Their flight left in two hours, and frankly, it was downright nostalgic. The high windows poured in the last of the light, golden and warm, as the sun began to sink towards the horizon. The speaker buzzed about boarding at F14.
In fact, Ema never thought she'd find the day she longed for layovers and airports, but here she was. Finally it was just them. The meeting with diplomats was done, and Ema still had the warm feeling from the fact that she was by his side, even outside of cases. She was just that essential to him, that he couldn't even think of traveling without her. She looked forward to some too sweet coffee, junk food and good conversation with her prosecutor on their ride back to Khura'in.
They settled into a Starbucks, with smooth jazz playing over the hidden speakers. The walls were covered with sepia and orange drawings of people enjoying food and coffee that Prosecutor Sahdmadhi studied like they were hieroglyphs.
After a long wait in line, Ema returned with two plastic cups. She paused for just a moment to watch him. Sheesh, he looked so regal and contemplative in that gilded frock coat. Silver hair spilled off his shoulder, and gracefully disappeared beneath the table. Was he reading ancient Greek writings of Socrates, and translated as he went at a freakishly fast pace? A second glance showed that yes, he was. If Ema didn't have her hands full, she would've had to fan herself.
Maybe take a drink for that extreme thirst, Ema, her voice of reason reminded her.
(Ema emphatically didn't believe in angels, but the whole angel and devil on her shoulders appealed to her. Especially the mental image of forcing her shoulder angel to drink big gulps of vodka with all her questionable life choices.)
She took a seat next to him, and passed his drink over.
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi looked his over. He always had to take in the new decorations on the cups, especially the holiday ones. He would always ask questions, which usually ended in hilarity, and more than often ended up on Snapchat.
"There's numbers written upon this cup. Is this one of those...Arghs?"
"ARGs? You mean Alternate Reality Games? I don't think coffee chains do those," Ema said. She turned his coffee cup around, until she saw a line of numbers next to his name in a swirly sharpie. A heart beside made it even more clear.
Ema was used to fans breaking past the tape to try and get to Prosecutor Gavin, and sometimes even compromising her crime scene in the process, but she wasn't remotely interested in Prosecutor Gavin that way, and Prosecutor Sahdmadhi wasn't a rock star. He wasn't supposed to have everyone fawning over him.
Ema gritted her teeth. This couldn't be happening. She wasn't supposed to be going through all this again. Let alone with a Prosecutor that she liked more than just as a boss.
Like hell was she just going to accept this. Ema deliberately dragged her thumb across the coffee cup until the numbers blurred.
"It's nothing important. Just serial numbers."
She tried to focus on the sweet taste of her coffee, which tasted like a liquefied candy bar had caffeine injected inside it and then topped with whipped cream--but people kept staring. Not just whoever had tried to make a pass, but the people around them. Outside of Khura'in, he stood out. And in Khura'in he was the Prince Regent, so being anonymous wasn't exactly an option.
But outside of Khura'in, to some he was gorgeous stranger and to others he was the world-renowned Prosecutor Sahdmadhi.
"We're not a zoo to stare at, and he's not yours, so bug off," Ema muttered.
Even though she damn well knew, Prosecutor Sahdmadhi wasn't hers either.
And that wasn't even the end of it. After coffee, they headed to the nearest burger place. Just as Ema had started to calm down at the thought of enough chicken nuggets to completely erase the flirty barista indecent, she noticed another line of numbers in sharpie. On a freaking chicken burger, no less.
Who the hell tried to pick someone up at Junk Food Central, while wearing a bright colors and a chicken hat?
She couldn't even enjoy her artery-clogging junk food in peace, for fuck's sake.
Before Ema could crumble it, Prosecutor Sahdmadhi lifted it up. "More numbers. How curious. I do not recall seeing these before when I ordered," he said.
Ema grimaced. Twice in one day, that had to be some kind of record. It was bad enough that she was constantly getting interrupted when she was out with Prosecutor Sahdmadhi doing work. Sometimes it was aides taking his attention away from her, and other times it was just people of Khura'in who wanted to get close to their current regent. At this rate, it was almost as bad as being with the fop in terms of fans. He even needed bodyguards everywhere with the threat of assassination attempts, which meant they never got time alone like they used to.
"They're just useless. Nothing to notice here." Ema tore off the part and ripped it off into smaller and smaller pieces.
"Useless?" he said softly.
Ema puffed out her cheeks. "Yes, absolutely. It's just an added serial number or something. Nothing to worry about."
Ema sent a glare towards the counter. She couldn't even tell who had done it. It could've even been another person in line. Or maybe someone in the parking lot saw him and rushed the door in order to leave their number in hopes of snagging him. Which sounded laughable, but it used to happen to Prosecutor Gavin all the time. And now the history was repeating.
She pushed down a little twinge of guilt as she bit into her burger. What was she even doing? Acting like a jealous girlfriend, and I'm not even his girlfriend....
The last part hit like a punch to the gut. All these random people wanted to just push her out, and be the one by Prosecutor Sahdmadhi's side. They hadn't pulled all nighters to finish cases with him, they hadn't overthrown a government with him and they hadn't been there when his father died and his mother had been shot right in front of him.
At the start, it'd been just them. Or it'd felt like it, when he'd given her clearance to that crime scene. No fans asking him to sign their bags--or breasts--no news reporters rushing in for a scoop on a famous prosecutor and rock star.
He might not have been an internationally famous musician, but she sure was having to fight for his attention lately.
There was still a good hour before they'd have to board. This hallway, filled with food stalls and stores was largely empty save for cashiers and one guy with a red baseball cap, a patchy brown beard, pulled down low, and his hands in his too-big khakis.
"Hey, sexy! Nice ass!"
An airport was the last place she thought she'd find a freaking cat caller. Didn't they have guards too keep creeps like this out?
Ema gave the heckler a one finger salute. "Fuck off, you sexist pig."
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi stopped in his tracks. He lifted his rosary from his chest. A few hand movements, and he tossed it. The cat caller was all the way across the hall, yet Prosecutor Sahdmadhi still hit his mark.
Ema mentally wondered if this could be some sport in the Olympics. The Ten Meter Rosary Toss. If so, Prosecutor Sahdmadhi would take the gold for sure.
The cat caller let out a shriek as he tried to pull away the rosary as it tightened across his hand. Prosecutor Sahdmadhi slowly, deliberately walked towards him. His long braid fell from his shoulder.
"Putrid, foul, uncouth one...this is no way to treat a woman. Least of all Detective Skye."
He clenched his fist, and the rosary tightened even more around the guy. Ema smirked. It was so satisfying to watch someone get what was coming to them.
His voice lowered. "You have no right to her body, and never will."
But it wasn't enough to squeeze the poor bastard. A shock filled him, like a taser. Science probably just gave up at that point. Sometimes, there just was not explaining Prosecutor Sahdmadhi with facts and reasons.
The cat caller was reduced to nothing but a stuttering and blubbering mess. Finally, Prosecutor Sahdmadhi released the grip. His eyes filled with fear as Prosecutor Sahdmadhi removed the rosary.
"Look, I'm sorry. I-I'll never do it again!"
"O, putrid, lost soul. Perhaps you will find forgiveness from the wrath you will incur in this lifetime, though I highly doubt it," Prosecutor Sahdmadhi said coldly.
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi removed his rosary. The cat caller nearly tripped over the stair in his attempt to retreat.
Behind them, several of the cashiers broke out laughing.
"We should probably keep moving, before some kind of airport security comes down here," Ema said.
A petite cashier with a taco hat piped up. "Nah, you're good. He's been being a creep all day. I've been just hoping he'd leave on his flight already."
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi bowed to the cashier. "I am honored to have vanquished such an evil."
The cashier smiled. "Thanks, I'd give you a date, or a free taco, but those tend to go together. You seem about to fly out, however. Another time, maybe?"
"Back overseas, yes," he said. "Stay safe..." he squinted to her name tag. "Brittany."
Did she suddenly become invisible? She was right there. And she'd even liked Taco Cashier girl before this.
It used to be that everyone thought they were dating. And it was hilarious, until it was six months later and she and Prosecutor Sahdmadhi were still not dating, and every person in a ten mile radius was thirsty as hell to get into his frock coat. If only all these admiring strangers would get the hint that everyone else in multiple precincts thought Ema and Prosecutor Sahdmadhi were dating and buzz off. Because everyone thought they were an item.
All except him, apparently.
Then ask him out a voice of internal reason reminded her.
One, this could nuke my entire life if it goes wrong. Two, I'm lazy and want to be spoiled, Ema told her voice of reason.
It wasn't like she subscribed to the outdated ideas that a woman had to wait for a guy to make the first move. Ema just wanted to be romanced, wooed and spoiled a bit, and not stumble into a case where everything got awkward between her boss and her. She'd never had such a breathtaking feeling as the point where he held out his hand and said would you like to travel with me? And Ema wanted to feel that way again, except this time, he'd say would you go out with me?
With that, they left the hall. It was only later, when they found a seating area closer that she spoke again.
Still, Ema tried to focus on the positive things. Like the fact that Prosecutor Sahdmadhi could apparently shoot lasers from his hands.
He shook his head. "To think a man would do that to a woman. It is truly unthinkable."
"Yeah, it happens every day over in America, and plenty of places in Europe, too. So, can you turn on a light bulb just by touching it? I'm surprised you don't have more static cling going on."
"A light bulb? You have such strange ideas."
The carpet below them was like retro confetti, an 80s movie waiting to happen. Ema dragged the tip of her shoe over. His elbow rested against hers, unapologetic, and gentle.
She glanced towards him. "You don't have cat calling in Khura'in?"
"Cat calling? We have cats, and they are certainly called at times, due to wandering off," he said.
"That's just a nickname for it. Heckling like that guy back there. Doing things like yelling 'hey big sexy.'" She even mimicked the tone of the creep perfectly.
"Of course not. We are a country traditionally ruled by women, after all. Once in another country, a traveler said a crude comment to Lady Kee'ra. She threatened to cut off his tongue. It was only the mercy of the Holy Mother which stayed her hand. Instead, she left a cut upon him so everyone could see his putridness."
"Every story I hear about her, I like her more. Imagine, a country with no dick picks, not cat callers or creeps groping. It's almost worth the internet blackout, frigid winters, and complete authoritarian past."
"...Dick pics? It is traditional to send the picture of the detective who travels with Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth?"
"Think a little lower. Like between the legs of a guy. Or some guys, anyways."
He clutched his rosary so tight, she was surprised it didn't break. "They do this to women unasked?" Prosecutor Sahdmadhi said incredulously.
"All the time. I only spent a day on a few online dating sites--hey, it was a dry spell--and I got so many."
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi clutched his rosary tight. "I shall pass down judgment upon these putrid souls."
"On Lawyr?" Ema said.
"Yes. I shall pass down my judgment. Can it be found within this 'app store?'"
"Yeah, sure," Ema said flatly.
Sure, why not? Everybody around was so damn thirsty for him lately. Why not import people from the internet to make it so Ema had to deal with more people lusting after her prosecutor...and reminding her that she didn't have any claim or right to be jealous.
Ema let out a sigh and opened a new bag of Snackoos. She could already tell it was going to be a long flight. With the way her luck was going, she wouldn't be surprised if the flight attendants, every person seated around them and the pilots would come out to flirt with Prosecutor Sahdmadhi.
Ema had barely left the plane when once again, they were mobbed by people. (For the record, her luck about flirty airplane staff came true. Three times, no less.) She rolled her eyes as Prosecutor Sahdmadhi greeted his people.
Really, she needed a break. No press, a 'no thirsty people allowed' sign plastered to his back. Just junk food, solving cases, and them time.
(Of course, if she put a no thirsty people allowed sign, then she'd accidentally ban herself, unless she put some caveat to allow herself back in.)
The woman stepped forward through the crowd, and dropped a bangle in front of him. Behind him, the crowd gasped.
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi bent down, and quickly handed it back to her. The crowd murmured, though Ema couldn't quite tell the mood. After all, it was just a dropped piece of jewelry. Then again, who knew with Khura'in? There was so much ritual and so many ways to piss people off inadvertently.
Ema tried to piece together the Khura'inese. One was a very polite apology, and she definitely caught love. But was it lo'vah, as in possessive, or the more platonic kind? Or even agape?
Ema didn't even know the full context, but it reminded her an awful lot of unasked numbers on coffee cups.
She followed him back into the relative safety of the castle. When the doors closed behind them, and there were nothing but guards (who probably all wanted to marry him too, Ema didn't even kid herself) she finally spoke.
Ema puffed out her cheeks. "Another admirer, eh? How typical. Just keep her out of my crime scene."
"There is a tradition within Khura'in.To drop a bangle before a person, to make them chase after you."
He paused for a moment, waiting for her reply. Ema gave none, so he continued.
"I told her I already had someone within my heart who I hold dear."
Ema really thought her mood couldn't go any lower, but those words made it plummet. Pretty stupid of her to expect him to just be unattached. That's what she got for thinking her life could ever go well for her.
She needed a Snackoo. Make that plural.
"Great. Good for you. I'm going to go unpack now," Ema said.
It was times like these that she wished Khura'in had more junk food at hand. Though Prosecutor Sahdmadhi was doing his best. Because today was a drowning her sorrows in ice cream sort of day.
Later that day, Ema got a phone call that pulled her away from checking up on DNA in the large backlog that came after Ga'ran's fall.
"Detective Skye, are you free? If so, then please meet me within the main hall. I have something important to tell you."
No lie, her heart felt like it did a somersault. Something important?
"For you? Always," Ema said.
She couldn't help keep the flirty tone out.
Then, realism set in.
He probably wants me to work security with his wedding. Wouldn't that just be my luck?
There was a sinking feeling in her stomach as she saw a woman right next to him. Compared to Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, she was a great deal shorter than him. Maybe 5'1 at most. She wore long, traditional robes in a deep green, with her dark hair pulled back into a long ponytail.
She bowed, while Ema could only gape.
"Then, she's your--"
"Your assistant, actually," Prosecutor Sahdmadhi said. "Or to be more precise--yours. You've been working very hard, and always say there are certain tasks you find loathsome, even putrid. She can take care of such things if you so request."
"You hired somebody to do my paperwork? It'd probably take more time for me to tell her and then explain the science." Ema couldn't quite keep the caustic tone out of her voice. "Unless...she's going to follow us around while we're solving cases."
"Yes... that is exactly what she will be doing. So you have more time to read the last rites to the dead."
"My name is Ano'tha F'an, and I am honored to work with Prince Regent Prosecutor Sahdmadhi."
As Prosecutor Sahdmadhi smiled at the lady, Ema took another bite of Snackoos. From her clothes, Ema could tell the lady was a monk, just like him. She knew just how to bow, and didn't have to consult an app to understand his language. When she went to the market, she didn't get looks like she might scar people with scary science.
And now, she even had to work with them. She had access to Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, everything which had been solely Ema's was now being shared. Ema saw all the signs of that lady trying to make her move.
All this time she'd been harsh to who tried to make a move on him. But she was just the same as those people. Except they were brave enough to let themselves possibly face embarrassment and rejection, while Ema just ate more Snackoos and complained more about his admirers.
(Ema kept having to relearn the lesson of not taking out her feelings on other people. One of these days it was bound to stick.)
"Does this please you?" Prosecutor Sahdmadhi said.
"Sure. Love it," Ema muttered, with the same inflection someone saying fuck it.
"I look forward to protecting the law by Prince Regent Sahdmadhi's side," Ano'tha said.
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi nodded approvingly.
Ema was so glad she wasn't stuck with anything like a relationship, or out on cute dates now. Loved how everyone in both precincts were way off in thinking he had any feelings for her. Really. She utterly loved it. Loved how she'd probably have to watch him marry someone else. Loved how she was good enough to work with, but not good enough to be his consort or whatever the fuck they called it here.
Not that she wanted the power. She just wanted him.
Ema glanced down at her phone. She'd gotten him to update his technology, and introduced him to the joys of texting. Just because Phoenix and Apollo existed forever with the technological skills of a confused grandpa, didn't mean that the rest of them had to.
Ano'tha could try and look up at him with her big brown eyes all she wanted, and talk to him for hours about Khra'inese rites deep into the night (while Ema focused on her work, her mood growing blacker by the second) but she wouldn't get this. She didn't have a right to claim him, but damn if there wasn't a twinge of nasty, jealous feelings.
At least, for him.
"Love it," Ema muttered again as she looked away.
Much to Ema's displeasure, Prosecutor Sahdmadhi was practically tripping in bangles. One day she counted no less than five in an hour. Each time made her mood go blacker and blacker. Her only comfort was maybe Ano'tha would lose too. Then they'd both have to work as staff as he married somebody else. Which was hardly a victory, but it was something at least.
But things got even worse on the second day of this cold case. Prosecutor Sahdmdhi had decided to look over the storeroom of the restaurant again, to see if any evidence had remained.
It was dusty and dark enough that not even the flashlight app on her phone helped much. And of course, it was too much of a fire hazard to bring in a candle. Ema banged her shin on a dusty table, and Ema found herself tripping over not just the massive row of deep brown urns, but her brand new assistant.
As Ema brushed herself off, and hoped that she didn't get bruises, Ano'tha held out the possible case-breaking evidence. The ones that Ema was supposed to be finding. Ano'tha was supposed to be doing paperwork, holed up and changing Ema's trash can, which was perpetually overflowing with snack wrappers. Not solving her damn cases for her.
"Prince Regent Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, was this what you needed?"
"Ah, an engraved button...." Prosecutor Sahdmadhi smiled. "Yes, good job, Ano'tha."
And before Ema could right herself, Ano'tha spoke again.
"I finished the paperwork you requested. The one which Detective Skye had... forgotten."
"Thank you, Ano'tha."
She glanced shyly up at him. "I am honored to serve the law... and you, Prince Regent Prosecutor Sahdmadhi."
Ema gritted her teeth. The nerve of Ano'tha actually doing the job she was hired to. Finding evidence was her thing! Solving cases, getting praise and smiles from Prosecutor Sahdmadhi was hers. Ema couldn't believe it that Ano'tha had come right in and taken it. (Or the fact that she was actively jealous of paperwork.)
It was bad enough that she couldn't even get junk food without every cashier in a ten mile radius wanting to get with Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, now she didn't even have peace in her own job.
And Ema had nothing to say, because Ano'tha had done everything but do the autopsy report. Which she couldn't even do, being it was a cold case. Unless the body was exhumed, for that matter. All those little things she got to do with Prosecutor Sahdmadhi, Ano'tha was doing now. Which meant Ema now had twice as much time to eat her Snackoos in the most brooding and grumpy way possible.
Even worse, Ano'tha was so damn pure about it. No smirks here, just religious devotion and neater paperwork than Ema ever could do. Maybe Prosecutor Sahdmadhi had rubbed off on Ema, because as much as she wanted to be petty, she couldn't find it in herself to hate Ano'tha.
Hate her situation? Yes. Hate that she had to share Prosecutor Sahdmadhi so much these days? Oh hell yes.
Ema grimaced. Sheesh, it was like three in a bed, and Ano'tha was shoving her elbow right in Ema's ribs, and stealing her covers to boot. At this rate, Ema would get kicked to the cold floor.
To say things had been tense at work lately was an understatement. Ema had no idea who he was into, but for sure they'd say yes. Who wouldn't want to date Prosecutor Sahdmadhi? And then she'd have to watch him marry somebody else.
Maybe it was Ano'tha. And why not? By Khura'inese terms, she was perfect.
She peeled off her gloves and tossed them into the bin. Her mind went back into the check ins, when Prosecutor Sahdmadhi had so gently said this is my detective.
Ano'tha? She didn't get this. She didn't get to solve crimes with him, or get called my detective. The most she could make was my assistant. She wouldn't get Prosecutor Sahdmadhi telling her that her forensics work helped save the case and was integral to all cases, and even rebuilding Khu'rain. He wouldn't tell Ano'tha that he needed her, not the way he told Ema.
And that was the only comfort Ema got.
At first, she'd felt pride that Prosecutor Sahdmadhi wanted her by his side. Ano'tha wasn't here in this diplomat's meeting. It always seemed there was another one to be had now that Khura'in was less insular, and less stabby. This time it was Borginia. There were several people other than the diplomat, with thick, colorful robes that sat around the table in the small room. They were pale and fair-haired, with rosy cheeks and bright blue eyes that kept sneaking towards Prosecutor Sahdmadhi.
This particular meeting room was warmer, painted in shades of white and gold, with a large portrait of a younger Queen Amara above them. The furniture seemed imported, possibly European. The chairs were backed with velvet and wood that could never grow in conditions like this. Ema couldn't tell if this was an ostentatious part of Queen Ga'ran, or gifts to Queen Amara before her fall. Either way, Ema could glean that it was meant for the foreign businessmen and rulers who came to see into the other side, and catch a glimpse of their loved ones.
Ema rested her hands on the mahogany table as the conversations swirled about her. Prosecutor Sahdmadhi chatted along with them, without even use of a translator. Ema couldn't help but admire how easily he worked their language. She didn't even know that he was fluent in Borginian as well. Add that to another mysterious and hot secret he had hidden away.
Even with the translator, Ema could barely catch a thing. It was only the largely ignored translator that made her realize the offhand comment. The diplomat casually introduced the two other people in the room, with a glance towards the Borginian diplomat.
Borgininan was an extremely complex language, with a writing system which looked like Wingdings, so she couldn't exactly say their station. She'd missed what the translator had called it exactly. But the implication was clear: a very eligible guy and girl were there, of some high station to be subtly introduced to the new Prince Regent of Khura'in. Like this was some medieval meeting to discuss treaties and make some marriage agreement to prevent wars.
She couldn't even get through some important country-related meeting without somebody trying to turn it into a chance to get their claws into Prosecutor Sahdmadhi. Ema couldn't even do her damn job without people rubbing in it her nose that they'd get to Prosecutor Sahdmadhi long before she ever had a chance.
Ema immediately pushed her chair back. The translator gaped, his translation left hanging. All talk stopped as every single damn person in the room stared at her.
"Is something the matter, Detective Skye?" Prosecutor Sahdmadhi said softly.
"I need a drink," she said bitterly.
With that, she walked out. It took every last bit of self control to not slam the door shut on her way out.
Ema nursed her drink in the empty mess hall. It was sweet, but not alcoholic. As much as she'd like to relax, the last thing Ema needed was to drink too much and have a case like that New Years where Apollo had to inform her that she'd completely wrecked some things and made a mess. Trucy had gotten pictures and everything.
Banners of the royal insignia of Princess Rayfa, and a portrait of the Holy Mother covered the walls. Between them were torches that burned bright. Once, a spider's emblem had rested there, but those had long ago been fed to the flames.
The tablecloth was a deep red, and bunched beneath her drink. She'd managed to spill quite a bit in her frustrated stirring and sipping. And given that it had some kind of sweet base, it was bound to stick.
Leaving stickiness and crumbs everywhere was Ema's major weakness.
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi let out a little sigh as he closed the door behind him. "At this rate, I may have to increase security," he said softly.
"I can flick Snackoos at anyone who bothers you," Ema said.
"It would be an amusing sight, but this is more about the current situation. Outside of the meeting, people were throwing bangles. The diplomat was almost hit in the process."
Oh right. Them. What was it with her and prosecutors that made everyone's panties go flying? It didn't matter the gender; everybody with eyes wanted a piece of him, in Khura'in or not. And frankly? She'd seen the mile long list of admirers Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth inevitably always gathered. Hell, she'd been one of them in years back.
(Ema tried to quietly ignore the fact that she had a history of thirsting after prosecutors just as much as these people. Okay, Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth. While plenty of people had lusted after Prosecutor Gavin, he did not count.)
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi took a seat beside her.
"We still have a long ways to go on the case, I am afraid."
"The cold case? Yeah, years of broken evidence and ignored witnesses will do that," Ema said.
"Yes... However, with your exemplary work, we shall soon lay this soul to rest."
His praise left a bittersweet feeling in her chest. She made a sour expression as she stared down at her drink.
"Yeah, I really knocked it out of the park with the way I tripped on those urns and then she stepped in and did everything." To say nothing of how everyone had stared at her when she'd rushed out of that meeting.
His brow furrowed. "You are unhappy with your assistant? Have you found her job unsatisfactory?"
"That's the problem! This is my job," Ema burst out. "I'm the one who gets the evidence, who presents the cases, who you--" she broke off, before she spilled it out. The one who you smile at, and cherish like that.
"Then you would wish to reassign her? I only hired her to prevent massive burn out, considering how many cases you have taken on for Khura'in, and me."
"And I appreciate the thought. But I really wish you would've talked with me about it. Instead of just coming in and finding out that surprise! I don't have anything to do anymore! And everyone is always getting in my way and trying to make a move on you--they'll ruin my crime scenes and--"
Ema broke off before she spat out and my chance with you.
His expression was unreadable. The last thing she needed was for Prosecutor Sahdmadhi to go full mask, like he always did when something upset him.
"I will speak with Ano'tha."
"Oh, I'm sure she'd love that," Ema said bitterly.
Prosecutor Sahdmadhi inclined his head. "You don't wish me to speak with her?"
"Don't even tell me you're that blind. She--and every damn other person in Khura'in--wants you! Hell, even people outside. We can't even get through meetings without people trying to get some marriage proposal! That Borginian diplomat was sure trying to marry you off to those people."
He nodded solemnly. "Yes...I did notice that. The truth is--Traditionally, women are the aggressors here. Though there are some exceptions. Like my father, who pursued my mother. It was considered quite shocking at the time--she was a much higher station than him, and he would openly flirt with her in the middle of court. Then again, he was always a renegade, even then."
"That explains a lot," Ema said. Especially that he was drowning in bangles lately.
"Within this country, it would be most untoward for a man to make a move as that one man did to you. To forcefully grab at her or make lewd comments would be unthinkable. I wish all countries abided to such rules."
"Huh, well you learn something new every day. Though that guy wasn't looking for a relationship. He was just being a jackass creep."
He remained silent, as if he was waiting for her to say something. His green eyes were completely unreadable.
"...So... You did not know," he said.
"About that custom? Yeah. You learn something every day," she said.
He remained quiet. Leave it to him to be stupidly mysterious. Ema couldn't figure out where the conversation had gone, or what he was thinking at all.
"Then I was waiting for an answer that would never come..." he said, barely above a whisper.
Ema watched, with growing questions in her mind as Prosecutor Sahdmadhi slipped off the gold bangle with a green jewel at his left arm. He very pointedly dropped it on the table before her.
Seconds passed as they both stared down at the bangle.
Ema lifted it up. Her heart started beating faster and faster as she remembered. It means they want you to chase after them.
"Prosecutor Sahdmadhi... Wait... I thought that women were the ones that did this? So is it different when men do it, or?"
"I have been waiting a long time, and cannot simply keep this within myself while I am constantly near to you. I am at my utter limit, especially the way people keep trying to capture your attention--like that putrid, putrid man at the airport."
He bowed his head.
"I hope I have not misread your irritation at my admirers wrong. And, I never let archaic stipulations of gender ever stop me. I do what I wish, I wear what I wish, I am what I wish. If it is a bangle that takes it to make you understand, then I shall do it. I will take the same path my father took back then."
The gold of the bangle glinted in the light. It started out as a little giggle, but in seconds, she had begun to out and out laugh.
"Detective Skye? ...You find my question laughable?" His voice broke at this. The thought that she'd accidentally hurt him was sobering enough to quell her sudden gigglefit.
"No, no! It's just--Were you waiting for me to ask you out all along? All that time I was fuming about people and hoping you would just take the hint, considering that everyone else thought we were dating anyways--you were just waiting for me? We were literally spending all that time just waiting for the other person to make the first move? I spent all that time being heartbroken that you were in love with someone else, and I was just jealous of myself? Oh, my sides hurt."
"...I had begun to wonder if I had misinterpreted your signs, and you were not interested after all. After all, I had made it abundantly clear several times."
"How? It's not like you held up a board that said date me, already."
Though sometimes, Ema had considered doing that.
"I never would have spent so much time alone with you, or have called you into my chambers late into the night, had I no interest in you. We even spent the Purification night eve together, and the Star festival. I always kept you close, and even others saw it clearly and remarked. I thought you must only have had some things to work out, for my feelings were very clear. But as time went on, I began to lose hope that you would accept me."
"How was I supposed to know that? I get called into Prosecutor's offices all the time. 'Ema, don't eat on the job so much. Ema, clean your desk. Ema, stop throwing your food at Herr Forehead.'"
She mimicked Prosecutor Gavin's thick accent.
"Also, my whole job is spending time with you. That's what coworkers do."
"There was a subtle difference between us. You had to have realized it?"
Ema tapped her lower lip thoughtfully. "Honestly, I thought there was so much chemistry between us, and every single day there's somebody I come across who thinks we're dating. Even Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth, and he was surprised when his own detective got married. The one who he worked with almost every single day. But I kept second guessing myself."
"Then why did you not speak up? Was it some custom?" he said.
"I guess traditions are men are supposed to be the aggressors, but fuck that. Honestly, the truth is--I've never felt like the moment when you offered to take me to Khura'in with you. It was like I was just--floating. When you would compliment me, and trust me with important cases, and take me along and everyone talked about how much you liked me--it just made me feel so...special, I guess. I wanted to feel that way again."
She puffed out her cheeks. "Call me high maintenance, laziness, whatever. I just wanted you to only pay attention to me, that's all."
He took her hand and brought it to his lips. Ema's heart fluttered at the contact and warmth.
"You desire to be cherished."
Ema's cheeks turned bright red. "I guess, yeah."
"Then, I shall make your wishes come true at every opportunity," Prosecutor Sahdmadhi said.
"Um, do I have to be the aggressor in everything? Sometimes I'm really lazy, you know. I just want to lay back and have you--" she didn't finish the sentence. She had a feeling he got the message anyways.
"No, now that you have accepted my feelings, there is no need for me to hold back any longer. I can finally tell you everything I am feeling. ...And what I want to do to you."
He leaned in, and his lips grazed her cheek. She tingled from the heat of the contact.
"Wait a minute--"
"Is something bothering you?"
"What if it's two women and two men? How would that even work?" Ema said suddenly.
"That's the pressing thought in your mind as I kiss you?" He shook his head, yet with a smile.
"It's not my fault I'm curious!"
He gently brushed his hand over her hair. "No, I adore you for it. They have their own customs, down from Lady Kee'ra. She also is the guidance for those who do not fit so neatly into woman or man. The rule was to prevent situations like that putrid soul within the airport, and his putrid words towards you."
"Huh, good to know," Ema said.
"You know, I guess, we can't just assume the other person understands the customs. If we do that, we'll just fight or get all tied in knots. There's a lot of different things here in Khura'in. It's interesting to learn, but I constantly feel like I'm making mistakes."
"As The Holy Mother said: 'Mistakes are integral to mastery.' I shall be right by your side all the way, and do what I can to help you. And in turn, you shall help me prevent any--as you put it--faux pas. I look forward to learning everything about you and your culture, Ema Skye."
Ema smiled. "Same here. Except, I like learning about the people who don't want to kill me more."
"She is no longer a concern."
"Yeah, but some of the people aren't too fond of me," Ema said.
"Then I will command them to treat you better," he said. "After all, you are the one I cherish most."
Ema smiled. Call her greedy, but she never got tired of Prosecutor Sahdmadhi's praise.
"I must apologize. I should have asked for your input on hiring someone. I thought it was merely the work load which bothered you, which is why I hired Ano'tha to help with the paperwork and other menial tasks. However, she was eager to do more and more than what I assigned..."
Ema scrunched up her nose. "It was like she was taking my place."
He closed his eyes. "Yes...that likely was her intention. She admitted her feelings for me, but I told her as gently as possible that I was already deeply in love with someone else."
Ema let out a frustrated groan. "She and everyone else in this country, and half the other places we visit! I swear we can't go anywhere without everyone wanting a piece of you!"
"I have always told my admirers that my heart already belonged to someone else."
Ema sighed. "It's not just that. Look, those numbers? They were numbers. Like phone numbers. Either other people in line or the cashiers were trying to pick you up. Every time we go out, waiters were hitting on you. Like that taco lady, other cashiers and even the stewardess."
And not just women, either. Quite a few male staff had attempted to flirt with him as well. Pretty much anyone of any gender had made it abundantly clear that they were down with monks, down to fuck and push her out of her place beside him as soon as was physically possible.
Ema puffed out her cheeks. "I hated it. Absolutely hated it. Having to just stay there and watch as everyone tried to steal you away. Then I'd feel worse when I remembered you weren't mine."
"The Holy Mother taught that jealousy is a noxious emotion that will rot you from the inside. It must be fought at all times."
She glanced down and let out a sigh. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Trust me, I know what it's like to have ugly feelings inside. I guess I was a brat again. Whatever. Listen--I know I messed up. I just wanted you all to myself. Before all this, back when we first met, it was like--us against the world. Now you have to juggle ruling a country, and everyone and their brother wants to date you. It's really frustrating! I didn't want to share. We get so little time together these days. I wanted you all to myself again."
He kissed the back of her hand in such a courtly and intense show of romance that Ema felt a little lightheaded.
"I admit, it was hard to see people admiring you. Such as that awful, putrid man. No one should be able to say such things to you, especially unwanted."
His green eyes burned with intensity, like he could fry that cat caller back to a thousand hells all over again.
"I, too, must learn to work on the noxious emotion that is jealousy."
"I mean, if you only get jealous when creeps are pissing me off, it's not going to be a problem," Ema said. "It's fun to see you fire lasers at people. You should do it in court more often."
He smiled. "I'm sure the defense would love to hear that."
"This is all fun, but will us being together stop all your admirers? Because it's really hard to just watch people try and steal you away from me over and over," Ema said.
"Ema, you must know: I am all yours. I always have been from the moment we met. Nothing will ever change that."
Ema blushed, as that perfect euphoric feeling felt her. Just like that time he'd taken her overseas, and so many other moments when he'd praised her.
"And as much as I know it is noxious, a part of me is happy to know you wanted me that much. That you were so affected at the thought of losing me."
Ema smirked. "Happy that I keep wanting to fight flirty baristas?"
"Now, now. Do not devolve into wrath. You know I am yours alone. And whatever it takes to show everyone else that, I will do. Even if I have to start wearing a large sign which says 'I love Ema Skye' over my chest, right where my heart is."
Ema couldn't help but giggle at this. The mental image was priceless. "That's a bit drastic, but I kind of like it, I'm not gonna lie."
Of course, there were other ways of staking a claim, and jumping into the deepest monogamy and promise there was. Two rings and a ceremony in front of them all, just to make the point clear that he was very off the market. But asking for marriage seconds after the first confession and before the first date seemed a bit hasty. Even if Ema figured he'd probably be down with something like that.
"Then we shall have the signs made. I'll put them up in all over the kingdom until the world understands that I am not to be loved by anyone else but you."
"That'd actually be pretty handy. Someone asks for your hand in marriage and you can just hold it up. You don't even have to prepare anything," Ema said.
"Or, I could simply point to you, and say 'this is the love of my life.' Eventually, they would have to understand, and come to adore you as I do."
He leaned in to kiss her. And really, it lived up to every expectation. All she could think was that this was worth the wait, even if they'd taken some truly ridiculous turns along the way.