Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of the Abyss, the rightful owners, including Namco & Bandai do. Please don't sue, no money made or infringement intended.
This was originally a sidestory to a fic written quite awhile ago. I've decided not to continue in that 'verse, but I thought that this was half-decent as a standalone, so I'm putting it up.
"Looking through Luke's diary," Asch had to wonder how Jade had gotten that from Tear, "and taking into account his actual age and the complications resulting from the neural setup he started life with, you do indeed to appear to have all of his memories. In fact, they're clearer than they should be, given the traumatic nature of many of them. Although that might be caused by several factors. One, that I've been drilling you on them to extract every possible detail. Another that many of your own memories have been repressed to the point of near uselessness. A third is that you were suicidal because of your guilt while Luke wanted to live partially because of his own, causing your subconscious to be actively trying to destroy your own memories and focus on his due to several factors including your fundamental desire as a living being to stay that way. After all, his suffering wasn't your own, and you're already an expert on maintaining an observer's indifference to it."
"I know, already!" It was true, and he wanted Jade to shut up about it because Asch already knew. He already knew that Luke had so much to live for while Asch had been nothing but dying embers. He knew that Luke had been an innocent who hadn't deserved having the blame for all Asch's mistakes, like following Van instead of going home, pinned on him. He knew, already!
"Try not to forget." Dist had tried to claim that Luke would live on in Asch's memory. Jade had countered that only Luke's memories would remain in that head, long before the final moments. Luke's head, Luke's memories, but Luke wasn't in there as much as Tear had searched, hoping the grand fonic hymn, hoping something would wake Luke up before Anise had sent Asch here and Tear to Natalia for female bonding to separate the two.
Still, sitting on the examining table was everything that was left of Luke. If Asch forgot and Luke's memories died then Jade would have to be very careful to not kill him. If something else went wrong with the unique product of fomicry that Asch was and Asch died, then Jade would have to be very careful that he himself didn't one day make a fatal mistake with one of the dangerous substances his lab abounded with or one of the enemies he faced in combat.
Luke had been… There was no point in dwelling on it.
Still, Asch was not Luke. He should not be making all these jabs at the fool, reminding him how Luke had been far better than he would ever dream of being. Jade was well aware that his normally merely barbed tongue was attempting surgery. Trying to make Asch act more like Luke. Memories did shape a person, after all, as he'd theorized growing up in the manor had caused the traits Asch and Luke shared to occur in both individuals.
Asch couldn't be Luke, couldn't replace him. Not any more than Luke could have turned into Asch, no matter how much his family had tried to force him into that mold, all unknowing.
Jade did not 'like people.' In fact, he'd considered himself incapable of that emotion for a very long time. It wasn't until he'd seen Luke try to figure being human out from worse than scratch that he'd realized that liking wasn't what people thought it was. It wasn't about being soft. It was about preferring them, in a sense. About relying on them, about finding them positive influences on oneself and one's environment.
Not understanding love and death… He'd wanted Nephry to be happy because he'd loved her. Losing the doll had made her cry. He'd understood that the doll couldn't be brought back, but he didn't understand what made it so important to her. So, he'd wanted to create something identical to the doll so that it would have the identical effect of causing a non-crying Nephry.
But it wasn't the doll that he'd needed to replicate, it was the emotions associated with the gift. She hadn't understood that he'd done it for her out of love, since he hadn't understood that either, and so simply buying a random doll would have been a much better gift than creating an entire new field of study for her sake. He'd created fomicry because he loved Nephry. He'd truly had no idea whatsoever what he was doing, had he. It was a miracle Auldrant had survived long enough for Van to threaten it with an idiot of that caliber and brainpower running around loose.
"I won't," Asch replied, looking towards the door and trying to maintain that mask of irritation with Jade over anger at himself.
The replica wasn't the original. He'd wanted Professor Nebilim back, the original: the replica he'd wanted good and dead. Now he wanted Luke back and the original could have done them all a favor and stayed heroically dead at Eldrant. Natalia mourning once had been irritating enough.
Jade knew that he should bury himself in the test results and let his feelings toward Asch be expressed by that wonderful thing known as silent treatment. Let him stew here, well aware that Jade did not view his existence as something worth acknowledging. After all, he was only here because of Luke.
Emotions were horribly inconvenient, weren't they.
It was not right that Luke was gone. It was not acceptable. He wanted to change it, like he'd wanted to bring back a happy Nephry, like he'd wanted to bring back Professor Nebilim. That same force was there, only now he knew its name. He had the will, the motivation, to fight Van all over again, to invent another new field, to become a literal necromancer, he had the drive to do whatever it took to remedy the intolerable lack of Luke there was in this world.
But there was nowhere that drive could take him. No direction to follow. Luke was dead, and gone, and could not be brought back, and so there was nothing to do with that rage at fate.
But telling himself being angry was pointless didn't seem to be making that anger go away. He wanted something to do with all that power, he wanted to accomplish something. That was what anger was for, he knew now. He wanted a target, and since yelling at Luke's grave marker would accomplish nothing and Van was dead (a mercy he didn't deserve), there really weren't any appropriate targets besides the world that had made Luke's fate necessary, himself for creating fomicry… and Asch.
Frankly, sometimes Jade wondered if having emotions had just made him more monstrous. The anger that had built up when he'd tried to understand how to make Nephry stop crying and hadn't been able to (and if a problem wouldn't be solved then he'd just have to work harder, and harder), the…
Why hadn't they recognized what was going on? Why had he kept his knowledge from them because he hadn't wanted to admit his shame? Why had they failed to see because it was the easy way out and treated Luke like that? It was wrong, and it was too late to fix it, and Asch couldn't behave differently in future since there was no Luke to behave differently towards anymore.
Death meant too late. He'd never wanted to believe that it was too late, that there was no way to make Nephry stop crying, there was no way to see Gelda Nebilim's smiles of approval again, there was no way to let that boy he'd accidently fathered have the future he should have had the chance for.
And yet, "You say you won't forget and yet you're still demonstrating complete ignorance of all the lessons he learned. He changed, you've only been getting worse." Luke had wanted Asch to live, and in Jade's years of watching soldiers self-destruct with clinical detachment he knew survivor's guilt when he saw it. Asch had been searching for a worthy cause to die in long before he'd compounded his crimes by stealing Luke's life. "If you want to do us all a favor and make Natalia stop crying, then you could work on taking some responsibility for your actions instead of blaming Luke for not being able to fight one of the fundamental principles of fomicry. Of course, logic never stopped you from blaming him for things like your family's inability to recognize you before, now did it. At least Luke was capable of learning from his mistakes." Even before the greatest mistake of all.
Jade knew that he was sounding like a bitter old man, that his trademark light tone was gone. It was so unfair, it was just not right that Luke was gone and all that was left were the ashes of that sacred flame. Their victory turned to ashes in their mouths: he had seen that metaphor in what was either an ancient fonic arte or mere poetry. They were often difficult to tell apart.
At least he, unlike the others, hadn't had those minutes of thinking that Luke was back. He'd known better to believe in miracles. Although Lorelei's isofon had created so many other miracles…
Asch hadn't responded. If he had, Jade would have pounced on whatever his idiotic reply would have been. He'd wanted Asch to say something reeking of his usual trademark stupidity. He'd wanted to beat some sense into this fool who was not Luke, and by that… By looking like him, by reminding them like that, by trying to take Luke's place in their hearts as well as in Luke's own body, by doing that he was hurting all of them.
Natalia could almost be a replica herself with how soft and gullible she was. Dealing with Tear, and remembering Gelda's acceptance of Jade's monstrosity, he wondered if that trust, softness, openness, was a trait of seventh fonists in general. No wonder then that Luke's had been so extreme, his heart so open and so easily scarred.
Guy was forcing himself to look after Asch for Luke's sake, but even though Guy had been Asch's childhood friend, Asch happily unaware of Guy's true intentions, Guy still wanted Asch to be Luke, no matter how hard he tried to avoid the mistake he'd made with Luke.
Asch's closest friend wasn't his friend anymore. He was a relic of Luke.
Anise: ah, Anise. She'd made Asch's redemption a personal project, like her own redemption for her crimes against Ion, and Asch's refusal to cooperate was making her urge to kill the bastard rise. He wondered if she'd sent him here for such a long period in hopes Jade would oblige her.
Tear hid behind her mask of the perfect soldier, except for the occasional longing, searching look when she thought no one was looking.
He reminded them of Luke, Luke who was dead and gone, and Jade wanted him gone. Wanted him out of his lab, out of their hearts, not walking around with a dead man's face and body and tearing them apart with every word that showed he wasn't Luke.
It had to be hard on Asch, but Jade truly couldn't bring himself to care at this point. "Get out." To be unfeeling was the best armor against emotions this strong: no wonder he'd straightjacketed himself in it.
"My pleasure," Asch muttered, not quietly enough. Luke's technique of hiding hurt with childish anger, and even though Jade knew it meant Asch was hurt it still seemed as though Asch was angry with him, at Jade's own anger, and Asch caused it. He had no right to be angry with it.
Of course, Jade had no right to be angry at Asch. It wasn't as though Asch could have prevented the Big Bang. Asch had probably been happy staying dead.
It didn't matter to either of them.
Jade didn't scold people unless he liked them, McGovern had been right about that. He truly didn't like Asch.
But he did like Luke, and Luke had so often needed a good scolding.
In Luke's memory. That was why Guy stuck with the godawful brat. Of course, hadn't Luke been a godawful brat once? Wouldn't Luke want Asch to be happy?
Therefore, despite his contempt, despite his head telling him that this was useless, that even Asch getting his head surgically removed from his posterior wouldn't bring Luke back, Jade hooked Asch's clothing with his spear head, plunked him down on the examining table again, and gave him the undeserved gift of a piece of his mind.