It started out, unbelievably enough, as a ratal fic. I kid you not. Except the characters were named Levizt, Serry, and Kaimelar. I imagine that those of you are part of or know enough about ratal might be able to guess quite accurately who was once who before I followed Van’s shining example when I copy+pasted and gave everyone a new name.
And yes, I’m writing this so that you’ll get distracted and wander off to do something more enjoyable rather than reading this. I like to imagine Asch with a longsuffering expression on his face yelling, “STOP writing me stories, you INSUFFERABLE creature.” Too bad, Asch. As the great philosopher Jagger said, You can’t always get what you want. < / House >
Summary: AU. Asch is on the run for the events of Aczelius, he decides that there’s no better place to hide than in plain sight. As always when it comes to matters involving Luke, it falls to Guy to clean up the mess he’s left behind.
Pairing: Guy/Luke, Asch/Guy, implied Guy/Asch.
Warning: Luke is barely there.
Rating: It’s G compared to what’s out there. Fine, it’s G. Except for the slightly R ending.
Wordcount: 3,900+ words.
Special thanks to: This artwork, without which this would have been around 1,700 words long.
“That’s my body,” snaps whoever it is who’s in there right now.
Guy hazards a guess. “Asch?” he asks, cautiously.
The replica’s eyes narrow. “So you guessed,” he says, shortly. “Much good it’ll do you. There isn’t enough of me in here for any reward you’re thinking of claiming. However much the-" the redhead looks disgusted, "Assassin of Aczelius is worth.”
“It’s not reward I’m looking for,” answers Guy. “I was just wondering if –”
“If they’ll pay more if I’m in this unspeakably docile form? Forget it!”
“I just wanted to know if Luke was all right in there,” interrupts Guy, quite sure if he lets this body’s original overlord carry on they’d be here all night.
Asch pauses, then, and if his customary future-Duke-Fabre-ruler-of-Kimlasca composure wasn’t too infallible to disallow it, Guy would have said that the Kimlascan (even if the replica was Daathic by birth, he was Kimlascan by blood) did a double-take.
The tent is silent for several heartbeats, until Asch asks, incredulously, “You care about the idiot sharing this body with me?”
Guy had done far worse in his time to react to an imputation as slight as this one. But he did find himself at somewhat of a loss for words.
“Not… exactly,” he allows, thinking already that he’s said too much. “But he is easily confused, and what you’re doing-”
“To Lorelai with what I’m doing,” snaps Asch. “This is my body, not his!”
“However true that is, you do happen to be sharing it with him,” Guy points out. “It might make some sense for you to try, say, talking to him, if you’d like getting anything done. Or he might just decide to walk to Baticul when you take it into your mind to head for Daath, to start. Or. . . accidentally. . . wind up with, say, a particular a company of circus performers, get kidnapped in turn by all the rogues and ruffians south of the sun (and some north of it, the things I could tell you about technology nowadays), but – that’s your choice, really.”
It was startling, to say the least, to watch Luke’s gentle countenance get taken over with a mask of complete and utter hatred like the kind Asch seems all too adept at summoning, but Guy has seen more in his time to blink twice at something like this.
It’s usually easy to tell when Luke is Luke and when he’s Asch (clue: when he’s Asch, he’s usually arguing). But in the quiet moments, such as this one, in which Guy and the redhead have made camp for the night by their banked fire, Guy can’t tell who’s at home in there.
The redhead before him yawns and stretches like a cat, so artlessly that Guy chances a question. “Luke?”
“Hmm?” Wide green eyes met his.
Something that felt too much like relief pulsed in his chest. “Oh. Nothing.”
Luke doesn’t question this and returns his gaze to the flames. The silence went on for some companionable moments when the boy remarks, “I get more tired when he uses my body.”
Guy was quite sure that Luke was completely unable to appreciate how what he’d just said could be taken in a sense not at all like the one he’d intended it, but deigned to reply in the sense which the remark had been made.
“How long have you – the both of you – been like this?”
Luke appears to give the matter serious thought, brows knitting together in concentration as he searches his memories. He looks up and shrugs, with none of the rage or contempt that would have filled Asch for not being able to remember.
“I can’t remember,” he says. “As long as I remember?”
Guy doesn’t know what to say to that, so he waits. He hadn’t realised that it had been happening all this time, while Luke was under his care. Either Luke had thought it normal and never thought to share it with Guy, or, what he thought more likely, Asch had stopped him from it. It would explain a great deal, not least to say Luke’s inexplicable rages and tantrums.
“But he never stays for long. I think he wants to, but he can’t.” Luke looks like he’s about to shrug again, but doesn’t. “I think it doesn’t make him happy.”
To say the least, thinks Guy, watching the future Duke of House Fabre before the fire. The firelight casts shadows on Luke’s face, but still the eyes that watch the fire seem so very young, and above all, so innocent. It is hard to imagine that anyone who could share a soul with Asch could remain so for long, but Luke seems to have managed it. Just as he seems to have accepted without question this dual existence.
Luke shifts and settles more comfortably into his bedroll, and falls asleep watching the flames. Guy watches him and does not sleep, wondering how the boy can sleep so soundly when he doesn’t even know who he’s going to wake up in the morning as.
As it happens, Asch is the first to wake in the morning. Guy notices that Asch normally is, and this is the reason that he sleeps as little as he can when in Asch’s presence. He doesn’t for a moment fool himself that Luke would be able to stop Asch from putting a blade through his back. Truth be told, Guy would like to think that Luke would care enough to stop Asch, but doesn’t think Luke would have the strength. Asch knows this body better than Luke does, after all. He’s had it for longer, and he’s had longer to practice getting his way.
Asch wakes up all at once, and unsheathes himself from the bedroll as a swordsman would draw his blade. He doesn’t blink the sleep out of his eyes or take his time coming back to consciousness as Luke would. He is asleep one moment and ready for the world in the next, training his sharp gaze on all of the world around him. He catches sight of Guy awake and curses under his breath. Asch doesn’t like Guy (he acts like he can barely stand him at the best of times) – he’s made that eminently clear – but Guy thinks that his disappointment+ has a keener edge because Guy’s thwarted Asch from killing him yet again. It’s not that Asch doesn’t want to kill him, it’s just that he’s lacked the opportunity so far, and Guy never intends to give it to him.
Guy approves, even as he can’t help but think that if Asch had been born into the Daathic Church, he’d have given Fon Masters a bad name. Or at least a very nasty one.
“I see you wore the replica out last night,” says Asch, acidly. Guy doesn’t suppress a grin – both inhabitants of this body have the same reserve – or lack thereof – about innuendo, although Luke’s attitude is born of a charming combination of ignorance and innocence, while Asch’s arises of pure malicious intent.
“No more than you did,” replies Guy, pleasantly. Asch scoffs and looks in disgust at the bedroll, as if wondering why he has to be the one to tidy it away. Luke would also make that much noise about having to do it (and make Guy do it for him), but Luke’s never awake at this time of the morning.
“If we start off now we’ll make good headway before nightfall,” remarks Asch, looking at the clouds. “There should be good weather today.”
Guy nods in agreement. Say what you like about Asch – when he’s not trying to kill you, he makes a decent traveling companion. Remembers enough about the lay of the land to make himself useful, remembers enough about riding not to get thrown off, and above all, never lets down his guard the way Luke does.
Guy wouldn’t mind having Asch at his back in a fight, if he were only certain that Asch would be able to resist putting a sword through him long enough to make sure they both stayed alive. One didn’t stay alive that long without being better than good, and sometimes Guy wonders what Asch would have been had he remained with the Fabre family.
Just as he wonders how Luke would have been like had he been raised in Malkuth.
Asch doesn’t attract trouble the way Luke does, but he still attracts trouble for an entirely different reason. Luke attracts it through oblivion, but Asch does the same through sheer offensiveness. Certain people just don’t like his face when Asch’s wearing it, although Guy notes with some surprise that this never happens to Luke, who either fails to register at all or never stands out enough to be remarked upon.
Asch kicks dirt over the ashes of the fire (He remembers that much, Guy thinks, with some wonder, because Luke doesn’t) and moves to secure his pack on the horse. The horse doesn’t like him, but he will obey him, and as far as Guy cares to concern himself about these things, that’s all that matters.
Neither of them mention breakfast, because both of them eat in the saddle, preferring to be on the move. Asch makes some disparaging comment about the way the people of Malkuth bridle their horses, and Guy doesn’t care enough to make a retort. They are off within moments of Asch’s waking up, leaving nothing more than scuffed dirt and fallen leaves to mark their presence.
Guy notices that Asch’s forgotten something this morning and motions to him to correct it.
Asch suppresses a snarl but complies, lifting his hands to tie back his hair in a messy ponytail that falls down his back. Luke did this on occasion, and the effect makes him look more ordinary, more common, and most importantly, more forgettable.
Even when Asch lets his hair down, he seems to wear it differently from Luke. Guy can’t put his finger on it, and passes it off to having known Luke for so long and Asch for hardly as long. But it’s there.
Maybe one day before Asch leaves for good, he will figure it out.
Once, in a quiet time, Guy asked Luke where he went where Asch was present.
“Same place Asch goes when I’m here,” said Luke, as if it were the most simple thing in the world. “Well, sometimes. Most times I don’t remember. Much. I’m here and then I’m not and then I’m here again.” It didn’t seem to concern him too much. If at all.
“Where would that be?” asks Guy, noncommittal.
“Inside here,” Luke says, and touches his head. He looks away. “It’s not like I really. . . leave. Sometimes I’m still there. Listening to what he’s saying.”
Luke darts a quick sideways glance at Guy to gauge his reaction. As Guy doesn’t appear to be roaring with mirth or hauling him off to the nearest doctor, he continues.
“Sometimes he wants to talk or do something, so I let him. It was his body first, after all. I don’t really mind where I am, but he isn’t strong enough to stay here all the time.”
“I think he’d want to, though. Sometimes I think he’s mad when he gets tired and has to come back.”
“I probably don’t give him much reason to want to stay,” admits Guy, feeling unexpectedly responsible. Asch was too easy to anger, and to be honest, Guy enjoyed provoking him, if only for Asch’s reactions. But he hadn’t thought that there might be consequences to Luke.
“I don’t think so,” Luke disagreed, to Guy’s surprise. Luke rarely ever disagreed. But then again, Luke rarely expressed an opinion – Guy privately thought Luke had no opinions – so disagreement was naturally rare. Unlike Asch, who disagreed with the world and with whom the world generally disagreed.
Luke smiles, an open, completely guileless smile that takes Guy’s breath away, just as it always does. The contrast between this and Asch is sometimes too much for any mind to grasp with ease.
“I think he likes you,” says Luke, “He – ”
“Should shut up and stay that way,” finishes Asch, looking extremely disgruntled. He glares at Guy. “That replica dreck is a lying liar who lies, and you should stop encouraging him.” He gets out of the armchair and stalks out of the door, but not fast enough for Guy to miss out on the observation that while Duke Fabre would never condescend to allow himself to go quite as red as his hair, that prohibition apparently did not apply equally to his first son.
Foolish as Luke can be at times, Guy thinks that this time, as part of his constant solo game of one-upmanship (because Luke isn't there often enough to care, or notice, for the matter), Asch has completely outdone him.
“Simply put, it’s the worst idea you’ve ever had. I am not letting you turn yourself in. Unless you have a better idea. Like finding some other replica to hide out in.”
Luke looks up, stricken. “Guy, it’s not what you think –”
And then like a storm someone else steals over his consciousness, turning his plea to a snarl and lunging for Guy.
“You take that back,” snarls Asch, and Guy truly believes that Asch has never wanted to kill him more than at this moment. “You take that back or I’ll –”
“They’re just words,” says Guy, even as he knows that his own are calculated to infuriate Asch all the further (nothing quite like fury to get Asch to forget about lying), “And if you’re not the dreck you say your replica is, you’ll quiet down and hear me out. No one’s going anywhere if you don’t calm down and tell me what this is all about.”
“A curse on you and all your forebears and descendants!” snaps Asch.
“You’re several years too late,” says Guy, pleasantly, as if he were debating the merits of sword techniques with Luke. “Your father got there first. Sit down, shut up, and think about what you’re going to do.”
Asch clamps his mouth shut and stalks off to the kitchen.
“I made tea*,” calls Guy.
In many ways, Asch is as easy to placate as Luke. He’s just in denial about most of them. But Guy doesn’t need Asch to acknowledge it to be able to make use of it.
Asch returns and accepts a mug with spectacular bad grace. He drinks half of it down without seeming to notice that it’s scalding hot, and sits down on the chair, clasping the mug with his slender fingers. While his temper appeared to be in abeyance (if barely so), he seemed to be extraordinarily preoccupied (with what Guy hoped was an actual plan, rather than an elaborate diatribe).
“I was on the run for what had happened back at Aczelius,” says Asch, quite simply. Doesn’t waste time, Guy thinks, approvingly. “And I decided that the best way to hide was to simply forget everything I was and everything I knew. I couldn’t be captured for somebody I wasn’t any more, and I couldn’t be made to account for something I didn’t know I’d done.
“So I did the necessary –” Here an almost contemptuous flick of Asch’s hand gave lie to the extensive and harrowing process (rivaling, Guy knew, only the process of fomicry in complexity and the toll it took on its subject) that were necessary to effect the transformation he’d so casually mentioned. “And so I was gone. But into that void Luke was born.
“Luke was created to forget,” Asch says, “And that’s exactly what he’s done. He’s taken what I knew deep inside of him,” said Asch, with mounting frustration, “Forgotten it, and now he won’t let me have it back!”
The silence echoes within the stone walls.
Guy waits for what he judges to be appropriate before he says, cautiously, “That might not be such a bad thing, you know.”
Asch glares at him as if Guy’s just suggested that he turn himself in wearing nothing more than a teacup. “And you would know exactly what about that?”
“They can’t keep you for something you’re not able to do.”
“It wouldn’t stop them from taking me. Or keeping me.”
“I wasn’t talking about you,” said Guy. “I was talking about the Order of Yulia. As distinct from the Order of Lorelai.”
Asch glanced up, his curiosity piqued. “And what good would they do?” As he appears to be willing to consider the option, Guy continues.
When Guy’s done, Asch doesn’t quite smile. The tension visible in the set of his jaw does abate, however, and he grudgingly concurs, “That plan may have something in it after all.”
“Always happy to serve,” answers Guy, dryly. “Now if you could curb your customary enthusiasm when we reach Daath, that would be most –”
“Shut up,” says Asch, almost pleasantly.
“One more thing,” says Guy.
“Hmm?” Asch looks at him, and in that moment Asch reminds him so much of Luke Guy knows that he has to ask the next question.
“What does Luke think about the whole plan?”
Asch’s expression changes. “You mean, ask his permission?”
“It would be useful,” says Guy, his voice neutral. “You wouldn’t want him to come up with a new story or decide to take himself to someone else now, would you?”
“If you must!” snaps Asch, and Guy almost wishes that he hadn’t had to do that. Having Asch almost pleasant was the happiest he’d ever seen Asch in all the weeks he’d known him.
Almost. While it’s important that Asch is happy (he’s much easier to manage when he is), Guy wants to know what Luke thinks about the whole matter. He’d feel much better if Luke had actually had a choice in the whole affair.
Asch carefully places the mug on the table. He’s always careful to ensure that he is holding nothing and doing nothing whenever he lets Luke back in – Luke is liable to forget what he’s holding and drop it, or forget what he’s doing and stop. Guy recalled a most memorable occasion when Asch changed over while on horseback, causing Luke to fall off the saddle and get tangled in the stirrups. Guy was off his horse in a flash, sick with worry about Luke, but the instant got there he realised Asch had switched back in completely inadvertently from the shock and was utterly humiliated from the fall and fighting desperately to hide it. Guy thought it childish even for him, but he hadn’t been able to suppress a smile. Asch was as much of a boy as Luke was, sometimes, for all the years he had over Luke.
But before Asch lets Luke back in, he meets Guy’s eyes.
“He really means that much to you, does he.” It’s a statement, not a comment, and in the moment before Asch goes away and Luke blinks in surprise, Guy could almost have sworn that Asch sounded wistful.
But Asch was gone before Guy could confirm or deny it.
“It’s funny,” says Asch to the twilight. The world around him is neither black nor white, neither darkness nor light. The world around them reminds him of nothing so much as the light fading into the darkness. He thinks that if Luke could appreciate irony, he might not like it. “Funny how I only found you when I stopped wanting to look for you.
“And you came to me too, didn’t you? You and Guy. But Guy wasn’t looking for me. He was following you.
“I don’t think you’re smart enough to understand that distinction, but if you live long enough, you might.”
The silence waits before it offers up a question in the shape of his name.
“You’ve certainly taken your time,” groused Asch. “And stop calling me that! What do you want this time?”
“To tell you something you already know,” Luke answers. “It’s not that I don’t want to give your memories back to you. It’s just that you and I know you don’t really want them back.”
The silence of their shared mind stretches on.
“Do you have anything else to say?” enquires Asch, icily.
“Nothing,” says Luke, shrugging easily.
“Stop that,” snaps Asch. “It looks sloppy, and only people like you do it!”
Luke shrugs, this time deliberately.
“I don’t care if people think stupid,” he says. “It’s –”
“You don’t care?” asks Asch incredulously. “Since when do you care about not caring? You’re the one who’s not supposed to mind. I care. That’s the difference.” He pulls his shoulders back in what looks like a savagely aborted shrug.
“And speaking of stupid!” Asch isn’t quite done yet. “You’re not stupid. I only wish you were, you’d be much easier to control that way.” He shakes his head, angrily. “You’re me. Or there’s enough me in you to make you smart enough to know it’s not that easy. So stop with the act.”
Luke’s clear and open gaze meets Asch’s. “You know it’s not an act,” he says.
“Don’t presume on what I know,” says Asch, shortly. “All I know is that I would never be that stupid.”
Luke is silent for a time. And then he asks, “What’s presume?”
Asch wishes that the body they shared was awake right now so he could introduce Luke’s forehead to the nearest flat surface. It could only make him smarter.
If Asch and Luke have nothing else in common, they share the exact same brand of Fabre stubbornness that neither amnesia nor abduction was able to eradicate.
“You damned fool^!” shouts Guy. “Giving yourself up like this isn’t going to save either of you!”
“Why, that’s touching, Lord Guardios,” replies Asch. “I didn’t know you cared. About me, I mean. I know what you feel about the other one, but this is quite the honour I never dreamed of having.”
“You idiot!” yells Guy. “I don’t want to lose you both!”
Asch’s eyes widen imperceptibly, but his composure (and his resolve) never slips. “Regardless,” he says. “Our minds are made up. That’s meant to make you feel better, by the way, in case you’ve missed that, too.”
“Not as much as I’d miss the both of you,” snaps Guy. “Think, Asch.” The open use of his name makes Asch’s mouth twist in annoyance. “This isn’t going to help either of you.”
“But there is no other way,” says Luke, softly, so suddenly that Guy jerks back in surprise.
All three of them have never been more conscious that time is running out.
“Do you really think so?” Guy asks, holding Luke’s gaze.
Luke meets it and nods, once.
“Then that’s good enough for me,” Guy says. But his eyes continue to search Luke’s face for an answer he hasn’t yet given up on finding.
“Had quite enough of the touching moments for today?” asks Asch. “I must say it’s quite enough for me, but I wonder if the both of you are quite done yet. I know his powers of persuasion work better on you than mine do, but I really would like to get on with what you’re stopping me from doing.”
“You know,” says Guy, “If you ever change your mind.” He leaves it at that.
“You heard the other me,” said Asch. “If two to one isn’t enough to convince you, I don’t know what is. Want me to bring him back in for another round?”
“No,” says Guy, evenly. “But there was something I wanted to give him that I didn’t get the chance to. Maybe you can give it to him when you next see him.”
Asch cocks his head at him, the beginnings of a mocking smile beginning to shape the corners of his mouth.
It’s one he loses quite quickly when Guy leans forward, rests his gloved hand on the side of Asch’s face, and kisses him.
If you made it this far, we are about to die from examinations salute you. Please step right up and claim your free cheegle or buusagi. ♥
annotations and other distractions
*I don’t know what Asch likes, other than Natalia. I don’t know IF Asch likes anything non-Natalia! Other than the usual standards, “Duty, Kimlasca, Duty, Natalia, Duty, keeping that ten-foot pole up my –“” oops, sorry. Not. Can’t be sorry for the truth now, can I. That aside, I've always seen Asch as more of a coffee person (I like explaining the spectacular crankiness as caffeine withdrawal). But somehow coffee didn't quite fit the scenario.
+if you’re an Asch/Guy fan, it’s because Asch is disappointed that Guy doesn’t trust him enough to fall asleep when Asch’s around.
^ inspired by this.