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[personal profile] mllelaurel
Fandom: Ace Attorney
Title: Monochrome Cities
Characters: Klavier Gavin, Ema Skye, Daryan Crescend, Damon Gant, Jake Marshall
Pairings: Klavier/Daryan, Klavier/Ema, background Jake Marshall/Angel Starr
Rating: M/R
Warnings: Non-consensual drug consumption, dysfunctional relationships
Summary: As the date of Lana Skye’s execution nears, her sister finds herself desperate enough to accept the help of a fop of a prosecutor and a shark of a detective. Together, Klavier, Ema and Daryan race against time to finger the real culprit behind the murders of Bruce Goodman and Neil Marshall, over a decade after the fact, with the trail gone cold. But everyone's got their own agenda, and the web they find themselves caught up in may be more tangled - and more of their own making - than any of them have anticipated, when even betrayal is far less simple than it first appears.


“Why didn’t you tell me you were there when Neil Marshall died?” I ask Ema.

She chases the ice cubes around in her rum and coke. “Wasn’t any of your beeswax.”

“Not even after I took the case?” Ema looks away.

“I can’t do this alone,” I tell her. “I want to help, but please, you’ve got to help me, too. You don’t have to like or trust me.” She’s made it very clear ‘like’s’ not on the table, and I appreciate that trust isn’t something to be given lightly.

“I didn’t ask for your help, fop,” she says.

“You gave me those files.”

“Maybe it was just a ploy so you’d beat it.”

“Was it?” Not that I’d leave the case unfinished, even if she says ‘yes,’ but if she’s really not onboard with this, now would be a good time to find out.

“No,” Ema says, after a long moment’s pause. “You may be a ditzy-ass prosecutor, but you’re still the best chance she’s got.”

“Mind if I bring someone else in on it?” I ask. Daryan already knows some of what’s up, but it’ll be good to have him involved in a semi-official capacity.

“Depends. Who is it?”

“He’s a cop like you.”

Ema gives me a wry look. “I’m not a cop. I’m a forensic investigator in exile.”

I steal a sip of her drink, dodging when she tries to smack my hand away. “In that case the two of you’ve got nothing in common. Daryan wouldn’t know forensics from his own ass.” Probably unfair. I’m sure there was a class he’s slept through, in basic training.

“Daryan Crescend? Why do you want him involved?”

“He’s a good friend of mine.”

She smirks. “How good?”

The fraulein’s a detective whether she admits it or not. “You’d have to ask him that. You guys know each other?”

Ema shakes her head. “We’ve met, but that’s about it. The name’s just not very common.” She pushes her drink toward me. “You can have this, if you want it that bad. I’m not finishing it after you’ve gotten your fop germs all over it.”

“Is that a yes?” I ask. “To bringing him on.”

She hesitates, but nods, eventually. “Can’t hurt, at this point. And look, I figured there was no point in telling you about Marshall. It’s not like I have anything useful to tell you about that night.” Ema cups her hands together, one hand rubbing the back of the other. One of those little self-comfort gestures. It makes me want to reach out, take that hand of hers in mine and keep it warm. “I barely remember anything. Had to pass out, didn’t I? Like a good little damsel in distress.”

“It’s okay,” I tell her. “I’d have probably done the same thing if it was me.”

“Yeah, but you’re a wimp.” She’s joking, but it still stings a little. Fifth grade, an argument with some kid whose name I don’t even remember anymore, about the length of my hair. Kristoph, college-age now, stepping in. What would you do, without me to look after you, Klavier?

The guy never bothers me again. Avoids me like the plague, and I keep thinking, I could have damn well handled him on my own.

You spend your whole life facing down dangerous criminals in court, and sometimes you make a joke or two, at your own expense, because who doesn’t? Self-deprecate because you’ve got confidence and arrogance to spare. Shame it’s the joke everyone always remembers, whenever they think of you, and you’re the one who started it, so it’s not like you’ve got anyone but yourself to blame.

“You’re too kind.” Some of the dry bitterness sneaks in, not as well-disguised as I’d have liked. Ema gives me a long, funny look.

“Takes one to know one, right? We could form a wuss club, you and I.”

“You were fourteen,” I say. Young enough her name’d been kept out of all the records.

“Like that’s an excuse.” She drinks her rum and coke. The one she said I could have. Guess my ‘fop germs’ aren’t so bad, after all. “Bring in Crescend,” she says. “Hell, bring in the Prime Minister of Borginia, if you’ve got him on call.” Even if I did, I doubt that would be a good idea. Didn’t their last PM get assassinated a couple of years ago? Wouldn’t want to start a trend. I’ve heard Borginia’s laws are more Orwellian than ours.

“Anything to get Lana out.” Ema hesitates. “Well, no, there’s one person…”

I wait for her to finish.

“Don’t get Damon Gant involved,” she says.

It may already be too late for that. He knows I’m looking, after the chat we’ve had. “Mind if I ask why?”

“Yeah,” Ema says, “I mind.” A shrug. “Guy just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, that’s all.”

“Don’t you work for him?”

“Not if I can avoid it.”

“Jake told me how you two got caught in his office.”

“It wasn’t the two of us,” Ema says. “Just me. Jake got me in there, so he took the fall for it.” She looks guilty. “I bet he hates me for it now.”

“He didn’t give me that impression. Rather, he sounded like a man who’d wanted to get to the bottom of that case as much as you did, and chose his own risks, same as you.”

“It’s funny,” Ema muses. “I’m the one who’d have the access now, if I wanted. If I didn’t think I’d get caught…”

“I love how unrepentant you both are, about breaking and entering.”

“It’s not breaking an entering!” Ema insists. “That office and that safe both belong to the state. Not Gant, not even Lana, though it was her office, too. The evidence he kept in that safe belonged to the state, which makes it my business, as much as anyone else’s.”

“Do you think any of it is still there?” Gant had told me it was gone. I’d wonder why I’m questioning the truth of his statement, but a good prosecutor cannot afford the luxury of blind trust. You’ve always got to look at all the possible angles. Anyone could be guilty, even those you’d consider friends.

Ema looks thoughtful. “Who knows?” and I can’t believe I’m even considering this.

“If I distract him,” I hear myself saying, “would you still be able to get into the safe?”

She doesn’t respond, silent for ten minutes, eyes far away. “Fraulein? Ema?” Okay, now she’s scaring me.

“Shhhh, I’m thinking… Argh, you just made me lose my train of thought, shut it!”

Another ten minutes pass. I steal back the ping-pong rum and coke. Should have just gotten one of my own, but hers tastes better.

“He already knows about the fingerprinting powder trick,” Ema thinks out loud, “so he’ll wear those gloves when opening the safe. I can’t get his combo that way, anymore… Gavin, I need paper and a pencil, now!”

“Ja, meine Kapitän.” I have my briefcase with me, for moments just like this. Ema flips through my notebook, past court notes, terrible doodles, snatches of lyrics for songs that don’t exist, until she finds an empty page.

“If I had the right kinds of electronics… Yes, that would work!” She practically glows. “The question’s where I might find the materials.”

“Radio Shack?” I suggest.

“Only the basics.” She taps the pencil against the page, wrinkles her nose. “I’ll figure it out. Right after I figure out why you think ‘sting’ is a good rhyme for ‘heartstring.’ The emphases are totally different.”

I spread my hands, sighing loudly. “Everyone’s a critic.” At least listening to Ema insult my attempts at song lyrics is distracting me from wondering what the hell kind of gentleman thief scheme I’m getting myself into.

***

“There she is.” Daryan gives a glaring Ema the once-over. “Little Miss Gavin-Won’t-Shut-Up-About-Her.”

Ema turns to give me an incredulous look. “This is the guy you thought would contribute something useful to the case?”

Dayan smirks. “Guess that means you don’t want the guy who works in electronic surveillance after all, huh?” He used to be in international affairs. Time was, we had a friendly competition. Who could overachieve more. Something to brag about, in bed. Something to feel real, honest pride in. But then, things went some kind of pear-shaped, around two years ago. An assignment in Borginia, at a bad time. Right around the time of that assassination, actually. Daryan got demoted. Punted all the way back to LA. Still wakes up, sweating and swearing under his breath about it, sometimes, but he just gets pissed off when I ask, so I’ve dropped that particular ball of a lost cause.

He claims it’s better this way, when he feels like making light of it. Says he’s always fucking hated flying, anyway.

“I said he’d be useful.” I shrug.

“Ain’t all I’m useful for, either.” His hands skate over my back, drumming out an old beat. Huh, interesting. I guess he could have taken this meeting two ways: play it straight to the hilt, or get his hands all over me, to warn off the competition. Two different flavors of annoying, like lemon and strawberry, only more bitter.

Ema makes a face. “Words cannot describe how much I don’t want to know. Crescend, I want the rundown of all the equipment you can get me, without having to account for it, then a list of all the stuff you could plausibly account for, then everything else.”

Daryan rolls his eyes. “Just tell me what you need. I’m not Gavin, you don’t have to spoonfeed me.”

She rattles off a baker’s dozen of what I can only assume are electronic parts, and Daryan laughs.

“The fuck you need that for, Goggles?”

“Shhh, no spoonfeeding, only ignoring all your questions.”

“There’s probably a voice-activated component,” I pitch in.

“Right.” Ema looks at me like I’m a grade schooler who’s just earned a cookie. “Once I figure out the phrase, I’m all set.”

“There are safeguards to prevent recordings from being used to open a lock.”

A familiar booming laugh echoes from Ema’s lips. “You got that right, Whatever-Annoying-Nickname-I-Use-For-You, my boy!”

“Fuck that’s eerie. I’ve got perfect pitch, and I can’t even do that.”

Ema shrugs and looks cute. “It’s a gift.”

Daryan’s eyes light up. “Oooh, do Klavier, being a big diva.”

“Sorry, boys, I’m not doing either of you, in any way shape or form.” Still, there’s something about her voice, which almost sounds like she’s enjoying herself, instead of battling despair, for the first time this week. Scheiße, I’m jealous of Daryan, for being able to bring that out in her. I sure as hell can’t. Gotta start with yourself, if you want to cheer up someone else. Either that or go all-out sad clown, and even I can’t get pancake makeup to look good.

The two of them keep talking shop, as I try to figure out just how I’m going to get Gant out of his office. The simplest way is probably the best - ask him to grab drinks or something. He did say the next set was on me.

***

“I like her,” Daryan says, after Ema leaves.

“Too bad,” I say. “She doesn’t like you. Pretty sure she doesn’t like anyone who’s not her sister.”

Daryan whistles. “Kinky. Not bad, though. Nice tits, kind of uptight, but those are the ones who always scream the loudest, when you finally make them come.” Fuck, that’s a mental image. Can’t get it out of my head, even though I know I really should. “Heh, yeah, I bet that turned you on.”

“Think it’ll work?” I ask.

“What, you trying to get her in the sack?”

“I’d say you have a one-track mind, but even giving you that one single track is a compliment. Her plan, Crescend!”

“You already know what I think.” He frowns. “I think you’re both full of shit, Skye actually killed Goodman, Goggles is gonna wind up keeping her company in prison for B&E, and if that’s her plan, I wish she’d leave us the fuck out of it.”

“It’s not her plan,” I say. “They’re going to execute Lana next Thursday.”

“So? Perfect time to try for a jailbreak, if you’re Goggles and you’re getting that desperate.”

“You know they’re sunglasses, right?”

“Whatever. She’s a science chick. They can be goggles. And we’re gonna get hung for accomplices, if she gets caught. Especially me, with all the shit I’m bringing to the party.” He rakes a hand through his hair. “I can’t believe I’m trying to talk you off the sketchy illegal ledge, Gavin. You were supposed to be the golden boy.”

“That’s what everyone keeps saying.” But all that glitters - or glimmers, as Ema would put it - isn’t gold. “Maybe this really is your turn.”

The look Daryan shoots me is bitter as hell. “Like I’ve ever had any luck, trying to talk you out of anything.”

“Maybe if you varied your approach. Something other than ‘insult me,’ or ‘distract me with sex.’”

“Like you don’t operate the same way, you flaming hypocrite. Tell me flat out, Klavier: is there any way I can talk you the fuck away from SL-9?”

“It’s just a case. What the hell scares you about it, so fucking much?”

“Screw you,” he says. “Just answer my damn question.”

“No,” I admit.

“Congratulations,” he says. “You’ve got your new NQ-3. Have fun obsessing yourself into an early grave. I’m going the fuck out.” I wonder if he’ll get a bug up his ass about Lana Skye, if I fail to save her, too.

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