Hikaru: Really crackish. Haha. And maybe a parody of the "have you hugged your . . ." phrase.

--

Luke never really got into reading. He found it boring, and would rather to do something else to pass the time. However, Guy had gotten Luke to at least read the newspaper from time to time. And not cover to cover, either, just the headlines for anything really super important.

This morning, when the group had reached a town, Luke had fed some Gald to a newspaper stand, and got the day's paper. Upon reading it, there was an interesting article title on the teasers at the top of the front page.

Luke had read the article, and it got him thinking. Maybe he hadn't done anything really meaningful to tell his allies just how grateful he was to them.

Sure, he'd cook when it was his turn, but they would make fun and dismiss the food as barely edible. And in a fight, the only times he'd ever helped anyone was when he either shoved someone out of harm's way, or took the blow himself, which Tear or Natalia would promptly heal, and it would be thought of as nothing.

Buying them gifts was certainly out of the question. Jade would scold Luke for splurging their budget on sentimental objects.

There was only one thing for it!

--

On the road, the group (or Jade Gang, as Dist had named them) had encountered some monsters. Tear was the active healer at the time, and Natalia and Anise would stand back as reinforcements if the fight went badly.

A pack of wolves, driven mad by either disease or starvation, charged their way, howling in their awful voices. Guy first hit with a Demon Fang from a distance, and Luke rushed in with a Slag Assault. The first wolf whined as its leg was broken during the second attack, and it limped off to the side.

"Oh no you don't!" Guy cut off the wolf's path of retreat, slicing it down.

Tear finished her spell.

"Thou who wouldst take revenge, carve here thy holy seal! Eclair de Larmes!"

The criss-cross of abruptly released energy took down the next wolf, and only one, the alpha, was left.

Jade had been casting for a fonic arte the entire time. As the wolf bypassed Guy and Luke, it charged straight for Jade.

"O sword of conviction, loose the might of your brilliant colors! Prism Sword!"

Beams of light rained down on the wolf, taking on a vague sword shape. The wolf, cleaved in two, hadn't the time to cry out.

Luke whooped, jumping in the air.

"Wow! That was an awesome spell, Jade!"

Jade shrugged, adjusting his glasses. "I suppose it is useful . . ."

But Jade had no more words. Luke had thrown himself at Jade, his arms wrapping around the Necromancer.

"Thanks, Jade! If it hadn't been for your fonic artes, we'd never come as far as we got!"

Luke blinked. Jade had become suddenly frozen, not moving one inch. He stepped back, breaking off the hug that was supposed to express his thanks. Jade stayed frozen. Luke waved his hand in front of Jade's eyes, a remarkable feat, since Jade was in fact taller than Luke.

"Jade? Jaa-de? Hello?"

Jade coughed, hands going back in their pockets. "May I ask what that was for, Luke?"

Luke shrugged, a little confused that Jade acted the way he did. "A hug's supposed to show affection or gratitude, right? I'm grateful that you helped us out so long, Jade."

A smirk teased Jade's lips. "Why was it only I who received such treatment?"

Luke frowned, folding his arms. "You make it sound like getting a hug from me is a bad thing!"

Guy laughed as he sheathed his sword, stepping over the bodies of the wolves.

"Oh, no, Jade. Luke hugged all of us."

Anise sniggered, smiling brightly. "He even tried to give Asch a hug . . ."

Tear sighed. "Which resulted in quite a nasty sword wound."

Luke groaned. "I swear, does that guy have some problem with actual human contact?"

"But what brought that on all of a sudden, Luke?" Natalia asked, head tilted to one side in a gesture of curiosity.

Luke sighed, unenthusiastic. "I read an article about how people have grown apart lately, and something like a hug would bring them closer and let them know you care and such and such . . ."

Well, now Luke knew that hugs would get him nowhere with this lot. Tear had been gracious about getting a hug, Natalia as well (although she seemed a little uncomfortable), Guy had laughed and called Luke a kid, Anise had snickered deviously, and Asch had sliced Luke open for breaking his space bubble.

Luke sighed again, running a hand through his short red hair.

"Next time I want a hug, I think I'll just borrow Tokunaga . . ."