarily to the point that it caused her to wince audibly.


He didn't even hear her. "Don't ever call that dreck by that name," he seethed, his grip tightening even further.

"Asch!" she gasped, her voice strained, "I can't—y-you're hurting me!"

The accusation jolted him back to reality, and he realized with a start that her neck was pinned between his torso and the crook of his elbow. Immediately, he released his grip and all but shoved her away from him, taking an involuntary step back as he did so.

She fell to her knees, coughing and gasping, tugging at the scarf around her neck as though that might help her breathe easier. Her hyperventilation, however, was probably making her heady, accounting for why she was having such difficulty untying such a simple knot.

He stepped forward and knelt beside her, prying her fumbling fingers away from the knot so that he could untie it. Quickly, he loosened the knot and pulled the scarf away from her neck.

"You have to breathe slower," he admonished her, placing his hand on her back.

She complied but glared at him over her shoulder.

"Forgive me," he said quietly, "I never meant to hurt you."

She turned to look at him but said nothing, though her expression softened somewhat. She coughed a few more times, ran her hand lightly over her throat.

"Just keep your hands to yourself next time," she croaked.

A strangled chuckle worked its way up his throat. "I'm not certain I can promise you that, Princess."

"And why is that?" she asked, her voice sounding much steadier now.

Asch started to answer, but his reply was cut off when a man carrying a large scythe appeared around the corner. Asch cursed under his breath, earning him an admonishing glare from Natalia. She opened her mouth, presumably to lecture him, but he didn't give her the chance. Instead, he pulled her to her feet, ignoring her squeak of surprise and stepped between her and the giant advancing towards them.

"Whatever you do," he whispered to the startled princess, "stay behind me."

She watched him, wide-eyed. "Asch…"

He turned away. "Don't worry. He won't hurt us. I think."

"What are you doing, Asch?" Largo boomed from a few feet away.

Asch resisted the urge to cover his ears. Honestly, did that man have any idea of how loud he could be?

"Stay out of this, Largo," Asch cautioned, his hand instinctively reaching for a weapon that, to his dismay, was not there.

"Well, well, well," continued Largo in his distinctive baritone, "just what do we have here?"

The taller man peered over Asch's head, gaze coming to rest on the girl who stood behind him. For a moment, the bearded man's normally fierce expression softened, in the same manner, perhaps, as one who had seen a ghost. His face quickly resumed its impassive mask, though, somehow, his gaze didn't seem quite as fierce.

"Is she—one of them?" Largo asked, gesturing vaguely over his shoulder in the general direction in which the prisoners had been taken.

"It doesn't matter," Asch replied. "I'm dealing with her."

"Really? It seemed to me as though you were helping her escape."

Asch's expression hardened. "And if I was?"

Largo shifted his scythe ominously. "At the very least I'd have to ask your reasoning."

At this, Asch relaxed somewhat. If Largo was truly intending to take them in, he would undoubtedly have done so by now. The shorter man eased out of his defensive stance. "All I can say," he said at last, "is that I have something important to take care of. Surely, you can understand, Largo."

Largo glanced once more at the princess, sighed and walked past the stunned pair.

"Sync is headed this way," he said as he passed by, "you'd best be gone before he finds you."

Asch resisted the urge to thank the scythe-wielder, deciding, instead, to take the advice that the other man had offered.

"Follow me," he said, extending his hand to the princess.

Again, she hesitated for a moment before placing a delicate hand in his. "And, where exactly are we going?" she asked.

"You'll see," Asch said just before turning away and whistling loudly. A few seconds later, a dark shadow fell over them, and they looked up to find a huge bird hovering over them. It was one of Arietta's minions. For once, Asch was grateful that she had trained them to respond to all of the God-Generals.

Beside him, Natalia paled. "You're not thinking what I think you're thinking, are you?" she ventured warily.

A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips. "Unfortunately, yes. But it's really not as bad as it seems."

She moved to pull away, but he kept hold of her hand. "I won't drop you," he said, frowning slightly, "I'll keep a good hold on you."

"That's what I'm worried about," she replied honestly.

"Nothing like that will happen again," he said quickly. "Besides," he added after a moment's contemplation, "if anyone will be strangling anyone, you'll probably be strangling me."

She seemed to understand and, hesitantly stepped closer, wrapping her arms about his neck as he wrapped an arm around her waist to steady her.

"You know," she said as he was reaching up to take hold of the bird, "you probably shouldn't say things like that with a straight face or I might be tempted to believe you." She tightened her grip about his neck to emphasize her point.

"Keep on like that," he said, "and I might be tempted to worry."

Neither openly smiled, but the atmosphere between them certainly seemed less tense than it had earlier.

He reached up again, but she stopped him when she asked him, "Will that bird really be able to carry the both of us?"

At this, Asch almost wanted to laugh. "One of these things," he said gesturing towards the bird, "can carry Largo. Does that answer your question?"

Her eyes widened. She blinked a couple of times, staring at him in sheer disbelief. Upon realizing he was serious, she said at last, "I suppose so."

He reached up and took hold of the bird.

"Careful," he cautioned, "lift-off can be jarring."

She tightened her grip. "After all this," she admitted, "I'm done being surprised for the day."

"If you say so," he said before whistling for the bird to take off.

The giant creature flapped its wings experimentally a couple of times before rising easily into the air.

"Don't let go," he whispered to her when her grip loosened slightly.

She glanced down at the ground which was quickly getting farther and farther away. "Believe me," she said, tightening her grip, "right now, I wouldn't dream of it." She punctuated her statement with another glance at the ground.

"Neither would I," he said quietly. "Neither would I."


Author's Note:

This fic is actually turning out more light-hearted than I had originally intended. If this keeps up I might just change the category from Angst the Humor. Really, I hope this is a happy fic. And OOC in small doses is so much fun (though, I will try to keep it to a minimum.)

Anyways, until next time then.