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[personal profile] mllelaurel
Fandom: Ace Attorney
Title: Halfway to Sunlight
Characters: Ensemble, with focus on Apollo and Klavier
Pairings: Apollo/Klavier, some Wocky Kitaki/Vera Misham (I like making new pairing tags on AO3.)
Rating: M/R
Warnings: Some fairly pervasive emotional abuse themes. Some discussion of sexual abuse, late on, though nothing graphic/on-screen.
Summary: As if trying to emotionally disentangle himself from his former mentor after the Misham trial wasn’t enough, Apollo winds up with a copycat case falling into his lap, and said mentor’s younger brother a growing presence in his life. But neither of the tasks facing him will be easy, and everyone's got secrets they may or may not want to reveal.


The victim’s name was Kyouko Mizuiro. She’d been an art teacher at a local elementary school. She’d collapsed shortly after lunch and died at the hospital. Apollo hadn’t even realized he’d pulled up his contacts and hit Mr. Wright’s number, when the phone began to ring.

Back at the office, he found Phoenix looking grave and focused, all traces of the lazy oddball gone, if you discounted the hoodie. “He’s still in prison,” was the first thing he told Apollo, as soon as he walked through the door. “I checked.”

“So it’s a coincidence?” That seemed like a tall order. The poison had gone too-high profile after Kristoph’s trial for there to be no significance to its use whatsoever.

Phoenix tapped a pen against his desk. “There’s two other possibilities. One is he’s directing an accomplice. I wouldn’t be surprised, with the strings he’s clearly still capable of pulling. The other possibility is we’ve got a copycat on our hands.”

“Wouldn’t there be more details in common, if that’s really what it was?”

“You don’t find it funny that Mizuiro was an art teacher?” An artist, like Vera. Apollo’s blood ran cold and he fumbled out his phone again, called his friend, clearly waking her up, collapsed on the couch afterwards, still soaked in adrenaline.

“There’s one more thing,” Phoenix said, pushing a newspaper from four days ago in Apollo’s direction. “Third page, second column.” It was another murder. Apollo had missed that one. “Restaurant owner by the name of Walter Harrow. Found dead inside his own office. Cause of death: blow to the back of the head.” Apollo could see where this was going.

“Let me guess: the murder weapon was a wine bottle?”

“Bing! Don’t ask me how I have this info, but apparently there were glass shards found embedded in the wound. Match to the wine bottles Harrow stocked in his cellar.”

“This isn’t a coincidence, is it Mr. Wright?”

Phoenix shook his head. “I really don’t think it is. But it’s all conjecture, right now. We’re going to need something more convincing than our gut feelings.”

“Have there been any arrests?”

“None in Harrow’s case. As for Mizuiro, a woman’s been taken into custody. You should-”

“I should go talk to her,” Apollo said, at the same time.

Phoenix waved at him with the newspaper. “Got it in one, off you go.”

***

Once again, he found himself flashing badge and ID. “Apollo Justice, here to see Denise Laroquette.” The woman in question barely looked up at him when he came in. Her hitching breaths echoed off the microphone behind the glass. Her hair hung limply, covering her face. She looked like she was her thirties or forties. His mother might have looked like that, if she were still alive.

Apollo did his best to keep his voice quiet and gentle. “Ms. Laroquette? Could you please tell me what happened?”

“Who are you?” she asked, voice thick with tears.

“I’m a defense attorney,” he told her, and she shook her head.

“I’m sorry, I can’t afford, it doesn’t matter, I-”

“Would you tell me anyway? Maybe I could help you, regardless.”

Ms. Laroquette wiped her eyes. “I’m a math teacher at Abbey Elementary. Kyouko’s my- my partner.”

‘Is,’ not ‘was,’ but the bracelet didn’t react. Switching tenses wasn’t easy, when it came to those you loved. There was no lie in it, only grief.

“You know how bad school lunches can be, and neither of us had time to leave the grounds, so Kyouko and I always packed our own. Yesterday, I was the one who made lunch. Just some leftover chicken parm, from Salvatore’s, a salad, couple of chocolates. Same for both of us. Only I ate my lunch and everything was great. Kyouko…”

“Ms. Laroquette, I have to ask, as a matter of protocol. Did you-?”

She looked like she would have slapped him, if the glass weren’t in the way. “I loved her, Mr. Justice. I would eat poison myself, before I’d knowingly give it to her. So, no, I did not kill her, and you can go fuck yourself.”

The bracelet stayed still. Apollo took the case.

***

Here was the evidence he had so far: One (1) case, with his defendant in the hot seat. One (1) case, as yet unconnected, possibly actually unconnected. A call to Detective Skye let him know that there were no traces of atroquinine found in Mizuiro’s remaining chicken or salad, and that if the lunch had once contained chocolates, there were none left for testing now.

How, exactly, were they trying to pin this on his client? Then again, this was the same court system that tried to indict Machi for murdering of an Interpol agent, so what did he expect?

No, Mizuiro wasn’t wearing any nail polish. Yes, Ema would acquire samples of her soap, shampoo, hand lotion, etcetera, and run them through, and he better believe he owed her. Until proven otherwise, he’d have to assume the chocolates were the laced item and thus the murder weapon. The only fingerprints on Mizuiro’s bento box were hers and Laroquette’s, so that was a bust.

Which left him back on the copycat trail, and unfortunately, that meant he knew who he was going to have to talk to next.

***

Kristoph laughed in his face, the same maniacal laugh that echoed the halls as they dragged him out of the courtroom.

“Oh, this is rich. So, now you want something from me, and here you come crawling. Maybe you thought I’d do a favor for an old friend? Drag my poor, stupid apprentice out of the jam he’s gotten himself into?”

Apollo’s head throbbed and he tried not to rub his temples where Kristoph could see. “All I’m asking is whether anyone’s been contacting you.”

“Hmm, yes, now that you mention it, I do recall one such person. Five foot-five, cheaply made suits, goes by the name of Apollo Justice. Worthless boy, really. I wouldn’t pay him any mind. Though I suppose I would consider him capable of murder, if that’s the statement you need.”

“Have you received any letters?”

Kristoph smiled. “As a matter of fact, I have. It appears I have grown popular among a certain cadre of women. It’s all quite shrill and pedestrian. I almost feel sorry for my dear little brother, having to put up with such things on a daily basis.”

“May I see those letters?”

“You know how prison works, Justice. No free favors here.”

“What will you take in exchange, then?”

“What will I take?” Kristoph’s eyes narrowed. “Well, now I’m curious as to what your opening bid might be.” He said it almost mildly. Apollo didn’t reply. Anything he said could and would be used against him, well outside of a court of law. “I wonder how far you will bend your knee. How many cocks are you willing to suck to get your way?”

“What do you want, Kristoph?” He didn’t know his voice could sound like that; like ice cracking under the wheels of a car.

“Start with a plea bargain. I want my sentence commuted to life, with possibility of parole.”

So he could use it to kill more people. “No deal,” Apollo retorted, sincerely glad initiating such bargains wasn’t even up to him.

“Then I suppose you’ll just have to watch your client hang. With your skills alone, she doesn’t stand much of a chance, now does she?”

***

A further visit to Ema ruled out all of Mizuiro’s bath and body products, along with the dish soap and household cleaners. It had to be the chocolates. It had to be. “Can your autopsy guys tell if she’s eaten anything else?”

“Uh, breakfast? Dinner from the night before?” Ema punctuated with a munch. “If you’re asking whether we can tell which eighty-percent digested thing in her stomach’s been poisoned and which hasn’t, you’re SOL.” Apollo’s migraine was progressing down his neck and into his spine, but that wasn’t unusual, while working on a case. He bummed a handful of Ibuprofen from Ema’s stash, before leaving the lab again.

“Wow, you’re having a good morning,” said a voice to his left. Klavier looked down dubiously at the painkillers. Apollo grimaced at him, swallowed the handful dry, just to prove a point.

“You want to make my afternoon better, you tell me which of your colleagues has been assigned the Laroquette case.”

“That,” Klavier said, “would be me.”

“They gave you an atroquinine poisoning case? Seriously?”

“Ja.” Klavier looked straight ahead. “And why not? I wrote a love song about the stuff, once, and everything.” Oof. That had to have been harsher in hindsight.

“I specifically requested this case.” He cut Apollo off before he could object. “Name a time you’ve known me to act unprofessionally, in court. I dare you to name just one. Yes, this is personal to me, but it’s not like you get to throw stones, yourself. Not in this particular glass house.”

“Well, the air guitar’s not very dignified,” Apollo said lamely, knowing Klavier was right. After Kristoph and Daryan Crescend, it was hard to doubt Klavier’s dedication to his role as prosecutor.

“Tell me, Justice,” Klavier asked abruptly, “your client is innocent, isn’t she?” Apollo nodded, watching Klavier’s expression sour further.

“Then get me someone guilty, up on that stand. Not much fun for me, otherwise.”

Apollo weighed his options, seriously wondered about his sanity, and filled the prosecutor in on everything he’d learned or hypothesized so far.

The look on Klavier’s face didn’t grow any less morose. “So what you’re saying is, this case rests on us getting Kristoph to cooperate with us? I suppose we could subpoena him, have the guards go through his cell, call him up as a witness. But the first two options risk his destroying evidence, and the third is both unpleasant for all involved and likely to be denied by the judge, without further proof of connection.”

“So what’s option four? He’s getting a plea bargain over my dead body.”

“I’ll talk to him,” Klavier said. “Maybe I can get him to turn the verdammt letters over.”

“He cares about you enough to do what you want him to?” Apollo didn’t believe it for a second.

Klavier snorted, pulling on his jacket, snapping a pair of sunglasses out of his pocket and putting them on. “Nein. But I know I can get under his skin.”

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