The Art of Personal Transfiguration
"So... uh..." Athena stands awkwardly in the middle of her living room, looking back at the man filling the doorway. "Ta-da! My home and, until you've got your feet back under you, your home."
Simon's eyes rake once around the immediate vicinity, a swift assessment of any threats in the area, and then begin a more leisurely perusal.
Athena continues to stand where she is, though she allows her hands to fall to her side. She doesn't take it as a personal affront that Simon is studying every possible entrance and exit to her apartment—hopefully realizing that he's standing in front of the only really feasible one. Though her westward-facing windows have a glorious view, the seventeen-story drop to the concrete below and the exceedingly rickety fire escape mean that it's not a viable entrance and exit for anyone other than Taka.
The bird, perched on Simon's shoulder, reaches up to scratch his neck with one sharp-clawed back leg. Does Taka realize that she's thinking about him? A silly thought, but the hawk sometimes seems a bit more than natural.
Another pass of Simon's eyes around the room, and this time they pause on the television, on the glass-topped end table in front of the couch, on the drawstrings for the curtains, on the small cutlery set sitting cock-eyed on the kitchen counter where she left it yesterday. Categorizing and cataloguing anything that could be a potential weapon, she realizes after a moment, and her hands clench tight into fists at her sides.
(He was only treated twice for injuries, during his seven years in jail. Both times there were others admitted to the hospital at the same time with more significant injuries. No record of any rape, though that's always woefully under-reported anyway. How many other unreported injuries—injuries that required no treatment—has he received over the years? How many has he been forced to dole out, to keep himself safe?)
"Your apartment is beautiful, Cykes-dono." Simon's eyes have paused on her fists, and she can hear regret and shame dragging the tone of his voice down a half-step as he edges farther into the room. His bag he sets to the side—one small duffel bag, and it looks too empty to possibly be holding all his remaining worldly possessions.
She doesn't have to ask him to lock the door. As soon as he's closed it his hands are on the locks, sliding home the dead-bolt, testing the doorknob to ensure it doesn't turn anymore. Athena forces her fingers to relax, forces her body to project the calm that she wants him to feel. "It's not half shabby, given the rent."
"I..." Simon picks up his bag again in one hand, his eyes flicking to the two closed bedroom doors. "Where would you like me to go?"
So hesitant, so uncertain, so very different from the man who has faced her in court and the man she remembers from seven years ago, and it is only careful monitoring of her own reactions that keeps Athena from tensing up again.
Tensing up won't help Simon relax, won't help make this any less stressful or awkward for either of them.
"This way." Athena waits for Simon to slip off his boots before leading the way to the smaller bedroom, the one that has served as her guest bedroom since she first began renting the apartment. "You're welcome to stay here for as long as you'd like."
Simon nods, allowing his bag to drop down on the ground beside the bed. He hesitates for a moment before settling his weight slowly on the edge of the bed. A few seconds longer, and then he bounces.
Just once, because Taka shifts and gives a disgruntled squawk, but Prosecutor Simon Blackquill, the Twisted Samurai, the scourge of the courtroom, bounces on her guest bed.
It's just the kind of thing he would have done seven years ago—reminds her achingly of the way he first stepped into her room and tested her bed, his voice filled with a combination of uneasiness and determination as he tried to figure out how to talk to his mentor's child. She had scolded him, then, for bouncing on the bed, waving a finger up at him and telling him that Mommy wouldn't tolerate anyone jumping on the bed for any reason.
He had nodded, eyes very grave, and asked her what the punishment was for bouncing on the bed without permission.
She thinks she tickled him, then. She's not a hundred percent sure, the memory faded and muddled by time. If she did tickle him, it wouldn't have been for long. She and tickling had a love-hate relationship—she loved the joy and mirth that usually filled the sound of laughter, that tickling usually invoked, but there was sometimes jagged edges of rejection or anger or fear if the person didn't want to be tickled, and those hurt enough to make her wary.
He is studying her, now, his dark eyes locked on her face. Trying to read her just as often as she is trying to read him, and she wonders if he is remembering the same incident she is. Wonders if he did this purposefully, to try to remind them both of the bonds they already have.
"I shouldn't need to stay long." Simon stands in one smooth motion, his left hand reaching across his body to help stabilize Taka. "I'm sure I can find an apartment within a week or two, once I have a steady paycheck again."
"Whatever's going to make you most comfortable." Athena smiles at her old friend, trying to suss out the emotions in his voice. There is a hesitancy to his tone, a tight control that makes it more difficult for her to read him.
Because he's afraid of how she'll react to what she hears?
Because he's trying to protect her?
"Thank you, Cykes-dono." He inclines his head, and there is honest emotion in his voice now, a glistening swirl of gratitude that she is glad to hear.
"It was nothing." Athena finds that both her hands have buried themselves in her ponytail, and she quickly disentangles them, shoves them behind her back. "I'm sure a lot of people would've been willing to let you stay with them."
"Yes." Simon inclines his head, eyes flicking from her to the bedroom door. "And I am grateful to all of them."
For a moment Athena just studies him, once more trying to find out what it means. Is he trying to upset her? Trying to let her know that she doesn't need to worry about him? Trying to reassure himself that he has many options?
All of the above, possibly—probably, even, from the way his stance shifts subtly but rapidly, sometimes attempting to tower over her as he does in court, sometimes trying to round his shoulders and make himself look less tall and threatening, as he did when she was younger.
Caught between who they had been, when last they spoke as friends, and who they have had to be this last year. Trapped between the shadows of the haunted past and the darkness of the fight against the Dark Age of the Law, and she doesn't actually know the man she fought so hard to save.
Can see in his hesitance and hear in the awkward way he gifts her with her mother's title that Simon doesn't know who they are anymore, either.
(Simon possibly doesn't know who he is anymore, has possibly strangled the young man her eleven-year-old self trusted and loved like a brother. But she can help, she knows she can help, as a psychologist and as a positive connection to the past, and this is why she wanted him to stay with her, these first few days free from prison.)
"Well." Athena claps her hands together, smiling brightly. She is the host for this small party, after all. "How about we get dinner? I'm starving."
The ghost of a smile touches Simon's face, and he inclines his head once more. "As you like."
Athena leads the way back to the kitchen, eager to show Simon everything she has made of her life over the last few months.
Athena's apartment is beautiful.
It isn't enormous, though it has plenty of room for the young woman's possessions. And Simon isn't really one to complain about housing being small, given his just-vacated premises. But Athena has done up the three and a half rooms that form the basis of her apartment with obvious loving care. Posters from bands or movies Simon doesn't recognize are tastefully displayed—Simon hasn't been following pop culture very well the last few years, and he's certain that even if he had he wouldn't be able to identify some of these given the foreign languages scrawled across them. A handful of photos have been framed and are scattered around the house, appearing unexpectedly whenever he goes to examine a new area.
Many are of Athena's family from Europe, the aunt and uncle that Simon has never met. They appear kind, in their photos, and Athena looks happy.
Some are of people that Simon does recognize. Juniper Woods stands on one side of Athena and Apollo Justice on the other, all of them smiling broadly at the camera. Simon suspects it's a picture from a mall photo booth, from the way they're all scrunched together, but he's not certain. In another image Athena stands giving a victory sign, Apollo beaming proudly next to her, Trucy Wright mimicking her stand on her other side. A picture with Trucy, Apollo, Phoenix Wright, and Miles Edgeworth; a picture with Trucy, Apollo and Klavier Gavin; a picture with Trucy and Athena sitting atop a flailing Apollo Justice, and Simon runs his fingers over the glass, his breath catching in his throat at the way Athena smiles in the image.
Did Athena ever smile that way when she was a child?
The room is dark, lit only by the ambient glow of the city. It is plenty of light for Simon to see by, though, and he prowls through this lair that Athena has created, trying to get an idea of who the young woman is.
Strange, to have given up seven years of his life and now to find himself striving to understand the person he made that sacrifice for.
Really? The man he has made himself for the last half-decade sneers in his head. When you don't even know who you are anymore, do you really find it so strange that you don't understand her?
She doesn't look much like her mother.
His fingers don't quite touch the picture of a small Athena being held in her mother's arms, a picture that has been tucked away in the far corner of the living room. A corner where it can be forgotten, overlooked, disregarded for days or weeks until a cleaning spree will bring her up short before it. Remind her of where she came from, what she has overcome and what she has still to reach for, and he turns from the picture to the open curtains that are allowing light to flood the room.
It had been too dark in his room.
It had been comforting, at first—as comforting as following Athena's lead, eating when she did, settling down in front of the television when she did, heading to bed when she did, though she has work in the morning and he doesn't.
Always looking for someone to lead you, little samurai.
It's a poor attempt at a barb, because Simon knows that it is true. He is a strong, proud fighter, but he is not meant to be daimyo. He is not meant to be lord. He is the killer, not the uniter—though historically the two have not been so far apart. He works best within the bounds set him by other people—the bounds of his mentor's teachings, the bounds of the legal system, the bounds of Miles Edgeworth's offer to help him catch the Phantom, the bounds of a regulated prison life.
The taste of bile floods his mouth, and he has to pause for a moment, draw deep breaths until he isn't quite so disgusted with himself. The easy way he fell into Athena's schedule as though it were his prison schedule had been half the reason Simon stalked as quietly as he could from his room into the main living area.
The other half had been the darkness, a clinging absence of light that seemed far too close and suffocating after half an hour. There was no darkness like that in the prisoner's cells, not unless you were thrown into solitary, and it seemed as though dangers lurked in the unknown that his eyes couldn't penetrate.
It is not dark in the living room. Simon pads near-silently to the window, stares out at the cityscape burning with diffuse light. He can see no stars from here, humanity having drowned them out.
He could see stars, sometimes, from his prison cell, when the night outside was very dark and he stared out the window at just the right angle.
The glass is cool beneath his fingertips, fog spreading out in a slow corona from where he touches the window. Did Athena leave the curtains open for him, because she suspected he would need to see, again, how much his situation has changed? Or does she always leave the curtains open, feeling no need to cut herself off from the outside world when not in her bedroom?
Taka reaches out with one foot, swiping hesitantly at the glass. Asking to go out? Simon glances toward the closed door to Athena's bedroom, then shrugs and tries to open the sliding door as quietly as he can. Athena will understand that Taka wanted to go out, should Simon fail at being stealthy and end up waking her.
Athena has understood about a great many things, these last few days.
Everyone has been incredibly understanding. Simon had been worried about what he was going to do while he waited for bank accounts to reopen, how he was going to explain his situation to potential renters, how he was going to get a job when he had just spent the last seven years on death row. He committed perjury, after all, and though Edgeworth had promised him his freedom for his cooperation, Simon had bent the definition of cooperation almost to the snapping point in his attempts to protect Athena, and surely a prosecutor who would commit perjury wouldn't be accepted back into the system by the Demon Prosecutor who stamped out corruption wherever he found it.
Except within hours of his name being cleared Simon was staring at a contract, scanning legalese as quickly as he could, trying to read from Miles Edgeworth's body language why he was being offered this second chance.
Before the prison had even finished collecting his small bag of belongings, Simon had offers from Phoenix Wright, Miles Edgeworth, Klavier Gavin, and Athena of places to stay while he looked for more permanent lodging. He isn't sure if Apollo Justice was going to offer him a couch, too, the man's expression still too closed off with grief and pain for him to read it easily, and Simon hadn't wanted to deal with one more frightening new option, and before he really thought about it he had blurted out that he would stay with Athena.
Athena had seemed delighted at the prospect, clapping her hands and giving a victory cheer as she told him that they would have a wonderful sleep-over.
(It had been partly an act. He cannot read her as well as she can read him, does not have her gift, but he had read the stiffness in her shoulders readily enough. She had been willing to fight with the others to get him to agree to stay with her, but she had doubts, and he does not know if he has put those doubts to rest or birthed more over the course of the evening.)
The window comes open, and Simon slides out onto the very rickety and rusty emergency exit, Taka still balanced on his shoulder. Only once they're close to the railing does Taka leap free, the force of his launch rocking Simon back for a moment and causing the structure to shudder precariously.
Retreating back into the living room, Simon eyes the fire escape balefully. He's certain that some kind of building code is being violated by this, and will see to it that Athena's landlord has it fixed, whether Athena cares to or not. Perhaps he can slip that into tomorrow's schedule, while Athena is away at work.
It will give him an excuse to put off apartment-hunting for a few more minutes, at least. He didn't particularly enjoy the exercise a decade ago; he is certain it has become no less frustrating and labyrinthine since then.
(He has had offers from everyone who suggested he stay with them as well as Detective Dick Gumshoe, Apollo Justice, and Trucy Wright to go apartment searching with him. He turned them all down, a decision he thinks he may regret in the near future.)
Settling down on the couch, Simon allows his eyes to half-close, watching for any sign of Taka's return. The hawk could be gone for mere minutes, scoping out the area; on the other hand, if Taka finds something interesting to stalk or hunt, he may be gone for much longer. Simon doesn't want to leave the window open, though—doesn't want to let bugs into and the warmth out of Athena's small slice of the city. He can wait patiently for his old friend to return, letting Taka enjoy their freedom even if Simon is finding it more difficult to handle than he expected.
He doesn't intend to fall asleep, but there is something deeply relaxing about watching the steady throbbing rush of humanity from high above.
Athena creeps out of her bedroom in the morning, her shoes in hand.
She doesn't think Simon slept through the night. She heard someone moving about shortly after midnight, and had debated coming out to ensure that he was all right. There had been no gasping breaths, though, no sobs like she was worried she would hear—no sounds of nightmares that she could save him from. Just the soft pad of stockinged feet across her floors, around the perimeter of her house, the scrape of the patio door opening, and she hadn't wanted to intrude where she might not be wanted.
Simon has made it clear that he wants his independence, after all, and as quickly as possible. He has accepted help only when he has no option. The alternative to staying with one of them was borrowing money for a motel, and that would have been far harder, she thinks, than coercing him into sharing space for a bit.
She doesn't know what she expects when she tip-toes out into the living room. Most likely nothing, because Simon will almost certainly have returned to bed. Perhaps Simon sitting calmly on the couch, sneering at whatever news program he happens to have run across.
She doesn't expect to find Simon slumped in a doze on the right-hand side of the couch, his body angled so that his closed eyes are facing the window.
Facing Taka, she realizes, the bird perched on the railing outside, gazing in at its master with sharp red eyes.
Simon let Taka out last night, and fell asleep on the couch waiting for the hawk to return.
She should probably let Taka in. She should probably make some noise to alert Simon to her presence.
(She walks more quietly than most people, her ears picking up even subtle sounds, especially when there is not much ambient noise. Part of why she wanted an upper floor for her apartment was to avoid the sound of traffic, and she has been extremely lucky that the worst habit one of her neighbors has is playing Tchaikovski music at a volume that is probably unnecessary.)
Instead she finds her feet taking her closer to Simon.
He looks so... calm. So peaceful, though he still has his arms crossed in front of his chest in a gesture that is most likely defensive. There isn't the tension that there usually is, the edge of a smirk touching his mouth. He looks... like he did seven years ago, when he would wait in such a position for her mother.
Not quite like then, of course. There is white in his hair now that hadn't been there before; his face is etched with a decade's worth of trauma. But almost like he did back then, and Athena finds herself creeping closer and closer.
He would sit like that, on the couch in their living quarters or on one of the benches outside her mother's lab. He would sit with his head down and his arms crossed, a robot at rest, recharging until he was asked to complete another task. One of her mother's favorite companions, and Athena hadn't understood exactly what was different about Simon and his sister Aura versus the robots that her mother doted on, but she had heard something in his voice.
She always heard something in the voices of other humans, though her younger self didn't have the background or the words or the ability to distance herself enough to name them. She liked what she heard in Simon's voice, though—liked the way his voice was quiet, modulated, gentle as few people were when speaking to her. Most people automatically raised their voices in both volume and pitch when talking to children, which was the worst thing to do to Athena.
What would she call the things she had heard then, now? Was it compassion? Pity? Interest? Bland acceptance? She can't remember. It has been too long, and she was too different. She cannot name what it was that her younger self heard, only conjure up a bit of the feeling that it caused to well up within her.
Feel the affection that she felt, then—the safety that seemed to reach out from him and envelop her.
When she was younger and she found him like this, she would haul herself up onto the bench next to him. She would lean her head against him, hearing the shushing of his breath and the steady thumping of his heart. She spoke very little, back then, but she often didn't need to speak with Simon. She would act, and he would react, and they would reach an accord without having to resort to the words that slid so easily from other's lips but slipped like smoke through Athena's comprehension.
(Every word could mean so many different things, depending on the inflections and emotions that people gave to them. She had to learn not just what a word meant, but what a person could mean with that word. Her mother had understood that, had spoken slowly and calmly most times, treating her as a colleague rather than the defective child that most pediatricians saw in silent distance. Athena bitterly regrets that she interpreted that slow caution as disinterest, as apathy, as dislike, when really it was one more proof of her mother's trust and dedication.)
Simon's body is taking up the right-hand cushion, his jacket spread out around him like a black cloud. Did he wear it because he felt too naked without it? Strange, to see a black T-shirt and sweatpants beneath the jacket rather than his usual attire.
Before Athena really means to she has climbed up on the left cushion, turned her body so that she, too, is facing Taka—facing the slow bleed of light into the world, the creep of dawn reaching around finally to her window.
She is taller, now, than she was then. It's a pathetic observation, something that anyone could have told her—children grow in the time that passes between when they are eleven and when they are eighteen.
It still strikes her as wrong, fundamentally off, when she lays her head against him and finds that it fits most comfortably against his shoulder rather than against the crook of his arm. Her feet have drawn up under her, as they would have when she was eleven, and her arms mimic Simon's pose, hugging herself tightly.
He is... harder than he had been, when last she rested like this. Simon has always been lean and muscular, a swordsman in his spare time, but she doesn't remember his elbow being so sharp, his biceps feeling quite so much like tense cords where they touched her body.
He is warm, though, just like he used to be. His warmth flows out from him, cocoons her as surely as his jacket had a handful of times when she was a child, and Athena allows herself to relax against Simon's side.
They will wait like this, for minutes or for an hour, until eventually her mother will realize that she is supposed to be speaking with Simon. Eventually Metis Cykes will walk out of her lab, clap a hand to her forehead, and apologize to Simon for making him wait.
Except there is no lab in front of them. Just a bland beige wall that Athena hasn't painted because she doesn't want to have to re-paint it when she moves out, finding it easier to cover the drab color with posters and pictures of her eclectic found family.
And Metis Cykes will never appear in front of them again. Her mother has been dead for over seven years, and even as her body inhales Simon's familiar scent and remembers with an aching clarity how this is supposed to go her mind knows that they are alone.
Her mind knows before her body does that she has made a mistake, that she shouldn't have done this.
She is comfortable, even if there is a deep edge of melancholy to the emotions this moment brings.
But Simon has spent seven years having to protect himself, by trick of tongue and force of arm.
She should have asked.
She should have waited for him to be awake and asked if it was all right for her to do this, to try to recapture a bit of who they had been long ago.
She shouldn't have surprised him.
She should have reacted faster, when she felt him stirring under her head, saw his eyelids beginning to slit open, felt the corded muscles she was leaning against begin to tighten.
She should have done anything other than press closer to him and smile.
The part of her that has studied psychology for the last seven years, that has found ways to both make herself seem more normal and understand the input she receives from other people, knows what she did wrong.
The part of her that was an eleven-year-old who trusted Simon Blackquill, the part that thought nothing of curling up against an old friend, does not.
It is, unfortunately, that part that is in control as Simon grabs her arm and flings her to the ground, following her down with a hoarse battle cry, and she cries out in pain and surprise even as she curses herself for not expecting this.
Someone has gotten into his cell.
Someone is trying to get to his throat.
It isn't day, yet. The lights haven't been thrown on, a burning white fluorescence that stings the eyes and drives away the gray pseudo-darkness that passes for night in prison. His cell mate? Paid by someone, or acting on his own volition? After Simon's life, or after his body?
It doesn't matter. Simon prefers not to get into physical altercations if he can avoid it, because even a fight that is victorious brings the risk of severe injury, but if someone is blatantly threatening him, he will have to remind them that a samurai is a warrior.
He acts as soon as he trusts his body to respond, while the last vestiges of sleep are still falling away. He grabs the person who has taken it into their head to threaten him, his hands finding the joint of arm to shoulder, and flings them down to the ground.
He follows them down, not wanting to lose the element of surprise. Whoever it is doesn't seem to have expected him to fight back, which is foolish. His opponent cries out, the sound much higher-pitched than Simon expected, but they don't strike back at him. They don't try to kick him off or squirm away as he locks their arm into an unbreakable hold. Instead they go very still, and perhaps he hurt them more than he thought when he threw them down on the...
On the carpet.
And the light is not the dim gray light of a prison's night, it is the soft red-tinted light of a dawn when you are facing away from it.
And the body that he is holding, the person who was intelligent enough to stop fighting him, is Athena.
Athena was resting against him, as she did when she was a child, and he threw her to the ground like a piece of trash.
He releases her the moment he realizes what happened, his breath coming faster and faster as he studies the young woman.
She moves slowly, flexing her fingers and testing her shoulder as she sits up. She doesn't meet his eyes—doesn't do anything that could be construed as threatening, and he can feel his lips pulling back from his teeth in a silent scream as he watches her wariness.
He should never have agreed to come stay with her.
He should never have put either of them in this position.
He told her, time and again, that he is not the man she remembers, but he never wanted to show that to her, not like this.
"It's okay." Athena's voice is low and soothing, and she smiles at him, though she continues to look anywhere but at his eyes. "I'm fine. You didn't hurt me. I should've known better than to do that."
He has heard words like that, many times. They are the words of the beaten, the broken—the people who give themselves to others who do not deserve them, because they see no other option or because they think they deserve the pain. He had tried to help, when he first found himself in prison. He had tried to save those who were still salvageable, to tell them that there was worth in simply being human, in simply being alive. At first just the ones he thought really were innocent, really didn't deserve the hell they were living; then any that he thought he could protect, because no one deserved to have pain as the closest thing to affection they would ever know.
He couldn't be everywhere, though. He could barely protect himself, sometimes, could barely find the energy to keep himself safe and living. He couldn't handle new griefs piled across old ones, the fact that he failed far more than he succeeded, and he stopped trying to help anyone after the first two years.
Not quite true, the man he crafted from pride and hope and horror whispers in his ear. You never quite gave up, little hawk, you just changed how you taught, how you protected. But you cannot protect her from what you have become.
"I'm sorry." The words are the barest whisper, pushed past the swelling of emotion in his throat, trembling with the hummingbird-speed of his heartbeat. Crouching down, he presses his forehead to the short carpet, his dry eyes burning. "I'm sorry."
"Don't. Please, don't." A hand tugs awkwardly at his shoulder, trying to pick him up off the ground. "It's all right. Really. Not even a bruise, just a little bit of a surprise. Please, stop—"
He allows her to tug him upright, though his eyes stay focused on the floor.
"There." Athena's hands brush at both his shoulders, removing imaginary dust. Her smile is tentative. "Good as new, yeah?"
He almost laughs. He almost lets the madly cackling Twisted Samurai speak with his mouth, scream his hysterical mirth at the idea that either of them could be made good as new again. Athena doesn't deserve that, though. She is Metis' precious daughter, and he loved the child she was, and he deeply respects the woman she has become though he still doesn't know her, and she deserves better than the front he uses. "I'm sorry, Cykes-dono. My actions were unforgivable, and I... I will be taking my leave now. I thank you for your hospitality."
He bows to her again as he backs away, waiting until he has a clear line of movement before sprinting to his room and his small, still-packed bag.
He made a mistake, accepting Athena's offer, but at least that is one he can correct.
He's going to leave.
He's terrified, fear rising in half-chords to complement the deep shame that he feels, and he's going to leave.
She wants to throw herself at him, physically block his path and prevent him from leaving. She wants to grab his arm and hold on tight, as she would do when she was a child and he was doing something she didn't like.
Touching him again without permission would be the worst thing she could do, though. The woman who achieved a degree in psychology knows that, and so she forces herself to be still, her eyes to roam around the room for something other than physical force that she can use to stop or at least delay him.
Movement outside, on the fire escape, and she lifts her eyes to meet Taka's bright fierce ones.
She's afraid of the hawk, in all honesty. Not terrified, but the bird has threatened her on more than one occasion, has talons that could easily disfigure or maim her if Taka ever wanted to, and so there is a very healthy respect mingled with a bit of fear whenever she has to face the creature.
Taka is Simon's, though. Taka is perhaps one of the reasons Simon has maintained his sanity as well as he has, the bird providing him with a focus and unconditional love that knew nothing of prisons, murders, and guilty sentences.
Shoving open the sliding door, Athena present her shoulder to the bird, hoping that it will do what she wishes. If Taka just flies inside, settles instead on Simon's shoulder—
The hawk doesn't, though. He clambers awkwardly, delicately, up onto Athena's shoulders, his talons holding tight but not breaking skin.
Ducking back into the living room, Athena calls to Simon's retreating back. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
He turns to her, his eyes flicking from her face to Taka.
Then he holds out a hand, clearly asking Taka to fly to him.
Please don't. Athena wills the bird to understand, forcing her shoulder muscles to stay relaxed. Please, stay with me.
She doesn't know if it's something she does or something Simon does. Simon's hand is trembling, after all, a faint shiver that may be making Taka nervous.
All she knows is that Taka stays perched on her shoulder, and that means that she still has a chance to salvage the morning.
"Taka!" Simon barks out the hawk's name, and Taka turns his head away, looking back over his shoulder to the still-open sliding door.
Wanting his freedom? Though Taka has never been caged. He has always been free to leave, if he wished, and Simon doesn't know, sometimes, why the hawk gives him such loyalty.
Loyalty he has apparently decided to rescind now.
Or perhaps he has just read the way that Simon treats Athena when they are not in court, and has decided that Athena's requests are to be obeyed over Simon's.
"Please." Simon's fingers curl, his hands balling into fists. "Give me my friend."
"I'm not keeping him here." Athena stands comfortably, relaxed, the hawk perched easily on her shoulder.
Given that he has seen her flinch from Taka more than once, Simon is impressed by her courage and control of her body's reactions. Not so impressed that he is going to allow this challenge to go unmet, though.
It is far too easy to draw up a sneer, to cross his arms in front of his chest and stare down at her. "I suppose, if you truly want to keep the hawk, I can't stop you. I think you'll find caring for the beast's needs rather more of a burden than you expected to take on, though."
The name hangs in the air between them, and Simon can feel his eyes widening, his smug stance shifting to a far more defensive one. Has she ever used just his first name? If she has he can't remember it, and it doesn't take her gift to hear all the emotion packed into those two syllables.
Athena seems as surprised as he is, standing with her mouth slightly open for a moment, but she recovers herself quickly. "Stay and talk with me for a few minutes. I'm sure Taka will be happy to go with you after we've done that—after we've both had a chance to calm down."
Simon can't quite keep himself from glancing toward the front door. He doesn't want to stay and talk, because if he does he knows what Athena will want to talk about, and it is not a conversation that he is eager to have.
"What's it going to hurt?" Athena places both hands on her hips, glaring at him defiantly. "If you still think it's important for you to find somewhere else to stay after we talk, I won't stop you. Hell, I'll make sure you have Prosecutor Edgeworth's and Prosecutor Gavin's numbers before you go, make it easier for you to find somewhere to stay. So unless you're too much of a coward to sit and talk with me..."
A thin smile, and Simon shakes his head. "Do you think schoolyard-level reverse psychology is going to convince me to do something? Really, Cykes-dono, you underestimate me."
"Yellow-bellied, slimy-tongued, lily-livered, fraidy-cat craven coward." Athena continues to stand with her hands on her hips. Taka takes a strand of her red hair in his mouth, preens it as though she were another raptor, and he were proud of her.
Simon narrows his eyes. "Children on the playground are not usually educated enough to use the word craven."
Athena sticks her tongue out at him.
It is an act.
They both know it is an act. They both know that she was never the type of child who could taunt or tease another, but rather the one who would be getting teased. They both know that the eleven-year-old she is pretending to be, the mask that is only partially succeeding in hiding real fear and frustration in her eyes, is not someone that Athena ever was.
Or at least... not someone that Simon ever had the privilege of knowing.
But Athena has changed. She went from quiet and shy to vibrant and vivacious in the seven years since he last saw her, and though he still recognizes quirks of the child he cared for in the young woman before him, they are very different people.
Very different people, and yet it is the young woman who saved him. Who risked her life and her sanity to help set him free from the shackles of the past, to help save their country from the darkness and the nightmares that lurk therein.
"Simon, please." All teasing disappears from Athena's voice. "Talk with me. And then let's decide, together, what the best way to go forward is."
After a long moment Simon inclines his head, moving stiffly from the doorway to the couch, where he takes up residence once again. "As you like, Cykes-dono."
He owes Athena his life.
The least he can do is try to give her an explanation, no matter how unpleasant it will be for both of them.
They're sitting on the couch again.
Simon agreed to talk with her.
And for a few terrified seconds Athena has no idea what to do.
Taka takes the initiative, moving from her shoulder to the back of the couch to Simon's shoulder.
Simon's hand moves immediately, stroking once through the soft feathers of Taka's breast. She can hear his breathing relax as he does, some of the tension that had been in his body disappearing.
Right. Animals are good at relieving tension.
She knows this. She was taught this. She's used it herself, when she was learning how to navigate a world that had far too much information for her to handle.
She is more than a terrified child, hellbent on not losing the last connection she has to her past. She is a defense attorney, and she is a psychologist, and she knows that she can help Simon as much or more than he can help her.
"I'm sorry." Athena manages to meet and hold Simon's gaze. "I should have asked before resting against you like that."
"You have already received far more punishment than such a crime necessitates." Sorrow overrides guilt in Simon's voice, a dragging slowness and tone-shift to his words, though both sorrow and guilt are present.
"You didn't mean to hurt me." Athena rubs at her shoulders. "You didn't hurt me. It's fine."
"But I could have." Simon studies her through slitted eyes, his arms crossed in front of his chest. "I very easily could have."
"Maybe not as easy as you think. I'm not exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to fighting." Athena grins as she says the words, willing him to believe them—willing him to hear in her voice that it's true. "And you didn't want to, anyway."
"Isn't that the problem, though?" Simon arches an eyebrow. "Save for sadists, very few people actually want to inflict the injuries that they do."
"Eh... I think we've both studied enough psychology to know that both is and isn't true. People don't necessarily mean to hurt others, but they also don't necessarily go out of their way to avoid it, especially if it's a type of pain they don't understand." Athena hesitates, feeling her way forward slowly, watching Simon's reactions to her words. "But that's not the case with you. You've always been careful about inflicting injury without meaning to. Physical. Emotional. Mental. You were always careful with me, when you were around the lab."
Simon's body shifts, just slightly, an arching of his back so that there are a few centimeters more between the two of them. "You have seen me in court, Cykes-dono. Would you say the man you see there hesitates to inflict harm?"
"Would you say that you're truly the man you've played in court?"
"I am at least as much that man as I am the one that you remember." He reaches up, stroking Taka's chest again. "The Twisted Samurai is perhaps more me now than the apprentice that you remember."
Truth. Pure truth, an admission that hitches his breathing slightly, and she can hear the sorrow choking the words, twining through them as he offers her what he thinks she doesn't know.
"He's a part of you." Athena nods, her left hand reaching across to fiddle with her earring as she frowns at the man who has taken the place of the shadow she chased for seven years. "He's a very carefully-constructed part of you, one that's allowed you to survive very well in conditions that were... difficult."
The ghost of a smile from Simon, though he inclines his head after a moment, asking her to continue.
"But the man I knew..." Athena fixes Simon with her gaze, once more willing him to understand. "He's still a part of you, too. The past never disappears, even when new pieces are added. If it did, there wouldn't be so much trouble with PTSD and people wouldn't have issues for years after abusive relationships, right?"
Another inclination of Simon's head, and his expression is pensive.
"No, you're not the same as you were seven years ago. Did you think I didn't figure that out after facing off against you all these times? Did you think I didn't know that, when I set out on this quest? Did you think I was naïve enough to think that seven years in jail—a prosecutor in jail for seven years—wouldn't leave its mark?" Her voice breaks, just slightly, but she continues to hold his eyes. "Do you think that I've changed, over the years?"
Another ghost of a smile, and Simon's shoulders move in the faintest shrug, Taka magnifying the movement by stretching first one clawed foot and then the other as he studies Simon reproachfully. "You've grown up. It is, I believe, what children are supposed to do, Athena."
His use of her given name stops her breath in her throat, a well-timed thrust, just as her use of his had been. She doesn't let it stop her momentum, though, because he wouldn't have done that, wouldn't have broken that barrier of formality that he's held between them, if she wasn't on to something. "I've grown up. But I've also changed. I've got seven years of experience that I didn't have before. I can speak phrases now in languages I didn't know existed then."
"You can speak many languages, including the language of justice, where the girl I knew struggled to speak just one. To be understood in just one, because she understood too clearly what others were saying beneath their words." There is a wistfulness to Simon's voice that hadn't been there before, a soft breathiness that she rarely hears in his tones.
"That girl's still a part of me." Athena's right hand presses hard to her heart. "Everything I've become, everything I've done—that girl is still my base. I'm different, but I'm the same, and I think the same is true of you."
"Perhaps." Simon's eyes drift away, sweep over her apartment before landing on the window and the view it provides. "But even if that's true, the man who I've become... is not a very nice man."
"The man that you've become isn't decided yet." Athena reaches out, setting her hand palm-down on the couch cushion between them. "You've been free for all of thirty-six hours. You're still getting your feet under you. You're still figuring out who you're going to be now that you don't have to play cat-and-mouse games with a killer. I understand, and I want to help."
Simon stares down at her hand, his head giving the most minute shake. "You deserve better than to be saddled with a dangerous piece of your past."
"You're no more dangerous than any other living person. Anyone can hurt me, but I know that from my friends, at least, any injuries are unintentional." Athena scoots her hand closer to him. "The fact that you're so worked up about hurting me... well, that's proof enough, to me, that you won't. So please. Trust me."
Simon's right hand slides over, covering hers. "I... believe that I do trust you, Cykes-dono. Trusting you is not the problem."
"I know that you trust yourself, too." Athena maneuvers her hand over, so that her fingers can clasp his. "No one can fight that fiercely in court without trusting themselves."
"There is a difference between trusting oneself in court and trusting oneself... outside of court."
Outside of structure, outside of clear delineations of duties and responsibilities, and Athena nods her understanding. "That's something we'll work on, then. If you'll let me help."
"Why?" Simon's head tilts to the side, his eyes narrowed again, but it is awe that shimmers like a cymbal strike in his voice, relief that forms the backbone of the question. He is accepting her help, is grateful for it, even, but he doesn't understand it.
"Because you were my friend." Athena squeezes his hand. "And I think we can be really good friends again."
"Perhaps." Simon returns the pressure on her hand, but hope cascades over the word, so sharp and hesitant that her ears ache to hear it.
"We were once." Athena grins. "I don't see any reason why we can't be again, with a little time to get to know each other."
"We shall see." A true smile, small but obvious, graces Simon's face. "And I will stay, since that is very obviously what you want, at least until other arrangements are made. You, I believe, need to be heading in to work, though."
"Oh, shoot." Athena scrambles to her feet, wincing as she takes in the time on the clock. If she really runs, she may still be able to make the bus in time. "Spare key's on the ring by the door; lock up before you leave. Kitchen's free for you to use, though if you want me to bring something home for dinner just text me. Bye, Simon!"
His name doesn't feel quite so foreign and awkward on her tongue the second time, and though Simon gives a bemused huff at her using it, he looks more pleased than annoyed.
Tugging her right boot on as she hops her way out the door, Athena hopes she'll get to see his smile more frequently over the next few days.
Simon spends the day looking for a place to live, getting more frustrated the longer he searches. He doesn't know which he finds more annoying—the people trying to rent him the apartments, the mass transit system he has no choice but to use for transportation until he gets his driver's license again, or the infuriating process of trying to decide which apartment he likes that will actually be a decent fit for Taka.
He takes his frustration out on Athena's landlord, berating the obviously confused man for the state of the fire escape before retreating back into the safety of Athena's apartment.
Athena has beaten him home. She has Thai food in carry-out containers spread out on the kitchen table, and she smiles brightly when she sees him. "Welcome back."
Simon shuffles out of his boots and nods. "I'm glad to be home."
Athena's smile widens, and Simon crosses his arms in front of his chest. Despite everything, she is very clearly thrilled at the prospect of getting to know him again.
"I brought home a movie. Well, Trucy lent us a movie." Athena picks a DVD case up off the end table. "Heartseeker. The newest Disney musical. Very, very, very loosely based on the Russian fairy tale of Koschei the Deathless, in the sense that there is an evil wizard named Koschei and a girl named Marya who defeats him. I... thought it could be fun. Get us both caught up a little more on pop culture."
Simon prowls further into the room. "You always did like music."
"Yeah." Athena's smile becomes tinged with a hint of sadness. "It was always easier to understand music than to understand words. Studying music helped me figure out what I was hearing in voices, though. Widget's actually not too bad at making music."
The little robot makes noises that Simon suspects are supposed to be something like beat boxing.
Athena's smile blossoms again, and she laughs. "That was a beautiful expression. I'm going to have to capture that one in a photo someday. Come on, dig in."
Simon heaps food onto his plate, savoring the flavors. Athena does most of the conversing, chattering to him about Phoenix Wright and Apollo Justice and Trucy Wright. If half of what she says is true, their office culture is something... unique.
When they've both eaten their fill Athena puts the movie in, then settles down on the opposite side of the couch from him.
The Disney logo has become much more ornate than Simon remembers, the little fairy—is it supposed to be Tinkerbell? He can't remember—flying through an incredibly detailed three-dimensional model of a princess' castle.
Before the logo has finished playing Athena has started leaning towards him, though her hands are clasped around her knees.
"I wouldn't mind."
Athena's head jerks toward him, her mouth opening in clear surprise. It is Widget who speaks, though, the robot turning bright yellow and crying out, "Really?"
"If you wanted to rest against me..." Simon settles himself more firmly on the couch. "I wouldn't mind."
It feels different than it had when she was younger. He knew that it would, but there is still a part of him that is surprised by how familiar and yet alien the sensation of Athena's body against his side is. There is more weight to her now, obviously, and where before her head rested comfortably in the crook of his arm, now it rests comfortably on his shoulder.
She speaks much more than she used to, as well, comments every few minutes as the movie plays. She sings, too, with an eagerness and skill that he didn't expect, and urges him to sing along, too.
Taka does, a bit, the hawk adding a shrieking note of crescendo to the most dramatic pieces of music.
But he does enjoy the movie, far more than he expected.
He enjoys the company, in a way that he would not have predicted—in a way that he would have not dared to dream.
"We'll have to invite other people over." Athena's words are soft and contemplative as the movie rolls to a close. "Trucy would be happy to come; I'm sure I could convince Klavier and Ema without much problem. Pearly, too, when she's in town. I bet the boss would have fun hanging out with us, too, if you don't think that would be too awkward—and if we can get the boss, he can probably get Prosecutor Edgeworth. Assuming you'd like to be friends with your boss."
"I..." Simon hesitates, loathe to show weakness, knowing that Athena deserves truth from him. "I am still getting used to the idea of being friends with you again."
"I know. Me, too." Athena's head burrows down against his shoulder. "We've still got a lot of catching up and feeling each other out to do. But when you're ready... if you want me to arrange any social events with anyone else... just let me know."
"For now..." Simon glances up at Taka, who is busy pulling on a piece of his hair. The bird looks away, sidles two steps to the left, and reaches down to snag a piece of Athena's hair. "Perhaps we could watch another movie?"
Athena grabs a movie that she first saw while in college in Europe, chatting as she does about the people that she met there, the things that she saw.
Simon listens attentively, and when she clambers back onto the couch he makes it clear from his body posture where she is welcome to sit.
He isn't sure what, exactly, they are right now. Friends who have been estranged for long years? Family that has had far too few reunions—another branch of the strange pseudo-family that seems to have sprung up around Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth? Something else, something that they have yet to define?
There is time now, though. There are evenings stretching out into the future, a future that is far longer than he can imagine. There is work, for both of them, a continual need for vigilance and effort if they are going to keep the justice system from becoming broken again.
And there is Athena, resting comfortably against him, the past and the present and the future all held together in one remarkable young woman's heart.
Reaching out slowly, Simon drapes his arm very carefully around Athena's shoulders.
She doesn't stop talking, but she does smile, and Widget's glow brightens for a few seconds.
They are Simon Blackquill and Athena Cykes. They have been through hell and back. They have been scarred and transformed by the years that have passed.
Athena is warm and comfortable and happy and safe against his side, shades of a past that can never be reclaimed, hope for a future that he can just start to see forming before him.
To borrow a phrase from someone that Simon suspects he is going to be seeing a great deal of in the future, given Athena's obvious affection for him, Simon thinks they are going to be just fine.