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can i go where you go

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can i go where you go

prelude to a getaway

Apollo Justice has the worst good luck of anyone he knows. Probably the people he doesn’t know too.

It figures—it just figures—that the first time he wins something from all of the contests and giveaways he’s ever applied for (the mail-ins, the phone-ins, the email-ins that clog his inbox with spam), he gets the one prize he can’t use.

An all-expenses-paid trip to a cozy cabin up in the mountains including meals and (alcoholic!) drinks.

There’s just one problem—it’s a romantic getaway. For couples. And Apollo Justice? Apollo Justice hasn’t had a boyfriend since high school. Law school was demanding, okay?

What stings is that Apollo really needs a vacation. Like really needs a vacation. The Wright Anything Agency isn’t the obscure little firm it was when Apollo first joined, especially after Mr. Wright got his badge back. They have a steady flow of clients now, so he only has to clean the toilet once a week instead of whenever Mr. Wright feels like he’s been sitting around for too long.

But even with his newly steady paycheck, he could never justify a trip like this on his own. This is, like, a rich people trip and Apollo Justice is decidedly not rich people.

He looks forlornly at the tickets on his desk and lets out a small sigh.

“Apollo, if you keep sighing like that I’m going to start charging you $10 for each offense.” Mr. Wright doesn’t even look up from his desk.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a small sigh.

He’s just about to issue an apology when there’s a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Mr. Wright calls.

And, of course, because Apollo’s luck is—as established—the worst, it’s Klavier Gavin opening the door.

“Hallo,” he says, flashing a smile meant to flatline a tween girl’s heart in a matter of seconds. “I’ve come for the Mark Polo case files. If you have time?”

Mr. Wright stands to shake his hand. “Good to see you, Prosecutor Gavin.” Gavin takes it, but Apollo can still feel the tension between them: civil, but like they’re unsure if they’re allowed to truly be friendly.

Gavin sets his sights on Apollo next, hands in his pockets, debonair smile unsheathed like a sword. See, this is why Apollo doesn’t like seeing him unexpectedly. He likes Gavin just fine, he’s a nice enough guy, but Apollo always needs to brandish a shield around him. He’s got a smile that can gut a man and Apollo has shit to do today.

“Ah and how are you, Herr Forehead?” Gavin says, leaning over Apollo’s desk to look at him at eye level. And hell, would it kill him to button up his shirt? “Living up to your namesake, I hope? Doling out justice and the like?”

Who talks like that?

“I’m doing fine, thanks,” Apollo says, already looking away. He is not immune to blue eyes.

“Could you help me get—oh.” Gavin grabs the getaway tickets off Apollo’s desk. “Are you going on a trip?”

Apollo swipes the tickets out of Gavin’s hands and shoves them in his pocket. “No, it’s—it’s nothing. Mark Polo, right? Come on, I’ll get it for you.”

He rushes into the file room, berating himself while Gavin saunters behind. Why were the tickets even out on his desk? Oh, right, because he was having a pity party. Still, he should have kept them in his bag after he got his mail on the way to work this morning, and now Gavin’s seen them and who knows what he’ll think.

Not that he particularly cares about what Klavier Gavin thinks.

They’re in the file room and of course Polo is on the top shelf and of course Apollo needs to find the stool to get to it in front of an actual, literal rock star. Fantastic. Just a typical day of being Apollo Justice.

Gavin is quiet as Apollo looks through the binders, which, frankly, he’s thankful for. Better Gavin be silent than spout some clever line about Apollo’s short stature. But the silence doesn’t last long.

“I didn’t know you were spoken for, Herr Forehead,” Gavin says. “Is it new? Who is the lucky person?”

Has this guy always been this nosy? Apollo groans in defeat. Might as well tell him.

“No, I’m not spoken for. I won the grand prize in a mail-in contest but it’s a couple’s retreat so I can’t go,” Apollo says.

Gavin tilts his head. “If you’re single, why did you sign up for the contest?”

“It wasn’t the only prize. Third place was a nice food processor…”

“So you entered a contest hoping for third place?” Gavin says.

Apollo snaps the binder shut and picks up the next one. “I just enter a bunch of stuff and see what sticks.”

“That seems… time-consuming.”

Apollo flips through his new binder. “Eh, it’s free.”

“With all the work your office has been getting lately, I’m surprised you even need to bother with them,” Gavin says, leaning on the bookshelf.

“You kidding?” Apollo scoffs. “Yeah, the money situation is better, but I was barely staying above water before. I’m not worried about eviction anymore but I still got rent and bills to pay. I’ve upgraded from instant noodles to actual ingredients, though, so that’s nice.”

Gavin shuts up at that, which Apollo kind of hates. Ugh, he’s probably pitying me, or whatever.

“So what are you going to do with the tickets?”

“Give ’em away, I guess.” Apollo shrugs. “The rules specifically say it’s for a couple.”

Gavin hums. “There’s no one you can go with? Just as friends? Seems a waste not to go yourself.”

Apollo’s thought about it, if he’s honest, but his options are basically his coworkers and that’s a no. He wants to go to get away from work, not take it with him. Maybe if Clay were still around, but he isn’t so…

“Naw, my social circle is pretty much this office and it’s not exactly the relaxing weekend of my dreams if my coworkers are there,” Apollo says. “It’d be nice though…”

And ugh, he’s feeling wistful again.

“Cozy cottage in the snowy mountains, drinking hot cocoa next to a fire, sleeping in, reading for fun,” Apollo says with another big sigh. Luckily Mr. Wright isn’t nearby to hear it.

Gavin crosses his arms, then raises one to tap his chin with his finger. “Ja. Skiing, no cell reception, no LA traffic. Sounds perfect.”

“Yeah, it does,” Apollo says and, finally, he finds the Polo case file. “Here’s this."

ch1

Gavin grabs it. “Danke.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Apollo says, stepping off the stool and putting it away. As he does, he gets an idea that makes him sick to his stomach, but somebody might as well enjoy his winnings. “Hey, if you want the tickets, you can have them. I’m sure you’d be able to find someone to go with.”

Gavin blinks in surprise. “You want to give them to me?”

“Well, it sounded like you’d enjoy it,” Apollo says, rubbing at his bracelet. “Do you think you could find someone to go with you?”

Gavin shakes his head. “Nein, Herr Forehead. You won them, you should go. You deserve to go. By the look of those dark circles under your eyes, I’m sure you’ve been working overtime.”

That’s true enough, and Apollo does want to go, but he’s already run through his options.

“I told you, I don’t have anyone to go with—”

“Go with me.”

What.

“What?” Apollo says.

Gavin snaps his fingers. “Think about it. We both need a vacation and you need a plus one, so why not?”

“But we’d have to pretend to be a couple!” Apollo says, and is it hot in here? It feels really hot in here.

Gavin shrugs. “If it’s a retreat for lovers, then that means they’ll give us plenty of alone time. At worst, we’ll have to hold hands a couple of times, maybe come up with a backstory. Small price to pay for such an escape, ja?”

Oh, god. That actually makes sense. Apollo needs it to stop making so much sense.

“The cabin’s only going to have one bed,” Apollo says, pressing his index finger to his brow.

“I promise not to hog the blankets,” Gavin says, crossing his heart. “But honestly, I used to tour with three other stinking men on a tour bus. We shared hotel beds all the time. It’s not a big deal for me. But if you’re uncomfortable with the idea, no pressure. Just thought I’d offer.”

Apollo is of two minds: first is the logical and practical one that says nothing good will come from being in proximity to this man for four days and second is the dumb, stupid monkey brain that’s screaming ahh but I wanna!

Gavin is looking at him expectantly and Apollo’s got to choose. And dumb, stupid monkey brain is making a compelling argument at Chords of Steel decibels.

“Alright, yeah,” Apollo says. “Let’s do it.”

“Then, it’s a date.” Gavin outstretches his hand and unsheathes his smile again.

Apollo’s logical mind calls him a dumbass, but he shakes Gavin’s hand anyway. “It’s a date.”

Chapter Text

can i go where you go

friday

- Day -

Apollo Justice lives in a box. Literally, a 450-by-450 cube with a bathroom so small Klavier isn’t confident it can fit a shower. The rug is an abysmal shade of brown and clearly the cheapest on the market. The walls, molding, and the cabinets are coated with stark white paint that perfectly complements the white linoleum in the kitchen and the white plastic slatted blinds on the windows. Absolutely every inch of the place is made with the lowest quality materials possible and Klavier is pretty sure a stiff wind would knock the whole building over.

Suddenly, Klavier understands why Herr Forehead applies for as many contests as he possibly can. He needs to get out of here. Preferably before the next earthquake.

“Be done in a sec,” Apollo says from the kitchen counter before scribbling on a notepad, his tongue peeking out from the corner of his mouth.

Klavier steps into the room, curious to get a better look at what Apollo’s done with such a small apartment. Admittedly, it’s better than he imagined. He’s done a good job using the space economically—he has his double bed pressed to one wall and a couch nearby that’s perpendicular to a mini TV on the wall to create the illusion of a living room. It’s neat and tidy and without clutter. Klavier has to stifle a laugh. It makes sense that Herr Forehead is just as anal about his apartment as he is about work.

Something warm rubs against Klavier’s leg, startling him for a second before he realizes it’s just a fat calico cat getting friendly.

Apollo places his note under a magnet on the refrigerator. “Looks like Mikeko’s found you.”

Klavier reaches down to pick the cat up and cradles him so he can scratch underneath his chin. “Ah, hallo kätschen, is Herr Forehead being good to you?”

“He’s just trying to get food out of you, Gavin; don’t let him fool you.” Apollo throws his backpack over his shoulders. “And I’m very good to him. He gets better food than I do. Organic.”

“Who is going to take care of this little gentleman while you’re away, then?” Klavier says, Mikeko purring in his arms like the engine of a motorcycle.

“Athena and Trucy are taking shifts,” Apollo says, pointing to the note on the fridge. “Left them some instructions. How ’bout you? You uh, you took Vongole when… you took him, right?”

Klavier smiles at Apollo’s attempt at tact. It’s not exactly like there’s an easy way to ask if Klavier adopted his murderous brother’s dog after he got convicted when you’re the one who got said murderous brother convicted.

“Ja, Herr Forehead, he is with me now. Truly a rockstar’s best friend. I took him to a kennel for the weekend,” Klavier says. There’s a strained, awkward silence and he’s sure Apollo is overthinking the whole situation, so Klavier leans over to flick that huge forehead of his. “Achtung, let’s go. We’re meant to be there by two.”

Apollo rubs at his forehead, the rest of his face scrunched in a cute pout that catches Klavier off guard. Apollo gives him a stiff glare and then outstretches his hands for Mikeko. Klavier hands his new friend over.

Apollo’s face melts into something endearingly soft as he scratches the back of Mikeko’s head. “See ya later, buddy. Be good for Athena and Trucy.”

Mikeko trills in reply and Apollo lets him down.

And not for the first time since they’ve planned this whole soiree, Klavier worries he’s in trouble. Especially if Apollo’s determined to be this cute the whole weekend.


Klavier takes Apollo’s suitcase from him and puts it in the truck on his car (because he’s a gentleman, thank you very much) and is surprised by how light it is. “Herr Forehead, did you even bring anything with you?”

“I brought everything I need,” Apollo says. “Why? How heavy is your bag?” Apollo peeks his head in the trunk and sees Klavier’s extra-large suitcase next to his much humbler bag. His expression withers. “It’s a three-night trip, Gavin! How many costume changes are you planning?”

Klavier shuts the trunk door and leans his arm against it in a way he knows will elongate his figure. “It’s good to be prepared, ja?”

He winks and Apollo flushes like he always does when Klavier flirts with him. It’s sweet, really. And fun. Klavier knows he’s a shameless flirt, but he can’t help it. Is there really anything better than watching someone have a visceral reaction to something you did? Blood rushing to cheeks, bubbling laughter, stuttering and babbling from otherwise composed people… Klavier loves it all. And not just for his own amusement (though he certainly is amused), but in his experience, people like it when he flirts with them. Sure, some people don’t and they ask him to stop (which, of course, he does), but Herr Forehead’s never made such a request.

Good thing, too, because he’s honestly Klavier’s favorite victim.

Apollo scoffs at him. “Well, whatever, but I’m not helping you lug that into the cabin. You’re on your own.”

“Ah, your chivalry knows no bounds,” Klavier says, flipping a stray lock out of his eyes.

“Get in the car, Gavin.”

Klavier does and finally gets them on the road, though as soon as they get on the 405 they’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic, which… typical. He can’t wait to get out of the city so he can actually drive. It’s been a while since he’s gotten a chance to drive thoughtlessly for a couple of hours.

“Hey, what’s the passcode to your phone?” Apollo says, grabbing Klavier’s phone from the dock.

“Don’t you think that’s a little personal?” Klavier says.

Apollo shrugs. “Well, we’re dating now so I figure I get to know your passcode and pick the music.”

Klavier nearly rear ends the car in front of them. What, is Justice trying to beat Klavier at his own game now?

“So, that’s your agenda,” Klavier says, playing it off. “Fine then: zero, eight, eleven.”

Apollo looks scandalized. “Your birthday? Really? What’s even the point of a passcode if it’s literally the easiest combo to guess?”

Klavier hums, pleased with this fun little turn in the conversation. “You know my birthday, Herr Forehead? I don’t think I ever told you.”

Apollo starts stuttering and blushing, and Klavier can’t hold back his own smile.

“Trucy—she’s a fan. She mentioned it once,” Apollo says.

“And you remembered? Ach, you do care.”

Apollo’s shoulders hike to his ears. “I just… have a good memory for that sort of thing.”

“You can admit that you have a natural curiosity about me,” Klavier says, a smile curling on his lips. “I won’t hold it against you.”

“I don’t—” Apollo lets out an angry grunt and runs his hand down his face. “My birthday is a month after yours. That’s the only reason I even remembered, okay?”

Klavier tilts his head in thought. “Hm, September 11th, September 11th… that makes you a Virgo, ja? No wonder you have such a stick up your—”

Gavin,” Apollo says in warning.

“Now, now. I am only teasing, Herr Forehead.” He reaches out to pat Apollo on the shoulder. “Speaking of which, I think it’d be best if we got used to our first names.”

Apollo loosens a little, likely grateful for the subject change. “Oh. Guess we should.”

“Well, go on, then.”

“What?”

“Say my name,” Klavier says with a flourish of his free hand.

“Why do I have to go first? You go first.”

“Apollo.”

Apollo stills, tensing at first then relaxing a bit. In truth, Klavier understands the hesitation. After only using last names and nicknames for so long, saying Apollo’s first name out loud feels oddly intimate. Though, he has no plans of letting Apollo know that.

Apollo takes in a noisy inhale. “Klavier.”

Ah. Somehow it’s much worse the other way around. Klavier’s even a little embarrassed over it, silly as it is.

“Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Klavier says, despite his dry mouth.

Apollo clears his throat. “It’s fine. Can I put on some music?”

“Ja, of course,” Klavier says.

Apollo starts swiping through Klavier’s phone, clearly judging his library. “I don’t even know where to begin… do you just download music at random?”

“My taste only has one requirement and that is for it to be good,” Klavier says. “I’m sure you can find something on there.”

Eventually, Apollo settles on one of Lamiroir’s albums as they drift into an easy lull in conversation, Klavier focused on the road and Apollo looking out the window with his arm on the sill. The music is melodic and peaceful, like all of Lamiroir’s work, tinged with a deep sadness Klavier can only feel, not understand. It’s a very specific kind of pain, very personal to the artist herself. He sneaks a few glances at Apollo and he seems so lost in it that Klavier feels like he should rein him back in.

“Apollo,” Klavier says in earnest for the first time. “Are you alright?”

Apollo straightens, pulling his gaze from the window back to Klavier. “Huh? Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”

“You just seemed… distant.” It’s odd to realize, but he didn’t like how far Apollo felt from him suddenly.

“Oh, no. No, I just—” Apollo starts, resting his cheek against his propped-up fist. “I don’t know. Something about Lamiroir’s music… it always sounds so nostalgic. Like there’s a memory right on the edge of my mind but I can never pin it down, you know?”

Actually, Klavier does not know. He feels many things when he listens to Lamiroir sing, but nothing quite like that. “It is a strong sort of power she holds, I’m sure.”

“I can change it,” Apollo says, reaching Klavier’s phone.

“We don’t have to.”

Apollo tenses but doesn’t change the song, and eventually, they both relax into the steady rhythm of the drive. As they leave LA behind, Klavier’s thoughts stray to how Apollo crashed into his life like a speeding car. Well, Klavier supposes their introduction wasn’t quite that violent, but meeting Apollo in People Park nearly a year ago felt like a cataclysmic event, at the very least. Apollo doesn’t realize it, but he’s the type of person you can’t take your eyes off of—he’s so activated, a ball of kinetic energy revving to go. Even more so in court.

It always felt like Apollo stumbled his way through cases (but maybe that’s the nature of being a defense attorney… or a defense attorney at the Wright Anything Agency, at least), but Klavier could tell he was earnest and honest and passionate. Klavier was, in a word, intrigued. Curious. That curiosity turned into a habit. He started teasing and flirting with Apollo any chance he got because the results were always so amusing and varied. He’s not sure when he first began consciously thinking about it, but it got to a point where he’d plan out his interactions with Apollo. He’d wonder, If I say this, what kind of face will he make? If I do this, will he get shy or angry?

That’s probably why Klavier came up with this wild plan in the first place. Though, calling it a plan is a bit of a stretch. It was more like a brash improvisation spurred on by his need to explore Apollo Justice’s reactions. Not to mention how much Apollo deserves a nice break after the year he’s had—caught in an explosion, attacked and left for dead, and told his best friend was murdered—all within a matter of days. Klavier was left in the dark for most of it, though he tried visiting Apollo in the hospital. It’s strange thinking back on how sick he felt when he’d heard Apollo was hurt, more so when he found out Apollo had checked himself out of the hospital far earlier than he should have. It was all over by the time Klavier was able to catch up with him, but he could sense it the next time they met—that the bright, charismatic soul Klavier was so drawn to had been irreparably damaged, perhaps forever.

He can feel it now, in the car with Lamiroir’s melancholic voice crooning a song of longing as Apollo quietly gazes out into traffic. That hurt is still there and Klavier recognizes it. He has the same chasm collapsing in on his chest. He’s no stranger to loss.

Maybe… there was more to his impulsive suggestion to go on this trip with Apollo than he first thought. Maybe he wanted to get to know Apollo better. Maybe he wanted to spend some time with someone who could actually understand.

Forty minutes into the drive, Lamiroir’s album comes to a peaceful stop and the car drifts into silence. Klavier doesn’t say anything, the air too tense for him to break through it. He would have insisted on his own music if he knew they’d start their trip on such a somber note.

Luckily, Apollo clears his throat. “So I was thinking…”

“Oh, trying out new things?” Klavier says before he can stop himself.

Apollo punches his shoulder with surprising force but Klavier laughs anyway. “Asshole.”

“Touchy, touchy,” Klavier tuts. “But please, don’t let me stop you.”

Apollo pouts (truly, it’s such a pronounced pout but he must have no idea he’s doing it) and crosses his arms again. “I was going to say we should probably talk about… logistics.”

“Logistics.”

“Y’know, logistics on being a couple.” There’s a clear waver in his voice and it’s incredibly endearing. “We should get our story straight.”

“Hmm, I don’t think our story would be straight.”

“Will you please be serious,” Apollo says but Klavier can tell he’s holding back a smile.

“I suppose we can keep it simple, ja?” Klavier shrugs. “You were in awe of my beauty from the defense bench and were compelled to confess your undying affections. I, in my infinite kindness, agreed to go on a date with you and the rest is history.”

Apollo makes a sound like he’s choking on his own spit. “Wha—why does it sound like you were just taking pity on me?”

Klavier hums. “If that’s disagreeable, we could reverse it? For a whole year, I was beside myself thinking about your illustrious forehead and loud speaking voice, and I just knew I had to make you mine. I asked you to dinner with a dozen crisp red roses from the most lauded of florists, just hoping you’d look my way.”

“Oh my god.” Apollo covers his eyes with the length of his hand. “Can it just be normal, please?”

“Well, then, by all means, Herr Forehead,” Klavier says, gesturing for him to continue. He’s probably not doing a great job of hiding how much he’s enjoying this, because Apollo is glaring again.

“I don’t know, just something casual. Like, yeah we work together and got to know each other better, so we decided to go on a date and it’s been going well. There. Simple. Easy to remember.”

Klavier makes a face. “Leave it to you to make dating a gorgeous rockstar completely unromantic.”

“Fine, you brought me one rose when you asked me out and I was really charmed. Better?” Apollo says.

“So, I pursued you, hm?”

Apollo huffs. “I don’t—fine, if you want me to be the one to ask you out then I will.”

“Ah, Schatz, I would like nothing more.” Klavier does his best to keep his tone light and unaffected, though hearing Apollo say something like that does make him a twinge bashful. Just a twinge. “And how would you ask me?”

“I told you. Casual.”

“Aww, c’mon, I want to know the details,” Klavier says. “Give me the play-by-play. Were you nervous?”

“You are enjoying this way too much.”

“Aw, bitte.” Klavier pouts for emphasis.

Apollo grumbles something about “stroking” and “ego”, but he concedes. “I don’t know. Yeah, I guess I was nervous since asking someone out is always nerve-wracking. And then I probably just opened with like, what I liked about you and that I enjoyed spending time together, and that I’d like to try going out to dinner together if you were up for it.”

Something like a giant moth flutters in the basin of Klavier’s stomach, but he ignores it. “And? What is it that you liked about me?”

“Alright, we’re done, you’re just fishing for compliments now,” Apollo says, dismissing Klavier with a wave.

Damn, he’s been found out. “If you tell me, I’ll tell you all the reasons I said ‘ja’ to you.”

“No way, I know a trap when I see one. You’re gonna say something stupid like ‘your big forehead is so sexy’ or something.”

Damn, found out again. Time to switch gears. “As sexy as I find your forehead, I’d also mention your bravery and devotion to the truth. I don’t just want you for your body, Apollo. You wound me.”

Apollo full-on sputters at that and at least half the blood in his body rushes to his ears. Jackpot. “S-stop making fun of me.”

“Ah, Schatz, if you thought you were getting out of this weekend without some teasing, you’re not as smart as I thought you were,” Klavier says, flashing Apollo a grin.

Apollo grimaces. “I’m already regretting this.”

Two and a half hours and about twenty red-faced flustered Apollo faces later, they reach the base of the mountain where the resort resides. The winding road up the mountain is so thin and high up that Apollo gets car sick and has to recline his seat as far back as it can go.

“Are we there yet?” Apollo groans, his eyes shut tight.

“Not yet, Schatz, but soon,” Klavier says. “And I’d like to remind you that you’re paying for anything you get vomit on.”

“Mm not gonna throw up.” He drapes his arm over his eyes and groans again as they go over another bump. It probably isn’t helping that Klavier has to drive slowly since the snow by the side of the road grows as the altitude does.

Klavier sighs. “Excuse me if my confidence in you is waning.”

“Just shhh and keep it steady, Gavin,” Apollo says.

By the time they reach the resort, it’s like they’ve entered a winter wonderland that even the Hallmark channel would be impressed by. Klavier can barely believe they’re still in California and didn’t accidentally slip through a portal to Scandinavia.

The resort estate is clearly acres long with even higher mountain peaks connected to a ski lift near the parking lot. Everywhere that isn’t a path is covered in evergreen trees with tufts of white snow covering their branches. But the piece that really sells it as a romantic getaway is the large log cabin at the center of it all with tasteful outdoor seating and string lights decorating the canopy. It’s very charming, if Klavier’s any judge, and he likes to think he’s an authority on charm.

As soon as Klavier parks, Apollo rushes to take off his seatbelt and open the door.

“Get me out of this caaar,” he says, but as soon as he’s out, he starts shouting. “Fuck me, it’s cold!”

Klavier can’t help but laugh as he steps out of the car, delighted to hear such an innocent person use such a crude expression. “That’s what you get for only wearing a hoodie.”

“J-just open the t-trunk,” Apollo says, teeth chattering as he rubs his arms.

They take their luggage out of the car and wheel it to the large log cabin labeled “The Big House” on a large wooden plate above the door. It’s stained in the exact same finish as the the huge sign at the entrance that said “Keaper Ski Lodge and Resort.”

They check in at the front desk as bell boys take the luggage to their cabin and Klavier gets a look around. The Big House is just as charming inside as it is outside—floor-to-ceiling in wood, bohemian patterns on every wall, and a tasteful amount of antler decor. It’s all topped off neatly with a giant fireplace that crackles happily in the common room. It makes Klavier yearn for hot cocoa and a good book.

“The couples getaway is an event stay,” the receptionist says. She’s a sweet-looking teenager with braids, freckles, and a name tag that says “Ima.” Ima beams at them, stepping in front of the desk. “Which means there are scheduled events during your stay. Orientation will start in just a moment and then the bell boys will escort everyone to their cabin. Right this way.”

She brings them deeper into the common room where about a half dozen couples, all around their age, are curled into each other on paired chairs. There’s one empty pair of chairs left and Klavier suspects they’re about to run into their first test as a “couple.”

Apollo sits down first and Klavier follows, reaching his arm behind Apollo so it can rest on the chair’s back.

Predictably, Apollo pulls away. “Something wrong with your seat?”

Klavier leans in closer, smirking. “Have you already forgotten we’re madly in love, Schatz?”

Apollo’s cheeks turn pink but he leans back into the chair, letting Klavier’s arm circle his shoulders. They’re not even touching but they’re certainly closer than they normally are. Only problem is that Apollo is as stiff as a board.

“Loosen up,” Klavier whispers into his ear and Apollo shudders.

“I’m trying,” Apollo whispers back, their noses centimeters apart. Apollo gets flustered again and looks straight ahead.

“Breathe,” Klavier says, placing his hand on Apollo’s shoulder and letting his thumb rub comforting circles there. “I can move any time you want, okay?”

Apollo blows some air out from his bottom lip, his horns fluttering from his huff. “It’s fine. I can do this.”

To punctuate his point, Apollo places his hand on Klavier’s knee. Klavier freezes. The touch is light but it burns through Klavier’s jeans right to his skin. He watches Apollo take a couple measured breaths before he relaxes into Klavier’s side, not leaning on him exactly, but they’re close enough to telegraph to the whole room that their relationship isn’t platonic.

Klavier’s mouth is dry. He licks his lips and demands his body to breathe and relax as Apollo’s has, then silently curses himself for being so affected by something as simple as a hand on his knee. That’s first-date-in-eighth-grade territory.

Klavier pulls his focus back to the common room. The chairs are all facing a makeshift stage with two stools and two microphones connected to a large speaker. In the upstage corner, a middle-aged man and woman wearing loud, patterned sweaters and matching beanies with pom-poms are engaged in excited chatter.

The woman looks into the crowd, sees Apollo and Klavier, then ushers the man to follow her center stage. She beams at the audience and takes one of the mics from its stand.

“Looks like we’re all here,” she says, her voice as warm as her smile. There’s a bit of an accent on her words … Minnesotan, perhaps? Canadian? Something Northern, that’s for sure. She’s a plump woman with curly blonde hair and rosy cheeks—the kind of person that’s more likely to answer to “Mom” than her given name. “Oh, I am so excited to have ya all here. It’s gonna be such a lovely weekend.”

The man next to her takes the remaining mic. He’s taller with grey hair and an air about him that says he plays all the luxury sports like boating and golf. “Welcome, everybody, to Keaper Ski Lodge and Resort. I’m your co-host, Finn Keaper, and this is my lovely wife, Shisa Keaper.”

“The other co-host,” Shisa says proudly.

“And we’re just pleased as peaches to have ya all here this weekend.” Finn flashes them all smiles and does his best to make eye contact with everyone.

Shisa presses a palm to her cheek in delight. “My, aren’tcha all such beautiful couples. Prettiest group I think we’ve ever had.”

“Ya got a real romantic weekend ahead of ya. Are you excited?” Finn says, clearly goading them. The crowd responds with polite whoops and applause, but Klavier feels a bit of panic set in. They always knew this was a couples retreat, but Klavier’s getting the sense this might be more involved than he realized.

“Now, that’s what I like to hear.” Finn looks down at a note card in his hands. “We won’t keep ya too long. We all know you’re not here to look at this ugly mug, but just want to give you a brief overview of our facilities and the weekend we got planned for ya.”

They go over logistics first—each of the twenty cabins spread across the lodge’s five acres of land is a one-bedroom oasis that comes fully equipped with a kitchen, a wood burning stove, and a full bathroom. Klavier’s very glad for that last part. He’s not a man who can do outhouses. He’s even more pleased when they mention electricity and wi-fi.

“Now that we got the boring stuff out of the way…” Finn says after a lengthy discussion on wood burning stove safety.

“Let’s get to whatcha all came here for,” Shisa sings, wiggling on her stool. Apollo’s hand tenses on Klavier’s knee.

“Now, we don’t want ya to think ya won’t get plenty of alone time.” Finn smiles knowingly and Klavier isn’t a fan of that look at all. “We know what it’s like to be young and in love.”

Shisa blushes and cups her face with her hands. “Oh, Finn.”

“But we do have some mandatory events that past couples have really enjoyed and we think you will too. Shisa, honey, would you do the honors?”

“Of course, dear. Now, we provide breakfast from six a.m. to eight a.m. and lunch from eleven a.m. to one p.m., but dinners are always at seven. And we pull out all the stops with our dinners here at Keaper Ski and Lodge.”

Finn hums. “We got a top rate chef who personally oversees the kitchen and makes sure that everything on your plate is nothing short of perfection. And we always provide vegan and vegetarian options.”

“But that’s not all,” Shisa says. “We have candlelight, live music, and our famous house wine. And it’s all part of the package, absolutely free.”

At the words “absolutely free” Apollo straightens, his eyes brightening.

“Dinners are always two per table, just you and your sweetie, but for breakfast and lunch we encourage you all to mix and mingle,” Finn says.

“Hopefully we can all make some friends.” Shisa wiggles in her seat again. Klavier’s getting the distinct impression that this woman got married and then tried her best to play matchmaker with every single person she’s ever met thereafter. “But tomorrow night…” She giggles. “Tomorrow night is my favorite event.”

Apollo’s previous interest deflates as he sinks back into his seat.

Finn grins. “Friday night is our optional Movie Kiss Contest!”

“Oh, it’s just the bee’s knees.” Shisa clasps her hands together. “Everyone gets a chance to see who can give the best performance and the winner gets a free snowboarding lesson with our house instructor.”

“Which, I might add,” Finn says, “is the one thing we do charge extra for—ski and snowboarding rentals and lessons are all at an additional cost.”

“No, thanks,” Apollo mumbles.

“Aw, Schatz, are you so ashamed of our love?” Klavier knows he should probably give Apollo a break, but it’s impossible to keep from teasing him sometimes. “I’m hurt.”

“Shut up,” Apollo hisses. “I wouldn’t want to even if we were dating.”

“Not a fan of PDA?”

“Nope.”

Almost as if she heard them (which, for the sake of the trip, Klavier really hopes she did not), Shisa goes on about the contest. “It’s not mandatory, of course, but we ask everyone to come out for support. We provide more free wine, so even if you’re shy, it’s fun to watch!”

Klavier thinks him and this woman have two very different ideas of fun, but he shrugs. It’s still worth it since it’s all free and gives Klavier a good reason to take some time off.

(And if he gets to spend a little bit more time with Apollo Justice, well then that’s not too bad either.)

“But please consider participating,” Shisa says. “It’s so much more fun with lots of contestants.”

“Oh, we’re participating alright,” a man in front of them says. Klavier can’t see much of his face, but his hair is done in that stereotypical politician side part and his voice sounds like a caricature of a stuffy billionaire.

The woman beside him, her hair big, blonde, and feathered like a cheap Farrah Fawcet wig, giggles and shoves playfully at his shoulder. “Chet, stop.”

He mumbles something to her that Klavier can’t hear then starts nibbling on her ear.

Apollo makes an audible gag he’s just barely able to pass off as a cough.

“Nice save,” Klavier whispers, though he can see why Apollo hates public displays of affection.

Apollo ignores him. “If they want the free snowboarding lessons, they can have ’em.”

“Shame. I think we could have been competitive, Herr Forehead.”

“You’re having way too much fun with this,” Apollo says. Klavier flashes him a grin.

After the Keapers go over the rest of the schedule, Apollo and Klavier leave with the rest of the guests. They all file onto a small airport bus that drops them all off cabin by cabin. To their dismay, the cabins are named after famous movie couples. The first cabin is the “Baby and Johnny Cabin,” while the second is the “Rose and Jack Cabin,” and the third cabin, which belongs to Apollo and Klavier, is the “Harry and Sally Cabin.”

“I get the distinct feeling we’re not in LA anymore,” Apollo says as the bus drives away to the next outdated romance movie cabin.

“Ach, just be glad we didn’t get the Danny and Sandy cabin.” Klavier opens the door to the cabin and lugs his suitcase past the threshold.

Apollo follows after him. “You don’t like Grease?”

“I prefer my love interests not to change their entire personality for my sake,” Klavier says. “For instance, my heart would break if you changed your hair into something fashionable to appease me, Schatz.”

“And I’d hate for you to find a personality for little ol’ me, so I guess we’re even,” Apollo shoots back.

Klavier is so startled by it that he breaks into laughter. “Oh, bravo, Herr Forehead. That was scathing.”

“Can you go inside already? It’s freezing out here,” Apollo says. Klavier obliges and moves all the way into the cabin, finally taking it in.

It’s a mix of modern and rustic with pine wood floors, round log walls, and plenty of lighting. The bed is huge with the comfiest looking duvet Klavier has ever seen and the decor is the same boho chic as the big house. It’s already making all the obnoxious couple energy from orientation worth it.

The best part about the whole thing is that there’s a piano in the living room. Klavier wheels his luggage in front of the bed. He places his guitar case next to it and rushes to the piano. It’s an older upright and Klavier worries about what the cold’s done to it, but he lifts the lid and plucks a C and is happy enough with the sound.

“You planning on writing a lot of music?” Apollo says from behind him.

“Nein, not a lot, but I take my guitar wherever I go just in case inspiration strikes.” Klavier plays a progression across the keys. “But having a piano nearby is always best when I’m working out a melody.”

“I didn’t know you could play,” Apollo says.

“Ja, it was my first love, you could say.” He sits at the piano’s bench and plays a bit of Bach’s Solfiegietto that he knows by heart. It fills his chest with warmth, letting his fingers glide over the keys, letting the music pour out of him. Something about the piano will always be special to him… he can’t help but regret that he couldn’t fit it in more of The Gavinners’ songs. “It was actually Kristoph who—”

Klavier stops himself short. For a moment, he had forgotten that the older brother he looked up to all those years is now a bonafide serial killer. His fingers hover over the keys and he internally winces at how quiet the room is, now that he accidentally brought up the most tense subject that he possibly could.

For several beats, neither of them say anything, but it’s Apollo that breaks the silence. “He taught you?”

Klavier nods, fiddling with a G note. “Ja, he was my first music tutor. They were… happier times.”

“Well, I hope… I hope it doesn’t stop you from playing,” Apollo says, his voice a little strained. “You’re, um, you’re really good.”

Klavier stands and turns to give Apollo a small smile. “Ah, danke, Herr Forehead. But don’t worry. Not even my brother could taint my love of music.” He gently places the lid back over the keys. “The same can not be said for the memories, however.”

“I’m sorry.” Apollo’s arms cross tight over his torso.

And this. This right here is why Klavier is both a fool and a genius for ever devising this scheme to come here with Apollo. He has no reason to be as kind as he is to Klavier, and yet he is.

“Don’t be,” Klavier says, doing his best to sound light and airy. “We have lots of unpacking to do, ja?”

You have a lot of unpacking to do. I brought a normal amount of clothes.” Apollo’s wry tone dismisses all the awkward tension between them with ease.

Klavier lingers in the living room as he watches Apollo turn back into the bedroom and that warm, taut feeling resurfaces underneath his ribcage. It’s a feeling that’s become familiar whenever he’s around Apollo, an ache that’s been building since… perhaps since they first met.

It’s clear to him now that he offered to join Apollo on this trip for selfish reasons. A romantic getaway is certainly an opportune way to get to know one another better and maybe if they—

No, he needs to rid himself of these thoughts, these wicked ulterior motives. This trip is about Apollo getting a break from the trainwreck of a year he’s had, not some ploy to make him fall in love with Klavier.

Klavier clears his throat, then fidgets with the fringe of his hair, and vows to himself that he’s going to be nothing but a perfect gentleman for the entire trip. He can burden Herr Forehead with his feelings another time.

 

- Night -

Okay, Apollo’s changed his mind—this was a great idea. He has the wood burning stove going, he has a book open on his e-reader, and he’s wearing the softest socks ever. And okay, yeah, the socks have little cats all over them, but it wasn’t like Trucy was going to give him plain cozy socks for Christmas. The bed is comfy, the ambiance is great, and he’s almost completely forgotten he’s “dating” Klavier Gavin.

Well, except for the fact that he can hear Klavier plucking out melodies on the piano and then moving to his acoustic guitar from time to time. But it strangely doesn’t bother him. Whatever Klavier is writing, it’s nothing like the songs from his Gavinner days.

In between chapters, Apollo finds himself craning his neck from the bed to catch a glimpse of Klavier’s back in the living room. He’s so… focused. Not that Apollo thinks he’s an airhead or anything, but the concentration he has when he’s working on music seems different than when he’s in court. It makes Apollo wish he could see Klavier’s face right now.

The thought makes heat rise to Apollo’s cheeks and he goes back to his book. But even as he gets lost in the laser fights and the political intrigue of the plot, he can’t pretend he doesn’t hear the faint melancholy music from the living room. It’s peaceful, but it also makes his chest twinge with emptiness. He eventually gets caught up in his book again, sinking into the rhythm of Klavier’s music and the crackling of the fire.

Apollo loses track of time before Klavier reappears with his usual (and annoying) debonair smile. “Dinner, Herr Forehead?”

“It can’t be seven yet,” Apollo says, looking for his phone.

“Quarter ’til,” Klavier says. “The bus should be coming in ten minutes, ja? Do you have something a little more formal to wear? I believe Frau Keaper recommended evening clothes for dinners.”

Apollo grimaces. “That woman is from the same dimension as people from Hallmark movies. Why do we have to get dressed up?”

“So you didn’t bring anything?”

“I did, but I’d prefer sticking to my hoodie,” Apollo says, getting off the bed and stretching. “I wear shirts and ties every day. This is supposed to be a vacation.”

“Don’t worry, Herr Forehead. You can take them off as soon as you get back,” Klavier says, fixing his hair in a small mirror above the writing desk. “That’s probably Frau Keaper’s intention anyway.”

Apollo chokes on his own spit and Klavier laughs at him like the jerk he is.

“Whatever. I’m wearing a shirt, but no tie,” Apollo says, though he’s not sure why it sounds like he’s asking for Klavier’s permission.

“Ach, I won’t fight you on it,” Klavier says, pointing at his exposed collar. “Not much for ties myself.”

Apollo ignores him and grabs a white shirt and a blue cardigan from the dresser he unpacked all his clothes in, then disappears into the bathroom.

When he emerges, Klavier is staring with a dumbfounded look on his face.

What?” Apollo snaps, self-conscious. Is there something weird about his outfit? It’s just a sweater over a collared shirt… do the rolled up sleeves look weird or something? Maybe the collar over the neckline is dorky.

Klavier shakes his head. “Forgive me, Herr Forehead. I’ve never seen you in blue before. It was a shock.”

“Oh, yeah, uh, I guess I usually go for red. Trucy and I went shopping last week and she said this one was good, so…” Apollo’s blushing. Why is he blushing? No, better question—why is Klavier staring? What, can he tell Apollo got it off the discount rack? Maybe when you’re rich you can just smell the “last season stench.”

But instead of sneering at Apollo, Klavier smiles. “She has good taste, ja? It looks nice on you.”

He says it so quickly and easily that Apollo can’t even respond before Klavier is walking across the room to his behemoth suitcase. Apollo’s about to at least say “thanks” when Klavier flings off his jacket, then starts unbuttoning his shirt. Right in front of Apollo.

What are you doing?” Apollo shrieks, heart racing.

“Well, I hardly think my magenta suit is suitable for dinner,” Klavier says before taking his shirt completely off and—oh god, that’s his bare back and Apollo might faint if any more of his blood rushes to his face.

“There’s a perfectly good bathroom right over there!” Apollo tries to keep his chords of steel in check, but fails miserably.

Klavier hardly registers Apollo’s state of distress. He waves a hand dismissively before he kneels down to open his suitcase which gives Apollo a clear view of his shoulders working underneath the expanse of his skin and muscles. “Ach, it’ll only take a second.”

Apollo makes a sound between a growl and a squeak, then pivots his entire body to face the opposite direction and tells himself to calm the fuck down. But, of course, the image of Klavier’s back is burned into his retinas and he just keeps thinking about the perfectly even tan and the long, defined line along his spine.

Stupid rockstars and their stupid stereotypical rockstar bodies, Apollo shout-thinks. No. No, we’re not doing this. We are acknowledging Klavier is a good-looking man and we are moving on.

Apollo takes a deep breath and feels a little bit more in control of his emotions. He chances a look back to see if Klavier’s finished and—no, nope! He’s taken off his pants and Apollo got an eyeful of a very toned thigh.

That does it. He’s going outside and hopes to god a bear mauls him before Klavier’s done changing.

He quickly grabs his coat from the closet and tells Klavier he’ll meet him outside. When he’s out the door, the cold, bracing air hits him like he’s run into a brick wall. It’s good, though. He can blame his undoubtedly rosy cheeks on the weather instead of, well…

This isn’t good. Apollo has known this wasn’t good from the moment Klavier offered to go on this trip with him. It’s so reckless. Here’s the thing about Klavier Gavin—he’s a venus flytrap. He’s charming and interesting and handsome, but if Apollo were to—to follow that floaty, airy feeling he gets around Klavier, he’d get trapped in his trigger hairs then crushed and dissolved by digestive enzymes. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, even for Apollo, but the point is, he’d get hurt.

And not because Klavier’s a bad guy or anything. He’s… the opposite of a bad guy, but Apollo knows Klavier isn’t serious when he flirts. It’s just how he is. He’s made a career off of making people feel special—it’s a habit at this point. Apollo has to keep his feet firmly on the ground, that’s all. It would be way too easy to let himself think about Klavier outside of a platonic context.

Apollo wraps his coat tighter around his torso as if the cold, hard lump in his sternum is caused by the weather and not this very unhelpful train of thought.

He can just picture it—asking Klavier on a date. Klavier’s eyes would widen a little before they’d get genuinely sad with a matching humorless smile. Then he’d turn Apollo down with a perfectly kind and respectful speech, which he probably knows by heart since he has thousands of admirers he’s had to use it on. It would all be very civil. Apollo would be gracious too, if not a little flustered. He’d probably say something along the lines of “That’s fine! That’s totally fine. I’m fine with that,” on repeat, which would only lead to him looking like more of a loser, on top of the fact that he—totally normal, regular dude Apollo—had the actual gall to ask out a freakin’ rockstar.

Apollo lets out a groan. Why is he thinking about this? He’s making it worse. Sure, this was a bad idea and he should have declined Klavier’s offer from the outset, but he didn’t, so he needs to relax and enjoy his time off. If the afternoon is any indication, they won’t even spend that much time together. Klavier will work on his music, Apollo will read, they’ll have a couple meals together, and then they’ll go home. It’s fine. He’s fine.

Thankfully, Klavier comes outside and breaks him from his reverie. “Ach, it’s worse out here now that the sun’s down. Any sign of the shuttle, Herr Forehead?”

“Not yet,” Apollo says, briefly surveying Klavier’s designer coat, designer skinny jeans, and designer boots. The whole outfit probably cost more than a year of Apollo’s rent.

The shuttle comes shortly after, half of the other couples already on board, and Apollo and Klavier find two open spots near the front. Looking around, Apollo tenses because everyone on the shuttle is so… coupley. They’re all leaning in with zero space between them, faces close, hands held, the works. Apollo supposes there’s a certain freedom in taking a couples getaway—you get to be as sappy as you want without judgement or making others feel weird, so it makes sense why they all seem so moony, but that means Apollo and Klavier have to act moony. Apollo sighs and lets himself lean against Klavier, the length of their arms touching. Klavier’s quick to respond, leaning into Apollo’s touch. It’s… kind of nice actually. Klavier’s warm.

“May I have your hand, Schatz?” Klavier says, low enough so only Apollo can hear.

“Huh?”

“Can I hold your hand?” Klavier’s tone is patient and unassuming. It makes Apollo’s stomach flip, but he relinquishes his hand. Klavier entwines their fingers, his much longer than Apollo’s, so he kind of envelopes his hand, but the warmth of it is nice.

Not nice! Apollo shouts at himself. This is a bad thing and you don’t like it. You’re only doing this so no one realizes you're scamming the ski lodge.

His internal admonishments don’t help, though. The whole ride to the big house, his skin tingles where Klavier touches him and it doesn’t stop feeling good. It’s grounding in a way. Apollo’s never really been much of a touchy person, but being this close to Klavier, he can see what he’s been missing for all those boyfriend-less years in law school.

Stop thinking about it, stop thinking about it, stop thinking about it.

So, he’s a little touch-starved. So, what? This is only a big deal if he makes it a big deal. It’s fine. It’s totally fine.

Klavier starts rubbing his thumb along the back of Apollo’s hand.

Which is fine. It doesn’t make Apollo’s insides implode or anything, so it’s fine. He is just fine.

When the shuttle pulls up in front of the Big House, Apollo’s never been so glad to go back into the cold before. Or at least, he would be if Klavier let go of his hand but no, apparently he’s committed to the handholding thing until they’re inside.

Apollo thinks he’s finally out of the woods when they go inside and the hosts offer to take their coats, but nooo, because even though they’ve stopped holding hands, now Apollo has to face the sweater Klavier is wearing. He hadn’t noticed it before since Klavier’s coat was covering it, but now it’s on full display and he’s pretty sure the entire dining room won’t be able to keep their eyes off him. The sweater is a soft cream color and knitted with an intricate pattern and turtle neck collar, but it’s the fit that makes Apollo want to find a nearby lake and jump in. It’s tight across his chest, accentuating his broad shoulders and slim waist and it’s just—it’s a good look, okay? Like, he probably had a professional stylist put the outfit together good. Like he’s about to walk onto a photoshoot good. Like—

Stop stop stop stop stop stop.

They’re ushered to a table as Apollo has a private meltdown. And of course the table doesn’t help because the lighting in the Big House is low, there’s a whole candle on the table, and Klavier pulls out Apollo’s chair for him.

Gavin,” Apollo whispers fiercely.

Klavier gives him a smug smile. “I’m sorry. I only respond to baby, sweetheart, darling, or Klavier.”

Rather than fighting him on it, Apollo glares and takes his seat and lets Klavier push him in, which feels more infantilizing than romantic, but based on Klavier’s shit-eating grin, he’s just fucking with him anyway.

Proved further by Klavier propping his elbows on the table and resting his chin on his entwined fingers with this look in his eyes that makes Apollo’s neck burn.

He’s doing this on purpose, Apollo thinks. He’s an asshole and he’s doing it on purpose.

“So,” Klavier says, still looking like the lead out of a romcom, “this is what it’s like to be on a date with the elusive Apollo Justice? Will you scowl at me the whole time, I wonder?”

Apollo takes a deep breath and relaxes the muscles in his face, remembering they’re supposed to be in love and it’s probably not a great look to scowl at your boyfriend while you’re having a romantic dinner.

“I’m not elusive,” Apollo says as the waiter steps up to their table.

“The house red, gentlemen?” The waiter holds up a wine bottle, his customer service smile clean and polished. Klavier nods. “Ja, please. And you, Liebling?”

“That’d be great, thanks,” Apollo says and makes a mental note to look up all these German words Klavier keeps calling him.

The waiter pours them each a glass of some blood red wine and explains the specials of the night. After they order, he disappears and leaves them alone again.

Klavier swirls the wine in his glass and stares at it once it settles. “Good legs.” Apollo’s just going to assume that’s some stupid wine person terminology and ignore it, but Klavier goes on to taste the wine. “Mm, bit of an oaky aftertaste. What do you think?”

Apollo sips his own glass and rolls his eyes as soon as he does. It’s red wine.

“Tastes just like two-buck chuck,” Apollo says, swishing his wine for emphasis.

“Two… buck chuck?”

“It’s normal people wine—well, okay, it’s college kid wine, but it costs two dollars and tastes exactly like this fancy stuff,” Apollo says. Klavier looks positively horrified and Apollo smirks as he takes another sip.

“No, Schatz, I cannot believe your palette is so unrefined you can’t tell the difference between this and a grocery store wine,” Klavier says.

“I’ll prove it to you,” Apollo says. “Let’s get a bottle to go and then a cheap bottle when we get home and we’ll have a blind test. Your refined palette is a lie.”

“I can tell the difference between an artisan wine and hogwash,” Klavier says.

Apollo shrugs and rolls the stem of his glass between his fingers. “I’m gonna need to see decisive evidence, Prosecutor.”

“Hmph.” Klavier’s brows furrow. “Ja, let’s do it. If only to make you turn red in embarrassment when I can easily tell the difference. You’ll have to make it up to me somehow. I’ll need compensation for drinking sewer water.”

ch2a

ch2b

“We’ll see.” Apollo catches himself smiling despite himself. “So where did you learn about wine stuff? Or do you just automatically know as soon as you hit a certain level of fame?”

Klavier chuckles and warmth spreads in Apollo’s chest at the sound. “Hardly. When I came of age, my brother—”

The smile dies on Klavier’s face, replaced by something darker. Something painful.

“I—” Apollo starts, but bites his lip, needing a second to think. “You can talk about him, you know? I know it probably feels weird, but I get it. He was your brother, so obviously he was a big part of your life. You don’t have to… omit him when we talk.”

Klavier clears his throat and puts on a smile again, but Apollo’s too smart to fall for it. “Ja, of course. Danke. I just… don’t wish to sour our evening with talk of the past.”

“It’s not really the past, though, is it? If you’re still dealing with it, I mean,” Apollo says.

“I suppose not, but…” Klavier trails off, fiddling with his bangs and not meeting Apollo’s gaze. “We’re here to relax, ja? I’m sure Kristoph is as much of a sore spot to you as he is to me.”

That’s true enough, but Apollo doesn’t think that’s fair to Klavier or himself. “Maybe it’ll be cathartic. Is there anyone you do talk about him with?”

Klavier sighs. “Nein. I suppose I don’t.”

“Then, tell me. It’s not a burden, honest.”

Klavier’s eyes flick up to Apollo’s for a half-second before he’s back to studying his wine and taking a deep breath. “It’s just… he was my brother. In truth, I idolized him. He was so many years older than me and always so perfect. The more I think about it, the more I realize he was the reason I became a prosecutor. Not because I wanted to beat him—though, that was part of it—but because I wanted him to see me. To recognize me as an equal.”

Apollo’s throat feels dry, so he sips his wine again before speaking. “I get it. I mean, not to the same degree, but I get wanting him to see you as someone worthy of being in his presence. Watching him in court was always… he was just so cool under fire, y’know?”

“Ja,” Klavier says. “Ja, I do know. He never let a single prosecutor get under his skin. I was disappointed that day, when Kristoph told me he wouldn’t be defending. I thought I was finally going to make him proud, but in the end…”

Klavier sighs and rests his elbow on the table. “Tell me, Apollo. How is it that you all don’t despise me? You, Fräulein Magician, Herr Wright… I upended the lives of those close to you. I did it without a thought. I simply took the win and painted one of the greatest legal minds as a villain. I convicted an innocent man and made his young daughter an orphan.”

“Stop it.” Apollo puts down his wine glass so he doesn’t snap its spine. “You’re not responsible for any of that. You—you only did what you thought was right. What kind of prosecutor would you be if you hadn’t called Mr. Wright out on the forgery? I know it was staged, but… Klavier, he used you. He’s your brother, of course you trusted him when he gave you the tip. By that logic, you should hate me too because I... I upended your life.

Klavier straightens in his seat and his eyes narrow. “That’s ridiculous.”

“How?” Apollo says. “I was the one who indicted Kristoph, I was the one who indicted Daryan, I was the one who exposed the trap to disbar Mr. Wright. You have every right to hate me.”

Klavier gives him a sharp glare. “But I don’t. Of course I don’t. All of those things… you were doing your job. You were finding the truth.”

“Like you?” Apollo says, the beginnings of a smug smirk pulling at his lip. It’s a nice little turnabout if he says so himself.

Klavier, for his part, looks struck by it. “Nein. I didn’t find the truth. I played into the lies. I hurt people.”

Apollo deflates, but he’s determined to win this conversation. He reaches across the table and takes Klavier’s wrist. “You’re not to blame, Klavier. You were tricked. Yeah, your actions hurt people, but so did mine.”

Klavier swallows as he stares at Apollo's hand, and for the first time, he seems small to Apollo, like it’d be easy to imagine how he was as a child. Apollo grips his wrist tighter.

“Do you regret it, Apollo?” Klavier asks, and the words are strained like they’re being painfully extracted from his throat.

A shiver goes up Apollo’s spine to hear Klavier call him by his proper name, but he keeps his resolve. “No. No, I’m glad the truth came out. But I regret hurting you. You…”

Klavier looks up to meet his eyes and Apollo’s throat tightens. Klavier’s irises are deep and blue and so sad. Apollo once thought that he had to pull a darkness out of him, but now, looking at those eyes… he wants to put light back in. If only he knew how…

“You’re a good person,” Apollo says, finally. “The fact that you feel so guilty is proof enough. I don’t hate you. Not even a little bit.”

Those blue eyes widen, then look away, but a small smile has returned to his face at least. He slips his hand out from under Apollo’s, but instead of taking it away, he places it on top of Apollo’s and squeezes. Apollo squeezes back.

Klavier huffs a small laugh. “You are… aptly named, I think.”

“What, Justice?” Apollo says. He’s heard enough jokes from his classmates in law school to last him a lifetime, but Klavier doesn’t sound like he’s joking.

“No, your given name.”

“What do you—”

“Dinner is served, gentleman.”

Apollo blinks, disoriented. The waiter’s voice violently shakes Apollo out of the conversation they were having. He completely forgot where they were—it all just kind of faded away.

Apollo and Klavier pull away from each other at the same time and it’s only now, as their dinners are being placed in front of him, that Apollo feels embarrassed. His hand pulsates with the memory of Klavier’s touch and his cheeks are warm just thinking about what it must have looked like to a bystander.

“Enjoy,” the waiter says, then leaves to attend to the other couples.

“Klavier—”

“It’s alright, Apollo.” Klavier smiles as he fans the cloth napkin over his lap. “Thank you. Really.”

His name again. It’s concerning how much he likes the way it sounds in Klavier’s smooth cadence. Part of Apollo wonders if he should insist they finish their conversation so he can make sure Klavier won’t ever blame himself again, but he also doesn’t want to chase away his smile.

So, they talk about nothing and everything. Klavier tells him a story about how the drummer of Gavinners lost a tooth when they were on their European tour. Apollo tells him about the time he and Clay nearly burnt down Gyaxa Cosmos Space Center when they were kids. Klavier laughs. Apollo likes the sound more than any of his songs.

It’s nice. Like, if this were a date it’d be going well, nice.

Apollo immediately admonishes himself for the thought, but it's hard not to think about it between the atmosphere and the wine and Klavier Gavin sitting across from him. Nobody could blame him for a little bit of wishful thinking.

That’s the wine talking, he thinks, but then takes another sip anyway.

The actual food is so good, it might just make the trouble worth it, so Apollo savors it. When they’re done and get their coats back on to wait for the shuttle, Klavier’s hand fits into Apollo’s like an old habit. And when Klavier leans into Apollo when they sit down, he doesn’t have to think before he leans back.

And maybe it’s the three glasses of wine or the steady warmth that’s been building in his chest since Klavier said his name or that Klavier’s just the right height, but Apollo places his head on his shoulder and closes his eyes. Klavier doesn’t tense, or react at all, he just lets Apollo rest on him.

Do you think he suspects how I feel? Apollo’s practical, logical brain wonders.

Who cares? Apollo’s wine drunk monkey brain counters.

He’ll regret this in the morning. He’s already cracking under the weight of his growing affection and they still have two more days of this.

They get off the shuttle and Klavier doesn’t take his hand back until they’re inside the cabin. Apollo misses the contact more than he thought he would. Ugh, he never should have had so much wine. It makes him clingy.

Klavier excuses himself to work out the same melody he was playing earlier in the afternoon, while Apollo takes the bed and watches a movie he downloaded on his laptop. He has no idea what’s happening because he keeps sneaking glances at the living room. He can only see Klavier’s back from this angle, but there’s something entrancing about his movements—his fingers ghosting over the keys, his hand reaching for a pencil to scribble notes on some music paper, the way his chest expands when he takes a breath before he starts playing again…

Apollo covers his face with both of his hands and stifles a groan. He’s an idiot and he hates this.

He’s so preoccupied with his dumb, stupid fascination with Klavier that he forgets a particularly important detail. An important detail he doesn’t remember until Klavier heads to the bathroom to get ready for bed.

Bed.

“Oh, fuck,” he mumbles, then gets off the bed and starts pacing. “Fuck me, oh my god.”

This was a bad idea. This was such a bad idea. How is he going to sleep? He’s not. That’s how. And he’s going to be way more exhausted than he was before they even left for the resort.

He’s still pacing furiously when Klavier finally emerges from the bathroom in a black tank top and joggers, his long hair done up in a messy bun. Apollo nearly screams.

“Is everything alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Klavier says, then proceeds to stretch his arms in the air as he yawns, the hem of his tank top raising just enough for Apollo to catch a sliver of his hip. It is… cruel might be the word. Yeah, cruel. Apollo’s a good person, but he must have done something phenomenally fucked up in a past life to be in this situation right now. Klavier looking like that can only be explained by some major bad karma on his end.

Apollo keeps his gaze past Klavier to the wall behind him because fuck, if he doesn’t his eyes are absolutely going to wander and he is not going to be caught checking Klavier Gavin out by the man himself.

“I’m fine.” And shit, Apollo’s voice has such an embarrassing gravelly quality to it. Oh my god you have got to your act together now, Justice.

Klavier tilts his head, but he doesn’t push it. “Bathroom’s all yours. We should head to bed soon, ja?”

“Right. Yes. I’m just gonna take a quick shower and then we can—yeah.” Apollo hastily grabs his bathroom bag and pajamas, then rushes to the bathroom like it's the only safe haven left on planet Earth.

He runs a hand down his face and lets out a loud sigh. This has to stop right here, right now. Yes, Klavier is objectively a… very attractive man and also just a good guy, but that does not mean Apollo is going to become a total mess over it. He’s going to get through this weekend without embarrassing himself and have a great time doing it because he’s going to nip this little problem in the bud right now.

Apollo undresses and takes a shower, the water far warmer than it ever gets in his apartment (which is a crime considering this is a cabin in the freakin’ mountains) and it helps him calm down a little. He’s going to be fine. The whole thing is fine. He got himself a little wound up, but he’s sobering up now, so he’s totally fine. He is a responsible adult and not a slave to his emotions. He can acknowledge his attraction to Klavier while also knowing he has to get over it immediately because it’s a dead end. And the sooner he’s at peace with that, the sooner he can start legitimately enjoying his vacation.

Feeling better, Apollo gets out of the shower, towels himself off, and throws on his pajamas (an oversized shirt and sweatpants), then dries his hair. As he brushes his teeth, he stares himself down in the mirror and repeats his mantra over and over again in his mind: I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine I’m fine.

He steps into the hall and takes a deep breath. Alright, now all you have to do is fall asleep next to a rockstar. Easy.

When Apollo inches back into the bedroom, Klavier has chosen a side of the bed and is reading some very highbrow looking book that’s old enough to have been passed down for generations. He’s also wearing hipster-style reading glasses which are not exactly helping with Apollo’s resolve to get over his thing for Klavier.

I’m Apollo Justice and I’m fine, he tells himself, then slides into the opposite side of the bed, sticking as close to the edge as he can without falling off.

The dip of the bed makes Klavier look up from his book. Once he sees Apollo, he doesn’t stop staring.

“Uh, what?” Apollo shrinks into himself. Was Klavier expecting him to sleep in the tub or something?

“Your hair’s down,” Klavier says like he’s just solved a great mystery.

“Oh.” Apollo rustles the hair on the back of his head in embarrassment. He forgot that it would be pretty different for Klavier to see him like this, his hair mussed and shaggy. “Well, it doesn’t make sense to go to bed with the gel in.”

“Nein, I suppose not.” Klavier reaches his hand out. Apollo freezes and watches in slow motion as Klavier takes a lock of his hair between his index finger and thumb. “It looks good like this.”

Apollo shouts a string of curses in his mind.

“Th-thanks. Uh… well! I’m exhausted. Are you exhausted? We should sleep,” Apollo says rapidly, grabbing one of his pillows and clutching it to his chest.

Klavier seems a little surprised by the outburst, but he smiles before placing his book and glasses on the bedside table. “Ja, of course.”

Apollo turns away, switching off the light on the bedside table next to him as Klavier does the same. He pulls the covers over his shoulders and clings to the pillow in his arms like it's a lifeline. “Night!”

“Gute Nacht, Herr Forehead,” Klavier says on a tired little sigh. Apollo can feel him sink into the covers and get settled. There’s definitely a distinct gap between them, but Apollo can still feel the warmth radiating from Klavier on the other side of the bed and it would take nothing at all for him to reach out and touch him.

Apollo clutches his pillow even tighter. His cheeks are still hot from Klavier touching his hair, not to mention the way his heart won’t stop jackhammering in his chest like he’s fallen off the top of a two-hundred story building. The situation is more precarious than he thought and he’s in deep, deep shit if Klavier keeps this up.

Klavier falls asleep first, the rhythm of his soft, steady breathing filling the room. Listening to it, Apollo’s anxiety turns into something more melancholic, because a part of him just wants but he knows—he knows—this isn’t a feeling he can indulge. Which is sad. But it's for the best.

Apollo closes his eyes and wills himself to focus on his breathing until he slowly starts to drift off, hoping that it’ll all be easier to deal with in the morning.

Chapter Text

can i go where you go

saturday

- Day -

Klavier is warm and comfortable. He’s on that cusp between sleep and waking, that delicate space where he’s almost aware of himself, but not really. He’s cognizant enough to know that whatever heavy thing is lying on his chest fits perfectly in the circle of his arms and he's so cozy that he tries to convince his consciousness to go back to the darkness for a few hours more.

It doesn’t, however, as he becomes more aware of the foreign object on top of him—the texture of cotton against his fingertips, the softness of skin, but the firmness of muscle underneath, and the warmth of body heat from another person.

Another person.

Another person.

Klavier opens his eyes. As the cabin’s ceiling comes into focus above his sleep-blurred eyes, so does the situation. Someone is lying on his chest. He is currently on a free weekend getaway for lovers with Apollo Justice despite them not being lovers. He and Apollo Justice shared a bed last night.

Ergo, the person in his arms is Apollo Justice.

Klavier finally dares a glance down at his chest to test his hypothesis and sure enough—sure enough—Apollo is sleeping soundly against him, his cheek pressed to Klavier’s rib cage, and his hands curled into Klavier’s shirt. He looks like a kitten snoozing in a patch of sunlight.

In his sleep, Apollo must have abandoned the pillow he was clutching so tightly last night for Klavier’s warm body. And of course, Klavier’s unconscious state fully embraced the turn of events. Figuratively and literally. As it is, Klavier’s arms are still wrapped around Apollo’s shoulders. Which. Isn’t the worst thing in the world. As previously stated, their position isn’t wholly uncomfortable. The opposite, in fact.

But what to do about it…

Unconsciously, he shifts his arms to hold Apollo a little tighter, one of his palms laying flat against the space between Apollo’s shoulder blades, and he lets out a deep, contented sigh.

Suddenly, this is a much more dangerous situation. It’s too easy to imagine this scene as an everyday part of Klavier’s life. Apollo fits too neatly in his curves and grooves.

He should get up. He should get up right now. Maybe if he slips slowly and carefully from beneath him—and Gott, he’s under Apollo Justice—he can get away without waking him. But Klavier stays where he is. For one, they’re too entangled for Klavier to make a clean getaway as one of Apollo’s legs is over his. And two, Klavier is… afraid.

That absolutely shouldn’t be a reason, but Klavier’s scared his jack-rabbiting heart will give away his true feelings if Apollo’s aware enough to hear it, which seems likely because his pulse is absolutely pounding in his ears. His fear roots him in place and keeps him from doing anything other than breathing. With each inhale, he catches the scent of Apollo’s mild shampoo, fresh from his shower last night. Madly, Klavier wants to pull him even closer and bury his nose in his hair.

I have to get up. Wake him. Anything.

Still, he doesn’t. Instead, he finds himself dozing back into slumber, not a deep sleep, but enough that he’s not thinking about his conundrum anymore.

Sometime later, maybe minutes or hours, he’s woken by a sharp jolt against his chest—a hard press and then sudden absence of warmth.

“Oh my god, Klavier, I’m so sorry!”

Ah, he’s awake.

Klavier props himself into a seated position, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and doing his best to appear as unaffected as possible. “Sorry? For what, Herr Forehead?”

“Well…” Apollo says and he’s taking their night of cuddling about as well as expected. Apollo’s standing at the foot of the bed, grasping the hem of his oversized t-shirt, his face past red and all the way to purple in embarrassment. “I was—we were—”

Klavier hums, trying to figure out the best way to play this. Normally, Klavier would tease him mercilessly for it, which is tempting, but he also doesn’t want Apollo to completely shut down and demand to be taken back to LA this afternoon. But if he’s too understanding, Apollo might think he’s acting weird.

He settles on a mixture of the two. “Cuddling? I noticed. You’re quite a nice size for it, Schatz.” He throws in an impish smile for good measure.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Apollo paces back and forth, ping-ponging across the room. “I know I was a clingy sleeper as a kid and I thought I grew out of it, but I guess I haven’t—it doesn’t matter. Point is, I probably should have warned you but I didn’t think—”

And, okay, Apollo is panicking, so Klavier gets up and catches him mid-pace by the shoulders. Apollo looks up at him, once again reminding Klavier of a kitten, but this kitten looks cornered instead of peacefully asleep.

“What is it you always say, Herr Forehead? You’re fine?” Klavier gives Apollo’s shoulders a squeeze. Apollo nods. “Then no need to worry, ja? What’s a cuddle between friends anyway?”

Apollo looks like he’s on the verge of either crying or fainting, but he eventually lets out a huge sigh. “I just don’t want you to feel… violated or—”

“Now, now,” Klavier says, tapping Apollo’s nose with the tip of his finger. “I feel nothing of the sort. I told you, I’ve been on tour with three men far less hygienic and considerate than you for months on end. I’ve had Daryan’s feet in my face before. You’re fine, Apollo. I promise.”

Apollo’s breathing a little more evenly now, some of the panic receding from his eyes. “Y-you’re sure? I can, I don’t know, sleep in the tub or on the floor or—”

“Liebling,” Klavier says sternly before he cups Apollo’s face with his palms. Distantly, he remembers he probably shouldn’t call Apollo pet names when they’re alone and when he’s not teasing him, but that’s a problem for another time. “I refuse to let you spend your vacation sleeping on something other than the bed. I don’t mind. I truly don’t.”

Apollo stares at him hard for several seconds, searching Klavier’s face like he’s looking for a lie. “If… if you’re sure.”

“I am.”

“Okay.”

Klavier smiles. “Okay.”

“Um, Klavier? Can you let go of my face?”

“Ach,” Klavier says, dropping his hands like Apollo’s face is made of hot iron. “My apologies, Herr Forehead. I’m still waking up.”

Nailed it.

“‘S’fine,” Apollo says, though his cheeks are still stained red. “What time is it? Did we miss breakfast?”

Klavier checks the little digital clock on his bedside table. “7:10 AM. We can make it if we hurry, ja?”

Apollo nods and they set about the room, trying to get dressed quickly. Apollo is much faster, electing to keep his hair down while Klavier decidedly does not do that. Apollo definitely yells “just put it in a bun, it looked fine that way” at one point, but they make it to the dining hall with twenty minutes to spare, so really, Apollo was overreacting.

“We could have gotten made-to-order omelettes if you would have just put it in a bun,” Apollo says, picking over the meager leftovers.

Klavier scoops some berries onto his plate, then pops a blackberry into his mouth. “We’ll set an alarm tomorrow, Schatz.”

“What are you calling me? What does that mean?” Apollo glares at him as he shovels bulk-made scrambled eggs onto his plate.

“Schatz?” Klavier tilts his head before smiling innocently. “Not telling.”

“How do you spell it?”

“Liebling, I’m not so stupid that I don’t know about Google Translate,” Klavier tuts.

Apollo grabs a bottle of Tapatío and angrily shakes it over his eggs. “What does that one mean?”

Klavier doesn’t answer as he reaches over to grab some scrambled eggs of his own, intentionally getting into Apollo’s space and smirking as he does. Apollo fumes and skitters over to the hash browns.

Again, Klavier briefly wonders if he should pull back on his blatant flirting, but he can’t help it when Apollo makes it so easy.

When they’re finally done picking at the remains of the breakfast buffet, they look for a seat, but all the tables are occupied. Klavier vaguely remembers one of the Keapers saying they encouraged socializing during breakfast and lunch, and he internally groans. Klavier would classify himself as an extrovert, but even he’d rather not suffer through small talk over breakfast.

“There’s a spot over there.” Apollo nods towards a table by the window with a couple taking up two of the seats. Unfortunately, Klavier recognizes them as the annoying couple from yesterday.

“Ah, that’s the only spot then?” Klavier says.

Apollo sighs. “C’mon, maybe they’re almost done.”

They were not almost done.

“Oh, my goodness, hi!” The woman with the Farrah Fawcett hair greets them with an exaggerated wave and “come hither” motion. “I was hopin’ you two would sit here.”

Klavier doesn’t comment on the fact that there was nowhere else for them to sit. “You flatter us.”

“Oh! Listen to your cute little accent,” she says, leaning over the table as they sit. “You two are the absolute cutest, aren’t they, Chet?”

The man nods and smiles, though it’s strained. “The cutest.”

“I’m Ava and this is my honey bunny, Chet,” Ava says, nuzzling up to him. Klavier can feel Apollo holding back a gag.

“Klavier. And this beautiful creature...” he says before placing a tasteful hand over Apollo’s free wrist, “is my Apollo.”

Apollo chokes on his eggs. “Klavier.”

“Oh my god, you’re too cute.” Ava presses a hand to her chest. “And so brave.”

Klavier and Apollo both freeze. Klavier feels Apollo’s fist tighten in his hand. Klavier gives it a light squeeze, a silent message he hopes conveys it’s okay, I have you.

Klavier clears his throat. “Danke, Frau Ava. But please, enough about us. I’d love to know how you two met.”

It’s the perfect way to change the subject, but Klavier regrets it immediately. As Ava and Chet go on and on about their saccharine meeting and perfect relationship, Apollo's tense fist finally relaxes, though he’s trying very, very hard not to grimace at both of them.

What’s worse, they start giving Apollo and Klavier relationship advice that includes such gems as “it’s all a give and take,” “communication is really key,” and “be sure to keep things fresh in the bedroom!”

There’s a silent understanding between him and Apollo to finish their breakfast as soon as possible and get the hell out of there. As soon as their plates are clean, Klavier stands and puts on his politest smile. “Well, we really must get going.”

“Aw, so soon?” Ava whines. “But I was going to give you tips on using essential oils for a better sex life.”

This time, Apollo stands abruptly. “Thank you, but we really have to go! We gotta uh, y’know…practice all those tips you gave us earlier. In the bedroom.”

And in true Apollo Justice fashion, he shouts it, making sure everyone in the dining hall knows their “plans” after breakfast. Klavier does his best not to slap his palm to his face in exasperation. Apollo, apparently, only does well under pressure in court.

Klavier takes Apollo’s hand with an easy laugh. “Seems you inspired him. Truly, we must be going. Thank you for a lovely breakfast.”

They say their goodbyes and Klavier tugs Apollo toward the exit, not letting go until they’re outside and away from the prying eyes of the others. Then, before he can stop himself, he starts giggling.

He can feel Apollo’s glare on him. “What’s so funny?”

“Your lack of volume control, Schatz,” Klavier says into the back of his palm, trying to stifle his laughter. “And here I thought it would be me who would need to lay suggestive hints in order to get away, but you beat me to it.”

Apollo’s cheeks go pink as he grits his teeth. “I panicked, okay?”

Clearly,” Klavier says, a few more bubbles of laughter escaping him. “Come on, let’s head back to the cabin and try out some of those tips.”

Stop,” Apollo groans as they walk back through the snow, Klavier finding his hand once again.


“So, what did you bring?”

Apollo is hovering over Klavier and his suitcase like a hummingbird over a bird feeder, clamoring to see Klavier’s book haul. They’ve both changed back into sweatpants, sweaters, and cozy socks, and decided they’d use the afternoon to get some reading in.

“Mm, I have Slaughterhouse-Five, Crime and Punishment, One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Klavier says, pulling each pristine copy out of his bag one by one.

“Geez, are you studying for the AP Lit exam or something?” Apollo grabs Crime and Punishment and reads the back cover.

Klavier shrugs. “I like a book that makes me think. Plus, I’m making my way through a ‘100 Books to Read Before You Die’ list.”

“How far are you?”

“Sixty-eight,” Klavier says. “I’m hoping to finish one more by the end of the trip.” And he very pointedly winks at Apollo.

Apollo falls back on the bed, presumably to hide his red face. “You’re such an asshole, you know that?”

“What about you, Forehead?” Klavier sits at the foot of the bed, hoping to get at least a glimpse of Apollo’s flustered expression. “You said you brought books too, ja?”

He catches the hint of a pretty flush along Apollo’s cheeks, a sight he’s getting increasingly greedier to see. Apollo nods and stretches across the bed to his backpack. He pulls out a slim, black rectangle and hands it to Klavier.

“An e-reader?” Klavier says, taking it. “You don’t strike me as the type.”

Apollo hums. “Well, I guess I prefer hard copies, but it’s actually really convenient. It reduces clutter and I can download books directly from the library, plus it’s super light. Clay got it for me for my birthday because—”

Apollo stops himself short like he just said a word he’s not ever allowed to utter.

“Herr Forehead? Are you alright?”

“I… yeah, sorry. Um, yeah, he got it for me because my back would hurt from all the library books I used to carry with me.” His voice is light but Klavier can see the distance in his eyes. Klavier’s aware of the incident that took Apollo Justice’s best friend away from him, but he’s never really heard him talk about it. This might be the first time he’s even mentioned Clay Terran in front of Klavier.

Klavier looks at the e-reader and starts flipping through his library. “A very thoughtful gift then.”

Apollo places his hands underneath his head and lets his elbows fan out like a butterfly. “Yeah, it was.”

“You misled me, Schatz,” Klavier says, still flicking through the mountain of books on his device. “Your tastes are fairly literary.”

“It’s just a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy.”

“I’d say Ursula K. Le Guin counts as sci-fi and literature,” Klavier says. “Oh, I’ve been wanting to read Uprooted.”

“It’s good. I finished it last week.”

They talk about books for a bit and it’s just… comfortable, easy. Fun. Apollo likes anything speculative, but especially massive sci-fi series with lots of hard science. He claims his fascination is a lingering side effect of playing in a space museum all the time as a child with his best friend, and something about that makes Klavier feel warmer than his cashmere socks do.

Klavier makes them hot cocoa, two huge mugs with marshmallows packed in, and hands one to Apollo, who looks like a kid in a candy store when he sees it. They sit on their sides of the bed and read for a couple hours, and midway through, it starts to snow outside. And it’s… lovely. It’s nice being with Apollo like this. As loud of a person as he is, he’s surprisingly comfortable to be around in silence.

Klavier gets so caught up in the atmosphere and his book that they’re nearly late for lunch.

They get dressed quickly, Apollo yelling at him, “If you spend thirty minutes doing your hair, Klav, I swear.”

Klav. The nickname rolls off of Apollo’s tongue like he’s been using it forever and it’s so easy to pretend that this is an everyday annoyance for him. For some reason, that makes Klavier’s cheeks flush. If that’s all it takes for Klavier to get flustered, then he’s in a lot more trouble than he realized.

They make it to the dining hall with forty-five minutes to spare which is… progress. It’s at least enough time for Apollo to get roast beef right off the rack, so he’s satisfied. They’re even able to find a table to themselves this time around which is a very welcome change after—

“Hi, cuties!”

Klavier is certain he’s jinxed.

Ava and Chet stroll up with their trays, Ava beaming like she just won the lottery. “Hope you don’t mind if we sit together again? Oh, Apollo, honey, could you sit on the same side as Klavier? Chet and I like to be close.”

Apollo, who was previously enjoying his roast beef sandwich with the most content expression Klavier’s ever seen him wear, looks like he’d rather commit murder than move for her, but he takes his tray and moves anyway. “Sure.”

Ava and Chet sit down and Klavier can feel Apollo steaming next to him.

Ava wraps her fingers with long, red acrylics around her fork and stabs at her salad. “So, did you two have a fun afternoon?”

Why, why are there people who think it’s appropriate to ask about others’ sex lives? Klavier will never understand.

“It was wonderful, Frau Ava. We enjoyed the snowfall. You don’t see much of that in LA, ja?”

“Ugh, I know. Wasn’t it gorgeous, Chet?” Ava says.

Chet wraps his arm around her shoulder and nuzzles his nose against her cheek. “Not as gorgeous as you, Pumpkin.”

Ava giggles and pushes him away. “Chet, oh my god, stop. You’re embarrassing me.”

She doesn’t look that embarrassed if Klavier’s any judge.

“Glad you had a good time, then.” Klavier forces a smile that makes his own sandwich sour on his tongue.

“Oh, well, the real fun is later tonight,” Ava says conspiratorially as she bridges her fingers and cradles her chin on them. “I’m so excited.”

Klavier is afraid to ask, but it’d be rude not to. “Oh? And why is that?”

“Well, the movie kiss contest, of course.”

Ah. That.

“You two going for it?” Chet says through a bite of his sandwich.

Apollo answers quickly. “Nah, not our thing.”

“Oh, yeah, probably for the best.” Chet looks oddly relieved like he’s dodged a very gay bullet.

Klavier could just be reading into it, but it rubs him the wrong way. “Is that so?”

Chet’s chewing slows as he tries to think through his answer. “Um, well, you know. Might be some less accepting folks in the crowd.”

Apollo twitches beside him and starts holding his sandwich a little too tight. “Oh, yeah? Well, maybe that’s all the more reason for us to enter.”

Apollo, Klavier chides internally. Though, he can’t blame him. Klavier’s 99% sure Chet is part of that “less accepting” crowd.

“Aw, you don’t want to do that,” Chet says. “Ava and I are entering, and look, not to brag, but ain’t nobody here as movie star material as the two of us. Or got as much chemistry for that matter.” He punctuates his point by wrapping his arm around Ava’s waist and bringing her close to him.

She giggles. “Oh, Chet, stop.”

“Perhaps that is for the judges to decide, ja?” Klavier is usually a pretty calm and collected person, but this is a bit much even for him.

Chet freezes and his lip curls up in indignation. “Oh, come on, you two know you ain’t exactly movie material.”

He doesn’t say it outright, but the implication is clear.

Klavier has half a mind to punch the bastard in his ugly, greasy face in front of the entire dining hall. He might even do it until he notices that Apollo’s fist is clenched so tight under the table that his knuckles are white.

Klavier places a gentle hand on his knee.

Instead of leaping across the table to strangle Chet, Apollo stands up straight, wraps the remnant of his sandwich in a napkin, and says, “Klav, let’s take our lunch to go or we’ll be late for our ski lesson.”

There’s no ski lesson, but Klavier gets the message. He wraps his own sandwich, gives Ava and Chet a curt goodbye, and they dash out of the dining hall together, Apollo crushing his sandwich between his fists.

- Afternoon -

Apollo is fucking pissed. Like, never been this pissed in his life pissed. He might punch a fucking tree pissed.

He’s gotten his fair share of shit growing up gay and trans, so he likes to think he can just roll his eyes and move on with his day when he hears crap like this, but usually, he’s by himself or with someone he’s actually dating. For some reason, Chet saying that in front of Klavier and during their vacation makes it so much worse.

They don’t talk on the way to the cabin and they don’t hold hands like earlier. Actually, it probably looks like they fought because Apollo’s stomping ahead of Klavier and he knows he’s not doing a good job of hiding his anger.

When they get back to the cabin, Apollo opens the door for Klavier, makes sure he’s all the way in, then slams the door as hard as he can.

Schatz,” Klavier says, his voice soft and understanding, but Apollo can hear the edge to it, can see how he’s a bubbling pot about to overflow whereas Apollo’s lid has already blown off.

“Who the fuck does he think he is?” Apollo says. “We didn’t say anything. We didn’t do anything.”

“Of course we didn’t,” Klavier says.

“It just sucks that I can’t escape this stuff even when I’m on vacation.” Apollo crosses his arms. “And what kind of shitty logic is that? We can’t win a movie kiss contest ’cause we’re gay? I mean—well, I’m gay but uh—”

He sucks his lips between his teeth and now he’s angry at himself for forgetting he hasn’t actually given Klavier that little tidbit of information about himself yet.

Klavier shakes his head. “We’re gay. Pansexual, technically, but semantics.”

“Oh… really?” It’s not that Apollo’s exactly surprised, but it’s kind of a shock to hear it first hand.

“I am credited as the writer of My Boyfriend is the Defense’s Witness, ja?”

“It’s not like I have your entire discography memorized,” Apollo says, rolling his eyes.

“You should.” Klavier's ensuing smile is sweeter than the hot cocoa they had this morning.

For a moment, Apollo’s anger dissipates just enough for him to be a little happy that Klavier does understand, that he’s not alone right now. And the fact that he’s with Klavier specifically makes him really happy, which… he doesn’t have time to unpack right now, but the answer is probably very simple.

“I understand your frustration,” Klavier continues. “It’s such an insult. Every kiss given by Klavier Gavin is a movie kiss. It makes me want to show them how wrong they are.”

And this is where Apollo loses his mind: just throws all caution to the wind and says, “Hey, Common Sense? Fuck you!” because the next stupid thing out of Apollo’s mouth is—

“I’m up for it if you are.”

The second it leaves his lips, his brain conveniently finds its way back and begins screaming at him because what the fuck did he just say?

And Klavier? Klavier is shocked. He’s looking at Apollo like he just said kicking puppies should be legal, actually.

“Herr Forehead, are you proposing we put on a show?” Klavier is so flabbergasted by the notion that his voice goes up a few octaves.

Apollo pumps the brakes. “No! Nope. Forget I said anything. That was super stupid and I’d apppreciate if we forgot it forever, thanks.”

“I’d be willing,” Klavier says and it’s cool and collected, like his eyes weren’t just bugging out of his head a second ago. “If you wanted to.”

Apollo’s jaw is on the floor. “You would?”

“Well, I had to do a stage kiss for a music video once, so this wouldn’t be much different, ja?” Klavier’s saying all of this so casually, Apollo feels like he’s entered a different dimension. “If we won, we’d get free snowboarding lessons. Imagine the looks on their faces if we pulled it off…”

Klavier gets a positively petty look on his face that is kind of infectious. Because yeah, actually winning this thing? Has lots of pros. And the cons are… kissing Klavier Gavin?

Whoa, hold on buster, Apollo’s logical brain says. This is a one-way ticket to heartbreak city.

And of course, Apollo’s stupid monkey brain chips in too—Good point, but consider: kissing Klavier Gavin.

The council acknowledges the dissent’s argument but we still adhere that this is a stupid fucking idea.

And it is. God, it so is. But Apollo’s going to do it anyway.

“Yeah,” he says, his brain tearing itself apart in his skull. “Yeah, let’s do it.”

They start with an overview of the rules on the official retreat brochure:

  • Couples must kiss, though on the lips is not required.
  • Couples must keep their kiss strictly PG. Think Disney!
  • To keep things moving, judges ask that the couple do not perform whole scenes with dialogue. Just the smooches, please!
  • Couples are judged on originality, romance, and chemistry.

“My guess is that a kiss on the cheek won’t be enough to win,” Klavier muses, reading over the brochure. “Though it sounds like they want to keep it fairly tactful.”

Apollo can’t exactly call a kissing contest “tactful” but he’ll take it. The real thing he’s worried about is romance and chemistry. “What do you think they mean by originality?”

“The staging, Herr Forehead. It’s not like we can just lean over and kiss, we need some flair.” Klavier brushes some hair out of his eyes. “Something I’m very good at.”

God, Apollo is in so much trouble. “Okay, then, what do we do?”

Klavier purses his lips and looks at the ceiling. “Well, it’s a movie kiss contest, ja? So something cinematic…”

“Yeah, maybe if we make up a little story, it’ll be easier?” Apollo suggests.

“Ja, my thinking exactly.” Klavier sits at the bedroom desk and picks up the cheap pen and writing pad provided. “What are some romantic movie kisses? Any favorites, Herr Forehead?”

Apollo sits on the foot of the bed and scratches his neck. “I usually don’t watch rom-coms, but uh, I don’t know. I guess I’m most invested when things are life and death.”

“Ja, high stakes. I think that’s good,” Klavier says, writing it down. After, he taps the end of the pen to his lips and Apollo traces the motion, more than a little hypnotized by the distinct drop in his cupid’s bow. He quickly looks away. “Maybe it’s a dire situation. The world is ending and our two heroes must go on separate missions to stop the apocalypse, but they know they’ll likely never see each other again, so they share a passionate goodbye kiss.”

Apollo’s stomach twists at the thought. He’s way in over his head. “That would certainly be… romantic.”

“Do you think it would be too clichéd?” Klavier says, poking the pen to his cheek.

“No, I think it’s a good idea.” Apollo plays with the hem of his shirt. “I think it’ll meet all the requirements.”

“Then, should we practice?”

If there’s a world record for the amount of times a brain can short circuit in one lifetime, Apollo’s pretty sure he’s beaten it three times over this afternoon alone. “O-oh. Uh, practice as in…” Apollo makes a vague hand gesture that means nothing.

“Kissing?” Klavier offers.

“Uh, or should we just… go for it?”

Klavier hums. “Perhaps practice just a couple of times? If we practice too much, then I think the performance will be stale, but if we don’t at all I worry it’ll look like we’ve obviously never kissed each other before.”

“O-oh, right. That makes sense,” Apollo says. Though, in truth, he’s not sure if any part of this situation makes sense.

Klavier watches him carefully, concern coloring his face. “We don’t have to do this, you know. If you’re feeling at all uncomfortable…”

He’s giving Apollo an out and, really, it’s probably for the best. Apollo should take the offer. Though, the righteous anger still coursing through him wants to fight back in this small, stupid way. He has nothing to prove and yet, he does want to prove it. He wants to show this entire retreat that he and Klavier’s relationship can be just as romantic as any other.

Plus, there’s no reason for Apollo to be freaked out, anyway. He was in musical theatre in high school. He’s done stage kisses before. Maybe not with anyone he’s actually liked, but hey, he did it. He can distance himself mentally enough to do this. He can.

“No, I’m okay. Are you okay?” Apollo says. He doesn’t want to do this if Klavier is having second thoughts.

Klavier gives him a debonair, model-quality smile. “Don’t worry about me, Liebling. I was born to perform.”

“Alright, well.” Apollo stands with a lot more confidence than he feels. “I guess we should uh, get started.”

Klavier stands too, looking completely unaffected, like they’re about to go on a brisk walk together and not, y’know, practice kissing each other. “Ja, I have some ideas.”

They move to the living room and rearrange some furniture to make space, which is a nice mental break from what they’re about to do.

Once everything is out of the way, Klavier starts pacing and moving his hands like he’s mapping out the steps in his head. It turns out, Klavier is very directorial. He moves his body around the space, generating ideas in a way that reminds Apollo of how he plucks out melodies in front of the piano.

“Herr Forehead, may I have you for a second?” Klavier says, beckoning him closer. Apollo steps up to him and Klavier takes him by both hands, encouraging him to come even closer. He does, and now they’re holding hands, the tips of their shoes touching. “I think we start here, ja? Make it a bit sad since you’re leaving. Perhaps if you look over your shoulder, like your ride to your doom is here.”

Apollo does as he’s told, trying to remember all the old, high school acting advice and really “see” his ride. He imagines a futuristic fighter plane on its way to the final battle.

“Good,” Klavier says. “Now, back to me.”

Apollo turns his head back and Klavier’s looking at him like he’s really never going to see him again. Something hard sticks in Apollo’s throat. “Okay.”

“And then, maybe…” Klavier trails off and leans closer. Apollo almost thinks he’s going for the kiss, but then his forehead is pressing lightly onto Apollo’s. It’s unbearably close. Apollo can see all the details of his blue eyes: they’re almost turquoise with little brown spots peppering his irises. Apollo couldn’t look away if he had a gun to his head.

“I think this is good,” Apollo says, his voice far quieter than his usual volume.

Klavier clears his throat and pulls back, but still holds Apollo’s hands. “And I was thinking I could take your hand.” Klavier places one of Apollo’s hands over his heart and secures it there. And Apollo can feel Klavier’s heartbeat. It’s… sort of fast. “And do something like this? Or do you think it would be too much?”

“N-no,” Apollo says, though it’s more of a choke. “I think it’s… pretty, um, romantic.”

“Okay, good. And then I was thinking we’d take each other in for a moment, memorize the contours of each other’s faces, ja? I think I read that in a book once.”

Apollo can imagine how intimate that would make the scene feel. “You’re kind of amazing at this. Are you a famous movie director too?”

Klavier laughs, and thank god, because Apollo felt like the air around them was about to suffocate him. “Nein, nein. Learned a couple of tricks from working on music videos, that’s all.”

“Still, I’m impressed.”

“Danke, Herr Forehead.” Klavier clears his throat again. “And then after we take a moment to see each other, I think this is where we would kiss.”

“Oh, okay.” Apollo is weirdly relieved. Klavier’s little scene doesn’t seem too bad. “And that’s the end?”

“It could be, but I actually had the idea for a second kiss.”

Oh, god. “What do you mean?”

Klavier pulls back his hands to mess with the fringe of his hair. “I thought it would be really dramatic if you were to start to walk away…” He gestures for Apollo to walk towards his imaginary ship. Apollo takes a few steps but then stops when Klavier grips his bicep. Naturally, Apollo turns back to face him. “And then I grab you…” He pulls Apollo to him, making them crash together. “And bring you back to me.”

“And this is where we…”

“Ja. More passionate this time. You could even…” Klavier positions Apollo’s arms around his neck and then puts his own hands on Apollo’s hips. “Or something like that? Whatever feels right.”

“That sounds good,” Apollo squeaks.

“You sure? Feel free to disagree if you don’t like something.” Klavier is far too close to Apollo’s face to be looking at him that earnestly.

“No, honestly, it’s kind of perfect.” Apollo means it. He thinks it’ll actually be enough to win this thing.

“Well, then in that case, I think next, we hold hands here again,” Klavier says, taking Apollo’s arms and sliding his hands down until they’re clasped with Apollo’s again. “And then you pull away to leave and our hands linger right at the breaking point.” He nods for Apollo to try it. Apollo starts walking away and lets his right hand stay in Klavier’s until the last possible moment while Klavier continues to reach out, yearning. “And that’s it!”

“That’s uh, that’s really good, Klavier.” Apollo pulls at his collar with a hooked finger.

“Danke again, Apollo. You were my muse.” Klavier’s got his teasing smile back on and for once, Apollo’s kind of grateful for it.

Apollo rolls his eyes and it feels nice. Normal. “Knock it off.”

“But you were!” Klavier clutches his fist in front of him. “Your love of apocalyptic sci-fi novels inspired me.”

“Glad to be of service.”

Klavier hums and then gets serious again. “Did you want to give it a go? Once or twice?”

Shit. Right, yeah. They’re doing this. Apollo’s going to die midway through because he has to kiss Klavier Gavin twice.

No. No, don’t think about it like that. We’re actors in a scene. My character is kissing his character, so it’s fine. Acting kisses don’t count as real kisses, he thinks, but that doesn’t stop the churning in his gut.

God, it’s been a hot minute since he last kissed someone. What if he’s painfully bad? What if Klavier can’t even look him in the face again because he’s so awkward? What if Klavier’s bad? No, he’s pretty sure that’s impossible. Oh no, now he’s thinking about how good of a kisser Klavier probably is.

“Herr Forehead? Is everything okay?” Klavier says, genuine concern on his face. “Truly, if you’re having second thoughts, we don’t have to.”

“No, no. I want to see Ava and Chet’s faces when we blow them out of the water.” Apollo rubs his neck again. “I guess I’m a little nervous, that’s all.”

Klavier smiles sweetly, maybe even shyly. “If it makes you feel better, I am, too.”

“You are?”

“Of course. It’s nerve-wracking.”

Apollo feels a smile pull at the corner of his lips too. “Thanks. That does make me feel better.”

“Here, if we do it once, the next ones will be easier.” Klavier holds out his hand and Apollo takes it, stepping up to Klavier. “With feeling, ja?”

Apollo swallows thickly but nods. “Alright, ready when you are.”

They get in the starting position, hand in hand, and Apollo can see the moment Klavier turns on his acting skills. His eyes are big and woeful, so believable that it makes Apollo genuinely sad. It’s easy to play it up from there. He tries to look at Klavier with the same bittersweet longing, though he’s sure his performance is not half as convincing as Klavier’s.

Apollo looks over his shoulder and imagines the spaceship that will take him away from the love of his life, perhaps forever, and he gets kind of into the flow of it. He doesn’t worry so much about kissing Klavier Gavin when he reminds himself of their imaginary circumstances. But then he looks back, and Klavier’s face is so full of pain that it hurts Apollo. How is this guy so good at everything?

Klavier rests his forehead against Apollo’s, his eyes even more vibrant, more devastating than the first time they did it, and Apollo feels like he’s nothing but a beating heart. Klavier pulls back, then clasps one of Apollo’s hands over his heart. It’s pounding even faster than before. He wasn’t lying when he said he was nervous…

It’s grounding, though, knowing this is as scary for Klavier as it is for him. It makes him feel like he’s not in as much danger of crumbling right there at his feet as he was a few minutes ago.

They do that thing where they “memorize each other’s faces,” which is also nice since it’s a very concrete task Apollo can focus on instead of obsessing over the next part. He lets his eyes trace over Klavier’s features: the high cheekbones, the sharp jawline, his soft-looking lips, and the turquoise eyes that are studying him right back.

Klavier lowers his head, angles it in such a way that Apollo knows exactly where to go, knows how to follow his lead. He reminds himself what’s at stake: I’m kissing the love of my life goodbye. This isn’t the prosecutor I have a fat crush on, this is someone I’ve kissed a thousand times, but this is the last one.

Thinking about it like that gives Apollo the final burst of bravery he needs to close the gap between them. Their lips lock, lingering before Klavier drags his lips away, then comes back again for a fleeting moment. Apollo’s thought processes have seized, all he can comprehend is how right he was about thinking Klavier’s lips looked soft.

They separate, Apollo’s knees feeling like jelly as he huffs out a sigh, which normally would be embarrassing but if anyone asks, he’s just acting. Apollo remembers that spaceship he needs to be getting on, though it’s hard to pull away from Klavier when he looks so damn sad. But Apollo sticks to his blocking and starts to walk away but then there’s a tight hold on his arm and a sharp tug and—

And it’s all just Klavier, Klavier, Klavier. Klavier kissing him like his life fucking depends on it. Klavier wrapping his arms tight around Apollo’s middle. Klavier’s warmth smothering Apollo from the top of his head to the tip of his toes.

It’s suddenly impossible to separate this kiss from Klavier Gavin. Because no, for all the acting in the world, that’s not the truth. Klavier might be a good enough actor to pretend but Apollo isn’t. He’s not just melting into the kiss, he’s falling. He keeps reminding himself to stay in character, that his arms are wound that tightly around Klavier’s neck because it’s what his character would do, but he doesn’t have to act. It’s so easy, so natural to kiss him like this. It’s fake, he knows it’s all fake, but the way it makes Apollo feel isn’t. He wants to kiss Klavier like this again. And a lot more times after that.

God, he’s in such deep shit.

The kiss comes to a slow stop and when they break apart, Apollo can feel Klavier’s breath against his lips. Klavier’s eyes are lidded, still looking at Apollo’s mouth, and it’s so much. Apollo wants to hide. He wants to stay right here. He wants things to be different. But most of all, he wishes the aching pain in his chest would go away.

Apollo lets his arms slide off of Klavier’s shoulders and into his hands before they give each other one last lingering look. Klavier’s cheeks are actually rosy, which is very satisfying, if Apollo’s honest. Apollo turns away, walking toward the imaginary ship again, Klavier’s hand still holding on until it can’t anymore. Apollo isn’t sure if it’s his character’s heart breaking or his own as the warmth of Klavier’s fingers disappears from his own.

With the scene ending, they’re silent for a few moments, coming down from the intensity of it. As reality sets in, Apollo’s not sure if he should laugh, cry, vomit or do a gross combination of all three. He opts for letting out a shaky breath he’s been holding in for a while.

Carefully, Apollo angles his head back toward Klavier, not quite brave enough to fully face him yet. He clears his throat, suddenly very aware of how tense his lips feel. “Was that uh, okay?”

Klavier huffs out a laugh and it’s enough to make Apollo face him. He’s surprised to find Klavier with one of his hands hovering over his nose and mouth, trying to hide a blush far too big to be covered by one hand. Well, at least Apollo knows he’s not the only one embarrassed, so that’s nice.

“Herr Forehead, as long as we do what we just did, I think our victory is assured.”

- Evening -

Kissing Apollo Justice is either the single stupidest thing Klavier’s ever done (and he’s including getting Phoenix Wright disbarred in that) or the best. He’s leaning toward the former. Apollo sits close to him when they hop on the shuttle that takes them to the Big House, leaning against Klavier’s shoulder, and it’s like being gently electrocuted.

All he can think about is their rehearsal, his mind dissecting it from every angle. The first of two—and mein Gott why had he ever suggested two?—was passable. If they would have left it at that, Klavier could have walked away with minimal damage to his heart, but the second one…

Klavier had no idea Apollo was such a… convincing actor. He might never stop thinking about that kiss, how they held each other so tightly, how Klavier felt that legendary “spark” TV shows go on about. Was that a fluke? A result of them both being surprisingly talented actors? Or is it the worst case scenario and completely one-sided?

If Apollo wasn’t sitting right next to him, he’d bury his head in his hands. Klavier had hoped to get to know Apollo better on this trip, but he didn’t mean it like this. Or, perhaps he did. He can’t be too sure of his own feelings right now.

They’re mostly quiet through dinner, which Klavier graciously chalks up to nerves on both their parts, especially since Apollo is gulping his wine rather than sipping it.

“Are you alright, Herr Forehead?” Klavier asks because he’s terrified Apollo feels coerced into this. “I swear, if you don’t want to do this, I’m fine with not going through with it.”

Apollo actually laughs at that and it’s such a relief to hear that sound. “I think we’re a little past the point of no return.”

“That’s true.” Klavier laughs. It would probably be more odd not to do this, or else they’d just practiced kissing for no reason. “Still, I don’t want you to feel obligated.”

Apollo smiles genuinely. “Thanks, Klav. I’m good. Just stage fright.”

And there it is again. That nickname. It’s not even creative, but it feels like the word has sunk a hook in his sternum and pulls at him violently.

“More wine then?” Klavier says, picking up the bottle on their table.

“God, please.”

Klavier fills both of their glasses.

After dessert, the staff usher them into the cocktail room while they set up the dining room for the contest. Finn and Shisa call for everyone who wishes to participate to sign up. Klavier raises his eyebrow at Apollo in one last silent question: Are we doing this?

Apollo nods. “Do it.”

And okay, they’re doing this. Klavier steps up to Shisa and writes their names down.

“Oh, I’m so glad you two are joining!” Shisa coos. It sounds very genuine. “I didn’t think you would. You both seemed a bit… put off by the idea.”

“Ach, my apologies for giving you that impression, Frau Keaper,” Klavier says, laying on the charm. “But we’ve had a change of heart.”

“Well, glad to hear it. I’m rooting for you two!” Shisa smiles sweetly at him and it’s so matronly that Klavier smiles back.

He makes his way back to Apollo who’s holding onto his wine for him. Klavier takes it back and sips.

“How long was the list?” Apollo says.

“I think most people signed up.”

Really?” Apollo’s lip curls in distaste. “I shouldn’t be surprised. People in love always want to flaunt it.”

“How cynical, Herr Forehead.”

Apollo’s mouth stretches into a flat line. “It’s true.”

“Well, why shouldn’t they? If they’re happy?” What Klavier doesn’t say is this: if you were with me, I’d flaunt it too.

He does his best to push the thought from his mind, but it lingers in his consciousness like a storm cloud.

Apollo looks away from him, then. “Does kinda come off bitter when you put it that way, huh? I guess I just don’t understand it. For a lot of reasons.”

Klavier tilts his head. “What do you mean?”

“Well, for one, I feel like intimacy and stuff should stay pretty private. Like, I’d kind of be scared to be too touchy-feely in public because, y’know… people aren’t always so nice.” Apollo’s shoulders hike up to his ears, but they relax again when Klavier hums in agreement. “But beyond that, I don’t know. I’m just a private person, so I don’t get being so infatuated with someone that you just can’t help but be all over them in public.”

“Really? You’ve never been so in love that you wanted to scream it from the rooftops?” Klavier asks, not because he’s doing research or anything, just because he’s interested in getting to know Apollo better. Honest.

Apollo’s cheeks go a lovely shade of pink and he won’t meet Klavier’s eyes. Klavier wonders if Apollo would even be telling him this if he hadn’t had half a bottle of wine. “Can’t say that I have. None of the relationships I’ve been in ever really stuck.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Klavier itches to reach out and take Apollo’s hand on the table. He remembers then that they’re around the other couples, so he indulges the impulse. Apollo doesn’t tense or move away. “May I ask… is that just because of the circumstances, or do you find yourself uninterested in romance?”

Klavier regrets asking it as soon as he does. It feels far too leading when they’re huddled together and holding hands at a cocktail table. At least to Klavier’s ears, it kind of sounds like he was asking if he had a shot.

Apollo won’t meet Klavier’s eyes again, but he also doesn’t move his hand away. “I’m not uninterested.”

Klavier has to restrain himself from saying “good.” Instead, he goes with: “I see.”

“What about you? You don’t mind the whole PDA, grand gestures thing?” Apollo asks, clearing his throat.

“I can’t say I am exactly on Ava and Chet’s level.” Klavier mods to the table where Ava and Chet are standing, Chet fully kissing her neck. “But I am in the business of writing love songs.”

Oh. God, yeah.” Apollo shakes his head. “I don’t know how you do it. I think that would be even harder for me than this whole kissing contest thing.”

Klavier laughs. “It is… vulnerable, for sure. But if it were easy, no one would care.”

“I guess I can understand that.” Apollo looks at his bracelet. “It’s hard to be that honest, I think.”

I know, Herr Forehead. I know.

Apollo is about to say something else when he stops short, his eyes trained past Klavier. Klavier follows his gaze and mentally groans when he sees Ava and Chet making their way to their table.

“Oh, don’t you two look nice,” Ava says, but Klavier can tell she’s just hoping for a compliment in returnt. Be that as it may, Klavier does look nice in his magenta, fitted v-neck sweater and Apollo is equally handsome in a black button down shirt, the first two buttons tastefully undone and the sleeves—of course—rolled up to his elbows.

“Why, thank you, Frau Ava.” Klavier once again plays up the charm, though he’d rather be anywhere else in the world. “That blue cocktail dress is positively stunning on you.”

“You should see it off of her,” Chet quips and ah, perhaps Apollo had a good point about how certain things should remain private.

Ava feigns shock and smacks his shoulder. “Chet Orlando Roe, you watch your mouth. We’re in public.”

It’s not nearly as admonishing as it should be and Apollo and Klavier have to suffer in silence as Chet grabs her ass and Ava giggles at him.

Chet finally remembers they’re there and looks a bit disgruntled, even though they came to Apollo and Klavier’s table. “So, you two did sign up then? For the contest?”

“We did.” Apollo stares Chet dead in the eye, a silent challenge for Chet to say something about it.

Chet rises to that challenge. “Your funeral.” He grabs Ava by the waist. “Ain’t no way a couple of—uh, any couple is gonna beat me and my girl.”

Klavier has to grab Apollo by his forearm to keep him from doing something he might regret and by the look on his face, Apollo was very close to an aggravated assault charge. Apollo relaxes slightly at Klavier’s touch, but he’s still trembling in anger.

Klavier takes the reins again, trying to keep his voice pleasant, though in truth, he’s just as eager to punch Chet in his weak jaw as Apollo is. “May the best couple win, then.”

Chet let’s a loud “Ha!” Then, as he’s waving them off, says, “They will.”

They turn to leave, attached at the hip, and Klavier waits until they’re out of earshot to let out a relieved sigh. Apollo, however, is still extremely tense, his jaw working in a way that looks painful.

“Apollo…” Klavier says, hoping to comfort him since he looks so upset, but Klavier doesn’t know what to say and he always knows what to say.

Before he can think of anything, though, Apollo abruptly turns to him, grabbing him by the forearms. “Klav.”

“Y-yes?”

“Don’t hold back, okay?” Apollo looks him dead in the eye, his own brown irises eclipsed by the wildfire lit within him. “We’re going to crush them.”

It’s not long after that the Keapers call them all back to the dining hall, which they’ve quickly turned into a little theatre for the contest. Apollo hasn’t let go of Klavier’s hand since his proclamation to destroy Ava and Chet, which Klavier knows is because he wants to really sell it, but this fake intimacy thing is getting a bit… painful. It’s getting harder and harder to deny that he wants something more with his Herr Forehead (not that he was in much denial to begin with), and the situation is increasingly becoming cruel. Not through any fault of Apollo’s, of course. No, Klavier can really only blame himself. He’s always been a fool in the face of love.

Interestingly enough, based on what Apollo’s told him, he has the opposite problem—he’s too cautious about it.

It would probably make us an incompatible pair, he muses. Or good for each other.

Klavier would like to say he’s an optimist, but getting his hopes up too high seems like a recipe for disaster.

He does his best to hold in a sigh and tugs Apollo to a couple of stools in the back of the audience.

Shisa takes the stage and taps the mic. “Well, hello everyone! Welcome to the famous Keaper Ski Lodge Movie Kiss Contest! Thank you all for being here and an even bigger thank you since you were all gracious enough to sign up. We don’t have a single sit-out this weekend.” Shisa looks absolutely delighted by this, blissfully unaware of the insidious circumstances that led to Apollo and Klavier’s participation in the first place.

“Now, as for how judging will work,” Shisa continues. “Our three lovely judges: Arthur, our head chef, Mr. Keaper, who you all know, and our daughter Ima, will all be filling out these little surveys, ranking each kiss on three categories. Those are originality, romance, and chemistry. Whichever couple has the highest aggregate score will be our champs!”

The crowd politely claps and Klavier is starting to feel that sinking sensation in his stomach that can only be pre-show nerves, something he hasn’t felt since his earliest days as a musician. Shisa announces the order next and Apollo and Klavier end up being dead last.

“I hate going last,” Apollo whispers fiercely next to him.

Klavier pats Apollo’s hand from where it sits on his thigh. “They’re saving it for the best, ja?”

“More like saving it for me to throw up.”

“Let’s hope that doesn’t happen for both our sakes,” Klavier says.

Apollo opens his mouth to give him a no doubt witty retort, but the lights fade on the audience before he can. Shisa calls for the first couple and they take the stage.

And it’s… boring, frankly. The woman jumps into her partner’s arms, him holding her by her thighs, her feet off the ground as she kisses him with her hands cradling his face, and then they’re done and the audience applauds.

Alright, that’s painless, Klavier tells himself. Their little scene will last less than thirty seconds and then they’ll be done and they never have to worry about it again.

But that’s exactly what I’m worried about.

And no, no, no. Klavier is not going there. He’s being far too sensitive about this whole situation. It’s only a big deal if they make it a big deal.

The next couple does a simple dip and kiss. The one after that has the woman jumping into her partner’s arms bridal style and then kissing from there. Couple number four tries to be funny by imitating the famous Titanic flying scene then kissing in that position.

Ava and Chet are next, and Klavier and Apollo’s shoulders both rise to their ears. Actually, the entire audience seems to get tense as they head to the stage. Klavier’s glad they’re not the only ones who can’t stand them.

Their scene starts innocently enough at first: they reach their arms out towards each other until Chet twirls her in close and then performs a complicated swing move. Ava flies beneath his legs, then Chet uses the momentum to lift her straight above his head. It’s fairly impressive. Clearly they’re both dancers of some kind. To finish it off, Chet dips her (points off for unoriginality, Klavier thinks) and kisses her. For far too long and with far too much tongue.

Shisa has to interrupt them. “Well! That was certainly passionate. Let’s all give Ava and Chet a warm round of applause.”

The crowd claps and Ava and Chet leave the stage looking quite pleased with themselves. They find their seats, Chet wrapping his arm around Ava, then suddenly looking back at Apollo and Klavier with a smarmy smile, like he’s challenging them to beat that.

Klavier fully intends to. Apollo does too because he takes Klavier’s hand tight in his and leads them off their stools. As Shisa calls them up and they walk down the aisle, Apollo sharply whispers, “Let’s kick their asses.”

Klavier smiles, though it’s a bit of a struggle. “You don’t have to tell me twice, Schatz.”

They get to the stage, and Klavier feels absurdly hot underneath the simple dimmer lights. Klavier has played countless venues: rooms of a hundred and a hundred thousand alike. But this room,where there’s not even twenty people filling the seats, where he’s expected to do one simple thing for one minute instead of a very hard, complex thing for two hours, has his nerves set on edge to a degree they’ve never been before.

They get into their starting position, holding hands with their arms hanging. Apollo looks over his shoulder, then brings his focus back to Klavier before their foreheads touch. Klavier stares into Apollo’s eyes, which are a rich and warm brown that reminds him of hearths, of homes, and he knows it is not the crowd nor being onstage that has his insides churning violently. It’s the fact that with every single fake kiss between them, Klavier will fall a little more in love with Apollo Justice.

Love is not a word you should be throwing around so lightly, Klavier thinks to himself. But then Apollo leans in and his eyes that feel like a safe haven start to lid and—

And he’s probably not using that word lightly. Because Apollo Justice is… he’s…

He’s kissing Klavier. Klavier is kissing him back. And it is not an act for Klavier. Their little scenario is all about two lovers being separated forever and this is their last kiss together, and Klavier is very aware that this is their last kiss together.

Because someone like Apollo could never fall for someone like Klavier. Apollo is… bright. Shining. A pure-intentioned and good-hearted person like no one Klavier has ever known, while Klavier…

Klavier is tainted and broken. He’s ruined people’s lives, good people’s lives, and he’s celebrated it. He’s easy to manipulate, naïve, and stupid. He was so vain that he wrote music he could barely stand just so he could hold onto fame, a luxury that gave him the illusion of being loved—an illusion that turns to smoke if he ever dares examine it too closely. He is unlovable and he does not deserve to be loved. The complete opposite of Apollo Justice, who deserves every good thing the world could possibly offer him.

Apollo, who is kissing him so gently and with such reverence. Another illusion made of smoke.

For as long as the first kiss feels, it doesn’t last longer than a couple seconds. They are soft with each other during this one, their movements sweet and languid. Klavier breaks away feeling raw and cracked open. His face must show this because Apollo’s eyes are round and sympathetic like he’s trying to tell him it’s okay, but it’s not because Klavier is slowly realizing how much he wants this, wants Apollo, and it’s entirely too stupid of him. Wicked of him.

He knows this. He knows he should run off the stage right now, drive back to LA, and book the first flight to Berlin to put as much distance between him and Apollo as humanly possible, for both their sakes. But he also wants. He wants to be enveloped in Apollo’s arms and find a home there. He wants to count the freckles along his cheeks in the mornings. He wants to kiss Apollo because Apollo wants to kiss him and for no other reason.

But Klavier’s selfish and there’s no stopping this train now that he’s on it. Apollo turns away from him, takes a few steps back, just like they practiced, and Klavier feels cold. He reaches out, not because that’s the blocking, not because that’s what he’s supposed to do, but on instinct. He grabs Apollo’s arm and the warmth returns to his fingers. He pulls Apollo back toward him and for a moment he glimpses Apollo’s round eyes and the soft pink of his lips before they crash together.

Though, to call it a crash feels crass even if it is sudden and hard at first, because Apollo is so caring in the way he touches Klavier. Apollo wraps one hand around his neck and pulls him down to him, his other hand on Klavier’s cheek, his thumb tracing the line of his jaw. Klavier keeps his arms wrapped so tight around Apollo’s middle he might break him in half if he isn’t cautious.

Apollo tastes like cabernet. It’s making Klavier heady and drunk, his body heavy with the weight of his feelings. Feelings that are on display for Apollo to see like he’s been opened up on the surgical table. There is no way Apollo can’t know his secret after this. Klavier is holding him too tight, kissing him too earnestly, for it to be a secret any more. He should pull away, he should save his heart, but it feels too good to let go.

Selfish selfish selfish.

Apollo moves. Not away, but his hands slide down to Klavier’s chest, an improvisation that was not part of their rehearsals. It makes Klavier shiver, which makes him oddly annoyed. For all his self-deprecation, this simple touch shouldn’t make him shiver; he’s a rockstar, for god’s sake, he should still have a modicum of composure. But something about Apollo Justice has stripped him of that.

Klavier’s hands move too, framing Apollo’s face, feeling the way his jaw works into the kiss. And there’s a moment, a golden, shining moment where Klavier is lost in it. He’s not thinking of his own shame, or the way this is going to hurt him later, but just the sensation of Apollo’s lips captured between his, pulling away and pressing back in again. Klavier sighs, actually sighs, into it.

And maybe that’s the thing that brings Apollo back to his senses because he suddenly tenses. His kisses slow until, eventually, their lips break apart. Klavier opens his eyes slowly, afraid to leave this little bubble they’ve created. Apollo’s eyes are only half open as well, the appropriate amount of sadness in them for the scene while he takes in Klavier. And for a second—no, half a second—Klavier almost thinks he’s going to kiss him again, but he doesn’t. He takes a step back from Klavier, gives him one last look, and turns away.

The crowd cheers.

Klavier forgot they were there. It’s like being violently shaken from a pleasant dream, disorienting and disheartening.

But he puts a smile back on for the crowd, even gives them a wave because it’s what’s natural, it’s what’s safe. He knows how to do this.

Shisa says something into her mic. Klavier can’t hear it, but he assumes it’s time for them to get off the stage. Klavier is a little slow to react, but luckily, Apollo isn’t. He takes Klavier’s hand, smiling shyly, and leads them to their seats. Klavier is still in a daze, but he does manage to catch sight of Ava and Chet worrying their lips.

Klavier and Apollo sit on their stools and Apollo leans into him a bit. “You okay?”

“Ja, I’m fine,” Klavier says automatically. “Why?”

“You just seem a little upset.” Apollo is as perceptive as ever.

“I suppose I am still a bit sad from our performance.” Klavier fusses with the fringe on his forehead. “The scenario is depressing, ja?”

Apollo looks at him, scrutinizing, maybe even hurt, then he stares at the ground. “You’re… not being honest with me.”

He says it more to himself than to Klavier, but Klavier still feels the sting of it. He forgets that Apollo is impossible to lie to.

“Apollo…”

“I won’t pry,” Apollo says. “But if I did something, I’d really want you to tell me. I’d want to apologize.”

Klavier sighs and even as upset as he is, he can’t help but smile. Of course this is Apollo’s priority.

He takes Apollo’s hand. “I promise it’s nothing you’ve done. It’s about me. I would… rather not talk about it, if that’s okay?”

“Yeah, of course. But um, I’m here. If you want to. Talk, I mean.” Apollo squeezes his hand before he lets go and it’s all so cruel. Klavier wishes it could all just be simpler, that the only hard thing about this situation was mustering up the courage to ask Apollo out for dinner officially. But it isn’t that simple.

“Thank you, Liebling. I will keep that in mind.”

“Alright, everyone,” Shisa says from the stage. “Just give us five minutes as we tabulate the scores from everyone’s performances!”

As Shisa walks off the stage, Klavier whispers in Apollo’s ear. “Do you think we have a shot?”

“Yeah!” Apollo clenches his fists in front of him. “I looked back at the judges table and Ima looked like she was about to cry.”

“Glad to see our performance at least moved a teenage girl to tears.”

“Honestly, as long as Ava and Chet don’t win, I’ll be happy,” Apollo says. “Though… that lift was pretty cool.”

Klavier hums. “The kiss went a little past PG, I think.”

“I guess we’ll just have to see,” Apollo muses. “The free snowboarding lessons sound better and better, though.”

“Not to mention how mad they’ll be if they lose,” Klavier says.

Apollo huffs out a laugh. “God, I want to see the looks on their faces so bad.”

“Did you see them when we were coming back to our seats?”

“They looked like they both stepped in dog poop.” Apollo laughs and Klavier starts laughing too.

“It did—”

Klavier’s stopped short by Shisa’s return to the stage, holding a little golden envelope and statue in her hand. Cute touch.

“Alright, campers, it’s time for the moment you’ve all been waiting for!” Shisa puts on her best announcement voice. “It’s time to announce the Keaper Ski Lodge Movie Kiss Contest Champions!”

As the crowd claps, Klavier watches Ava and Chet and notices their body language isn’t as relaxed as before. If Ava and Chet are losing confidence, maybe they do have a chance.

“Drumroll, please!” Off stage left, the judges drum against their thighs as Shisa opens the envelope. “And the winners are… Apollo and Klavier for their heartbreaking, romantic goodbye kiss!”

“Yes!” Apollo says and jumps off his stool. Klavier follows and they make their way back onstage to accept their award.

“Congratulations,” Shisa says, smiling wide. She hands Apollo the statue and Klavier the envelope, which has the voucher for the snowboarding lessons in it, but the best prize—the best prize—is Ava and Chet’s expressions.

Apollo and Klavier both glance over to them with petty smiles and not caring in the slightest if anyone notices. Ava’s crossing her arms tight, unwilling to look at them, but her pretty face is scrunched in an impressive scowl, while Chet’s gritting his teeth so hard they might shatter if he’s not careful.

Klavier’s still reveling in their triumph when he feels a warm touch on his cheek. He turns his head and realizes Apollo is still floating down from his tiptoes after kissing his cheek. It makes the rest of his face warm.

He knows it was probably for the benefit of the crowd, but Apollo is looking at him so sincerely, Klavier can almost forget all about their little ruse. Almost.

It’s late by the time they get back to the cabin. Most of the couples wanted to shake their hands and congratulate them, all except for one, but Klavier isn’t exactly upset over their absence. Still, it was heartening to see how kind the others were and Klavier could tell it made Apollo feel much better after Ava and Chet’s comments from lunch. He walks with a bit of a lighter step now and he’s got a subtle little smile he hasn’t been able to shake since their win.

If nothing else, the entire thing was worth it for that. Klavier wishes he could be as happy about it as Apollo, but his painful pining is making him a bit of a wet blanket.

They get ready for bed, Apollo asking him multiple times if he’s sure he shouldn’t make a nest of blankets on the floor, and Klavier responds like he did in the morning. He won’t allow Apollo to spend his vacation with an aching back.

They turn off the lights, a wall of pillows between them (at Apollo’s insistence), and Klavier tries to fall asleep but slumber doesn’t come. He keeps thinking about their kisses: first with the kind of sweet, dreamy memory of a first love, and then with a crash of guilt and shame. He shouldn’t feel that way about their kisses, he shouldn’t have given himself enough leeway to allow himself to feel so affected by them.

It’s a losing battle. Everytime he closes his eyes, he relives the kisses again, feels them again. His heart swells and his breath hitches thinking about doing it again.

He even has the thought that maybe he should stop with his mental back and forth and just ask Apollo. But if he asks, if he tells him his feelings are past the point of no return, then won’t Apollo see the whole trip as one big scheme on Klavier’s part?

Frustrated, Klavier sits up and rests his arms on his knees and sighs. He won’t get any sleep like this.

“Klav?”

Klavier looks to his side and sees Apollo staring up at him from the bed. “Herr Forehead. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

“You didn’t. I was already awake.” He sits up too, the collar of his worn, too-big t-shirt showing a bit of his clavicle.

“Everything okay?”

“I could ask you the same thing.”

“Ach.” Klavier shifts, fixating on one of the weavings on the wall. “I suppose you could.”

“I know I said I wouldn’t pry, but…” Apollo’s voice is soft with concern and it’s already melting away the tension in Klavier’s shoulders. “I’m just gonna, y’know. Repeat my offer. That you can talk to me about it.”

Maybe it’s the leftover buzz from all the red wine, maybe it’s the gentle warmth of Apollo’s voice, hell, maybe it’s the moonlight seeping in from the cabin’s window, but Klavier says something bold.

“Herr Forehead,” Klavier says, a slight tremble to his voice. “If you knew someone, a friend, who was… interested in another person, but that friend knew they weren’t good enough for them, knew they were a bad, selfish person, then the best thing to do would be to stay away, ja? That would be the most ethical thing to do, wouldn’t it?”

There’s a long silence. Apollo’s forehead is all scrunched up as he clearly thinks very hard about the question, but it might also be tensed in annoyance.

“No,” Apollo says, indignantly. “No, I think that’s stupid.”

“Herr Forehead?”

“You said this friend of yours is bad and selfish? And that they’re not good enough for the person they like?” Apollo says and Klavier nods. “Well that’s a contradiction in and of itself.”

Klavier narrows his eyes at him. “What do you mean?”

“I don’t think bad people think they’re bad people and I don’t think selfish people worry about what’s best for others.” Apollo crosses his arms over his knees and stares straight ahead. “And I also don’t think it’s anyone’s place to decide who’s too good for anybody except for the person in question. If the person your friend likes is interested in them too, then that’s all that matters.”

Klavier’s chest twinges painfully. “Do you really believe that? Even if someone has done something horrible?”

“I mean, I guess if they’re a murderer, that would make things different,” Apollo says, scratching his chin. “But my guess is you’re not friends with a murderer. For most things, though… people can atone, right? Like I think it’s possible for people to change their lives for the better.”

“I suppose…”

“And besides.” Apollo tilts his head to smirk at Klavier. “I think your friend is being way too harsh on themselves. They actually sound like they’re a pretty good person trying to make good decisions.”

Klavier wishes he could kiss Apollo, then. Now. Not for a silly little contest to piss off some little people, but now when his chest is so full of affection it might burst. He doesn’t, though. He’s not sure if Apollo knows he’s talking about the two of them (despite Klavier not being very subtle) and he’s not sure he completely agrees with Apollo’s argument. He’ll have to think about it, but if nothing else, he does feel lighter. Less corrupt and wicked. Like he’s been forgiven.

“Thank you, Herr Forehead. That’s good advice,” Klavier says.

Apollo smiles. “Yeah, any time. You wanna try going back to sleep? I don’t want to miss our snowboarding lessons we so painstakingly won.”

“Ja, painstakingly,” Klavier says with a small laugh.

Apollo lays back down. “Night, Klav.”

“Good night, Schatz.”

Klavier is asleep in minutes.

Chapter Text

can i go where you go

sunday

- Day -

Apollo is so comfortable it should be criminal. He’s warm and the bed is so plush, and he’s holding something close to his chest that is… kind of firm? But not like a rock or anything, but he’s more asleep than awake so he doesn’t try too hard to figure it out. Instead, he holds the object tighter and nuzzles his forehead into it; maybe even sighs. It’s just nice and safe and warm here. He doesn’t want to wake up.

He feels a light touch on his hands—rough, calloused skin like the fingertips of a musician. They engulf his hands with their own and he can feel one of their thumbs lightly brush along his knuckles. Apollo hums, pleased with the little caress. The fog clears up just enough for him to think maybe I’m holding a person.

A person.

A person.

Apollo’s eyes snap open and he’s met with the dark black lines of a loose tank top and the smooth golden-brown skin of someone’s shoulders. No, not “someone.” Klavier Gavin. He is currently fully big-spooning Klavier Gavin.

Apollo slips away as fast and as gently as he can, but it doesn’t matter because Klavier turns his head back to look at him, eyes squinting as they adjust to the light of morning. And god, even with his hair mussed, his makeup washed away, and pillow lines imprinted on his face, he still looks like a celebrity.

“Mmf, come back to bed, Forehead,” Klavier yawns and snuggles back up to his pillow. “It’s too early to get up.”

“I—Klavier,” Apollo says, face getting hot. He knows Klavier is half-asleep but still.

“Was?” Klavier turns over again, his eyes set on Apollo and he gives him a thin, lazy smile. “Liebling… guten morgen.”

Apollo can’t take it. This is too—too—

Domestic, his brain supplies. Unhelpfully, he might add.

He buries his face in his hands, too overwhelmed to look Klavier in the face right now. Shit, he’s in so deep. He’s in so deep.

It doesn’t help that everything about yesterday has made his crush on Klavier a hundred times worse. Like dangerously close to the “L” word worse. Which is so stupid. So, so stupid. Klavier is a rockstar for christ’s sake.

But the fact is, Klavier is strong and good and kind. He’s so smart, but he never feels the need to prove it. He listens to people with full attention and he’s so compassionate toward others it makes Apollo ache.

He’s also a very good kisser. But that’s beside the point. Or maybe it isn’t. Because yeah, Apollo wants to date him because he’s a genuinely good human being, but also he is very, very fun to kiss.

And fuck. Apollo can’t believe he wants to date Klavier Gavin, but fuck it all, he does. So badly. And he’s going to be brokenhearted when he’s rejected.

Oh, and that’s new. Because sometime between their last kiss, their late-night conversation, and this morning, Apollo’s decided he’s going to tell him? Or at least ask him out to dinner? Apollo at least has enough self-preservation not to tell Klavier, “Yeah, I think I might be starting to fall in love with you.”

Apollo groans in his hands, unable to believe he even had that thought. It’s not a lie, though.

Klavier pokes Apollo’s shoulder. “Herr Forehead? Are you alright?”

No. “Yes.”

“Then would you like to remove your face from your hands?”

Apollo sighs and does. “Happy?”

“Ach, there you are, Schatz.”

“I’m sorry.”

Klavier huffs out a laugh. “What have you done this time?” Apollo groans again. He knows Klavier knows. “Shall I arrest you for your devious crime of being too good of a big spoon?”

Apollo takes one of the pillows from his (failed) pillow wall and whacks it across Klavier’s face. “Shut up.

Klavier takes it all in stride, laughing happily, fully enjoying Apollo’s embarrassment. He’s fucking radiant.

And for some reason, that’s when it hits him that this is all over tomorrow—their little ruse as a couple, the bed-sharing, the hand holding, all of it. It hurts. He’s liked spending time with Klavier, especially during their downtime like reading together or at meals. They see each other so infrequently because of work that it’s been nice getting to know him better—which, again, probably has a lot to do with the fact that he really likes him. It sort of feels like this whole weekend has been one long, weird first date. That’s something he should have thought about before they ever agreed to come here. Current Apollo really wants to strangle past Apollo for ever thinking this was a good idea.

Klavier, not to be outdone, throws a pillow in Apollo’s face.

“Come on, Herr Forehead.” A cheshire grin spreads across his face. “We don’t want to have our snowboarding lessons on an empty stomach, do we?”

###

The best part about breakfast is that Ava and Chet don’t come anywhere near them. The second best part is that Ima Keaper joins them at their table instead.

(The third best part is the made-to-order omelets. They’re a dream.)

“I just wanted to say how much I loved your performance yesterday,” Ima says, poking at her own fluffy omelet. “I gave you ten out of ten in every category. You were both so passionate. I kept thinking ‘wow! I wanna be in love like that one day.’”

Apollo laughs nervously.

Klavier, per usual, is as cool as the weather outside. “Thank you, Frauleïn Ima. But don’t worry, you will have plenty of time, ja? You are only seventeen?”

“Yep! But still, it’s hard, y’know?” Ima says, resting her face against her propped-up hand. “I’m um, gay too and I don’t know a lot of people… like me.”

Apollo feels a melancholic twinge in his chest. “Are you going to college?”

“Mm-hm, in the fall. Ivy University,” Ima says, proudly.

“Really? My boss went there, but um, I’m pretty sure Ivy U has clubs and events specifically for LGBT students so…” Apollo clears his throat. He’s not great at the whole mentor-big-brother-advice thing like Mr. Wright is. “You’ll meet a lot more people like you in LA. I think it’s always harder in small towns. It’ll get easier.”

“Oh, thank you,” Ima says, genuinely. “It’s… really nice to talk about it to someone who actually gets it. My parents have been really great, but y’know—”

“They’re your parents,” Klavier says with a knowing smile.

“Yeah.”

Apollo takes out his wallet and pulls out a white card. “Here. This is my business card. I work for Wright Anything Agency and two of my coworkers are girls your age. Athena and I are both lawyers, but Trucy’s a really amazing magician, so if you ever want to come see her shows or just want someone to show you around town then you can call the Agency and let me know. Athena and Trucy love making friends so…”

Apollo hands her his business card and she takes it with wide eyes. “That’s really nice of you. Thank you.”

“Oh, no, it’s not a problem,” Apollo says with a shrug. “I should warn you that if you meet Trucy even once she’s gonna sink her claws into you and never let go. Trucy could make friends with a painting on a wall.”

“She sounds awesome.” Ima takes out her phone-wallet and puts the business card in one of the slots. She grabs her tray and starts to stand. “Thanks for this. Really. I gotta get back to work, but it was nice talking to you.”

Apollo and Klavier wave her off, and as Apollo starts back in on his omelet, Klavier starts grinning at him.

“What? Why are you giving me that look?”

Klavier rests his chin in his palm. “That was very sweet of you, Herr Forehead. Frauleïn Magician would be touched.”

“What do you mean? I just gave her the Agency’s phone number. LA’s a scary town if you don’t know anybody. Just common decency,” Apollo says between bites of cheese and egg.

Klavier shakes his head. “I don’t think there’s anything common about it. I believe it made quite an impact on Frauleïn Ima, too.”

“It’s not a big deal.” Apollo puts down his fork so he can rub the back of his neck.

Klavier takes the chance when Apollo is cutlery-less to flick his forehead. “Learn to take a compliment, Schatz. That was kind of you.”

Ow.” Apollo massages the affronted skin with his fingertips. “But thank you. For the compliment, not the aggravated assault.”

“You’re welcome.” Klavier gives him a shit-eating grin. “For the compliment, not the aggravated assault.”

###

Once breakfast is over, they take their voucher for one free snowboarding lesson and ride the ski lift up the mountain. Which is about a hundred times more terrifying than Apollo realized because it’s high and Apollo is small and the safety bar is thin. And okay, maybe he clings to Klavier’s arm for dear life.

“I hate this I hate this I hate this.” Apollo’s face is buried in Klavier’s arm so it probably sounds like gibberish, but he’s too terrified to care. He’d have some shame about clinging so tightly to Klavier too if he wasn’t so close to a panic attack, but as it is…

“Forehead, it’ll be over in a couple of minutes, just keep your eyes closed.” Klavier means it to help, but Apollo can hear him holding back his laughter. Bastard.

They make it to the top with their lives (though jury’s still out on whether Apollo’s heart rate qualifies as a heart attack or not) and it’s just as charming and lovely as the lodge. There are two cabins: one for gear rentals and another for lesson check-ins with an adjoining cafe.

They get themselves checked in and meet their instructor, Jake, a burly man in his thirties with a thick brown beard and a nose that looks permanently red from the chill of the mountain. They get fitted with snow jackets, pants, and goggles (that Klavier somehow still looks good in?) and Jake gives them his seal of approval.

Jake helps them get strapped onto their boards and then shows them the proper stance and where to distribute their weight. It’s harder than it looks and Apollo falls a fair amount of times, but so does Klavier, which is both satisfying and delightful because Apollo was always under the impression that Klavier was good at everything.

“Stop laughing, Schatz, or I’ll smother you in the snow,” Klavier says, wiping snow out of his hair after a particularly nasty fall.

Apollo calls his bluff and does not stop laughing. Klavier doesn’t exactly smother him in the snow, but he does hurl a snowball that hits him square in the face.

If Klavier just trying to stand on a snowboard is funny, then watching him try to keep his balance on a bunny slope is hilarious. Apollo’s not much better, but something about the beautiful, graceful rock god Klavier Gavin eating shit makes him laugh so hard he can’t care at all about his own performance.

When Klavier gets back to the top of the slope his hair is coming out of its twist, his face is red, and he’s glaring at Apollo like he just murdered a family member. Apollo wants to kiss him so bad it’s going to kill him.

“What is so amusing?” Klavier’s annoyed but Apollo can tell he’s not really mad.

“You’re bad at this,” Apollo says between poorly suppressed giggles.

Klavier frowns. “I’ve never done it before!”

“I know. And you’re so mad about it.” Apollo wipes away a tear and tries to get his breathing under control. “It’s cute.”

Klavier crosses his arms, looking redder than before. “Don’t patronize me.”

Apollo was being serious, but he doesn’t tell Klavier that. It was an impulsive thing to say to begin with. He needs to stop being so comfortable around him.

He takes his turn next and, surprisingly, is able to keep his balance all the way until the end before he falls on his ass. Must be his low center of gravity. Apollo can tell Klavier is irritated that he can’t even make fun of him for it since he fell far, far sooner.

But snowboarding is even more fun than Apollo anticipated it would be. They go a few more rounds, both of them steadily getting better, and when Klavier actually gets down the slope without falling, they all cheer.

“You did it!” Apollo yells, maximizing his Chords of Steel on the mountain. Klavier's proceeding smile is brilliant and blinding and it fills Apollo’s chest with so much warmth that he doubts he’d be cold even if he took his jacket off in the snow.

Their lesson only lasts two hours, so once their time is done, they head to the little cafe cabin, Apollo still laughing as he remembers all of Klavier’s wipeouts.

“Truly, Herr Forehead, it cannot be that funny.”

Apollo puts his fist to his mouth like he’s about to cough into it, but he’s really just trying to hide his smile. “You didn’t see your face, though.”

“I see my face in the mirror every day. I cannot imagine I could contort my face in such a way that you would continue to laugh like this.” His tone is annoyed, but Klavier’s having a hard time keeping the smile off of his face too.

“You have a pretty limited imagination, then,” Apollo says.

“You wound me, Liebling.” Klavier clutches his heart. “I shall never recover.”

“I’ll be sure to send flowers to your bedside.”

They’re stepping up to the cabin, just under the canopy, when Klavier gently takes Apollo’s elbow, stopping him from going up the stairs.

“Klavier? Something wrong?”

“No, nothing like that. I just… I just wished to ask you something.” And Klavier almost looks… embarrassed?

Apollo raises his eyebrows, a little worried. “What is it?”

Klavier clears his throat and searches for the words in the snow at his feet. “Apollo, I hope it’s okay for me to say, but I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better over the past couple of days and—”

Whatever is at the end of that sentence, Apollo doesn’t hear it. Because something shifts and crumbles directly above them from the worn, old cabin roof. Something brown and heavy falls, its trajectory set right for the top of Klavier’s head.

“Klavier!”

Apollo doesn’t think, he just acts—he shoves Klavier in the chest as hard as he can and before he can process anything else, he feels a sharp crack of pain against his skull.

And then, nothing.

- Afternoon -

Klavier is going to kill Apollo Justice. He’s pacing in the waiting room of the Keaper Ski Lodge infirmary, wringing his beanie in knots with worry, and he’s going to kill him.

What kind of idiot pushes someone out of the way of a falling shingle just to put themselves in the same path? He could have just pulled Klavier close to him and avoided his own injury, but nein! Apollo Justice has to play the martyr and get a concussion to a skull that has, it should be noted, already undergone multiple concussions!

Klavier nearly cried when he saw Apollo face down in the snow, not moving. Waterworks actually came when he saw the blood, but he went into emergency mode and was able to get it together enough to scream for help. Help came swiftly, since an onsite infirmary is required for a ski lodge in case there are accidents, though Klavier doesn’t think they imagined it’d be used for shingle accidents.

After what feels like hours of waiting (in truth, it’s probably only been twenty minutes), the medic finally steps out with his clipboard in tow.

“Hi there. You’re Mr. Justice’s…?”

“Partner, yes,” Klavier says. It comes out too readily, but Klavier doesn’t have time to think about that right now. “Is he okay?”

“Fine, fine,” the medic says. “He told me he’s had previous head injuries within the past year, so his body overreacted a bit, but it’s a very minor concussion.”

“May I see him?”

“Sure, just take it easy,” the medic says, writing something down on the clipboard. “No naps. Make sure he stays awake for the next six hours and if he shows any signs of getting worse, contact us and we’ll get him to the nearest hospital.”

The medic moves to the side, giving Klavier full access to the examination room door. Klavier moves instantly.

Apollo is sitting up on the cot without a care in the world, looking almost bored. The door slams behind Klavier and that gets Apollo’s attention.

“Oh, hey Klav,” Apollo says with a smile.

Klavier loses it.

“Apollo Justice!”

Apollo shrinks into his shoulders, caught off guard by Klavier’s outburst. “Wh-what?”

“Do not ‘what’ me. Do you know how dangerous that was? Did you not even think to pull me toward you instead of idiotically putting yourself directly in the trajectory of a heavy, falling object?”

“Klav—”

“I do not need you saving me, Herr Forehead. In fact, since you are so hellbent on being a superhero, perhaps that could be your alias—Herr Forehead. The Forehead Wonder who uses his own head to stop projectiles!”

“Getting the sense that you’re mad.” Apollo winces. “Honestly, I didn’t even think about it. I saw that something was about to fall on you and I just reacted.”

Klavier glares at him. “That’s exactly the kind of logic that got you those scars up and down your arms when you reacted to falling rubble and shielded Juniper Woods. Do you have a death wish?”

The words are snappish and sharp on his tongue, but he doesn’t care. What would he have done if Apollo was seriously injured—and because of him?

Apollo looks down at his own arms. They’re exposed now, since he stripped to his white undershirt, and there are pink scars running the length of them. Apollo doesn’t seem to care about them much since he hasn’t stopped wearing his usual court attire, complete with rolled-up sleeves, but Klavier always notices them. Not because he finds them unsightly or anything; it’s just that they’re a dark reminder that Apollo got hurt. And Klavier couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

“I… didn’t know that bothered you,” Apollo says, quieter now.

“Of course it bothered me.” Klavier’s hands fly over his head. “I didn’t even know you were hurt! Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth was the one who told me, of all people. I was worried. Not to mention the fact that you wouldn’t even answer your phone, so I had to get all my updates from Frauleïn Magician.”

Apollo won’t look at him and instead rubs at the back of his neck with the palm of his hand. Klavier suddenly realizes his speech might be a little harsh and, in truth, these feelings are just as much of a surprise to himself as they are to Apollo. He hadn’t realized he felt so strongly about this until it was all spilling out of him. Perhaps it’s the fact that this seems to be a pattern with Apollo. It’s one thing to save someone at your own expense once, but quite another to do it again.

Klavier continues, though, because it’s not just about his reckless self-endangerment. “I thought we were friends, Apollo. I would have helped you. I wanted to help you. You didn’t have to do all of it on your own.”

Apollo’s head snaps up then, genuine distress in his eyes. “Klav, you are my friend. Honest.” He looks like he wants to get up from his bed but thinks better of it and shakes his head. “I’m really sorry. If it makes you feel better, I wasn't a good friend to anybody at that time. I was grieving and… not in a healthy way. I know that now.” He sighs and looks back at Klavier. “And I’m not trying to get myself killed, I just… didn’t want you to get hurt. That’s all.”

Klavier’s tightly-crossed arms start to loosen at that and some of his anger subsides. “I know that. And I suppose I forgive you. But that doesn’t change the fact that you keep valuing other’s lives over your own. Yes, you saved Juniper and you saved me, but what about you? Your life isn’t something to throw away.”

“I don’t think about it like that,” Apollo says, playing with the hem of the cot’s blanket. “It’s just common decency, isn’t it? It’s not about value. I don’t think about who should live or die during those moments. I’m just doing what anyone else would do. If someone's in trouble, you help them.”

Klavier gets it, then. Klavier is mad because Apollo might take himself away from the world. Away from Klavier. Apollo’s easy, casual selflessness is one of his best traits, but not at the expense of his life. He wasn’t mad at Apollo for valuing himself less, he’s mad at him because Klavier values him more.

Klavier’s gotten very selfish, indeed.

He sighs, defeated, and sits on the cot. He looks Apollo dead in the eyes, which must be a frightening sight because Apollo’s neck is fully retreating into his shoulders. He wouldn’t be surprised if Apollo thought he was about to punch him. Instead, he grabs Apollo by the shirt collar, jerks Apollo toward him, and plants a kiss on his cheek.

He releases Apollo’s shirt and pulls back while Apollo looks at him with wide eyes, his hand cupping his just-kissed cheek. “Wh-what was that for? We’re alone, you don’t have to pretend for anybody.”

Idiot. Klavier flicks his forehead.

Ow!

“That was a real kiss, Herr Forehead.” Klavier flips his hair behind his shoulder, maintaining an air of disinterest. “That’s the only thanks you’ll get from me. Be grateful. There are millions of young Frauleins who’d commit homicide for such a gift, so treasure it.”

Then Apollo laughs, and the sound is more enchanting than any of Lamiroir’s songs. “Gee, thanks. You’re welcome, I guess.”

“Hmph.” Klavier stands up and dusts off his pants as if he’d been sitting in a pig pen and not an infirmary. “Come on. It’s lunch time and Herr Doctor has prescribed no sleep for six hours.”

“A nap sounds really good right now, though,” Apollo says.

“Nope! Food time. Up, up, up.”

“Alright, alright.”

- Evening -

They take lunch to go since Apollo’s not feeling great as it is and seriously, he’d love a nap. Just a tiny one. But Klavier’s a stickler and pokes him in his side every time he starts nodding off.

“I think reading is making you more tired. Let’s do something else until dinner,” Klavier suggests as he rummages through his bag. He pulls out a folder full of paper with black lines on it. “Come on, you can help me work.”

“I thought we were on vacation.”

Klavier gives him a knowing smile. “This won’t even feel like work, Herr Forehead. I’m writing a duet and I want to hear how it sounds in your lovely tenor.”

Apollo chokes on his own spit.

“My lovely—who said I could sing?” Apollo says, panicking.

“You did. Every time you take a shower you belt showtunes. I did not think it was a secret.” Klavier’s got that teasing look in his eye that Apollo’s very familiar with and he does not like the direction this conversation is going.

“I—but the water was running and the door was closed!”

“And still your voice carried. Truly, I am jealous of your lung capacity.” Klavier stands and leans down so they’re eye level. “Come on, Schatz. I mean it. Your voice is good. And I’m sure such a talent didn’t spring from nowhere.”

Okay, yeah. Apollo knows he can sort of sing. Back in middle school he had to choose an extracurricular class and he went with theatre, but as luck would have it his range is in short supply and high demand. Or in other words, there weren’t any tenors in the entire drama department, so his theatre teacher made him the lead in nearly every show. He got a fair amount of singing instruction out of it and kept going into high school since it was a nice way to pad his application for colleges, but he stopped after that. He still likes to sing in the shower or when he’s cooking, though. He just didn’t have any idea he was so loud even Klavier could hear him from all the way out in the bedroom.

“I dabbled as a kid, that’s all,” Apollo says, licking his lip. “I really don’t think I’d be any help writing a rock song.”

Klavier waves the statement away with a swish of the papers in his hand. “I just want to try a couple harmonies, see how they sound. Just some harmless playing around on the piano, really.”

“I’ll agree to this on one condition,” Apollo says.

“Ja?”

“You tell no one at the Wright Anything Agency. Or the prosecution office. Or anyone ever.”

Klavier purses his lips, deliberating. Like, really deliberating. But eventually: “Deal.”

They shake on it and Klavier leads him to the piano.

It’s kind of weird at first. Klavier leads him through some warm-ups and it’s surreal because he never thought he’d do something like this with someone like Klavier.

“Wunderbar,” Klavier says, spreading out both his notated and empty music sheets. “You sound even better than in the shower.”

Apollo nearly chokes on air again because he makes it sound like he was there which—no, no, no, he is not imagining sharing a shower with—

“Ready, Herr Forehead?” Klavier says, placing his long fingers on the keys. Apollo mentally groans.

Keep your mind out of the gutter, Justice. “Yeah, whenever you are.”

Klavier sings the song for him first and it’s actually sort of mesmerizing. Klavier’s voice is amazing, especially when it’s just him and a piano and no heavy guitars to drown him out. Apollo’s almost sad when the song’s over.

Klavier shows Apollo the sheet music and marks which parts he specifically wants Apollo to sing. They try it out a couple of times. Apollo’s a little rusty but Klavier’s patient, especially since he changes notes between each run through. But it’s kind of cool. He gets to see Klavier work, which is interesting to say the least. He’s a real professional about it. Plus, there’s something satisfying about meeting him in harmonies, about having their voices ring out together on the same note.

Apollo doesn’t really want to think about it, but it’s hard to ignore: Klavier’s beautiful when he sings. He glows. Apollo’s not surprised at all that he has thousands of rabid fangirls and supermodels lining up to date him.

“Why do you only make music part time?” Apollo says before he has a chance to consider what he’s saying.

Klavier smiles, playing out the last note of the song. “Trying to get rid of me, Schatz?”

“No, not at all,” Apollo says, though his ears burn a little. “You’re just… really good. You could have gone solo a long time ago.”

Klavier hums, his smile not quite as bright as before. “I suppose I could, but I’m a very selfish person, Herr Forehead. I want it all.”

“I don’t think having two careers makes you selfish.” Apollo shifts in his seat and thinks about their conversation last night about Klavier’s “friend.” Wasn’t Klavier also saying that person was selfish too?

Apollo has thought long and hard about that conversation. On one hand, he could take it at face value and accept that Klavier was talking about a friend. Or. He could interpret it as Klavier talking about himself. Option number two is probably the most logical. Isn’t that a super cliché excuse? Making up an imaginary friend when you mean yourself? Apollo’s bracelet did tighten a bit when Klavier mentioned it, but that could be over a myriad of things. Still… is it possible? Could Klavier possibly be interested in him? Not only interested, but thinks Apollo’s too good for him?

That’s the part that doesn’t make sense. He knows Klavier doesn’t exactly think highly of himself based on what he said during their first dinner, but could he really think he’s out of Apollo’s league? Apollo’s a nobody compared to Klavier. He knows Klavier wouldn’t like to hear that, but he also doesn’t like hearing Klavier beat himself up. It’s so stupid. Klavier is amazing, and not just because he’s a rockstar.

Klavier gathers up his sheet music and smiles at Apollo. “Thank you, Schatz. You were a great help.”

And what if Apollo were to kiss him then? The thought comes unbidden, but lingers. They’re sitting next to each other on the small piano bench. It would be so easy to lean forward and press his lips against Klavier’s, memorize the feel and shape of them like he’s been wanting to do since they first kissed. Their stage kisses were stage kisses: frenetic, anxious things meant for others and not themselves. What would it be like if they got to kiss each other because they wanted to? If they got to take their time? Apollo wants to close the gap and find out.

But he doesn’t. Because even if he’s 99% sure that Klavier meant whatever it is that’s going on with them, there’s at least a 1% chance he meant a friend and that 1% chance is enough to hold him back.

Apollo clears his throat and looks away. “Yeah, anytime.”

###

They spend the rest of the afternoon watching a movie on Apollo’s laptop, which mostly keeps Apollo from drifting off, although Klavier has to poke him a few times. He feels fine though: no dizziness or lightheadedness so it’s not like he’s in any danger. He’s fine and he says so to Klavier repeatedly.

They head to dinner and with a pang, he remembers this is their last dinner at the Big House. He’ll miss it. The food is great and the company is even better. Apollo is used to dinners on his own with only Mikeko as company in his dinky little apartment. It’s nice eating with someone, especially when that someone is as easy to talk to as Klavier.

The Keapers pull out all the stops for the last evening. The tables are set with red table cloths, roses, and candlelight, which Apollo is almost used to at this point. What he isn’t used to, and probably won’t ever be used to, is the way candlelight hits Klavier’s face with his hair pulled back in a ponytail and his lips lightly shimmering with gloss. It’s no grand realization or anything, but Klavier’s stunning.

When they’re seated, Ms. Keaper comes out with her microphone again. “Hello, everyone! Welcome to your final evening at the Keaper Ski Lodge. Now, we know you aren’t here to listen to this old lady speak, but we have one last event for you. On the table, we’ve given everyone a piece of paper with a list of questions. You might recognize them. This was quite trendy a few years back.”

Apollo reaches for said paper on the table and sees it’s a list of thirty-six divided up into three sets.

“Some of you have been together for years and others are in the honeymoon stages,” Ms. Keaper continues. “We thought this would be a fun way to get to know each other even better. Finn and I tried it and we still learned something new, even after twenty years of marriage. Feel free to skip around to different questions while we wait for dinner. Enjoy the meal, everyone!”

Ms. Keaper puts her mic away and goes back to her table where Mr. Keaper and Ima sit, waiting for her. Apollo looks back at the list and notices there’s a set of instructions on the top: Take turns reading and answering each question with your partner. After question 36, look into your partner's eyes for four minutes.

Apollo has no idea why that last bit would be part of a bunch of dating questions, though.

“Let me see,” Klavier says and Apollo hands him the paper. “Ach, I see. These are those questions for falling in love. I remember reading about it a couple years back.”

“They’re for falling in love?”

“Allegedly.” Klavier hums, thoughtful. “The questions get increasingly more personal and by the end of it, you and your partner should fall in love. Or feel some sort of intimacy, at least.”

Apollo’s eyebrows knit tightly together. “That seems… a little too easy.”

“I do not think it’s hard to fall in love,” Klavier says.

“I mean, maybe, but I feel like thirty-six questions and sustained eye contact is pushing it.” Apollo knows he can be pretty cynical, but Klavier can’t exactly call this a sure thing.

Klavier shrugs. “I think a big part of it is being open. If you shut down the idea of love, then no, it won’t happen. But that’s true in all instances. You can’t love someone that won’t let you.”

“Being open is hard then.” Apollo’s jaw is suddenly tight. “Not falling in love.”

Klavier’s fingers twist the stem of his wine glass as he stares at it, his eyes foggy in thought. “That I can agree with.”

“Either way, I don’t think we’ll need the questions.” Apollo grabs his own wine glass, his chest tense.

Klavier’s intense expression is gone and is replaced with one of his teasing smiles. “Why? You don’t want to try? Afraid your heart will be stolen away?”

Apollo’s proud of himself for only getting a little flustered. “Recycling old lines? Getting lazy, Gavin.”

“Aww.” Klavier pouts, but then goes back to the questions. “How about this: we could take turns asking some of the questions, but any question you ask, you have to answer yourself?”

“And then we stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes?”

“I wouldn’t deny you the chance to stare into my beautiful eyes for four minutes, Herr Forehead.” Klavier winks and all Apollo can do is sigh with exasperation. But also with fondness, if he’s honest.

“I don’t know,” Apollo says, trying his hand at teasing. “I’ve been told I have pretty irresistible puppy dog eyes. Maybe you’re the one who’s heart will be stolen away.”

Apollo just means it as a joke, to throw back some of Klavier’s flirting in his face, so he’s definitely not expecting Klavier’s cheeks to go a little pink. It’s there and gone in a flash, but for a moment… Apollo’s pretty sure he caught him off guard.

It’s equal parts satisfying and scary because is this… is this happening? This isn’t just all in his head, is it?

“Well,” Klavier says, decidedly not looking at Apollo. “Let’s just stick with the questions and save both our hearts, ja?”

Apollo does a poor job of hiding his smile as he takes a sip of wine. They’re not competing, but if they were, Apollo would have won that round. “You first.”

“No, please.” Klavier hands the paper back to him. “You go.”

Apollo scans the list and decides on one of the easier ones. “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?”

Klavier leans back in his chair and looks at the ceiling. "It will probably sound cliché, but music, actually." He brushes away some of his fringe on his forehead, fidgeting. "It's been a constant for me. Even on the darkest days, even when a guitar nearly set me on fire, I can always come back to it. If I find myself upset or anxious, all I have to do is reach for my guitar or sit down at the piano and I feel better. Music cannot lie or betray you. It wouldn't even exist if I were not there to bring it to life. I like that. I like creating something where there once was nothing. It's decisive evidence that I contributed to the world in some small way."

Apollo smiles. Despite not being a fan of (most) of his music, Apollo’s liked learning more about Klavier’s relationship to it. He can tell it makes him happy. “That’s really cool—having a constant like that, I mean.”

“Do you not have one?”

“Mm, I don’t think so?” Apollo taps his chin with his finger. “I think the only thing I’ve ever really stuck to was law, which I don’t think is comparable to the way you feel about music. I’m kind of jealous. It’d be nice to have something to calm you down like that.”

“Never too late to try. Maybe I’ll make you one of my backup singers.” There’s a twinkle in Klavier's eye that means trouble. “I’m already a fan of your voice.”

“Very funny,” Apollo says, though it doesn’t sound very biting when they’re both smiling.

Klavier braces his elbows on the table so he can rest his chin on top of his bridged fingers. “And you?”

Apollo hums to himself. He’s grateful for lots of things. Having enough money to afford rent, renting an apartment that allows him to keep his cat, his cat, but those seem kind of superficial compared to Klavier’s answer.

“Maybe… Mr. Wright and Trucy? I don’t know, I guess that’s kind of weird, but I feel like my life would have been very different if Mr. Wright hadn’t asked me to defend him that day.” A shiver goes up Apollo’s spine just thinking about it. Mr. Wright could have been hanged for a crime he didn’t commit, leaving Trucy all alone, while Apollo would still have been working for that monster. Apollo shakes his head. He doesn’t need to bring up Kristoph. “It meant I got to meet Trucy and Athena too, and they’re my best friends, so…”

Klavier’s smile is a little sadder now, but his voice is steady. “I’m sure they are all very grateful you were there too, ja? The Wright Anything Agency… you all seem so close. It’s nice.”

“Ah, yeah. Yeah, it is.” And he means it. The WAA is his lifeline after an adolescence of scraping by on his own. “Here. Your question.”

“Hmm… ach, I like this one: ‘alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.’” Klavier’s smile is long and triumphant.

“You just want compliments,” Apollo says, drumming his fingers on the table.

Klavier leans back, putting his hands in lap. “Or maybe I want to say nice things about you, Herr Forehead. How cynical you are.”

“Pft,” Apollo scoffs. “Fine. You’re a good prosecutor.”

“Ja? Am I? I can’t seem to recall a time I’ve ever won a case against you,” Klavier says, but there’s no malice there. Just genuine curiosity.

“You know you’re good.” Apollo fiddles with his bracelet. “The fact that you’re not hell bent on victory is what makes you good. Plus, I always win because I only take on clients that are innocent. Kind of stacks the deck in my favor.”

“I don’t know if I’d say any of your cases were ever stacked in your favor,” Klavier says, amusement dancing in his voice.

“Well, I stand by what I said. You’re good at what you do,” Apollo says. “I believe you’re next.”

“Hm. You’re a good lawyer.”

“You’re such a cheat!”

Klavier laughs, raising his arms in defense. “Not very original, I know, but it’s true. You get anxious but you always pull through. It’s quite a spectacle, actually. You’re very passionate.”

“That’s not fair. You’re not allowed to make fun of me.” And even as he says it, Apollo can hear how childish it sounds.

“I’m not,” Klavier says. “I like watching you work. You’re quick on your feet and you find lies like Vongole finds every scrap of food that falls on the ground. It’s almost superhuman sometimes.”

Apollo laughs nervously and puts his arm with his bracelet under the table. “Alright, alright. Guess it’s my turn. You uh, you have a nice smile.”

As if on cue, Klavier beams at him. “Why thank you, Schatzi. You, likewise, do have irresistible puppy dog eyes. They’re lovely.”

Apollo’s cheeks get so overheated he has to hide his face in his dinner napkin. “Okay, game over. We’re done.”

“Can the great Apollo Justice not take a compliment?” Klavier says like he just found his new favorite toy. “Perhaps I should tell you how they sparkle in the moonlight? Or how rich and earthy they are, like the bark of the majestic oak tree?”

“You are such an asshole,” Apollo mumbles from his napkin.

“Aht aht aht, Herr Forehead. You’re supposed to be telling me what my positive characteristics are, remember?”

Apollo has half a mind to say something brash like “you’re a good kisser” in the hopes he can retaliate a little, but he’s not that bold.

“You’re… you…” Apollo struggles to think. “You’re really kind when you want to be.”

Klavier laughs. “Bit of a backhanded compliment, but I’ll take it.”

“I mean,” Apollo sighs, “you never do anything maliciously. At the end of the day, you always try to do right by others. You went on this trip just so I could get a vacation that I never would have gone on otherwise.”

Klavier takes his wine glass and mumbles into it, “I don’t think I was quite that selfless about it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it gave me an excuse for a vacation too, ja?” Klavier says. And it’s weird. Apollo’s bracelet doesn’t exactly tighten but it trembles just a little. He’s not sure what that means.

“Still, you could afford something like this on your own, easily. You didn’t have to come with me.”

Klavier takes a sip of wine. “I suppose I didn’t. But, it is my turn. Let’s see…” Klavier stares at him, searching. “You are quite charming when you allow yourself to be.”

Apollo blinks slowly at him. “Huh?”

“Was?”

“You’re kidding, right?” Apollo asks genuinely.

“I am not. Why do you doubt me?”

Apollo shakes his head. “No one has ever in my life called me charming.”

“I am calling you charming now,” Klavier says, simply. “Are you expecting me to cite my sources?”

A little bit, yeah. “No, no. Just surprised is all.”

“You shouldn’t be. Have more confidence, Schatz.”

Apollo raises an eyebrow at him. “I thought we were focusing on positive traits.”

“My mistake. I believe it is your turn, however.”

“God, okay,” Apollo says, thinking. “You’re… really good at putting people at ease. You kind of, I don’t know, take care of people? It’s nice.”

Klavier looks genuinely touched by that one as he messes with the fringe of his hair again. “Thank you…”

“It’s nothing.”

“You’re very brave. Selfless to a fault, actually.” Klavier’s voice is a little quieter now. “It’s very admirable. In moderation.”

Apollo holds back a laugh. “In moderation.”

“I believe we have one left each now,” Klavier says.

“Right, yeah.” Apollo wracks his brain, but he decides on the simplest compliment, even if it’s a little embarrassing. “I, um, I really like talking with you. It’s fun.”

Apollo can feel his ears burning as soon as he says it, but he can’t regret it when Klavier lights up like that.

“Ach, Schatz, you took mine.”

Apollo chokes on air again but he tries to pass it off like he was just clearing his throat. “Guess you’ll have to come up with something else.”

“Not too hard,” Klavier says and the lack of teasing in his voice makes Apollo’s ears burn hotter. “I love your voice. Not just when you sing, but even in conversation. I don’t know how to describe it, but it’s very honest. Like you’re not holding anything back.”

Apollo’s not 100% sure he gets it, but it feels like really high praise either way. “Oh… thanks.”

“Of course.” Klavier’s eyes are warm as he looks over at Apollo and something in Apollo’s chest unlocks and swings open. It’s both thrilling and terrifying because if Apollo really is misinterpreting everything that’s happening between them, then he’s going to be crushed over it. “Your turn to ask a question, Herr Forehead.”

“Oh, right.” Apollo looks over the list and feels a devious smile pull at his lips “Here—share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.”

Apollo thinks this will be a nice little way of reminding himself Klavier is human.

“Liebling, did you forget that you have to answer this question too?” Klavier says.

Apollo’s face falls. He did, in fact, forget that part. “D-doesn’t matter. Answer the question, Gavin.”

“You were witness to it. My guitar catching fire during a live show was… humiliating.” Klavier takes a swig of his wine, annoyed. Apollo forgets sometimes what a perfectionist he is.

Apollo shakes his head. “No, come on. That was nothing. Plus, you can’t pick something I already know about.”

“Fine, fine.” Klavier takes a moment to think, then sighs. “When I was thirteen, my first girlfriend and I kissed behind the bleachers. Would have been very romantic if not for the fact that we both had braces and… got stuck.”

“You had braces?”

“That’s what you got out of that?”

Apollo laughs. “I’m just trying to imagine you as an actual teenager with braces and acne.”

Klavier scoffs at him. “Of course I was. You’re not born with perfect skin, Herr Forehead. You have to work at it.”

“But oh my god, what did you do? Did you have to go to the orthodontist together so they could cut you out?” Apollo asks.

Klavier pinches the bridge of his nose. “Ja. Her mom drove us in the back of her van.”

“Oh, my god.”

“We’re not together anymore.”

Apollo busts out laughing at that, louder than before. “Man, I sure hope not or you’d have a lot of explaining to do when we get back.”

“Okay, enough. It is your turn now.”

“Ugh, but how do I pick just one?” Apollo scratches at his chin, thinking. “Alright. So, my first year of college, there was this guy I was pretty uh, interested in.”

“Uh oh.”

“I know, I know.” Apollo sighs. “I really wanted to ask him out with some big, bold gesture since I never really got the chance to do that kind of thing in high school. And well, I got him flowers and had Clay hold up a sign that said ‘Dinner?’ like it was some lame promposal. We were both nineteen at the time, so adults.”

Klavier chuckles into his hand. “This sounds nothing like you.”

“Yeah, well. I evolved,” Apollo says, taking a swig from his wine before the really embarrassing parts. “But yeah, I asked him out in the quad in front of a bunch of people and also… his boyfriend.”

“Oh, no.

“Yep. Completely forgot to find out if he was single.” Apollo’s shoulders slump at the memory. It’s a bitter reminder that all of his attempts at romance have been an utter failure. It’s kind of a funny story now, but at the time, he was pretty mortified, not to mention heartbroken. Klavier was right; it wasn’t like him, even when he was nineteen and stupid. With most of his crushes, Apollo kept those feelings really close to his chest and rarely voiced them. And even with the couple of partners he’s had, they’ve always asked him out, even though he didn’t particularly feel the same way—which, of course, is why they didn’t work out.

And it makes him wonder: if he’s had such bad luck with dating in the past, why should this thing with Klavier be any different? Is it really worth putting himself out there when it’s only brought him pain in the past?

“His loss, I think,” Klavier says. Their hands are close together on the table and quickly, Klavier brushes his hand over Apollo’s and then away. Apollo flexes and unflexes his hand, the skin burning where Klavier touched it.

Apollo swallows and licks his lips. “Well, he was the kind of person who put ketchup on mac and cheese, so I don’t think it would have worked out.”

“Absolutely vile. You’re better off.” Klavier waves his hand like Apollo’s old crush is nothing more than an irritating fly.

“Undoubtedly.” Apollo nods at the paper. “Your turn.”

Klavier glances over the list again. “Ah, yes, I’ve been eyeing this one for a while: ‘How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?’ I’m curious about what the Justice family was like.”

Klavier’s face is open and curious and Apollo feels bad when he involuntarily winces at the question.

“Oh.” Apollo rubs the back of his neck. This was the one question he kind of hoped they’d avoid.

“Is… this a question you’d rather not answer? Because that’s fine,” Klavier says, earnestly. “I can choose a different one.”

In truth, that would probably be the easiest thing, but Apollo doesn’t like it. He doesn’t like the idea of telling Klavier ‘no, this isn’t a part of me you get to know about’ when getting to know each other better is something he actively wants. If he’s serious about this… if he’s really going to work on drumming up the courage to ask Klavier on a date, then it’s probably not a good start to shut him out.

“No, it’s okay. I want to tell you,” Apollo says, honest. “I don’t talk about it a lot since it’s kind of a bummer, but it’s… complicated.”

Klavier’s face grows somber. It’s the same face he makes when he’s listening to a particularly upsetting testimony. “What about it was complicated?”

“I didn’t actually live with one family growing up. My dad died in a fire when he and my mom were travelling in Khura’in. I was only a baby at the time so I don’t remember any of it and I don’t know what happened to my mother. We think she assumed both of us died in the fire and since they were travelers, no one knew how to get a hold of her.”

Klavier’s eyes are soft and sad, which Apollo knew they’d be. It’s kind of a pathetic story so he gets why people get sad like this when he tells them, but for Apollo, it’s just his normal.

“So, theoretically, she could still be alive?” Klavier asks. “Have you tried looking for her?”

Apollo shakes his head. “They did when I was a kid, but couldn’t find anything, and I’m not really inclined to look now.”

“Why not?”

“I just think… she probably did her best to move on, y’know?” Apollo says. “She might even have a new family now and if I actively looked for her and found her, I’d probably undo a lot of hard work. When I think about it from her perspective, I always think I got it easy. It’s one thing to never know your parents, but it’s another to lose your husband and your newborn, y’know?”

Klavier looks shaken. “Yes, I suppose it is… but I’m sure—I’m sure she’d want to meet you. Even if it did bring back those traumatic memories.”

“Maybe,” Apollo sighs. “And I’d want to meet her too, but still… looking for her doesn’t feel right, and I think it’d be exhausting.”

Klavier nods. “That I can understand. So, after the fire… you were taken in by some locals?”

“Yeah, a man named Dhurke. I lived with him and his son until I was nine and then…” Apollo clears his throat, dislodging the emotion he’s trying to hide. “There was a lot of unrest in Khura’in at the time, so Dhurke sent me here and promised to come get me when things settled down.”

“But things never settled down?”

“No. They didn’t.” Apollo fiddles with the dinner napkin on his lap, doing his best to stay grounded. That was the worst of it: thinking Dhurke cared for him as much as his biological son, thinking he was part of a family, thinking he was loved—but then being dropped off in another country like a too energetic dog being left at the pound. As an adult who actually follows the news, he knows that’s probably not how it went. He knows Dhurke’s lifestyle wasn’t exactly kid friendly, but it doesn’t change how abandoned he felt, how much he wished they could have just stayed together. Apollo’s eyes sting, but he blinks the sensation back.

“Apollo…” Klavier says in that sad, pitying tone Apollo hates hearing. It’s a sad story. He knows it’s a sad story. But he’s fine. Everyone has their hardships; it’s not like people need to treat him delicately because he didn’t have a stable family life.

Apollo gives Klavier a reassuring smile before he gets the last of the story out of him. “I stayed with a few different foster families until I was eighteen and then I went to college. But yeah, that’s it. All of the families were nice and I probably wouldn’t have even gotten into college if it wasn’t for them, so it was fine.”

What he doesn’t say is that none of the families adopted him. That they all treated him well, but they didn’t love him like Dhurke and Nahyuta did… or how Apollo thought Dhurke and Nahyuta did. Apollo was a charity case to those families: someone to help and look after, but never a full member of the family. Always a visitor.

It’s something that made him kind of jealous of Trucy when he heard about how she came to live with Mr. Wright. Trucy got scooped up by him when she was eight and they’ve stayed together ever since. Apollo’s whole adolescence was a revolving door of homes: in one moment and out the next.

Nobody has Apollo’s picture placed in a golden locket.

Klavier runs a hand through his blond hair. “I had no idea. I’m so sorry.”

“No, it’s fine. I met Clay when I was thirteen and we stuck together ever since,” Apollo says, braving a smile. “He was my family through it all. I was never alone with him around.”

Apollo’s attempt at levity falls flat as Klavier’s frown deepens. “But then you lost him too…”

And that’s a wound that hasn’t healed over enough for him to talk about. Yeah, he lost the one freaking person who ever chose to stick with him and that loss, that hurt… Apollo’s not sure how he functioned at all last year. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. He shouldn’t have brought up Clay.

The desire to cry passes and he exhales. “I lost him.”

“I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.” Klavier leans back in his chair. “I’m sorry for getting angry at you earlier, about you not contacting me when all of that happened. Of course, you must have been beside yourself. That was selfish of me to say.”

“No, it’s okay. It was… nice to hear, actually. I can tell you care, y’know?” Apollo means it. There’s not a lot of people who get mad at him for being reckless, who tell him they’d feel that loss if he were gone.

Klavier reaches across the table to hold Apollo’s hand and he holds it so tight, like Apollo might float away if he doesn’t anchor him down. “I do care. I care about you.”

Apollo’s breath hitches in his throat. It’s such a simple thing to say to someone, but it makes him want to burst into tears, being told that so honestly.

I’m going to fall in love with him. The thought comes into his head unbidden, but the truth of it hits him like wet concrete pouring from above. He’s past the point of no return. He’ll fall in love with Klavier Gavin eventually, whether they’re together or not. It’s impossible for him not to.

“Th-thank you,” is all Apollo can manage without actually crying, though his voice wobbles.

Klavier’s ensuing smile is sweet and delicate, and Apollo wants to get lost in it, to stay in that safe place of a smile forever. Klavier takes his hand away and Apollo has to swallow the impulse to pull him back.

“I know I should answer next, but would you mind if I changed it up a bit?” Klavier asks.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, instead of answering this question, can I answer a different one? You won’t have to answer, of course.” Klavier picks up the paper again.

Apollo eyes him suspiciously. “Which question?”

Klavier turns over the paper, hands it to Apollo and points to number twenty-eight: Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

Apollo’s heart beats a little louder and when he puts down the paper, Klavier is leaning on the table, putting his weight on his forearms, and staring at Apollo while wearing the warmest smile.

“Apollo Justice, I think the most incredible thing about you is that you’re the type of person who can go through all that and still find it in his heart to smile, to save people from exploding buildings and falling shingles, and to overall just be a good and kind human being. You might be one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met.”

Apollo can’t breathe. If he does, he absolutely will cry. It’s maybe (see: definitely) the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to him. And it’s taking all the strength in his body not to reach over, grab Klavier by his collar, and kiss him for real.

“I don’t know what to say,” Apollo says, his voice caught in his throat.

Klavier puts his hands in the air. “Don’t say anything if you plan to refute it. I won’t hear it.”

Apollo laughs a little. “Alright, then is ‘thank you’ allowed?”

“‘Thank you’ I will accept, ja.”

“Thank you, Klavier.”

“You’re welcome, Apollo.”

###

Dinner is delicious and luckily, the conversation stays lighter after that. Klavier does eventually answer the question about his family, but his story has a lot more funny anecdotes about summering in Edinburgh than Apollo’s does.

Something feels different when they head back to their cabin. They don’t hold hands like they usually do when they’re walking around the ski lodge, but they stand closer to each other than is necessary. It shouldn’t be a big deal or even something that Apollo notices, but it feels like they’re doing it not because they have something to prove, but because they want to. Because right now the idea of being more than a couple feet away from Klavier feels unthinkable. It’s not just him either—they’re walking side-by-side and Klavier isn’t putting distance between them.

And Apollo hopes. He hopes and he hopes and he hopes. So much so that he knows he’s setting those hopes up high enough that the fall could be fatal. But he has to try. He has to try because it’s going past hopeless pining and skyrocketing into imagining a future with Klavier—and those aren’t feelings he can hide or pretend don’t exist. And if those feelings are something he has to move on from, then he’d rather break the bone now, let it set, and get it healed as soon as possible. There’s no other course of action. All he can do is expect the worst and hope for the best.

He considers telling Klavier as soon as they’re back in the cabin.

“Klavier,” Apollo says, once the cabin door is shut behind him.

Klavier looks over his shoulder and hums in acknowledgement.

Apollo can’t find the words. Is he supposed to say “I like you” like they’re teenagers? He can’t exactly say “I love you” because whoa, holy shit, that’s a wild thing to say when you’re not even dating the person in question and Apollo is not in love yet. Nope. No way. That would be weird and he doesn’t want to come off as weird when he’s confessing. Maybe “I have feelings for you?” That could work, but god, it’s so vague and—

“Herr Forehead? Are you alright? You look pale.”

Right. He’s having an internalized panic attack in front of the guy he might be falling in love with. Way to not make it weird, Justice.

“Oh, nothing. Sorry. I’m um, I’m going to take a shower.” And Apollo skitters away like a spooked mouse to the bathroom.

###

The hot water does not help him form a perfect script in his mind like he hoped it would. He keeps trying to write and rewrite what he wants to say, but nothing feels right, nothing sounds like it can convey the enormity of whatever messed up in-between feelings he has. He lets the water pour over him from the top of his head, lets it relax his tense muscles, and prays that maybe this meditative state brings about an answer.

Why can’t I just say it? Apollo places his hand on the bare skin over his heart and can feel it beating too fast. He’s probably overly complicating it. He’s really good at over-complicating things.

“Okay, okay. Just keep it simple,” Apollo mutters to himself. “Just say… just say ‘I really like you and I’d like to take you to dinner sometime.’ There. Done. That’s it.”

It’s not right. It’s not perfect (and Apollo wants it to be perfect) but it might be the best he’s going to get. But fuck. Fuck, okay. He’s going to do it. He’s going to dry off, get dressed, and then he’s going to look Klavier in the face and say—

Apollo lightly presses his forehead against the shower wall. Even just imagining it is sending him into cardiac arrest. Forget a script. How is he going to say anything at all with even a sliver of coherency when he’s this nervous?

He shuts off the water, grabs his towel from the rack, and wills his heart rate to go down. He hates how easy this is logically. They’re just some words he needs to say out loud and then wait for an answer. This is not some ultimate test of strength or a huge mind-bending riddle; this is a simple leap of faith with no actual leaping or threat of death attached. But knowing all that doesn’t make it any less terrifying.

It doesn’t matter. He said he was doing it, so he’s doing it.

Apollo dries off, brushes his teeth, and blow dries his hair until it’s fluffy and loose—a stark contrast to his usual gelled style. He throws on his pajamas and heads for the door, but stops right as he’s about to turn the handle.

Do I really want to have this conversation in my pajamas?

No, he decides. He doesn’t.

Okay, he’ll wait until tomorrow. That’s fine. He won’t put it off. He’ll tell him once he’s up and ready to go or… wait. If Klavier rejects him, that’s going to make for a very awkward three hours on the car ride back.

Okay, okay, okay. Tomorrow. But before he drops me off for sure. No excuses.

He steps into the bedroom and all of that self-assurance he gathered in the bathroom evaporates when he sees Klavier. Klavier’s not even doing anything. He’s just sitting on the bed, reading one of his stupidly intellectual classics with his hair pulled up in a bun and reading glasses sitting delicately on his nose. Apollo feels a pang in his heart that is both joyful and horrifying. It’s a feeling that reminds him of those people who talk about their significant others and say that when they saw them, they “just knew.”

Is Apollo having a “just knew” moment? Maybe. No? If you “just know” you probably just know. If nothing else, it’s reminiscent of that. If nothing else, he’s pretty sure a part of him knows Klavier is meant to be an important part of his life or he wants him to be. And god, this right here is why he has to say something. Because he can’t just feel like this every time he sees Klavier doing something completely mundane.

“You alright, Herr Forehead?” Klavier says. “You’ve been standing there a while. Is your head bothering you?”

Apollo shakes his head. “No, sorry. Just tired.”

“Ach, I think you’ve earned a good night’s rest after everything today,” Klavier says. He puts his book down and gets up off the bed, heading to the bathroom. When he’s about to pass Apollo, he stops and places his hand on Apollo’s shoulder. Then he smiles. “I’m going to get ready for bed. Be back in a minute.”

“O-oh. Yeah, sure.”

Klavier disappears into the bathroom and Apollo immediately belly flops onto the bed and buries his face into a pillow. Klavier can’t just do that. How the hell is he supposed to sleep like this? It was just a totally platonic shoulder touch and he feels like his brain is short-circuiting. He really should have listened to that logical side of his brain when Klavier offered to come on this trip with him because he’s a mess. He should not be reacting like this just because Klavier touched his shoulder.

He flips over so he’s lying on his back and clutches another pillow over his stomach. He chants over and over in his mind: tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow.

But the thought of tomorrow has him clutching his pillow tight to his chest, searching for comfort. It was nice living in this strange, awkward bubble with Klavier for a while, even if it’s all going to lead to his eventual heartbreak.

Klavier comes out of the bathroom wearing his tank top and sweats, which shouldn’t be such a devastating combo but Klavier could wear actual garbage and still look good, so it’s not all that surprising. Doesn’t stop Apollo from wishing he was dead.

He slips under the covers and Apollo follows, grabbing the pillow on his chest to start building another wall he knows is doomed to fail.

But Klavier takes the pillow away from him and puts it to the side.

“Hey!” Apollo reaches for the pillow only to have Klavier snatch it up and throw it to the ground.

Apollo glares at him but in response, he only gets a soft, shy smile. And then Klavier does something really weird—he opens his arms.

“What are—”

“Why fight the inevitable, ja?” Klavier says, the previous shyness gone, replaced with a confidence gained from the arrival at a logical conclusion. “We’ll end up like this anyway, so why not embrace it?”

This is a joke. This is probably totally a joke at Apollo’s expense. But Klavier’s toned arms are on full display and they look absurdly inviting and tonight might be the last night he ever gets to be with Klavier like this and he’s weak weak weak.

So he doesn’t say anything. He fits himself against Klavier like they’re the matching grooves of two puzzle pieces. He wraps his arms around Klavier’s middle and presses his cheek against his chest.

Klavier lets out a small “ach” at the contact but his arms hold Apollo tight at his shoulders and god, it’s nice. It’s so nice. But beyond that it just feels… right. Like this is a good thing and the world actually makes sense for one blissful moment.

Apollo sighs, knowing he should say something. “Yeah, why not?”

“You are… full of surprises, Schatz. I expected an argument,” Klavier says, reaching for the light and blinking them into darkness.

“Too tired.” It’s the honest truth for lots of reasons. He’s physically tired and he’s also emotionally tired of acting like he doesn’t want to be wrapped in Klavier from head to toe.

Klavier hums and Apollo can feel it because Klavier’s resting his cheek against the top of Apollo’s head. “You should sleep, then.”

He should. Part of him wants to stay up just a little longer, though. He wants to enjoy this moment for what it is for a few more minutes, before his logical brain catches up and tries to tell him all the very smart reasons why he should actually pull away.

Logical brain stays quiet, though. Maybe it was lulled to sleep by how warm and solid Klavier feels against him or maybe it was soothed by the way Klavier's thumb gently rubs his shoulder. Either way, in its silence, Apollo drifts off into a peaceful sleep to the graceful melody of Klavier Gavin’s heartbeat.

Chapter Text

can i go where you go

monday

- Day -

It’s the sunlight that wakes Klavier that morning. It pours in through the windows and casts everything in a bright glow, but more specifically—more importantly—it halos Apollo’s sleeping face, highlighting the freckles that dust his nose and the long lashes that rest delicately on the ridge of his eyes.

They’re wrapped in each other: arms coiled around waists and shoulders, legs twisted together, Apollo pressed to his chest. What are they doing? Klavier’s waved away some of Apollo’s concerns by saying he shared beds with plenty of men during his tours, but he’s never embraced someone (or been embraced by someone) like this on tour.

But what to do about it. Klavier knows his own feelings, but he can’t be sure of Apollo’s, even if this situation makes it fairly clear they’re not exactly in a platonic position right now. Maybe Apollo’s just attracted to Klavier? Maybe he’s a convenient warm body and they’re both being swept away by that mutual attraction. Klavier’s not humble when it comes to his looks. He knows how others see him and he’s not at all displeased when he looks in a mirror, but Apollo means more to him than that. Klavier wants to mean more than that to Apollo too.

Or maybe Apollo doesn’t like him at all and this is all just a huge mess and nothing makes sense.

He sighs and presses his lips to the top of Apollo’s head, so softly it can barely be considered a touch. He wants this. He wants this so much that the sun will stop shining altogether if he doesn’t get it. He wants more mornings waking up in each other’s arms, he wants more meals together, more time talking and reading and singing with him. And he wants Apollo to want all those things too.

That’s what Klavier’s come to realize over this weekend: he wants. He’s selfish. So selfish it might be his defining trait. Apollo’s tried to convince him he’s wrong but Klavier can’t see it, especially not when he’s lying in bed and clinging to Apollo for dear life.

Apollo hums a sleepy little moan and starts stirring. Klavier freezes and watches him cuddle in closer before his lids rise slowly, straining until they open all the way. Klavier can see the recognition in his eyes, widening, then softening. Apollo tilts his head up and those big, brown eyes meet Klavier’s.

Time slows down. Klavier forgets everything he’d been worrying about only a minute before because he gets trapped in those eyes that feel like a home, safe and warm. He hears a small hitch in Apollo’s breath, like he’s had a revelation. Apollo slides his arm from Klavier’s torso, but doesn’t move away. Instead, Apollo lays his palms flat against Klavier’s chest, just above his heart, then Apollo curls his hand into a fist, bunching the material of his tank top where the strap meets the collar.

There’s a moment of clarity that no, this is not friendly and they both know it’s not. Friends don’t hold each other like this. Friends don’t look at each other like this. Friends don’t do this.

And something snaps. Klavier’s at the end of his rope and his restraint. He takes that hand fisted in his shirt, gently pulls it off of him, his thumb pressing into the middle of Apollo’s palm, and rolls on top of him. Apollo rolls with him, back flush against the bed and Klavier pinning his right hand next to his head.

ch5

Klavier watches Apollo’s eyes dilate as he looks up at him. Klavier releases a shaky exhale before he leans down, giving Apollo plenty of time to push him away or tell him to stop. He does neither of those things. Instead, he uses his free hand to cup the back of Klavier’s neck and pull him down faster.

It’s nothing like their staged kisses. There was a melancholic pain to those, a cruel taste of something Klavier thought he couldn’t have, but this is joyful. This is relief, a weight taken off his shoulders. Tension he didn’t even realize he was holding in his muscles melts as he melts into Apollo.

More than that, Klavier stops restraining himself. He kisses Apollo as sweet and deep as he wants to because Apollo is right there with him. When he lets his tongue brush against Apollo’s upper lip, Apollo doesn’t hesitate to open up to him, and Klavier sighs into it.

He’s not sure who starts it, but their fingers are intertwined where Klavier was once pinning Apollo’s hand. Klavier’s squeezes that hand, holding it as tight as he can so he doesn’t somehow float away. His chest is so full, his heart so swollen by the kiss that he wouldn’t be surprised at all if he started to fly away like a balloon.

Their kisses slow after a bit, but they’re long, appreciative kisses, the kind where Klavier’s able to commit the feel and shape of Apollo’s lips to memory, until they stop. Klavier pulls away, but not far. They’re still close enough to feel each other’s breath on their chins, but far enough that they can look. And Apollo is a sight he could spend hours looking at. His eyes are still blown black with desire, his cheeks are flushed, and his lips are wet and kiss-swollen. He’s gorgeous.

Apollo slips his hand out from Klavier’s so he can frame Klavier’s face with both hands. His eyes study Klavier like he’s searching for an answer to some big question, and he must find it because he pulls Klavier down into another searing kiss, one Klavier happily returns.

Apollo’s hand snakes into Klavier’s hair, then starts pulling out the hair tie keeping his bun together. It hurts a little since Apollo’s not terribly gentle about it, but Apollo tangling his fingers in his hair more than makes up for it. And since Apollo’s letting his hand explore a little, Klavier indulges too and slides his free hand down Apollo’s side all the way to his thigh and holds tight. Apollo shudders against him at the touch, making Klavier smile into their kiss and break it. Apollo huffs a small laugh, maybe even a little deviously, because the next thing Klavier feels is a sudden but gentle strength flipping him over on the bed and then Apollo is sitting above him, straddling his hips.

To say that Klavier is breathless is an understatement. He hadn’t realized Apollo was that strong.

“You’re blushing.” Apollo’s smile is triumphant, his voice husky and low.

Klavier has no witty retort to offer him. “Am I?”

“Mm-hm.” Apollo leans down and presses a slow kiss to Klavier’s lips, then moves to the corner of his mouth, his cheek, his jaw, until he lands on his neck. Which is code red level dangerous.

Apollo pays rapt attention to the sensitive skin there, planting wet kisses that are almost cruel in their persistence, and Klavier is too weak to do little else but cling onto Apollo’s hips to keep himself grounded. It feels so good that it’s taking a monumental amount of effort not to embarrass himself right now.

But then Apollo bites him and he fully embarrasses himself anyway by moaning out the word, “Schatz.”

Klavier can feel Apollo’s lips pulling across his skin into a smile before he starts pressing much more innocent kisses to the same spot.

“You still haven’t told me what that word means,” Apollo says and Gott, his voice.

“My little secret.” Klavier’s given up all pretense that he’s unaffected and just allows his voice to be breathy and wrecked. Apollo Justice is too much for him.

Apollo pulls away from Klavier’s neck to face him. “You gotta tell me someday.”

“Perhaps,” Klavier says, lowering his voice and raising himself on the bed so he’s leaning against the headboard and eye level with Apollo. “I’ll tell you if you kiss me again.”

The mirth in Apollo’s face fades as his eyes lid again and he leans forward. Klavier catches him with his lips, this time letting both his hands slide under Apollo’s shirt so he can feel the hard expanse of his back. Apollo, in turn, wraps his arms tight around Klavier’s neck to bring him even closer.

And it’s a little softer, a little easier. They breathe in together, get a little closer, which should be impossible since they’re already so tangled up in each other, but it isn’t. Klavier angles himself just right to make it more comfortable and Apollo follows his lead. It’s almost alarming how easy and natural it feels for them to be with each other like this, how in tune Apollo seems to be with what Klavier likes. Though, Apollo’s always been a perceptive person, so maybe he’s just good at this, but Klavier’s romantic heart chooses to believe that it’s because this thing between them could be really, really good. It’s electric and comforting all at once. Thrilling and safe.

One of Klavier’s hands moves down to hold Apollo’s thigh and Apollo moves his hips just a fraction in response and oh—oh, no… Klavier has hit his limit.

Klavier pulls out of the kiss and buries his head in Apollo’s shoulder. “Apollo…

“What’s wrong?”

Klavier sighs and looks up. “As much as I would like us to continue what we’re doing, I think I might be… enjoying it a little too much.”

Apollo blinks in confusion and Klavier watches as realization fills his eyes. “Oh. Oh. I’m sorry. I’ll just…”

Apollo gets off of him and sits on the bed, which is both a shame and a relief. Still, Klavier leans over to press a quick kiss to Apollo’s mouth. “Don’t apologize.”

“We should get up anyway,” Apollo says, looking at the clock on the bedside table. “They want us out of here by noon and we have to pack and get breakfast.”

“Ach, I suppose you're right.”

Apollo smiles at Klavier before he gets off the bed and starts getting ready for the day, while Klavier stays where he is for a couple of minutes just to process. When Apollo disappears into the bathroom, Klavier presses his fingers to his lips and lets out a dreamy, happy sigh.


Packing is slow going, not because it’s tedious, but because Klavier keeps finding opportunities to kiss Apollo again. The most egregious example is when Apollo comes out of the bathroom with his toiletry bag, minding his own business, and Klavier quickly places a hand against his chest to push him up against the nearest wall. He swallows Apollo’s subsequent gasp with a heated kiss as Apollo’s bag falls to the floor. Apollo’s hands fist into Klavier’s sleeves, his previous surprise melting away into delighted enthusiasm.

When they separate, Apollo whispers, “We’re going to miss breakfast if we keep this up.”

“We can always get something on the way,” Klavier says before he starts nibbling on Apollo’s ear.

Apollo makes a choked noise. “G-good point.”

They waste a good fifteen minutes there, though Klavier considers it time well spent. Flustering Apollo has always been fun, but this new escalation of their relationship makes the pastime more exhilarating than any rollercoaster.

When they’re finally able to call the bellboys to help take their things to his car, it’s twenty minutes before breakfast is over. They don’t really have time to sit down and eat, so they just grab a handful of pastries and fruit and take it to the car, which, in truth, Klavier is a little disappointed about because he would have liked to talk about… everything over a meal where they’d have each other’s undivided attention, instead of Klavier having to split it between Apollo and driving, but oh, well. He has only himself to blame.

But still, that is a conversation they’re going to have to have. And well, Klavier’s a little nervous about it. He’s feeling a lot more optimistic than he was before the pleasant surprise of this morning, but he still worries that their expectations for the relationship won’t align. It would be hard to hear Apollo say he wants to keep things casual. Klavier decidedly does not want to keep things casual.

They go to the check-out desk where Ima and Ms. Keaper greet them, Ms. Keaper especially enthusiastic and cordial today.

“Oh. Mr. Justice and Mr. Gavin, we’re so sad to see you go,” Ms. Keaper says. “Ima here was just telling me that you’re both lawyers?”

“I am,” Apollo says. “Klav’s a prosecutor. A really good one too.”

If Klavier didn’t know better, he’d say Apollo’s trying to embarrass him. “Ach, thank you, Schatz, but you’re the unstoppable one. He hasn’t lost a case yet.”

This makes Ms. Keaper incredibly nervous for some reason.

“O-oh, well, that’s so incredible!” Ms. Keaper says, digging around under the front desk for something. “You know, it was such a pleasure to have you two stay here, Finn and I agreed we’d love to see you again.” She places an envelope on the desk and slides it towards them. “Next time you folks have a free four-day weekend, we’d like to offer you a complimentary stay!”

Apollo’s eyes go round as he looks at the envelope. “Are you sure? The weekend trip is pretty expensive isn’t it?”

“Oh, don’t you worry about that,” Ms. Keaper says, clearing her throat. “Think of it as an apology for that shingle incident yesterday, but don’t you worry, we’re going to be repairing that roof ASAP, yessiree. Wouldn’t want that happening again.”

Ah, Klavier thinks. A bribe. Which is kind of endlessly funny coming from this small, very unthreatening innkeeper.

“Thanks, Ms. Keaper. That sounds great,” Apollo says and takes the envelope.

When they’re finally checked out and heading to the car, Klavier leans into Apollo. “You sure, Schatz? You know as well as I do that you could get a nice little settlement if you sued. It was their fault.”

“Yeah, I know, but it’s more trouble than it’s worth.” Apollo holds the tickets close to his chest. “Plus… I think I’d really like to come again.”

And something about the way Apollo says it makes Klavier’s stomach flip. He’s not optimistic enough to let himself believe what he thinks Apollo might mean, but he smiles anyway.

- Afternoon -

Klavier is once again the perfect gentleman as he takes Apollo’s bag and puts it in the trunk for him, and Apollo is so smitten it’s not even funny. Apollo doesn’t skip a free breakfast buffet for just anyone, you know.

Apollo’s mind wanders back to the memory of their kisses, which it’s done all morning. If he wasn’t currently kissing Klavier Gavin, then he was thinking about it. Apollo might have to quit his job because he doubts his brain has the capacity for anything as complicated as defending clients in a court of law when all he can recount is the way Klavier grabbed at his hips or the way Klavier turned to putty when Apollo bit his neck or the way Klavier’s voice got husky between kisses.

Geez, Apollo better be careful or he’s going to end up sighing like some love-struck teen. Not that it’s too far from the truth, but…

Klavier shuts the trunk of the car and Apollo watches him check all the pockets in his coat and pants for his keys, his eyebrows scrunched in annoyance. It’s such an odd thing for Apollo to focus on, but there’s something so unguarded about it. Klavier is always so smooth, so put together all the time, that seeing him having a scatter-brained moment is delightfully endearing, filling Apollo with boundless affection.

And it seems desperately important that he makes that affection known to Klavier right now, because if they’re not on the same page about this… if Klavier just wants to have fun… it could be even worse than a rejection. There’s something infinitely more tragic about an “almost” over a “no chance.”

And that band-aid needs to be ripped off as soon as possible. He doesn’t even think he can wait until the end of the car ride.

Klavier finds his keys, gives them a very small toss, and then catches them tightly in the same hand. “Achtung, Herr Forehead. Time to—”

“Klav,” Apollo interrupts, his fingers gently wrapping around Klavier’s wrist. “Is it okay if we talk about something? Before we go?”

Klavier turns to him, eyes a little worried, but attentive. “Ja, of course.”

“I—look, I really—” Apollo sighs in frustration. He didn’t prepare anything so he has no idea what he should say, but knows he has to say something. “This morning was… kind of amazing, but I just wanted to, I don’t know, clear the air?”

Klavier swallows, though he keeps his tone light. “‘Kind of’ is a bit of an understatement, Schatz, but ja, we can have this conversation now, if you want.”

“G-great. Um, okay. Ugh, I’m so bad at this, sorry.” Apollo scratches at the back of his head while Klavier silently waits. He’s looking increasingly paler so Apollo really needs to stop stalling, for both their sakes. So, he just says it: “I like you. A lot. You’re really kind and caring, and I really, really like talking to you. And I’m not exactly sure what it is you want, but I know what I want and…” Apollo takes a deep breath. “I’d really like to do this. For real. This as in us. So, um, do you think I could… take you out to dinner sometime?”

Klavier’s face melts from its tense worry into a smile so soft Apollo wants to curl into it.

He takes a step closer and takes both of Apollo’s hands in his, squeezing tight. “I know tomorrow is a work night, but how does seven sound?”

Apollo can’t help it—he grins, big and wide and toothy. “Seven sounds great.”

“I should say,” Klavier starts, cupping his hand over Apollo’s cheek, “I like you a lot, too.”

Apollo leans into his hand and hums. “Had me going there.”

“If that’s truly the case, then you’re not nearly as perceptive as I once thought, Schatz,” Klavier says, leaning in closer. “I wasn’t being subtle about it.”

Rather than answer, Apollo stands on his tiptoes and kisses him again. Apollo marvels at how different all of Klavier’s kisses are, like he’s saying something new with each one and this one is saying that he’s happy, that he likes Apollo every bit as much as he says he does. And this time, Apollo believes it.

Getting in Klavier’s car and driving off the mountain feels like they’re entering an entirely new world. Going back to highways and sun and concrete is a lot more disconcerting than Apollo thought it would be, but Klavier lets him choose the music again and they hold hands during long stretches of highway, so it’s not too bad.

But Apollo does feel a pang of sadness over having to leave their little cabin and he’s dreading sleeping alone in his own bed tonight. Palm trees and cable lines pass them by in a whirl and as they do, Apollo takes out the envelope in his pocket and stares at it. One whole expenses-paid trip for two to the Keaper Ski Lodge.

“Hey, Klav?”

“Hm?”

“Let’s go back some time,” Apollo says, staring at their intertwined hands. “To the Ski Lodge.”

Klavier doesn’t react for a second, keeping his eyes dutifully on the road, but after a moment, his grip tightens on Apollo’s hand. “Ja, Schatz. I’d like that.”

Apollo looks at Klavier then, the California sun casting him in a warm glow, and for the first time in a long time, the future doesn’t seem so scary to Apollo. Like a lot of good times are just around the corner.

There’s stop-and-go traffic on the 101, but Apollo can’t find it in his heart to mind.

Chapter Text

can i go where you go

epilogue to a getaway

- Two Years Later -

Apollo gets just as sick on their second drive up the mountain as he did on their first and Klavier gives him the same threat he did two years ago.

“Schatz, if you throw up in my car I will charge you for ruining the upholstery.”

Apollo moves the arm over his eyes just enough so he can glare at Klavier. “The sales you made off your album last week alone could pay for this entire car like, twenty times over.”

Bit of an exaggeration, but point taken. Klavier’s first solo album has been out for a year and it saw domestic and global success instantly. It was well-received by critics, most of them citing his “poignant, vulnerable, and fresh lyrics” as the album’s crowning achievement. Klavier almost feels like he doesn’t deserve all the accolades—after all, being with Apollo Justice makes it very easy to write love songs.

Apollo knows, of course, that the songs are about him. Again, Klavier isn’t a subtle person, but for as embarrassed as Apollo gets about it, he was plenty appreciative the night Klavier let him listen to the finished product for the first time.

But this trip isn’t about the music, because even though Apollo is his muse, the music has also kept them apart for the better part of the year. Klavier had to go on a months-long tour and he would never ask Apollo to take time away from his work despite the fact that, yes, he could afford to cover Apollo’s sabbatical and then some, but Apollo would never let him.

It was both harder and easier than Klavier anticipated. Their relationship wasn’t particularly strained—they didn’t end up fighting or make any heartbreaking discoveries now that they had time to themselves. Instead, it just hurt. Klavier had gotten so used to waking up in Apollo’s arms that going to sleep became something he dreaded on tour. Klavier missed him so much he sometimes contemplated canceling the whole thing, but Apollo rightfully told him he was being dramatic (but he missed him too).

No, this weekend isn’t about the music. It’s about them. Klavier did have some revelations when he was on tour and the product of those revelations is currently burning a hole in his coat pocket. He formulated the plan on the plane back to LA and asked Apollo if he wanted to use those free tickets the next weekend.

Klavier parks and Apollo hops out of the car as soon as he does, putting his head between his knees in a crouch.

Klavier gets out and shuts the door. “Aw, Liebling.”

“Don’t Liebling me,” Apollo groans. “This is your fault for driving like you’re being chased.”

“I could not have driven gentler if I tried.”

Apollo moans in protest. Klavier ignores him and rounds back to the trunk to get their luggage.

It takes Apollo less than a minute to feel better now that he’s out of the car and he walks back to help, but Klavier waves him off. “Ah ah ah, what kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t get your luggage for you?”

“What kind of gentleman would I be if I didn’t get your luggage for you?” Apollo says.

Klavier eyes his giant suitcase. “You want to carry my suitcase?”

Apollo considers the luggage in question and shakes his head. “On second thought, no. You’re on your own.”

“Ach, and they say chivalry is dead.”

Apollo gives him a smile, a special one he only uses in front of Klavier that is both mischievous and fond. “I’ll make it up to you.” Apollo presses a brief kiss to his lips and Klavier melts.

“Ja, I know you will.”

Apollo hums and takes Klavier’s hand. “It’s kind of weird being back here.”

“How so?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Apollo brushes his thumb along Klavier’s knuckles as he looks at the Big House covered in snow. “I sometimes can’t believe our last trip was even real.”

Klavier laughs. “It was eventful, to say the least.”

“Yeah.” Apollo grabs the handle to his own luggage even as Klavier protests. “I’m looking forward to a normal weekend getaway this time.”

“Don’t count on it,” Klavier says, mostly to himself.

“Hm?”

“Nothing. Come on, Schatz, let’s get checked in.”

And as they approach the cabin, Klavier’s free hand lowers into his coat pocket and he feels the soft velvet of the little black box hidden there. He smiles to himself. Klavier has no intentions of making this a “normal” weekend getaway. And he has a feeling Apollo will be okay with that.

The End