She caught sight of Nahyuta just down the ornate, red-carpeted hall. Even from a distance, she could see the signs. Dark circles under his eyes, a slight droop in his shoulders, and at times he would simply stare off into space. His silvery braid had slightly come undone, and she even noticed faint wrinkles in his usually seamless white and gold suit.
All it took was one look to see their dinner date was canceled. Again. Last time she'd tried to coordinate their schedules together for something like a date, he'd fallen asleep ten minutes into Forensic Files.
She couldn't tell if it was because he was opening up more, or she'd grown accustomed to him, and now realized little tells she hadn't seen before. He may not have had the entire weight of the world on his shoulders, but he did have the fate of the whole country of Khura'in. And the law system. And with Abbott Inmee's death, a big chunk of the entire religion of Khura'inism. So it might as well have been the world.
Ema wished she could somehow help with all these duties, but she was a forensic scientist, not a miracle worker. She was still working on the basics of Khura'inese culture. She couldn't just step into a meeting and give a speech about the history of Khura'in to foreign businessmen. Even after living here a year, and working here several months even before that, she was still working from Wikipedia and Cliff Notes level of knowledge.
Just as she lifted her hand up to wave him down for a moment together, preferably with stolen smooches, a very unwelcome figure stepped out in her path. His new fancy gold hat may have made his hair look a little more real, but it didn't cover up what a gigantic jackass he was.
"Ah, our esteemed Prince Regent. I am glad to have caught a moment of your time." He let out a little chuckle, despite that there was nothing funny about that. The so-called rookie killer gave a smarmy smirk, and toyed with his hat. He may have been on thin ice (thus the constant sucking up) but he hadn't quite yet been stripped of his privileges, if only because there wasn't another prosecutor to fill his role yet. The previous queen's habit of executing all those that opposed her left some serious gaps in staff members. And Nahyuta couldn't be the Prince Regent, a prominent member of the clergy, a prosecutor and the Chief Prosecutor all at once.
(At least, not until Ema perfected cloning. Which she totally had plans for benevolent and country-related reasons and not sexy and kinky reasons. Really.)
Ema inwardly groaned as she saw him go on for another asskissing spiel. The last thing Nahyuta needed right now was Prosecutor Payne In The Ass to keep him up with some monologue about how great he was, and how he should totally not be fired and deported back to L.A. to deal with his crimes against the law and fashion.
"So it is," Nahyuta said. He was too exhausted to add much more to the conversation. And anyone else could've seen that. Except Prosecutor Payne In The Ass, who couldn't see past his own nose.
She had to respect Nahyuta's manners, because Ema would've just told Prosecutor Payne to fuck off. Or, if she was very tired, it would've been summarized down to a one finger salute.
After all, what was Prosecutor Payne going to do? Fire her? Any complaint would go straight to the Regent, who happened to be her boyfriend. And lucky Ema, he liked her being a sassy, science obsessed snacking munch monster. Fun fact: Dating the Regent meant that Ema didn't have to put up with any bullshit, except Nahyuta's bullshit overpacked schedule.
Ema scooted out just a little bit more behind Prosecutor Payne. She put her hand up, as if to pat an invisible hat on her head, just as Payne had, and made an exaggerated gesture. She arched her chin in a vain move, and puffed out her chest with the same bravado that Payne inexplicably always had.
At first, Nahyuta's brow furrowed ever so slightly. He tried to nod along to Payne's wildly inaccurate summary of the last case. Apollo hadn't just won, he'd destroyed Payne.
"Esteemed Prince Regent, it has come to my attention that..."
Ema tossed her head in an exaggerated way which was half Prosecutor Gavin and half Prosecutor Payne, and put on that same stupid smirk. Like Prosecutor Payne had anything to be proud about. Then she mimicked losing her 'wig' and 'hat.'
"...Of course, you already know. The next case will be quite difficult. But we will begin preparations right away, strarting with..."
A smile tugged at the corner of Nahyuta's lips as he realized just what she was doing. But he kept his composure. (Not surprising--he had the self-control of a monk. And that wasn't even just a metaphor.)
Ema struck a dramatic pose. She saw his shoulders shudder, as he faked a cough.
"Prince Regent, are you all right? Should I call one of the nurses?"
Nahyuta held his hand up. "-Yes. I am fine; simply something caught in my throat momentarily. It is—gone now. We will discuss the case in the morning," Nahyuta said.
"Of course, esteemed Prince Regent!"
Prosecutor Payne turned just as she dropped the pose she'd struck just to mock him. Not that he would've gotten what she was doing even if she did it straight to her face.
"Ah, Detective Skye. I didn't see you there. Hard at work as ever, I presume?"
Ema smiled the kind of smile that didn't quite meet her eyes. If eat shit and die! but said in the sweetest voice could be described in a single expression, this would be it.
"As always. Bye, Prosecutor Payne. Good luck on your case tomorrow."
Because damn if he wouldn't need it.
And under her breath, she said good riddance.
As he left, Ema raised one eyebrow, and patted her head, in that same arrogant way. "Eh? Eh?"
This was the final blow. After keeping it in for so long, Nahyuta broke into laughter. It was a full out bent over spasm of laughter, that left him coughing by the end.
Ema patted him on the back. "Don't hack up a lung."
"Oh, Ema. What am I to do with you?"
"I can suggest plenty of things. Most of them illegal to do in public. But what I'm going to really suggest is you, me, a comfy blanket and a long night's sleep."
He nodded, much more serene now. The tension in his shoulders had eased markedly. "That sounds wonderful. Did you already eat?"
"Yeah, I don't skip meals. You should know that already. Did you?"
"I ate before. I'm sorry. I know we were talking about planning something together, but..."
Ema cut him off. "Hey, I've had about twenty snack breaks just today. I'm not about to tell you off for daring to take a few moments off to eat. We'll get time enough for dinner sometime in the next millennium," she said.
"I do apologize. Every time I try and find time, another crisis happens. There's so many things Queen Ga'ran broke. So many lives to be mended. And so many which will never be mended. I must atone for what she made me do."
She reached up and stroked his cheek. He leaned into her touch. "You're working so hard. You shouldn't have to put up with such bullshit."
"To be a ruler is to deal with such foibles and fallacies," he said.
"Foibles and fallacies...that's a polite way of putting it," Ema said.
"Come on. You've got to be exhausted. I know you lead the morning prayer at what, five AM?"
Her earplugs were the best purchase she'd made yet.
"That was only when it started. I had already risen by 4:30AM to prepare."
"Bed. Now. And I don't mean sexily. I'll take an IOU on that," Ema said.
He leaned in to kiss her forehead. "Thank you for being understanding."
As she reached up to embrace him, she felt his chest rise. Not just in breath, but in laughter.
Ema glanced up at him. "What?"
"I just--remembered your mimicry earlier. It was so spot-on."
"I'll forgive you skipping out on our date this time. But keep it up and I'll do my impressions in court. Or maybe your next speech. I'll make sure you'll be laughing at it in the middle of a meeting or trial tomorrow. Just for that I'm going to have to show you my Apollo one. There's the Prosecutor Gavin one, too. But you'd have to meet him to get it, I think."
"You are truly fearsome woman," he said.
She smiled. "Good of you to recognize it."
"And that's why I love you," he said.
"You'd better," she said.
And with that, they went to bed. Not sexily, more exhaustedly. But there was always another day. Ema was sure of that.