Completed on February 9th, 2010.
"I want to learn Ancient Ispanian."
Luke's voice is shaky, but Jade picks out the conviction behind his words. Conviction that makes him forgive - slamming his hands on Jade's desk, bursting into his office, intruding into the military headquarters, alarming his guards. Forgive him, for being so- Luke.
"You're-" Jade begins, but cannot seem to finish. Impossible, he thinks to himself, but reaches into a drawer for fresh parchment anyway.
It's Luke's conviction that irritates, frustrates and attracts him.
"I hate teaching, you know."
Jade raps the end of the ruler across Luke's knuckles, hard enough to hurt but not nearly hard enough to bruise. Luke curses, but catches himself, eyes fixed on Jade's. The Ancient Ispanian alphabet is too bony, too static; Luke's used to the flow of the Fonic alphabet.
Jade finds himself looking away. "It should be easier for you, what with your clumsy handwriting."
"It's hard," Luke mutters after a heated silence, crumpling the paper in his sore hands. I hate it, he bites back. When can I stop, he wants to say.
Jade sits down beside Luke and guides his hand firmly, "When you've mastered it."
The ruler remains in his other hand.
Of all the things Luke has the most trouble with, it has to be personal pronouns. Jade chuckles at the irony, but Luke doesn't seem to find it the least bit amusing.
"It's not funny," Luke huffs after the third failed quiz, and he doesn't show up for the rest of his lessons that week.
Before he realises it, Jade's retrieved something special from the Malkuth archives for their next session. I could have just made up a sample, he muses, What was I thinking?
"What?" Luke throws down the text with a fervour that makes Jade wince. "It says that... I don't actually know what it says."
Instead of answering his inquiry, Jade peers down at the manuscript and makes sure that Luke hasn't inflicted any damage.
"Jade," Luke begins, but is met with an icy stare.
"Shall we go over it again?" Jade rolls up the document, tucks it gently under one arm and retreats to the window. He stares absentmindedly outside, and pretends to be distracted by the movement of the guards on their rounds.
For a while, he only hears the slight rustling of paper, a chair shifting.
"No." Luke concludes, "I can do it by myself."
Even more than his callousness, Jade hates his stubborn convictions the most.
"I want to read it."
"No," Jade replies, his fingers tightening against the quill, "Put it back."
Luke's found his first real college thesis, his treatise on pharmakon compendia written in Ancient Ispanian.
"You won't like it," Jade says before he can stop himself.
"Put it back, Luke," He corrects himself, "I said that you wouldn't understand it." He can't fathom how Luke found his copy so quickly in his office in the first place. He can barely remember the book exists, it's been so long.
He briefly recalls His Majesty Peony, having discovered it upon its completion. Ha, Jade. Only you would understand that kind of thing. For some reason, the memory makes him inclined to lend the book to Luke.
"I'll be careful with it." Luke offers, "I promise."
Promises have never meant anything to Jade, but he avoids looking up and meeting Luke's eyes as he refuses him again anyway.
Jade doesn't know how much time they have. No, he's startled to have to correct himself, We don't know how much time he has.
He pushes the door open to their room at the inn, and is surprised to find Guy already asleep. Luke's out like a light- as usual, and Jade shuts the door behind him softer than he had intended.
Mieu's with Tear tonight, he notes as something strewn across the table catches his eye.
"You said that you would be careful with it," Jade mutters, closing the book gently and occupying himself with stacking the papers. "To bring such a thing along..."
He moves over to the bed to shake Luke awake, and readies himself for a lecture, but instead he finds himself silently pulling up a chair beside the window.
Luke can no longer hold the quill steady, and Jade knows that he's not the only one who has noticed.
Still, he tries adamantly, and the anger rises in Jade's chest when Luke picks the damn thing up again and again, laughing and pretending he hasn't dropped it in the first place.
Four AM finds Jade at Luke's bedside, Mieu looking on as he traces letters into the boy's palm. Luke's awake, but barely, his eyes are swollen and spotted with red.
"What does that say?" Luke's voice is hoarse, but determined.
"Nothing much," Jade pulls away, tucking his hands back into his pockets, "Just making sure you were still paying attention."
"Liar," Luke mouths finally before succumbing to a fitful sleep.
As he moves to draw the blinds, Jade thinks he can even see bits of Eldrant in the distance so far into the city.
Luke's finally quiet, and Jade's startled to find him still awake.
"I'll go!" Luke spits out, "Of course I'll go! I have to go."
Jade hears him plunk down into his pillow again, and through the rustling of sheets he hears, "I want to go."
Jade says nothing, because it's Luke's conviction that will absolve his own damn mistakes.
Luke is back.
He's wearing a proper shirt, Jade notes, He must be an imposter. He has to chuckle at himself for this, and he waits until the others have had their cheerful reunions.
It's his turn-finally, and Jade's surprised to find that he feels just a tad bit impatient.
"So," Luke says with a sheepish grin plastered across his face, "I said I would be back." It's really you, Jade has to wonder, Or, I suppose, I hope that it is.
Jade lets out a sigh, as if he's been holding his breath all his time. He slips his hands into his pockets and tilts his head to the side, and states simply with the smallest hint of a smile, "You're late for your lesson, you know."