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Maya Fey is dreaming.

Well. She’s almost entirely sure she’s dreaming, at least. It might be true that when she channels the world goes fuzzy and dark like this, but right now she feels even more bodiless, ethereal - and the weightless space around her stretches on further than she can see, shifting nothingness like billowing clouds.

She extends her own hand in front of her and sees nothing there but rolling smoke and darkness.

That settles that, I guess .

She’s not afraid, she realises, oddly. Maya still likes to think of herself as someone who’s never afraid, or who never lets fear win, anyway - she’s been through enough harrowing experiences and come right back out of them as herself, same old dorky Little Miss Fey, hasn’t she?

...Hasn’t she?

Maya swims onward through the darkness away from that thought.

The haze whorls around her as she goes, dim pinpricks of stars off in the distance intermittently masked by fog so black it’s nearly invisible, but there’s something there - she’s trying to find something, though she’s not sure exactly what.

In the space of a blink Maya is suddenly aware that her magatama isn’t around her neck, and it knocks against her palm before she can think to look for it in the dim spacelight. She grabs blindly at where it’s floating in space, urgent with some kind of unknown instinct, and raises the hole to her eye.

Blue stone curls around the blue vision of Franziska von Karma.

She’s right there in front of Maya. Her skin is cold, bloodless grey. She is curled up with her arms around her knees, her hair freed from the harsh lines of its usual bob and floating outwards strand by strand in this dream-gravity, almost like they’re underwater. Maya feels herself grow still, but Franziska is moving, rotating in slow eddies, her hand curled around the opposite elbow. Maya has never been here, but it still feels familiar, crawlingly so, like there’s a realisation hovering just out of reach but creeping closer.

Franziska’s eyes are welded shut, lips pulled thin, brow pinched into that familiar, pained frown.

Other eye, breathes Mia’s voice in her ear, and Maya obeys (she always obeys), peering through the hole in the magatama with her left eye this time.

Now she can see that Franziska’s other hand is clutching her shoulder, and from underneath the white knuckles of her iron grip, Franziska is bleeding.

Maya covers her mouth with phantom hands.

Red is seeping out into white fabric, an ugly weal of colour so bright it’s hard to look at, more vivid than anything but the pale blue-grey of Franziska’s hair against her cheek. It’s not real - not that any of this is - but she notices as she creeps closer that her fingertips brush the edge of the scarlet puddle pooling out below them and pass through it like air. And yet, the tang of iron and fear and despair is still heavy in her lungs with every breath. And yet, in the eye of the magatama Franziska is bleeding and bleeding and bleeding into the cold dark of space around them.

Breath turns to a sob in Maya’s throat.

Franziska is never afraid. Is she?

“Franziska?” she tries, but the air dies before it reaches her throat. Growing desperate, the remote immobility of the dream dissipating, Maya reaches out for her through the trembling. Maya has to wake her - she has to do something - but as soon as she feels soft fabric and softer skin under her palm, Franziska disappears with an electric shudder that reverberates up the bones of her arm, and then the dream --

-- shifts --

--and they’re on some kind of shore with the maw of the ocean wide and yawning open waiting for them. 

Maya looks over her shoulder and Franziska is there, sand dissolving into the water between their feet. The ruffles of a bathing suit frame the narrowness of her waist, white cloth pulled smooth against pale skin, and Franziska’s eyes meet hers, pupils dark and blown wide in quicksilver irises, searching, asking, yearning.

The waves are mouthing at Maya’s toes, and there are words coming out of her that disappear into the wind before she can parse them, but the lilt of Franziska’s voice answers her and then they’re laughing, heady sound wrapping around Maya like a blanket. They’re in the ocean now. When she looks back, the furrows and harsh angles of Franziska’s face are easing into something so beautiful Maya can hardly bear it.

Suddenly Franziska’s hand is in hers and Maya is turning, pulling them forward and down into the waves. They collide as water rushes up to meet them, hips flush and skin on skin, and they’re kissing before Maya can think to ask, Franziska’s mouth softly needy against hers. 

Maya snakes an arm around her waist, bracing them together against the pull of the waves, and Franziska cups Maya’s jaw with a delicate hand, tilting it just enough to crane herself closer still. Maya doesn’t bother to hold back her purr of appreciation, and Franziska makes a soft, strangled noise in the back of her throat, tugging the hair at the base of Maya’s neck just enough that it feels like sparks, and--

--and then Maya’s eyes open.

Franziska is gone. The water laps around her, salty enough to sting, and the sky is dark like twilight but she still knows , with the static of certainty in her gut like imminent lightning, that the water around her has turned red.

Maya is holding a gun, and the chamber is empty.

Then--

Then she’s awake.

Or, she’s almost entirely sure she is, anyway. It’s dark in the Wrights’ apartment, with only inky winter sky in the gap between the curtains and the window. The room is just as quiet as it had been when she fell asleep, too, with only the hum of the fridge in the other room and the rumble of traffic out in the city below. 

Man. Are my dreams always this weird when I sleep on a couch?

Maya rolls over with a groan to bury her face in the couch cushions instead of facing down that with the whole living room looking back at her. The exact details of it are already fading a little, but she knows she’ll feel more than remember what her dream was about even when the real memories are gone. The flush in her cheeks is more than enough proof of that.

It’s not like this is the first time, either.

Maya sighs and shoves the blanket down, rolling off the couch and shuffling towards the kitchen for a glass of water. Waking up like this always leaves her throat all scratchy, and it’s even more annoying that she’s up again so soon after falling asleep - she’d been on the couch, making good use of Phoenix’s wifi while he was away, so she hadn’t ended up crashing until half past one.

2:53am. Yikes.

Listen, she’s not opposed to having sexy dreams, obviously. She could take or leave all the creepy imagery, but that part was fading faster into the inkiness of sleep, and there’s hardly any harm in letting the softer, headier parts linger in her head for a while, is there?

The fact that it’s Franziska von Karma who keeps appearing in those particular dreams is mostly just inconvenient. Franziska her kinda-not-really sister-in-law, via a relationship that has only just recently turned from pining into something concrete (thank God, there was only so many more years of that Maya could take). It’s kinda safe to think about, because Franziska is a friend Maya hasn’t even seen for a few years, and as far as she knows isn’t even in the country right now, off using her huge brain and her whip for whatever it is she does with Interpol.

And… were they ever friends, really, anyway?

Apart from a few post-trial celebrations, where Franziska’s whip-smart intellect and apparent ability to hold alcohol like someone twice her size had seized Maya’s attention, but then disappeared early and without ceremony, Maya can’t really ever remember them having a conversation. Not properly.

So, no, the fact that Maya’s been dreaming about Franziska on the regular since the whole kidnapping debacle is probably founded on absolutely nothing in real life, and the fact that the dreams only seem to be getting more regular and more involved… well, inconvenient at best, right?

She’s not not thinking about it as she stares down into the sink, at where the metal reflects a dull version of the streetlight outside. So much so that Maya only just hears the sound of a knocking at the apartment’s front door over the sound of the running tap. Then, even weirder, a voice, muffled by the rooms between them and the street noise outside, but still kinda… familiar?

“Hello?”

Her glass is only half full, but Maya shuts the tap off, urgently.

She considers not answering the door for about half a second, odd third-hand fear waking in her gut at horror stories of things that could happen to people answering the door at midnight, but that familiar note to the voice nags at her the longer she stands limply in the kitchen, and besides, the spike of fear feels kinda remote with the bleariness of sleep still around the edges of her vision.

So she shuffles to the door in her socks, and fumbles with the lock, forcing back a yawn as the door swings open.

Maya feels her dream and reality crash together with the force of a meteorite, because on the doorstep is Franziska von Karma.

And she is bleeding.

“Oh,” says Franziska, lips cracked and a bruise in full purple bloom under her cheekbone. She’s wearing very plain clothes in all black, which would normally be higher on the list of weird things to take note of, but Maya can still see the dark, wet stain spreading underneath her fingers as Franziska clamps down on her upper arm, trying to stem the bleeding there.

“Uh,” says Maya, and the note of hysteria in her voice is, in her opinion, entirely justified. “Franziska?”

“I’m aware of the hour, Miss Fey,” says Franziska, her voice a lake with no ripples, perfectly enunciated. Maya can practically feel her brain leaking out of her ears in response.

“You gotta… I’m not dreaming right now, am I?”

Despite herself, Maya’s gaze flicks back upward to Franziska’s other shoulder, but unlike in her mind’s eye just a few minutes ago, there’s nothing there.

“A foolish question. Unfortunately, you are not, though I can hardly provide any evidence to -- Hold on. You don’t live here.”

Despite herself, Maya almost laughs at the sudden, perplexed quirk of Franziska’s mouth.

“Housesitting for Phoenix and Truce while they’re in Europe. Miles told you, right?”

“Ah,” says Franziska, her face like stone.

What the hell did she want Nick for at 3AM? Nick or Truce, for that matter.

Franziska raises an eyebrow like she heard that - hardly surprising, since people always say having a face like an open book is one of the things Maya and Phoenix have in common.

“As you may suspect, I was looking for Phoenix’s assistance, seeing as my little brother is abroad, and I have few in the way of other acquaintances here. However, I am not opposed to finding you here instead. Let me in.”

It’s not a question, but Maya still says “Sure, okay,” as she takes a step backwards into the little apartment kitchen and flicks on the light.

Maya’s a nice person, so she doesn’t say it out loud, but it hits her like a freight train as soon as the door is closed and warm incandescent light spills out into the apartment. Franziska looks like shit.

Without even mentioning the gash on her arm - which, hello, is still bleeding - Franziska still looks like she’s been run over by a herd of something murderous. Her black outfit is torn in places, there is dirt smeared across whatever little skin is visible, and her eyes are wide and staring. Not that she doesn’t usually stare - quite the opposite, actually. But not like this. Her skin has gone deathly pale, and the rings under her eyes are like bottomless pits. It’s exactly like how her brother gets when he’s been awake for thirty-six straight hours staring at a case file that just won’t give him the answers he needs.

Maya would know. She usually has to deal with Phoenix after their insane all-nighters. Or… not anymore, but she had to, at least, back in the day.

“I have been stabbed,” Franziska says with no preamble, sitting down at the tiny melamine table as matter-of-factly as if this had been a casual visit for tea on a Sunday.

“Yeah,” says Maya. “I noticed that.”

Maya feels the cogs in her brain freewheeling with nothing to catch onto, her head still half in the dream, because for all she knows she’s still dreaming. How else does it make sense that Franziska is even here, right now?

It’s one hell of a coincidence, put it that way. 

Franziska just eyes her from across the kitchen with that razor-edge gaze, and raises a perfectly manicured eyebrow.

“Not that I’m not… happy to see you.” Actually, that’s probably an understatement , “But, uh, shouldn’t you be in a hospital?”

Franziska’s lip curls back into a snarl. Maya finally manages to regain control of her limbs, and sits down in the chair opposite, placing her own half-full glass of water in front of Franziska instead. She eyes it like water is a foreign concept.

Maya is excruciatingly aware, suddenly, that she is still wearing her fluffy fleece Pink Princess pyjamas.

“I detest hospitals. I’m sure you can gather the many reasons as to why. And regardless, I am concerned the local police may learn of my location before Interpol can handle the paperwork. The interdepartmental nature of the investigation means that the utmost importance--”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Maya interrupts, hauling Franziska out of her chair by the elbow a little more roughly than she’d intended and pulling her into the hallway, toward the bathroom.

“What are you doing,” hisses Franziska, another not-question that Maya chooses to answer anyway.

“Looking after you, obviously,” says Maya, towing her down the hallway, leaving one or two crater droplets of blood on the laminate as they go.

“I do not need looking after ,” Franziska spits, and Maya smiles, tilting her head forward into her shoulder so Franziska won’t see. There you are. Finally. Was starting to worry.

“I mean, you do, though. Have you seen yourself, Franziska?” 

She hears Franziska snort, indignant, but there is no reply.

The fluorescent light above them and the white tile of the bathroom almost feel blindingly sterile at this hour, shadows hollow and thin, especially compared to the warmth of the kitchen and the faded colour bloom of the city streetlights outside the front door. Maya shoulders forward under it anyway, leading Franziska into the poky room practically dwarfed by the bathtub and sink, and closing the bathroom door behind them.

Extra security never hurts. Especially since Franziska still hasn’t told her anything about a stabber who might still be out there.

“Okay. Now, lemme see what we can borrow from Nick,” she says, rifling through the medicine cabinet.

Laxatives? Oh, god, I’m really gonna regret looking through here, aren’t I.

From behind her, Franziska tries again.

“Miss Fey,” she snaps, “all I require is somewhere safe to rest where, unlike a hotel room, someone would notice if I lost consciousness and bled to death. That is all.”

“Uh-huh,” says Maya, trying to read the fine print on a weird-smelling tube of… something.

“Simply go back to bed and monitor my pulse once in a while, if you like, and any inconvenience will be over with by morning.”

Maya wheels around, coming shockingly close to where Franziska lingers behind her, listless in a way that is almost frightening when Maya knows her as someone so intimidating, so terrifyingly driven. The sheer weight of the difference crawls up Maya’s spine. 

“If you really think I’m gonna do that, then I don’t think you know me very well, Franziska.”

Mid-revolve, she plants her hands on Franziska’s shoulders and sits her down on the edge of the bath, ignoring the little shockwave of familiarity as her thumb brushes over that spot on Franziska’s right shoulder and feels a little ridge of scar tissue there.

Not now, jeez. I’ll have time to compartmentalise weird dream shit later.

This Franziska is more raw than Maya has ever seen her; stripped of her guile, her anger, and her arrogance. This version of Franziska leans against the bathroom wall with a straight back but a posture held up by nothing but thin puppeteer’s wire. The hollows under her eyes look like they go on for miles.

What the hell happened to you, Franziska?

Maya is just as drawn by curiosity to see what is left as she is frightened by what she might find.

They lock eyes for a long, tense moment, Maya searching those irises she has barely even seen before up close but are more familiar than they have any right to be. Even with clear exhaustion written into her bones Franziska’s gaze is like cold steel, grey shot through with silver-blue, but Maya has known her brother for long enough not to scare so easily, and she quirks an eyebrow, daring her to give in.

Franziska breaks, gaze darting into a corner, a sour-sweet curl at the edge of her mouth that Maya just itches to -- well, it is very distracting.

“Perhaps I do not. Do as you will.”

She doesn’t say it, but in the way Franziska’s one free hand uncurls from a fist, and the angle of her racked shoulders eases just a few millimeters, Maya hears I don’t know if I should, but I trust you .

Maya releases her, turning back to the basin and pulling out anything from the cabinet that seems useful. Then she needles Franziska - partially habit, partially buying herself time while she figures out exactly what she’s supposed to do with the stuff she’s borrowing.

“By the way, Franziska, you don’t gotta ‘Miss Fey’ me. I’m twenty one - we’re the same age, for crying out loud.”

“I am six months older than you.”

Why am I flattered she knows that .

“Still. It’s not like I call you Prosecutor von Karma, Esquire, or whatever.”

“And neither do I call you Mystic Maya, but that - Ach. Nevermind.”

From behind her Maya hears a trademark von Karma scoff; but then something softer, and Maya has never heard Franziska’s voice this soft, not even in her dreams.

“What should I call you, then?”

Swallowed by impetus to run away from the little wash of warmth in her chest at that voice, Maya whirls around dramatically and extends a hand in mock-formal greeting.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Maya Fey. Call me Maya, please.”

From her perch on the bath Franziska rolls her eyes, but to her credit shakes with Maya, a little awkwardly since it’s with the hand she isn’t currently using to stop that arm falling off.

“You are a fool, Maya,” she says, tone so dry it almost takes the edge off the tiny whisper of a smile hovering around the edges of her eyes. Almost.

“Duh. Not the first time I’ve heard that.”

“No doubt it will not be the last, either.”

“Hey!” says Maya, puffing out her cheeks and wagging a finger in fake outrage, despite the fact she’s grinning so hard it’s hurting her face. “You say that like you want to keep bleeding on my floor.”

Franziska makes an odd little movement - almost like she went to fold her arms over her chest, before remembering that one of them is out of operation - and then her eyebrows pinch together like the failure pains her.

“I do not want to, especially seeing as it is not your floor.”

Maya reels for a moment, half of her hot like a fever with Franziska’s presence so close and already reaching for another witty repartee, and the other half riveted on Franziska’s white knuckles, blood crusted dark and sanguine around her fingers. Both the dream and the reality of her injury crash back over her at once, and Maya sucks in a breath, suddenly sober.

Fuck. I forgot what her and her idiot brother are like. I can't keep getting distracted and clowning around just to try and impress her, because she will bleed to death before she asks for help.

“We should get to that, actually,” says Maya, presenting the bandages and disinfectant she’d found.

“Oh, joy,” says Franziska. looking down at the bundle in her hands. There’s iodine and band-aids in the pile, which means the way she blanches is probably justified, but some of it is proper hospital grade, including a roll of that transparent film bandage stuff she’d seen Aunt Morgan use once after an operation.

Pretty hardcore stuff to have lying around, but we all know what a trouble magnet Nick is, and God knows what kind of injuries Trucy gets in her line of work.

“I should probably admit before we get started that I have basically no idea what I’m doing, but I’m sure as long as the bleeding has stopped--”

Franziska raises an eyebrow and releases her grip on the hidden gash in her arm, and as if it has its own sense of comedic timing, blood starts to trickle out from under the fabric again in earnest, running down her elbow and into the bath.

I really gotta clean up in here before Phoenix gets back next week, or he’s gonna think I murdered someone. Again.

“Okay,” says Maya, reaching for Franziska’s left elbow to steady her. “Uh. Yeah. We can deal with that. I’m gonna start putting some pressure on it again, okay?”

“I thought I was doing that perfectly well myself,” says Franziska, a little sardonic spark in her gaze even under the pallor.

“Franziska,” she chides, eye rolling, and crowds next to her on the edge of the bath so she can reach the supplies. Maya arms herself with a square of fluffy white gauze. “Here we go. You’re not gonna hit me or anything if it hurts, right?”

“Maya Fey,” says Franziska, almost scandalised, taking Maya much more seriously than she has earned with the lightness of her tone. “Do not be ridiculous.”

“Uh, Franziska? Have you seen yourself with that whip?”

Franziska blinks at her owlishly.

“I would never do such a thing. Not to you.”

Maya’s grip shakes around her elbow. There is planetary gravity there in her voice, and in the force with which Franziska holds her gaze. She says the words like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.

Sure enough, when Maya looks down to her hip where her holster usually is, her whip is missing.

“Okay,” says Maya, letting her voice go soft. It’s true. Franziska, even at her most furious with figurative claws and fangs outstretched, has never hurt Maya. I don’t know why, but I trust you.

With one hand, Maya starts rolling up Franziska’s sleeve so she can actually see what she’s looking at under the fabric, pressing down towards the bleeding with the gauze in her other hand, but as soon as she puts any pressure around the area a flash of pain screams across Franziska’s face before she scrambles to mask it.

“Shit. Sorry, sorry, sorry.” 

I have no fucking idea if I’m doing this right.

“Don’t -” chokes Franziska through her teeth, hands curled into fists, and that is a sound Maya recognises very well. “Do not be concerned. I’m… fine.”

“Stop that. You’re not .”

You're allowed to be in pain, for the love of God.

“Just - Rip the sleeve off, Maya. That should help you gain access.”

“I - What?”

Franziska shrugs as casually as she can given one arm is in Maya’s grip.

“It’s Interpol property. They can claim it as damages if they like.”

A laugh bubbles up and over before Maya can claw it back down, and though her mouth remains taut and level there’s an answering little glimmer of something in Franziska’s expression that makes hope well up in Maya’s chest - so stupidly, so effervescently, just for one second before she can get ahold of herself.

Stop being a dumbass lesbian for like one second, Maya.

Maya makes short work tearing the sleeve off, since it’s almost sawn in half already from whatever Franziska was stabbed with. 

The one-sleeve look is kinda working for her, honestly.

Now Maya’s all up in there, and Franziska’s bloodied hand is out of the way, she can actually see the source of all this havoc. It’s more of a slice than a stab , Maya thinks to herself, as if from at a great distance. The wound starts just underneath a freckle halfway between Franziska’s elbow and her shoulder, curving wickedly to one side, and Maya is pretty sure it’s gonna need stitches. Thankfully, it's kinda shallow - not as deep as it had looked while half-hidden by fabric and with all the blood everywhere, though it is still reasonably long, almost the size of her outstretched fingers since it wraps almost the whole way around to the other side of her arm. The edges are jagged where it cut through the seams of her clothes, and blood is still welling toward the bottom in a slow ooze.

There are a few more places in Franziska’s clothing where the fabric has been torn through, and in some places the skin underneath as well. There’s nothing else as bad as the wound on her arm, and nothing else is still bleeding either, but a few of the cuts are a little nasty, including a long, skinny nick skimming across the bottom of her ribcage, almost like an aftershock of the bigger one.

We’ll come back to you later, I guess?

“Franziska--” says Maya, hovering with the gauze.

“No,” she snaps, eyes squeezing shut, but Maya ploughs ahead regardless.

“Are you sure you don’t need to go to--”

No . It merely needs to be sterilised with--” The sound is bitten off as Maya gently presses down with the gauze and Franziska’s whole body goes taut with the effort to keep silent. Maya sucks in air through her teeth in sympathy, but nothing in Franziska’s bearing releases in response. “The worst few wounds,” she begins again, through her teeth, “only need to be sterilised with alcohol once the bleeding stops and bandaged, that is all.”

Does the hole in your arm not look as big from up there, or are you really this stubborn?

“Listen, this big one looks like it might need stitches, don’t you think--”

“Maya, I am not seriously injured. The knife bypassed both the brachial artery and the basilic vein, and while it is perhaps painful, I will not require more medical attention than this before morning. I will find a suitable doctor for your accursed stitches then.”

Maya lets that sit in the air for a moment, and in that space one of Franziska’s eyelids cranes itself open, slowly, like a crocodile breaching the water’s surface - and she eyes Maya like a reptile, too, imperious and with cold evaluation.

“Fine. I’ll do my best to make sure you make it that far, I guess. I'm not gonna pretend I know what those words mean, but I'm assuming you do, so.”

Franziska does that one-armed shrug again, flicking her chin up and away in an almost perfect mimicry of the Franziska von Karma that Maya knew years ago.

“I have seen a lot of dead bodies,” she says over her shoulder, ever so coolly. “Knowledge of anatomy comes with the territory.”

Franziska’s lids fall closed again, so she doesn’t see Maya’s eyes roll.

No need to show off about it, hotshot. Jeez.

There’s a little silence, then. Franziska’s breaths are like a metronome - clipped even, purposefully so - and Maya sinks into the sound of it for a moment, a little bell in the back of her brain still ringing incredulously with the fact that Franziska is even here at all. They’re close enough that Maya is now intimately familiar with the little freckle underneath her left eye, and knows that it has siblings that dot themselves up and down the rosy skin of her arms like constellations. She watches her eyebrows twitch with her breaths, like she’s forcing herself to relax on the exhale. Franziska smells like gunpowder and sweat and misery, and her hair is a tangled mess - which seems extremely out of character - but having her so close, having her here at all , still kinda scrambles Maya’s brain a little, if she’s honest. 

Another, quieter bell is ringing too; still mulling over the dream, memory heavy with the darkness of space and the salt of bloodied water around her… and the longer she thinks about it, this dream is really starting to feel awfully prophetic, isn’t it?

Maya bites the inside of her cheek until she comes back to her senses, and checks under the gauze to see if the wound is still bleeding - it is, but slower now.

“So. You got stabbed, right?”

“Correct. I am not at liberty to discuss the details.”

“How’d I know you were gonna say that,” says Maya drily, trying to figure out how to peel off the adhesive backing on the bandage one-handed.

“How ever ,” Franziska huffs, one eye half-open with irritation, grabbing at one end of the bandage to hold it still while Maya peels, “if you would let me finish --”

“That’s way less fun, obviously, duh.”

Franziska actually bothers to open both her eyes this time, just to glare daggers from mere inches away. Maya’s just honoured she put in all that effort.

“I do not see how that is in any way remotely logical.”

Maya pulls out her most winning smile.

“That’s because it isn’t!” 

Franziska gives a trademark scoff, and Maya feels her smile widen before she can catch it. Everything else aside, the fact that winding her up is even working means that Franziska is further from death’s door than Maya feared, which is a relief. 

“What was it you gonna say about your top secret Interpol whatever?”

“I doubt you actually wish to know now, regardless,” she says with something that almost resembles a pout.

“Aw, c’mon, Franziska, you know I’m just messing with you. And anyway, you’re still a prosecutor, right? What were you even doing in the vicinity of someone with a knife?”

Franziska sniffs an even little breath through her nose.

“I’m sure you know how it is. If one wants something done right, then--”

“You do it yourself? Seriously? Knives , Franziska.”

“I’m sure it sounds idiotic to you. But you can’t imagine the kind of bureaucracy that can tangle itself around Interpol affairs. Every so often, when the situation is desperate enough, your choices grow… limited.”

Jeez, ” says Maya fervently. 

“‘Jeez’ is putting it lightly,” Franziska replies, rolling the word around in her mouth like it’s a foreign sweet she’s not quite sure she likes the taste of.

“Did you… win, at least? Or, get done whatever needed to get done?”

“In a way,” she says, an enigmatic curl to her mouth that reminds Maya so much of Miles that she nearly says it aloud. “I have a solid lead, at least, which is better off than I was twenty-four hours ago.”

Maya is staring, she knows it, but a fact is staring right back at her from behind Franziska’s cold silver irises. We are very different people , she thinks, despite the fact that the deeper she gets here, the more she feels like she knows Franziska, with a deep resonance right down in her bones somewhere. 

Maya’s throat goes tight, but she plunges in anyway.

“Can I ask you one thing, though?”

“You may. I might not give it.”

Oh, Franziska. I’d expect nothing less.

“Call it advice, then. I just… Don’t go by yourself, next time. To your mysterious Interpol danger missions.”

Franziska’s head ratchets a few curious degrees to the right, very carefully.

“And why should I do that?”

Maya shrugs, painfully casual.

“I’m not gonna tell you not to do your job - if you really have to go do something in person, you’re the best judge of that, but... Some people would be really upset if you got badly hurt next time.”

Me, for example, she almost says, and then your little brother’s head would explode if he could see you right now , but she says neither of them.

Maya can’t quite bring herself to look up for a few moments, and it’s a surprise when she finally does - she doesn’t find any of the fury or indignance she’d expected to find, there in the usual home they’ve made on Franziska’s face. Instead, she holds Franziska’s gaze as she huffs in a startled breath, and the knot in the middle of her eyebrows turns thoughtful, then pained, then perplexed.

Franziska’s hand in her lap goes limp, and in a splintering moment of bravery, Maya covers it with her free one, rubbing her thumb in a little circle above two of her bloodied knuckles.

There are people who love you, Franziska, she says without saying it, cradling the softness she finds there between them with shaky determination because she’s never known anything like it, and she’s pretty sure Franziska hasn’t either.

Behind them, a toothbrush holder that had been balancing on the edge of the basin clatters onto the floor, and both of them jump a mile, Franziska barking some sort of expletive in German before she can catch herself. Maya’s not quite sure which of them snatched their hand back first.

Franziska has an excuse for being jumpy, at least… although I guess it is still 3AM.

“Anyway,” says Maya, cheeks burning, her voice coming out higher than she’d meant it.

“Yes, a-at any rate...” says Franziska, who thankfully looks just as flustered as Maya feels.

Thankful that she at least has something to do, Maya checks again under the gauze, and by some miracle, both of their pulses skyrocketing somehow hasn’t made the wound start bleeding again. 

Good sign? Probably?

“Hey! I think we’re good to start disinfecting this, Ziska - can I call you Ziska?”

“No,” she says, with all the finality of a falling anvil. There’s a silence, and Maya doesn’t beg, just waits until Franziska is worn down under the weight of her expectant stare. It doesn’t even take that long, really. “...Only Miles Edgeworth has permission to call me that.”

Aww.

“Ahh, okay,” says Maya with all the pacifying ease she can muster, and Franziska’s shoulders drop with minute relief, clearly satisfied she’ll drop the issue.

But Maya isn’t done yet, obviously.

“How about Fran, then?”

Franziska’s eyes go wide with revulsion, and flick towards her so quickly Maya’s surprised they stay in their sockets.

“...No, thank you.”

“Too frumpy, huh. I think so too. What about Frankie?”

“Maya--”

“Fanny?”

Please , no.”

She’s doing an awful job of pretending she hates this.

Her eyebrows are fiercely angled in typical von Karma displeasure, eyes narrowed, but the edges of her mouth keep stubbornly curling upwards, and there’s a little quiver of reluctant mirth in her voice even as she scoffs at Maya.

God. I could watch her make that face forever.  

“Maybe,” says Maya, drawing out the last syllable just to be extra annoying, “Franzi? That sounds fun, right?”

Her head tilts to one side, face inscrutable for a few moments, and just as Maya is about to walk it back, Franziska… stops pretending.

Maya watches it happen all at once. The tension in her brow whisks itself away like it had never been there in the first place, and there is an honest to goodness twinkle of amusement in her eyes as Franziska smiles - as close to a true, actual smile as Maya has ever seen on her aquiline features, brows lifted in something almost like confusion, and her expression unsteady, like it’s not quite used to this.

Any of the resolve Maya had still managed to hold onto smashes completely in her hands at the sight of it. Oh god , she thinks, melting under the sheer hesitant trust that lies under that expression on Franziska’s cold features. I’m in so much trouble.

“Franzi,” says Franziska with that hesitant smile settling down into her shoulders, overenunciating the word in her accent like she’s testing its mettle. “I could become used to that.”

“You could?” says Maya, with an extremely embarrassing wobble in her voice. Franziska turns toward her properly, one eyebrow quirked but a trace of the smile still lingering honestly around the corner of her mouth.

“Perhaps,” she replies softly, and it’s dangerous how much their eye contact lingers, dangerous for Maya in particular who is trying desperately not to get lost there for as many minutes or hours as Franziska will let her.

“Were you still going to disinfect this?” says Franziska abruptly, angling her face away. Her voice wavers, like it is trying to return to her usual clipped disinterest, but can’t quite climb all the way back up.

“Oh! Yeah. Disinfectant. I was getting to that.”

I definitely was not getting to that.

“Can you hold the gauze in place for a sec, Franzi? I gotta peel off the seal on the antiseptic, and I should cut this bandage to the right size, too.”

“Certainly.”

“Actually, you want me to get your hair out of the way, while I’m at it?” Maya winces. “There’s already some, uh, blood in it, but…”

Franziska freezes like a deer in headlights for one tiny fraction of a second, before her face abruptly smooths back out into perfect nonchalance.

“If it is getting in the way, then by all means.”

Man. How does she do that.

Maya abandons the medical supplies she was pretending to know what to do with and hoists herself up to stand in front of Franziska instead. She starts gathering what is usually a pristine light-blue bob into a ponytail as gently as she can manage, electing not to notice how her own hands are shaking. Franziska freezes in place entirely, like she’s trying not to get in the way, though Maya sees what she thinks is a half-stifled shiver as she sweeps the baby hairs from the back of Franziska’s neck up into the rest of the ponytail.

Maya has to steady herself for a minute at that. They’re so close, so close ...

“I am... regretful that I cannot be of more help,” says Franziska at her stomach, gaze carefully lowered so that all Maya can see are long eyelashes, fanning out onto cheeks that… are they a little pink, maybe? “It’s simply that I do not usually wear it up - it is seldom long enough - and my arm --”

“Don’t sweat it, Franzi. I got this,” grins Maya with entirely unearned confidence, but the way Franziska smooths out underneath it is worth the bravado.

Nevermind I do not got this.

Maya’s kinda glad Franzi has her back to the mirror. It’s certainly not her finest work - and her finest work is actually pretty good, with all her practice helping Pearly - but Maya had been putting most of her focus into not hurting Franziska and also not jumping her bones, so the ponytail is definitely wonky, and the parts that should be smoothed back into the hairband are more than a little misshapen.

It doesn’t help that, though her hair is longer than it used to be, it still isn’t even to her shoulders - the shortest layers of her bob are short enough that they kinda just stick out of the hairband instead of flopping down with the rest of the ponytail. She looks just a little bit like a science-fair volcano, but Maya stifles her laughter in the hope that Franzi keeps it like that for as long as possible, because it's really cute. And honestly, it kinda suits her, even lumpy and malformed - unhidden by her hair, Maya can’t stop looking at the angular line of her jaw, and her lofty cheekbones, and the way her jaw meets the delicate curve of her neck…

Okay, you’re staring, Maya, you’re staring. Stop it, before you freak her out!

“Cool. Well. That’s done,” says Maya, ignoring the little strangled note in her own voice, and though she turns back toward the basin, she just catches the way a bemused little smile quirks the edge of Franziska’s mouth out of the corner of her eye.

Now what…? thinks Maya, desperately trying to corral any kind of coherent thought together.

“Disinfectant?” says Franziska from behind her.

“I was getting to that!” cries Maya indignantly, grabbing at the tube and wiggling back around to face her.

“You keep saying that, and yet, here we are,” replies Franziska, rolling her eyes, though the movement is entirely missing its usual venom.

“Look, I--”

As soon as May peels back the little silver seal and gets a whiff of that stringent antiseptic, a tide of familiarity rushes into her bones, and the retort dies on her lips, because suddenly she’s a child again. And Mia is there.

It’s not a memory in easy reach, usually, but the scent brings it rushing back in full colour. It was summer, and all she could hear was cicadas. Maya had skinned her knee running on the walkway between the main hall and the side room, and Mia came to find her crying and patched her up before Aunt Morgan could find them.

“Cry it out, Maya, that’s it. See? You’re okay now. I put the special cream on it, so it won’t hurt anymore, okay?”

Maya just rocked further into Mia’s embrace, lip still wobbling.

“At least you didn’t hit Ami’s urn, huh?”

“Yeah,” Maya sniffed, breaking into a watery smile.

“Is everything alright?” says Franziska, the clipped tones of her accent almost soft, and the memory splinters, Maya falling back into the present whether she’d like to or not.

“Sorry. Yeah. Just,” and she forces a laugh, throttled in the softness of honesty between them, “figuring out how to use this stuff, that’s all.”

When she dares to look up, Maya can practically see the letters behind Franziska’s eyes spell out no, you’re not , and her brows tighten into a confused knot at the falsehood, but she doesn’t say anything.

“And, also, it reminded me a bit of Mia, I guess,” mumbles Maya, truth spilling out before she can get ahold of it.

Franziska’s eyes go wide, and then so very soft at the edges.

“Your sister.”

“It’s fine. It happens,” she says as glibly as she can manage, waving a hand.

“I understand perfectly,” says Franziska, holding her gaze, and with deliberate ease knocks her knee gently into Maya's. 

The next easy placation dies in her throat before she can vocalise it, and Maya lets herself deflate a little, propping herself up on the earnest flicker in Franziska’s eyes.

“Yeah. I know you do.”

Franziska’s lips tighten into something approximating a smile, or perhaps a grimace, and Maya lets herself live in that moment with her, just for a few seconds.

Then she gets to work.

Maya smothers every inch of the wound that she can get to in antiseptic cream, and Franziska is a very good patient, to her credit - she uses what looks like every bit of that famous self-control to stay still and quiet, which is a feat of strength, as far as Maya is concerned.

I’d definitely be screaming the house down if I were her.

To keep the edges of the wound closed, Maya fashions little faux-stitches out of the clear adhesive bandage cut into strips, which at least kinda works how she’d intended. Then she covers the area with gauze and another, larger bandage, to keep the whole thing still, and at least a little bit safe from infection.

That looks kinda legit, I think??

“Feel any better?”

“Now that you are not in there touching it, certainly,” says Franziska, tone dripping with acid, but Maya watches in real time as she catches herself, biting the inside of her cheek, and begins again more softly. “I appreciate your help, Maya.”

“You’re welcome, Franzi. But I’m not done yet,” she says, running a thumb around one of the shallower scratches on her forearm. Maya sees protest well up in Franziska, and almost hears the words haven’t you done enough, Miss Fey , but they don’t breach the surface. 

“As you will,” she says instead, hands curling into fists with the effort it takes to stop resisting. Something very incandescent blooms in Maya at that; at the fact that Franziska is purposefully dismantling her own defenses, just a little. At the fact that it’s her who gets to see this, something like vulnerability, trust building upon itself, even in the unlikeliness of a too-white bathroom at three AM. Maya wants - above all, she wants to know Franziska, instead of what she knows now, an odd fusion of the self Franziska presents and what her instincts tell her is there beyond the courtroom victories, behind the mask.

“Thanks for letting me,” she blurts out before even considering if it sounds stupid or not, and Franziska just closes her eyes with an amused little huff, shaking her head.

In. Thanks for letting me in .

Before she puts her foot in her mouth again, Maya busies herself with the salve instead. The nasty, shallow weal scribbled across the bottom of her left ribcage is taken care of in the same fashion as the bigger one, and the rest of the smaller injuries are at least not totally foreign to her. Maya’d been something of a klutz growing up, and has the scars of a thousand cuts and scrapes she’d taken care of herself instead of bothering Morgan - so the silence between them is easy as Maya takes stock of her charge, and runs Phoenix clean out of his supply of regular band aids. The last few tiny scrapes are covered with kids ones instead, shiny plastic decorated with the Steel Samurai, but Franziska lets that fly with only a little blustering under her breath.

Uhh. Now what .

Maya’s extremely vague game plan of ‘get Franziska to stop bleeding all over the bathroom’ has been accomplished, somehow, and she doesn’t want to do anything to disturb the hesitant warmth settled there in the space between them. But they can hardly spend the rest of the night trading barbs under the horrifically fluorescent ceiling light, and Maya’s ass is kinda starting to hurt from sitting on the edge of the bath - to say nothing of how Franziska is probably feeling, after an awful day that culminated in, y'know, being stabbed .

Maya shoves everything back into the medicine cabinet, probably not exactly where she found them, and turns back to find that Franziska seems similarly adrift, unanchored; her hands are firmly planted on her own knees, as if she’s not quite sure what else to do with them.

No rulebook for how to behave after you show up on someone’s doorstep in the middle of the night, huh.

‘Um. Did you want to go to sleep now, or...?”

“I’m not sure I can,” says Franziska bluntly. She still won’t meet Maya’s gaze.

Can’t blame you there, really.

“Okay. Well, uh, the shower’s there, or the bath, if you wanna use that. I think those bandages should be waterproof? Or - Or I can make us hot chocolate, and maybe put the TV on, if you want, or--”

“Maya Fey,” she interrupts, voice cutting through even without its usual razor edge. “You do not have to stay awake with me.”

Maya plops herself back down on the bath next to Franziska, deliberately letting their thighs brush together on the way, because she can’t help herself.

“Thanks, but. I do,” she says, before she catches herself. “Or, not that I have to - I want to, actually.”

Colour blooms in Franziska’s cheeks, her eyes bouncing rapidly between Maya’s, but there is something instinctual riled in her, too - defensive, almost. It's a deep kind of paper cut, that look, because it's like she saw the proverbial olive branch, and is already preparing herself for Maya to yank it back out of reach.

“Also, what was it you said earlier - I should check your pulse regularly, right?” she says, teasing, because she can't stand the way Franziska looks unsteady, out in space.

Franziska reads the lightness in her tone like it was written there, and her mouth quirks into that lopsided half-smile, tension bleeding back out of her.

“If you insist.”

“You know I do,” says Maya, bouncing onto her feet again. “So, what? Choice is yours, Franzi.”

“A shower,” says Franziska, ponytail flopping sideways as she stands, “sounds like heaven on earth, Maya.”

“You got it, then” grins Maya. “Lemme grab you a towel.”

Somehow, Maya finds herself stuff to do while Franziska is in there.

It’s hard to do, though, weirdly. Maya’d kind of expected to breathe a sigh of relief once she closed the bathroom door behind her - it is three AM, or three-thirty, now, and she’d be well within her rights to be Done With Company right about now. But Maya’s wide awake, and she’s… unsettled, dithering in a way that she doesn’t really ever do (nobody in the Fey family dithers; they move with measure but purpose, dignity yet expedience. She can still hear Morgan saying it even from behind bars). She flicks on the kettle before changing her mind and flicking it off again; she paces between the couch and the two bedrooms, making sure each of them is clean and stocked with blankets and stuff for Franzi to use, if she decides she wants to. Then she stands with the fridge door open for way longer than strictly necessary, trying to decide between long life milk and the dangerously close to out of date fresh stuff Phoenix had left behind.

Oh my god. That’s what it is - I miss her. She’s an acquaintance who is a room away from me and I miss her.

Maya resists the urge to lie face-down in the middle of the kitchen and yanks the long life milk out of the fridge instead.

The hot chocolate is cooling on the counter, and Maya is fidgeting on the couch, by the time Franziska emerges some twenty minutes later (not that Maya was counting or anything).

She pads out into the living room in a cloud of steam, and breath catches somewhere in Maya’s throat on the way out, because even more than the sight of her as a literal bleeding wreck on her doorstep, this has made Franziska so very human.

Franziska’s hair hangs in wet grey strands around her face, softening it immeasurably, and she’s closer to relaxed than Maya has even imagined before, let alone seen. Her skin is flushed pink from the water, and her eyes are half-lidded, almost dreamily. She’s wearing Maya’s clothes, too, and doesn’t even seem that self conscious about it - and that’s saying something, given said clothes are a grey tank top and fleece pyjama shorts with polar bears on them, for crying out loud. As Franziska steps closer, Maya smells the perfume of her own body soap and shampoo, blue ginger and honey, and feels her throat go tight in response.

Maya has never wanted to kiss anyone more in her entire life.

I’m in trouble I’m in trouble I’m in trouble.

She stares down at the hot chocolate instead, willing herself at least one iota back toward sanity, and gestures down at the mugs instead of offering Franziska one in case her hand shakes.

“Hot chocolate,” says Maya, stating the obvious. 

“It is,” replies Franziska tonelessly, giving Maya her usual amount of leeway (that is, none). But then she sits next to Maya on the sofa, and takes one of the mugs, reclining backwards and tucking one of her legs underneath her. Just seeing her sit like a normal person, actually look almost comfortable , sets a whole host of things loose inside Maya - a flush of messier things, but mostly relief that maybe Maya managed to do some good here, and some sense of feeling honoured that, of all people, it’s Maya who gets to see her sans armor, sans whip, laid practically bare.

There’s also the fact that the warmth bleeding through the scant inches between them on the couch is making the hair on the back of Maya’s neck stand up, but... that’s incidental.

“Nobody has ever made this for me before,” says Franziska, holding the mug up to her nose and inspecting it, tone effortlessly conversational.

“Really?” Maya takes a sip herself and has to blink through the cloud of sense-memories the taste brings, a cascade of all the times she’s shared this with Mia and Pearly and Nick, even Morgan.

“Well, Papa had the cooks make something similar on rare occasions, but not the powdered kind. It's,” and her nose wrinkles, “... sweet.”

“Yeah,” Maya laughs. “I dunno, I know it’s not haute cuisine or whatever, but hot chocolate always makes me sleepy. Or like, content, maybe.” Franziska tilts her head to one side, and makes a thoughtful little hum in response. “It’s comforting. I think it reminds me of being a kid, too. Mia used to make it for me if Morgan was away, when I was really little.”

Franziska takes a long sip, brows furrowed.

“Then I think I like it,” she declares, the sharp intonation funny when her voice is rendered at such soft volumes, tailored for just the two of them.

“Maybe have more than a mouthful before you make any sweeping statements,” replies Maya, a little sardonic, though on the inside a softer voice is saying, incredulous, You like it just because I like it?

Franziska raises an eyebrow.

“You are the one who made it, therefore you deem it satisfactory, and I trust your opinion," she says, as if it's obvious.

Maya knows she’s too far gone to be helped now, because hearing Franziska stiffly deem her ‘trustworthy’ hits her like a ton of bricks.

“Hey, thanks, Franzi,” she says, a little closer to shakily than the breezy tone she was aiming for, fingers tight around the handle of her mug.

Maya wants, greedily, to keep Franziska awake for herself - this encounter, the newborn trust they have built, already feels so ephemeral, unreal, with the odd half-light of after midnight in the windows, and the phantom sounds of a city sleeping around them. But Maya knows, both by instinct and by actual reasoning, that she is already preparing for Franziska to leave in the morning and never come back.

It only makes sense, right?

Even though she looks at ease here, drinking Maya's hot chocolate out of a little yellow mug Trucy painted with daisies, a haze of warm, tired contentment settled around her, Maya can't afford to be selfish. Not when the rings under Franziska’s eyes are as purple as the bruise underneath them, and her pupils keep going fuzzy and unfocused, like she's having to constantly renew her grip on consciousness.

So Maya wants, she wants , but with all the stubbornness she can muster she sets down the mug.

Well, ” she says, with her best sideways smile, “if you trust my opinion so much, then maybe I could convince you to take this hot chocolate somewhere else--”

Franziska stiffens, and something very small fractures inside Maya at the loss. “Where?” she says, suspiciously.

“Not like, outside. I just thought you might wanna drink the rest of it in bed, just in case you get sleepy.”

“I will not get sleepy ,” she bites, eyes pinching closed.

“I know! But. Just in case.”

“In case I am wrong , you mean,” retorts Franziska as she leans a fraction closer into Maya’s space, head lolling sideways in a way that is either intentional or from exhaustion, and Maya can’t tell which.

“I mean. I guess,” says Maya, and Franziska’s brow arches in surprise when she holds steady, instead of inching backwards away from the intrusion.

She keeps making that face. Am I meant to be scared of her? ...I mean I guess that’s probably obvious. But I don’t think I am.

“Even if you aren’t sleepy, doesn’t a bed sound more comfy, though?” says Maya, tilting to sit sideways on the couch with her arms around her knees. Franziska’s eyes roll.

“And where exactly do you mean? In that dolt Phoenix Wright’s bed?” she scoffs, spitting his name like it is poisonous.

You're still in his apartment, you know.

“I mean, kinda. Nick did tell me I could use it while I was here, and he swore he remade the bed with new sheets before he left, so. I promise it’s not as gross as it sounds.”

The force of Franziska’s gaze is like being pinned down under glass, and Maya doesn’t mind it, not one bit.

“And were you planning on sleeping in it?”

Aaand she’s got me .

“I mean - no, but--”

“Well, then,” she says, smirk maddeningly self-satisfied, and Maya only just now remembers exactly how annoying she was to face off against in court. “I believe you see my point.”

“Sure,” says Maya, “but actually, I was only not sleeping there because the router is in here, and I was torrenting stuff last night.” It’s kinda-almost the whole truth, because part of her does feel weird sleeping in Phoenix’s bed, especially with recent Miles-related developments, but it’s way too late to go back on this now that they’re already mid-argument. “Besides, the only other choices are the couch, or Trucy’s bed, which is way too small for the both of us--”

Maya feels her face go neon red before she even realises what she’s said, and a full kaleidoscope of emotions flash like lightning across Franziska’s face before she yanks back control, though her eyes stay a little wide at the rim.

“For… what? Did you say?”

“Uh. Which is too small for either of us, I mean.”

“But. That is not what you said,” says Franziska, her expression perfectly blank.

Maya sighs, turning her face sideways to bury it in the couch cushion. “You got me there.”

I guess it’s about time I put my foot in my mouth for real .

Franziska is quiet then, and it doesn’t sound like she’s running away screaming at least, so Maya keeps talking, eyes screwed shut.

“Listen, I just think it makes sense, with the day you’ve had, if we both hang out in the comfiest possible place for a bit. Plus, I wanna be able to keep an eye on you and not have to be on the floor, and Phoenix’s bed is a double, so it seems like--”

“I am not opposed,” comes Franziska’s voice, quiet but decidedly firm, and Maya sucks in a breath without meaning to, like she’s coming up from the depths. When Maya’s face finally emerges from the couch, Franziska is right there - so close Maya can see the veins of blue in her irises, her head tilted back against the cushion, facing her in perfect symmetry.

“What?” Maya breathes into the space between them.

“I am not… opposed to that,” she repeats, with the essence of a bemused smile.

Oh.

Maya waits for Franziska to bluster, or to explain with perfect logic why she concurs, but she just… waits there, expression tenderly unguarded and expectant, their faces so close she could nearly lean in and--

“Okay, then!” says Maya, the volume of her own voice too loud even in her ears, and scrambles to her feet.

Maya takes Franziska by the hand - her good one, obviously - and hoists her up off the couch before she tows her at speed down the hallway, linked at the wrist as if they’re children crossing the road. Franziska doesn’t complain. Maya doesn’t really think she has time to, because then they’re already through the door, into Nick’s bedroom.

Maya flicks on the bedside lamp, bathing the little corner room in soft warmth. 

It reads utterly Dad in here - there’s no clothes spread around since he cleaned before they left, and overall it’s not as cluttered as Phoenix’s spaces used to be, now that he has a whole (tiny) apartment to spread his weird junk throughout. All the colours are very Phoenix, but muted somewhat, closer to mature than blindingly saturated. There’s a polaroid of him and Trucy propped up against the lamp on the bedside table, which is adorable, and then Maya spots another photo on his dresser - a framed selfie of her and Nick at a market, from a few months ago, with Miles blurry and half out of frame behind them.

Aw. I wonder if Miles got this printed for him? He never gets around to framing stuff.

Franziska smiles when she shows her that, too, which makes it definitely worth the printing cost and then some.

By then Franziska has been given the very short room tour, last stop being the main and only attraction: the bed. Maya peels back the covers (which she’d already rearranged - twice - during Franzi’s shower) and gestures grandly.

“In you hop!”

“I was in the process,” she says drily, gingerly propping up a pillow behind her as she climbs up to sit on the right side of the bed.

“You need anything? Glass of water?"

"I'm fine."

"Juice, then? Or a snack, or some tea, maybe?”

“Will you stop fussing and get into bed, please?” snaps Franziska, lids pinched shut, but before the words have even stopped tumbling out her eyes open again, finding Maya’s by instinct. She heaves out a sigh. “I - I didn’t mean to snap, Maya. It has been a long day. I apologise, and thank you for your… ministrations. I am unused to such things, but I do appreciate your effort.”

The backs of Maya’s eyes prickle, because of all the convoluted and theatrical things she’s heard come out of Franziska’s mouth, thank you or I’m sorry has never been one of them.

“Hey. Least I could do, right?” she says, trying to restrain the wobble of emotion in her voice, because she can see the effort Franziska is making to unbend herself, only for Maya’s sake, and the impact of it is staggering. 

“Untrue. You could have done far less, but you did not.”

Maya lets herself smile, then, tilting her head to acknowledge Franziska’s point, and flicks the cover up over her, tucking her in. 

“Though I hardly think that was necessary,” she grumbles, only half-heartedly.

“Franzi, has anyone ever told you how much you sound like your brother?” says Maya as she walks around the foot of the bed and flops down on the other side, on top of the covers (no need to be weird and go underneath them, despite the fact that everything about this is weird).

“Will it surprise you if I say yes?” says Franziska, head tilting so she can see where Maya is on her side, head propped up on her elbow.

“Nope.”

“Then let me put it to you: he is the one who sounds like me ,” she says, sternly.

“Sure, sure,” laughs Maya, and the side of Franziska’s mouth she can see cracks into a smile.

“I do think,” she says, sobering abruptly, and looking like part of her regrets beginning this sentence because now she has to finish it, “that his diction is just one of many indelible records of the time he spent with Papa and I. For better or for worse.”

“Yeah,” echoes Maya, voice catching. “Yeah. I get that.”

Silence stretches taut between them, Franziska’s gaze faraway and frighteningly lost, and Maya wiggles a little closer, instincts begging to snap her out of it.

“But I’m glad, though.”

“Hm?” says Franziska, coming back to herself with a jolt. 

“I know how that… sounds, but I'm kinda glad things ended up the way they did, in the end.”

Franziska blinks down at her, slowly, like she can’t at all comprehend what Maya is saying.

“Why…?”

Uh… Haven’t I been being pretty obvious…?

“Well, uh, I mean… Without Miles being there, and without Nick’s whole life being dedicated to him after that, the moron, then none of us would have ever met you.” Maya smooshes her face half into the pillow so she only has to watch Franziska’s reaction with one eye. “And that’d make me sad, so.”

She doesn’t say any more, but everything Maya has been trying to hide since Franziska arrived leaks into the tone of her voice, and she knows Franziska can hear it, because she freezes solid for a smattering of heartbeats, and then sucks in a breath, like she’s preparing to dive underwater.

“I had not… considered that,” she murmurs, stiffly, though something behind it is leaning on the facade, making it tremble.

“Well,” says Maya into the pillow, eyeing her as steadily as she can manage. “Consider it.”

Silence elapses, and Maya watches the way Franziska’s hand curls into a fist around the duvet, before it releases again, relaxed by force.

“At least neither my brother nor his unfortunate paramour are here at the moment,” says Franziska, leaning her head back against the wall, and very clearly attempting to lighten the mood, though her voice barely registers any change.

“Ugh,” agrees Maya, underneath it quietly nursing the little spark of glee that maybe Franziska had been happy to find her at the door instead of Nick, after all. “You’re telling me. Thank God they're in Europe for a bit.”

“I concur,” says Franziska, her lip curling with distaste.

“I mean I love them both, and God knows it took them long enough, but if Nick sends me one more cute out-of-focus photo of Miles with a sappy caption, I’m gonna throw myself out a window.”

“It’s fortunate I have been overseas for much of their… courtship, but regardless, I’m sure it has been nauseating. You are stronger than I for putting up with it.”

“You’re not wrong,” snickers Maya. “But… I guess I don’t have time to come down here much from Kurain anymore, so… At least he has him, y’know?”

“I suppose I can understand that.”

The smell of fresh linen and the long, warm shadows from the lamplight paint Franziska and the room in odd watercolour nostalgia for Maya; like a false memory of a slumber party together as children that they never had, as well as the odd echo of a sense that Maya knows Franziska, has always known her.

Maya has to admit her mind is wandering a little, there in the companionable silence between them. She’s a little sleepy. Admittedly, she’s been running on uncut adrenaline ever since waking up, but her reserves finally seem to be tapped out, and Maya blinks fuzzily, trying to stir herself back up, even though Franziska seems perfectly content with the two of them sitting close and saying nothing at all.

Maya can’t stop herself from thinking about the dream. It’s silly, really, because both halves of it are something she doesn’t even want to think about (for…. very conflicting reasons), and especially so because the real Franziska is right there , not some far-off perfect figure she can safely imagine without it being dangerous. The real Franziska, the one awash in amber lamplight just inches away from her, is thoroughly imperfect despite her protests, and so much more vivid than her dream counterpart, breathtakingly so, even with her bruises and the cold blanch of exhaustion on her skin. Maya wants , feels it fill her chest to bursting. 

“Y’know that time you got shot, Franzi?” she says to distract herself, mind still ringing with the imagery from the dream, and Franziska startles awake next to her. 

Shit. I said something dumb and I woke her up.

Franziska’s head cranes to the side, eyebrows lofty, looking down at her from where she’s leaned against the headboard.

“Excuse me?”

“Do you ever think about it?”

“...Getting shot, you mean?”

“Yeah.”

“Not if I can help it,” says Franziska, brow crinkling in a way that is hopelessly cute as she tries to follow Maya’s admittedly labyrinthine train of thought. “Do you?”

“Yeah,” breathes Maya, finally admitting it. “I do.”

Franziska just studies her for a long moment, brows furrowed over that piercing grey gaze, and then Maya sees the why written on Franziska’s face more than she really hears it.

Maya rolls onto her back, staring up at the ceiling.

“I mean,” she says as casually as she can muster, fighting the waver in her own voice, “it was kinda my fault, wasn’t it?”

“Maya, you were kidnapped ,” Franziska rankles, incensed, and Maya just smiles wanly, only seeing her in peripheral vision, eyes trained by force on the old-fashioned sconces around the ceiling light.

“Still. You wouldn’t have been shot by de Killer if I hadn’t gotten myself in trouble in the first place, right? And then - and then at Hazakura Temple, you stayed up all night working on those locks just because I might be in there, and for what? It didn’t even matter in the end, anyway.”

“Maya--” Franziska begins again, leaning closer, but it’s too late to stop the words falling out, even if Maya’s throat is growing thick and her vision of the lights is starting to swim. She lets her eyes fall shut instead.

“We’ve barely even talked to each other before now, and even when we do , it seems like all I ever do is get in your way. I mean, look at you, Franziska. We’re the same age, but you’re travelling the world solving crime, for crying out loud, and I’m…. whatever this is.”

“Soon to be master of a village?” says Franziska, now with a familiar flinty edge in her voice. “Talented channeler? Exceedingly capable legal counsel? Custodian of your cousin’s wellbeing?”

“You don’t get it.”

“No, I don’t.”

Maya’s eyes open then, bleakly, and Franziska is sitting ramrod straight again, staring at the bedpost on the opposite end like it might provide the answers she’s looking for.

“Maya, I…” Franziska’s voice trails off, and then she covers her forehead with a hand. “That’s not it. I may disagree wholeheartedly with your view of yourself, but perhaps you should consider that I might understand where you’re coming from. Moreso than you might assume,” is what comes after, mumbled into her own palm.

Franziska peeks out from under her fingers, and Maya lets their gaze meet in the middle. Maya sees it now, the weight hanging over both of them in a mirror image; children burdened with a family lineage they never asked for, who carry enormous grief and expectation and stubbornness born out of necessity. Their matching defensive walls are so evident, suddenly, only dissimilar from the outside, with both of them hovering at the eyehole, only just close enough to peek out through the walls at each other.

“You have much to take pride in, Maya,” says Franziska, still holding her gaze, after God knows how long. “I wish that was as visible to you as it is to me.”

Maya laughs, then, the sound torn in half by the tears that only just spill over.

“Am I dreaming, Franzi? Pinch me? Just to be sure?”

“You have said that twice now,” says Franziska, peering closer, suspicion falling shut over her face, wilfully pushing down on the joking tone Maya had tried to inflate her voice with. “Why?”

“Oh, y’know, it’s just late, that’s all…”

“That is not all. I can see it in your face.”

Shit .

Maya sits up, feeling sobriety settle around them and already regretting what she’s been forced into saying. She lets one side of her hair fall between them, as one last-ditch sort of security blanket.

Then she takes one, very deep breath.

“I kinda had a dream about you.”

“Oh,” splutters Franziska, and then she pauses. “Oh?”

“To be honest, more than one dream. But, uh, I was dreaming about you right before you got here, which is why I’m all… y’know,” she says, making a churning gesture with her hands.

“That is,” she struggles, “unlikely.”

“You’re telling me,” deadpans Maya at the wall, unable to quite look at her.

I think this is possibly the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life.

A few seconds go by and all Maya can hear is her own ragged breathing, cheeks practically a miniature furnace. She sees out of the corner of her eye how Franziska’s one good hand has gone taut around her elbow, knuckles white.

“What do you dream about?” says Franziska, so quietly Maya barely believes she’s hearing it. “When I am there?”

All the air leaves Maya at once, and she chokes before she can manage to get another breath in.

“Um. The gunshot wound, most of the time, or something like that. You’re bleeding, or injured somehow, and it’s my fault, or I just can’t get there to help you in time.”

“Prophetic,” muses Franziska, and by the time Maya can convince herself to look over, her eyes are trained on the duvet near Maya’s feet, and she looks nothing if not serene, or detached and academically interested.

She’s taking this... well?

“I mean, I know you’re joking, but… predictive dreams aren’t exactly unheard of, in my family.”

“Oh,” says Franziska. “Well. That should have been obvious, given your…”

“Other mysterious magical powers? I mean, yeah.”

Franziska snorts, like this is a regular topic of conversation.

“Sometimes--” says Maya before she can stop herself short, because she has definitely dug deep enough already here, and this is more than enough honesty for one night.

But, not short enough.

“Yes?” prompts Franziska, head tilted, features softer than Maya has ever imagined they could be, especially directed at her , of all people.

“You’re not always shot, in the dream,” she admits, hands knitting themselves into worried little knots in her lap. “Or injured, even. Sometimes we’re both just fine, and the dream is about… something else.”

“Oh. Oh ,” she replies, eyes going wide as saucers, and Maya has to look away before embarrassment eats her alive, because unfortunately Franziska knows exactly what she’s hinting at, and the floor can’t open up and swallow her fast enough.

There’s quiet for an agonising stretch of time - Maya’s not sure how long, but it feels like hours .

“Maya,” comes Franziska’s voice wrapped soundly around her name, sounding neither as offended nor full of pity as Maya had expected. “Would you get something for me? From my bag, in the kitchen?”

“I - Uh. Sure?”

I’m sure she’s probably just trying to change the subject...

Maya hoists herself up off the bed. “What is it you need?”

One side of Franziska’s mouth curls into a secretive half-smile.

“Open my wallet. You shall know when you see it.”

Maya is already out in the kitchen before any of this really sinks in - the fact that she’d really just gone and told her about all this, and that there had been no explosion, no repercussions.

I don’t… did she just want me out of there so she can cringe without being mean about it?

She flips open Franzi’s wallet - black, and made from leather so supple and shiny Maya shudders to think how much it cost - and recognises something before she even pulls it out. A white card with a pink design and black markings just barely visible, dog eared where it sticks out of the wallet slot.

Is this… really?

It really is. Shelly de Killer’s calling card, the one she’d doodled on during the kidnapping, the marker faded from black to brown in places, and a little more worn around the edges than she remembers.

I remember Nick saying this was evidence that went missing in the end, but I can’t believe… Did Franzi have this the whole time?

“Do you see now?” comes a soft voice from behind her, husky with the late hour and with what sounds like thinly filtered emotion. Maya turns, and there she is. Franziska von Karma with her hair half-damp and wearing fluffy shorts with bears on them, and looking at Maya like she hung the moon, which is very confusing.

“I mean. No? I just can’t believe you kept this for so long,” Maya says, with a chuckle, desperately deflecting.

“Shall I explain?” she says, stepping a hesitant distance closer.

Maya just doesn’t have it in her to deflect or minimise anymore. “Okay,” she says, voice bare.

“I first found this card on the plane back to Germany, after the Engarde case. At first, this card only reminded me of my own failure, of being left behind - keeping it where I could see it was a punishment, something to goad me onward, so that one day I might face my brother, and your brother, and defeat them both once and for all.”

Franziska’s hand twitches towards her hip, and the missing holster.

“Eventually, however, I grew more settled at Interpol, and learned that perhaps I ought to give Miles’ new credo more credit than I had at first. The card lost that meaning to me then.”

“But you kept it anyway,” says Maya, inching closer, the card shaking in her grip.

Franziska holds her gaze steady.

“I did.”

“Why?”

Franziska’s face softens. “I could not ignore your contribution to the card, also.”

“I mean, it’s just a little doodle--”

“It is very sweet, and an extremely good likeness,” says Franziska, amused, “but that is not what drew me to it. This card is proof that, in fear for your life, you did not do what I would have done - instead you stayed positive, and believed that your friend would assist you, no matter how long it took. Two things I have consistently failed to do.”

“Franzi, I - I mean it’s not like--” Maya tries, cheeks warm.

“It is not easy,” interrupts Franziska gently, “to live this way when one has seen hardship, as you and I have. But you did - you do . At the temple, during the kidnapping, your heart on your sleeve, and your feet firmly planted at the side of Wright and any other friend as fiercely as if they were family.” Franziska’s voice trembles at the edges, but her words are precisely metered, like they have been lying in wait inside her for quite some time. “You are lovely and vivacious and steadfast and fiercely loving. You are everything I am not, Maya Fey, and where once that would have made me furious, it now utterly enchants me.”

Maya’s brain short-circuits entirely.

“I… What?” she chokes.

“You are a joy, Maya Fey,” she says, as if it’s the most simple fact in the world. “I wish to know that joy.”

Franziska advances one more careful step, and Maya mirrors it to meet her there by instinct, toe to toe on the linoleum.

“Franziska von Karma,” she says, voice so full of light even with the joking gravity. “I can’t believe you. I’ve been trying so hard not to kiss you since you got here, and then you go and say something like that?”

Franziska laughs - truly, honestly, her face going delightfully soft with the relief of it - and cranes a little closer, cupping Maya’s cheek with one delicate hand.

“May I?”

Maya answers that question by kissing her, obviously.

It’s not even hard. Kissing Franziska is the easiest thing she’s ever done. The card flutters to the floor between them because Maya is far too busy pulling her closer with one hand on the small of her back, and the other cradles the sharp line of her jaw as their lips meet, once and then again, so sweetly that it blows every dream she could have had out of the water. Maya breathes her in instead of air, and Franziska holds her so much more gently than she could have imagined, hands delicate on the back of her neck, along her spine, roaming like she is trying to commit the curves of her body to memory. Franziska kisses her steadily but with intent, a fervour that says first, but not last , and Maya might be crying just a little bit because this is very overwhelming, and because kissing her says tadaima, I’m home , in a way Maya never expected to feel without mountains around her.

Time passes - minutes, hours, Maya couldn’t care less - and then they grow still, cheek to cheek, the steady tempo of Franziska’s heartbeat pressed against her own. Franziska feathers a little kiss in the crook of her jaw.

“Should we retire, Maya?” comes that voice in her ear, and Maya feels it vibrate in her chest more than she hears it. “Not that I wish to… stop , exactly, but--”

“Mhmm,” murmurs Maya, too blissed out to really even attempt joking sarcasm, “but will you sleep , this time, Franzi?”

Franziska huffs a little breath through her nose. “Perhaps. If you are there, I will try.”

“I will be. Whenever you want me, Franziska.”

“What if that is always?”

“Then you get me, always.”