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The Seelie of Kurain

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“Why are so many of the Fair Folk lawyers?” Clay asks. “Also while you’re up can you grab me a pack of Swiss Rolls?”

“Is this the setup for a joke or an actual question?” Apollo asks. He throws the entire box of Swiss Rolls from the cabinet at Clay and retrieves his dinner from the microwave. “And either way, why?”

“It’s not a joke, and you had some files out on the coffee table so listen, actual question, why are Folk lawyers common enough that there’s notation on the court transcripts about whether or not the lawyers is human.”

“It’s not actually common at all,” Apollo says. “That’s just all the cases where it did happen, which is some fraction of a percent of total cases. They mark it if they know but it’s not like they throw iron at everyone on the defense and prosecution’s benches to check.”

“They should do that,” Clay says. “What are Fair Folk doing in court anyway, all that magical power and you’re just gonna, go be a lawyer instead of anything else? They could probably just go into space! Just like that! They’re magic! They live in a realm of magic! And they’re like nah gonna hang around the mundane courthouse, that’s cool.”

“Well I mean,” Apollo says, “y’know, they can’t lie, so for them, the closest they can get to lying is being a lawyer, Mr Gavin says.”

Clay is mercifully quiet for a whole twenty seconds. “So was that a punchline or was he serious?”

“I don’t know.”

-

Clay warns him that he isn’t cautious enough. Clay has warned him of this since they were children and he arrived from Khura’in with little conception of the dangers of the fae (“The Fair Folk, Apollo! The Fair Folk! They think it’s insulting to call them otherwise!”). It’s why Clay insisted that they get an apartment together as roommates (“Because God only knows you’re going to forget to hang horseshoes above your windows and then get stolen away and I’m going to have to go through the ordeal of finding a new best friend”).

Clay puts a branch of a rowan tree on top of every doorway and Apollo thinks about the little house in the mountains, him and Nahyuta and Dhurke and sometimes Datz. Did Khura’in not have the legends — no, more than legends, but spoken of in hushed tones, eyes averted, pretend you don’t believe even when you know they’re real — of the fae? It did, it did, the name of the country far too close to the name of Kurain, the mystic Court of the Fae. So was it something worse than Dhurke not believing — something in the memories Apollo has tried to forget because it hurts too much to remember that life — that sometimes the air swirled around Dhurke like wind confined to him, and sometimes Nahyuta called up spectral butterflies to his fingertips. And sometimes Apollo wonders whether his father really died or whether he was spirited away with something else left in his place.

(But the Fair Folk never give up what they’ve taken without a struggle or a bargaining and they would never just abandon —)

Most people aren’t like Clay. They are cautious, certainly, never speaking of the Fair Folk by any name but that or other even vaguer euphemisms, dodging fairy rings that appear in the grass, rerouting construction around sacred trees, and everyone has a story about the cousin of a friend of a friend — but most don’t carry charms or ward their doorways. Most in the steel and concrete jungle, with science and iron frying pans, think themselves safe. (Clay has a lecture prepared about what kinds of iron works and what doesn’t.)

“Are all astronauts this superstitious?” Apollo asks, and Clay laughs and says, “Dude, you have no idea.”

Lawyers aren’t, or at least Kristoph Gavin isn’t. Apollo leaves his apartment and Clay’s reverence (fear?) of the fae and every day heads to an office that Clay is sure out of which he will be stolen away. No horseshoes or other charms of iron or rowan branches is to be expected; what isn’t is that Gavin doesn’t call them the “Fair Folk” and rolls his eyes whenever someone does. “They are bound to the law and contracts as much as you, perhaps even moreso.” His lecture on the matter sounds rehearsed, and the first time Apollo hears it, the looks on the faces of those who have been here longer tell him that it isn’t the first time they have. “As lawyers, always looking for loopholes, you are the best prepared to deal with them.”

But he is the one to drop the packet of cases involving fae on Apollo’s desk when Apollo expresses interest in that. He studies their twisting turns of phrase, the way they never spill the whole truth but dole it out in misleading pieces for as long as they can. If nothing else, it’s a deft evasion of perjury charges.

And it’s no wonder that back against the wall, up on the witness stand, both Gavin and Phoenix Wright start speaking in that same manner. “I’ve never lied to this court,” Wright says, smug, too impossibly smug, and Gavin spins threads just vague enough that Apollo keeps belatedly realizing that he is making assumptions that fill in the gaps. Gavin doesn’t say that he saw Wright through the tiny basement window, only that one could; and he never says that he thinks Wright killed Smith, only that Wright was there alone with the unconscious girl and the dead man, evidence to lead them to a false conclusion but stopping short of actually speaking the falsehood himself.

There’s too much at hand in the trial, too many questions the court has to handle for the case at hand, for Apollo to dwell on that. But either way, handcuffs are forged with magic-dampening cold iron, and it might just be a trick of the harsh fluorescent lights in the lobby that make Wright’s eyes appear to flash bright blue for a moment after Apollo punches him. Apollo has the bloody ace on his mind, after all, and his anger doesn’t settle, and Phoenix’s eyes are dark stormy gray assessing him when he turns his back on the man he considered an idol and storms out the door.

He cleans out his desk in a rush, stealing whatever office supplies he can without going too out of his way, because who knows when he’ll have money to spare to buy pens again, and he escapes the office before his coworkers can link him to Gavin’s arrest. “I think I’m done being a lawyer,” he tells Clay after finishing the story over a dinner that is 90 percent rice because they both forgot to go grocery shopping this week. “I don’t think it’s working out for me.”

“Dude, you can’t give up yet,” Clay says, reaching over to his laptop on the coffee table and tapping on a clickbait headline that reads 23 Celebrities Likely to be Fair Folk and Why We Wouldn’t Care if they Whisked Us off to Faeryland. “I believe in you. You said Wright offered you a place at his office? You can work there.”

Apollo didn’t tell him about Wright’s eyes and his twisting testimony, because he’s sure that Clay will barricade them in the apartment for the rest of their lives if he mentions that he thinks he might have received a job offer from a fae. He can already see the conversation playing out in his mind, Clay pouring a line of salt on the threshold and making every delivery driver step over it to deliver their only sustenance, cheap takeout.

“Thanks,” he says, “but I’m not going to work there.”

Clay shrugs. “So don’t give up the search before it starts. You got your client a not-guilty on your first trial. That’s something good for the resume, right?”

“I got my boss arrested on murder charges.”

“That’s only a problem if the firm trying to hire you has a boss who’s murdered someone.”

He’s either wrong or every firm in the city has a partner who has murdered someone, because two months later, Clay has covered the full rent for June, and Apollo has been eating peanut butter for a week because it’s cheap and it’s the thing he feels least bad about taking out of the pantry. And the universe hasn’t even given him the liberty of just worrying about that, because also either the last of his sanity has left him and in its place handed him hallucinations, or there really is periodically an ethereal white dog, its red-furred ears poking up out of its foggy head and looking more real than the rest of its body, its tail wisping like smoke, stalking the hall outside their apartment. Clay doesn’t see it — he can’t see it, it seems, when Apollo pulls him to the threshold and opens the door and there on the other side is the hound with its hollow red eyes but Clay only sees an empty hallway. He buys extra salt on the next grocery run. Apollo considers walking out the door into its jaws and freeing Clay from this hell.

On the day he gets a call from Wright, he doesn’t see it lurking in the hall or outside the building, and that and his financial situation are encouragement enough that he gets on his bike and heads for the office. He still has a number of reservations about going there, but the fae are all about contracts, aren’t they? Steep interest on favors, IOUs where the price they claim is too high, nothing is given without a cost down the line — and from what Wright said, it sounds like Apollo would be doing him a favor. And that — if he owes Apollo, then that couldn’t be leveraged against Apollo. (But Apollo needs a job too. Is this an equal exchange?)

The office seems normal, for a place covered in a magician’s props, but when Wright’s daughter, wearing a top hat and cape, invites him inside, Apollo carefully skirts around the hula-hoop lying flat on the floor. He lets the girl, Trucy, her name is, the one who gave him the bloody ace, drag him off to the hospital, a place that raises more questions for him — do the fae have magical healing powers? Would they even need to go to a hospital? Would they be exposed at a hospital? But what human would survive head trauma from a car crash with only a sprained ankle, not even a concussion — never mind the way outside of court he speaks in the same obfuscated tangle.

What is Phoenix Wright?

(In one of those old case files Gavin gave him, one of the fae lawyers named herself with the surname Fey, her obvious boldness almost funnyApollo wonders if there is more in this world less famous than the Folk, if before him shrouded in magical glamour stands a gleaming firebird.)

When they return to the office after their investigation, after Apollo has found himself with a client, the office no longer feels normal — it feels far too normal. He dodges the plastic fairy ring and sinks into the couch and it feels like home, welcoming, warm, like the maw of a beast trying to lure him in, the sickly sweet taste of a lotus offered to him to eat. It is too comfortable for him to be comfortable with it. Trucy rolls the hula-hoop across the floor on its side and unconcernedly flings herself onto the couch next to Apollo. What is she, he wonders — her magic simply sleight-of-hand or something worse?

At least the trial is full of liars, and when it is over, the Kitakis pay well. That leaves a second riddle, and that is Klavier Gavin, the brother that Apollo didn’t know his boss had, the brother who is identical in face and hair and eyes, who but for his fashion sense and grin could have been Kristoph slipped through the prison bars, who but for eight years could be his twin. Something about him feels off, like the office does, and Apollo doesn’t know if reality really is shimmering ever-so-slightly around him or whether that’s just paranoia, exhaustion, and confusion, but he trusts Klavier’s eyes, the swirling blue maelstrom, as much as he does Wright’s, the colors shifting dark to light and back.

When the trial is over and he leaves the defendant’s lobby, Klavier is waiting there, Klavier who lost the trial to Apollo who put his brother in jail, with a grin and a wink and a business card put into Apollo’s hands with a “Call me sometime, ja? Or text. I’m not picky.”

Which Apollo has no intention of doing, because he unlike Trucy is not enchanted by this man, until the next week Clay finds the business card shuffled into other papers on the coffee table and sits Apollo down on the couch. “You have Klavier Gavin’s personal phone number,” he says, waving the card, on the back of which is scrawled a number in purple gel pen, in Apollo’s face. “People would kill for this. would kill for this!”

“Why didn’t you tell me that Mr Gavin had a brother?” Apollo asks, slumping further into the couch to get away.

“I thought you knew! Because! Klavier Gavin! He’s famous! He has a band!”

“Yeah, I’m not uselessly gay about celebrities like you are.”

“This isn’t even about me being uselessly gay — this is about you not even listening to the fucking radio.” Clay smacks him on the head and drops the card on his face. “Text him! We’re going to text him. Where’s your phone?”

He knows Clay to know that he won’t let this drop and with a sigh he retrieves his phone from where it ended up beneath the couch. “I’m not even sure if he’s human,” Apollo admits, and he waits for Clay to recoil, knock the phone back out of his hand, and for caution to regain control and them to give up on this and for Apollo’s life to return to as normal as it can be anymore. He hasn’t sighted the dog for the past six days and that’s the nicest thing that has happened to him in two months.

But Clay stares at him for a moment, frowning, and says simply, “He probably isn’t.”

“Wait,” Apollo says. “You — I’ve met him and know why think — why do you—”

Dude,” Clay says. “Every song he’s written is dumb legal-system bullshit and bad puns and his band should be some niche thing to like ironically at best, but no, he’s world-famous with chart-topping albums full of this bugfuckery. How do you make this many people buy into that without Fair Folk glamour?”

“Forget I asked.”

“But does it not make a certain amount of sense?”

And were this about two weeks ago, Apollo would be willing to argue, say he’s pretty and people are shallow and that’s enough, but Clay’s wacky theory can only bolster what Apollo now already thinks. “I guess,” he says.

“You still are gonna text him, though,” Clay says. “I am not letting you pass this opportunity by.”

“Opportunity to what? Get kidnapped from this realm to never return and die?”

Hey, it’s Apollo Justice.

“To go on a date with a cute celebrity who you may or may not want to be careful about taking what he offers you — don’t include your last name, how many people named Apollo do you think he’s given his number to? — Oh, you sent it already.”

“Don’t micromanage my texting.”

“I have to or you’ll sound like a loser.”

They wait in silence for an answer. There have been a few moments in Apollo’s life that have felt more ridiculous than this, sitting side-by-side on the couch staring intently at Apollo’s phone, but only a few.

-Herr Forehead! I was starting to think you had lost my number ;)

“Why does he call you that?”

“I have no idea.”

-Had any interesting cases this week?

“I’d kill for a boring case.”

“Then die.”

Not really. What about you?

“You’re supposed to say ‘wbu’! Sound casual!”

“That sounds like fuckboy slang.”

“Look at his fashion choices and tell me he isn’t a fuckboy.”

“But I’m not!”

-Nothing so fun as debating panty thefts with you.

“Oh my god. Apollo. Apollo, oh my god.”

“Yeah, he’s a fuckboy.”

“Then you know what you need to do.”

“Don’t you dare say it—”

-You busy this weekend?

“No, you’re not. You aren’t.”

“I might have plans that you’re unaware of—”

“No, no, now you don’t. Tell him you don’t.”

“So he can make fun of me for being sad and lonely?”

“Fine. Tell him you don’t have anything more important than him.”

“That’s such a fuckboy response.”

Nothing much important. You?

“You are really bad at holding conversations, Apollo.”

“I know! I’m very aware of that!”

-Want to get coffee on Saturday?

“Dude. Dude. Apollo holy shit.”

“I know.”

“Dude just fucking say yes what are you waiting for?”

“We just established not ten minutes ago that we’re pretty sure he’s not human!”

“You have a chance to score with that, you take it.”

“What happened to all of your self-preservation instincts?”

“Dude. Klavier Gavin is asking you out. Answer him!”

-There’s something I need to talk to you about.

“That doesn’t sound so much like a date,” Apollo says.

“Ah,” Clay says. “Perhaps not.”

“That sounds ominous.”

“Yeah.”

But Apollo’s life has already slipped from his control.

Where and what time?