Title: Promethes Mneme, by apakoha

Author's Note: Well, this is the beginning of my first attempt at something epic. Thanks to darkangel and ladynadiad for getting my writing tush off of the ground; thanks to my awesome beta-person, eagle711, who finds all of these nasty typos. This fic is not technically AU, but in spirit, it is a time-traveling fic. Not only that, but it's a Luke-goes-back-to-(insert plan here). I've gone through the ToA section and have seen that someone else has already got one on the go - well, time travel was never an original plot. This plotbunny's been kicking around for a while, and I thought it was about time it was posted. Reviews are appreciated, as some of you know. So, enjoy!

ND2000. In Kimlasca shall be born the scion of Lorelei's power. He will be of royal blood with hair of red. He shall be called the 'light of the sacred flame' and he will lead Auldrant to new prosperity.

ND2018. The young scion of Lorelei's power shall bring his people to the miner's city. There, the youth will turn power to calamity and be as a weapon...

The Grand Fonstone, under possession of the Order of Lorelei in Daath

It was a stubbornly hopeful group that assembled at Tataroo Valley; the place where the immense citadel of Eldrant had crashed the year before. The small group talked amongst themselves quietly, all of them keeping a close eye on the direction of Eldrant. The red haired man slowly walked towards them. Tear pushed herself off of the boulder and held herself back, hoping.

Luke... she thought anxiously, Please be here for good.

When the man with Luke's face stopped in front of them, close enough for them to hear him without shouting. Tear walked up to him and looked in his eyes.

Looking back at her was Asch. She didn't need to ask him or Asch didn't need to say anything, but Tear just knew that this was not Luke. But she didn't say anything either. Asch seemed frozen. Anything he might have said had died in his throat.

"Luke?!" said Anise hopefully, "Luke, you're here! I -" The girl cut herself off when Tear's shoulders sagged.

"Luke?" Anise asked, a little despairingly.

Natalia was torn. On one hand, Asch was here and alive. Her original betrothed. On the other, this meant Luke was dead and gone.

"Asch?" she asked quietly. The man finally responded. He slowly turned to face Natalia.

"Natalia," he breathed, as quietly as her, "I'm..."

Anise and Natalia walked up to get a closer look at him, but Guy and Jade remained where they were. To them, it would somehow seem a betrayal to go and greet Asch.

"Asch," said Natalia, with more finality. She and Anise had stopped next to Tear right in front of the man.

"Natalia, I -" Asch started to speak.

"Where's Luke?!" Anise interrupted.

Asch's answer was evidently too grave for him to even glare at Anise. In fact, he wasn't able to make a coherent sound for about a minute.

"... He's not... coming back..." The words were whispered and strangled.

Anise scrunched up her face and whipped away from Asch. She walked back towards Jade and Guy. They held a quiet conference, furious in its intensity. Jade's eyes hardened almost imperceptibly, and Guy's entire face seemed to grow thinner. His facial transformation was heartbreaking to watch.

Tear and Natalia, still in front of Asch, watched the three for a few moments before turning back to the man.

"I'm sorry," said Tear quietly and she turned and walked away. She did not join the others, though. Tear instead chose to rest her hand on the boulder she had been sitting on and stared very intently on empty space, her back to everyone else.

Then it was just Asch and Natalia.

"Asch," said Natalia softly, "I missed you."

"Natalia," responded Asch, "I'm... very glad to see you."

Natalia paused. "Need you speak so formally with me?"

"That's ironic, considering your usual choice of words," Asch said, beginning to smile. Natalia smiled back, but it faltered soon.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I just... it's just... disappointing... realizing that Luke isn't going to come back. He was my cousin as well."

"My idiot replica," mumbled Asch.

Natalia translated that accurately. Asch missed him, too.

A thought that had haunted her for the past year came to mind.

"So... What have you been doing for the last year? What kept you?" asked Natalia.

"Recuperating," said Asch bluntly, "It was bizarre. I felt as though I could have been put together in an instant, but -"

"Put together?" questioned Natalia.

"Er, Lorelei."

"Ah," said Natalia, understanding. No more really needed to be explained.

"Anyway, the time it took for me to be fixed seemed to be expanded. I spent a lot of time wandering around the planet. I can't really explain it."

"Interesting," commented Natalia.

There was a pause. In that time, Guy walked up to them, heedless of the bright selenias underfoot. His posture was understandably cold.

"Asch," Guy said, nodding his head a bit. Asch stiffly returned it. The two men remained silent for a few minutes while they worked up words for conversation.

Eventually, Guy spoke.

"You'll be returning to the manor, then?" he asked, his tone bordering on rude.

"Yes," responded Asch, "I don't have anywhere else to go."

"I see," said Guy. That was the end of it. Guy then turned and walked away. He waved goodbye to Jade and Anise (Tear wouldn't have seen) and then left the valley.

Deciding to leave as well, Jade and Anise approached Asch and Natalia.

"I had better get back to Daath," was Anise's excuse, "Bye, Natalia... Asch." Jade merely inclined his head. They both left the valley, walking slowly side by side. Tear lifted her head as they passed. Anise turned to look at the older woman and after a moment of muttered conversation, Tear joined the them. Then it was just Asch and Natalia.

"I'm sorry," breathed Asch.

"Please don't be," said Natalia quietly, "Excuse all of us – losing Luke is... crushing." Her words almost didn't make it as her breath hitched.

Asch reached out and took her shoulders, clearly uncomfortable. Natalia placed her hands on Asch's arms.

"Come home, Asch," asked Natalia gently.

Asch nodded mutely. He was going to go home.

But the unasked question hung between them: what about Luke?