This little piece came from reading a good TotA fic called "Reflections", an AU of the game where Asch never joined the God-Generals. After finishing what there currently is in the fic, I felt I just had to write something, and with only the drive to write and the desire to write something happy for a change, this was born. Initially, it wasn't meant to be a retelling of the game's ending, but that's what it morphed into, and so I sought youtube to get the dialogue right.

In the end, this turned out to be something of an introspection for Luke, and what I hope tries to explain what he was doing between the game's ending and then the after-credits short. Thus, it has SPOILERS. Read at your own risk.

Also: OMFG HET!!!

This has not been beta-ed, so please forgive any mistakes.

I do not own Tales of the Abyss or any characters contained within.

Tataroo Valley was a calming place, Luke fon Fabre thought as he rested casually against a rock. His red hair, having grown in the three years since the Outer Lands had been safely lowered and Eldrant had fallen, twisted and danced around itself in the gentle breeze coming off the sea, and green eyes surveyed the wreckage of that reminder of what it took to deter the world from the path to destruction.

It was nighttime, and the flowers around him were in full bloom, glowing a dark, soothing blue, at the same time releasing their fragrant scent for the redhead to enjoy. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, savoring the smell that permeated the air. He had yet to find its equal, and the valley had quickly become one of his favorite places in all the world.

If only Asch… But he didn't let himself think about it. It was in the past, three years gone, and if Asch were with him, he'd be yelling at him for being such a useless dreck and to get moving. Although he wondered sometimes, was Asch truly gone? Ever since that time, when he held Asch in his arms and let himself be consumed by Lorelei, he had memories that he knew weren't his. He had the memories of the ten years prior to his birth, and from then, there was a dual quality to his memories, and he could at last truly understand what had motivated Asch to initially join Van in his scheme.

But this was no time to be thinking about that. He was twenty years old now, and officially an adult. He had come to this valley as his way of celebration, and to contemplate his next endeavor. In the prior three years he had gone from town to town, not revealing that he was Luke fon Fabre, preferring to go by a name that was neither that nor Asch. As far as he was concerned, he wasn't either of those people anymore. He wasn't sure of where his place in the world was, but that didn't matter to him anymore. All that mattered was that people weren't suffering anymore. He found enjoyment in the life of a simple nomad, helping where he could, and leaving before people could question him too closely. To his amusement, word had spread from the places he'd been, and children sought to emulate the "Flame-Haired Wanderer" in their games.

But he was twenty now. He'd gone everywhere, done what he could, and now here he was, sitting alone in the valley, trying to think of the future but only thinking of the past. He chuckled.

"Well, I'm here," he said softly, looking out at the rubble of Eldrant. "What now?"

He didn't feel as if he were ready to return to Baticul, and the life of a royal. Spoiled as he had been upon setting out on his journey, now he found the most rewards to be wrought from the simplest things. He was rather proud of his cooking, as living on the road had necessitated him needing to learn and hey, he hadn't killed anyone yet, and there was something to be said for doing small tasks for the joy of simply doing them, like that one time he'd helped an elderly women with her garden. At the end of the day he'd been messy, sweaty, and smelly, but her gratitude had made it all worth it.

But for the future, what could he do? He stayed lost in thought, contemplating, and didn't notice when someone else joined him in his sanctuary. The other person didn't see him, contenting herself with sitting on a moss-covered rock, and joined in him in his observation of the ruins before them. Before long, a voice pierced the air, a voice that made Luke's heart leap. He knew that voice!

Yulia's song danced along the air, a welcome addition to the usual sounds of the night. It invited people to take a moment and relax, to not hurry, as time was short and the most was to be made of it. A smile slowly spread over Luke's face, and he risked a glance towards the sound of the voice as the melody drew to a close.

To his surprise Tear wasn't the only one enjoying the moonlight. Behind her stood all of his friends, and by the look on her face, Tear didn't know she'd been followed until Natalia spoke.

"You didn't come. I believe your presence was requested at Luke's coming of age ceremony at the Duke's manor."

"I'm not interested in some ceremony in front of Luke's grave," Tear responded sadly, and a tad bitterly

Luke's breath caught in his throat. Surely they didn't think he was dead… Granted he'd never tried to contact anyone, but he thought that they'd still believe in him. However, that proved not to be the case, as evidenced by Tear's last statement, and he suddenly felt guilty. What had he been putting his family through, in his selfish desires for penance against a sin he'd been long forgiven for?

He missed the rest of their conversation in his self-admonition, but the looks on their faces said it all. They missed him, and they wished he were there with them. And, seeing his friends again for the first time in three years, he found that he wanted to be with them again. He missed their company and their friendship, and he hadn't even realized it.

He made his decision on the spot, rising to his feet and brushing the grass and dirt from his pants and shirt. He turned to face his friends, only to find that most of them had already turned to leave. Only Tear remained behind, hot having seen him yet, and he started towards her, unable to help the happy grin that plastered itself on his features. Score, he'd missed them!

Tear only saw him as she was turning to leave, and didn't seem to believe her eyes at first. Luke stopped a couple of yards away, giving her ample space to exact what revenge she wanted, but instead she bowed her head and surreptitiously wiped glistening drops from her eyes.

"What are you doing here?" she said, smiling through her tears.

Luke grinned. He couldn't help it. The others, having seen that Tear wasn't coming with them, had stopped, and he was not the subject of many intense stares. "This place has a nice view of Hod," he answered honestly. "I come every year in memorial."

Tear looked like she was about to lose whatever composure she still had, and he dared to close the distance between them, laying his hands on her shoulders.

"Besides," he said, his grin softening into a gentle smile. "I made a promise."

A promise that he'd thought of every day, and had sworn to keep even when death was certain. He had always planned on coming home, but not this soon. Not until Auldrant was completely free of that cursed fomicry, the technology that gave birth to him.

But, as proven on his journey time and again, and even here, with Tear crumpling in his arms, letting loose all of her pent up emotions, there were things that a person could do alone. But most things were best handled with friends.

He turned his gaze onto his friends, Jade and Anise, Natalia and Guy, and even little Mieu was there, bouncing up and down in his excitement and chattering happily in his own strange language. He expected to see some measure of anger at his prolonged absence, but there was none. The prevalent emotion was relief and happiness, Natalia and Anise secretly wiping their eyes, and even Jade and Guy looked to be hiding a few tears.

"I'm home," he said after a few moments.

And he was.