He stood within the courtyard, this time without the dozens of animal friends. The wind caught his hair for a moment, wisps pulled free from his braid. He turned to soundlessly face her as she came closer, his brilliant green eyes questioning her.
For a second she forgot everything she'd meant to do. The plastic bag of evidence shoved between her bottles of chemicals and luminol, and everything she'd had to add about the case. All of it gone with one glance. Seconds went on and she said nothing. They were framed in history, stone and pagodas in the distance, and a tomb left empty, with only ghosts remaining. A frog jumped beneath the pond, the lotus petals made the water ripple. Soul butterflies fluttered up from the curtain of flowers that hung down from the ornate balcony.
Finally, he spoke.
"Detective Skye, is something the matter? You keep staring."
She caught a hint of brown marring his thick and silvery hair. Finally--an excuse, a lifeline. Something other than actually I was just a little stunned and maybe a bit captivated.
"Oh! Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, there's a bug in your hair."
He absently reached up and tried to brush it off, but completely missed.
"No, not there--Here, just let me--"
She had to stand on tiptop to reach him. Damn stupid tall prosecutors with their stupid brilliant looks that made her both a little jealous that he managed it effortlessly, impressed and captivated.
Her breath caught at the contact. The softness of his hair, so thick beneath her fingers as she dislodged now what she could see was very much not an insect.
"Oh, it was just a leaf. Um. Yeah. A leaf."
Her hand hovered near his cheek, leaf still held tight to her palm. She'd gotten closer than she intended, due to the height disparity. He'd leaned in--to see? To be closer to her? If he bent much closer, skin would touch. Just a little bit more and their mouths would touch.
And she was so near. She could touch his hair against so easily and blame it on the wind, another mythical bug which turned out to be just a leaf. Rapunzel, let down your long hair and let me play with it already. She'd had those thoughts so many times and pushed them away. No, Ema. You only can do that to someone you're dating and he's not your boyfriend. Yet, anyways.
And really, it'd be so much easier if they'd just date already. She'd braid his hair and make flower crowns and they'd watch things like Unsolved Mysteries reruns and Forensic Files and try and solve the cases. Also in this fantasy she had fantastic hair because he shared his secrets with her, and they had together solved every single case in Khura'in and much of the world and probably won joint won the Nobel prize for Forensic Science, which was invented just for them.
Really, all one of them have to do was move a fraction nearer and everything would change. The sunlight glimmered off of his gold and white sherwani. Being this close to him was like stepping into a fairy tale daydream. She could be wrapped up in his arms, and know what it was like to taste his lips against hers.
This was the moment in a movie when the music would make a crescendo, but there was nothing here, expect the drum solo her heart was making. Was he leaning in, or was it just her imagination combined with a healthy dose of wishful thinking?
"Detective Skye..." His voice was so melodious and soft. It broke her from her reverie.
"Oh, um. I was here to give you that evidence you asked for, actually," Ema said.
Ema blushed, and quickly glanced down and dug into her bag. She pulled out the small bagged sample, small enough to fit in her palm, and handed it over. He took it and glanced over the contents.
"Oh, and a leaf. But you don't need that," Ema said.
He reached out. Their hands grazed. Instead of drawing back, his hand slipped in hers. The leaf folded between their palms. It had to be an accident. That was the main startled thought inside her. But other thoughts, like how good that touch felt filled her. So she didn't pull away, and he didn't pull away.
They stood there longer and longer, and yet made no move to draw away. She just savored the moment in all its dream-like surreality. His hand in hers, as he looked through the evidence. Like it was normal for a prosecutor and a detective to just--accidentally hold hands right in the middle of the courtyard. And keep holding hands as the seconds stretched into minutes.
"Hey, Nahyuta, do you have the transcripts for--" Apollo broke off as he saw them. "Am I interrupting something?"
Ema wrenched her hand away so fast that Prosecutor Sahdmadhi flinched. The crumpled leaf fluttered to the ground. "It was an accident! I was just getting a bug from his hair--but it wasn't a bug, it was a leaf. Then I had some evidence to give him. Anyways, I've got to get going. More evidence to process!"
She rushed off and left them behind in the garden. Her complicated feelings and racing heart went with her, to leave her blushing all the rest of the day over what had almost been.
When Ema had left, Apollo turned to Nahyuta.
"Nothing, my foot. Why don't you just ask her out on a date already?"
Nahyuta's eyes narrowed. "I would have, if you hadn't so rudely interrupted me."
Butterflies fluttered away in a rush. His frown was one lightning bolt away from resembling his mother's wrath. That didn't stop Apollo, however. He faced Nahyuta as if he was against him in court right that minute.
"Hmmph. She's been here for months, and you knew her for plenty of time before then. You don't get to use that excuse."
"Yes, months that have been cumulating unto this very day, when I was to ask her," Nahyuta said.
"What, did you put a leaf in your hair and sit down hoping she'd get it out?"
Nahyuta's brow furrowed. "That. was a windfall of fate. It is as Ema told me. You are a 'complete cockblock.'"
If there'd been a bench to lean upon dramatically, Apollo would've fallen against it. "Whaaat! What kind of things is she teaching you?"
"Many important things. She has opened my mind and borders. My vocabulary is changing and growing, and so am I in many ways."
"I can only imagine," Apollo said dryly.
"So, what was it that was so important that you had to barge in so callously?"
"Don't be cranky, Nahyuta. I just needed the case notes. I tried to ask Ema, but she wasn't around."
"It is fine. You shall descend to the hell of a thousand cockblocks. All your future dates will be interrupted by court dates--"
"Oh, come on. As if I'd have a time to ever have a date with my case load. And this isn't about me, anyways. If you want her, go get her. Stop waiting for the perfect moment and being a grump and go get her already."
"Hmm. Perhaps later. I have evidence to process now, and yes, notes to give. Now, if you will follow me, I will find what you requested."
"You're the ruler of this place. Just take a break for a minute," Apollo said with exasterpation.
He took a moment to respond, and finally chuckled. "For a moment, you sounded just like her."
"That's almost as scary as the fact that you're reminding me of her right now with this bad mood," Apollo said.
He closed his eyes. "Yes...before you know I'll be eating those 'Snackoos' during court."
"God help us all," Apollo said.
A knock came at the door. Now, if she was in L.A., her response would be more along the lines of if you aren't Lana or the pizza delivery guy, go murder someone else! I'm not stupid enough to let a serial killer in.
However, in Khura'in, things were different. A knock at the door meant Prosecutor Sahdmadhi was calling her--or another murder had happened.
"Just a second!"
So, even though night had fallen and she knew damn well it wasn't the delivery guy, Ema put aside the bag of snackoos, paused the video on her phone. The buffering was hell with these mountains, but the only other options was Plumed Punisher reruns, and most of the ones set during Ga'ran's regime were just pure propoganda. Having seen the dark and ugly sides of her reign, it left her with a faint sour taste, and ruined any amusement she could've had. She tossed away the thick blanket and made a run for the door as the knocking came again.
"Jeez, just wait a minute..."
After work she'd changed out straight into a cute pastel pair of pajamas, with beakers and flowers all over them. Something she regretted when she opened the door and realized just who was there waiting for her. The least she could've done is put on a robe. The spaghetti strap on her tank top slipped down her left shoulder. It was pretty cold, and she wasn't even wearing a bra. Was she showing through her top? Could he see? He'd probably be too proper to give a second glance, even if he noticed.
The seconds dragged on, and he said nothing. Yeah, sure she'd answered the door in her pajamas, but what did he expect, coming unannounced after hours? She'd spilled a sample and multiple Snackoos down her lab coat, for fuck's sake.
He licked his lips, and Ema's thoughts were distracted. They were always distracted when it came to him, sure. But call attention to his mouth and her thoughts had a whole lot less flower crowns and more making out.
"I had many things to say, but I lost them all the moment I saw your face. In the end, all that can be said is that I wanted to kiss you today. And many times before today, but today was the time I almost did."
"Yeah, me too. So--do it already!"
He smiled, and ducked beneath her door frame, until he was just before her.
"I suppose there will be plenty of time for me to remember what to say."
He closed the door behind him, and gently pushed her against the door. The distance between them disappeared, and it was enough for her to ignore the chill and hardness against her back, which was all forgotten from the pressure of his body against hers. She thought maybe he was less of a gentleman than expected, when his fingers brushed down her other spaghetti strap. Still, he was reserved, even polite as his hands pinned her to the door, but didn't wander. His lips against hers was such a welcome warmth, that all she could do was lean up and try and angle herself for more. Her hands tangled so perfectly in his hair, undoing his braid bit by bit. She broke apart from the kiss only to come back for a second, gasping kiss which left her feeling more dizzy, and more captivated than ever.
A door wasn't exactly an ideal place to cuddle, but silence fell as they broke apart for breaths. She buried her face against his chest, just as she'd wanted to do so many times.
"Did you remember what you came here for?" she said playfully.
"I wanted to kiss you. But even more I had a pressing need to ask you out on a date."
"A 'pressing need' huh? I can tell," Ema teased.
He smiled at her brazen joke, and continued on. "Would you be free tomorrow for lunch?"
"You rule the place, you know damn well I am. And even if I wasn't all it'd take was an order to make it so," she said.
"As tempting as that thought is, your lunch period is already free. At least, until I monoplized it."
"What's new, you already got all my time working here. Might as well take up my breaks. Keep kissing me like that and I might even forgive you for the workload," Ema said.
"Is there a mathematical formula to this? A unit rate of kisses per grudge to ensure forgiveness."
She placed her hands on his chest. "Just wing it."
He leaned in. "Then I'll work to ensure your forgiveness every single day."
And it was almost like everything she'd dreamed of. Except they weren't wearing flower crowns together, and didn't yet have the Nobel prize.
At least, not yet.