Happiness

A/N: An attempt at Ion introspection. If Cheagle Woods doesn't scream puppy love to you, if you didn't notice that Ion died to give Luke a Score about what mattered to him and to save Tear, Luke's love interest and died happy, then… Such a sharp contrast to Sync. Ion's even better than Jade at keeping people from finding out what's going on inside, partially because while he's oblivious to most of it for most of the game (like Jade is) he's got less experience trying to figure out what's going on inside his heart. Also, the reason replicas disintegrate is because of Lorelei: the fonons disperse to the fon belt. I think this was said by Van in Belkend. So Ion's vulnerability to dispersal after reading the Score and using Daathic Fonic Artes might be anything but overexertion.

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He knew what tears were: he'd been programmed with language along with how to walk, how to perform Daathic Artes, the other things the replacement fon master would need to know. He'd learned how to copy the real Ion's surface persona reasonably well, and that was part of why he'd lived and the others were dead.

Original Ion's surface had hid the desire to live, the wrath the fact he couldn't inspired, and the madness having it rubbed in his face every day had dragged him into.

Ion hadn't known anything about what lay behind his until he found himself crying for Sync. It wasn't right, it wasn't right that he'd gained nothing in life, that he threw himself away like the others had been thrown away. He'd stared at the tears, afterwards, water wiped away from his eyes.

People couldn't program replicas to understand something that they themselves didn't. Ion had watched Jade watch Luke to try to learn how to feel his own emotions, how to show them.

Ion had been sad all this time, but he hadn't known the name of that clenching in his chest, hadn't known it was anything at all. It had always been there. He'd been shown the fate of the others, his fate if he did anything to anger Mohs or Van. A replacement was replaceable, after all. So why had he escaped Daath with Anise? He'd told himself that was a fon master's duty, to try to bring peace, like Evenos had supposedly ended the Hod War (after the damage was done according to Score), but his original wouldn't have bothered and both Mohs and Van had wanted the war to happen.

Jade didn't understand what death was, and Ion thought that really Jade was refusing to understand, because it was so horrible for people to die. Ion had been buried in death, born because of it, born for it. His early memories weren't especially clear, but his brothers' deaths were etched in his memory. He hadn't wanted anyone else to die because of Van, because of Mohs, because of the Score.

"So that was anger."

"What was?"

Ion ignored Anise selfishly, for the moment, even though part of him worried, yes, worried, that not being obedient would bring death. "Sync was angry. He didn't want to be a part of a world like this one, so if he couldn't change it then he would leave it since it wasn't good enough." The one that saw them as disposable things. "I wonder if he knew that was anger?"

"Uh, I think it was kind of obvious." Guy was worried for him, which made Ion remember something, or start to.

"Anger comes from things being wrong. Sync believed he was better than nothing, deserved better than how he was treated. That was why he killed himself, not because he was worthless. We were the same, treated the same way, so I must believe that too."

"That seems logical." Jade watched him, puzzled, intrigued.

"He opposed the Score by helping Van, and risked his life for it. Threw it away. I did the same by helping Malkuth."

"Don't say things like that, Ion!" Luke. "You're not going to die!"

Luke wouldn't let him, but Ion knew he would. It made the ache stronger, it made the ache different. "You're a very kind person, Luke." He was making Luke worry, he shouldn't do that. No, he didn't want to do that, only he kind of did. How very strange. They had things to do, to help make things right, so he should stop distracting them. So he put the mask back on, only now there were two masks, one that kept them from seeing the real him and one that kept him from seeing his real feelings. He knew they weren't the same mask anymore. He knew that he had feelings.

And for some reason he believed that they mattered. Luke wouldn't want him to be sad.

Oh, that was what that was. Happiness.

He couldn't tell it was there without something to contrast it with, like the difference between resignation and anger.

Luke hadn't cared that he was the Fon Master that day in Cheagle Woods. He'd just been Ion, a person, and Luke had saved him, scolded him about taking better care of himself, helped him go see the cheagles like he wanted just because he was a person. It hadn't been a job to him, in fact Ion had been a huge bother and he'd still wanted to do it. A capacity core wasn't enough repayment, Ion didn't know what possibly could be.

Luke was the kindest, most wonderful person Ion had ever met, nicer than Anise even and Luke was a replica, just like Ion. So replicas couldn't be trash because Luke wasn't trash, and Van was wrong, Van was evil. The, the murder of Ion's brothers had been evil.

Ion had just thought it was the way things were, like the ache in his chest that no arte fixed, until he'd seen what good was. He hadn't been able to tell he'd been sad until he'd been happy.

And Ion had repaid him by letting Van take him to the passage ring. He'd known something was wrong, that Luke loved Van so much that all else fell by the wayside (even Ion, was that jealousy?), and Van didn't deserve that love, Van was evil.

Just like Jade hadn't told Luke he was a replica because it would have hurt him and he hadn't wanted to do that, Ion hadn't been able to tell him the truth about his Master, because Luke had been so happy that he would be able to save all those lives, rushing to do it as soon as possible so those poor people lying there wouldn't get any more poisoned.

Afterwards, Ion shouldn't have backed down. Arguing with others meant death, he'd been taught well, but it was the fault of all of them that had happened to Akzeriuth, not just Luke, and he should have stood up to Anise, stood by him. He should tell Luke that it was Ion's fault too now, but that would make Luke sad. If it was all Luke's fault then the others didn't have to bear the guilt he bore and he wanted that, because he was a kind person and it crushed him.

Luke was better than Asch. Asch had forced him to stay there unguarded when he had as much right as any of them to find out what Van was up to in Ortion Cavern because he hadn't wanted to have anything to do with a replica, because Ion was nothing but an inconvenient thing to him. Like Luke.

Replicas could be better people than originals, Luke proved it. He was trying so hard and Ion didn't know how to comfort people, how to help or teach him. He was only a couple years old, but he wanted to do more to help than he was. Maybe he should ask Luke about letting him help on the battlefield. It was… It was much easier to hold himself together afterwards, keep his fonons from escaping this life for the fon belt and Lorelei, if it was for Luke.

Luke wouldn't want to see him be hurt, but Luke hadn't wanted to hurt people, so kind, and he'd fought for them. He'd understand that Ion didn't want to just be a burden. He'd make sure Ion got off the battlefield safely and make sure that he was okay and pick the best times for him to help so that it would be real help instead of just makework, let Ion know that he'd helped…

Ion wanted to be the one to rescue Luke sometime, but Luke was so much older and understood feeling better and could get people to listen when Ion never could, so brave…

He felt a little odd, and that was probably a sign of a feeling, a strong one. It was a little uncomfortable because it was so strong but thinking about Luke made him happy, so this was a good feeling. Ion wanted to stay with Luke.

Love?

Sync had wanted Auldrant to go away, one way or another, because he hated it. Either it would go away or he would go away.

Ion thought he hated Van, who tricked Luke into loving him so much he'd overlooked Ion once. Everyone else overlooked Ion that way all the time, but Luke was better than that and so it had hurt. Van had Luke's love and he'd thrown it away. He thought Asch was better than Luke and made Luke desperately unhappy, hating himself so much he…

Luke couldn't die. Ion wouldn't let him.

And so Ion would have to be strong and not worthless. For Luke.

For Sync, who had thought he was alive so Van could use him. Yes, that was why they weren't killed. But Ion knew the temptation to rest, to dream, to be free and loved that caused most replicas to fall apart instantly, the reason large-scale replication required Lorelei's death so there was no home for them to return to. Sync had fallen into the Core where Lorelei was imprisoned. Perhaps Ion should be anything but sad for him. Surely Lorelei, who did not write fates for replicas, wouldn't let him die painfully. Perhaps he was at peace now, even, although Ion didn't know if he could be and that was a little worrying.

Luke was Lorelei's isofon, maybe that was part of why he was so kind and saw Ion as a person? No, Asch was too and Asch pushed Ion away, Natalia, everyone.

Sync had been able to cast Daathic Fonic Artes only because he wanted to live for some purpose more than he wanted happiness. Sync had been using Van as well, and that made Ion a little happy, that his brother had been more than Van's tool no matter what Van thought.

Lorelei was the sentience of the seventh fonon, after all. One would think that replicas would be the ones most tightly bound by the score, not the only ones free of it. Mohs thought it was because they were worthless, not worth including, but perhaps it was a mercy, a great one, to be free, a blessing and not a sign they were outcaste.

That was going too far, to think that Lorelei loved replicas the most, and Luke cared about everyone, not replicas in specific. It was as wrong to think that all originals were cruel as to think replicas were dreck.

Van said that he and Luke were nothing and he thought a world of replicas would be better than a world of originals. That meant he thought replicas were better than originals deep down, the way Sync thought he was worthwhile deep down, where Ion was trying to learn to listen.

He liked that thought, although it felt like rebellion and rebellion meant death. So he would have to be as quiet and passive as always, since Luke would be sad if he died. Careful, careful since Luke wouldn't want him to be hurt and Ion could never win against Van, not outright. He was weak and he'd unlocked Akzeriuth's Daathic Seal and let Luke be led to his heartbreak but Luke didn't care.

Ion would be a replacement fon master, in Luke's service, not Moh's, not Van's, perhaps in Lorelei's as few fon masters had ever been. If Lorelei was like Luke than he wouldn't want people to be hurt and if he wasn't like Luke than Luke was better.

Luke loved Tear, though, and Ion wasn't… Luke would hate Ion saying he wasn't good enough, but Tear was the one Luke wanted and it would be embarrassing if… Even Anise had made Ion jealous before he knew what it was that make him tell Luke about Anise's language. It would be awkward and what if Tear was jealous and realized that she could have Luke all to herself if she wanted, realized how wonderful that would be?

Now that he was listening, and a fon master knew how to listen, there was a cacophony inside. Feelings were strange and confused. Ion wanted to have Luke all to himself because Luke was wonderful, but he also wanted Luke to spend time with lots of people who were better at being nice than Ion so Luke would be happy.

It was… What did he want, deep down?

For Luke to be happy because of Ion.

The rest didn't really matter, so he could box it back up the same way it had been boxed up from the beginning so that Ion could live. Although now he had a better reason to live than just fear of death.

What would make Luke happy?

This was so confusing, no wonder even Jade couldn't figure it out. Luke was kind so… saving everyone and having someone to love him?

If Ion could make Luke happy it would all be worth it. Mohs, Van, Sync, his brothers, everything.