“I love you.”
Apollo drops the satchel in his hand. It slumps to the floor.
And then they’re out there: wonderful, terrible words that hang in the air, wobbling in the uncertain afterward.
Klavier isn’t sure how to interpret the immediate silence. Everything is suspended on an axis of will he/won’t he, and it’s uncertain which side of the fence his heart and all of its hopes and dreams are going to land. Right now, at this moment, everything rides on Apollo’s reaction. He doesn’t know if Apollo happens to return his feelings, or if he will politely say thanks, or if—by some cruel twist of fate—Klavier misread the signs that said Apollo, too, was interested in men. Every possibility and more flip through Klavier’s mind at an alarming rate.
In the 0.2 seconds after the words have already left Klavier’s mouth, it’s still, unfortunately, impossible to tell how Apollo feels.
It’s too quiet in his office. Usually, Klavier has the music cranked up to drown everything out. Music would provide a welcome distraction so he doesn’t worry himself silly in the nanoseconds between breaths and zipping thoughts, but now Klavier has nothing. Only the flash of anxiety that has decided to stomp on the accelerator of his nerves and speed it up from 0 to 60 faster than he can blink.
It is why, contrary to popular belief, though he is used to the stage and the old adage of putting on a good show, Klavier actually doesn’t make grand declarations of affection that often.
And it’s only been 0.5 seconds—it’s only been a fraction of an instant—but already, every fear of Klavier’s is grabbing hold of his throat and telling him bad, bad, bad, abort, abort, abort, this was a terrible idea. This is a terrible idea. Salvage this, Klavier. You need to salvage this before you lose the most valuable friendship you have forever.
So Klavier opens his mouth before Apollo can, and he belatedly, horribly, foolishly, stupidly adds: “Bro.”
He can see the moment the word registers in Apollo’s mind.
He can see the moment the window of opportunity he had to take it back passes. He dumbly waves at it, even, as it flits on by.
Apollo’s eyebrows lift.
His unreadable brown eyes suddenly become very clear and very readable and Klavier can see the smile that sparkles in them before it stretches onto Apollo’s round face. It is small and it is handsome because Apollo’s big, cheeky smiles are most often reserved for Trucy, but this one—this meeker, good-humored smile—is lovely, too. An amused thing, like he is trying not to laugh.
“You’re such a dork,” Apollo says, kind of raspy. He shakes out his left wrist like batting away a fly. “But sure, I guess. Love you, too… bro.”
And then he pushes his knuckles into Klavier’s shoulder—an event that makes Klavier’s skin erupt into sparks of lightning, his heart somersaulting in his chest before promptly springboarding off the diving board of his throat and falling to his toes. Apollo shakes out the manilla folder that was the initial reason for his visit.
“Thanks again for this!” Apollo says, holding the said folder over his shoulder as he heads for the door.
Did that just happen? Hang on. Please tell me I did not just say that. Klavier’s mind spins as he lifts a hand to wave and says, “Oh, you know me; always happy to help you defense attorneys pursue the truth!”
With the door open, Apollo gives one last, wry smile over his shoulder. Somehow, even wordlessly, he knows Apollo is laughing at him. He knows that Apollo thinks he’s funny. Weird. And that should boost his attention-hungry ego. Usually, it does.
Except everything inside Klavier right now wishes a giant chasm would split apart under his feet and swallow him whole.
Once his office door is shut, Klavier’s face falls. He groans. He turns and nearly trips over the brown satchel sitting on his floor—how did that get there, again?—before he steps over it and pushes himself towards his chair. He shoves aside the conglomeration of music sheets and CD’s and case files strewn about the side of his giant speaker of a desk. He pulls out his phone, cues the music player, and lets the speaker hum with All the leaves are brown / And the sky is grey. He crosses his arms and drops his head against his forearms, feeling the song’s vibrations rumble through his jacket sleeves.
He groans again. Longer. More pathetically.
Bro… he thinks. When have I ever, in the history of being Klavier Gavin, ever said ‘bro?’ BRO?
Is it possible to die by self-strangulation? No? He’d probably pass out before he finished the job. He thinks he remembers reading about that in a case study for one of his Themis Academy classes.
This is so embarrassing.
His phone buzzes.
Blearily, dreading it before he’s seen the message, Klavier lifts his head and drags his phone out from his pocket. He unlocks the screen.
Klavier frowns. He squints. Is there something he missed? Did time pass by while he was bemoaning his failed endeavor at a confession? No. It’s still 10:00 AM. He hasn’t been moping that long.
As Klavier texts back, it occurs to him what Blackquill’s cryptic message must mean.
It only takes a second for Blackquill to answer.
Klavier rolls his eyes.
How does he—
When his office door opens, Klavier turns and huffs at the head of heavy black hair that ducks inside. “I am not pining.”
Blackquill, two steps inside his office, stops. He tilts his head, before twisting it in a way that makes the frown on his face deepen into a disgusted scowl. His nose scrunches like he’s caught a whiff of something horrible. “This is ‘California Dreamin’.” He loosely gestures with the hand that’s not holding the report as if that’s supposed to be enough of an argument.
“What’s next? ‘Trip, Stumble, & Fall’?”
“Aerosmith, actually. One can only bear so much 60’s folk rock before everything starts to sound the same.” Klavier straightens and runs both of his hands down his face with a sigh.
Slower than before, as if in the lucky knowledge of several things Klavier isn’t, he saunters his way further into the office to the slow beat of If I didn’t tell her, I could leave today. When he’s close enough to drop the file next to Klavier’s elbow, he murmurs, “Because Aerosmith is so soothing for a broken heart.”
“It is, actually—why are you still here?”
Blackquill leans his side against Klavier’s speaker-desk and props his thigh up on its corner. He clasps his hands, dangling them somewhere in the space between his legs: the very image of comfort. “Perhaps you should listen to ‘Lonesome Town’ instead.”
“Ach, and now I know you are laughing at me. How could I be so foolish as to think you’re sticking around for any other purpose than to laugh at my expense?”
“Why would I do that when I don’t even know what there is to laugh at you for?”
Thank Gott. If Blackquill had somehow managed to overhear that pathetic attempt at a love confession, Klavier would never hear the end of it. Klavier runs his fingers through his bangs and sighs. He slumps forward over his speaker-desk again, crosses his arms, and drops his head like before. “So you didn’t—good. Believe me, that’s a good thing.”
“And yet somehow, I’m disappointed.” Blackquill frowns. He gestures with his chin towards the report he just dropped. “You’re welcome for that report on that upcoming trial of ours. It wasn’t easy, but Taka managed to call in a favor. So to speak.”
“Ach! Yes!” Klavier sits up again. He pauses. “Taka managed to…?”
“He’s in my office. Preening.”
“I assume that means it’s better not to ask questions?”
Blackquill grunts, which is as much of an affirmative as a, “Yes.”
Klavier grins. It’s one of his best ones, he knows. Very handsome. Not quite his rockstar grin, but the one that he knows has made hearts flutter and stop before. He reaches over to grab the report—before suddenly, Blackquill’s eyes light up. And then, quick as a flash, Blackquill snaps his hand out to grab Klavier’s, pinning it over the top of the manilla folder.
Klavier jerks towards Blackquill shoulder-first. “Hey—”
“You owe me.”
Klavier blinks. He scoffs. “Ach, really? Fine. Name whatever your ridiculous terms are—”
He narrows his eyes.
Blackquill is leaning in close and grinning. The dark bags under his eyes—those have to be manually applied with make-up, right? There’s no way those eyebags are genuinely that bad—always make reading his face difficult. But over the course of their reluctant, pitiful excuse of a friendship, Klavier has discovered that Blackquill can actually, occasionally, be predictable. “I’m not telling you anything.”
“Then I guess you get no report.”
Scheisse. “You are conniving and cruel.”
Blackquill’s grin is as sharp as a dagger. His voice drawls very slowly, like he enjoys dragging his blade across the skin of his words. “Based upon your secretive behavior, I can only assume something must have happened between you and Justice-dono a matter of minutes ago. The question is…” Blackquill’s dark eyes dart between Klavier’s. “…what.”
“You applaud yourself rather quickly for something that’s just a guess. How do you know it was Herr Justice?”
Blackquill scoffs. “Easy. If it pleases the court I have two pieces of evidence to corroborate that it was, in fact, Justice-dono you must’ve endured an emotional heartbreak with. The first: just as I was approaching your door, I saw him leave. The second: that by the moment I entered, you were already listening to your sad, pitiful taste in music—”
“It’s reserved for self-wallowing! It’s supposed to be sad!”
“Precisely my point.” Blackquill is nearly purring now, grinning like a cat that has caught a mouse’s tail between its teeth. “Why else would you be listening to the Mamas & the Papas if you hadn’t been bemoaning a poor, bruised heart?” The words start to spill out of Blackquill’s mouth quicker, sharper. “In fact, one might even be led to assume that Justice-dono had turned down some professed affections the moment before I entered your office.”
“Poor Gavin-dono… to have bore his heart to his beloved only to have it crushed—”
“You have it wrong, Herr Samurai; I didn’t actually confess. I fucked it up!” Klavier’s voice bursts out of him and he tries—rather valiantly—to pull his hand out from under Blackquill’s. But Blackquill has always been unfairly strong even after his many years in prison and keeps an iron grip, practically nailing it to the report and the speaker-desk’s side. “Are you happy? I tried. I tried to tell him how I feel, but I botched it. There you have it! Now can you let me go?”
“How did you, as you put it, ‘fuck it up’?”
Klavier groans. “You’re not making me say this.”
And he probably could. That clamp-like grip he has on Klavier’s hand still holds, solid and unmoving. Klavier crosses eyes with Blackquill once more, trying to frown. But after several minutes of a futile staring match, he drops his head. The golden tail of his hair dangles over his shoulder and over their hands, falling out of its perfect coiffe. “Fine. I said, and I quote, ‘I love you…’” Gott. Fuck. He can’t say it. Not for a second time. His gut rolls with embarrassment.
Blackquill raises an eyebrow and Klavier doesn’t need to look to see it; he just knows that Blackquill is wearing it.
Klavier sighs. “I said bro. At the very end. I said, ‘I love you bro,’ I made it platonic. Like a big—”
And then Blackquill laughs.
At first, he bows his chin to his chest, his shoulders trembling. But when it seems he can’t contain it, he bursts out laughing louder and harder, tilting his head back and letting it crash against the ceiling. It is unabashed and terrible and all at Klavier’s expense. His other hand slaps against his knee. “So the German wannabe rockstar has… what do they call it? Brozoned himself?”
“Very funny.” Klavier rolls his eyes. Once again, he tries to remove his hand from underneath Blackquill’s, but to no avail. Blackquill is still laughing so hard and so loudly, Klavier can’t tell if that’s his phone quietly buzzing too or if he’s making that up. Either way, it’s not like he can currently make a grab for it. “You’re welcome for giving you so much entertainment.”
The string of Blackquill’s laughter continues without end. “What I wouldn’t have given to have been there to hear it.”
“No, you really wouldn’t have—” That really is his phone, isn’t it? Buzzing and buzzing against the surface of his speaker-desk. Augh, if only he could contort his body around to somehow reach his other arm across for it, but that’s impossible while Blackquill holds his hand captive.
“Yes, I would have.” Blackquill hums. “How did you say it? Did you say it desperately?”
“I said it perfectly normally and like a gentleman.”
Blackquill tilts his head, grinning cruelly. His dark eyes spark with mischief as he leans in, mockingly, “Did you say it like they do in all of your pathetic, favorite movies? Desperately and ardently? I love you—”
Which is precisely when the door to Klavier’s office opens.
So here’s the thing about having eyes that are so good, you have a reputation for them: sometimes, you see things you don’t want to see. You notice things that were not things you ever wanted to notice or even, for fuck’s sake, know.
“I’m so sorry, Prosecutor Gavin, I was trying to get a hold of you to tell you, but I forgot—”
And Apollo Justice, walking back into Klavier Gavin’s office that seemingly normal Thursday, instantly saw and realized things that, god damn it, for fuck’s sake, he really didn’t want to know.
There’s a husky, low, I love you that hangs in the air, and it only takes one look at Klavier and Blackquill to see their hands covering each other in the space between them. And their faces are extremely close, and Apollo can see that Klavier’s brown skin is red along his cheeks and he remembers, quite suddenly, as both men turn to face him with the door wide open—
—his bracelet had squeezed earlier, too.
During whatever the fuck that was that happened in Klavier’s office moments ago, it had snapped cold and tight around his wrist. He had to shake it out to loosen it up. And now—
With a low twist in his gut, Apollo thinks he knows why.
“Oh,” he says.
“Oh,” Klavier echoes. Then, belatedly, loudly, as if just realizing that Apollo is there for real: “Oh!” Klavier jerks to his feet. Blackquill releases his hand without a word, straightening up and crossing his arms over his chest. Klavier continues, “Herr Forehead! You’re back so soon! Ach, to what do I owe the pleasure of your second visit?”
Wow. Apollo’s collar’s feeling kind of hot. Is it just him? Or is the temperature suddenly very warm in Prosecutor Gavin’s office? His fingers fidget around his cell in front of his chest. “I… forgot my bag…”
“Oh, right. Your bag.”
Klavier needs to only bow his head to find it. Blackquill is no help, refusing to move as Klavier moves around him to grab the crossbody strap of the slumped satchel not far from his speaker-desk. He strides to Apollo and holds it out. “Here you are.”
“Thanks.” Apollo slings it over his head and shoulder. He shoves his phone into his pocket, then immediately regrets it because that leaves nothing else for his hands to hold or grab onto. They latch around the strap over his chest and squeeze. With one last glance between Blackquill and Klavier, Apollo scurries for the door. “Anyway! Sorry to interrupt. I should probably get going—”
“Are you riding your bike back to the Agency? At least allow me to walk you down to it!”
“No, no, I’m fine—”
“Bitte, I insist.”
Apollo’s voice gets caught somewhere in his throat at how close Klavier is to his shoulder. He’d love to be able to put his foot down and say, No, really, I’m fine, you don’t have to walk me down to my damn bike; I can find it just fine, but his mouth is a traitor.
Too loudly, he says, “Okay!” and hates himself.
But Klavier’s face brightens, so perhaps that wasn’t… awful.
Klavier turns around just before the door closes behind them and he looks at Blackquill and Apollo doesn’t glance back in time to catch whatever kind of look it was. Maybe not seeing it was a good thing, some part of his crushed heart says; less things to hurt and hate himself over. Whatever passes between them, it’s over before Apollo can see it. The door closes. Klavier puts a hand on his back, guiding him down the hall. Warmth blooms up and down Apollo’s spine.
Dumb, dumb, dumb, don’t get caught up in your feelings now, Apollo, he tells himself, head bowed. Not now! It’s pointless now!
If only that was so easy for his stupid, stubborn heart to remember.
Apollo finally manages to uncork his throat once the elevator doors close behind them. “Sorry, by the way.”
Klavier lifts both eyebrows. “Whatever for, Herr Forehead?”
“Back there, at your office. That was embarrassing. I should’ve knocked. I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful next time.”
“What?” Klavier laughs. It sounds kind of funny; all stilted and awkward. Apollo’s bracelet does a feint of a squeeze before the elevator doors open and Klavier holds out a hand in the way of the automatic doors. “Oh, no. It’s not like you were interrupting anything. Besides, you said you had tried to call me, ja? It was my own fault I did not realize I had such an important guest coming to visit me.”
Apollo’s frown deepens. He steps out and Klavier trails behind him. “Important guest?”
Klavier’s hand is on his back again, right between the width of his shoulder blades. Apollo’s eyebrows lift. His shoulders bunch. Oh god. His heart can’t take this. It’s going to combust. Everything he was going to say flies out of his mind the instant Klavier leads him out the front doors of the Prosecutors’ Office and towards the bike rack, where his shiny red Schwinn winks at him in the sunlight, still securely locked.
“But of course! I consider you one of my most treasured and respectable guests everytime you come over, you know.” Klavier’s hand finally pulls away from his back, hiding away in a pants pocket.
Apollo clears his throat. He adjusts his satchel and pulls out his keys. He unlocks the bar and slips it into his bag. “Right…”
“Ach, but it’s true!” And Klavier really does sound earnest. “You see, it’s… what I’m trying to say is that it’s true, Herr Forehead. Perhaps I should say it in plainer terms: I really do like seeing you. And I like hanging out with you, even when it’s not for work.” Apollo kicks up the kickstand and Klavier follows as Apollo guides his bike out to the front sidewalk. “So… perhaps, if you're up for it, if you are ever free, I’d love to be able to—”
As soon as Apollo starts talking, Klavier stops. He freezes, completely and wholly. Apollo turns to look at Klavier and frowns.
“I know… ?”
“If you already have a boyfriend, Prosecutor Gavin, I don’t think it looks good for you to be hitting on me.”
Klavier freezes. Apollo can see the way his eyes cloud over, thinking. Thinking and thinking and thinking.
“A boyfriend,” he repeats.
Apollo doesn’t answer. Klavier continues to visibly think.
He’s not denying it, some cruel part of Apollo’s head jeers. He’s not saying they’re not boyfriends.
Which is not what Apollo wanted to pull out of that conversation, but here he is. Here he is, and there they are, and that’s how Klavier wants it to be, he supposes. That’s who and what Klavier has chosen for himself.
Good for him.
When the silence stretches on long enough to be awkward, Apollo clears his throat. “Anyway. See you later, Prosecutor Gavin. I’m happy for you guys, by the way.”
Then he throws his leg over his bike and kicks off, pedaling down the sidewalk and trying to ignore the way his heart is doing horrible somersaults in his chest. For a brief moment, he squeezes his eyes shut tight, mouth set into a grim line. Then, just as quickly, he opens his eyes to continue pedaling.
The sound of Gavin’s footfalls precede the sound of Simon’s office door opening. Which is strange to Simon, considering that after Gavin had chased Justice, Simon himself had wandered back to his own office, scritched Taka’s chin, and resumed working on a report due on the Chief Prosecutor’s desk by the end of the day. Gavin should have had no reason to wander to Simon’s office instead of his own. And yet there the garish, foppish man is, walking through Simon’s door with a troubled look on his face and a glossy sheen to his befuddled blue eyes, like he expects Simon to do something about it.
“What.” Simon glares. Taka, on his perch, picks at the plumage on his back. “Did he reject you a second time?”
Simon’s glare deepens into a glower.
“Are we dating?”
The revulsion rises so thickly and so strongly that for a second, Simon feels ill. He’s taken both mental and physical damage, clutching at his chest and bowing over his desk. Taka’s wings fan out with a flap. “Excuse me?!”
“Is that a no?”
“Gavin-dono, I dearly hope that you are not considering how you could possibly interpret this to be joy on my face.”
“Oh good. So this isn’t news to just me, then.”
“We are not—” Simon pauses. He replays the events of this early afternoon in his head. “Who says we are dating?”
“Apollo. Apparently.” Klavier throws out his hands at his sides, a helpless sort of gesture. When they fall, they pat against the sides of his dark pants with a very textured sound. “Because of course now, of all times, Herr Justice picks up on the fact that I am trying to flirt with him—except it occurs to him only after he has convinced himself it isn’t serious because evidently, I’m already going out with you!”
Then, he starts laughing.
“And I don’t think—ugh.” Gavin’s nose scrunches. He tosses out a hand. “Stop that. You don’t have to laugh that hard. You could help me! For one! Instead of just sitting there on your ass and laughing at my expense.”
“Help you?” Simon says between chortles. “Oh, no. Absolutely not.”
“Why should I help you when this is the best thing that has happened to me all day?”
“I…” Gavin blinks. “I’m sorry?”
“The object of Gavin-dono’s affections has refused his advances because he believes those affections already lie elsewhere…” Simon leans back in his chair and crosses his arms over his chest. Slowly, he drawls, “That’s Shakespearean.”
“I can’t believe it. Are you actually enjoying this?”
“And all because you fucked up your own confession of love moments prior.” Simon’s grin widens until his face is all sharp, white teeth. “Gavin-dono, why should I not take great delight in watching imbeciles suffer because of their own stupidity?”
“Stupidity?” Klavier balks.
“I mean, of course, two things: for one, I think this is fucking hilarious. And two, now I find myself rather curious how you’re going to court Justice-dono now when you already have a boyfriend.”
“I don’t have a—” Klavier stops. He breathes out heavily through his nose that his shoulders rise and fall. “You’re not going to help me.”
“No. I’m not. I believe that in order to correct this error, Gavin-dono, you are entirely on your own.”
“I can’t believe she sent you this. Oh my god.”
Ema Skye tilts her head back and belts out a laugh, smacking a hand against her leg. She extends the phone back to Blackquill and Blackquill, smiling, pockets it. He crosses his arms and leans back against the edge of her desk. “And you haven’t even said anything!” Ema continues. “You’re horrible. You could just save both of them a headache and say it’s not true, you know. Before things get out of hand.”
“And cut short my fun? Perish the thought.”
Ema grins, crunching another piece of Snackoos between her teeth. When Blackquill’s eyes fall to the bag next to her laptop, she waves a hand at it, and he shakes his head. She shrugs as the sliding door to her lab sighs open behind her. “I guess you’re right. It’s much funner if the Fop squirms for a bit. He deserves it every now and then.”
“I’m sorry, why am I squirming?”
Ema turns around in her chair and Blackquill looks up. The grin on Ema’s face stretches a smile wide. Lazily, she sticks out both legs and crosses one ankle over the other. “Oh, nothin’. Prosecutor Blackquill and I were just talking about some recent developments around your office down the street. Thanks for getting that, by the way.”
Klavier’s eyes dart between their faces as he holds out the fetched bag of crumpled earth from the lockers. “Developments… about our case?”
“Of course not. How can I figure anything new out for you until I get these dirt samples from the bottom of Mr. Briss’s boots to reexamine?” Ema tsks and spins around in her chair to grab her gloves. She slides them on and snaps the edge of the latex against her wrist. “No, Prosecutor Blackquill and I were talking about something a bit more… personal.”
Klavier waits until a beat of silence passes, clearly at a loss. “Oh,” he says, which might as well have been, I’m just as clueless about what you’re referring to as I was before.
Ema hums and pulls her goggles over her eyes. “Anyway, you can leave me alone now. Gotta be able to run my tests in peace and get back to you with the results. But before you two go…”
Blackquill already almost has the both of them escorted out of her laboratory space with one hand on Klavier’s back. But when Ema pauses, he pauses, too. The two of them stop and turn around, meeting eyes with her devilish grin.
“Just thought I should give the happy couple my congratulations.”
And Klavier’s brown face blooms red.
Together, they squeeze into the elevator. Blackquill presses the key for the ground floor as Klavier spins to him, eyes wide. “You told Frau Skye?”
The automatic doors slide shut in front of them with thunk.
Blackquill crosses his arms over his chest. It’s hard to see his face from the combination of the dim lighting and the heavy fringe of his dark hair, but Klavier thinks he can hear a grin in his voice as he answers, “But of course.”
“I knew she’d find it as funny as I do. Why should I not share a good joke?”
“A good joke—” Klavier makes a sound that might have been a choke. He coughs and the steel doors ding open. Then, together, the two briskly make their way down the hall of the police department, Klavier leaning into Blackquill’s shoulder and hissing loudly the entire time. “What part of my humiliating failure to communicate is a joke to you?”
“All of it,” Blackquill sneers.
Abruptly, they come to a stop as they nearly crash into the Chief of Police’s broad shoulders. As if aware that such a collision was narrowly avoided, Chief Gumshoe raises his head from his donut, crumbs scattered around his mouth. His face breaks into a wide grin. “Hey-hey-hey! Look who it is! So the rumors are true!”
Klavier feels like his stomach might drop out. “Good morning to you, too, Herr Chief. I’m sorry. I must be out of the loop. What rumors are we talking about?”
Gumshoe, still grinning, stuffs the rest of the donut into his mouth and chuckles as he dusts off his hands. When he pats them against his coat, smears of powdered sugar stick to the ratty olive green. “Why, you two, of course! You really are both attached at the hip now, huh?”
Blackquill has to turn away, his shoulders shaking with the containment of his laughter.
All-too-violently, Klavier is reminded of the peculiar feeling of being on stage with a burning guitar in his hands: a situation that is rapidly spiraling out of control—and all in front of other people. “The Chief of Police knows, too?” He throws up his hands and lets them fall down to his sides. “Great! Wunderbar! This only happened yesterday. Does word really travel so fast? Does everyone who works with the Prosecutor’s Office already know about this?”
A few, scattered conversations of nearby detectives idly standing around the computers in the room suddenly stop. Gumshoe’s big eyes melt with a bright, bright sheen. He puts a weathered hand over his heart. “Wait,” he rasps. “It just happened yesterday… ?”
Scheisse. Too late, Klavier realizes his mistake. He swears under his breath. “No. No—”
“I had no idea… wow. Congratulations, you two.”
“No, we’re not—”
“How did it happen? Who asked out who?”
“Herr Chief, you must listen to me, really, we’re just—”
Sharply, Blackquill clears his throat. He turns back to face Gumshoe. “I told him. It was a very… intimate moment. We held hands.”
The glare Klavier sends him could freeze the sun.
Gumshoe dreamily sighs. “Wow. I never woulda guessed it’d be you, Prosecutor Blackquill. I mean—and I don’t mean no offense about this, it’s just—Prosecutor Gavin’s always struck me as the more, uh, sentimental type.”
Oh yes. Because sentiment is definitely what Klavier is feeling right now. Sentiment is why his hands fist at his sides and jail jail jail for Simon Blackquill runs like a mantra through his head.
“That’s real sweet, you guys!”
Alright. Klavier grabs Blackquill’s arm at the elbow and squeezes. This is getting nowhere. Time to exit stage right—and quickly. The plastic grin on his face is stretched as wide as it can go. Thankfully, his smiles have had lots of practice for unwanted cameras. “Ja. Well, danke. Thank you. That means very much, but we really must be going right now. There’s… much to investigate and witnesses to prepare and testimonies to hear before the trial tomorrow. You are familiar with how it is.”
“Ah, right! Right! Well, don’t let me keep ya. Have fun, you two!”
Chief Gumshoe didn’t have to necessarily say that in quite a sing-song manner, but Klavier ignores it. He ignores many things he wants to pretend don’t exist, like the stares from other detectives on the side of his face as he drags Blackquill briskly past them, and the murmuring from a few officers he barely catches wind of as they skirt on towards the department entrance.
He had thought he would be able to ignore the unfortunate implication of Apollo’s words the other day, too, but it seems that won’t be going away any time soon.
“How are people finding out about something that isn’t even true? How is word spreading about a misconception so damn fast?” Klavier barely manages to squeeze his car between two others as he changes lanes. His fingers tap a rapid pattern against the steering wheel—much faster than the Metallica song softly blaring from the dashboard radio. “This is ridiculous!”
Blackquill absent-mindedly hums. His thumbs tap away across the screen of his phone.
Klavier glances away from the street and to his profile. “Are you listening to me?”
Blackquill lifts his head and waits until they come to a stop to turn his phone screen around. “I can do you one better, you ungrateful buffoon: I believe I may already have an answer to your question. It may be Cykes-dono who we have to thank for our rumor mill.”
Klavier squints and frowns.
He glances between the screen and Blackquill’s face two times, three times, before the stoplight changes color and his foot pushes against the accelerator again. “How did Frau Cykes even come to the conclusion that we’re together? How is anyone even—”
“If you’ll allow me to finish, I was going to say it may be her coworker put the idea into her head.”
Coworker? Klavier’s heart falls down to his toes. “Apollo.”
“It seems whatever message Justice-dono received yesterday, he must have passed on.”
Klavier shakes his head. His grip tightens on the wheel. “But that seems so unlike him. He is not one to babble about the personal affairs of other people…”
“Mm. I may not know him as well as you do, but I agree. I do not think he would be the type to tell anyone that he had discovered a partnership between two others. Though… it is likely he might have spoken to a confidant.” Blackquill frowns. He shifts against the seat, pocketing his phone and crossing his arms over his chest. “However, if he was hoping to keep what he had ‘discovered’ a secret, I highly doubt Cykes-dono was the wisest choice to pick in such a confidant.”
“You think she’s the one telling people.”
“I know her better than I know anyone else. She is… not good at keeping secrets.”
Klavier hums. It’s true; Athena’s inability to keep a hidden face or agenda, amplified when one considers the tendencies of her technological companion Widget, is one of the things he likes the most about her as a friend—for as frustrating as that makes their situation. He sighs. “Shit. What do I even do now? I should text him, right? Correct this whole misunderstanding— ”
“Not while you are driving.” Blackquill reaches over and yanks Klavier’s phone from his hand. He gestures with his head towards the upcoming street they need to turn on. “Eyes on the road. I’ll give it back after we’ve finished investigating today.”
“After? You mean you’re holding my phone hostage?!”
“Gossip will die down on its own with time. Do not overreact. Our time today will be better spent on preparing for our case instead of losing our heads over something that isn’t even true. There is a reason Chief Prosecutor Edgeworth is having me co-counsel you to prosecute Briss-dono. That should be our priority until it no longer needs to be.”
Klavier takes a deep breath. He holds it in his chest until his lungs are as full as they can go. “I hear what you are saying, Herr Blackquill, but I’m not so sure about this.” He flips on the turning signal and brings the car to a stop. “It leaves a bad taste in my mouth to be told to sit and bear a lie until then.”
Blackquill glances at Klavier out of the corner of his eye. Then, trying to hide his smile behind the curl of his hand, he leans against the passenger-side door.
He laughs at the middle finger Klavier throws up above the console between them, quick as a blink.
Despite Blackquill’s efforts, his continual insistence that their work and case should be their priority until it no longer needs to be lasts until the morning of their first trial day. With only a few minutes before they are expected to appear in the courtroom, Klavier’s furtive and antsy back-and-forth pacing across the length of the prosecution lobby morphs into a quick, “It’ll just be a few minutes.” And then, before Blackquill can stop him or ask him what the devil he’s talking about, Klavier is out the door and down the hall, squeezing inside the defense lobby.
Just as he thought they would be, Apollo and Athena look up from where they are huddled over their gathered papers of court records. The defendant, sitting on the couch by his lonesome, glances up and goes paper-white at the sight of him.
For a second, no one moves.
Then, Klavier clears his throat. His hands slide into the pockets of his too-tight pants. “Entschuldigung, but could I have a word with Herr Justice? It will only take a moment.”
The long tail of Athena’s hair dances at her side as her head snaps back and forth between Apollo and Klavier. Widget, at her neck, glows a soft yellow tinged with orange. “I, uh—”
Apollo quickly nods. He nudges her with his elbow. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. Go on. Give Mr. Briss that pep talk you were mentioning earlier.”
For some reason, Athena’s mouth bends into a little frown. “Are you sure?”
“Stop looking at me like that; I’m fine, Athena.”
Athena holds up both of her hands at the level of her shoulders and dances back, springing her weight from foot to foot. “Alright, alright.” Then, she turns to their client. With three steps of her long legs, she plops down beside him on the couch. Her client, older and greying, jumps, and Klavier can’t tell if that was from the sudden combination of weight distribution and inertia or if the poor man is just that high-strung. “Okay, Mr. Briss! How about you and I go over this one more time…”
Klavier tries to ignore the way he can feel Athena’s eyes on him as he approaches the high table. Apollo keeps his gaze on his work as he reorganizes their court records scattered over the round surface.
Klavier clears his throat. “So. Herr Forehead.”
Apollo looks up.
And right away, every word Klavier wanted to say gets stolen right out of his mouth before they can even be spoken.
Klavier’s gut twists. His heart swells. His tongue dries up. It is so, so criminally unfair to him that Apollo should have such incredible and riveting brown eyes. Rich and heavy. Dark like velvet. Unwavering. Eyes that he could rule the world with—and not just for how sharp and all-seeing they always seem to be.
Klavier pulls his hands free of his pockets. He taps his fingers against the table’s surface to an improvised rhythm. Or maybe that’s Love With No Chance of Parole. It’s been a while since he’s played that one. He licks his lips. “Look, I—”
“How are things going? Y’know… with you and Prosecutor Blackquill?”
Klavier’s hands clench into fists. “Oh. Gut. Our investigation is going swimmingly. But there’s something you should—”
“You don’t normally pop in to talk about a case like this before the trial starts, so I assumed that’s what you were coming to talk about: what happened the other day, when I walked in on you two.” Apollo winces and moves his lovely browns away and down to his hands. He fiddles with his bracelet. “Sorry about that. Again.”
“Please. You don’t need to apologize for something twice.”
Why is that the first thing out of Klavier’s mouth?
“Yeah, well…” Instead of sagging, Apollo’s shoulders tense up. When he reaches for the papers to line them up and stick them in his folder, they crinkle loudly in Apollo’s grip. “I just wanted you to know that I know I shouldn’t have done that. And I wanted to say I’m happy for you two. Really.”
Oh god. Don’t say that, either. How can it be that Klavier is standing right next to Apollo, and yet he feels miles and miles away?
Apollo takes a breath before Klavier can string a handful of words together. He looks at Klavier, and his eyes are just as arresting as they were before: determined and set. “It’s like you said that same day in your office. We’re friends, y’know? I care about you. In fact, you’re… you’re actually probably one of my best friends now. And I… I don’t like to say that about a lot of people. Not after…”
Klavier’s heart falls down to his toes as much as it squeezes and squeezes and squeezes.
I don’t think I deserve his honor, Apollo.
Apollo clears his throat. “So I just wanted to say, I’m here to support you. If there’s anything I can do for you guys, I will. Because you’re my friend. And I care about you. And that’s all there is to it.”
Oh god. This is painful. This is so painful. Klavier squeezes his eyes shut. He sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Herr Forehead, please, you must know, I—”
“Court starts in just a few minutes, Mr. Justice, Ms. Cykes—a-and Prosecutor Gavin!”
The bailiff’s voice from the front of the lobby rings throughout the small, square room. Apollo glances over his shoulder, nods, and slips his folder back into his satchel. The same satchel it was he once both fatefully and accidentally left in Klavier’s office the other day. Apollo slings the long brown strap over his shoulder as Athena helps Mr. Briss to his feet and towards the door. “Guess I’ll see you in court, then, Prosecutor Gavin. Good luck.”
“J-ja!” Klavier grins and follows Apollo out the door once he holds it open for him. “Sure. See you in court, Herr Forehead. Good luck to you, too.”
Between Apollo’s sharp eyes and Athena’s sensitive hearing, the defense drags the trial of Hugh Briss out into a second day in a fairly common turnabout: by proving that what they think is the crime scene isn’t the place the victim was murdered at all. When the Judge’s gavel rings out across the courtroom, Blackquill and Klavier cannot pack up their files and escape the murmuring crowd of the gallery and interested journalists fast enough.
They burst out of the courthouse’s front doors, talking over each other on what to investigate and who to talk to next. There are more witness testimonies to prepare because those not thought to have access to the original crime scene now are potential suspects. Their alibi’s must be clear if they intend to pin this case against Mr. Briss.
And then, somehow, Klavier catches eyes with the defense already at the base of the courthouse steps, ready to board the city bus.
And he knows, in that instant, that Apollo is watching him. Watching them. Klavier and Blackquill.
And he’s reminded: he’s standing pretty close to Blackquill, isn’t he? That probably looks misleading, doesn’t it, with both of their heads bowed together as they are?
Immediately, too quickly—or not quickly enough?—he jerks away from Blackquill as if burned.
But then his heel slips on the edge of the step it is leaving.
And all of a sudden, the skyline of Los Angeles goes topsy-turvy.
Klavier loses his balance and track of which way is up and which way is down. Cool grey skyscrapers stretch in blurred streaks. In an odd, out-of-body moment, Klavier becomes aware that yes, he is falling. He is falling down the courthouse steps. That’s not going to be good for both his reputation and his pride, but he thinks he should be more concerned about his physical wellbeing and potential broken bones than anything else.
Apollo’s voice booms over the sidewalk.
An arm wraps around the small of his back.
And then and all of a sudden, Klavier is no longer falling.
Without thinking, he grabs onto his savior, both hands instinctively twisting into the nearest thing they can in order to save himself: the collar of the man with his arm around his back. And it’s kind of funny: he’s sure they look ridiculous, like he’s just been dipped in an intimate dance, but when Klavier lifts his eyes, he is not met with the eyes of the person he would most love to dance with.
Blackquill, instead, stares down at him with calm and cool greys.
Klavier had not realized Taka had flown from Blackquill’s shoulder until the bird flutters back to his constant perch, looking down at him with beady eyes.
Then, quickly, before Blackquill can say a word, Klavier yanks himself upright. He brushes his palms down his jacket and spins around, ignoring Blackquill’s quiet huff of, “Well, you’re welcome.” He looks for Apollo down at the bus stop, but instead he sees Apollo caught mid-step up the front stairs of the courthouse, frozen. One hand is wrapped around the strap of his satchel. The other is curled in the air, reaching.
That outstretched hand withdraws back to his side the instant their eyes meet.
Apollo’s ears turn a funny color. Then, sharply, he spins on his heel, grabs a speechless Athena’s wrist—“H-Hey!”—and pulls her onto the open door of the bus behind himself. With a click and a sigh and a release of pressure as the bus returns to its full height, the doors slide shut.
Why such a hasty retreat…?
“What are you groaning about now.” Blackquill never speaks in questions. Even when he’s asking something, he treats it like a statement, a demand for information. It is rarely, if ever, a genuine inquiry.
Klavier turns on him, frowning deep and heavy. “This is your fault!”
Even behind his thick fringe, Klavier can see the way both of Blackquill’s eyebrows lift. Taka’s body bobs with the man’s quick, full-body movement. “And how would that be? I am not the one who nearly made a scene slipping down the courthouse front steps.”
“Yes, but—you caught me!”
“Well, if that is what bothers you so much, then next time I’ll let you fall.”
“Good!” Klavier squeezes his eyes shut. “No. Wait.” He pinches the bridge of his nose.
“I know what you meant.” And Blackquill says it lowly, thickly, as if what he is about to say disgusts him. “Believe me, I already know what you are envisioning in that stupid head of yours, fantasizing the most romantic outcome of any possible encounter with him, but I can promise you that this time, it would not have worked. Justice-dono was never going to make it to your side in time. He was too far away.”
“You don’t know that—”
“Oh, would you like to try it again? Test your theory? See if Justice-dono can outrun gravity itself? I am more than happy to push you over.”
“No!” Klavier groans. He tosses another glance over his shoulder. Most of the commotion and idle eyes that had been caught by the spectacle of Prosecutor Gavin nearly falling down the stairs seem to have wandered away. The bus for Apollo and Athena has long since peeled off of the curb and driven down the street. Klavier releases a deep sigh. “I am just disappointed, I suppose.”
Blackquill falls quiet. Then, carefully: “In who? Justice-dono?”
“No.” Never. Never Apollo.
“I…” Could he be disappointed in himself? Perhaps if he hadn’t had stepped so carelessly away in his haste to get some distance from Blackquill, there would never have been a chance for such a spectacle to occur. But no, even that does not feel right.
So what is it he is disappointed in? Fate? Could it be possible to be disappointed in something you have no control over?
Klavier clears his throat and slips his hands into his pockets. He steps down the rest of the front courthouse stairs more carefully than before. “I am just disappointed that this case is taking so long! The sooner this mess is over with, the sooner we can correct this horrible misunderstanding.”
This time, Klavier does not turn to look to see if he is smiling or not.
Their witnesses are as cagey and uncooperative as ever.
Klavier has a sinking suspicion as he gets off the phone with a particularly stubborn one—only under the agreement that that witness will call him back when he’s not overwhelmed with meal orders in his kitchen—that there is still more to this case than they are being told by those involved. The heavy lump in Klavier’s gut tells him it might get pointed out in court tomorrow by Apollo and Athena, which might extend the trial to a third day.
Perhaps that will be good, actually, some part of Klavier thinks as his fingers trace the siding of his phone. Maybe getting the chance to point out his beloved contradictions will get Apollo to smile. Klavier does not think he’s seen Apollo do that once in this entire case.
That realization makes him pause.
He sets his phone down on his giant speaker of a desk and frowns.
Wait. Why hasn’t Apollo smiled?
It’s hard to ask that question. Klavier feels torn, half wary of his concerns because this might be yet another instance of over-analyzing mere nanoseconds when the case has only finished its first trial day. But on the other hand, isn’t it most often in the courtroom when he sees Apollo smile, anyway? Apollo, with his arms crossed over his chest, back straight and grinning cocky and self-assured. Apollo, smiling when he successfully catches a witness hiding something from them all. Apollo, smirking when he knows he’s seen something Klavier hasn’t. Apollo, when he’s amazing and knows he’s amazing and steals Klavier’s breath away.
It’s not that Apollo isn’t a frequent smiler. But those stolen moments in the courtroom when the adrenaline is boosting Apollo’s confidence and all the world can see that he is in his element, doing what he loves best—those are the smiles that Klavier looks forward to the most. To not see him do that at all today had been—has been—worrying.
Klavier lifts his phone and taps the top of it against his lower lip.
Why did he not smile today?
His phone buzzes in his hand.
Klavier’s face brightens. He rushes to open his keyboard.
Apollo’s next message comes quickly.
Klavier rolls that around in his mind. Thanks, he wants to ask. Just thanks? Thanks. With a period. Thanks. He spells the letters out in his head, moves them around, tries to figure out if Apollo has always been so short and to the point in their messages or if this is new.
He must really be upset about something.
Klavier groans. He crosses his forearms over the edge of his speaker-desk and drops his head.
That makes two of us, Herr Forehead.
Simon’s not quite sure how he got here.
Yes, he is prosecuting this needlessly complicated case against Hugh Briss alongside Gavin at the Chief Prosecutor’s request. Yes, as co-counsel, he should be helping wherever possible to collect evidence and testimonies and prepare for the following day in court. He does not know why that keeps meaning he should be summoned to Gavin’s office, and why, as soon as he gets there, Justice arrives soon afterward, asking for something in evidence.
But then, to top it all off, Gavin’s phone rings. His face lights up and he says it’s that cook witness, Hamilton Burger, and he hurries out the door of his office, pressing his phone to his ear and saying he’ll just be a second. Please wait.
And then it’s just the two of them. Justice and Simon in Prosecutor Gavin’s office—a place neither of them technically have any right to be in without the other, proper person inside of it.
Justice clears his throat. He pats a fist against the side of his thigh. The clock on the wall ticks the seconds by. Briefly, Simon contemplates the benefits and consequences of straight-up leaving. Gavin could call him whenever he was finished with his call with Mr. Burger. He did not have to wait on him like some sort of trained hound.
“Hey… Prosecutor Blackquill?”
As slowly as possible, so Justice knows the effort this costs him, Simon turns. He raises an eyebrow unseen behind his thick fringe. “Yes?”
“I…” Brown eyes glance away. Then, just as quickly, they dart back, finding their resolve after staring at something else in Gavin’s room. Perhaps he sees Gavin’s belongings, whatever he has messily scattered across his speaker-desk’s surface. Perhaps something else. Whatever it is, it transforms Justice’s gaze, sharpening it until it is piercing and hard. His eyes meet Simon’s head-on.
Justice puts a hand over his bracelet. “Look, I know this is silly to say out loud. But even so… I want to. I want to say it while I have the chance.”
What on earth is the idiot blabbering about now.
Justice takes a breath and drops his hands to his sides. “Prosecutor Gavin’s been through a lot. You know this. I know this. At least, I hope you know this because you’re dating the guy, but the important thing is, he’s been hurt in ways he never should have been—and all by the people who were closest to him.”
Is this what Simon thinks it is?
“So what I’m saying is…” Justice stalks forward and leans up on his toes. With a force greater than Simon had been anticipating, he pushes a single finger against his chest and succeeds in shoving Simon back one step towards Gavin’s speaker-desk. “I know that you’re the most important person in Prosecutor Gavin’s life right now, but that’s a big responsibility. That means you have to take care of him and you have to treat him better than anyone else has ever treated him before. Because if you become the third most trusted person to hurt him or break his heart… you know what will happen, right?”
Simon should get an award. He should get an award, right this second, Taka-delivered to him and doused in gold, for somehow miraculously managing not to laugh. He isn’t sure how he does it. Perhaps it is shock. Perhaps it is something else. Perhaps it’s that odd quality his life has taken lately, feeling like a sitcom rather than something real.
It takes a minute for Simon to trust himself to speak. Then he clears his throat. “Truth be told, I think his heart might already be broken.”
When Justice reacts, it’s with all five feet of his height. “You broke—”
“Oh, hardly.” Simon wishes he could take credit for that. He scratches at the underside of his jaw. “He did that himself. He’s been dramatic and woeful lately, laying on my desk and crying into my paperwork.”
“He’s been crying?”
Simon might be exaggerating, but it’s fun to see how many different colors Justice’s face can flip through. He grins. “If I said yes? Why would it matter? Why do you care about how he feels, Justice-dono?”
Ah. Now that’s an unusual color.
Justice’s mouth presses sharply into a thin line. He straightens up.
The door to Gavin’s office opens.
Instantly, Justice pulls back from Simon. Gavin gives no indication of thinking there was anything going on in his absence and looks up from his phone only after he’s already taken a few steps into the room. By that point, Justice is already on the opposite side of the office, glancing between Simon and Gavin like a ping-pong ball. Back and forth and back and forth and back and forth.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive the interruption,” Gavin says as he pockets his phone. “Where were we?”
Simon opens his mouth at the same time Justice does, but Justice beats him to the punch.
“The storage unit key!” he shouts too loudly. The windows rattle. “I just need the victim’s storage unit key so Athena and I can check it out. That’s it. Then I’ll be out of both of your guys’ hair, I promise. I’ll give it back right after—” He winces. “No. Tomorrow. I’ll give it back tomorrow when I see you at court. I think I’ve been coming here often enough lately.”
Gavin blinks. “What? No, not at all. It’s a delight to see you—”
“Uh, anyway, if I could just get that key—”
It’s disgusting, the nearly tender way Gavin drops the key into Justice’s waiting palm. The way his fingertips linger against the heel of Justice’s hand and the way their eyes meet, almost bashfully, meekly, before pulling away. Simon rolls his eyes.
Justice quickly waves at both prosecutors, stuffing the key in his satchel and moving for the door. “See you at the courthouse tomorrow!”
It’s pathetic, too, the way Simon can hear the disappointment in Gavin’s voice as he follows him to his door. “Ja, alright! Don’t be a stranger, Herr Forehead! You really are welcome at the Prosecutor’s Office—and I mean that liberally and freely. At anytime. Please drop by whenever it pleases you.”
For some reason, that seems to make Justice even more uncomfortable. He wrings his satchel strap between his hands like a rag. “Y-yeah! Uh-huh! Sure! Bye!”
In the silence after Justice has left, Gavin looks back to Simon. He frowns. And there must be something on Simon’s face because in the next moment, Gavin asks with a concerned scrunch to his long nose, “Are you all right?”
Simon smiles to himself. He shakes his head and looks away.
Beyond the giant windows that make up the far wall of Gavin’s office, the sun is just beginning to swing low in the sky. It streaks the buildings of Los Angeles with long citrus fingers that shimmer off the windows of skyscrapers across the street, and winging indigo along their mascara shadows. Traffic on the street below must be horrible at this rush hour. Simon thinks he can hear a car horn honk and hopes they are suffering.
“I think he’s trying to protect you,” he says.
At the confusion on Gavin’s face, Simon chuckles. “I must admit: before today, I do not think I could say I have ever received a true ‘shovel talk’ from anyone. How interesting.”
“He—” Gavin’s voice pitches high. “He gave you a shovel talk?”
“The actual delivery of it left something to be desired, but it was a good effort.”
“Schiesse.” Gavin rubs a hand over his face. Simon does not think he is imagining the way that a smile peeks through on one side of his splayed hand. Then: “He gave you a shovel talk. Apollo Justice… gave someone a shovel talk… for me? Nonetheless—”
“He gave me the shovel talk,” Simon murmurs.
“He gave you the shovel talk! The Twisted Samurai!” With a short laugh, Gavin’s hand falls away from his face. He spins around to his glass wall case of hanging guitars. Perhaps his fingers, suspended at his sides, are itching to play music. But his incredulous joy is short-lived. Just as quickly, Gavin spins around, and all trace of what had once been bewilderment is now replaced with worry and dread. “We have to stop this. I can’t believe you didn’t take the opportunity to tell him it’s not true, that you don’t love me. You could have solved this ridiculous problem right then and there!”
Simon rises to his feet, smirking broadly. “And break his heart?” Coolly, he clicks his tongue against the roof of his mouth and shakes his head. “Gavin-dono, how cruel you are to your bro.”
“Ach! Now you’re being ridiculous on purpose.”
“You are just now figuring that out?”
Gavin swears at him in a string of irritated, garbled, and colorful language. “As soon as this case is over—”
“As soon as this case is over,” Simon agrees—and that, at least, seems to appease Gavin.
Much to the relief of everyone, the confounding trial of State vs. Briss actually ends after its second trial day. Very little about the murder is as it had been at the beginning: from the scene of the crime, to the motive, to the murder weapon—nearly every detail has been turned over by the time the Judge brings down his gavel and delivers his NOT GUILTY verdict. The unraveling happens much more easily than the first day. That much, Apollo thinks while cheering and hugging Athena, is cause for celebration. And as always, Eldoon’s seems like the perfect way to do so.
What’s not usually part of this tradition are the two tag-alongs who invite themselves after the confetti has finished streaming.
Immediately, Apollo’s gut twists. He doesn’t want to be rude, but his bracelet would have squeezed hard if he tried to act like he didn’t want to tell them no. Thankfully, Athena doesn’t give him the opportunity. Before he can open his mouth, she unthinkingly chirps that of course Prosecutor Gavin and Si can come along; Apollo and her would love to have noodles with them!
She realizes her mistake a few seconds later, wincing and apologizing with both palms pressed flat together. Widget glows a soft blue.
Apollo rolls his eyes and sighs.
“It’s fine; I’m fine,” he says. Hanging around these two while they’re together is something I’ll probably have to get used to, he means.
Noodles are still an awkward affair. Klavier takes one end of the counter and Blackquill the other, leaving Athena and Apollo sitting in between them.
Apollo is reminded how little space there is between the cart’s stools. Everytime Klavier’s arm brushes against his, Apollo feels like his skin might burn off. Everytime Klavier leans in to talk, to be heard over the sounds of Eldoon cooking and Athena and Blackquill bickering about hakata versus sapporo, Apollo has to lean back. He hopes Klavier thinks the redness in his face is from the steam of his pork bowl. He doesn’t know what he’d do if Klavier caught on to how fast his heart pounds when he’s close by. Apollo needs to keep these feelings hidden now more than ever. So why does Klavier insist on making it so hard when he’s already…?
“Is something wrong, Herr Forehead?”
“Nope!” Apollo doesn’t notice his hand hovering over his chest until Klavier calls for his attention. Immediately, he pulls it away and drops it to the counter next to his empty bowl. “You know me! We just proved our client wasn’t guilty, so as far as I’m concerned, I’m fine!” he shouts a little too loudly, a little too brightly.
Klavier tilts his head and gives him a weird look.
“A-anyway, we should probably get going.” Before he’s entirely aware of what he’s doing, Apollo stands beside his stool and turns to Athena. “Athena and I need to get started on some paperwork now that the trial’s finally over.”
Athena groans and gives him her biggest, unhappiest pout. “Aw, c’mon, Apollo. Can’t we take the afternoon to relax? I think we deserve it after how good we did in court.”
Suddenly, Blackquill puts a hand on Athena’s opposite shoulder.
Athena looks down at it, then slowly trails her gaze up to Blackquill’s shrouded face. “Yes, Si?”
Blackquill doesn’t move. His head is bowed and hard to see from where Apollo stands, but if he were to judge the tension in the man’s broad shoulders and the stiffness in his figure, he would say that Blackquill seems like he is in pain. Apollo’s bracelet squeezes tight enough around his wrist, nearly cutting off his circulation, the instant Blackquill finally mutters out a quiet, “We…”
Athena waits for the remainder of a sentence that isn’t coming. “…we…?”
“…have some…” Blackquill clears his throat. “…important…business.”
“W-we do?” Athena glances back around herself to Klavier, still sitting on his still. “You mean, me and you, or you and Prosecutor—”
“You.” Blackquill says it so quickly, he might as well have shoved the word off from where it perched on the edge of his tongue. “You and myself.” He squeezes her shoulder tightly and then rises from his seat, pulling her off her stool behind him. “Come.”
“Wh…aaaaa—” Athena’s yelp is stretched as long as her body as she’s dragged along. Her limbs flail for purchase, booted heels scraping against the sidewalk for balance. “W-wait, wait, wait, where are we going? What kind of business is this? You don’t need me to help rearrange your furniture again! I told you it’s fine where it is!”
“Important business,” is all Simon gruffs, walking away and down the sidewalk in the opposite direction from the Agency.
Athena sends a clueless, bewildered glance towards Apollo that’s asking a question Apollo doesn’t have the answer to. He shrugs back as helpless to help her as she is to help herself, and he watches them until the odd pair rounds the corner at the end of the block.
Awkwardly, Apollo turns back to Klavier. “So I guess that means I’ll see you later, Prosecutor—”
“Paperwork, ja?” Klavier is already on his feet and crowding Apollo’s space again as nimble and lanky as ever. He loops an arm around Apollo’s shoulders and turns him down the sidewalk in the direction of the Agency, setting a leisurely pace under the mid-afternoon sun. “That’s what you said you had to do, right? Some post-trial paperwork at the Agency?”
“Yeah?” Apollo carefully extricates himself from Klavier’s arm. His stomach is doing somersaults and he can’t tell if that’s because of the too-salty noodles or just Klavier’s proximity. “But I can walk there myself. I’m fine.”
“Ach, I know—you always are, ja?—but it is such a lovely day out, and I think I’d much rather enjoy this beautiful afternoon walking with you, if you’ll allow me to.” Klavier’s expression becomes distant and soft, eyes fixed on some vague point ahead of them. “Besides. There’s something I’d like to take the opportunity to talk with you about. Now that we finally have a moment alone.”
Oh. Oh no. Apollo’s gut swims. That’s never a good phrase.
Apollo nods and swallows. With a rough clear of his throat, he swings a hand in front of the both of them. “Then, sure. By all means…”
Apollo doesn’t know how Klavier can make the simple motion of nodding so graceful, but somehow, he does.
Down the sidewalk they walk with the sun still cheerily bright overhead. Thick pillars and voluminous bodies of clouds fill the sky, slowly churning. They’ll bring rain sometime soon, no doubt. But today, it’s clear. Cloudy but warm. Pleasant. An excellent day for a lazy promenade.
Not Herr Forehead? Oh. This is serious, then. Apollo wishes his heart would stop being stupid so he could focus. He swallows. “Yeah?”
Squeezing the leather strap of his satchel does nothing to ease his sudden panic. Apollo dryly swallows. He doesn’t want to look at Klavier—he thinks his heart is beating so fast and so much that it might just jump out of his chest if he does—but then he doesn’t realize he’s already staring at the side of Klavier’s face until his bracelet squeezes around his wrist again. There are lines of tension around Klavier’s eyes, something strange in the way the corners of his mouth pull so tightly downward. Prosecutor Gavin looks like he’s in pain, too. Just like Prosecutor Blackquill did.
“It’s okay,” Apollo finds himself saying before he can stop himself. “You can tell me. Whatever it is that’s bothering you… you can tell me.”
Their eyes meet. Both of Klavier’s eyebrows are lifted high on his brow, hidden underneath the handsome sweep of his bangs. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. You have always been so observant, ja? Perhaps someday, you should tell me how that incredible trick works… the one that gives you such unerring insight into others. I would like to try it myself sometime.”
Apollo awkwardly laughs.
They’ve only just started walking, but already they’ve come to a stop a block away from Eldoon’s noodle cart.
Klavier turns to Apollo, mouth set in a thin line. He sighs and at the same time, speaks, so the words fall out of his mouth like a river: “But I digress. I will save us both as much face as possible by jumping straight to the point: the Herr Samurai and I… I’m afraid you have it wrong, Herr Forehead. We are not… we are not together.”
His hands tighten around his satchel until the strap bunches in front of his chest.
Apollo takes a deep breath.
“You aren’t…” Oh, no. Apollo hates how much his heart wants to be thrilled about this. Focus, Apollo. This is obviously hurting Klavier for a very obvious reason. His bracelet is so tight around his wrist, he thinks it might cut off his circulation. He shakes it out; he doesn’t need it to figure out this puzzle in front of him. “You guys broke up?”
Apollo releases a breath. “God. That’s why… I was wondering why you two weren’t sitting together at Eldoon’s. So now I…” Now he knows, and now Klavier is still in pain over it, and it’s— “I’m so sorry.”
“I—” Klavier blinks. And just like that, whatever heavy cloak of tension has slipped off his handsome shoulders. Apollo’s bracelet finally eases up and lets his wrist breathe. “What?”
Then, sharply, Apollo frowns. He scowls and looks up the street in the direction Blackquill had dragged Athena off to. “And even after I—god damn it! I told him…”
Klavier seems stunned. Which is good, Apollo tells himself. It fuels his anger because that means Klavier was not expecting Apollo to be angry about it. Which is surprising because of all people, Klavier should be angry, right? Why isn’t Klavier angry? But then, this is Klavier, Apollo reminds himself. Klavier, who after the Gavinners ended, didn’t blame Daryan, his best friend, apparently a killer. Klavier, who after finding out his brother was a murderer, too, didn’t express anger at Kristoph. Just grief.
Klavier, who has always, always had every reason and right to be angry at the people who have hurt him, but somehow, never lashed out.
No, instead Mr. Drama King decides to get angry about missed cues and burning guitars instead of how people treat him. Apollo sets his mouth. Looks like I’ll have to be the angry party for him, then.
“I’ll fix it.”
“I said I’ll fix it,” Apollo repeats, sealing the notion like a promise. “I’ll—I’ll talk to Prosecutor Blackquill. I’ll figure it out. I’m sure whatever reason it was that you guys broke up, it doesn’t actually have to be that way. It’s… let me talk to him.”
“Herr Forehead.” For some reason, Klavier sounds caught between laughing and crying. “How does this keep—no, you don’t have to—”
“Why not? Why shouldn’t I?”
“You deserve to be happy, Klavier!”
And he says it a little too loudly, perhaps. A little too noisily, Chords of Steel booming down the sidewalk on either side of them like spreading wings.
Klavier stares down at him.
And Apollo just wants to say it more. Louder.
“Of all the people in the world, you deserve it! You deserve… for once in your fucking life, someone who will appreciate you and take care of you, and not stab you in the back, and you deserve to be…!”
Too late, Apollo realizes how much of his heart is in his words. He lifts his fists with the strap he’s still clutching tight in his hands until they hover over his chest, as if he could, somehow, force his stupid, stupid, stupid heart back and just speak with conviction. He’s good at that. He’s an attorney. He can remove himself from the equation and speak what he knows to be right, what he knows to be the truth. Can’t he?
Klavier’s blue eyes shine.
Apollo swallows. He sees out of the corner of his eyes Klavier’s hands lift. And he doesn’t know why or what they would be reaching for, but he spins away before he can find out. He sets off down the sidewalk and towards the Agency, now at a determined, brisk pace.
“I’ll fix it! Don’t worry, Klavier!” he calls over his shoulder. “Just—just leave it to me, okay? I promise you’re gonna be fine! I’ll make it fine!”
If he feels Klavier’s eyes on the center of his back, he ignores it. If he thinks he can feel his heart yelling at him to turn around and go back, go back, because maybe there’s something Klavier was still trying to tell him—he ignores it. He has much more important things to worry about with his new and all-too-important mission.
It’s time to get Prosecutors Gavin and Blackquill back together.
The thing is: Klavier has always loved the stage. The community theater is putting on a probably horrible rendition of Calamity Jane? Sign him up. Middle school theater club? His name in messy cursive was always the first one on the list. Becoming an international rockstar felt like a logical step forward when Klavier discovered early on how much he loved being the center of attention and how much he loved the thrill of performing. The eventual drama that came with it was not so great, but Klavier finds that he still misses it sometimes: the rush of opening night, the costume changes, the make-up, the glamour, the cheers.
So much so that apparently, he’s dreaming about it.
It’s a weird dream. Klavier can’t say the most memorable part of being in theater was ever the blocking. There’s the weight of a script he’s never read before in his hands. He’s supposed to have his lines memorized soon. Funny, because when he looks at his highlighted words on the page, he can’t seem to read any of it. Then, rather dramatically, there’s a spotlight fixed on him as he stands stage right.
“Move over!” a disembodied voice says from beyond the bright lights. In the audience, somewhere. The director, perhaps?
Klavier looks to his right and to his left. He can’t see anyone else on stage, not even in the wings behind the curtains. He squints, peering out into the darkness of whatever is in front of the stage. Where am I? “Move over where?” he calls out. “Center stage? Off-stage?”
“Center stage!” the maybe-maybe-not-the-director says back. Oddly enough, that voice sounds familiar. Very good at projection.
Klavier thinks he should know that voice.
He hadn’t realized there were two strips of tape criss-crossing in the shape of an ‘x’ center stage. Was that there before? Or has it just magically and suddenly appeared thanks to the whims of his dream?
Klavier lifts his eyes, script held at the level of his waist. He still can barely see anything in front of the stage. Just darkness. “Is that better?” he asks.
“Perfect,” Apollo Justice says.
And Klavier wakes up.
The week after the end of State vs Briss has a strange, filmy quality to it like everything isn’t real. Klavier feels half-in, half-outside of his own body, because what’s the purpose of having a corporeal form if you aren’t in control of it? From the beginning of this strange comedy of errors, he has felt like control is the last thing he has. Now, that feeling is worse. Amplified.
Everytime he tries to talk to Apollo, something else comes up. It’s like the universe is out to get him, dragging out his own personal hellscape—or perhaps he is stuck inside his own personal, karmic purgatory. And ironically, in its great and mad, senseless design, the universe has decided to designate the architect of Klavier’s personal hellscape one very red, very loud Apollo Justice.
And it isn’t that Apollo hasn’t shown him kindness before, but for several days in a row, every spare instance they get to share space for a single moment, crossing paths at the courthouse or at the Prosecutor’s Office, Apollo is unexpectedly kind.
“How are you doing, Prosecutor Gavin?”
“Fine. But I—”
“I’m still working on everything, but. I hope things haven’t been too awkward between you and Prosecutor Blackquill?”
Awkward isn’t what Klavier would call it. “No, but—”
“Good. Remember, you’re Klavier Gavin, and you’re gonna be FINE!”
And the funny thing is, Klavier would be grateful. If the situation really was what Apollo had thought it was, and the object of Klavier’s affections really was Blackquill, and Klavier really was as heartbroken and miserable as Apollo had convinced himself, Klavier thinks he’d be falling for Apollo a little bit more each and every day.
There’s an odd fervor to the way Apollo is trying to push him back with Blackquill now. Klavier has seen enough many romantic comedies to know exactly what Apollo’s strange efforts are trying to accomplish: orchestrating dates and chance encounters with his coworker from behind the scenes in seemingly innocuous places from People Park to the grocery store, all in order to fix something that wasn’t able to be broken in the first place.
Perhaps it’s no wonder the whole parade of events reminds Klavier of his days on stage.
It’s funny. In all his circulating thoughts about Apollo, never did he think Apollo would make a good director before.
“You have to tell him. Now.”
Blackquill quakes with all the anger of a drenched skunk. Klavier has a hard time not laughing at the ridiculous image of Blackquill shaking out his boot so that all the lake water trapped inside falls out. “Make it stop. I do not know how much of this circus I can take.”
“Ah-ha! So now he finally knows how I feel!” Klavier can’t help but crow. When he throws out his arms, his own drenched jacket makes a weird squelch. Water flings to the grass. “Not so funny to be the butt-end of your self-professed joke, hm?”
Blackquill’s dark eyes flash as he snaps his head towards Klavier. The glower on his face is as sharp and dangerous as a knife’s edge. “It isn’t a joke if the person doing this doesn’t know it’s a joke.”
“None of this was meant to be a joke in the first place! You just always somehow thought it was one!”
Blackquill snarls. Actually snarls with a curled lip and a turned head. He throws his steely gaze out over Gourd Lake and the disgusting pier they had managed to fall off earlier. Apollo Justice, fortunately for himself, is nowhere in sight. Regrettably out of reach, in Blackquill’s eyes, probably. “Whatever it is,” Blackquill growls, “it has to end. I am done being tugged around like a marionette on Justice-dono’s schemes to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Klavier sighs. He reaches up for his hair and rings it in his fists, before throwing it up over his head to tie up. “You are preaching to the proverbial choir, Herr Samurai. What would you have me do?”
“I have tried!” Hair now bundled in a loose, messy bun on top of his head, Klavier rids himself of his suit jacket and throws it over his arm. “What do you think I have been doing for the past several days? Do you think I enjoy the love of my life trying to—to—to set me up with someone else? Do you think this is fun for me?”
Blackquill scowls instead of answering.
“I’m telling you: it is like the universe is against me! Every spare moment I have tried to get alone with Apollo, something happens to either tear him away from me or interrupt us. Sometimes Apollo himself comes up with reasons to suddenly avoid me.”
Blackquill continues to glare.
“I’m telling the truth!”
“Very well.” With his boot once more on his foot, Blackquill lifts his head and straightens. Taka returns to his shoulder now that he’s upright. “Then I suppose if you want something done, you must do it yourself.”
Blackquill doesn’t answer. Abruptly and simply, he wanders off, leaving Klavier to stare after him with a slackened jaw. Belatedly, Klavier jerks to attention.
“Herr Samurai, where are you—wait—where are you going—”
The soil of Gourd Park is sticky under Klavier’s waterlogged boots.
The following day, Blackquill texts Klavier. As always, he is short and to the point, and as always, it takes Klavier a few moments of staring at his phone in order to understand what the man is trying to say.
When at last it clicks, Klavier’s fingers fly over the keyboard.
The roof of the Prosecutor’s Office is not a place Klavier frequents often. He may not share Herr Forehead’s petrifying fear of heights, but Klavier has had no need or desire to wander up there before. He has a lovely enough view of LA from the giant windows that make up the wall of his own office. Why would he need anything more—and nonetheless, from so precarious a position?
At least he knows the way up.
The sky is dark and grey when Klavier bursts out onto the roof. He had brought his shades in case the sun would be brighter up here, but they’re quickly rendered useless. Even the sun is hiding, much like Taka himself must be. Klavier wanders as he begins his search for the bird and hooks his glasses on his collar. The steel door swings shut behind him with a loud click. Klavier looks around. He frowns.
“Taka?” he calls. How does one even call for a bird? “Are you here, Taka? Please, if you could, make this easy for me, won’t you…?”
There are large fans lining the side of the building alongside boxy parts of the Prosecutor Office’s ventilation system. Klavier ducks behind all of them, peering for one small, black and white bandana and a body of spotted-brown feathers. He cannot see the hawk anywhere.
It’s not like there are many other places to hide. Perhaps he is not here after all.
The door to the rooftop swings open.
“I’m still not convinced you’re not just pulling my—oh. Prosecutor Gavin?”
Klavier looks up.
Apollo Justice stares back at him, a little pale—That fear of heights, yes? Why is he here, then?—and that’s when Klavier catches sight, over Apollo’s shoulder, of Simon Blackquill, standing beyond the doorway and in the shadow of the rooftop stairwell.
But before Apollo can turn around, the door swings shut behind him. It clicks again, but this time, heavier than before.
Klavier jerks forward a few steps.
Loudly, immediately, Apollo yelps and tugs on the handle. Perhaps more roughly than necessary.
The door doesn’t budge.
“W-what?” Thunder rumbles in the distance. Apollo’s eyes run over the door from corner to corner. Top to bottom. His breathing quickens and for a moment, rather ironically, he seems like a cornered rabbit. Klavier does not think he is imagining the way Apollo’s eyes wander warily towards the building’s edge before jerking away. Apollo pulls on the door again and harder. More desperately.
“He didn’t. Prosecutor Blackquill didn’t actually… did he?” Apollo gives the door handle one last, good yank. Then, punching one fist hard into the door, breathing hard, he gasps, “Tangina naman… I actually think he locked us up here.”
Klavier’s sigh is half-mixed with a groan as the first patters of rain begin to fall. He holds out a hand and watches and feels the way the cool drops run against his palm. “Of course… of course he would.”
“O-of course?” Apollo yells. His voice echoes back at him, which seems to terrify Apollo.
“I know what he’s doing.”
“Well, I’m glad one of us does!” Apollo puts a foot on the wall next to the door and yanks and yanks and yanks on the handle. His Chords of Steel oddly lilt with every forceful pull. “Because—I—fucking—don’t! This is ridiculous!” Despite how fiercely Apollo can make the door thud and rattle and shake against its hinges and frame, it still doesn’t swing open.
Apollo falls away and groans. “He’s your boyfriend! Your… ex-boyfriend, I guess. Why the hell is he locking us out here while it’s raining?!”
Klavier shivers. He returns his hand to his pocket. The rain falls harder now, enough that his shirt and blazer stick to his back. “He is known as the Twisted Samurai for a reason, I suppose,” he jokes.
Apollo glares at him.
Once again, thunder rolls.
“Y’know, I’ve been trying to be nice about him this entire time, Prosecutor Gavin. Really, I have!” Apollo throws up his hands. For lack of a better medium to expend his restlessness, he starts stiffly pacing up and down the center of the Prosecutor’s Office rooftop, keeping careful distance from either edge. His shoulders are comically hunched up to the level of his ears. “But Prosecutor Blackquill’s an asshole!”
The corner of Klavier’s mouth quirks up and he ducks his head. “Don’t I know it.”
“I don’t know what you see in him! I’m sorry to say that, but I really don’t! He’s so mean all the time and it’s like he doesn’t even care about you. I mean, I know he cares because you guys are coworkers and you work really well together, but… now that you’re dating—or, you were dating—he always treats you like you’re some sort of big joke or like there’s something funny about it, when it’s so…” Apollo comes to a stop, hands cupping the air in front of him like there’s something he’s trying to hold.
Klavier pauses. What is Apollo trying to say? “Apollo, wait—”
“And yeah, sure!” Apollo continues mindlessly. “Maybe I’m jealous. Half of the time, I feel like I shouldn’t even be here, because I’m just sabotaging you guys when all you want is to be happy and I’m—” A frightened look crosses Apollo’s face. “Shit. Is that what’s happening? Am I sabotaging you guys?”
“W—” Okay, now the conversation is moving places it shouldn’t. Spiraling and escalating much like the storm around them and Klavier is reminded how difficult water can be to hold when it slips through your fingers. Lightning sparks in the clouds overhead. Thunder claps in its wake a few seconds later. Klavier steps forward on knobbly knees. “Herr Forehead, you couldn’t possibly—”
“I am sabotaging you guys. That’s why things are so strained between you two.” Apollo’s face tightens. His jaw sets, mouth stretching into a thin line that looks uncomfortable. He fists his hands over his forehead. His two prongs of bangs, usually so upright and persistent, sag over the curl of his hands. “Fuck! That’s the exact opposite of what I wanted to do!”
Klavier takes his wrists in hand.
That bracelet is rather firm; the grooves dig into his palm. “Apollo, please. Please. Don’t you think this whole mess has gone on long enough? You’re being ridiculous; you have to stop this. You must listen to me, okay?”
Apollo winces. He avoids meeting Klavier’s gaze, looking everywhere but at his face. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“Are you listening?”
“You have it all wrong.”
“I’ll leave you guys alone, I promise—”
“It’s not just a case of us not being together. The truth is: we never were. Not once. Simon and I were never in a relationship. There was and is nothing between us.”
He looks at Klavier with two wide-eyes set beneath a tightly furrowed brow. And Klavier watches as that expression morphs from being tightly wound up and twisted to being completely slack. Horrified.
“Wait. You weren’t—”
“No.” Klavier shakes his head. He squeezes Apollo’s wrists before releasing them. Untethered, Apollo’s hands fall to his sides. “Not ever. Not once.”
“But then… that day in your office—”
“I must confess, I’ve never been quite sure what it was you must have seen that gave you the idea we were together. But I can assure you, it was never true.”
Apollo’s voice sounds squeezed out of his throat. Tight and yelping, yet somehow still audible over the crack and spark of lightning: “But I heard him say ‘I love you!’ And you were holding hands, and I saw you get so close to each other, and my bracelet was acting up while we were talking just before that, so I thought…”
Apollo shakes his head. “Oh god. Just fuck me. This is so embarrassing…” he moans.
Klavier winces as the rain thickens. It pelts hard over their heads, stinging. The strong gale whipping over the rooftop blusters the ends of his jacket around himself. He pulls his elbows tight to his body, crossing his arms over his middle, and raises his voice just enough to be heard. “I believe what you might have seen was the Herr Samurai making fun of me. But none of that was genuine. It was never real, Apollo. Those things you heard and saw that day were because he was mocking me for the situation that had happened between us a few minutes beforehand.”
Apollo frowns. He could be squinting at Klavier because of the rain, or perhaps he is squinting at Klavier because he isn’t making sense. “What had just happened between us… ?”
“The moment I tried to confess my feelings for you.”
The blaring, glaring light nearly blinds Klavier. The thunder rumbles, shaking the building underneath their shoes.
“What?” In the aftermath, Apollo’s uncharacteristically soft voice is still so, so loud. “N-no. No. That can’t be.”
“Why can’t it be? Is it really so hard to imagine that everything you thought I was feeling for the Herr Samurai, I really felt for you?” Klavier reaches forward to frame Apollo’s face. Those brown eyes keep wanting to do anything but look directly at him. “Come now, Apollo, are you really so eager to believe that I could be in love with someone else? You talk like you’re convinced that I could love anyone else but you.”
Apollo’s breath stutters. His chest moves with it, a fluttering start-stop-start-stop. His gorgeous, expansive brown eyes grow very, very wide. “Klavier… I…”
And all of a sudden, so clearly and suddenly, as if he were looking for it and it appeared before him, mapped out in the tension on Apollo’s face, a terrible possibility occurs to Klavier. His chest squeezes.
“Mein Gott.” He searches both of Apollo’s eyes, trying and trying and trying to see if what he is seeing is true. Is this what it’s like to use that bracelet of Apollo’s? To see the tension in someone else and get that feeling in your gut of exactly what that tension means? “You are convinced. You don’t think you’re lovable.”
Apollo winces. “I—”
The rain is lessening now. It eases to a soft patter against his skin through his drenched shirt. His hair clings messily to the sides of his face and his neck.
“I—” Apollo blinks hard. His eyes flitter to the sides, all around Klavier’s face, struggling to meet Klavier’s eyes. “I’m just—I’m just me, Klav,” he says, quiet and tired and weak. “I’m just me.”
“You say that as if that is not why I should love you.”
Apollo’s breath hitches again. Stutters on the way in; he hiccups and sounds rather thin. His eyes shine.
“You don’t understand, do you? You don’t see it? There is no one else like you in all the world, Apollo.” The rain is softer now, gentler. Mist that dusts over their heads. Apollo still doesn’t look Klavier in the eyes. His breathing is irregular and jagged. It rattles his chest.
“You are the one who stood across from me each of those horrible days that I lost the most important people in my life and helped me see the truth. Not Herr Samurai, though I respect him greatly. It is and always has been you. Every day you challenge me to be better than I was the previous hour, the previous minute, the previous second. You are the one who is so charming and stubborn and independent to a fault. After all we’ve been through,” Klavier says, “after all you have done for me… Apollo, sometimes I feel like it could always only ever have been you.”
Quietly, Apollo chuckles. He reaches up a hand to run it under his eye. It looks futile in the midst of all the other tears dripping down his cheeks. “W-wow. You really gave me a speech, huh, you—” He takes a breath. “I—” He tries to speak, and then finds he can’t. His breathing is too broken.
Klavier rubs his thumb against Apollo’s cheek. “Are you alright?”
“Y-yeah. Yeah.” Apollo clears his throat. “I’m fine. This may be, uh, shocking to you, but… I don’t, uh. I don’t… think I’ve… nobody’s ever told me that before, so it’s a little… y’know…”
Klavier grins. Warmth as much as concern blooms in his chest. “Then allow me to say it to you now in a clearer way than I did before. A more truthful way—if you’ll let me say it again, anyway.”
For the first time since Klavier took hold of his face, Apollo lifts his gaze to meet Klavier’s.
Finally, at long last, the sun breaks through the clouds overhead.
“I love you.”
And then they’re out there: wonderful, terrible words that hang in the air, wobbling in the uncertain afterward.
Klavier blinks. His eyes widen.
Apollo looks at him with two gleaming, shining brown eyes, tears budding at the ends of his lashes, both determination and something else—something fond and something that makes Klavier’s heart melt—and he says it again, as if Klavier could have possibly missed it the first time, mere seconds ago: “I love you.”
Both of Klavier’s eyebrows lift. Wetly, he chuckles. “You are so stubborn! I can’t believe you. Will you let me do nothing for you?”
“I just—I just wanted to say it, too—”
“Yes, but you beat me to it!” Klavier’s heart swims. How can it swell this big and this much for someone else? Can love really be like this? He presses his forehead against Apollo’s, and their rain-slicked bangs stick together, pinned between their skin. Another chuckle rumbles from him; his shoulders shake. “All this time, I’ve been trying to rectify my mistake, my error, and here you are, saying it before I can get the words out of my mouth…”
“I’m sorry.” Apollo’s hands fist into the sides of Klavier’s jacket. Klavier doesn’t think he is imagining the way he can feel them tremble against his hips. “No—wait—not really, because I really wanted to say it, but—I didn’t mean to take that from you.”
“But you’ve already said it a lot, you know. With all that stuff you were saying before.” Apollo clears his throat. “I may have missed it, all the other times you’ve tried to tell me in the past, but I think I caught it that time. Just now.”
“You heard me say ‘I love you’?”
Apollo’s face reddens. His eyes break away from Klavier’s, dropping down. When he lifts his hand, his bracelet glitters in the peeking sun. He points at Klavier’s chest, right above his heart.
“Yeah,” he rasps. “For the first time, maybe… I think I heard it loud and clear, without you needing to say the words at all.”
Silence falls between them.
With the receding curtain of rain, the sounds of Los Angeles at its late afternoon are easier to hear: cars driving by along the street below, the soft shhh of their tires cutting through shallow puddles, the distant bellow of a siren. Someone honks a few blocks away, startling a handful of birds from their perch on the rooftop of a building across the street.
But they are not loud enough to drown out the way Klavier breathes, “I love you so much more than you know, Apollo Justice,” against his lips.
Klavier thinks that as far as first kisses go, perhaps rain-christened and on top of the building he works in, isn’t so bad. In the middle of the city where anyone can see them as the sun descends in the sky, haloing their drenched figures and slowly warming their skin—maybe that’s better than he had dreamed. Better than he could have scripted or blocked himself.
He pulls Apollo to him closer, twists his fingers into the back of his vest. He kisses him more. Kisses him deeper.
Kisses him as he’s been wanting to do for a long time.
And Apollo gasps into it, rising to meet him. Fingers curled tightly into his jacket, like the last thing he wants is to let go.
Funnily enough, Klavier had thought descending the Prosecutor’s Office would be the difficult and awkward part. But when the adrenaline rush of feelings and emotions and kisses have finally ebbed, Apollo suddenly remembers they are on the rooftop of a very, very, very, very, very tall building. Immediately, he hides his face in Klavier’s chest, arms wrapped tightly around his middle.
“Herr Forehead, is your fear truly this bad? I had no idea.”
“Don’t laugh at me.”
“But if it’s this awful, then why did you ever agree to help look for Taka up here?”
Apollo’s hands tighten into fists in the small of Klavier’s back. “Just—just get us the fuck inside already! I don’t have to explain myself to you!”
Klavier laughs and awkwardly hobbles them over to the door, one hand constantly around Apollo, constantly uttering words of assurance and affirmation—“Yes, yes, of course, of course; forget I asked; you’re being very brave, my Apollo”— until he can rap his knuckles against the door.
Perhaps Klavier should not be surprised when the door nearly immediately opens—but just a sliver of an inch.
“Is it over?” Blackquill gruffly asks from inside the stairwell.
Klavier nods and laughs. “It, at last, is over. We are all on the same page now.”
The door swings open. Klavier grabs the edge of it before it can smack against Apollo’s shoulder, and he eases it wide so that he and Apollo can slip inside.
He supposes it should surprise him very little, too, when the instant Blackquill turns around to descend the stairs, he sees a familiar flutter of wings and feathers rise to his ever-present spot on Blackquill’s shoulder. It makes Klavier laugh, just a little. Short and startled and brief.
“What? What is it?” Apollo speaks into his sternum.
“Nothing, Herr Forehead.” He squeezes him tighter, hugging him for just a selfish moment more in the dim light of that stairwell. Just because he can. And because some part of him has been waiting to have the simple joy of doing that, too. “Don’t worry about it.”
“So the Fop looks even more insufferable than normal the past few days.”
“I mean, the guy’s practically glowing, now.”
“I take it that means what I think it does?” Ema’s hand rustles through her bag of Snackoos before she pops one between her teeth and crunches.
Blackquill grunts, still idly observing the prints of the crime scene spread out on the table in front of him. He hasn’t moved once since Ema tried to initiate conversation with him in her lab.
Slowly, Ema grins. She cracks another Snackoo between her teeth. She leans back in her chair and sticks both of her legs out in front of her, crossing one ankle over the other. “I guess that makes you the poor, jilted lover in the midst of all this mess… what does that mean for you, then, Bucko?”
Blackquill grins. “Ah yes. It’s such a tragedy that my ex-boyfriend should run off with another man.”
“The kind of thing that might upset a weaker man.”
“Completely destroy them. Leave them a crying wreck in their paperwork.”
“Yeah.” A deep, nasally scoff. The wheels of Ema’s office chair chirp against the tile floor. “Fuck that guy.” Munch, munch, munch. “Snackoo?”
Blackquill shakes his head and then, seeming to think better of it, instead extends his hand, palm open.