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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
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.

Six PM. Apollo made tea. Cups and cups of it, even though he wasn’t thirsty and Klavier was a coffee drinker. The mugs burned his hands, reddening the skin.

Seven PM and there’d been no calls, aside from a single telemarketer, who would never again make the mistake of dialing a loud, angry lawyer’s number again.

He’d never spent a whole day waiting for someone to die, before. Wishing the hospital would phone, just so it would be over already, one way or the other. Beside him, Klavier sprawled on the couch, pen in hand, tapping it against a blank piece of paper in a monotonous rhythm.

Nine PM. A call from Phoenix. A call from Vera. Everyone was safe. No one used the words ‘all right.’ No one enjoyed living through this much of a close call.

Ten PM, and Klavier grabbed his jacket. Stood outside for a very long time, looking up at what stars remained in the sea of LA’s light pollution. Eleven, and Apollo knew it was too late to call the Wright Anything Agency again. Trucy would have school tomorrow. Eleven thirty, and a rough, slangy voice replied when he dialed Vera’s number. Wocky wouldn’t have been Apollo’s choice for company today, but better than being alone, right? And hey, if anyone knew what the feeling of someone he disliked dying was like...

Midnight. A knock on the door. Klavier standing outside the apartment with his guitar, its strings quiet enough even the downstairs neighbors wouldn’t complain. Tonight’s melody was jagged and bleak, anxiety strung through it like funerary Christmas garlands, rhythm like a heart monitor’s cry. Apollo’s heartbeat kept pace with it, restless.

Twelve thirty. “I wish he’d hurry up and die already.” It took Apollo a moment to realize that Klavier was the one who said it. “Quick and easy, end all our suffering.”

“His own included,” Apollo felt compelled to add. “You know, the only one he actually gives half a shit about.”

“Maybe he’ll wake up, instead, like Vera did.” The thought of it should have given Apollo hope, but it made him feel sicker instead. I don’t want him to ever wake up. I don’t want to watch when he dies. I don’t want to ever see him again. The glint of light from a pair of glasses. The cuff of a powder blue suit. Such innocuous things, and yet…

Apollo nearly groaned in frustration. “Why am I so messed up over him? He didn’t do anything to me. He didn’t molest me, or threaten me, or try to poison me. So he’s called me a couple of names, ordered me around. Boo-hoo.” The memory of Kristoph’s hand in his hair, the last time they talked, and every muscle in his body wanted to retreat, even though he and Klavier were alone in his apartment.

The hand in his hair was Klavier’s, this time, gentle, thoughtful with his boundaries, as Apollo’s eyes widened, pulling away before Apollo made to shake it off. “You care that he’s hurt others. It makes you a good person, that’s all.”

“No. There’s caring, and then there’s- whatever this even is. He hasn’t hurt me, but I feel like… I’m terrified of him. And I keep thinking, what the hell was wrong with me that I never noticed he was a psychopath, and what the hell was wrong with me that he was nice to me. That I was the kind of person he’d be nice to at all.”

“Survivor’s guilt,” Klavier said.

“Don’t you have to survive something to qualify?”

“Nein. All you have to do is be alive at the end, no matter what did or did not come before. That’s all surviving is. It’s not very much, but it’s better than the alternative.”

“I guess so…”

“There’s one more thing. Apollo… How many of the things you listed, as things he had not done to you- how many of those items came with a secret caveat of ‘not yet?’”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s just as skilled at using the carrot as the stick. You were a good assistant, who listened to his advice, did your work, learned quickly. You must have been a pleasure to work with. A pleasure to mold…”

“So you’re saying he liked me because I was a pushover?”

“But you weren’t a pushover. That’s the catch. What do you think would have happened if you had called him to the stand during Herr Wright’s trial, and he had somehow still managed to walk free?”

Apollo didn’t say anything.

“He wouldn’t have put atroquinine in your coffee, nothing so obvious as that, but there would have been so many other options. The edge of a brief - one paper cut is all it would take, and he could easily claim that he’d been the intended target all along, in court, taking himself out of suspicion. An offer of a comb, a bottle of hand lotion. A stamp, hell, like the one he used with Misham.

“Or maybe he would have simply flown into a rage.” Like he did with Shadi Enigmar, Apollo thought. Enigmar hadn’t seen him coming. Apollo wouldn’t have either.

“It almost sounds like you hate him more than I do.” Like you’re more scared of him than I am. Like he’s hurt you far worse than he has me.

“Who says I don’t?” Klavier’s voice was curt and pensive, all at once.

“What did he do to you?” Apollo made himself ask.

Klavier laced his hands behind his head and gave a single, mirthless bark of a laugh. “Nothing I didn’t ask him to.”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought I loved him, when I was a kid. I did love him. Thought he was everything a big brother should be; everything I would never live up to.

"I didn’t see him very often- My family was a bit strange, ja, I should perhaps explain. Legally speaking, my father was my guardian, as he should have been. In practice, however, he rarely returned to America, after my mother’s death. For a while, it was just Kristoph and me, but Kris’s studies, and later his job, necessitated a great deal of traveling, till he was almost as absent as Father himself.”

Klavier’s words grew longer and more formal he spoke, his voice progressively more accented. It was as though he were trying to stretch out the story, avoid reaching the punchline, and all the while it drew him deeper and deeper, back into the past.

“I attended boarding schools until the end of junior high. After that, I did well enough on my own, I suppose. I had schoolwork and friends to keep me busy, and the faculty at Themis Academy made sure to check in on me. You could say I was something very much like an emancipated minor, minus only the paperwork or the desire for it.”

“What, and no one called Child Protective Services?”

“As I said, I did well, and my family was very wealthy, besides.” Klavier kept going.

“But the one thing I looked forward to most of all were Kristoph’s visits. Friends and teachers were wonderful, but when he was there, I felt like I had a family again. You cannot really replace something like that, no matter how hard you try.”

He shot Apollo a guilty look, realizing the contrast between them. Apollo just shrugged. “You’re probably right. I wouldn’t know.”

“He was never an… affectionate man, I suppose you might say. Oh, he was always gentle and courteous with everyone, myself included, but I never saw him touch anyone else at all, outside of handshakes and other such formalities. In that, I was special. He would ruffle my hair, sometimes even hug me. When I was small, he would tell me I was the most important person in all his world.

“I still don’t know how much of it was lies, or when he came to resent me, for the first time, though I know he did. The trial made that clear, if nothing else.”

Klavier paused, looking for the right words, or possibly away from them. “Whatever may have been going on inside his mind, I grew to cherish those little touches of his. Those little signals that he cared. So I didn’t notice the shift, any more than I noticed the shift in his perception of me.

“I was fifteen, before it became obvious. It’s easy enough to think nothing strange of a hug, a back rub. Even a hand straying where it should not - accidents do happen. Harder to mistake someone kissing the back of your neck.”

Fifteen, Apollo thought, and saw red. Klavier would have been Trucy’s age when it happened. All that brightness and curiosity and hunger for love. So easy to take advantage of, if you didn’t mind becoming a monster.

“I remember that click of realization,” Klavier continued. “That thought of ‘oh, so that’s what he wants.’ The thought that it would be worth it, if it meant he’d stay.

Sometimes you say yes for all the wrong reasons.

“I remember his face, centimeters from mine, so I kissed him. And when he pushed for more, I didn’t exactly say no.” Another humorless laugh. “I thought it was what he wanted, even though it was the last thing I wanted. All the while knowing it was wrong, listing in my head every single statute he would get jailed on, in the state of California, if this ever came to light.”

Never flinch at anything your client might tell you, no matter how horrible you think it is, Apollo recalled one of his professors advising him. It’s disrespectful, and it’s going to compromise their respect for and trust in you. He kept his face neutral; kept his hands still, instead of balling them into fists like he wanted to. No matter that Klavier was something far more important than just a client. This still wasn’t about Apollo, or his feelings, or the cold pit of horror opening up in his stomach.

“And afterward, he sat back and claimed none of it had been his intent. That he’d done it all in the name of keeping me happy. It was the first time I saw his mask fall. He’d meant to convince me I had been the one who manipulated him into doing something abhorrent, with my need and naivete. He almost, almost succeeded.”

A spoiled and selfish man, who won’t stop to think what vulnerabilities he’s taking advantage of in others.’ Kristoph had been describing someone, all right. Shame that someone was actually himself, much as he’d have liked you to think he was talking about Klavier. Still playing his little blame misdirect game. Afraid, perhaps, of his little brother spilling the beans, after all this time. So that’s what it had been about...

“Oh, god…” Shit, he hadn’t meant to say that out loud, breaking the unspoken covenant of neutrality.

“I’m sorry,” Klavier raked both hands through his hair, deer in the headlights, all of a sudden. “I shouldn’t have told you any of that. What purpose does it serve, aside from hurting you? Callous and twisted of me, isn't it? Just like he said.”

“You’re wrong!” Apollo’s voice rose so high it cracked, but he didn’t even care. “How does any of this make you twisted?”

Klavier’s voice, in contrast, was very deliberate, almost detached in its self-accusation. Ever the prosecutor. “There’s a reason incest is considered a crime nearly everywhere in the world.”

Yes, Apollo thought, and who had initiated that? “There’s also a reason statutory rape is a felony. A lot of reasons, actually.”

“And now, I’ve drawn you into this whole Gavin family soap opera.” Quiet and bitter.

“Forget about that! I was the one who asked you. Do you think I’d have wanted you to lie? I asked, which meant I wanted to know, and if the truth was bad, then so be it.” You’re worth painful truths.

“Besides,” Klavier said. “It wasn’t as though he raped me.”

“He manipulated you into it. You just told me you didn’t want it.” Kristoph was good at creating that sense of obligation.

“I wanted him. Not like that, not sexually, but I wanted him to hold me, to pay attention to me. I wanted him to love me, and I didn’t care what I had to give for it. I made my own bed, Apollo, so please, don’t make me out to be some kind of blameless victim.” The look in Klavier’s eyes begged him, don’t hate me for this, but it begged him to keep his pity even more fiercely. Better to be seen as culpable, than as damaged goods.

“What if it was me?” Apollo asked him. “What if he’d done the same thing to me? That’s what you were asking me, that day at the bar, weren’t you?” True, Apollo would not have been a child, but there would have been a power imbalance nonetheless, with a mentor and a student, desperate for his affection and approval. “You thought he had.” For the first time, Apollo allowed himself to wonder just how close it had come, to that.

He recalled Kristoph - handing him a fifty, I’ve lunch waiting for pickup at Alhambra, would you do the honors, Justice, don’t bother with the change, make sure you get something for yourself as well. Hands lingering just a fraction of a moment too long, as he tucked the money into Apollo’s breast pocket. Kristoph leaning over his shoulder while he worked, the heat of his breath on Apollo’s ear, voice quiet, measured in its criticism. Kristoph’s eyes burning into the back of his head, making him turn around, only to find the older man otherwise occupied. Kristoph, so very commiserating, the one time Apollo complained in front of him about being single. Really? A handsome boy like you? Surely not. Kristoph’s thumb swiping across his cheek, claiming he had an ink smudge, and didn’t he read somewhere that touching someone else’s face was a subtle, effective measure of dominance?

‘I’d expected better, when it came to your level of professionalism,’ my ass. Kristoph had known exactly what he was doing, hadn’t he?

On its own, every one of those gestures could have been innocent. Hell, Mr. Wright did the leaning over the shoulder thing! But it was different, with him, without the twisted thread of sexual tension choking the air. And sure, Apollo had never responded to it, never - in fact! - allowed it to override his professionalism. But give it another six months, a year? In a world where Kristoph had never stood trial, it would have been Apollo in his bed, or far more likely over an office desk, with his elbows grinding into the mahogany, regretting ever having agreed to this, and never managing to catch enough breath to say no.

Survivor’s guilt, indeed. There must have been a more on-point word for it, in German, that feeling of having escaped the threat, unharmed thanks to nothing more profound than timing. The knowledge that others had not been so lucky, and what the hell made you so special? Only luck and time. A roll of the dice, a flicker of cards being shuffled.

Klavier’s shoulders hunched, face hidden from sight. “If it was you, then I would have to kill him and take his place on death row, myself.”

Klavier’s hand was uncharacteristically clammy, when Apollo took it in his, laced their fingers together, hoping the gesture would adequately convey ‘I’m sorry,’ and ‘I don’t think any less of you.’ He almost said ‘I love you,’ but choked back the words, just in time. This wasn’t the place for it, and besides, he wasn’t sure he could tell the difference between love and empathy, as he was.

“Thank you for trusting me,” he said, and hoped it was enough. Klavier’s fingers squeezed back, began to warm up a little. Not all the way, but some. It was a start.


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October 2016


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