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Title: Meanwhiles
Fandom: Tales of the Abyss
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Luke, Guy, Jade, Peony, Tear, etc. Full cast.
Rating: AA
Summary: Emperor Peony has invited everyone for a reunion (of sorts). But what are he and Tear doing behind closed doors? Are Jade's 'taste tests' really necessary? Is Guy ever going to sleep in his own room? And just what is Luke thinking about as he gazes out the window?
Notes: For Nightlit, Yuletide 2013. Request was for skits.

--Tastes Like What?--

Guy just watched for a long moment as Luke paced from one end of the room to the other, then back, the across again...

"What is it?" Guy finally asked. He wasn't sure he wanted to know, but...

Luke looked at him, his face a cross between confusing, anguish, and possibly a hint of amusement.

"Jade says I taste the same!" he cried before going back to his pacing.

Guy was fairly sure he shouldn't have asked. Did Jade--

No, he wasn't going to continue that line of thought. There were some things he really didn't need to think about.


Guy was happy to see Luke, though. Perhaps not in quite the same way that Jade was - whatever had that been about, anyway? - but that was quite alright. Emperor Peony had given them the run of the palace, like always, and after the trip from Baticul, Luke seemed to want to walk around as much as possible.

Maybe that was why Peony always gave them free reign to wander - Peony obviously understood what Luke had gone through, at least as far as loving-captivity went.

"Anise and Tear are coming too, right?" Luke questioned. Natalia hadn't been able to afford quite as much time but Luke had mentioned she'd be along. It would be a complete reunion, minus the Ion-shaped hole that Guy knew they all still carried.

"In the next day or so," Guy reminded Luke. Luke had asked earlier - of course, he'd also had a gaggle of maids asking him if he was hungry or wanted his wardrobe hung up or anything else. The answer probably just hadn't stuck.

Guy didn't even think it'd been that long since Luke had last seen Tear or Anise. The two girls saw a lot of each other, as far as Guy knew - they were both involved in reforming the church and helping the lost find something to believe in.

Luke opened his mouth to say something when they both very clearly heard Tear's voice. On the other side of a closed door. And it wasn't so much her saying anything as it was a sort of moaning-squeal.

Guy looked at Luke who looked at Guy. They both shuffled wordlessly closer.

--You Shouldn't Eavesdrop--

"Didn't anyone teach you not to eavesdrop?"

Luke's eyes went wide. At least it was Jade catching them, and not... anyone else. Just... anyone else.

"We, ah--" Guy stammered, hand up to the back of his head.

"Heard Tear's voice," Luke finished. He frowned. "I thought she wasn't here yet."

"She arrived early," Jade explained as he reached to push up his glasses. "But his highness pulled her aside with a very special secret request. Honestly, I shouldn't even be mentioning it--"

Luke frowned. Jade wouldn't be mentioning it if it really was a secret. He knew when he was being toyed with.

"That doesn't really explain 'Ah-- not there!'," Guy half-mumbled. He was blushing. Luke was blushing. And a few other things.

"Depends how many rappigs were trying to kiss her," Jade replied flatly.

"Rappigs," Luke repeated. Yes, they very much were by the room Emperor Peony kept his pets in. And Tear...

"That or I need to see about an official proclamation that we're finally getting an empress."

--Bathroom Breaks--

Mieu settled on Luke's shoulder, buoyed by Luke's hair, as they wandered through another hallway. The palace was relatively quiet and all Luke could hear was the sound of Grand Chokmah's myriad waterfalls.

"I wonder if they have to take a lot of bathroom breaks," Luke mumbled mostly to himself.

"What was that, Master?" Mieu questioned.

"All the water," Luke said. "It's sort of... stimulating."

He waited a beat. Yet oddly, Jade didn't pop out from the nearest alcove with something droll or otherwise troublesome.

And he still hadn't seen Tear.

--Dirty Girl--

Guy found Luke staring out at the waterfalls with Mieu. He wasn't sure if Luke was just transfixed by the water or having a conversation deep inside himself. There were some things Luke hadn't really explained - at least not to him. Guy didn't really mind. Whatever had happened while Luke had been gone was Luke's business and Guy knew Luke would tell him when he was ready.

"It's nearly dinner time."


"Already?" Mieu asked, peering at Guy.

Guy nodded.

"I should change," Luke noted, looking down at himself. "Wash up a bit..."

"Luke! Guy!"

They both turned and there was Tear, finally, waving and running towards them. She was wearing a maid's uniform. But not the one she'd gotten from Baticul. No, this was a new one, one that belonged in the palace.

Tear looked quite good in it.

Guy allowed her the quickest of hugs, while Luke held onto her for just a bit longer. Mieu got the longest hug, though, and quickly settled on Tear's shoulder.

"New outfit?" Mieu questioned.

Tear nodded, blushing just a bit. "I was wearing something different earlier, but it got dirty. Emperor Peony found this for me."

Guy looked at Luke who looked at Guy...

"But you brought other clothes..."

"I... sort of like this," Tear admitted.

--Clothes Make The Something Something--

"Do I look weird?" Guy questioned as he ambled into Luke's room. Luke was still attempting to figure out which of the buttons on his shirt went in which holes and he didn't bat Guy away when Guy automatically reached to do the work himself.

Luke shook his head. Guy at least didn't have any odd frills or too many buttons.

"Do I look weird?" Luke asked after a moment. Guy bit his lower lip. Luke sighed. It was just for dinner, after all, and Peony had gone to the trouble of having clothing made for all of them.

All of them?

"What do you think Jade will be wearing?" Luke questioned.

"Whatever it is, he'll pull it off perfectly," Guy replied as he shook his head. "I think the real question is-- What will Tear be wearing?"

--Dinner Is...--

The six of them - Peony, Jade, Luke, Guy, Tear and Mieu - sat around a food-covered round table somewhere deep in the palace. Luke was actually happy that they could dine so intimately. He'd expected them to be crowded at one end of a table meant for twenty.

Tear was out of her maid outfit, at least, but was definitely wearing something that Peony had a hand in. Jade, too, though Jade's ensemble was mostly muted earth-tones and he was pulling it off perfectly.

"Did you have a pleasant trip in, Tear?" Jade asked between courses. Conversation thus far had been mostly about the food with a few asides about Natalia's cooking (in)ability.

"I was able to catch an earlier ferry than expected," Tear said with a little smile. Luke did not miss her little glance at Emperor Peony.

"And yet you didn't come visit me," Jade said as flatly as he could. "I'm wounded."

Nothing in his tone implied anything of the sort and Luke knew Jade was baiting her, but... Tear's face flashed to genuine concern.

"I..." She blushed. "Well, ah... His Highness..."

Guy leaned a bit closer. Luke leaned a bit closer.

Tear just sort of looked helplessly at Peony, who was sitting next to her with a smile on his face.

"It's okay," Peony said firmly. "It's time to admit out love..."

No one even dared breathe.

"...of my wonderful rappigs!"

Jade gave Luke and Guy a little shrug and a 'See, what did I tell you?' look. Tear just blushed and mumbled something along the lines 'They're so cute'.

--Dinner Was Weird--

"That... was weird," Luke said as he pulled on his pajamas. Guy nodded from across the room. He'd already changed and then stopped back in Luke's room to help undo a zillion buttons. He was still faster at it, after all.


"Tear talking about the rappigs," Luke clarified. Though... that might as well have been dinner, yes.

"I really wish he wouldn't name them after people," Guy admitted. He frowned. "I can't believe I'm agreeing with Jade on something."

Luke sighed. "Neither can I."

--All the Flavors--

Luke was only a little surprised that Anise had Florian in tow. Literally. She had his hand in hers and seemed to be in guardian mode.

She eyed Luke, who was on his way to breakfast.

But it was Florian who spoke first.

"Why is the Colonel so concerned with what I taste like?"

Luke really didn't know what to say. He wasn't even sure he felt better about being nibbled on in the name of science.

That had been science, right?


--Even In The Name Of Science--

"You didn't actually taste Florian, did you?"

"Good morning, Luke," Jade replied. "Or, since we're skipping the pleasantries, 'I noticed Guy didn't sleep in his own room last night'."

"We were talking about plans for today," Luke said flatly. "Don't try to imply things--"

"Why-so-ever would I do that?" Jade questioned. The grin plastered on his face more than answered his own question.

"How do you even know Guy fell asleep in my room?" Luke questioned after a moment. Jade had his own residence, right--?

"Actually, I ended up staying in the palace last night," Jade replied. He leaned closer and whispered a few things to Luke.

Luke wasn't sure he'd ever stop blushing. Or think about Jade the same way. Or Emperor Peony.

--Still Thinking About It?--

"Luke? Are you ready to go?" Guy wasn't wholly surprised to find Luke - with Mieu on his shoulder - looking out at the waterfalls. They were pretty breath-taking.

"Huh?" Luke turned, looking momentarily confused at Guy's presence. "Ah..."

There was a pause. Luke blushed.

"Actually, I'm going to run to the bathroom first."

Guy was also sure he heard mumbling along the lines of 'He didn't answer me.' and 'Actually, I'm not that surprised.'

--Instant Bestseller--

"You still write in your diary?" Anise questioned.

Long after Guy and Luke had arrived back from their expedition into the city, Luke had found a quiet spot in the palace archives to sit and write.

"Yeah," Luke said. He smiled. "It's a habit and... it helps me keep track of everything and sort out whatever I need to." He hoped Anise wouldn't ask for an elaboration - he wasn't sure how to phrase one.

"Do you still have all your old diaries?" Anise questioned, leaning closer. "You could turn them into a book! It'd be an instant best-seller and you'd make all sorts of money." Her face lit up in a wide grin and Luke could almost see her counting the gald.

"Luke doesn't need money," Florian reminded Anise a moment later. "Perhaps he could give the proceeds to help ongoing recovery or job training for... us replicas."

"Well, yeah--" Anise sighed. "I guess you're right."

"That's not a bad idea," Luke admitted. He'd have to think about it.

--Almost Forgot To Ask--

"Florian?" Luke closed his diary and tucked his pen into its spine.

"Mmm?" Whatever Florian and Anise had found to read, they were both quiet and absorbed, which was a bit of a surprise.

"Jade didn't... actually nibble on you, did he?"

Florian shook his head.

"He asked me if I'd done a taste test," Anise added flatly. "Straight-faced, even."

Oh, the things Luke could tell her...

--Aren't We Missing Someone?--

It was hard to miss the tell-tale shadow of the Albiore IV as it came in low over the palace and wall of water behind it. Luke had Mieu in his arms and met Guy at the gates. By the time they got to the edge of the town and the area that had been designated as a landing field, the party had grown exponentially in size.

There were hugs all around when both Natalia and Noelle emerged from the craft.

"You're staying too, aren't you, Noelle?" Anise asked.

"Of course," Noelle said. She looked a little nervous. "I've never stayed in a palace before, though."

"If you're worried about your attire..." Luke started. He was going to note that Peony probably already had something in the works for her.

However he'd gotten their sizes.

But Natalia quickly interjected a firm. "I promised to share my wardrobe when appropriate," she said. She smiled. "We're about the same size."

"Natalia only had a small bag with her, though.

"You have more luggage?" Guy questioned.

Natalia nodded firmly and gestured back at the Albiore IV.

"Almost got it all--" Ginji's voice called from somewhere inside.

Both Luke and Guy quickly ran to help.


Dinner was at a much larger table that night, though Luke didn't feel too put out by it. At least Jade had convinced Peony (and Tear - and Noelle) that no matter how well-behaved the rappigs were, they did not need to share the table. Even though there was room at the end.

"Your Highness" Luke asked before dessert.

"What is it?" Peony replied.

"How did you know our sizes?" Luke questioned. When he'd returned to his room before dinner, there was yet another new outfit waiting for him.

Peony grinned. "My Jade helped me with that."

All eyes went to Jade, who merely shrugged and attempted to look innocent.

"I did spent quite a bit of time with all of you," Jade said after a moment. "And Luke, you've even given me your information for research..."

"But you even got mine right," Anise said. "And I've grown! Everywhere!"

"You still don't look like Tear," Guy teased.

"I..." Tear blushed and then gave a glance to Jade, then down at her own fitted outfit, then...

"Some things a man never forgets," Jade rather fondly noted.

Luckily, dessert was served a moment later.

--Where Did You Sleep Last Night?--

"Hey, Guy--" Luke banged on Guy's door, waited, then knocked again. Finally, he just opened it. If it was unlocked, Luke figured, it should be okay to go in.

It was empty. And the bed didn't look slept in.


"Master?" Mieu questioned, following Luke into the room.


--All Night Long--

"And where were you gentlemen last night?" Jade questioned when Guy and Ginji dragged into the dining hall for breakfast.

Guy winced. He knew he should have told someone, just in case, but... wasn't it obvious?

"I wanted to show Guy a few new features of the Albiore IV," Ginji said quickly. "And then we just kept..."

Guy waved a hand. "It was all very technical. But I didn't notice how late it was until it started to get light again."

He needed a nap. Possibly in his own bed. Maybe.


"I didn't even know my sister liked rappigs."

"I can't believe Natalia got conned into helping walk them."

"I think they were walking her."

--Bathroom Broke--

"Look, Master, it's Ginji," Mieu said as they headed towards the large set of windows Luke had sort of claimed as his own vacant staring space.

Ginji turned and waved.

"Pretty amazing, isn't it?" Luke questioned, gesturing at the water.

Ginji nodded. "But it's really loud," he said. "I thought it would be more relaxing-- instead I'm not really sure how I'll sleep tonight without getting up every hour."

Luke knew exactly what Jade would say and was just waiting, but... no Jade, again.

--Took The Words Right Out Of My...--

"There you are--"

"Right where I've been for most of the day," Jade replied. "You just missed Anise and Florian, who was nice enough to let me look him over."

"Earlier," Luke explained, knowing just how strange he was going to sound, "there was this moment when you should have been there. I knew exactly what you were going to say, but..."

"Then did you really need me there to say it?"

"It's worse when I'm the one thinking you'll say it--"

Jade smiled and shuffled the paperwork on his desk before tucking it all down into a drawer. "So you're saying I should just come back and follow you around so you don't have to imagine what I'm going to say?"

"Yes!" Luke exclaimed before frowning. "Well..."

"It's a date then," Jade said evenly as he got to his feet. "I'm honored."

"Wait! I--"

Jade grinned. Luke knew he'd been defeated. It wasn't entirely a bad thing.

"No nibbling this time," he mumbled.

Even if it was for science.


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