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Finding Acceptance

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Nick takes a shaky breath as he looks at himself in the mirror. This is the first time he’s been back at Themis since his powers first kicked in, and he’s concerned about making a good impression. His uniform is situated properly, though the hook and eye are undone at the top, and he has his noise-canceling headphones around his neck in case he needs them.

“Well… Look out Themis; here comes Justice,” he mumbles, taking a deep breath and slinging his bag over his shoulder before heading out to school. He’s walking today, as his parents both have cases to prepare for, and while Emely is choosing to take the bus, Nik decides against it, as it is far more difficult to block out the music when there are a lot of people closeby. He can handle large amounts of people; just not in such a jam-packed space

As he arrives at the gates, Cecil smiles and walks up beside him. “Ready to try this again?”

Nik simply nods. “I’ve got my headphones in case I need them,” he reassures, wincing as the other students begin going by. “And I’m pretty sure I will.”

“You might wanna put em on now,” the raven warns. “I overheard Mr. Shields as I was heading in, and it sounds like we’re supposed to have more students than ever this year. For you, that means-”

“A lot of noise and headaches if I don’t wear them,” Nik finishes, quickly slipping them on out of worry. “And yes, I have my doctor’s note from my great aunt Amara in case a teacher objects.”

“And they will. This is a legal academy,” Cecil teases. “Anyways, I gotta go deal with some student council stuff, so I’ll see you at lunch?”

The blonde simply nods at that, smiling tiredly and heading to his first class for the day; Mr. Shields class on Evidence Law.

He finds a seat towards the back of the class, and sits down, taking out his notebook and getting ready to take notes. He only raises his head when a tall girl with soft, pinkish brown hair pulls off his headphones. However her smile seems to be rather good-natured, and he can hear no malice from the songs of her heart. Actually, the song playing is ‘Everything You Know is Wrong’ by Weird Al.

“Hey, I know that evidence law can be kinda boring, but as the head of the school’s disciplinary committee, I’d appreciate it if you left these off and listened to the lecture. After all, headphones aren’t really allowed in class,” she says gently, before pausing when she realizes there’s nothing coming from the headphones. “Wait, no music? Then what’s the point?”

“They’re noise-canceling,” Nik explains, gently taking the green headgear back. “I’ve got an extreme sensitivity to noise, so I’m supposed to wear them during school hours. I met with the head of the school to let him know ahead of time. I can still hear the lecture just fine, and even if I couldn’t, I like to think that I’m pretty good at reading people’s lips.”

“Oh, wow, I’m so sorry about that,” she apologizes, rubbing the back of her neck. On top of her black, judge course uniform, she wears a pretty lavender sweater that remains unbuttoned, with black poppies carefully embroidered around the bottom and the cuffs of the sleeves. “Must’ve been something in the paperwork, because the principal usually tells me these things so I don’t take people into the office for no reason.”

“It’s fine, really. You had no way of knowing, after all,” he promises, offering a warm smile as he slips them back on. In truth, the headphones were something that Athena had created, with help from the robots in her mother’s lab, and a little bit of assistance from video chatting with Aura Blackquill. His headphones blocked out the songs in people’s hearts, while still allowing him to hear everything else. He tried to only use them when he knew he couldn’t block it out, but the sound was so intense just coming into the school that he knew he wouldn’t be able to handle a full day of it.

“Still, I feel pretty bad. If it’s okay, I’d like to make it up to you. Since our lunch period goes so long, a couple of friends and I are going over to Taste the World for lunch; it’s this cute little cafe with all kinds of different foods from all over the globe that’s not very far from here,” the pink-brown haired girl explains. “You should join us!”

“Sorry, but I already promised my boyfriend that I’d have lunch with him,” Nik says honestly, rubbing the back of his neck. “But, if you really want to make it up to me then… I don’t have any friends in the school aside from my boyfriend, so, maybe we could just hang out sometime?”

“Sounds great!” she agrees, grinning softly and taking a seat at the desk on his right, holding her hand out to him suddenly. “And wow, I just realized that I totally never introduced myself! My name is Marigold Andrews, but everyone just calls me Mari.”

“I’m Nikolas Justice, but everyone calls me Nik,” he smiles in response, shaking her hand.

A look of recognition crosses Mari’s face before she gives him a smug look and leans back in her seat. “Ah, so you’re Cecil’s boyfriend. Well damn, with how much talks about you, I feel like I already know you! He said you’re really into fantasy games, right?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” he confirms, still waiting for class to start. “If it’s a game that has swords and magic, it’s exactly my cup of tea, though I’ve been trying to branch out into other genres as of late. In fact, a mutual friend of ours just recently got me into MMORPGs.”

“In that case, I’d say that you’re on the right track for getting into other genres; there’s a crap-ton of MMOs out there, so I don’t think you’ll ever get bored with them,” the girl grins, crossing her arms over her desk and leaning on them. “Actually, if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge, have a VR headset, and aren’t afraid of things turning into the first or last episode of the original Sword Art Online, then I might have a recommendation for you. I actually play this one MMO with my older brother and some friends; it’s called Trials of Orpheus. It kind of reminds me of FFXV in a way, since you can get any kind of weapon you want from swords, to guns, to spears in it.”

“Well, I do have a VR headset, but I’m not really sure,” he says honestly.

Mari giggles softly. “Hey, just give it a shot sometime. If you don’t like it, they refund you,” she reassures, a hand over her heart. “If you’re ever looking for me, my gamer handle is Sinon; I’m a rogue class sniper, and my species is a Cait Sith Fairy. It’s an easy race to recognize; we’ve got a bunch of catlike features on us.”

Nik simply nods at that, listening intently to the lecture as Uncle Ray- as the man insists the students call him- goes into a lecture on evidence law while the blonde takes notes.

He has a feeling that this is going to be a long day.

~*~

At the end of the day, Nik sighs as he plops down onto the couch, pinching the bridge of his nose and finally removing the headphones.

“Rough day?” Apollo guesses as he looks up from a case file, having gotten home early for a change.

“Yeah, extremely,” the teen says honestly. “I had to show the doctor’s note and explain my headphones to no less than nineteen people, not counting teachers, and… let’s just say that not all of my classmates believed me when I told them that my headphones were for ‘medical’ reasons.”

“Sorry to hear that, Nikky. Anything good happen?”

“Yeah, actually. I met one of Cecil’s friends; a girl on the disciplinary committee named Marigold who’s just as much a nerd as me. She gave me some game recommendations. Is it okay if I check some of them out?”

“Finish your homework first. Then, you can look at them after dinner; deal?” Apollo offers, holding a hand out.

Nik smiles and shakes his Papa’s hand. “Works for me. I’d better go get started on the various questionnaires I have to fill out.”

“Did all your teachers just assign questionnaires to start with?” the brunette questions in concern.

“Sort of. Two of them are the kind of questionnaire you’d expect-your name, where you grew up, your family, why you wanted to attend Themis, etc- but the others are all reading assignments. I do this week’s reading, answer the questions on the sheet based on the information in the book, and then I turn it in,” the blonde explains. “Anyways, I’m gonna head up to my room to get started on that, so I’ll see you at dinner.”

Nik manages to get through the reading assignments rather quickly, but when he arrives at the questionnaires about himself, he pauses, having difficulty.

It’s not hard to put down his interests, or why he’d chosen Themis for law school instead of some other career choice, but he has issues regarding the family section. Of course, he wants to put the family that’s taken care of him under ‘parents’, but he doesn’t want to exclude his mother either. The grandparents option isn’t difficult to take care of, for he’d never met his grandparents on either side of the family; his maternal grandparents had actually taken his mother off the will when she’d turned up pregnant out of wedlock, so of course, he pencils in his grandparents from the family he has now. He jots down the names ‘Jove Justice, Thalassa Justice, Miles Edgeworth, and Phoenix Wright’, and moves on to the ‘aunts and uncles’ portion of the paper. After much consideration, he puts down Nahyuta, Ema, Trucy, Pearl, Clay, Daryan, and Miss Franziska, along with Lang and Kay.

He sighs softly upon finishing everything, rubbing the back of his neck. “If they grade me differently because of my adopted family, I’ll try to fight it myself before I get anyone else involved,” he decides, stretching a little and then putting everything into his binder. Once everything is taken care of, he heads down to the kitchen to see if he can help his Papa with dinner.

He makes it into the kitchen and finds Apollo staring at a sheet of paper, as if attempting to find lies in the paper.

“Papa? You know you can only detect lies when you hear them, right?” the blonde teases, hurrying over to stir the unattended pasta.

Apollo chuckles tiredly at that. “Yeah, I know. I just have to get this squared away is all.”

“What’s going on?” the younger of the pair questions, taste-testing the pasta sauce and adding just a little bit of garlic powder and pepper.

“Well… Remember Elizabeth and Edgar?” the brunette says slowly, regretting saying something the moment he sees Nik’s shoulder’s tense.

“Mom’s parents that took her off the will and cut ties with her just because I was born out of wedlock?” the blonde says bitterly. “The more I try to forget, the more their names and what they did sticks.”

“Yeah, well, that’s the thing, Nikky… They’re taking me to court to fight for custody of you, for some pretty messed up reasons,” Apollo admits. “Apparently, your mother’s brother-Jason- died a little under a year ago… and they want an Equity family heir.”

“And I’m the last chance they’ve got,” he says, gritting his teeth but turning around with a panicked look on his face. “Papa, please… I-I’m sixteen now; doesn’t my choice matter in all of this?”

“If they can put together enough information suggesting that your Dad and I aren’t proper guardians, then they can make the argument that we’re forcing you to make certain choices, so no. Honestly, I don’t know what to do… The only thing that I think we can do is either try to convince them to let you stay, or take it to court and hope it all works out.”

“I-I… I don’t wanna go back to Germany; Los Angeles is my home now. And, legally, I’m not an Equity anymore; my name is Justice.”

“I know Nikky, but something tells me that they don’t care. Even if the name is different, it’s still in your blood.”

The teen scoffs. “I guess I’ve got a lot of jackasses in my blood then,” he mutters bitterly. “I-I’m not hungry; is it okay if I go straight to my room?”

“If that’s what you want, but… at least take a dinner roll or something; I don’t want you to starve yourself,” the brunette pleads.

Nik simply nods and grabs a dinner roll before heading up to his room and immediately plugging himself into the game that Mari had mentioned earlier today.

He gets all the calibration set and then quickly sets to work creating his character, staring at the different choices. There are all kinds of different fairy characters, which combines sword skills with magic, races like human and dwarf that don’t use magic, and mages and elves, which only use magic. He decides to go for a character that matched his usual playstyle in RPGs where you can create your own avatar, becoming a rogue class swordsman of the Sylph fairy race.

And with that, he comes to the point of picking his gamer handle. It’s difficult, but he eventually manages to settle on ‘DefiantDragonOfJustice’ before launching into the game and going looking for Mari’s avatar, eventually finding someone with the right handle and walking up to her.

“Hey, Mari,” he says quietly, rubbing the back of his neck.

She simply smiles, offering a sarcastic smile to him. “Seriously? You went with ‘DefiantDragonOfJustice’? You’re practically begging to be PK-ed, dude.”

“Yeah, I know, but I’m not exactly creative; that was the best I could think of,” he says honestly, hiding his sadness with an awkward smile. “You still willing to show me the ropes?”

“Of course; I’m always happy to help! And if things work out, maybe you can meet my friends and join Shadow Gear!” the-currently- purplette grins excitedly.

“Shadow Gear?” he questions.

“Oh, right, duh. Shadow Gear is my guild. Guilds are groups within the game that allow you to heal each other and share items, including ammunition if you’re an archer or a gunner like I am at the moment,” she explains. “Parties are pretty similar, but they can’t share ammunition, and the only items they can share are potions for restoring health; no manna restorations or status relievers.”

“Got it. Anyways, since I’m new to this game, any pointers?” he asks, crossing his arms.

“That depends on your playstyle, but I’m guessing that since you chose a Sylph race, rogue class, swordsman avatar, you usually use a speed based playstyle,” Mari guesses, smiling when he nods for confirmation. “Knew it. You like being able to get in lots of hits at once and having the speed to dodge enemies. That’s a tough style to balance in this game, but you can make it work. Every bit of equipment you gather will add weight to your avatar, so we’ve gotta be careful with that. Sylphs are a really light body type and out of every avatar choice, they’re the quickest. You chose swords, so I’d recommend finding the lightest rapier you can, and always exchanging when you find something lighter. Weapons made from speed type metals will be really good for that.

“Next up, we’re going to want to get you a distance weapon as well. Sylphs specialize in wind magic, and since that type of magic is actually a little OP in this game, I think you should go with a wand for that. Plus, you can use healing magic with a wand, and that’s always a nice bonus.

“Lastly, you’ll want something lightweight but strong enough to take a hit for your armor. Come on; I know a place nearby that sells equipment for so cheap, we’ll be able to get you all set to play easy.”

~*~

Eventually, Mari-Sinon is her name here, he has to remind himself- takes him out to slay some monsters. They do some fighting for a bit until they decide to take a detour and restore the hunger of their in-game avatars.

After they’ve ordered, he notices Sinon frowning. “Hey Ma-Uh, Sinon, what’s wrong?”

“I should be asking you. You looked like you were having a great time, so why are you crying, DDOJ?” she asks, concerned. “And before you ask, that’s normal; you can’t hide emotions in a VR MMO.”

Nik gasps, placing a hand on his avatar’s cheek and realizing that she’s right; he’s crying.

“Um… If it’s okay, I-I’d rather not talk about it here… is there anywhere in-game that’d be more private, or can we just wait and meet up IRL?” he says simply.

She thinks for a moment. “Hm… you can purchase houses in this game, but I share my place with my guild, so there’s no telling when someone might show up there, and the rooms at the inns have thin walls, so… meet me at the art room after school tomorrow; we can head over to that ‘Taste of the World’ place I was telling you about when we met.”

“Okay, sounds good,” Nik agrees, nodding slowly.

Sinon guides him through the process of logging out, and he then sighs as he awakens in the real world, removing the headset before grabbing his phone off his nightstand and calling Cecil.

He’s already agreed to tell Mari, but… Cecil is his boyfriend; he should know first, or at least at the same time(Emely likely found out at dinner that night, given that it was her favorite).

Well… into the great unknown.

Chapter Text

“Your grandparents are trying to what ?!” the two student council members demand as Nik eats his cake.

The blonde winces a little and swallows the bienenstich in his mouth. “They’re trying to fight Papa for custody of me; I only found out just yesterday,” he says honestly.

“Wow, I mean… I knew that Edgar and Elizabeth were horrible people, but to try and rip you away from your home after cutting ties with your mother simply because you were born… I just can’t believe that you’re related to such cruel people,” Cecil frowns, staring at his Japanese water cake.

“Geez, no wonder you were so worked up in TOO last night,” Mari murmurs, hugging herself tightly. “I mean, your family’s going to fight it, right?”

“Of course, but we’re not sure that there’s anything we can do… I don’t want to leave LA; it’s my home, and all my favorite people live here,” Nik frowns, gripping tightly at his knees.

She smirks after a moment of silence and holds up her phone. “Maybe you don’t have to. In my class on custody law, I’m supposed to talk to someone about a custody case they either have dealt with, or are dealing with. I could interview you for my project, and then your folks could use the recording of the interview to prove that it’s your choice to stay in LA. You’ve got friends in the police department, right? Specifically, Chief Gumshoe? According to evidence law, you need a member of the police department to look over any evidence that’s unregistered to the trial before it’s presented in court, and it’d look even better if it was the police chief who gave your family permission to use it.”

Cecil grins at Nik’s awestruck face. “And now you understand why I’m upset that she refuses to be my VP; she’d be amazing at it.”

“No fucking kidding,” Nik mumbles. “ Mein Gott, dieser Plan ist narrensicher!”

“Uh…”

“He said ‘my God, this plan is foolproof’,” Cecil translates. At the look Mari gives him, he simply says, “I like being able to understand him, so I asked my Dad to teach me German shortly after we started dating.”

“Ah, makes sense. Anyways, I can’t do the interview today because of prior commitments, the same thing on Friday, but meet me here Saturday at three and we can get things started right away,” she promises, packing up her things. “I’d offer to do it after our boss raid tonight, but it’s incredibly difficult to take recordings out of the game, and they’re usually pretty bad quality anyways.”

“That’s okay. I appreciate you taking the time to help with this at all; it means a lot to me,” the blonde says with a tired smile.

Mari just grins. “No problem. I’ll see you at the boss raid tonight?”

He simply nods and stays a little longer with Cecil, the two finishing their deserts before heading out.

They talk a little on the way home, and when they make it to Nik’s, Cecil simply says, “When you’re prepping for the boss raid tonight, look for a Spriggan with the handle ‘Kuiru’. I’m joining in on the raid tonight, and that’s my avatar. We can go for a fly after the raid to help you relax.”

Nik smiles and nods, leaning up on his toes to kiss him. “Sounds great, Schatz. I’ll see you soon.”

Cecil nods, heading off after the blonde heads inside.

Nik shares dinner with his family and explains Mari’s plan, which is received with many ‘thank gods’ and ‘take that, Equity assholes’ from Emely. Afterward, he starts to head up to his room to log in, but Apollo lets him know that his grandparents are already in town. Not only that, but they want him over for dinner tomorrow evening.

Nik decides easily that he doesn’t want to piss them off, and decides to go, letting his friends know early about what’s going on.

He has a feeling he isn’t going to enjoy this dinner.

~*~

The dinner starts off relatively well; a private affair with just Nik, Edgar, and Elizabeth. The two adults compliment Nik’s suit, and they then delve silently into a simple pasta dish. It takes time, but Elizabeth eventually speaks up.

 

“We’re grateful you agreed to meet with us Nikolas,” she says quietly, placing her fork down and looking towards him. “We’ve got a lot to catch up on.”

“Indeed. You’ve much to learn when you return to Germany,” Edgar adds stiffly.

“Edgar, hush,” Elizabeth says simply. “The boy is sixteen now; it is ultimately his choice as to where he lives.”

Nik perks up at her words, only to be startled back to reality by the older man.

“We’re his blood relatives; that foolish lawyer has no claims to him. Now boy, back straight, and remove that ridiculous headgear!” Edgar says briskly.

Nik grits his teeth, gripping tightly at his knees. “I can hear you just fine, Grandfather; I wear them because of a medical condition,” he manages to get out. “And as Grandmother already said, it is my choice where I live; not yours.”

“Oh, be reasonable; what could that lawyer ever give you that we couldn’t? You’ll have far better opportunities in your homeland! After all, look at that Von Karma girl! Thanks to the strength of her household, she was able to become a prosecutor at only thirteen years of age! Not to mention all the fine young ladies you could meet!”

“... You’ll never be my family,” Nik decides, standing up. “Family knows one another, but you couldn’t even bother to notice that your grandson has no interest in women. I know this will bother you, but I’m gayer than Hell; I even have a boyfriend. I don’t want to go back to Germany; my home is here in the States.”

“Why, you-”

“No, you just listen!” the blonde says firmly, ripping off the cravat he’s chosen to wear tonight and internally reminding himself to apologize to Miles for it later. “All the money in the world can’t buy you happiness! I learned that when I was just a child!... Mom and I didn’t have much in that tiny little village. Our house was cramped, the air conditioning didn’t work, the roof leaked, and our little vegetable farm didn’t produce much food, but you know what? We were happy because at least we had each other. We were rich in the kinds of currency that can’t be measured; love, and happiness. I don’t need any fancy clothes or a lot of money to be happy; all I need is to be surrounded by people that love and accept me for who I am. I’m not Nikolas, last of the Equity line anymore… I’m Nikolas Palamedes Justice, son of Klavier William Gavin and Apollo Lyceus Justice.”

The boy starts to walk away but freezes when he hears a familiar click, and feels a cylinder pressed to his back.

“You’re not going anywhere, boy.”

Nik likes to think of himself as averagely lucky. He finds pennies on the street on occasion, and any of his troubles are usually caused by his own actions. He’s rarely been in an unlucky situation that wasn’t caused by his own actions, and as such, he rarely thinks of himself as either lucky or unlucky, even though he’s been in bad situations caused by bad people before now, whether it was Tommy Hollis beating the snot out of him for really dumb shit, De Killer kidnapping him and Roman to use as bargaining chips, or… Or his biological father nearly framing Apollo for murder.

Yet, never once did he think his Maternal grandfather would ever hold a gun to his back. He’d imagined the man might slap him, or make some really bullshit remarks(which he had) but a type 54 black star pistol had never seemed like something that Edgar Equity would pull on his last chance at an heir. Not only does Nikolas feel it contradicted what the elder man wants from him, but it also seems incredibly out of character.

To solve this mystery, he raises his hands slowly and removes his headphones, wincing at the initial burst of sound before freezing in shock at the song he hears: Save a Place for Me by Matthew West. It isn’t a song he hears often from people’s hearts, let alone being belted out so strongly and passionately, but when he does hear it… it’s usually from people who’ve lost people close to them; it’s from people desperately trying to hold what family they have left together… people who’re just a little too close to losing themselves in their pain, and their sadness. He’s never stopped to realize that even if his grandparents had disapproved of his mother’s marital status at the time of his conception, they’d probably been just as pained as him, and maybe even more so, when she died.

He can’t let this go on. Edgar Equity needs a reality check.

“... You won’t pull the trigger,” Nik says simply. “You don’t have it in you.”

In response, Edgar simply clicks off the safety. “You really think so?”

“I don’t think; I know,” the blonde argues, turning around to face him. “Because you’re in the same pain that I once was, Grandfather. You miss Mama, and Uncle Jason too. You’ve lost people close to you, so you’re doing everything you can to hold what family you have left together because if you don’t, you’ll lose yourself in your pain and sadness. No matter what you thought about my mother’s marital status at the time of my conception, you and Grandmother were in the same pain I was when Mama died. Heck, your pain was probably worse, because I remember someone telling me once that the worst pain a parent can go through is their child dying before they do. I can hear what your heart is really saying; deep down, all you really want is for your family to be safe and happy, but you think the only way to do that is if you keep them close to you. Just put down the gun, because we both know that you don’t want to fire it.”

Edgar’s hands shake a bit, before he finally drops the weapon, jumping as the drop makes it fire.

However, they’re lucky. The bullet just grazes against Nik’s leg, and lands in the wall, thankfully.

Elizabeth immediately calls for a doctor, and Nik is taken to the hospital.

~*~

“This is really an overreaction,” Nik insists sheepishly. “Really, I’ve been attacked by a hawk and an asshole ex-boyfriend before; this is nothing compared to either of those.”

“What happened with the hawk?” Elizabeth questions.

“I didn’t realize just how protective my boyfriend’s Papa is,” the blonde admits sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck and wincing as the doctor finishes cleaning the wound, applying the bandages now. “Quick question; I’ll be able to walk on this leg, right? I have school, and I have this thing about elevators, so my only way to get around is with stairs.”

“You’ll be fine,” the doctor promises. “Just try to keep as little weight on it as you can and you’ll be fine.”

Nik and Elizabeth nod, while Edgar had chosen to stay outside. The old woman gently takes her grandson’s hand into hers and then says, “I’m going to take Edgar home for a while. Will you be alright from here?”

The blonde simply nods. “Yeah, I’ll be okay. My Uncle Nahyuta was headed for the house anyway, so he’s driving me home.”

The old woman nodded, and left, leaving Nikolas to sigh as he looked at his wrapped up injury.
Apollo was not going to react well to this.

Chapter Text

“I still can’t believe they’re making us do this.”

“Come on, Nik; they don’t want you or Cecil losing the mock trial on purpose, because then, it wouldn’t be an accurate test of your skills and intelligence. They gotta do this to make sure you don’t go against each other.”

“I realize that but why does my preliminary opponent have to be him ?! Frankly, I’m surprised they even let him into this school !”

“Relax Nik. If he gets too close, Lucky and I are in the gallery waiting for an excuse to knock some of his teeth out.”

“Thanks, Greg… You know, you’re pretty grown up for a twelve-year-old.”

“It’s the only way for me and Ba to survive Mom’s insanity. Now get out there and make that rich snob rue the day he ever crossed Nikolas Palamedes Justice!”

“You got it! I’m Nikolas and I’m fine! Look out Hollis; here comes Justice!”

~*~

“Oh fuck, his grades weren’t paid for!” Nikolas exclaims, bursting into the makeshift defense lobby and breathing heavy.

Greg, who’d agreed at the last minute to come in as Nik’s legal assistant, gently rubbed his cousin’s back. “Easy, Nik. Remember, look at the evidence. You know as well as I do that your defendant is guilty, so think carefully. What’s the question you’re asking right now?”

The blonde runs a hand through his hair. “... How could he have used a shichishito to kill the victim without creating a huge mess in the courtyard? It doesn’t make sense, because with that many entry wounds, the sword couldn’t have acted like a plug like a knife wound would’ve.”

“Turn your thinking around,” Gregory says simply, giving a determined face to his cousin. “Don’t ask yourself how he could’ve used the shichishito as a weapon; ask what he could’ve used instead, and where else a large amount of blood was discovered.”

Nik’s eyes go wide as he takes out the papers talking about the evidence and the crime scene in search of a particular one. “Got it! A large butcher knife was found coated in the victim’s blood, and it was all over the counter… I think I’ve got it, Greg!”

The boy just smiles and nods, ushering his cousin back inside the mock-courtroom.

“Before the recess, Mr. Justice was urged to prove that there was some other way for the defendant to have killed his brother,” Mari, who is presiding as the judge of the mock trial, says simply. “Mister Justice, have you found anything?”

Nik smirks. “As a matter of fact, I have, Your Honor. We’ve been under the assumption that the victim was the butcher, and that it was natural that his blood was covering the counter and the butcher knife since he’s missing a finger, which had been lost on the day that the murder occurred. However, what if that was inaccurate? What if, in actuality, the butcher was the defendant?”

“Objection! That’s insane!” Hollis exclaims with a growl in his throat, eyes wild. “The blood clearly matched the defendant, not the victim!”

“Objection! It’s not all that insane if you think about it, Mr. Hollis. The victim and the defendant are identical twins, and a little-known fact about identical twins is that because they’re born of the same egg, they share an identical genetic pattern! It’s all too easy for one twin to pretend that the other was the one who died!” Nik argues. “And has anyone else noticed that the victim has been oddly hiding his left hand throughout the entire trial? You know, the exact same hand the victim is missing a finger from? And does nobody find it odd that the hand missing a finger hadn’t stopped bleeding by the time the police got to it? One would assume that it would’ve, considering the injury had taken place earlier that day. Your Honor, you asked me to find a way that the shichishito could’ve been used as a murder weapon without it creating an enormous mess in the courtyard. My answer is this; the shichishito is not the murder weapon, and the courtyard is not the scene of the crime.

“In actuality, the murder scene was the butcher’s kitchen, and the weapon used to kill our victim was his own brother’s butcher knife. The lost finger was removed post-mortem as a way to further convince any doubters,” Seeing the panicked look on Hollis’s face, Nik simply says, “The prosecution rests, Your Honor.”

Mari nods and looks towards Hollis. “Does the defense have any further query?”

“I-I… No, Your Honor… The defense rests,” Hollis squeaks out.

“Very well. Then without further ado, I believe it’s time for my verdict,” the pinkish-brown haired girl says softly. “This court finds the defendant, Julian Marquis, or, should I say, Julio Marquis, guilty on all charges. Bailiff, take him away.”

Nik sighs in relief, collapsing into the chair behind his bench. “Mein Gott… I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved in all my life.”

“Nikky, you did it!” Trucy squeals, running over to her nephew from the stands excitedly and hugging him tightly. Phoenix and Miles follow not far behind, while Pearl trails a bit helping Ephraim get onto his crutches, as the brown-haired boy had broken his leg a couple weeks ago trying to help his Mama Pearl get ready for an important training seminar at Kurain village.

“Thanks, Aunt Trucy,” Nik says, his smile faltering when he notices two individuals that are missing. “Wait, where’re Dad and Papa? I saw them in the gallery right before the recess.”

Phoenix sighs softly, rubbing the back of his neck. “About halfway through the recess, they both got called in. Klavier has to travel overseas on an exchange for the Prosecutorial Investigation Committee, and Apollo, well… Simply put, your Uncle Clay is accused of murdering one of his crewmates, and Apollo went to start investigating.”

“I talked with Mr. Shields and convinced him to let us give them the recording later,” Miles reassures.

“Wait, back up; say that again,” Nik requests.

“... I got Mr. Shields to-”

“Before that!”

“... Clay is accused of murder?” Phoenix offers.

“Oh, fudge-nuggets… I really wish I could help him; Uncle Clay’s too nice to commit murder.”

“... Don’t you have a provisional badge?”

“Opa, it is literally just a license to object without being yelled at or held in contempt of court.”

A new entrant of the courtroom clears its throat, and the sea of adults parts to show small, fourteen-year-old Axel standing there with tears in his eyes, wearing his Dad’s usual visor.

“H-Hey, Nik,” the boy says quietly, tightly gripping two envelopes in his hands. “Your Papa asked me to pass this along to you.”

Nik raises a brow at this, confused as to what on earth his Papa could be having Axel pass along to him, or how it could possibly take up two envelopes.

The blonde looks at the envelopes and immediately notices that they’re marked with numbers, presumably for their opening order. Another noticeable thing is that the first envelope seems to just have some small objects in it.

He ends up squawking when he sees the objects in the envelope, quickly looking over the letter in the other envelope. “N-No way, he can’t be serious… He could lose his badge; I could get expelled ! And besides the fact, I’m a prosecutor course student, not defense!”

Miles goes wide-eyed, easily figuring out what Nikolas means. “He isn’t.”

“... He got hurt during his investigation; took a page out of Pop Pop’s playbook and got hit by a car on his way to the detention center… And managed to get himself to the clinic with just a minor concussion, a broken leg, and minor eye injury. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to defend Uncle Clay, so he’s trying to pass it off to me.”

“Why not me?!” Phoenix exclaims.

“He says, and I quote, ‘Normally, I’d have Mr. Wright or Athena take the case or even Dhurke, but because I know that they all have trials of their own on those days and because you(Nik) need to get used to investigations anyways, I’d like you to take it. Just make sure that you A) have help, and B) talk to your Uncle Nahyuta, as he’s the prosecutor for this case’... Does anyone else think that my Papa wants Uncle Clay in prison? I’m a prosecutor course student, not to mention the fact that this is about fifty different kinds of illegal!”

“Phoenix once did the exact same thing to me, about seven years before Apollo began working with him. Granted, the ridiculous fool had a high fever and was lucky to have lived through his fall off the Eagle River bridge, but that’s beside the point.”

“And if I remember correctly, aren’t Themis students allowed to take on cases in place of certified lawyers, so long as they have another certified lawyer on their team and have permission from whoever they’re borrowing their badge from?” Gregory questions.

“W-Well, yeah, but-”

“Simple solution then; Uncle Ray’ll help ya out for the low-low price of a hug,” Ray says as he enters the room with a smile, having heard the whole thing.

Nik, honestly desperate just to keep going to Themis, simply hugs the older man tightly.

“Uh, Nikky, I was half joking.”

“Don’t care; I will literally do anything to keep attending school here.”

“Hey, speaking of your Pops, what’s the other item in the envelope?”

“His bracelet, or as I like to call it, the thing that prevents me from lying like a normal teen should be able to.”

~*~

“Mein Gott, what have you gotten yourself into, Uncle Clay?” Nik whines, running a hand down his face in dismay. He is not surprised to hear his Uncle’s usual, default song: the Space Jam theme.

Clay chuckles nervously. “A whole lotta trouble, Niks.”

“So… Business as usual then? I mean, let’s be honest here; you’ve been stabbed, missed your own shuttle launch twice now, and now you’ve been accused of murder. And both times that Papa was involved, he ended up hurt in some way or another,” Nik lists off, running a hand through his hair. “Geez… I think the only person less lucky than you are either me, Papa, or Opa, and I’m not entirely sure my luck even compares to any of you.”

Clay grins at that, smiling widely. “Well, with Apollo on my side, the truth will come to light.”

“Uh, about that… See, Papa’s injuries are going to keep him from standing in court,” Nik starts, beginning to ramble, “And, well, since Themis allows its students to stand on either side of the courtroom before the final exam, in order to decide what part they want in trials-”

“Nikky, spit it out,” Clay says, and Nik hears the song slowly change to one filled with anxiety.

“... I’m gonna need your letter of request,” the teen squeaks out with a sheepish look on his face.

All the color drains from Clay’s face, as he plants his face into the counter on his side of the glass.

As Nik and Ray are leaving the detention center with the astronaut’s letter of request, after an explanation of why Nik was the one defending him and not Apollo, Ray smiled a bit. “Well, that went better than I expected it to.”

“What’d you expect?”

“Your uncle is being defended from a murder charge by a teenager , kiddo; I expected him to faint.”

“... I’d be insulted if I hadn’t expected the exact same thing.”

Ray chuckles a little and then smirks. “Come on. We should go see your Pops at the clinic and pick up the evidence from him.”

“... And make sure he’s okay.”

“Yeah, that too.”

“... You have no sympathy, do you, Mr. Shields?”

“Not really, no.”

“Ugh… do you think I can at least convince the judge to let me get Uncle Clay into a suit? If he’s well-dressed, it might be easier to convince people that he’s innocent.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Meanwhile, you go visit your Pops.”

Nik follows the elder attorney’s advice and gathers his things from Apollo before heading home to look through it all.

The victim is a fellow astronaut of Clay’s by the name of Nova Vega; a promising new recruit who’d idolized Clay ever since the incident with the Hat-2 rocket. She’d just become a member of the Belief-1 rocket’s crew recently and was set to be the navigator for the crew. Nik can try to bring up the lack of a motive, but he has no doubt it would easily be trumped by the evidence against his Uncle: the murder weapon was found in Clay’s locker, his name was written in the victim’s blood, and the records showing that Clay’s jacket ID was used to get into the lab where she was killed.

As he’s beginning to formulate what happened, Emely plops down next to him with an exaggerated sigh. “Nik, I’m bored… Can I paint your nails?”

Knowing there is no possible way to get out of this, Nik simply holds out his left hand to her while he continues to look over the papers.

Nikolas Justice will be making his courtroom debut with sparkly, midnight blue polish on his nails…

At least this case can’t possibly get any worse.

Chapter Text

But alas, the universe has never been very kind to the Justice Family, so when Nik gets up the next morning and goes to get dressed, he finds that the suit he’s long since picked out for his court debut is missing and has to spend almost an hour looking for it, before realizing he still hasn’t actually gotten it from Phoenix, who’d purchased it, but is only going to give it to him once he graduates from Themis.

Thankfully, Athena had given him a green waistcoat as congrats gift for getting into the school, so he finds the black shirt that he normally wears with his uniform and then adds in the purple tie he’d been given as a gag gift about a year ago, situating his Papa’s bracelet on his left wrist, and the attorney’s badge on his lapel.

Things only seem to get worse when his medical examiner for this case ends up being Director Hotti of the Hickfield Clinic. He has no problem feeling relieved that the perverted doctor is Nahyuta’s problem rather than his.

“The victim… had no pulse.”

“Yes, that is indicative of being dead! And while we’re on the subject of things being indicative , I still have yet to receive the autopsy report!”

“I gave the report to… Officer Meekins.”

“... Nikolas, help?” Nahyuta pleads, a desperate look in his eyes.

Nik sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “As my Opa would put it, Officer Meekins is habitually late… Due to habitually becoming lost along the way. Luckily, I received my copy last night. The victim is Nova Vega; the woman set to be the navigator on the Belief-1 spacecraft. She was found dead in the robotics lab the night before the shuttle was set to launch; cause of death was a stab wound to the stomach utilizing a drill from the very same lab.”

“This is where I can actually take part in the trial,” Nahyuta says softly, in his usual calm demeanor. “The major factors leading up to Mr. Terran’s arrest were a bloody message, the weapon being found inside his locker, and the fact that his jacket’s ID was used to get into the lab around the approximated time of death. The message was the defendant’s first name written in the victim’s blood. The prosecution seeks to simply find the truth of Ms. Vega’s killer, so that her soul may be put to rest.”

“Very well. Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, call your first witness,” the judge agrees.

“As you wish, Your Honor. The prosecution would like to call the director of the robotics lab, Mr. Russ Tinayle to the stand.”

Moments later, Nik is met with a stout little man with red hair and a dark complexion.

“Witness, please state your name and occupation for the record,” Nahyuta requests.

“Russ Tinayle; I head up the robotics lab at the Cosmos Space Center,” the stout man explains, his words coated in a thick Scottish accent.

The moment the man takes the stand, Nik has to force himself not to cover his ears, hearing something akin to what would be discord for Athena. In Nik’s case, he can hear a variety of songs, all playing at once.

“Mister Tinayle, can you please tell us about the wide variety of security features in the robotics lab?” Nahyuta requests.

“Sure thing,” the scientist agrees, giving a curt nod. “The robotics lab is equipped with several layers of security ever since the incidents with both the Hat-1 murder and Hat-2 assault. We only allow a select few members of the Center’s staff entrance. As such, only specific staff IDs can be used to enter the lab. Thus, only those allowed inside the robotics lab would’ve been capable of killing Ms. Vega.”

“Hm, I see… So the security in the robotics lab is rather tight,” the judge says softly.

“Indeed, Your Honor,” Nahyuta agrees. “Not many are given the clearance to enter. However, the defendant and the victim both had this clearance.”

“Very well… Mr. Justice, you may begin your cross-examination.”

“Yes, Your Honor,” Nik agrees, turning his attention from the judge to the witness. “Mr. Tinayle, aside from my client and the victim, who all had access to the robotics lab?”

“Aside from Terran and Vega, only myself, Director Cosmos, and Solomon Starbuck have the proper clearance level,” the red-haired man explains.

“And the blame for this crime cannot be placed upon any but Mr. Terran,” Nahyuta steps in with a hand on his prayer beads. “Starbuck, Cosmos, and Tinayle all have solid alibis for the time of the murder.”

Dammit… this isn’t looking good .

“O-Okay, I see… Witness, is there any chance that someone may have taken Mr. Terran’s jacket from him? It wouldn’t be the first time someone has used a staff member’s jacket to bypass security,” the blonde points out.

“While I’d love to say that’s not likely since we now require employees to place their jackets in cases that are only accessible via fingerprint scanners… I can’t. Mr. Terran tends to be quite haphazard with his jacket, often leaving it on tables in the mess hall or even taking it home with him when he leaves the center,” Tinayle admits. “I can’t deny the possibility that someone may have taken it and used it in his place. Especially since Clay didn’t have his jacket on when he met me outside the lab, just before we discovered Vega’s body.”

Nik frowns when he hears more and more noise piling up on top of the true song in the witness’s heart. “Your Honor, I believe that the witness is distressed by the death of his colleague. With your permission, I’d like to run a quick musical therapy session.”

“Hm… Mr. Sahdmadhi, have you any objections?”

“None, Your Honor. The defense may do as it pleases, so long as it leads to the truth.”

“Very well. Defense, proceed.”

Nik simply nods, taking an earpiece out of his pocket and pressing it into his ear before turning his attention to the little, tiny screen attached to it, which is nestled just in front of his eye. The boy digs and digs, eliminating each individual piece of noise until finally, the mess of sound is cleared, and Nik understands.

“Your Honor, I believe I now have a clear understanding of things. As such, I’d like to call my client to the stand, with permission from yourself and the prosecution, of course,” Nik says simply. “But, I’d still like the current witness to be within his line of sight; I need to confirm something.”

Clay seems to blanch a bit. “Uh… I plead the fifth?” the astronaut says with a sheepish grin.

“Pleading the fifth means you can’t be forced to incriminate yourself by saying something that could potentially incriminate you. In this case, it’d be for Ms. Vega’s murder. If what I’m thinking is right, then you have nothing to worry about,” the blonde argues.

“I’ll allow it,” the Judge says simply.

“As will I,” Nahyuta concedes, recognizing that his nephew is picking up on something.

The bailiff brings Clay up to the stand, where the raven pointedly avoids looking at Tinayle.

The questioning goes on for a while until Clay finally admits that the reason he’d met up with Russ was that the man is actually Vega’s biological father, and he’d been trying to talk the man into telling her the truth, which is why Clay is actually bitter towards the man.

Nik can understand that; Clay probably didn’t like the way that Tinayle was handling things because it reminded him of Nik’s own biological father.

“I see… So, after the discovery that Mr. Tinayle was actually refusing to see Ms. Vega at all, what did you do?” Nahyuta questions.

“Er… regarding that conversation… I plead the fifth. My silence is not an admission of anything, though; I just don’t think it’d be appropriate if I repeated it in a courtroom,” Clay admits.

I speak Clay Terran: ‘I don’t think it’d be appropriate if I repeated myself in a courtroom’ translates to ‘this motherfucker reminds me of my nephew’s son of a bitch bio-dad, so I cursed the motherfucking son of a whore bitch the everloving shit out’... Wow, my Uncle has the mouth of a sailor.

“In other words, the defendant cursed him out,” Nik says bluntly

“And you know this how Mr. Justice?” the judge questions.

“Your Honor, Mr. Terran, and my Papa are practically brothers. I see him at least once or twice a week, and the guy has the mouth of a sailor. He’s only rivaled by his husband, whose swearing levels would make a sailor blush ,” the teen admits.

“I resent that!” Daryan calls from the gallery.

“I believe you mean ‘resemble’, Shark Boy,” Clay teases from the defense chair.

“Look, my point is, I speak Clay Terran. That choice of phrasing means that the previous witness was cursed out by the defendant,” Nik says honestly. “And… I’m pretty sure it has to do with me, to be honest. Actually, by the way, he just went rigid, I’d say it definitely had something to do with me.”

“Oh? How do you mean, Mr. Justice?” the judge says simply.

“Your Honor, my client has a very strong belief that if one has the opportunity to be there for their child, they should take it; this philosophy stems back from both personal experience, and a case from when I was a child,” the blonde explains. “To make a long story short, my biological father is a prison inmate, and although the circumstances were far different between his twin brother making my mother hate him and said twin brother attempting to kidnap me, and then my bio dad nearly-accidentally- framing my Papa for murder, he still refused to see me; he refuses to see me to this day.”

“Yep. Look, I cursed that motherfucking son of a whore bitch the everloving shit out, but I had no reason to kill Nova. The kid was like family to me; I was there with Ol’ Russ that day in hopes of convincing him to tell her. That’s why I gave her access to the lab,” Clay says honestly.

“First off, Mr. Terran, mind your language. Second, you did what ?!” Nahyuta demands.

As the trial goes on, it comes to light that Clay had given Nova his jacket so that she could get in, in hopes that overhearing his conversation with Russ would spark her to ask and result in her learning the truth. It’s soon discovered that Nova was actually killed by someone she’d perceived as a friend who’d been obsessively in love with her to the point that they went around telling people not to date her. The man, a security engineer at the Space Center and the supposed ‘first one to find the body’, had seen her wearing a jacket that wasn’t hers and had assumed that she and Clay were seeing each other behind Daryan’s back.

This misthought prompts Daryan to possessively hug his husband once the ‘not guilty’ is handed down.

“You sure you don’t want to be a defense attorney?” Cecil teases while Nik chugs down a bottle of water, trying to regain the water he’d sweated out.

“No chance,” Nik says in-between glugs. “I’ve done both sides of a court case now, and I honestly believe that prosecuting is a lot less stressful, and therefore, it is better for my heart.”

“And you couldn’t handle the look on Mr. Gavin’s face if you told him you were switching back to defense.”

“Yeah, that too.”

Chapter Text

Nik bites his lip as he strums on his guitar, while Mari and Cecil finish up the details of a student fundraiser, and Lucky sits off to the side. The quartet’s time together had started as a study session, with Nik helping Lucky with math homework since he’d finished his own homework the night before, but eventually, Mari and Cecil ended up having to get started on a student fundraiser that is taking place next month, which Nik is taking part in as well. He and a couple of friends from the Music club will be providing music for the fundraiser, and Lucky has agreed to bake some small items for the occasion.

However, the dilemma that Mari and Cecil are dealing with is the placement of each club’s table/booth. Particularly, the pop culture club and the literature club.

“What if we put the literature club here on the end, to the left of the anime/manga club?” Cecil offers.

“No, the literature club would spend the whole day talking about how manga isn’t ‘real literature’ and cause a fight; same with the pop culture club. What if we put pop culture between science and history?” Mari says, pointing to a spot on the floorplan.

“Not a good idea; pop culture can include fantasy elements, and the science club denotes the existence of anything that they can’t prove,” Cecil argues, running a hand through his hair out of stress. “Y’know, I really thought that Student Council would be less stressful when I won the SCP election.”

“Trust me, Ce; the higher ranked you are in student council, the more stress you’ll have to deal with,” the pinkish-brunette says gently, rubbing his shoulder. “It doesn’t help that you and your VP hate each other.”

Nik stops strumming and turns his attention to the pair of student council members. “I’m confused by that statement; don’t the class president and class VP have to run together?”

“The actual president of the country does have to side with a specific VP, but high school politics don’t work the same way,” Mari says honestly, leaning back in her chair. “VPs and Presidents have to be voted separately. Hollis wanted to run for class president, but he didn’t get enough nominations.”

“It takes everything in me not to punch that pompous 下衆野郎 in the face during the student council meetings,” Cecil says with his teeth gritted.

“You’ve got more balls than I do; I wouldn’t be able to stop myself,” Lucky says honestly, making a list of what baked goods to bring for the fundraiser. “Can’t you just appeal for a different VP?”

“I would if I could, but I’d need two thirds of the student council at minimum to side with me, and aside from Mari, the only person that sees what a 下衆野郎 Hollis can be is Ryland, and he’s scared to death of the guy,” Cecil explains sadly, sticking a DumDum into his mouth and pouting.

“Well… There is one other way,” Mari admits. “If you catch him breaking even one school rule, even a minor one like the dress code, and present proof of that to the principal, then he wouldn’t be able to retain any position on the student council.”

“Too bad past actions won’t count against him… Heck, even if he did, Nikky’s been unwilling to testify, so it wouldn’t matter,” Lucky shrugs.

Nik frowns, glancing at the photo-sticker placed on his guitar. It’s the picture that the three of them had taken with Ray Chase at their first PAX East trip, all with huge grins on their faces. Right beside it is a sticker in the style of a photo strip, showing four different pictures of himself and Cecil, both with big smiles on their faces. In the first picture, they were dressed up for Halloween, Nik in his Jove Justice costume and Cecil dressed as his Papa. The second showed them at the aquarium during Nik’s last year of primary school, getting a picture with the penguins(Simon had paid for that one). The third was Nik’s last dance of middle school, where they’d both worn suits of each other’s favorite colors: Cecil in dark green, and Nik in midnight blue. Finally, Nik’s first day of Themis, both in their respectively colored uniforms.

Cecil has been such a prominent figure in his life, always there to help him smile or make him feel better. Cecil has helped him out of an abusive relationship, given him ways to cope with his powers, and given him the strength to face Hollis in a mock-trial. If Cecil can do all of this for him, Nik can help Cecil.

“What if I was willing to testify?” the blonde says simply, lifting his head.

While Cecil and Lucky simply stare, Mari says, “If that were the case, then you could advocate for Hollis’s expulsion; abusers, past or present, aren’t allowed to attend school here.”

Cecil takes a deep breath before grabbing Nik’s hand and pulling him into the house. Isolde wasn’t home, and both Simon and Sebastian were working today, so the raven had no trouble talking about this in the living room.

“Are you sure about this?” Cecil says simply, holding the blonde’s shoulders in concern. “The last time you tried to get on the stand to testify against him, you were dry-heaving for almost three hours; you had to be checked into the hospital for severe dehydration.”

“... Yeah, I’m sure,” Nik decides, taking the raven’s hands into his. “I-I can’t just let him keep making people suffer. If I can help stop that, then I want to try .”

Cecil simply pecked his boyfriend’s lips. “Okay… I’ll be right there for you, alright? Don’t listen to anyone’s song but mine, so that you have something to focus on.”

Nik smiles a little and kisses his boyfriend’s cheek, slowly nodding. “Thanks, Schatz.”

~*~

“I can’t believe you got Winston Payne to prosecute this trial,” Phoenix whispers to his husband. “I mean, the Hollis family finally had to accept the public defender because nobody would take the case!”

“I told him that if he didn’t, I’d demote him down to a lower position and dock his pay,” Miles says simply whilst readjusting his glasses. The gallery is filled to the brim with Nik’s loved ones, and among the young blonde’s supporters are Jove, Thalassa, Apollo, Klavier, Miles, Phoenix, Cecil, Emely, Roman, Sebastian, Nahyuta, Lucky, Ezekiel, Trucy, Pearl-who was channeling Artemis- Ephraim, and Simon. “He went along with it right after that.”

“Still. I mean, half the prosecutor’s office is related to him somehow and had the whole ‘conflict of interest’ excuse,” He points out. “You cited a conflict of interest on the ground of being Nik’s grandfather, Klav on the grounds of being his dad, Blackquill and DeBeste because Nik is dating their son, Nahyuta because Nik is his nephew, and Franziska threatened to whip you because you being his grandpa basically makes her his great aunt.”

“True, it was difficult finding someone who didn’t have a conflict of interest regarding this case, but whether Payne likes it or not, his success is guaranteed with Nik finally speaking out about it,” Miles says simply, taking his glasses off to wipe away a smudge.

“Yeah, but we have to hope that Nik actually manages to say something,” Roman points out. “I mean, last time he tried to do this, he went into a panic attack and ended up in the hospital after his dry-heaving left him dehydrated.”

“He can do this. It’s taken time, but he’s gotten stronger,” Lucky says adamantly. “We’re just here for moral support.”

~*~

“I can’t believe this… You’re the son of a famous defense attorney, and yet you’re helping the prosecution?!” Payne screeched.

Nik simply shook his head. “Prosecution, defense; none of that really matters to me. What I care about are truth and justice, and Hollis will just go on to hurt more people if I don’t speak up. I don’t know where you got your badge, but at Themis, we’re taught to pursue the truth. Now if I’m right, we’re supposed to enter now.”

“But I haven’t even heard your testimony yet!”

“You’ll hear it with everyone else. I’m not speaking for you; I’m speaking for myself, and for everyone that Thomas Jefferson Hollis has ever hurt.”

“That’s insane!”

“I’m German, but even I still know that’s America. Have fun trying to get Hollis into cuffs.”

~*~

“... Name and occupation?” Payne questions begrudgingly.

Nik takes a deep breath and smiles. “Nikolas Justice. I’m a Prosecution course student at Themis Legal Academy.”

“I see… and you said you have information on the defendant?” the judge questions.

“In a manner of speaking. I dated him for a while, but it ended when things became violent,” the boy explains.

“I see… Mr. Justice, your testimony.”

Nik simply nods, focusing on the sound of Cecil’s heart.

“Hollis and I started dating during our first year of middle school. He started out being nice, but after about a month or two, he started to show his true colors. If he even remotely thought I was romantically involved with someone else, I’d get either beaten or told off for it, even when he knew it was just a close friend of mine or even a cousin. He took every excuse he could to mock me, humiliate me, and abuse me. I just don’t want to see this happen to anyone else.”

“I’m terribly sorry, Mr. Justice,” the judge says softly. “Would the defense like to cross-examine the witness?”

The public defender, a slender man-Nik recalled that his name was Don Keigh- with the face of a rat, simply smirks. “Yes, Your Honor.”

“Very well, Mr. Keigh. Proceed with your cross-examination.”

The public defender smirks, turning his gaze towards Nik.

“Tell me something, Mr. Justice: if my client did such horrible things to you, then why did you wait so long to come forward? Surely you knew how hard it would be to press charges without doing so.

“I did, but put yourself in my shoes. I’d just gotten out of an abusive relationship that my best friend and the man who’s now my boyfriend practically had to force me out of, and I still had some physical marks on me,” Nik says simply, pocketing his hands. “My mental state was, understandably, not in the best condition.”

“So, you’re saying that had your friends not forced you to do so, you would’ve to remain in a relationship with my client?” Keigh said simply, trying to lure Nik into a trap. “Do you believe that he could’ve learned to be better? That he could’ve become a nicer boyfriend?”

“I honestly don’t think he’ll be capable of change until someone calls him out on everything he’s already done. Would I have remained in a relationship with him? Maybe, but given how things had been going, I’m pretty sure that I would’ve only been able to take it for another week at most before taking my own life,” the blonde says honestly. “I’m only still here because of my friends.”

“I see… One last question, Mr. Justice. Is there any proof that you truly received any sort of physical injuries?” Keigh questions, clearly thinking he’s found a contradiction.

“I have school pictures of myself with a bandage holding my broken nose in place. Plus, literally, everyone in my family took pictures of these injuries, which Mr. Payne already entered into the Court Record,” Nik answers honestly.

“And the headphones? Were those a result of an injury my client inflicted on you?” Keigh says desperately, trying to find something he can twist around.

“Nope. I started wearing these afterward for medical reasons. They have no relevance to this case.”

“Urk!... No further questions, Your Honor…”

“Very well. If both sides are done, then I’m ready to hand down my verdict. This court finds the defendant, Thomas Hollis… guilty!”

Nobody cheers, though, it’s entirely at Nik’s request. Hollis had spent their entire relationship being a jerk to Nik, but Nik doesn’t want to cheer for his punishment. Instead, he wants to hope that Hollis can become better, and find happiness someday. Cecil even keeps his word, instead going down to the witness stand and pulling Nik into his arms as he mumbles a simple phrase.

“I’m proud of you.”

Chapter Text

“Come on, Ce, just tell me already: What are you getting Nik for Christmas?!” Lucky exclaims excitedly. Someone-ie, Ezekiel- had made the mistake of giving the boy-who is extremely susceptible to sugar and caffeine- a candy cane, so he’s currently on a bit of a sugar rush.

Cecil rolls his eyes a bit. “I know you’d tease me if I got him a video game as I have in past years, so I got him a mood ring. Y’know, to stand in the place of a promise ring until I can afford one.”

“... Wait, are you serious?” he asks, suddenly off his sugar high.

“No, I said it because I knew you were faking your sugar high when you asked. Honestly, what sort of person do you take me for? A mood ring? I won him one on our first date, Lucio ; I’m not getting him something he already has for Christmas,” Cecil says as he rolls his eyes, walking with a purpose. “I have something else in mind.”

“If it’s a video game or a set of matching sweaters, then I reserve the right to make fun of you.”

Cecil groans before stepping into Unique Imports and heading towards the back of the store to make sure they still have what he’s looking for, eyes scanning across the jewelry case until he finds it.

He’d first found the item a few months ago by accident when putting his Halloween costume together, and given that Nik’s favorite Final Fantasy game thus far is VII, it’s the perfect gift: a pendant modeled after the wolf’s head on Cloud’s Advent Children outfit. It’s real metal, hand-crafted, and is actually surprisingly light. Nik has been searching for one similar to it for months now and has been unable to find one that he was willing to pay for since they tended to be expensive.

He gives the cashier the money, and she takes it out of the case, placing it in a box before handing it to him.

“Arigato,” the boy says simply, bowing his head and placing the box into his school bag before heading back home to wrap it.

He’s home alone for now, with Simon and Sebastian both at work and Isolde at Martial Arts practice, but he doesn’t mind; the quiet allows him to wrap Christmas gifts in peace. After everything is wrapped, however, he becomes bored and decides to go check on Taka, whom Simon had taken to leaving in the house whenever he knew that one of the kids would be home alone. Sebastian had taken to calling it ‘early onset empty nest syndrome’, and Cecil feels that this is a very accurate description. Simon just didn’t like to leave his kids completely alone; he wanted them to at least have a large, predatory and potentially dangerous bird around to defend them. As Cecil is cleaning up any dead feathers that Taka had removed while cleaning herself and then petting the lovely bird, he jumps a bit at the sound of the doorbell and goes to answer it, smiling when he sees that it’s Nik.

He simply opens the door, not questioning anything until Nik begins dragging him out of the house and towards their school. However, when he sees Lucky as well, he frowns a bit and finally decides to ask, “What in the world is going on?”

“You know how Nik decided, just for funsies, to try out for the school play? Like how Emely forced him to be the Bert to her Mary in middle school?” Lucky questions. “Well, Themis is doing Aladdin this year, and he tried out for Genie; most over the top, flashy character in the show since he’s… over the top and flashy himself.”

“Wait, did he not get in? I mean, he could easily pull off the Genie,” Cecil says with wide eyes, unable to believe what Lucky is insinuating. “I might be a little biased, but if there’s anything Nik knows other than law and video games, it’s singing, dancing, and acting… Okay, that’s three things, but you get the point, right?”

“Oh, totally, and he did get into the play, but-””Mr. Shields, I need to speak with you about a casting error!” Nik announces, entering Ray’s office.

“Oh, hey, Nikky,” the curly-haired man smirk. “What can I do for you on the one day I have this month to catch up on grading?”

“There was a mistake in the casting; the cast list says I’m playing the part of Aladdin,” the blonde explains with a scared look in his eyes. “I’m over the top and flashy, so I tried out for Genie, who is also over the top and flashy.”

“Oh, there was no mistake, Nikky boy. I wanted to give you a challenge, so instead of a role that would come easy to you, I gave you the understated, not flashy in any way Aladdin,” Ray says simply, with a light shrug. “I mean you can hit the notes, right?”

“Of course I can hit the notes, but that’s not the issue here! I’ve never done a complex character like Aladdin; the closest I’ve come to complex was Bert in my middle school production of Mary Poppins!” the blonde announces.

“Nik! Calm down!” Cecil pleads, grabbing him by the shoulders and shaking him a bit.

Nik takes a deep breath and sits down to calm down.

“Look, NIkky,” Ray says calmly, leaning forward and clasping his hands together over a pile of papers. “I put you in the part of Aladdin because you’ve never done a complex, quiet character like Aladdin. You are a flashy, bombastic person like Genie, but that’s why I’m don’t want you doing that role. It ain’t healthy to do a role that’s too similar to how you actually are. So, you can either do Aladdin, or you can not be in the play.”

“... I hate you for making me choose between something I enjoy and someone I enjoy,” Nik whines, faceplanting into the desk.

“Nikky, if you choose to pursue life as an actor, then you’ll thank me someday,” the teacher/lawyer says simply.

“For now, I’m going to hate you.”

“... We’ll take my over the top and flashy boyfriend home now, Mr. Shields. Terribly sorry about bothering you for such a trivial matter,” Cecil reassures, putting his arms under Nik’s pits. “Lucky, you take his ankles.”


 

“So… how did our son end up dramatically laying face down on the couch with a script under his face and his boyfriend playing with his hair?” Apollo asks when he arrives home.

Nik is laying down on the family couch, script for the play under his face and Cecil sitting on the arm by his head, playing with his hair.

“Well, the school is doing a play before we let out for winter break; a rushed production of Aladdin. Nik tried out for the part of the Genie,” Cecil explains, frowning a bit. “Nik, honey, I can feel you tensing up again; just focus on something else.”

“Oh, did he end up a stagehand or something instead?” Klavier questions worriedly from the kitchen.

At that question, Nikolas finally pops up, scaring Cecil so bad that the poor, socially awkward boy falls off the couch. “Worse! I got cast as Aladdin! I mean, come on; I thought that miscasts only happened in middle school and sometimes college!” The boy then replanted his face in the couch cushions.

“... Nikolas Palamedes Justice, I want to remind you that you were cast as Aladdin . The lead character . Why are you upset?!” Cecil demands, kind of sick of Nik’s over the top drama.

“Aladdin is an emotionally complex character, and I am not! I am like my dad; an over the top, flashing fop!”

“Oi!” Klavier pouts from the kitchen, wearing his ‘I’m a lawyer; my kids don’t get away with anything’ shirt and holding a mug of tea in his hand. “I resent that statement.”

“No, darling; you resemble it,” Apollo argues before going back to reassuring his son. “And, Nik, Aladdin has one of the best love songs in history, and I’ve heard you hit the notes for it on those nights that you think we don’t know you snuck Cecil into your room for a movie marathon.”

“... First, I keep forgetting that I can’t lie to you. Second, I am not a ‘more than this provincial life’ guy! I am a ‘you ain’t never had a friend like me’ guy! Yet Mr. Shields refused to budge on it!” Nik pouts intensely. “I’m suited towards shows like Mean Girls , Dear Evan Hansen , and Grease , not Hamlet , Phantom of the Opera , and Macbeth !”

“... You really only had to list two,” Apollo points out.

“Rule of three, Papa. Rule. Of. Three.”

“Look, Nikky-”

“Did you know I was cast as the ‘Beast’ in my high school production of Beauty and the Beast during my junior year?” Klavier jumps in.

Nik simply stares. “You. As the Beast ?”

“At Professor Courte’s insistence. Like you, I tried out for the over the top and flashy character, AKA, Lumiere. I even went to her office about a casting error, just like you. And like Herr Shields, she told me that she didn’t want me putting myself into a box; she wanted me to expand my musical and actorial horizons,” Klavier explains.

“But I like my box! I’m comfortable there!” Nik argues.

“As was I, but once I actually tried the more serious role, I fell in love with it. Beast was something new, and exciting, and I went home after each practice feeling invigorated, as though I’d finally breathed fresh air after breathing through an oxygen mask for so long. It took a role that was outside my comfort zone to make me realize that I was bored with the same old character time and time again,” Klavier reassures, ruffling his son’s blonde locks. “Just give it a chance, alright?”

Nik stares and pouts. “... Fine, but if I hate it, I’ll kick you.”

The German man pouts and turns towards Apollo with a slight glare.

“What?”

“He’s your son alright.”