AN: After seeing how Tear reacted with Peko in the different sidequests he was in, I just had to. I hope you all like it!
Disclaimer: I do not own Tales of the Abyss. Namco does.
If Tear was to be honest, the news of a package waiting for her down at the docks was less than exciting news.
Letting out a soft sigh, Tear forced a smile towards the messenger that had come to get from the docks, her voice wavering slightly as she nodded and thanked him for his time, promising that she would be there soon to collect whatever had been sent to her. For a moment, however, as the door that led back into her house shut with a slight click, once more leaving her to the solitude of her garden, she couldn't help but wonder what would happen if she didn't go, instead leaving whatever the ship had brought for her, most likely more report requests and documents that needed her signature, if nothing else, there by the port. Perhaps it was be reloaded and taken away, sent back to whoever had mailed it to her in the first place. Perhaps the crew would just leave it there, shrugging as they went about their work, claiming that it was none of their business if the recipient never came. Perhaps, the most favorable of the scenarios that flashed through her head in that moment, it would fall into the sea, never again to bother her.
Wincing as she crushed that small, rebellious voice in the back of her head, Tear slowly stood and began making her way towards the dock.
In the weeks since her brother's' defeat at Eldrant and Luke 'disappearance'-she still refused, even now, after so much time had passed and no bodies had been found in all the searches, to believe that he was dead-life for her had been nothing more than one large circle as people from the three separate territories that owed her and her friends their lived checked and rechecked minute details from her report, trying, and failing, to understand exactly what had happened and why, a process that evidently could discount five almost identical recounts of the events that had transpired as too 'fantastic' to be real. From the moment she and the others had reached their respective homes, tired and still grieving for their missing companion, scientists and researchers from Malkuth, Kimlasca, and Daath had analyzed and cross referenced every word they had spoken, searching for the crack in the nut that would reveal their tale as just that, a tale they had made up to help themselves cope. Despite the fact that the leaders of all three places, despite the fact that the very world had accepted the truth without blinking, the men that had been nagging them for the past three months were still in denial.
To them, the idea of a madman taking the most powerful being in the known universe hostage to use in his plan to destroy the entire world and replace it with a replica was too amazing to be true.
Reaching out, it was only by blind luck that Tear was able to stop the tower of papers that still littered her hall table from falling, preventing them from scattering themselves across the already cluttered floor that had become her home since she had returned. With how busy she had been since she had come home, hopefully for good this time, habitational if not personal, hygiene had fallen a bit to the wayside, her strenuously balanced workload of historical reports and reviewing Natalia's plan for the replicas mixing together to leave her with little time to tend her own needs, much less those of her house. Pushing the errant thought of as cleaner to the back of her mind,for she had been independent since Van had left for the outer lands and by Yulia she was keeping it that way, it was with a shrug and a slight nudge of the papers away from the edge of the table that she finally left her house, promising herself, as she had for the past week, that that one particular stack would be done by nightfall today.
She had gotten good at lying to herself over the past few weeks, and in all honesty, it scared her a bit.
Luckily for her, the walk to the peir was uneventful, the many admirers and fans that had gathered after hearing about her part in saving the world, the very people she was avoiding when she spent so much time indoors, missing, obviously spending their time somewhere else instead of waiting for a chance to jump and question her. But even so, she was careful to keep her head low, only nodding and recognizing the few people she saw that still treated her as the Oracle Knight she had been raised as instead of as one of the seven heroes that were already becoming a legend. In all, it was a mixed blessing, for while it granted her the peace she craved, it brought her that much sooner to the crate of papers she stomach just knew was waiting for her.
For once, it was wrong.
By the time Tear had arrived at the dock, the ship had already been mostly unpacked, its small crew, for the ship was more of a boat then anything else, just something to bring the island city its monthly supplies, were already gone, enjoying their temporary freedom for the handful of hours it took for the vessel to be restocked and refueled. While this was normal, for the crew was fast and desperate for land leave, what struck her the most was the absence of the particularly large, unmarked boxes that would have held her next month's' worth of work that she had come to expect. Instead, where the boxes should have been, there stood a young girl, not much older then Tear was herself, obviously struggling as she tried to balance a clipboard on top of a small box filled with holes. Her interest peaked, she quickly hurried over to the young woman, just managing to catch the board as it tumbled over the railing towards the sea.
"Thank you so much," the girl said gratefully with a sigh of relief as Tear leaned back over the side of the railing, her feet hitting the floor with a soft thud as she landed. "You have no idea how much I need that list. Without it, I'd have no clue who to deliver to next, and since this is the only delivery that actually has a point of reference and recall should it fail to be completed, I would not only have been lost, I would have been out of the job." Pausing for a moment to take a closer look at her, the girl's eyes lit up as she smiled, a self satisfied confidence replacing her worry as recognition flood her face. "Hey, you wouldn't happen to be a 'Tear Grants,' now would you?"
"I am," Tear confirmed with a nod as she handed the girl back the clipboard, her eyes darting towards the box as a soft sound came from it. "Would you be the package I was told had come for me?"
"Yep, that's me," the girl replied joyously, flipping the board with expert fingers so the bottom of it was once again facing Tear. "If you could just sign at the bottom to confirm that the delivery was complete, I'll be out of your way so you can have a good day." Her smile widened as Tear gently slid the pen that had been attached to the top from its holder, her eyes still fixed on one of the holes on the box. Tearing her eyes away so she could look at what is was the girl wanted her to sign, her breath caught in her throat as her eyes widened with shock, her hand twisting the pen so it stabbed at the name of the sender.
"When was this sent," Tear asked sharply, her amazement making her sound harsher than she had meant to be. Watching as the girl shrugged, a single brow raised slightly in question towards her sudden change in mood, it was with a head twisted so she could read what had caused Tear's change that she replied.
"'Sender: Luke fon Fabre,'" the girl read, her eyes becoming slightly glazed for a moment before nodding, straightening herself so she could properly face Tear. "I don't know. Grandfather, he runs the family store, said that a young man by that name had stopped by our shop in Keterburg about four or five months ago to place the order, which was to be sent either here or, if it wasn't received here, to the palace in Kimlasca. There's a note to go with it, so if you would please sign, I can give it and the box to you."
Hesitating only a moment longer, Tear swiftly scrawled her name across the line at the bottom of the page, both anxious and excited, if a bit disappointed, to see what Luke had asked be sent to her even before their journey to Eldrant. Taking the box from the girl, which, to her surprise, was much heavier then it should have been by its look, it was with a hopeful nod of thanks that the girl slid the sealed noted from the inside of her coat pocket, Tear's name written in the messy, almost childish handwriting that she instantly knew was his. Eagerly setting the box down so she could tear open the message, it was without notice that the girl slipped away, a smile on her face for another delivery well done.
Dear Tear, the letter began, its unusual formality already sending her stomach twisting as she read his words. If you are reading this, then for one reason or another, I wasn't able to be there to give her to you in person. Sorry about that. I would have given her to you today instead of writing this, but the owner said that she needed to be a couple months old before she could go with you, and considering she was just born yesterday, that is, the day before I'm writing this, he said it would take a while before you could have her. Apparently, this breed is very slow growing, so she should still be small and cute for quite a while, but they learn fast too, so she'll be easy to train. I know you had your heart set on Mieu, but hopefully she'll be a good replacement for both Mieu and I when we're gone. Sorry again I couldn't be there, but no matter what, I promise to come see you both soon. Take care. Oh, before I forget, her name is 'Fluffy.' -Luke
Blinking her eyes in an owlish way, Tear reread the letter twice more before finally turning towards the box, the holes and noises she had heard coming from it earlier finally starting to make sense. Kneeling next to it, it was with a swift flick of the knife that she had drawn from the pouch at her side that the pale string that had been keeping it closed fell away, allowing her to finally lift the lid to see her present. Peering into the box, it was only a moment later that her heart began to melt at the sight of the sleeping, softly snoring red and white speckled puppy that laid before her.
"You're so cute," Tear murmured as she laid the lid off to the side, her hand hesitantly reaching in to brush against the animal. As she did, she couldn't help but notice the pile of supplies that the puppy was lying on, her pink blanket bunched to the side to reveal an assortment of toys, treats, and other supplies that a new owner would need for the first few weeks of taking care of its pet. When the puppy didn't react to her touch, Tear gently lifted her from the box, her hands careful in their movements until she was cradled against her chest like a baby, revealing the bright blue ribbon someone had tied around her neck that had gotten smashed sometime during the move. Softly twisting the ribbon until the bow that had been made from it rested against the back of her neck, a soft sign left Tear's lips as she took in the gift Luke had left for her, a strange but not unwelcome surprise that she loved.
Loved, but couldn't keep.
Another, more sorrowful sigh forced its way through her lips as Tear, careful not to jostle the animal in her arms, rose to her full height, the box with puppy supplies carefully balanced on her hip with her free hand anchoring it as she slowly made her way back home. If she barely had time to keep her house clean, barely had time to keep herself in order, where would she find the time and energy needed to raise a puppy, and a young one at that? Shaking her head, Tear steeled her resolve to find the creature that was currently cuddling closer to her for warmth a good home, someplace where there would be people who could properly care for and love her, the two main things Tear herself was unable to do at the moment. Glancing down at the puppy just in time to see it yawn and blink a pair of brilliant blue eyes at her in sleep, her otherwise indestructible resolve wavered, twisted, and finally reformed itself in such a way that she knew, once again, that it was a lie.
She would find the puppy a home, of that she was sure. Tomorrow.
By the time she had reached her house, the puppy had fully woken, her eyes wide and curious as she stared at her surroundings with her head slightly cocked in wonder and confusion. A couple of times, a heart-meltingly cute sound had erupted from her mouth, her infant form of a bark, as something especially interesting caught her interest, but for the most part she had been content to remain curled in Tear's arms, watching the world from the safety of her new owner's protection. Setting the puppy down the moment she walked into the door, the smile that had been glued to her face since she had first seen the animal widening as she watched it take its first few tentative, awkward steps, Tear quickly hurried to place the box on the counter to sift through it, placing the things she needed at that moment, such as blankets, toys, bowls, and the food bag that had all somehow been stuffed into the box with her, to one side, while the things she most likely would never get to use in the day she had allowed herself to keep the animals, such as grooming supplies, various collars in different sizes and colors that had the name Luke had picked out for her embroidered on the back, and training booksa, to the other, leading her to believe that, somehow, someone had enchanted the box to hold much more then it was supposed to. Finally reaching the bottom of the box, the last thing she pulled out was another note in Luke's handwriting the words full of the cocky, self assurance that he had so rarely shown after the events that had transpired in Akzeriuth.
I didn't want my gift to be a nuance, so the next few deliveries have already been taken care of. Have fun, and I promise to come see the two of you soon. -Luke
For a long while Tear just stood there, staring at the things Luke had bought for her to take care of the puppy behind her, but not truly seeing anything. This was the second time in the past hour Luke had promised her in writing that they would see eachother again, promises that had been made almost an entire month before they had set off to kill Van in Eldrant, long before she herself had made him verbally say the exact same thing. Her emotions wavering from one end of the spectrum to the other, they finally settled somewhere in the middle, leaving a soft smile on her face even as a hole developed in her heart.
It was then that she finally heard the ripping noises.
Twirling around, it was wide eyes that Tear took in the wide scale destruction the puppy had managed to cause in the few moments her attention had been diverted. Somehow, the precariously perched pile of papers that had almost toppled over on her earlier had finally found their way to the ground, where they had become the immediate interest of the puppy that Tear had brought home. Investigating, it hadn't taken long for the animal to figure out that the papers meant her no harm, but through that investigation, she had also discovered that they easily gave way to her sharp baby teeth and tiny claws, creating small pieces of confetti as they did. With this in mind, while her owners' back was turned, the puppy had attacked, quickly reducing five hours worth of work that had yet to be done into small scraps of paper that stuck to her fur, giving her the appearance of a snow-based monster. Staring at the puppy, watching as she twisted to gnaw at a piece of the Daath financial report Anise had sent to her, Tear to her amazement, did the exact opposite of what many other people would have done.
She began to laugh.
Sinking down to sit on the floor, what had started out as quiet chuckles quickly became almost hysterical as the moments passed, each glance at the puppy sending her into another wave of almost maniacal giggles. How long it had been since she had laughed like this, Tear would be hard pressed to tell, for in her training she had been taught that any extreme emotion, whether it be good or bad, was nothing more than a weakness. By taking that to heart, she had cut herself off as much as she could from the world, putting up a cold mask even as she struggled to douse the flames within her. She had almost succeeded too, had almost become the perfect soldier, when she met him, the only person in the world other than Van that could push her just right into opening up about her feelings for the life she was living.
It was after she met Luke that emotions finally became precious again.
She couldn't pinpoint it, but after a while, Tear became aware that her laughter had transformed into sobs, that the tears that trickled down her face were actually from sorrow instead of an overload of joy. If someone was to ask her how long it had been since she had cried, had truly let herself mourn for the ones that she had lost in her life, she would have had an even hard time of answering that then the she would a question about her laughter. For her entire life, she had been told that it was pointless to cry for the dead, that wasting time and emotions on them was just another thing that could get her killed. So, for the first time in her life, Tear, instead of automatically struggling to reclaim the errant emotions that had taken the reins and let themselves run wild within her, let them have their course as she mourned for them all. Van, Legretta, Sync, Largo, Arietta, Iemon, Tabatha, Cathy, Henken, Asch, the people of Akzeriuth, and Luke. For the first and the last she cried the most, for in her own different way, she had loved them both more then anything in the world. One as a brother, one as a friend, perhaps, had they been given time, more, and both of them as gone.
It was with a wince of surprise that Tear felt a hot puff of breath hit her face, followed by rasping tongue that left a trail of drool across her cheek, licking away the tears that had finally started to slow. At one point the puppy had crawled into her lap and reared up, planting its front paws on her chest to steady itself as it attacked her face with its tongue, a slight whine coming from its throat as it tried to make its owner stop leaking water. Leaning her head back slightly so as to take her face from the puppy's direct line of attack, though that didn't do anything to stop it from attacking her chin and neck, Tear reached up with a single hand behind her to the counter above, her fingers blindly groping for the object she needed.
Finally finding it, she pulled it down next to her, sending a shower of other unimportant at the moment times falling to the ground besides her. Reaching out with her other hand, she quickly untied the ribbon that had been tied in a bow around the puppy's neck, letting it fall into her lap as the puppy's neck became bare. Picking the still squiggling puppy up with one hand, Tear quickly twisted it around so that the animal's backside was pressed against her stomach, giving her the freedom to finally do what she needed to. Unlaching the collar the she had grabbed, an emerald green one that couldn't help but remind her of his eyes, Tear gently wrapped it around the puppy's neck and pushed the latch closed, securing it to the animal's neck. Releasing her hold on it, the puppy quickly twisted once more to face her, its head coming to rest on her chest as it stared up at her with adoring eyes that already held all the love in the world.
"Well Fluffy," Tear said softly, one hand coming up to wipe away the mixture of tears and slobber that covered her face while her other gently scratched the puppy behind its ears, "he promises, didn't he? Luke promised three times that he would come back and see us. We'll just have to wait until he gets here."
Standing up, her pet in one hand, the other already reaching for the broom that stood next to her kitchen counter, Tear set about returning the house to its original, clean condition, her work forgotten about as she started turning what had once been only a resting place into a home for two.