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Seventeen (Once and Never Again)

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A lot of the faces at the Prosecutors Office are familiar, even after years away, because the average age trends about two decades older than Klavier and at that point little changes other than the one Payne’s horrible hair. The most familiar face he absolutely does not want to see is two days after he gets back — he is coming out of the elevator, still puzzling over a conversation he had this morning with Prosecutor Edgeworth that felt like it had at least three hidden layers. And there in front of him is someone he remembers from school who he wishes he didn't.

Sebastian Debeste looks older, but not by much — not by seven years, with his round face and hair much the same — and wears glasses now, his eyes gone huge behind them as he recognizes Klavier. They stare at each other, Klavier struggling for something to say, anything, even just "Hello, Prosecutor Debeste," and he manages nothing before Debeste, who was probably going to the elevator, makes an undignified retreat toward the stairwell. He is barely out of Klavier's way before Klavier bolts for the main lobby, sure that Debeste’s eyes follow his flight.

He isn't assigned to a case that goes to trial for a month and a half after his return; it does not take him long to refamiliarize himself with the office, but it gives him time to come to know the people who have arrived since his departure. He ends up down at the precinct a lot, consulting with the detectives there, learning the faces he hasn't seen before. He wishes he could work with Daryan again — one of the things he likes about Daryan is that even if he has his moments in which he is an asshole, he is consistent in it, and Klavier knows what to expect from him.

Others, not so much.

The first time he realizes that he is going to have trouble is a week after he returns to the office and he is sent down to the precinct to seek out Detective Gumshoe. Klavier recognizes the name, remembers the detective from that damned Gramarye trial, and recalls him being amiable. This recollection ends up in pieces approximately ten seconds after encountering the detective. Klavier manages to say, "Herr Gumshoe, I have some files that were requested from the office. My name is—"

"Yeah, pal, I remember you. Gavin, the kid who made Mr. Wright lose his badge!"

Something in his chest flash-freezes, brittle frost clinging in between his bones. He thrusts the files into Gumshoe's hands without a warning. "Phoenix Wright," he says coldly, his throat beginning to lock and leaving every word clipped short, "lost his badge himself, for forging evidence."

"Tell yourself that all you want, pal," the detective says (and Klavier does tell himself that, often, every time that trial's ghost emerges from the grave to haunt him. He has to tell himself that, he can't have been wrong; it has to have been Phoenix Wright, all him, only him), "but I know Mr. Wright, I knew him for a long time, and he would never do something like that!" The detective is at eye-level with Klavier, seeming a little shorter when he hunches, his shoulders high, staring down Klavier, like a bull about to charge.  

"Then I'm sorry that he disappointed you," he says, and the lump in his throat has dissolved into a bitter-tasting bile, knew him for a long time and he would never, "but sometimes no matter how many years you've known someone, you don't actually at all."

Something must show on his face because for a moment the detective falters, something like pity flashing across his features, and even when he again appears as though he wants to charge Klavier down, something of his anger is gone. "Yeah, but not Mr. Wright."

What would it be like, he wonders, to have the detective's staunch, unreasoning loyalty; his is the faith of hundreds of witnesses Klavier spoke with in his time as prosecutor, every loved one, family member, friend, of a suspect who insisted again and again, they would never do this, they could never do this, I know them and there's no way

Is everyone like that in some way? The thought flits across his mind and lodges itself in his heart which feels swollen too big for his chest, like it will soon suffocate him. Is it Klavier who is wrong, somehow, to think that the only thing that even seemed remotely implausible about the story is that Kris left behind enough evidence to be caught?

Much as he hates the tailspin into existential crisis, hates the reminder of the case that led him to flee the office, sometimes he thinks Gumshoe’s objection to him is better than the alternative. Gumshoe at least had a real, concrete problem with his real, concrete past actions, rather than, like other detectives and prosecutors he keeps knocking heads with, taking issue with a facsimile of Klavier Gavin constructed only on rumor and presumption. He’s used to people reading him wrong; he just expects it from the tabloids, not coworkers.

“You’re not on tour anymore, dude,” Daryan says to him one day at lunch, in the middle of May, three weeks after their return. “Nobody loves you here.”

“Quite rude of you to say,” Klavier says. “Not even you, Daryan?” He tries to put his chin on Daryan’s shoulder but is shoved away with a hand in his face before he can manage. “My own friend, betraying me like this? After everything we’ve been through?”

“I’m gonna hate you in a minute if I didn’t, dude.” Daryan rolls his eyes but is laughing.

“You’re also quite wrong. I’ve met a few fans down here at the precinct.” It’s the opposite side of the coin from those who dismiss him as a vapid rock star; these detectives, the fans, still only know him as a construct. But at least it is a kind of interaction at which he is well-practiced.

Almost evens out the fact that Skye hates you extra.” Daryan shakes his head. “She’s a fuckin’ ice queen, hates everyone, but god, dude, what did you do?”

“I have never seen her before in my life.” Another virtue of Gumshoe: he aired his grievances, not like Skye, who told Klavier to fuck off without either preamble or a follow-up. “I suppose it is my natural effect on women, ja?”

“You mean the part where you instill in them an insatiable lust for murder?”

“Yes.”

“Cool; just wanted to be clear, so that we — oh my god not again.”

“What?”

Daryan is looking at something through the doorway to the hall, at an angle Klavier can’t see. He sits up and leans over Daryan’s shoulder to follow his same line of sight. “Vending machines,” Daryan says, gesturing to the machines, and the young woman sitting on the floor in front of them. “She’s always fucking doing this.”

“Who, and what?”

Daryan stands and motions for Klavier to follow. “Yo, Faraday,” he calls on approach.

The woman looks up. She has long beautiful glossy black hair that she swings over her shoulder with a toss of her head. “Hi, Daryan!” she chirps. Klavier can see now that she has her hands stuck through the flap of the vending machine, maneuvering what appears to be pliers duct-taped to two pieces of rubber tubing. He thinks he can see the concept behind it — the tubes as extensions of the handles to operate the pliers and grab a bag of chips — but in practice it does not seem to be working out that way.

“There’s other vending machines in this building, you know.” Daryan sounds like he has said this before. He sounds weary.

“Yeah, but none of them stock Snackoos, and I paid for my Snackoos, so I want my Snackoos!” The pliers clatter noisily against the inside of the glass pane as she attempts to extract her innovative mechanism. “Haven’t seen you around before,” she says to Klavier, apparently unconcerned with holding a conversation from the floor. “Are you new here? I’m Detective Kay Faraday!” She grins and extends a hand up to him.

“Prosecutor Klavier Gavin.” He has to awkwardly double over to shake her hand. “I worked here before but have spent several years on leave.”

“Oh, so like Daryan.” About five seconds pass in silence and then Faraday gasps. “Wait! Are you in his band too?”

His band? Klavier does not have to look at his friend to know the smug expression that must be on his face, but he chances a glance anyway and yes, Daryan looks very smug. “Ja, he is in my band.” Daryan shoulder-checks him right into the vending machine. With the collision, the bag of Snackoos is jarred loose.

“Thanks, guys!” Faraday says brightly, retrieving her snack from the machine and jumping to her feet. “Anyway that’s cool that you’re in a band. That sounds way more exciting than the average day around here.”

“It is,” Daryan says.

Faraday shoves a handful of chocolate into her mouth and her bright eyes dart between the two of them. Klavier can see the question, the obvious why did you come back to work, then? and he forces the detached mask of celebrity and its empty smile, back into its place. “Hey, you know what’s cool about here, though?” she asks. “Me!” She places a playful punch on Klavier’s chest. “Maybe we’ll get to work together!”

Klavier knows a genuine smile when he sees one; Faraday’s is. “Perhaps we will.”

“I’ve gotta get going,” she says through another mouthful of chocolate. “See you later, Daryan!”

She darts off down the hall with her hair swinging behind her like a cape. “That’s Faraday,” Daryan says, still sounding something between tired and bored. “The unstoppable force to” — he hits the vending machine — “this ol’ bastard of an immovable object.”

“I think I like her,” Klavier says.

Daryan rolls his eyes. “Always a sucker for a pretty face.”

Blatantly untrue.”

Daryan looks at him.

“Maybe a little true.” But he has to admire the tenacity of someone who has improvised an invention that attempts to optimize her vending machine experience. Plus, she didn’t blow him off like more of his coworkers than not have.

And she is pretty. That is true.

He isn’t lucky enough to be assigned to work with her on his first case back out on investigation. He has to work with Skye instead, which is a miserable experience for both of them, and he is almost ready to wish he had never returned right until he meets the reason exactly why he returned. When the girl, pouting about not being allowed to investigate the crime scene, hands him the letter of defense request, he looks down and nearly drops it in shock, faced with the name Apollo Justice. That is the man who has been staring unabashedly at him, then.

He escorts them into the crime scene anyway, because he has looked it all over and will know if something has been changed. And Skye remains with her Snackoos and fury and he imagines if they touch anything she will tear them apart. If Justice is corrupt and tries anything, he and Skye will catch it, and he will nail him to the wall in court tomorrow and be done with it.

That isn’t how it happens and by the end of the case he thinks he has a little more measure of the man and no more perspective on Kristoph, which doesn’t really surprise him. Daryan heckles him for losing his first trial back. Faraday hears half of their conversation and, apparently having talked to Skye about the investigation at another point, demands to know who on earth if not the mafia prince was the murderer. Daryan wanders off back to work after getting tired of Faraday snickering like a child at the word panties as Klavier tells the abridged version of the trial. “Finally, an interesting case, and Ema doesn’t even appreciate it.” She pats Klavier on the shoulder. “It’s okay though; she doesn’t like anyone.” She pauses, her hand hovering in the air. “Except me, of course.”

The next three weeks of cases he continues to work with Skye. He is starting to grow used to hostility — from her, from other prosecutors, especially Edgeworth, and Klavier can see himself thrown out the door when the mantle of Chief Prosecutor falls to him as it looks wont to do sometime in the next year — and started to ignore it. It’s isolating, certainly, when the three nicest to him since he arrived back have been the dog he didn’t know Kristoph had that he is now responsible for, and at work Faraday, who he sees less frequently than the hawk that at some point took up residence in the courthouse. (And if he really wants to feel lonely, the only other two names he can add to the list of “most pleasant interactions with people I didn’t already know” are Justice, the man who put his brother in jail, and his assistant who Klavier took to be his little sister until he saw her name is Wright.) But he’s spending more time back with the band, prepping for a concert in their home city for the first time in years, and that takes a little bit of the sting away.

He does email Faraday, and Justice and Fraülein Junior Wright, inviting them all to the concert. He’s definitely not desperate for a social circle outside of his band. He’d invite the hawk too if it wasn’t a bird and thus probably unable to read, or have an email. Fraülein Wright emails back with no less than a dozen smiley faces and five less-than-three hearts. Faraday’s response is much less prompt and contains about seventeen frowny faces interspersed between phrases about how she already had plans and save a ticket for me for the next one!!

Sincerity is the hardest thing to gauge in text and Klavier has no way to know how genuinely Faraday means what she wrote until he runs into her at the Prosecutors Office two days before the concert. Or rather, she runs into him, with no more warning than a yell of “Yo! Klavier!” before he is knocked off-balance by a fast-moving humanoid shape.

“H-hello.” He manages to stabilize himself against a wall and Faraday is beaming at him.

“You know, Daryan mentioned the concert last week and like — Sunshine Coliseum is kinda a big deal — so I went and looked you guys up and shit, you guys are actually legit celebrities! And your music is actually really good!”

There is a moment during which what she says has not registered; and then it does, and Klavier doubles over wheezing.

“You thought we were bad?” he manages to gasp out.

Faraday throws her hands in the air. “Well, how was I supposed to know? The only pop culture I’ve been in tune with in the past decade are some eighteen new derivations of the Steel Samurai!” She wrinkles her nose but is still grinning.

“I preferred the Jammin’ Ninja, myself.”

She glances around as though she expects the Steel Samurai to materialize through one of the walls for the slander. “Word of warning,” she says in a voice dramatically hushed. “I might agree, but don’t say such things ‘round these parts.”

“What, that the original Steel Samurai was an overrated show with poor production values and—”

Faraday slaps her hand over his mouth with such force that his head bounces off the wall. “No!” she cries. “Sorry, that probably hurt.”

Klavier wonders what anyone else passing through the lobby thinks of whatever is happening here. “It did,” he says when she removes her hand and steps back, putting a little space between them again.

“I swear I didn’t come over here to beat you up,” she says with a grin that does not look very apologetic. “If I give you my schedule in advance, you’d pick the date of your next concert based on that, right? I would really love to go.”

In that, he can read her sincerity. “I have not a clue when our next show will be,” he says, because this concert is meant to be something of an end note, and an apology, but also mostly to rectify the fact that he didn’t get to perform with Lamiroir before he had to come running home, “but once a day is chosen, I will inform you immediately, ja?”

“It’s a date!” she exclaims. “Get me front-row tickets so I can heckle you.”

“Don’t push your luck, Fraülein.”

She sticks her tongue out at him. “Well, I think — oh, hey, Seb!” She bounces on her heels and waves across the lobby to flag someone down.

It’s just Klavier’s luck that she’s friends with Prosecutor Debeste.

“Kay, what are you — oh. H-hi, Prosecutor Gavin.”

“I had something to run by Mr Edgeworth. You two know each other?”

Debeste eyes Klavier with suspicion benefitting a stray alley cat. “We… were in the same year in the same school,” Klavier answers, when it looks like Debeste won’t.

“Oh.” Like a balloon sputtering out, Faraday deflates. She looks at Debeste and her mouth twitches into a frown, just momentarily, but long enough that it is clear something is unspokenly passing between them. “And you studied abroad, too, right?” she asks, and the chirp like a songbird is back in her voice, pushing aside whatever it was that made her falter. They talk about banal things, where in Europe he was, where in Europe she and Debeste assisted on Interpol cases — and if anything has Klavier reassessing his old impressions of Debeste, it is that — until Debeste nudges her in the shoulder and points at his watch.

She sprints out the door yelling her goodbyes across the lobby, receiving dirty looks from everyone else around, and leaves Klavier and Debeste with each other since they saw each other two months ago. “So you, uh, know Kay,” he says, twisting his hands together and toying with the fingertips of his gloves.

“Ja. You are friends?”

Klavier almost takes pity on him and goes for the stairs instead of the elevator, but instead they both wait there, Debeste’s foot tapping at the floor with impressive speed. “Yeah, we — we’ve worked together for a long time. Since — well.”

Since something he doesn’t want to talk about. Klavier can guess. He had been at the Prosecutors Office since January. He remembers the events that started off April.

When the elevator doors crawl open, Debeste almost looks like he wants to run. “Herr Debeste,” Klavier says, staring at the numbered buttons and wondering which floor Debeste’s office is on. Debeste stops on the threshold and the doors bounce open again off of him. “I find myself thinking, since our last encounter, that I am far from the man I was at seventeen, ja?” And better, too, he hopes.

Debeste keeps his face firmly turned forward, but his eyes dart toward Klavier. He takes that as a cue to continue. “And I should hate to be judged as who I was seven years ago.” And maybe that can’t be helped, maybe the Gramarye case will be his mantle for all time, but he at least can be less of an asshole than he was in that trial. He won’t let Kristoph decide how he should act toward anyone else. He decided that with Justice. “And I think then I should offer you that same courtesy as well, to not be judged as who you were.”

Because frankly, Klavier remembers him being an idiot.

(An Interpol consultant, really?)

“Ah, yeah.” Debeste chuckles somewhat nervously. “I was, um, insufferable when I was seventeen.”

“Ach, I was quite the douchebag myself.”

Debeste snorts. “I mean — Kay hated me at first. How hard to you have to work to get Kay to dislike you?”

Rather hard, Klavier thinks, considering that she likes Daryan, who is off-putting on first impression to most people. “Well, she never met me at seventeen.”

Debeste’s office is on the twelfth floor. He stops with his hand over the door, frowning like he has something difficult to say, but when he opens his mouth all that he says is, “See you around, Prosecutor Gavin.”

And Klavier doesn’t think more of it that day, but later, when the dust has not settled but is no longer being stirred up higher into the sky, he is staring at an email from his manager, cc’d to the publicist team, a charred guitar on the table behind him, and he thinks, at least he’s one more person I can add to the “pleasant interactions” list.

He didn’t know it was possible to be this tired.

He starts talking more to the hawk and to Vongole. He ignores an email from Professor Courte and three of deteriorating professionalism from Faraday. He chats about the weather with Debeste, ignores the look around his eyes that shows him struggling to figure out how to broach the topic. He lies to his bandmates and says that he was asleep when they send concerned texts checking in, even though he doesn’t sleep before one am most nights.

He doubted the accusation leveled against Daryan more than he ever doubted the initial news about Kris, right up until the reasoning started to line up too well, make too much sense; but the conversation of several months ago with Gumshoe still haunts him, the way the detective believed even in the face of evidence. I knew him for a long time, and he would never

But he did, Wright did and Kris did and Daryan did. Sometimes no matter how many years you've known someone, you don't actually at all. Isn’t that what Klavier said? Isn’t that what he keeps discovering for himself? How could the detective still believe in Wright? It isn’t supposed to be like that, not after the verdict comes down. Not after the evidence is —

Evidence is everything.

At the end of July his attempts at work one morning are interrupted by a furious banging on his door. “Klavier Gavin!” The voice is surprisingly unmuffled by the solid wood in between them. “Yo! I know you’re in there! Seb says he sees your bike still here when he leaves and already in when he comes in. Do you sleep here? That’s kinda gross, like go home and shower, dude.” A different intonation of thump comes from lower on the door. Klavier assumes she kicked it. “I see the light on in there! I know you can’t be sleeping through this racket! Show yourself, villain!”

Klavier rests his head on his desk. His attempt to tell her to go away comes out of his throat a barely-audible croak.

The door handle rattles, then stops. When the silence has gone on for about a minute, he starts to think that he is free, only for the lock to click and the door to slowly swing inward. He springs to his feet, nearly overturning his chair, and Faraday appears on the threshold, kicking the door fully open. “Faraday, what the—”

“You weren’t answering your door,” she says. “Or your email.”

“Then take a hint!”

She steps into his office and pushes the door back closed behind her. “Nice guitars,” she says brightly, and as her eyes drift from the wall to Lamiroir’s still on the table, she frowns. “It’s a shame about that.”

“Faraday.”

“About everything,” she adds. “When you find out someone’s not who you thought they were.”

She’s trying to sympathize. Klavier can only half-swallow the anger that was brewing in the pit of his stomach. “I don’t want to talk about this,” he says. He’d already had to talk about it. He’d had to say something and then it had to be filtered and curated and caked in stage makeup to be acceptable to be read by the world. The statements released to social media were barely made of his words, by the end; because his words weren’t coherent and the feelings they conveyed couldn’t be sanitized and rather were quarantined.

They are celebrities, him and Daryan, and they never belonged to themselves. Their meteoric rise and the blazing place of glory from which they fell were never theirs.

“Then can I talk?” Faraday asks. She’s sitting on a precarious stack of binders that he hasn’t returned to their places. He starts to raise a hand to gesture her to the door and stops. He combs his bangs out of his face instead. He doesn’t say anything.

“I wondered what people were saying, like online and stuff,” she says, and Klavier looks back at her in alarm, trying to read from her face whether she has stumbled into that part of the fandom. Her expression doesn’t hint as to the presence of repressed horrors working back to the surface, so it seems she didn’t. “And it’s weird, that there’s all these people who never met you who are mourning this thing that happened, and that even me knowing him for a couple months means I knew someone different than they’re thinking.”

She leans toward him like she’s offering him the chance to follow that. He does not take it. “Because I actually knew him as a person, you know?” And still didn’t even realize that they were celebrities until they basically told her. “I split a pack of Swiss rolls with him that last day. He was pissed about not being on the case” — Klavier knows this — “and I told him not to worry, because the truth always comes to light and we always make sure the innocent get their due.” She frowns. Her perch wobbles beneath her and she plants her feet back firmly on the floor. “I meant that to be reassuring but I guess it didn’t work like that.”

“Nein. Not at all.”

Her dark eyes stay fixed on his face. “I’m sorry,” she says. “That’s all.” When she stands, the tower of binders slips apart to scatter across the floor. “Ah — shit.”

“I will arrange those,” Klavier says, waving his hand to dismiss her from the mess she has made. “Just try not to sit on anything else, ja?”

“I will sit on everything,” she says, looking and sounding very serious despite the actual words. Her eyes are wide like an owl’s when she stops on her way back out the door. “Everything.”

She sends him the culmination of the unprofessional emails the next day, consisting of seven emoticons, three words abbreviated and two misspelled, inviting him out to drinks with herself, Debeste, and Skye. He declines. Better not to push his relationship with Detective Skye from “workplace antagonism” to “off-hours hostility”, although some of the concert evening before the murder happened probably tripped them over that line. He can tell when he’s not wanted. It might not cause his behavior to change in any way, but he can tell, and this one isn’t a fight worth having.

Except Faraday keeps emailing him invitations, and then whether she convinced him or he made the step himself, Debeste starts asking him if he wants to join their outings. It’s harder to decline him, in person, when he’s making sad puppy eyes at Klavier over cheap sushi they grabbed for a quick lunch. The sudden sensation of guilt blindsides Klaiver; does he feel bad for disappointing Debeste? Is that what this is? How is one of his few friendly relationships with someone he knew just well enough to hate in school?

“Why does Kay like you?” Skye asks him.

“Why does she like you?”

Skye flips him off. He isn’t sure when she dropped the act of cool professional disdain but now at least they can be honest about where they stand: sweet sweet mutual antagonism.

“She doesn’t really like me either,” Debeste says. “She knows how to hold grudges.”

Klavier should know how to navigate that kind of person, but really, he doesn’t. His conversation with Debeste turns to the “secret project” that there have been rumors of since the start of the summer — some foundational plans for reform, Debeste says, which he has apparently learned from Edgeworth, though that is also all he has learned from Edgeworth — and an Interpol case that very likely will be pulling Debeste and Faraday off the continent for the month of September. Once they are gone, Faraday sends more emails that come at odd hours for both Los Angeles and France — and then Cohdopia, then Romania, then Germany. Klavier knows absolutely nothing about what the pair are up to besides their ever-changing locations. Their case keeps them away into October.

The winds are shifting back at home, too. He and Skye are told the morning of that they are the prosecutor and detective presiding over the (pardon the pun) trial run of those mentioned reforms. Klavier starts to say that he really would have liked to have had some advance warning as to his role in the Jurist System, and to know at least a little about the committee that has been working on this since — when, exactly?

And then he is told that Wright is involved and he throws his hands up. Of course there is no warning. Of course there is no preparation time. A man who has never once in his life thought ahead about anything would not offer others the courtesy. The only thing he and Skye can agree on is that they don’t like to be left scrambling but aren’t surprised that they have been.

It’s Wright. This is the best he will give.

The victim’s name is Drew Misham. Klavier tells himself he doesn’t know that name. He tells himself it’s coincidence. He tells himself it has nothing to do with that.

(But it’s Wright. He must have an extra ace up his sleeve. Why else would he want the man who disbarred him to stand as prosecutor for his pet project?)

And it’s not a simple case (of course not), and it’s not coincidence. Face the music, Gavin; there’s no way out but down through the dark.

When he gets home after the first day in court, after a second investigation that yields nothing but frustration, he passes out on his couch and ignores emails from Courte, Debeste, and Faraday, all asking about the Jurist System.

He ignores new ones the next day, too.

Instead of calling in sick, which he probably couldn’t be blamed for doing, he goes in to the office while the last vestiges of night still cling to the slowly-lightening sky. It could be inspiration for a song; it could be a metaphor. He lets it go without further acknowledgement. He doesn’t get any work done; instead he remembers when his brother came to visit him in this office seven years ago. He remembers his brother’s laugh, yesterday. He still leaves late and goes in early again the next day. It means he doesn’t have to talk to anyone but still almost feels useful for being there.

At nine am, still early enough that some of the less dedicated have not yet arrived, someone knocks on his door. He wants to ignore it.

“Prosecutor Gavin?”

He stares at the computer screen in front of him which has gone dark. His reflection — a hot fucking mess if he can say so himself — stares back. He can’t let anyone see him like this. He has a face to uphold, a reputation that has already been tarnished enough.

“Prosecutor Gavin? I saw your motorcycle in the garage. I know you’re here.”

When did Debeste get back?

Klavier opens the door.

Debeste doesn’t look much better than Klavier feels — clothes rumpled, hair a ruffled mess, eyes visibly bloodshot beneath his glasses. “When did you get back?” Klavier asks, because Debeste looks surprised at his appearance, as though he was prepared to keep knocking and had no plan in place for if Klavier were to answer. “You look terrible.”

“To the office? An hour ago. I had some things to clear with Prosecutor Edgeworth. To Los Angeles? Three hours ago.” He blinks for a whole second and shudders, shaking his head, trying to wake himself. “I wanted to know what your thoughts on the Jurist System are, from being there.”

It made me lose my brother.

As though he didn’t lose Kris long ago.

Klavier steps aside to let Debeste in. “I think it could be a very good thing,” he says.

They talk about other cases where they have been left scrambling for evidence, because evidence was everything; about how to possibly even begin implementing this system on a larger scale; about the kind of shifts in office culture that will need to happen; about how it would affect curriculum at Themis Academy. Klavier thinks he might escape having to talk about the cause of that look of pity that Debeste keeps shooting him. There’s so much else to discuss, and Klavier can skirt around the details of the case just enough that a certain name isn’t mentioned. Not by him.

But when there’s a lull, Debeste says, “I’m sorry.”

“I need to get back to work,” Klavier says.

He stands and gestures to the door. Debeste gets to his feet but does not move.

“I didn’t know what to do when my father was gone,” he continues. “I faced him and said what I wanted to but then I had no idea what to do after that. I knew who I wanted to be but how to get there seemed like an impassib—impassable wall. But I learned to accept help from other people. That’s what I had to do.”

Klavier had looked it up out of curiosity, some months ago. Blaise Debeste was executed last May, falling squarely in the middle of the average five-to-seven years from sentencing to conviction. “I’m quite fine on my own, Herr Debeste.”

But the question that Gumshoe left him with nearly half a year ago still hangs over him like a shroud. “When the charges were first raised against him, did you think, simply, there is no way he did this? Were you surprised?”

“Of course I was,” he replies, which is not really the response Klavier wants to hear. “Someone I trusted made the accusation and I couldn’t believe it.” And someone who Klavier was sure to be corrupt brought the charges, and Klavier barely doubted. “I thought my father could do no wrong, certainly not murder. And then — and then there was one piece of evidence, one detail that was so distinctly my father that I… I realized. Even I couldn’t miss that one.”

He fidgets nervously while he waits for Klavier to respond, but he does not say anything else, not even the question he must be thinking: Why do you ask?

Why does he ask? Maybe he needs more than a hawk or his brother’s dog to confide in. Maybe he needs to clean the skeletons from the closet he alone keeps. After the secrets he and Kristoph shared came to light, maybe it is time for this, too.

“I was… surprised, quite, to learn he had committed murder, but I did not doubt it. I did not question the veracity of the charges until I saw Wright’s name as a person involved and only then did I wonder, could my brother have been framed? And even then, I asked myself, is Kris capable of murder, and I figured, yes. Who believes that so easily, so readily, of their own family? What is wrong with me?” He stumbles back into his chair, sinking down in it, clutching his head with his hands. The silent screaming inside his skull has taken physical form, a pounding from the inside out. “And after all those years that I trusted Kris too much — I trusted him enough that I ruined an innocent man’s life! Unthinking! Unquestioned!”

Only later, only too late, did he question, and he did not allow himself to consider other answers. “I trusted him just as long as it took to fuck everything up! I should have asked more questions — I should have been more suspicious — how could I not even have questioned why he knew about the forgery! How could I have been such an idiot?” He hears from Debeste the sharp intake of air through gritted teeth at the word. “To not even ask! To think nothing was wrong when so much did not make sense! I was a prosecutor! It was my job to question! To never assume — to never simply believe!”

Klavier looks up. Debeste is quiet, his expression stricken and his eyes wide and teary and fixed on the window behind Klavier. He moves to sit on the table next to him, misses, and thuds down to the floor. Blinking fiercely, he says, “If you’d stayed at Themis and not gone off to study abroad, you should have been valedictorian.”

You were valedictorian of our class,” Klavier says, head back in his hands. “Why should my presence make a difference in regards to your standing, ja?”

“No, I mean — you should have been. You wouldn’t have but you should have and I—” His breath shudders when he inhales and he holds it for a moment before his shoulders slump with his exhale. “My father bought my grades.”

Klavier blinks.

“I don’t know if it was with money, or influence, or threats, or the agge — aggregate, of the possibilities, but none of my accomplishments were mine. My class rank wasn’t mine, my badge wasn’t mine, and I didn’t notice. Not until he told me.” Sebastian fiddles with the badge on his lapel. “Everything was because he wanted a shining star of a son to crown his rule and even if he didn’t have that he could at least make people think he did. He made me think I was what he wanted. I didn’t question it. I never doubted.”

“He was your father,” Klavier says. “He was Chief Prosecutor, he was Chairman” — he had power of the likes that Kristoph could only dream — “and surely a man like that is trustworthy, ja? Surely you can trust your father, ja? Surely your father has no reason to lie to you, and you were seventeen.”

Sebastian is still blinking back tears but his lips curl into the tiniest smirk. “Yeah,” he says. “And surely you can trust your brother, yeah? Surely your brother has no reason to lie to you. You were seventeen.”

A turnabout worthy of any of the trials in which Apollo stands behind the bench.

Klavier rubs his eyes. “Perhaps we should not have been prosecutors at seventeen, ja?” But Klavier had a harder time facing down his brother at twenty-four than seventeen, while Sebastian at seventeen could still throw his father’s yoke from his shoulders.

“And maybe our families shouldn’t have been…” Sebastian makes a noncommittal noise and shrugs.

“Manipulative douchebags?”

Sebastian’s laugh is weak. “I don’t think that was what I was going for but it might be a synonym.” When he drags his fingers through his hair he doesn’t smooth it down but instead pushes strands up out of alignment. “It’s hard to face the truth but it’s always better once it’s done.”

And Klavier knows that. He’s always known that. But there’s something slightly comforting in someone else caring enough to make the reminder, like Apollo, almost adorable in his earnestness, try to remember what’s really important to you. “It is,” he agrees softly.

“I’ll let you get back to work,” Sebastian says, clambering back up to his feet. Klavier starts to tell him that was an excuse, a hollow pretense for Klavier to throw him out before he had to talk about the pain of the past six months; but Sebastian probably knows that, right? Knows that and has given them both a graceful way out. “And I need to go shower and sleep because I haven’t for thirty hours.”

“You didn’t sleep on the plane?” Klavier asks.

“Not with Kay around. She gets very excited finding out which of her favorite movies she can watch. And insist that I watch.”

Klavier does not know what Faraday’s tastes in film are, but he has a hunch that there is very little good about them. “Ach, perhaps you should deal with that,” he says.

“See you around, Prosecutor Gavin,” Sebastian says.

Klavier stares at the closed door long after he has left. Maybe he should get some sleep, too.

He deliberates it with eyes unfocused on the darkened screen of his computer and after some ten minutes he gathers himself together to call out. He goes home to Vongole’s tail thumping on the floor, no idea of his turmoil — just happy to see him again so soon. There’s something to consider there but hell if he knows what. For a moment, when he lets himself collapse into bed, there is no weight of anything his brother has saddled him with more than the dog who thinks him a more comfortable pillow than the three beds he has failed to convince her to use.

When he wakes up around dinnertime, it is to an email from Faraday inviting him out to drinks on Friday with Sebastian and Skye. His usual answer is already typed out, his finger hovering over the send button, before he really starts to think. Vongole is barking from her bowl and he deletes the message as he pours out some food for her. His new reply is one word: Sure.

Maybe he’ll regret it, but Skye throwing a drink in his face or him making Sebastian hate him again or whatever could happen will be no worse than the ever-growing stack of regrets from every other point in his life.

Skye doesn’t directly address him all night, which is about what Klavier expected, but the surprising thing is that she seems to tolerate Sebastian quite well, despite what he said once about her disliking him. She leaves early, to Faraday’s chagrin, saying that she’s taken a vacation “after that shitshow Mr. Wright dumped us into” (that “us” being the most neutral way she has ever acknowledged Klavier’s existence) and is flying out to see her sister in the morning.

“You’re gonna be getting drunk on the plane anyway!” Faraday whines, hanging halfway out of her chair with her arms around Skye’s waist. If Skye takes one more step, Faraday will hit the ground hard. “Why not just start hungover?”

“Your Interpol trips must be a blast,” Skye says over her shoulder to Sebastian as she pries Faraday’s arms apart. She looks more amused than Klavier has ever seen her. Faraday seems to have that effect on people.

“They are… something,” Sebastian says.

Faraday falls out of her chair.

When the three of them leave, later, Klavier intends to just go home, but then he is wedged between Faraday and Sebastian and somehow lets them drag him into a cab that they take back to Faraday’s apartment. “We do pizza and movie nights,” Sebastian explains as Faraday laments to no one in particular that she is craving mozzarella sticks. “Sometimes with Ema but usually just us and really awful movies.”

“Klav,” Faraday says. “Klav. Klav. Have you ever seen Giant Octopus Tsunami vs. MegaShark?”

“Why the hell would I have ever seen that?”

“Because it’s fuckin’ awesome and you are going to stay and watch it with us because Ema won’t. Like. It’s a tsunami full of giant octopuses...es and it’s gonna make landfall and destroy the city unless the scientists can engineer a giant shark to eat them all before it can—”

Klavier tips the cab driver extra.

Faraday’s apartment is a mess with the decor of a dorm room, Christmas lights strung up around the living room and pictures without frames taped up in a collage on one wall. Faraday goes into her kitchen and starts tossing bags of snacks in to Sebastian. Despite working with Skye for six months, Klavier had no idea there were this many flavors of Snackoos. He stands awkwardly in the middle of the room, unsure of where he should be while they argue about what kind of chips she needs to put on on her shopping list. The pictures draw his eye again.

A lot of them are selfies but rarely is she alone; by Klavier’s rough estimation, Sebastian is in over half of them. Most have a strip of masking tape stuck beneath them with the year and the location, and most are in Europe. Vacationing in between Interpol cases, perhaps. A woman who appears to be about their age with short grayish hair and a scowl appears in several, her expressions comical next to Faraday’s huge grins. Skye shows up a few times as well. Klavier recognizes Detective Gumshoe, of all people, in several of the photos that are unlabeled, but two include the dancing Blue Badger outside of Criminal Affairs. In one Faraday has her badge shoved toward the camera, Gumshoe beaming behind her.

In the center, in a place of honor, is a photo printed larger than the others, of Faraday, younger, and Gumshoe with, of all people, Prosecutor Edgeworth, who does not look happy to have been dragged by the neck by Faraday into frame.

He thinks of all of the curt conversations he has ever had with Edgeworth, both before he left and now that he has come back, and wonders if Faraday has lucked her way onto a barely-existent good side, or Klavier has for reasons unknown gotten on his bad side. Could it be as it was with Gumshoe — something about Wright?

Faraday and Sebastian are yelling at each other about pretzels.

On the TV stand, there stand four framed photographs. Three include Faraday: her a small child, beaming at the camera with a man with brown hair half pulled into a bun; her, slightly older, and a tall man with graying hair and a ratty gray trenchcoat; and her about the same age as prior with an older, white-haired couple. The last is of the two men together, without Faraday, the photo centered awkwardly in the frame and too small for it; the edge next to the brown-haired man is torn but the shoulder of someone else is visible.

“That’s my dad and Uncle Badd!”

Klavier jumps. He doesn’t know how Faraday got behind him without his noticing. “My dad was a prosecutor,” she says, pointing to the brown-haired man. “And Uncle Badd was the detective he always worked with, like me and Sebby now. Oh, and those are my grandparents. I lived with them after Dad was murdered.”

Klavier opens his mouth and closes it. He wouldn’t know what to say to that even if he were completely sober. “Oh,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

“It was… it was just over fourteen years ago, now,” she says. “Sometimes still hard to believe.” She smiles but it’s a sad look. “I think he’d be proud, though. Uncle Badd says he would be, whenever I go see him — he’s in prison now,” she adds, casually, like she hasn’t just dropped the heaviest parts of her life on Klavier’s shoulders with no warning. “Seven years out of fifteen for covering up evidence of thefts he and Dad committed.”

Klavier turns to stare at her. “They felt the law was too limited for some things,” she says, tugging at her scarf and swaying a little on her feet, “and that some wrongs never got brought to court, convictions that should’ve didn’t, and a smuggling ring that they were chasing — there was never enough evidence, you know? The smugglers’d do whatever to get evidence back, or kill witnesses, or whatever underhanded. And in the law they felt, like, they couldn’t do it in the law. That it’s all about evidence and sometimes there’s no legal way to get permissible evidence.”

“And evidence is everything,” Klavier says.

Kay plops down on the floor. “So they’d steal it, all these corporations who dealt with the smugglers, they’d go in and steal it and release all their shady documents to the media, and then when the break-in was investigated, Uncle Badd would make sure there was no evidence for them to catch my dad. But then they caught on, and they killed Dad.” Her sad smile reappears. “We caught ‘em eventually. I helped. And Mr. Edgeworth did too. Us and Gummy.”

Sebastian drops a bag of Snackoos on her head and offers a bag of pretzels to Klavier. They are all sitting on the floor now. “I can’t wait to tell Uncle Badd about the Jurist System,” she continues. “I don’t think it would’ve helped for the smugglers but the rest, the limitations of the law that they saw…”

“The law isn’t absolute,” Klavier says. “It has to change.”

Kay nods. She misses her mouth when she tries to eat a Snackoo. “Change to better serve justice and the truth,” she says. “I bet Dad would be happy with it too. What’s the plan for uh… um… like doing the thing, all over—”

“Implementing it?” Sebastian asks.

Kay sticks her finger in his face. “That!”

“For now the talk is that a trial will have a jury when the prosecution requests it,” Klavier says. “Ease us into it, and the public too, ja?”

“Cool,” Kay says. “That’s cool.” She flops back to lean against Sebastian’s shoulder. “I wanted to be a prosecutor once. Be just like Dad. And then I helped out on some investigations, and then watched the trials, and I decided I’d rather be out there on the crime scene than standing in court. So I became a detective instead. But wouldn’t it’ve been funny if I was a prosecutor with you guys too? Or if I’d been then maybe you’d be different things.”

Klavier shakes his head. “I only wanted to be a prosecutor,” he says. “Music was a hobby and I went to Themis and didn’t have any other plan.”

Sebastian doesn’t say anything but Klavier remembers the conversation they had about his father and doubts that there was any other path for him, either. “Oh yeah,” Kay says. “You went to Themis, too.” She reaches over and grabs a handful of pretzels from the bag Klavier has. “What was it like? I wanna know, because I went to public high school and the only thing I learned about the law is whether it’s legal to grow weed beneath the bleachers; and the answer, my friends, is shockingly no.”

“Shockingly,” Sebastian deadpans. “I mean, it was, um… dubious, considering, you know, the grades thing.” She must know the story of his father because she nods without questioning the vaguery. Didn’t he once say that the two of them had been friends since then? “Is that more or less dubious than bleacher weed?”

“One time the school got evacuated because there was a kid setting toilet paper on fire and it got mistaken for a bomb,” Kay says, which is absolutely not an answer to the question that Sebastian asked. “But I guess Klav you left and went to wherever-the-fuck in Europe—”

“Deutschland.”

“Dutch-land, where’s that?”

“Germany.”

“Oh.” Kay considers that in silence for several seconds, her eyes going crossed. “I’m super drunk.”

“I am aware.” Her story about her father and uncle was surprisingly coherent, all things considered. Klavier tries to remember what she was saying to him about Themis. It’s more difficult than he thought. He might be drunk too. “I had always wanted to study abroad,” he says. “And I knew I could likely get my badge sooner there. It wasn’t a problem with Themis, ja, that I left, though the experience did… very much depend on the professors.” He remembers the head of the prosecution course to be entirely unexceptional — or rather, he doesn’t remember. “Herr Debeste, did you ever have Professor Courte?”

“Courte… Courte… no, doesn’t sound familiar.”

“She taught the judge course — was my favorite professor. Taught me there should be no truth but that found properly, that justice cannot come from unjust means.” And it had been that which brought him to a different conclusion than Kristoph: that the law cannot be static.

Sebastian shakes his head. “No wonder I didn’t have her,” he says. “My father wouldn’t let me take a class with someone he couldn’t buy.”

No; and Courte would rather die than let herself be bought. “She was a big inspiration for me,” Klavier says. Her, and his brother; so at odds with each other. “We stayed in touch while I was studying in Germany.” And now if he could just have the guts to push through the shroud of shame to reply to her emails. How did Sebastian grow from where they were at seventeen, but Klavier regress into a neurotic wreck?

“Most of my memories of Themis are kind of terrible,” Sebastian says, “but maybe we should go back sometime. Show Kay around—”

“Best bleachers to grow weed under,” she says.

“—Introduce me to your professor.” Sebastian continues like he hadn’t heard Kay. She pouts at being ignored.

“Ja; perhaps we’ll have to do that someday.”

Kay is watching him now, and even with her face pink, her eyes a little glassy and unfocused, he can still see that she is evaluating the expression on his face, deciding what needs to be done with his crestfallen look. “Did you guys even have bleachers?” she asks, prodding his leg with her foot and grinning at him, attempting to draw one back out from him. “Or do law nerds not know how to play sportball? Hand-eye coordination test, quick!”

She throws the whole bag of Snackoos at him.

After they have spent another ten minutes reminiscing on Themis and hearing Kay’s Public School Stories that they have no way of knowing if true, Kay stands up, stumbling and nearly falling over Klavier, to find her phone to order pizza. Klavier stops her to tell them that he has to go home to let the dog out, expecting a fight with Kay like Skye had earlier. What he does not expect is Kay to whirl around to stare at him, her eyes huge, looking at him like she has never seen him before. “You have a dog?” she asks. “Holy shit you have a dog! I want to meet your dog. Klav. I gotta meet your dog.” She tumbles onto the couch. “Party with your dog. Klav. Klav. I am inviting myself over to your house. Where do you live.”

Sebastian looks absolutely mortified. “Kay—”

Klavier had known he was lonely; he had figured that out easily for himself, even before losing Daryan. He just hadn’t realized how lonely until for this portion of the evening he wasn’t. “We can get pizza with my dog, ja? So long as you do not actually feed it to her; she is getting a bit round.”

Kay is already crowing something about sleepovers and Sebastian is saying something else and Klavier thinks for a moment that he is a teenager again, naivety gone but the rest — unselfconscious and surrounded with people for a movie or games in a dorm room—

He doesn’t want to ever again be who he was at seventeen, but there might be something to keep from then in spite of it.

His apartment looks nothing like Kay’s; her mess is obviously lived in, and cozy despite itself. After six months his is still barren, empty walls and boxes containing both his and Kris’ material lives stacked in the corners. But with the three of them sprawled on the floor, Kay with her face shoved into Vongole’s fur but still arguing with Sebastian over pizza toppings, Klavier almost feels like it could one day be a home worth staying in.