Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of the Abyss, Namco/Bandai and other rightful owner-types do. No money made or infringement intended.

I blame this on an Asch-muse in an RP, although he went nah, it couldn't be. Van would never allow it.

Then I thought about how little what anyone wants has to do with anything on Auldrant.

Chibi!Tear restores a flower without artes in this flashback thing that was either in another game or one of the DVDS, I saw it subbed. This also draws on the circumstances of Aslan's death and the 'hard magic physics' of the seventh fonon. The seventh fonon isn't the fonon of healing per se; it's the fonon of time. Well, likely more like time/space given the teleport capability. It undoes damage by essentially rewinding the body to how it was, and it seems to get exponentially more difficult the more time passes, in the plot. Being wounded or killed and then healed in the same battle isn't a problem, but Aslan couldn't get to the healers in time so even Tear couldn't heal him, and the people of Sheridan… Also, the entire theme of Jade's character development and the Contamination Quest, of death means too late.

Lorelei = Sekundes? Given what Lorelei and Daos did to save their worlds, that's an interesting thought.

Just… horrible, horrible angst and the reason for it all is just a cruel joke.

Since that's what people's destinies are in this game: cruel jokes.

The rough draft was an attempt at the true black humor, where the reader's options are to laugh, cry, or commit omnicide, and it's really more of a 'look back on and laugh,' like horrible experiences in life, since the initial reaction is shock. The result was too wrong for my beta, so I replaced the last few paragraphs, which contained the Player Punch line (look it up at tvtropes).

Still, that was a success. It's real black humor when something that would normally be comic relief just makes it clear how bad the whole situation is.

The title is was chosen for the meaning of compliance and the allusion to observation, or learning through observation.

-

This? Was it.

Vandesdelca Musto Fende, the one who would seize glory, might not have known what his destiny was until he was taken for the experiments, but his parents and grandfather had known. It had shaped how they treated him. It had shaped him.

The evil child, the one who would grow up to destroy their home. The cursed child. Any time he was injured, there was only a cursory inspection, a healing arte if necessary, and he would be pushed away again. Out of their sight. Childhood was a time for learning how things worked, and so it was easy for a child to see that other children were hugged and had their injuries kissed better, but he wasn't. To pick up that this was because he was bad.

He was (would be) a destroyer, and so his pain didn't matter. That was how it worked. One day another destroyer child would ask if Van had ever loved him, and Van would not even understood the question. Would think Luke was asking if Van had any other uses for him, since that was all there was for the ones like them. He would create Luke, and Luke would be a destroyer, and Van would never love him or care about his pain. That was how it worked. That was how his parents had treated him.

That was the way this Scored world was.

Van didn't try to run away when they took him to be experimented on. He knew no one would help or believe him. He didn't try to ask for his parents' help. He knew they would simply hand him over once again, without caring how weak and emaciated he had become. In fact, they would have scolded him for bothering them, perhaps even beaten him for tying to go against the Score. It was the fonologists there that told him, because they had been told, why this was and always had been. As horrified as he had been to find out that he would destroy Hod, knowing why he he was bad had almost been a relief.

There was nothing wrong with what they were doing to him or the other people of Hod. Because they were going to die anyway. Because of Van. He was the destroyer, the evil one, the reason their cruelty was not only excusable but good. They were just trying to rescue something from the ruin he would create. To make the deaths of the people he would kill serve some purpose. And they told the other prisoners this too, so they would hate him instead of them. Know the real reason for their suffering.

It was all his fault, and he deserved any pain and suffering he experienced. In fact, it was inadequate, not a fraction of what he should suffer, not a fraction of the suffering he inflicted. So small as to not be worth nothing. It did not matter. He was told that countless times, over and over and over, in words, deeds, and the lack of them, until it became truer than the Score.

He would never doubt it, not even on the day he died.

Tear, after she discovered the truth of Hod, would always wonder if he resented her. As they held vigil for him after the first battle Guy had yielded to the pleas she and Luke had made to tell them about what Guy knew of him as a child.

It had horrified her, and Guy in retrospect, how extreme the difference was.

Tear's parents had made a huge fuss when their daughter on the way, baby showers and picking out a name and singing to her even in the womb. They'd let Guy feel her kicks, but when he'd beckoned Van over his mother had made a hurried excuse and sent them away. He didn't think Van had even been sleeping in that house then.

It was like they'd wanted to keep him from tainting her somehow.

It had been so unfair, and Guy had shaken his head and cursed his ignorance and Tear had cried.

They'd tried not to think about how Luke nodded and said yes, things like that hurt, but didn't seem to understand how wrong they were.

They didn't want to think about how similar a situation Luke had been raised in. Not when it had (once again) gone on under Guy's nose. Not when they were sending him back to that house, after he had proven them right.

A house where a child could grow up thinking that things like that weren't strange at all Even if only when it came to him, and Van.

Luke didn't even try to fight how he was shut up again, how the maids fled and whispered that he was a murderer, because that was what he had learned. That was how the world worked.

He didn't resent the difference between how Asch was treated and how he was and had been. He was a killer and Asch wasn't (even though The Bloody was soaked in blood, even though he would have been if Luke had not been made).

It wasn't unfair, he deserved it. That was how things were.

Van never resented Tear either. The double standard was perfectly reasonable, after all. The fact that his parents had practically slammed the cell door shut on him while they'd been willing to die to make sure Tear survived? The way they'd hated having to put her in his hands? They'd glared and scowled, threatened that he'd better not do anything to her or let her die. They made those threats even though they were about to die and couldn't carry them out. It was futile to make them, just as futile as it would have been to try to save Van. They still made them, they still wanted to protect her. Not like him.

But the situations had nothing in common, so it didn't even occur to him to resent it.

He loved her too. Mystearica was family who didn't know that she shouldn't love him. Teodoro never told her, although he scowled and kept a close eye on Van, packed him off to the Order as soon as he could so the black sheep wouldn't be a bad influence. He also tried to keep Tear from getting more attached to her big brother than she had to be to learn the hymns.

Van had learned them from a Fon Disc, not lullabies, but she deserved to be done right by. A pity it meant Teodoro had to tolerate his presence.

The Order would have executed him as soon as Tear knew the hymns if it weren't for the fact he was Scored to be murdered around then anyway . He knew that. It didn't keep him from loving little Mystearica anymore than jealousy had made him pass up Gailardia's undeserved friendship.

Until then, he would be useful. Used, just as he had been to destroy Hod, because that was what he was for. That was the only reason he had been brought into this world even though they knew what a monster he would be.

Just like how destroying Akzeriuth was the sole reason for Luke's creation. There was nothing wrong with doing things like that. It was the child's own fault, and it was for a greater purpose anyway. If anything, Luke should be glad he had been allowed to contribute, that something noble had come out of his wretched self.

That was how it had been for him. That was how it was.

The Score had been in control of Auldrant's cattle for centuries. The Score was how it was, and what it said was not only what would happen but the best possible thing that could happen, Yulia Jue and Lorelei's gift to the world to ensure happiness. So if this was the best possible fate he could have, a fate better than he deserved?

Van would never be able to see that what happened to him was wrong. But, buried away, was a core of pain and anger that said that something was wrong. Most of that self-hatred was turned inward, yes, but he'd often wished that he hadn't been born. Wished that the world was different, the Score was different, so he wouldn't have been born. Except that just wasn't possible.

But bad things happening to bad people was fair. He truly believed that he had no right to complain.

This, however? Was not fair.

Mystearica was good. He had wanted to believe that he could protect her, take care of her. Make sure that she grew up happy like he hadn't been able to and live on without knowing what he had done. Find someone more deserving of her love.

Yet now his little sister was holding his hand in a deathgrip, trying not to scream as they sliced into her. And it would hurt for a long, long time afterwards, because healing her before the injury 'took' would undo the surgery, the same way using a healing arte would push out earrings as it restored pierced ears.

They hadn't brought any painkillers. This was Yulia City, where it was practically impossible to special order goods from the outside world, and why would they stock painkillers with so many seventh fonists here? There weren't any herbs or such things in Daath; it was a point of pride for the Order. And there weren't any that would be passing through Daath Port anytime soon that he would be able to requisition: he'd read the Score to check after he'd found that this… preposterous prediction was valid.

He'd known that his sister was Scored to marry Mohs, now a lowly Maestro who soon become Grand Maestro. Van had looked that up years ago, to check that she would have a reasonably long and happy life.

He hadn't read closely enough to know the reason the Grand Maestro would pursue the heir of Yulia himself instead of leaving that to a man more her own age. No, the deciding factor in the balance between his desire to grow closer to and serve the Score in all ways (and continuing the Yulian line was a great service) and common sense would be a certain event. One that he hadn't known about until they arrived. Hadn't read her Score closely enough to know that he needed to find her medicines. He'd failed her.

He couldn't delay this. It was scored to take place on this day, at this time, and it wouldn't even be that easy. His sister already showed great potential: she would try to heal herself, was trying to heal herself the same arteless way she had restored that flower. So they kept having to cut into her again, and again, telling her not to fight it.

And of course she was fighting it! Of course she would try to heal herself and it would undo the surgery! This was hurting her so terribly she screamed, and they weren't going to authorize a fon slot seal that would prevent her from healing herself just to lessen her pain, not when they hadn't even bothered to procure painkillers! He was going to have to send all the way to St. Binah for them, and the ship would be delayed by storms, to add insult to his sister's injury!

He'd tried to fight the machine. Tried to fight destroying Hod. They'd struck him for making it unnecessarily difficult. At least they weren't hitting Mystearica.

If they had, Van wouldn't have been able to stop himself from killing them and throwing them into the miasma so revival would be impossible.

They hadn't even managed to complete the surgery yet. They would be here for hours, and they would have to repeat this entire process until his little sister gave up and resigned herself to suffering. The painkillers and whatever else St. Binah had that might help, he'd never needed to learn about herbalism, wouldn't arrive until after that and they wouldn't wait. That wasn't how the Score said this would be.

He'd have done anything he could to get them to stop (as he had tried to get the fonologists to stop), but he knew that resisting the score was futile. He'd have bankrupted himself buying medicines, the fastest ship in the world to bring them here, anything, except that wasn't how the Score said it would be. He would practically have to smuggle them in, to preserve the Order's pride.

His little sister would have scars because of this. No Yulian since the discovery of the seventh fonon had been scarred! Oh, they would try to make them small and unobtrusive, to do otherwise would defeat the purpose, but she would be scarred, and he would know they were there.

He'd wanted to do one truly good thing in his life, had that been so wrong? Just protect his little sister so she wouldn't know the pain he had.

Was it true that he had tainted her, cursed her? He was the reason she had lost her parents, was this also because of him? Because he was too weak, too evil, to protect her any more than he could have protected Hod?

He should have known that any redemption would have been taken away from him, that any hope was an illusion. He would never be redeemed. Suffering was his lot, as twisted and all-destroying as the miasma his body would be discarded into.

Killing himself would have saved Hod, keeping himself from being born would have saved Hod, but no matter how much he wanted to blame himself he knew that alone would not fix this.

Because... there was something wrong with a world that would let a creature like him be born. There was something wrong about a world that would let this happen to someone as good as he was evil.

There was something wrong with a world where people would follow the Score no matter what, where Teodoro would let not only his grandson suffer but his beloved granddaughter. Where surgeons who didn't like this any more than he did would do this to a child. Because it was the Score. Because that was how it was.

But it was wrong. Evil, twisted, depraved, and Van knew well what happened to things that were like that.

They were used, made to suffer as much as humanly possible, and then destroyed so they wouldn't be able to do any more harm to what was good. That was how they should be treated, that was justice.

The fonologists then, like the surgeons now, had said they were only obeying the Score. Only doing their jobs. That he was the evil one and didn't deserve to hate them.

But he should have. He deserved to. Not for what they had done to him, no, but for what they had allowed him to do to Hod. What they were doing to his sister even now. A world that allowed men like that to exist was wrong. They should not have been allowed to be born.

They should be removed from this world before they did any more damage.

Oh, if he told them this they would claim otherwise instead of wanting to spare others pain, Van knew, and it was strange, the idea of people even more evil than him. If defying the Score had been an option, he would have died for it. So strange, the feeling that he was in the right and someone else was in the wrong. He didn't remember feeling this way before.

Had his parents enjoyed it this much? Had the fonologists?

But it wasn't self-righteousness, just honesty. As she looked up at him through tear-streaked eyes and wailed his name through a throat grown hoarse with screaming he squeezed her hand, feeling he had the right to comfort her now that there was something that he could do about this.

It was not evil to oppose the Score. The Score was wrong. If his ancestress had been able to create it, then he would find a way to destroy it. He would avenge his sister's pain and make all the deaths he had caused mean something. The Score was not the thing that was good while he was evil. This world was as twisted as he, and he knew what happened to things like them.

He would make things right, make a world where things like Hod and like this would not happen just because the score said they would.

And then he would truly deserve the peace of death.

-

Tear had loved being outside Yulia City and traveling with the group. She had hated it there.

The other children had been jealous of how the adults fussed Yulia's heir returning to her city and teased her mercilessly about everything they could. Being an ignorant outsider had been the obvious choice, and the stories they had told her about all the angry dead trapped in the miasma and mocking her cowardice still made her shudder even thinking about them.

Here no one mocked her for being ignorant. No, that was Luke, and she got to be one of the group, picking on him along with everyone else. It was such a relief not to be the one being picked on. Not to be the outcast. It was mean, but every time she started to feel like maybe she should be a little guilty, Luke teased her and showed her what a horrible brat he really was. He deserved it, like she hadn't.

As Natalia started in on him, Jade and Anise adding choice comments, she folded her arms under… them self-consciously. She was lucky that no one seemed to suspect anything. She didn't want them to find out.

They'd called her a freak, at first. Then whore, when one of the children learned that word. She'd hated these horrible things, she'd wanted to rip them out but that had just made it worse and made Vandesdelca suffer too. He'd felt so terrible that he hadn't been able to do anything for her. Couldn't save her from them or the children that mocked her pain.

Luke was an idiot, and he did have amnesia and a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. But her nerves had been rubbed raw by too many comments that had been meant to hurt. She couldn't help that instinctive flinch, that automatic flash of resentment and hatred.

If he knew, he'd either stop or it would be ten thousand times worse.

She was certain it would be the latter. He and Anise were so childish, and children used words and differences to hurt other people. That was how it worked.

So he when he made those comments he hurt her and put her at risk of even more pain, so he deserved whatever she could do to get back at him for them. She had to make him stop making them, before anyone suspected anything. Jade, most likely, since he'd studied anatomy, and he was as cruel as any child.

-

Luke was a child, but he had never suckled at a mother's breast, never been cuddled and rocked until he stopped crying or sung a lullaby to (except sometimes early on when Guy was desperate and willing to do anything if he'd just shut the fuck up, stop crying, and let him go to bed already!). The people who came closest to filling the places of the parents a child needed weren't called Mother and Father but Guy and Master Van.

Tear was soft, and liked cuddling cute things. If he'd been the age he was inside on the outside, he would have tugged at her hand and looked pitiful, wanting hugs. Maybe he could even have pillowed his head on them and fallen asleep to her heartbeat as well as her song.

He didn't know that was what he wanted. Just that Tear made him think that there was something that was missing, that she could have given him but didn't. Because he was bad and didn't deserve them.

The teenage body he was in thought they were wonderful for entirely different reasons. He didn't understand those either.

Just that Tear's body was soft, and nice, and she was nice to Thing, so why wouldn't she be to him?

An awkward child's first crush, that was what it was, they knew before too long. Only Luke knew even less than most children, not having been around others. Children teased their crushes or gave them awkward compliments.

Tear did not like being teased.

Nor did she like where his admiring or longing glances gravitated towards.

There had been no way she would ever let Luke, or anyone, touch them. Not when they would feel that there was something inside them. That would make her just want to die, and she wondered sometimes if that was how her brother had felt, when people looked at him who knew.

She really couldn't hate him, in the end. She couldn't blame him for wanting to kill them all.

-

The original RP quote was Asch saying that he'd suspect Tear had gotten a boob job if it weren't for the fact Van would never allow that. Rereading it, I thought of how if the Score had said a boob job would occur on a certain day he would have had no choice, and that the Score sometimes seems like it's purposefully trying to make Van's life hell. (Legretta. Just… Legretta. Given her comments in the final dungeon, the most likely reason she would have been scored to love him was that she was meant to be his wife. And then kill him.)

The whole thing was funny in that whole "That's so fucked up that if I didn't laugh I'd have to cry," way. Because Auldrant was indeed that fucked up. If the Score had said to implant even literal melons into a twelve-year-old so someone a few times her age would think she was hot and the Yulian Line would continue as scheduled, then they would have. They really would have. It wouldn't even have held a candle to several other things.

If it weren't for the Third Option Luke embodied, then Van would have been the hero of Tales of the Abyss. As far as he knew, the world was doomed anyway and the only way to save anything was to create a world free of the influence/taint of the old one, so the Score of destruction wouldn't be able to affect it.

And by the time you reach Yulia City on the first playthrough, let alone by the time you leave it on the second, you kind of have to admit it damn well deserves it.

There's this one fic that has Dist finding out what Kimlasca will do to Malkuth, including Peony's death, and knows what this means about Jade's fate. He decides that if it happens, he'll get revenge on Kimlasca.

By unleashing the plague the Score predicts. It's a horrible, chilly read because yes, you can see it happening exactly that way.

I highly recommend it, both for the way it fits into the Abyss universe and because it, unlike this fic, isn't completely tasteless.

You don't want to know what the original last few paragraphs were. You really don't. Losing your faith in humanity is pretty traumatic.

...but I've played the game twice, I've wished I could cry, I've wanted to kill them all except Luke and Ion (and guess who dies?), and now I can't stop snickering.