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[personal profile] mllelaurel
Fandom: Ace Attorney
Title: The Girl Who Lived
Characters: Athena Cykes, Franziska Von Karma
Pairings: Sort of Franziska/Athena
Rating: M/R
Warnings: Major off-screen character death. PTSD. Kink that's consensual and safe, though sane's in the eye of the beholder.
Summary: Athena Cykes meets a strange woman, on the day of Simon’s execution.

Takes place in the same universe as Notes From The Underworld. Might not make sense without reading that first.

Today’s the day they will execute the man who didn’t kill her mother. The man who’s never changed his testimony of guilt, after all those years. Oh, Simon…

She wishes she were in a city whose language she couldn’t read, but Munich’s headlines stare at her from newsprint and diner TV screens, as known and familiar as an old pair of sneakers. Not that it would have mattered. There’s visuals enough, even without words. Metis Cykes, still alive, stern and carefree all at the same time. Simon Blackquill, his eyes sunk deep and unreadable. His sister, Aura, with her face smudged and her wrists cuffed behind her back, in the wake of the hostage crisis. They can’t see her, halfway across the world, but their accusations ring inside her heart.

She runs, shoes beating against the pavement, breath jagged and unregulated. You’re not supposed to run like this, without warmup, heedless of passerby or traffic. At home, there are e-mails from friends waiting for her on the computer screen, concerned, loving. Junie’s name just won’t be among them is all. In her pocket, her phone vibrates, again and again and again. At her throat, Widget beeps, his digital face gray, smile turned upside-down.

She crashes into the other woman in a way that would have been meeting cute on a less bleak occasion. Athena falls, skins her elbows, barely feels it. The other woman’s hand clamps down around her wrist, pulls her to her feet, wrenching her shoulder. “Foolish, fluffbrained nimrod of a fool, does anyone ever watch where they are going. No, they do not! You certainly do not!”

She isn’t very tall, but Athena feels tiny and lost next to her, somehow. Her bluish hair is kept back in a stylish, practical cut, her blouse’s muttonchop sleeves perfectly pressed despite the collision. Athena bows, the body language still ingrained from her time in Japan. “I’m so sorry. You’re right, I wasn’t watching.”

“Hmph.” A single long finger presses against her chin, tilting it up. “What is your name, fool?”

She answers, without thinking of the implications. “Athena Cykes, ma’am.”

“Cykes, is it?” She hears recognition in the woman’s voice and her body hits fight or flight mode again. Not now… Why couldn’t she have met someone who thinks nothing of her name?

“Franziska Von Karma,” the other woman says, and it’s Athena’s turn to recognize. You can’t study law and not hear of Von Karma. Manfred Von Karma, one of the century’s best-known prosecutors. Manfred Von Karma, the murderer. The woman’s lips press together, and Athena hears traces of weariness in her voice. “Yes, the same. And now, I know what you’re running from.”

“I’m not running from anything!” she blurts out.

They’re going to kill him,” Widget chirps, and she clenches the little device in her hand, as though by covering him she can drown out his voice.

“Yes,” Franziska says, “they are. You will not watch?”

Athena can only shake her head.

“Then you are a coward.”

“Did you watch?” Athena shoots back.

“When they hanged my father?” And Franziska’s voice sings of a bottomless pit. “I did not, at the time, though I saw the recordings, later.”

Why? If you were present at the time, to give him solace, that I could at least understand. But afterwards? It’s nothing but self-abuse!”

“Better that than to flinch from it. If you have never seen it then it has never happened, am I right?”

Athena shakes her head. “The world doesn’t turn on my perception.”

“The world? No. But your world? Don’t delude yourself.”

“I can’t!” The words tear themselves out of Athena’s mouth. “I’ll- I can’t!” She should have done something. Returned to the States, fought for the truth. Thrown herself at Aura Blackquill’s mercy, when she stood there and demanded. Would that have saved Simon? She can’t tell. But Junie… the other hostages? The roar of the crowds surges in her ears, and she can’t parse the words, and they won’t let her escape...

She doesn’t feel Franziska’s hand on her shoulder, shaking her, barely even feels the slap. Her cheek is warm in its aftermath, and she closes her eyes, touches the place where the red mark must be.

When she’s finally able to hear Franziska’s voice again, it’s surprisingly gentle. “Come back to me, Athena Cykes.”

“I’m here,” she says, voice hoarse.

Franziska grips her shoulder, guides her somewhere. Athena’s feet follow. “I’m getting you off this street, before someone calls the police, let alone the buzzards who report on the news.” Stretches of pavement. Past a doorman, a long flight of stairs. The feel of a couch beneath her legs, her hand closed around a glass of water.

“Why did you bring me here?”

Franziska rolls her eyes, kicks aside her boots. “This is not a seduction attempt, if that’s what you’re trying to blunder into asking.” Athena’s face heats. “You do not want that, right now, and I am not quite so cruel.”

A gulp of water. Everything tastes like salt. “Then why?”

“You remind me of someone I knew.” And there is that rolling sadness again. Franziska might be able to project haughty grace, but she can’t run from her own heart. “My little brother.” A snort of humorless laughter. “He was seven years older than me. Now, I am three years older than him, and the distance will only keep growing.”

“I’m sorry,” Athena says.

Franziska’s face becomes even more of a mask. “Foolish girl. You will do me the favor of not apologizing for murders you did not commit.”

Just the ones you did, princess, Aura Blackquill’s voice says, inside her mind. “Just the ones I did,” Athena repeats.

“And did you apologize for those? Remember, now, I am a prosecutor.”

Their names are hidden underneath her tongue. Simon. Junie. They will surely execute Aura, as well, after all the lives she took. Mama… Athena’s vision fills with blood, as something tries to claw its way to the surface of her mind.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, and it’s not enough. Nothing will ever be.

“You are slipping away again,” Franziska tells her. “Just like him. He would make the most unseemly amounts of fuss, rather than get on an elevator like a normal person. Walked twenty floors up the stairs to his apartment.”

Something pings in Athena’s mind. “That sounds some sort of phobia, to me.” Though if the man is the one she’s thinking of… “Or post-traumatic disorder, perhaps. Didn’t his father die inside an elevator?” It’s funny, how none of them have secrets anymore, their lives out on display, like they’re living dolls in a history museum.

“It’s pathetic is what it is,” Franziska retorts. She’s good at hiding traces of empathy. “If he were stronger, he would have moved past it. If he were stronger, as well, he would have survived that wretch Phoenix Wright’s death, hired himself another defense and lived, rather than giving up and accepting a knife between his ribs.”

Okay, now Athena is ticked off! “Mental illness- trauma- is not just- just some kind of weakness!”

“Really? Then why are you fighting me, now? Why are you trying to pretend you are all right? Why not curl up into a little ball and wail. You want to, do you not?”

“I am trying-!”

“Precisely. You are trying. You have not given up. Miles Edgeworth did, and for that I cannot forgive him, as long as I live. He was Von Karma. Giving up was not an option ever given to him.”

Athena wants to say something biting about what ‘Von Karma’ means to the rest of the world, but what comes out instead is a quiet “I wish I were dead.” She thinks Franziska might slap her again, but instead, the older woman’s arms fold around her.

“Don’t ever say that again.” She hadn’t meant to say it the once, but now that it’s out in the world, she can’t recapture the words, pretend they’d never existed. “What do you need?” Franziska asks. “Because I will not allow you to disappear, but you do not wish for that anyhow.”

Athena shudders. “Everything hurts,” she says. “It’s like something’s trapped under my skin, and I can’t breathe, and I can’t feel anything, only according to Widget, that’s not true. Widget can read my moods, and I’m babbling, and why did I feel like a person for the first time today, when you slapped me earlier?” Where had that come from? It was true, though, wasn’t it?

Franziska looks thoughtful. “Pain freed you, for a moment? I see…” There’s a flare of something in her voice, sadism and compassion mixed together in ways Athena had never heard or considered before. “Wait here,” she says, and leaves Athena alone on the couch.

She returns with a long single-tailed whip, knotted and edged with some kind of metal at its end. I should be frightened, some distant part of Athena thinks, but there’s no fear on Widget’s face. She knows some people play with pain for the thrill of it, for sexual pleasure. Pleasure’s a distant concept tonight, but there are other uses for such implements. Torture intended as such, to be sure. Catharsis - yes, that, something inside her heart begs.

“I don’t deserve-” she starts. Why should what she wants be a part of the equation?

“Deserve is a useless concept. All I need to know is that you consent to this. Do you consent, Athena Cykes?” Franziska looks at Widget when she asks. Widget would not lie and agree to things she should not.

“I do,” Athena says. There’s another purpose for pain in such a context after all, and that is penance. “Please!” Widget chirps.

Franziska smiles, catlike. “Very well. You will remove your shirt, then, if you value it.” Athena hesitates. “Let me rephrase that. You will remove your shirt if you do not feel like picking loose threads from the welts and watching them get infected. Which is to say, you will remove your shirt.” Athena complies, shirt, and bra with it, crosses her arms over her chest, which is silly. With everything else which might happen tonight, the other woman seeing her half-nude is several degrees beside the point.

“Walk to the banister,” Franziska orders. Athena’s not sure she should find it as soothing as she does. “Turn and face it, grip the bars with your hands.” The apartment seems to have two levels, more of a penthouse, really, with a stairway connecting them. “One more thing,” Franziska says, as Athena gets up. “You will pick a safeword.”

Athena is a fast learner, and there’s very little point in disobeying, when Franziska is using the imperative tense. “Widget,” she says, and unclasps the titular gizmo from around her neck, laying him carefully atop her clothes. No sense in Widget getting hurt, too. Poor thing hasn’t done anything to deserve it. She follows Franziska’s instructions to the detail. The polished wood makes for a surprisingly firm handhold.

Her heartbeat slows as she tries to breathe evenly, tries not to anticipate the blow before it comes. She hears the screech and snap of leather before she feels the impact, and it hurts more than she could have anticipated. It’s sharp and it’s bright, the pain radiating from a focal point in her back to the rest of it. She yelps, bites her lip to keep from making any more noise.

She can hear Franziska’s stance shift again, the whistle as the next blow lands less than a centimeter from the first. The skin between the blossoming points of pain draws tight and brittle, like a wall about to be struck down. The next strike lands on her buttocks, clothed and cushioned, almost a relief.

Athena doesn’t know when she begins to count, or when she stops being able to, losing track. Her eyes are closed, squeezed tightly shut, dry and burning with pent-up emotion.

The whip comes down again, on a spot it had struck before, and this time, Athena screams, the sound staggered and hoarse. Her back is hot and tender, sweat runs down the sides of her face.

Again and again, the leather and metal sear her. There’s no relief from it, no stopping or catching her breath anymore. There’s no air left in her, until she draws the next agonizing breath, and the next after that. Her fingernails dig into the wood, chipping and tearing.

She doesn’t know when she begins to cry, hideous, hiccuping, bawling sobs, like she’s a child again, begging her mother to please, please, fucking please wake up. “I’m sorry. I’ll be good, just come back. I’m so sorry!” She calls Mama and Junie, Simon and Aura’s names. Even Franziska’s, though she knows she’s never harmed the woman in any way. The one name she never calls is Widget’s.

“I’m here,” Franziska says, and Athena realizes that the room’s gone quiet. The whip is at rest, and Athena herself is huddled down on the floor. Franziska kneels next to her. “And you are here as well, Athena Cykes. You are very brave, and you are still here.” Athena clings to her, dimly aware that she’ll probably get snot all over Franziska’s tailored clothing, but if Franziska doesn’t care then she can’t bring herself to. Franziska’s hands card through her hair, stroke her arms carefully, where the whip had not touched. Those hands never light on her back, but manage to hold her nevertheless.

They stay curled together down on that floor for what feels like a very long time. “How do you feel?” Franziska asks.

“Empty,” Athena replies. “But not hollow empty, clean empty. Good, I think.” She shifts. “Owww.”

She can feel the other woman’s slight smirk against her hair. “Still hurts, doesn’t it? I should hope so, with the effort I have expended on you.”

“Owww,” Athena says again, and tries to smile through a sniffle. Everything inside her feels raw, but at least it feels. Later, she might come to regret that, but for now it’s nice.

Franziska rises to her feet, when she’s certain Athena can stand to let go of her, fetches a warm towel, a small basin of water, some disinfectant wipes and gauze.

The alcohol stings, but being cleaned and cared for like this still feels like a caress. “How’s it looking?” Athena asks.

“It will not scar, do not worry,” Franziska reassures her, and Athena is almost disappointed. She’s the Girl Who Lived, isn’t she, without so much as a lightning-shaped scar to show for it. She remembers Simon reading those books to her. They were already old when was a kid, but he’d still loved them.

Franziska dips the corner of a towel into the basin, dabs it underneath Athena’s eyes, wiping away dried up, caked-together tears. She feels a leaping surge of warmth for the older woman, and there are probably all kinds of explanations for it, like endorphins, hormones and adrenaline, like the weight of their shared experience, but Athena can’t bring herself to care about the whys and wherefores. All that matters is Franziska being here, breathing and alive and with her, in this moment. I could kiss her, Athena thinks. All I would have to do is reach for her and... Franziska chooses to shift, right at that moment, pulling out a silvery comb.

“You’ve got beautiful hair,” Franziska tells her, running the comb through it, one small clump at a time, till it runs smooth. No one’s ever brushed Athena’s hair for her since her mother died, and now this strange, lovely, terrifying, wise, infuriating woman does it as calmly as though she’d been practicing for years. She braids it down her back, simple, clean and easy. “There.”

“Is there anything I could do for you?” Athena asks. She’s not the only one here who’s felt pain and grief, and the empathy of it overwhelms her for a moment.

“I doubt it,” Franziska says, and it sounds more like fact than rejection. “I am not the one you should be trying to fix right now.”

She's right, of course. There is someone else, and the knowledge of it almost sends her stumbling back. Athena hangs on, grits her teeth against the rolling ball of helplessness lurking just underneath her newfound oasis of calm. "Simon," she says, and Franziska smiles.

Athena doesn't ask why this woman has contacts at Interpol, or why they would let her, of all people, send a video conference through, at a moment's notice, but before she knows it, she finds herself facing a police detective, across a micro-thin laptop screen. "Please," she begs, "I need to talk to Prosecutor Blackquill." She doubts anyone has called Simon that in years.

The man across the world from her shakes his head. "I'm sorry, Miss, but that's impossible. Any other day, I'm sure he could have used the chat. He's always been the keeping to himself sort, drat the man. But tonight, well…" He wipes the sweat off his face. "Tonight, time's up and justice is being served."

"I know that!" Athena's impatient. With him, with herself. "I just… I can't make it today. I can't be there with him." Couldn't do anything to free him. But she can do this.

"I'd like to watch," she says. "When he… when you… Bring the screen you're using right now, with you."

"Are you sure that's wise, Miss? It's very brave of you, but-"

"And I would like you to tell him. Tell him I'm there, watching."

The man's face flickers, almost imperceptibly. "So you'd like to see your mother's murderer put to rest."

"No," Athena says. "I just don't want him to be alone."

"Do you think it will help him?" Franziska asks. She's been watching the conversation, but it's her computer, her contacts. It's not like Athena can object.

"I hope so," Athena says. "I'd have wanted him there, if it was me."


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October 2016


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