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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.


“Have you told anyone before?” he asked Klavier later, curled up together on Apollo’s too-small bed, with Klavier’s ankles hanging awkwardly off the end. Klavier shook his head, pulled Apollo closer to him.

“Nein. I thought about telling Daryan. We used to tell each other everything, until we did not. But his old man was a cop, he would have gotten the police involved in half a heartbeat, and I did not want Kris arrested. I thought about telling Constance as well- Constance Courte, she was an old mentor of mine, at Themis. You would have liked her. I should, perhaps, introduce you two.

“I think she might have suspected. I showed up on her doorstep, later that night, looking a mess. Told her Kris and I’d had a fight, which was true enough, and then didn’t tell her anything more, for the reasons I’d already mentioned.

“Beyond that? Who would I have told? The press? Hardly.” His heart thudded unhappily beneath Apollo’s ear. I don’t know what to do, Apollo thought. Anything I say could be screwing things up, but if I start treating you differently now, I’ll just prove you right for saying you shouldn’t have told me.

“No kidding,” he said. “You tell the press your, I don’t know, favorite color, and they’ll manage to make a scandal out of it. Hand ‘em nothing, that’s what I say.” Lame joke, filler, lightening the mood, trying to change the subject. Which we don't have to do, but we can. Please don’t let me be awkward, please… I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say with this. Anything other than lapsing into silence.

Klavier gave him a crooked smile in reply, as if to say ‘yeah, I know you’re trying,’ and it was the most beautiful thing Apollo had ever seen. “Ja, well, you’re not wrong. They had a field day with the purple. I had to face all sorts of rumors about my sexuality.”

“Yeah, like those weren’t true.”

“Hey, objection! I am perfectly attracted to women. And to everybody else as well. Just call me indiscriminate.”

“Is that why you went for me? Cause you’re not picky like that?”

Klavier reached over to give him a particularly snappy forehead flick. He hadn’t done that in a while, huh. “Fishing for compliments is not very attractive, Herr Forehead. Especially not when you already have many fine traits. Not when you are one of the kindest people I have known, with a sharp sense of humor and an equally sharp mind, and yes, you are quite handsome, don’t lie to yourself.”

“So you’re just going to go ahead and give me all those compliments I was fishing for?”

Klavier shrugged, dislodging Apollo from his position. “What can I say, I am weak to you. Like so-” An arm slung around Apollo’s waist. “And like so.” Tangling their legs together. “And like so.” Kissing him deeply. “Very, very weak to you.”

“Wow, you’re a cheesebucket,” Apollo said, but it was a nice feeling, all the same.

Nothing had changed. This was the same Klavier who had stood with him in a darkened room. The same Klavier who made Trucy laugh, and left Phoenix exasperated. Who’d helped Apollo win his case, but not, Apollo might note, helped him dig through garbage.

He doesn’t need me to save him, Apollo realized. All he’s asking is that I listen, and that I stay. I can do that, he thought. We’re going to be fine.

***

Kristoph woke up at nine AM the next morning. He would become the second documented victim to survive his brush with atroquinine, perhaps due to his extended previous exposure to the toxin.

Some miracle, Apollo thought. He’d liked the first one better.

Kristoph’s estate attorney contacted Apollo later that day, requesting his presence at the man’s bedside once again. Apollo very nearly refused, point blank, but the other lawyer sounded so tired and Apollo thought, hell, Kristoph isn’t his fault. No point in making the poor guy’s life more difficult for his employer’s sins.

Seeing Kristoph unconscious in the hospital bed had been strange, before, but seeing him awake was even stranger. The sleeping form had been dignified in its stillness. The Kristoph he saw now had bags under his eyes. Clumps of his hair stuck out at odd angles, while others lay flattened by more than a day of unwanted rest. He almost looked human.

“There’s one more thing I would have you do for me, Justice.”

Apollo kept his voice flat. “I’m under no obligation. You know that.”

“I know,” Kristoph said. “But somehow, I think you won’t refuse this particular request. My dance with death has left me conscious of all the little things I’ve left unfinished, and it occurs to me that I’ve not arranged permanent lodgings for Vongole.” Apollo had seen the energetic golden retriever a couple of times, when Kristoph had brought her into the office. “I’m aware I cannot keep her at the kennel indefinitely.”

Something inside Apollo snapped. “You left her at the kennel? It’s been months since you were arrested!”

“Well, I hardly could have collected her myself.”

“You left her at the fucking kennel!” The estate attorney started, sweating profusely. “She trusted you! She listened to you when you told her to sit, or not jump on the furniture. She looked sad when you left the room and you left her at the motherfucking kennel!” He was shaking, breaths ragged, and he knew, on some level, that this was never just about the dog. Every ounce of rage on behalf of everyone who’d ever trusted this man, every ounce of grief for them, balled up in Apollo’s chest, threatening to pour out like a cascading waterfall, to explode like distant thunder building into an artillery strike. Somewhere in the periphery of his hearing, there were the murmurs of arriving medical personnel. He must have alerted them with his shouts.

Someone’s hand pincered around his wrist. “Is there a problem?” Hospital security. He could see the man’s gun in its holster, and he wanted to yell, why are you protecting him, where were you when the ones he’d hurt needed your help?

“No problem, Sir,” he said instead. “Just an argument.”

He wanted to drive his fists into Kristoph’s face, to keep pummeling him until there was nothing but blood and shards of bone. Until the fury inside him had bled out as well, where it wouldn’t rot the rest of him whole.

The security guard released him, fading back against the wall but refusing to leave the room.

“I’ll take her,” Apollo said. “But you will not contact me again, through legal channels or otherwise. I will never set foot in your vicinity again. You will never see me again, and more importantly, I will never see you again.”

“You’ll see me again, on the day when they execute me,” Kristoph retorted calmly.

“No,” Apollo said, surprising even himself. “I won’t be there. You deserve to hang alone.” He walked out before the man could reply, crowds of gathered staff parting to let him through.

***

This time, Phoenix didn’t stop Apollo from punching the wall, until he saw Apollo’s knuckles leaving bloody marks in the plaster. All it took was a gentle hand on his shoulder, and Apollo deflated, collapsed. Found himself staring at the tops of his own knees, as his eyes blurred and ran over, breaths hiccuping into sobs.

And Phoenix stayed there, crouched down next to him, held him, rubbed his back and didn’t comment.

“I’m sorry,” Apollo said, when he could talk again. “I feel ridiculous. All these goddamn hysterics.” When I was practically the only one he didn’t manage to harm.

Phoenix huffed lightly. “Clearly, my wall had it coming. I should just go ahead and have it padded for you. Except I kind of can’t afford that. Wanna talk about it, instead?”

Apollo shook his head. “It’s… not really mine to talk about.” A pause. “He didn’t even think to find someone to look after his dog, till now.”

“Asshole,” Phoenix said.

“Seriously.” His hand hurt.

Phoenix got up. “Hold on, let me find the first aid kit. And possibly whitewash. For the wall, not for you. Don’t put whitewash on cuts, it’s not good.”

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Not being an asshole.”

“Such faint praise,” Phoenix said, dryly.

Apollo rolled his eyes. “Fine, you’re kind of an asshole, too.” His boss ruffled his hair, and helped him bandage his hand for the second time that month.

***

To give Kristoph the smallest portion of credit, the kennel where Vongole was being boarded looked roomy, cheerful and well-appointed. He introduced himself to the plump receptionist, whose warm smile spoke of deep affection for the dogs her company took care of. “Hold on a sec, I know Mr. Gavin’s lawyer faxed us the paperwork earlier today.” She shuffled around in her desk. “Yep, there it is. Man, is your last name seriously Justice? I’m so jealous!”

“How’s Vongole doing?” he asked.

The receptionist sighed. “Going kinda stir-crazy. Can you blame her? Retrievers need a ton of exercise, attention and training. We do our best, but we’ve got a whole doggie hotel’s worth of residents here.”

Apollo learned how much of an understatement that was, when he found himself bowled over by a yellow blur, hot dog breath in his face, as soon as the receptionist opened the door of the cage. He yelped, embarrassingly loud, and Vongole howled to match. The receptionist looked half-concerned, half- trying really hard not to laugh.

There was a twenty-pound bag of dry dog food in the back of his car, cheap but grain free. The kennel had Vongole’s leash, dishes, that kind of stuff. He got the number of a vet, wrote it down, tapped the pencil against his head for a minute straight, sure he was forgetting to ask something vital. The receptionist scribbled down her number, on top of his paperwork. “That’s my home phone. Call me if you need help with her. She’s your first dog, right? I can totally tell.”

Apollo nodded. “One of my foster families had a lab, but he wasn’t mine. So, uh, thanks. I really mean that.”

“Well,” the receptionist said, “you’re her foster family now, so take good care of her, okay?”

Foster family, huh? His hadn’t been too bad, but they’d never amounted to anything other than short term. There was a pair of brown eyes looking up at him. They looked sad, but that may have been a dog thing. “I’m hoping for something more permanent,” he said, his mind already made up. “I’m not giving her up to someone else.”

His landlord was going to kill him.

Keeping Vongole contained in the front seat turned out to be its own project. Were you supposed to put seat belts on dogs? Apollo was pretty sure that was a ‘no.’ But then how were you supposed to keep them from jumping all over the car, into your lap, pluming their tails all over your line of vision? It would just figure, if he died in a fiery crash thanks to Kristoph’s dog. “Down,” he said a lot, starting to realize that ‘down’ probably meant ‘go ahead and lick my face,’ as far as Vongole was concerned. Obedience training. So much obedience training. Starting this week, if at all possible.

She quieted when he pulled up into his driveway, as though finally realizing she wouldn’t be going back home, to her real owner. Dogs weren’t stupid. She padded inside and lay down, just barely through the doorway. “I know it doesn’t smell like him,” Apollo said. Good thing, as far as I’m concerned. “He’s not coming back, but I’ll take care of you, okay?”

The retriever ignored not only him but her food as well. She was probably used to eating at gourmet dog restaurants or something. At least she drank some water from her dish. That was good, right?

Two days of this, and he called Klavier, hoping Vongole would perk up if she saw someone vaguely familiar.

It worked. She jumped up, eyes alert, as soon as she heard the motorcycle, taking a flying leap at Klavier when he walked through the door, front paws on his shoulders, all but knocking him over. Apollo hadn’t expected to see the sheer joy on the rock star’s face, as he went down, scratching and ruffling the retriever’s ears.

“Vongie! I haven’t seen you in ages. That’s a good girl, braver Hund. Ach, don’t french me! My feelings for you don’t run in that direction, down… Wait, you’re already down. Let me up, ja?” The dog refused, and Klavier just lay there, pressing his cheek against the top of her head. Apollo thought his eyes might have gotten a little misty, but he chose not to comment.

By the time they were done wrestling, there was a rip down the side of Klavier’s shirt, and a dust bunny caught in his hair (dammit, Apollo had thought he’d vacuumed well enough.) He looked radiant.

“Thank you for taking care of her,” Klavier said. “I may not have visited all that often, but she’s still family.”

“Pretty sure she feels the same about you.” Apollo held out his hand, helping Klavier back to his feet, as Vongole settled on the couch, tongue lolling, tired out for the moment.

“It’s a good thing we’re involved as we are. Otherwise, I might have had to fight you for her custody.”

Apollo rolled his eyes. “No way you should be her primary owner. You’d just spoil her and ruin all her training.”

“Ja, and what’s wrong with that?” Klavier looked incorrigible.

“Precisely my point!” He stabbed his finger at the center of Klavier’s chest, and found his hand captured between Klavier’s palms, cradled like it was something precious.

“That’s the thing about you, Apollo. You’re always reaching out. Always there for whoever needs you.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m a sucker. Shut up already.”

“Nein. What if that is precisely the thing I love most about you?”

Apollo froze at the realness of those words.

“Ich li-” Klavier shook his head. “No, this I’d rather not leave to ambiguity. I believe I’m falling in love with you.”

“You believe? S-so much for being unambiguous.” Apollo’s heart was beating hard enough he thought it might explode, and he’d forgotten how to breathe, somewhere in there, and he didn’t know whether he wanted to run or fold himself around Klavier, never letting go.

“Allow me to rephrase: I love you. I know as much.” Apollo looked up at him, remembered the way Klavier’s hair tangled in the morning, his fingers curled around a coffee mug, the smile and the wreck of his clothes, as he let Vongole jump all over him, the burning look in his eyes as a trial unwound. All thoughts of running vanished, dismissed for the nerve-induced lies they were.

“I-” Right, so Han Solo is a cool guy. He got to fly a spaceship and everything. He also got frozen in a block of something-or-other. Don’t be Han Solo.

“I love you too,” Apollo said, and Klavier was kissing him. His ears, his temples, the top of his head, mischievous pecks on his forehead and the tip of his nose. Lips pressed against his, teeth gently tugging at his lower lip. He felt warm, like an endless summer day, with the waves crashing against the beach and sunlight filtering through the green of the leaves. Klavier’s eyes were squeezed shut, overwhelmed with emotion, and Apollo had to kiss him again, till all those feelings turned into husky, desperate noises poured into his mouth.

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