"No."

Luke returned the rejected coat to the pile he'd grabbed it from. He let out a sigh. With the way that Asch was going about this, you'd think it was all his idea to get Asch a new outfit. But no, this had been entirely Asch's venture. Though maybe he was getting a bit over zealous about it all. Asch was certainly getting annoyed enough to indicate as much. But it was the first time since he had known Asch that he wanted to do something for himself, so Luke desperately wanted things to go well. Not that Asch seemed to want to help him much in that regard. And here he thought he was fussy!

Asch watched Luke return to attacking the pile he had appropriated. It's not like he was fussy, but did everything that fool picked out have to look like something the idiot would wear? True his uniform had long since outlived it usefulness. Word of his defection from the god-generals had long since spread across Auldrant and the benefits that he gained from his Oracle Knight uniform no longer outweighed the downsides. Not to mention it drew more attention to him than he cared to deal with. But if his idiotic replica thought that meant they were going to dress alike, he had another thing coming.

The series of events that led to him shopping for clothes in Chessedonia with his replica was one that he still didn't understand. He had no idea what had happened to the idiot's band of buffoons, and frankly that in itself unnerved him a bit. It had been so easy before to track their activities through his replica, but now, exactly what they were up to was a complete mystery to him. Luke was here and there frankly wasn't much he could do about it.

Though that wasn't for lack of trying. He'd tried almost everything to get rid of the fool, but every single time, it managed to backfire and he once again found himself stuck with the idiot. Every. Single. Time. Just where had Luke gotten such an innate stubbornness? And Score, was he ever stubborn. Once he had an idea in that head of his there was no stopping him. And of course, to make it all that much worse, Ginji had become rather fond of Luke, so there wasn't any way to leave Luke behind without making him look like a total ass.

"What about these ones?" Luke spoke up after a moment's contemplation.

"For the last time…"

But the boots that Luke held up looked quite nice. Even from where he was, he could tell that the hide had been well cured. They looked durable and surprisingly practical, and since Luke had picked them out, they'd fit to a tee. But it was too late now, there was no way to change his mind and still salvage his pride.

"…I'm not wearing anything like that!"

Luke looked at him for a moment and cocked his head. "If you like them you could just say so. It's no big deal."

Damn that…that dreck! His anger spiked but slowly fizzled away as Luke put the boots away with all the other rejects. Dammit. Why was his replica so damn hard to stay mad at? Sometimes he wished he could just hate the fool. It would make things so much easier. He certainly did at one point; enough that he would have gladly disobeyed Van's orders just for the chance to run him through. Not that he'd ever be taking orders from that lunatic ever again.

But that had been back before he really knew Luke. Back before things had become complicated, when Luke was nothing more than the thing that had taken everything he had ever wanted or cared about, and would have thrown it all away for nothing. But it was different now. Luke was no longer an object towards he could direct every bit of anger, every drop of malice; he was a person. Granted he was a hopelessly naïve idiot and beyond annoying at the best of times, he was still a good person at heart. So, in spite of all the shadows of his past, Asch couldn't simply hate him and that made everything much more difficult.

It had been so easy to shove all his qualms, all his unease about his past onto the replica he had never known. Now, he had to deal with it.

But that, he could handle. Maybe not all of it right away, but over time, he knew he could eventually come to terms with the shattered mess that was his past. At least, being around his replica was making him start to think so. What frustrated him now was how easily Luke seemed to be able to guess at what he was feeling. His replica read him like a book. It would have been nice to be able to dismiss it, blaming it on their unique connection, but it just didn't work that way. Luke couldn't access their connection the way he could, at least not without him knowing it. He wasn't that predictable, was he?

"Well, there really isn't much else here." Luke sighed putting down the stack of clothing he had been leafing through. "I'd say Chessedonia's a lost cause."

Obviously. Asch decided not to speak up, since Luke was putting so much effort into this whole endeavor, unnecessary though it may be, he figured the least he could do was not bitch at any length about it. Chessedonia was far too hot for them to find anything practical. All the clothing here reflected the local temperatures, and while they were more than suitable for the inhabitants of the desert town, they wouldn't be of any use to him who would likely be traveling to places whose temperatures weren't nearly so generous.

Like the Absorption gate, an area that they would have to revisit in the relatively near future. There was plenty enough to worry about in that area without being concerned about how cold he was. Not that it ever seemed to bother Luke for some reason. One more mystery to toss onto the growing stack of questions surrounding his replica and his sudden appearance into his life.

"So where are we of too next?" The silver haired pilot inquired.

"Hmmm, well Asch doesn't want to go to Baticul, so I'd say our next best bet is probably Grand Chokmah." Luke replied, "Its further north, so they'd probably have something a bit more practical anyway,"

Not that that was unwanted either. For all he hated to admit it, it was nice to have Luke around. And for more than just for something to throw around when he was mad. Luke understood him on a different level then anyone else seemed to. And things were so much livelier with him around. He hadn't realized just to what extent he'd blocked out the world. It had been simpler to watch life pass him by in a haze, denying the painful emotions it had always brought him.

But something about his replica evoked emotion from him: anger, hatred, frustration; emotions that he never knew how to deal with. And Luke was always on the receiving end. Not that his replica ever seemed to mind much. Luke just understood, without needing an explanation. Another of his mysterious abilities, one of the few for which Asch was secretly grateful. And then, in the wake of those emotions, came the others: happiness, laughter,and all the other things he had deprived himself of a long time ago. And for the first time in a long time, he found himself simply enjoying life, just for what it was.

But that still didn't change matters one bit. He was still dying, as was Luke, for all that Luke thought he was hiding it. It was painfully obvious every time he poked through their connection. His fonons were slowly separating, and he was hurting, both emotionally and physically. But regardless of that, he continued on as if nothing were wrong, constantly worried about others. Such a fool.

"Well then, I'll need to go pick up some more supplies for the Albiore." Ginji replied.

"I'll come help you." Luke offered.

"Sure, I'd love the help, there's going to be a lot to carry." Ginji returned with a grateful smile.

Luke's answering groan as he wondered what he'd gotten himself into was a source of great amusement to Asch. Thankfully, regardless of whatever dire circumstances they may face, some things never changed.

But the same also held true for himself. It was just like this whole clothes thing. Out with the old, in with the new. Hell if it was all that simple. Luke certainly made it out to be. But changing wasn't so easy. He had grown comfortable in his peaceful world, where everyone was kept at bay, and no one would hurt him or judge him or belittle him.

But at the same time, he didn't want to stay in that world. It too, had outlived its usefulness. His replica returned, arms piled full of supplies to the point that he couldn't see where he was going. Asch couldn't afford to ignore the world and its people anymore. He could see firsthand, through the eyes of a certain hell-bent lunatic where that path eventually led. And that wasn't what he wanted either.

Heh, maybe he was fussy.

Asch followed Luke and Ginji up the plank into the Albiore, clutching his own pack in which he held a new pair of boots.

It wasn't much, but it was a start.