I wanted an outside view of Luke's sufferings. 8D Hence, this.


In the end, it was the little things that gave him away. Tear knew all too well that Luke couldn't lie to save his own skin; the best he had ever managed to do was leave the suspicion as to what he was up to at just that—suspicion. He was fine, he said, coming out of the doctor's office and flashing an easy smile at the anxious group. Hardly so, hardly so.

Everything about his manner had changed once again, another shifting in perspective like the one that had occurred after Akzeriuth. It was subtle, but as the one who had been with him watching throughout his endeavor to change, it was she who noticed it the most. Fresh from the manor and trudging through the yellow-green fields of Engeve, Luke had scowled at the sky, almost as if in annoyance that the sun would come out just to pester him. After Akzeriuth, he would cast no more than a glance or two upward, noting its presence with a bit of a wince if it were too bright, but not cursing its existence as he had. And before Rem, he didn't look upward at all, too intent on following the path to the end to spare attention for anything else.

Tear was always watching. It was what he had asked her to do, after all. And now, when they stopped to rest, in the moments when he thought no one was noticing, she found him staring upward with a curious expression. In her time as a soldier, Tear had come to recognize the look of the mortally wounded as they measured out the rest of their days. Anticipation of death shone brightly in Luke's eyes, and it scared her.

He was so happy it hurt, watching him take pleasures in the simple joys of life so often taken for granted by those whose lives ran on longer timeframes. It was the way he stretched out at night with a sigh; the way he smiled and took a long drink after hiking many miles, hair dripping with sweat from exertion as he tipped his head back. It was the way he appreciated everything, from the rocks to the trees to the sky to the people who stood by his side. It was just that obvious.

She would have loved to write it off as a natural reaction to a near death experience—she had had some of those herself in her time, as well as seen others go through the emotional trauma of firsthand encounters with the brutal truth of one's own fragile mortality.

She wanted to, but she couldn't.

"I'm all right," he would say, shrugging off Guy's help when they were walking and then he suddenly almost passed out, smiling a smile so painfully cracked through with fear that Tear wondered why he tried at all. But no, some of Luke's naivety remained with him even now; leave it to Luke to think that no one would connect things together, that no one would see. Luke excused himself to bed early that night, and Tear wondered if she was the only one who noticed the way his shoulders sagged with utter exhaustion as he made his way from the table.

But no, looking around at her companions' expressions—Jade's mouth set in a firm line, Guy's grim countenance, Anise with a deathhold on Tokunaga, and Natalia's downcast eyes—the only one Luke was fooling was himself.

To what extent did they know? She could only guess. Luke might have been the replica of the light of the sacred flame, but he had come to illuminate all of their lives. She'd been so happy when he'd still been there, miasma cleared—and now, and now…just when he'd finally grown into something amazing, it seemed that he was going to be taken away from her. Again.

Tear stood, left. Soldiers did not cry, but even she was reaching her breaking point.