foxysquidalso: (apollo)
[personal profile] foxysquidalso
Title: In Loco Parentis (2/2) [Part one]
Pairings: Kristoph/Apollo, Phoenix/Apollo
Other characters: Edgeworth, Klavier (sort of), Trucy, Vongole
Rating: R
Word count: 11,900
Warnings: a bad mentor figure abuses his position, sexual situations (but no minors involved in them), hints of weird brother fixation.
Summary: At seventeen, having spent much of his life in foster care and group homes, Apollo has all but given up on finding a permanent family. Things are about to change.



At Mr. Gavin's house, Apollo never felt angry, not the way he had at his previous homes. There was nothing to feel angry about. His surroundings were clean, beautiful, peaceful. Since he studied at home and knew few people in the city, he did feel lonely some days, but there were benefits to having so much free time and so much freedom. Mr. Gavin taught him, as promised, but he was extremely busy. He had his practice, and he was involved with more than a few charities. When Apollo's tutor wasn't visiting, Apollo was often left alone with Vongole.

Fortunately, he and Vongole got along well. The little puppy had grown up quickly into a young dog.

"Hey, girl, what do you want to do today? Want to go for a walk?"

Vongole knew the word walk, and the sound of it incited a flurry of tail-wags, although she did not jump or bark. She was too well-trained for that. "Good girl, Clams," said Apollo, as he went to get her harness and lead. He was supposed to call her Vongole, but Clams sounded cuter, and it was normal for people to give their dogs nicknames, wasn't it? "Don't worry, I'll take you on a nice, long walk."

There was a great dog park within walking distance, where Vongole could run as much as she liked. She loved to be free, and Apollo loved to run beside her. Usually, no one talked to him at the dog park, outside of a brief hello. A lot of the people looking to start a conversation there were also looking for a date. Apollo didn't exactly exude the air of an eligible bachelor, not that he would have minded if a cute boy started to talk to him.

There didn't seem to be any cute boys at the dog park that day, not that he was going out of his way to hunt for them. More focused on playing with Vongole, he wasn't paying much attention to any of the other people, at least not until a frisbee soared out over the broad green lawn, and Vongole, without being prompted and much to Apollo's surprise, ran toward it, leapt, and caught it in her teeth.

"Wow! Good job, girl! Come." She obeyed, bearing her prize proudly. She gave it up to him without protest, then wagged her tail and gazed up at him expectantly, clearly wanting another go. Apollo glanced over his shoulder to see where the free-flying frisbee had come from.

He stood up straighter as he saw the man walking toward him, a silver long-haired Weimaraner at his side. "Hi," he managed to say. "Here's your frisbee. Sorry Clams caught it like that. She loves catching things." Great, Apollo. As if that wasn't obvious.

"No harm done." The man smiled as he accepted the frisbee.

Vongole had become more interested in the new dog than the frisbee. She gave a little wriggle, but she hadn't gone forward yet, waiting patiently. "Um, is it okay if they play?" asked Apollo, trying not to look as nervous as he felt.

"Certainly."

"So," said Apollo, as the dogs began to run together and the man threw the frisbee for them, "you're Mr. Edgeworth, right?"

"I am," he said, his glance slightly quizzical. "And you are?"

"My name's Apollo Justice, sir."

"The 'sir' won't be necessary, Mr. Justice. You have quite a remarkable name."

"Thanks, Mr. Edgeworth."

"How do you know me, if I might ask?"

"I'm a great admirer of your work, Mr. Edgeworth. I read--" He'd been about to mention Phoenix Wright's cases, but he stopped himself as he remembered that that could be a sore point. He might still be upset about what had happened to his friend. "Your cases."

"My cases," said Mr. Edgeworth. His dog brought back the frisbee, with Vongole close on her heels. Mr. Edgeworth took the disc from her teeth and threw it again.

"Not all of them, of course. There are so many of them, right? But a lot of them. I bet you hear this all the time, but you're such a great lawyer. I've learned a lot from you."

The man nodded and glanced away, and for a moment, Apollo wondered if Mr. Edgeworth could possibly feel as awkward as he did. The moment passed. "I'm happy to hear that. I assume you plan to become a lawyer yourself, Mr. Justice?"

"Yeah, I do. I'm starting college next year."

"Next year?"

Oh no, he hoped Mr. Edgeworth wasn't going to ask him how old he was. People were always mistaking him for a middle schooler, which was embarrassing. "Yeah."

Mr. Edgeworth spared him that indignity. "Where are you planning to go to school?"

"Ivy University."

"It's a fine school. Have you decided what kind of law you're going to practice?"

"I'm going to be a defense attorney," He answered promptly. Like Mr. Gavin. "But I'll only defend the innocent." Like Mr. Wright.

"I see." There was a thoughtful note in the man's voice.

The dogs came back again finally, torn between the game of fetch and the fun of running with each other. This time, Vongole had the frisbee, so Mr. Edgeworth bowed to Apollo and let him throw it.

"You said your dog's name is Clams, I believe?" Mr. Edgeworth asked.

Apollo laughed. "I did say that, didn't I? No, that's a nickname, actually. Her name's Vongole."

"A nice name, if a little unusual. Did you name her that?"

"No. She isn't my dog. She's my--" He faltered, though it should have been easy to give a name to what Mr. Gavin was, shouldn't it? "My foster father's dog."

Something in Mr. Edgeworth's face changed, although Apollo couldn't quite give the change a name. He'd tensed, maybe. Mr. Edgeworth gave a faint smile. "She's a beautiful dog. My dog's name is Pess."

They continued to chat as the dogs continued to play. Apollo couldn't believe he was talking to the Miles Edgeworth, possibly the most brilliant prosecutor in the whole city, and maybe even more brilliant than that. He had seen him in court before, when he'd gone with Mr. Gavin, but that had been different. Then, Mr. Edgeworth hadn't been conversing with him and taking what he said seriously.

It ended too soon. "I'm afraid I have to go, Mr. Justice," Mr. Edgeworth said, signaling to Pess, who raced to his side at once. "It was a pleasure talking to you. And meeting Vongole."

"It was wonderful meeting you too." Apollo grinned, and Vongole licked his hand.

"Perhaps we'll meet again."

"I hope so."

"Here," said Mr. Edgeworth, producing a card. "If you'd like to call me to talk about your studies, feel free."

"I wouldn't want to bother you--"

"It's no bother," said the man crisply. Without another word, he turned and walked away, the dog keeping pace at his side. She was as well-trained as Vongole, Apollo could tell.

"He's kind of intimidating, isn't he?" Apollo asked Vongole. "But he seems nice."

That night, he couldn't wait to tell Mr. Gavin what had happened, so he didn't. "Guess who I met today, at the dog park?"

Mr. Gavin looked at him, and Apollo recalled that he wasn't that thrilled about the dog park, so he explained, "We were only there for a little while. Vongole wanted to run."

"That's fine, Apollo. I'm not angry. Continue your story. I'd like to hear it."

"I met Mr. Edgeworth. He was there with his dog. It was pretty great. We talked for a bit, and Vongole and his dog played together."

Mr. Gavin nodded. "Yes, Miles Edgeworth, a most esteemed colleague."

Apollo couldn't miss the edge of irony that sharpened his voice. "Do you not like Mr. Edgeworth?"

"He has a magnificent legal mind, it's true," admitted Kristoph, "but I can't approve of the way he's treated Phoenix."

Apollo brightened, as he always did when Mr. Gavin mentioned Mr. Wright, but he found these particular words confusing and a little troubling, so his brightness didn't last. "Aren't he and Mr. Wright friends?"

"After a fashion, but Edgeworth didn't take the disbarment well, and they've been estranged. It's been hard on Phoenix, but it wasn't a surprising turn of events. Edgeworth has always been a cold man."

Mr. Gavin's remark didn't match up with the man he'd seen at the dog park. Mr. Edgeworth had struck him as a kind person, if quiet, but Mr. Gavin had no reason to lie. It was hard to judge personality based on a first meeting. It wasn't as if Apollo had mentioned Mr. Wright, although he'd wanted to. He had no way of knowing what Mr. Edgeworth would have said about him. "That's too bad," he said. "Friends shouldn't treat each other that way." Since Mr. Gavin had brought up Phoenix Wright, he couldn't resist asking more about him. "I guess you and Mr. Wright are closer friends now?"

"Yes. I see him often, usually once a week, as you know."

He did know about their weekly meetings, but Mr. Gavin didn't reveal a great deal about them to Apollo. "Yeah, that's cool. You must talk a lot."

"A fair amount."

"Do you think I could go with you sometime?" Apollo blurted, before he had time to consider whether inviting himself along would be polite. "To see Mr. Wright? I wouldn't talk too much or bother him, I promise."

Mr. Gavin shook his head and smiled sadly. "As I've told you, Apollo, that wouldn't be wise. He's not the man you think he is. It's true, what they say. We should never meet our heroes."

Apollo didn't press the issue. When Mr. Gavin said no to something, he rarely changed his mind. "Maybe you could just tell him I said hi, or something."

Mr. Gavin's answering gaze was blank. He didn't offer to say hello to Mr. Wright. Instead, he asked a question. "Did you mention my name to Edgeworth, when you spoke?"

It was a slightly weird question, but Apollo answered it. "I don't think I did." Apollo thought back. "No--I definitely didn't." He'd meant to, but in his excitement over talking to the prosecutor, he'd forgotten to mention it.

"Good. I like to keep my personal life and my professional life separate."

"All right, Mr. Gavin."

"And Apollo," he added.

"Yes?"

"Please don't take Vongole to that dog park again. I don't mean to be strict, but such places encourage the spread of diseases, and I worry about her."

With this, the last of Apollo's good mood faded. "I won't," he said, although it didn't seem fair.

None of it's fair, he thought later that night, lying on his bed. He didn't go anywhere. He didn't have any friends. He couldn't even take Vongole to the dog park, although she liked it there and just wanted to play with the other dogs. He stared up at the ceiling. He should have been angry. Why wasn't he angry? He used to have no trouble getting mad, but now things were different.

Now things didn't seem real. It was like he was living in a dream. Everything was calm and clean and perfect. It was hard to get angry when he didn't know who to be angry with. Mr. Gavin? He hadn't done anything. Vongole hadn't done anything. There was no one left but himself. It was difficult to muster any anger, even with himself, let alone focus it. Maybe if he could have felt something stronger, he would have felt better. As it was, he felt frustrated, confused.

He slid his hands into his pants pockets and pulled out Mr. Edgeworth's card. The man's name was printed in wine red type. There was an office number and a cell number. Apollo could have called him, but he knew Mr. Gavin wouldn't have liked it. He sat up and sighed. He opened one of his drawers and tucked the card away, hiding it beneath everything else. Then, for lack of anything better to do, he went to bed.

The smell of cooking breakfast woke him the next morning, and he hurried downstairs. Mr. Gavin was in the kitchen, making bacon, eggs and tea. "There you are, Apollo," he said, turning with a smile as Apollo came through the kitchen door. "I hope you had a good sleep."

"I slept okay."

"Please, take a seat. And help yourself to the croissants." He indicated the kitchen table, and Apollo sat. There was indeed a plate of fresh croissants sitting in front of him. Mr. Gavin must have already been out this morning.

"I feel terrible about yesterday," said Mr. Gavin, returning his attention to his eggs as he continued to speak. "I wasn't in the best of moods, I'm afraid. I've been working on some very trying cases. I'm sorry if I upset you."

"You didn't do anything."

"Now, that isn't entirely true. I was a bit curt with you. You can take Vongole to the dog park, if you'd like, as long as you're cautious about which dogs she has contact with."

"No, that's fine. If you're really worried about it, I can walk her somewhere else."

"As you like." He turned to smile at Apollo over his shoulder. "In fact, I've taken today off, and we can do whatever you'd like."

"Thanks!" That was so nice of Mr. Gavin. He didn't have to do anything special. "I'll have to think of something. Eating those eggs sounds great right now, for a start."

"Then eggs you shall have."

Today was already looking better than yesterday. Vongole crept into the kitchen, wagging her tail. She knew better than to beg for the table scraps she was not allowed to receive, but she sat down by Apollo's chair. He could tell by the expression on her face that she was enjoying the delicious smell of the cooking food more than he was.

The eggs and bacon tasted better than they smelled. Apollo had to force himself not to inhale them. He was always famished in the morning. Vongole watched him carefully, waiting in hopes of a mistakenly dropped morsel. He couldn't blame her.

In spite of Mr. Gavin's seeming good mood, his breakfast conversation was sober in tone. "You should never hesitate to tell me if anything is bothering you, Apollo. I haven't looked after a young person before, so this is a new experience for me. I'm sure I'll make some mistakes."

"You're doing fine, Mr. Gavin. Don't worry about it."

"I'm glad you think so, because there's something I want to discuss with you."

Apollo, had to pause to swallow the food in his mouth. "Oh? What?"

"Your next birthday is your eighteenth, obviously. After that time, you'll legally be an adult, and I'll no longer be obligated to care for you, in loco parentis, as I do now."

"Right." An eighteenth birthday wasn't something you looked forward to with great eagerness when it meant you'd be on your own. He assumed that he'd get by, get a scholarship and work to support himself somehow, but it wasn't the most appealing idea.

"I was wondering if you would like to stay. With me, as an adult."

"I can stay?"

"Of course you can. I hope you'll choose to. I've grown very fond of you over these past months. You're such a bright young man, with a bright future. I don't see why we can't continue to live together. That is, if you'd like to."

Forgetting the way he'd felt last night in the brightness of the morning, Apollo answered, "I would."

***


Everything went as planned. Whether it was Apollo's plan or Mr. Gavin's plan didn't seem to matter so much as long as things were going well. He turned eighteen, and nothing changed. He continued to live and study with Mr. Gavin, and when he started classes at Ivy University, things didn't change much then, either.

He did start to make some friends at college, but he'd gotten used to spending most of his time with Mr. Gavin and Vongole, so he didn't go out a great deal. Mr. Gavin gave him a job at the office, mainly making copies, filing and running errands, but it was legal work, and he loved the law, so he was happy to do it. If he were still a little lonely, it didn't matter so much, because he was happy. Wasn't he?

There were a few things he didn't feel great about. He'd stopped going to the dog park, for Mr. Gavin's sake. He'd never called Mr. Edgeworth, and he wondered what would have happened if he had. He still couldn't feel truly angry. He wondered what had happened to his anger. He'd gone to counseling, at Mr. Gavin's suggestion, and he'd talked about his problems, but that hadn't been what had done it. He hadn't felt any sense of release or relief. There was nothing.

Mr. Gavin had been acting unusual, but Apollo was resigned to the fact that he was an unusual guy: elusive, private, enigmatic. He probably wasn't being particularly unusual. It was more that he was unusual in a different way. More attentive, somehow. Maybe because Apollo was spending more time out of the house, there were more unknowns for him to ask Apollo about. When they were both home, he kept close, interested in Apollo's every action, no matter how inconsequential. Asking him about his friends, his coursework, what he'd had for lunch. Everything.

There was nothing he kept from Mr. Gavin until he went out on a date with a boy from his college. He didn't tell Mr. Gavin about it beforehand because he'd been too embarrassed to mention it, and it hadn't been a momentous occasion. A casual thing. Simple. They'd met for coffee. They'd talked. They'd gone on a walk. No great event, but it had been his date.

He didn't see the need to tell Mr. Gavin about it until after it was over. If it had been a disaster, he wouldn't have wanted to talk about it. The man asked him about his day, late in the evening, after he returned from one of the mysterious errands Apollo had long ago learned not to ask about. Mr. Gavin's face was weary as he seated himself on the couch, but he asked all his usual questions, and Apollo answered them.

The usually calm Mr. Gavin paled when Apollo mentioned the date. "Who is he?"

"A guy from one of my classes. He's nice."

Mr. Gavin didn't say anything. He didn't ask any more questions. He smiled, then looked away, which was odd, as they were sitting on the couch together, and suddenly Apollo was faced with the back of the man's head.

Mr. Gavin's response should have discouraged him from further conversation on the subject, but it didn't. On the contrary, a stubborn spark flared up in him. He felt compelled to push the issue, as if his date had emboldened him. "Do you date anyone? You never talk about things like that."

Silence came from the other end of the couch, and Apollo began to feel bad about asking. He might have touched on a painful subject without meaning to. He was about to apologize and take his question back, when he heard a low voice. It almost didn't sound like Mr. Gavin's voice at all, yet it must have been his. He was the only other person in the room. "I loved someone once. He left."

"I'm so sorry that happened to you."

Mr. Gavin faced him again. His smile had returned, his mood sunnier. "No, it doesn't matter. It was a long time ago. I apologize for my outburst."

That hadn't been what Apollo would call an outburst. "It's okay. Everyone has their moments, right? So don't worry about it."

"Apollo," said Mr. Gavin.

He became serious again, the smile fading. "I know this is inappropriate. However, it is not illegal."

"What's inappropriate?"

The space between them vanished, and Apollo was unable to move or even think as Mr. Gavin kissed his mouth. It was a soft, quiet kiss, and it ended almost at once. "I know I should control myself," Mr. Gavin said, a murmur, his breath against Apollo's cheek. "I've tried to do so. Perhaps this isn't right, but I find your beauty compelling. So fresh, like a flower."

"Uh," said Apollo, aware that he had seldom sounded like such an idiot, but then, he had never been compared to a flower before. "Mr. Gavin, are you feeling all right?"

Mr. Gavin, instead of answering, stroked his cheek, let his fingers float down over Apollo's neck. Apollo lowered his eyes. Mr. Gavin kissed his cheek, his forehead. Apollo felt--it was hard to say what he felt, other than warm. Mr. Gavin's hands moved down his shoulders, slipped around him to meet at at the center of his back. Then the man kissed his mouth again, sliding his tongue between Apollo's lips. No one had kissed him like that before.

Apollo wondered, did he like Mr. Gavin? Mr. Gavin was handsome, kind, generous. It would make sense for someone to like him. He must have liked him. The way he felt now was nothing like the way he'd felt on his date. Heat rose up through his body. His cheeks burned, and he returned the man's kiss. Probably Mr. Gavin was right, and it wasn't appropriate, but it felt good.

Mr. Gavin pulled Apollo into his lap, and Apollo didn't resist his pull. Then Mr. Gavin did something more unexpected that what he had already done. He started to speak, in a soft tone, into Apollo's ear. That in itself wasn't what was unexpected; it was what he was saying. Apollo went still, bewildered. He didn't understand a word that Mr. Gavin was saying. It took him a disoriented moment to recognize that the man was talking to him in German. He'd never heard Mr. Gavin speak German before. Apollo had assumed, from the German books in his house, that Mr. Gavin could speak German, but he had never thought much of it. Was Mr. Gavin German? In some ways, Apollo knew so little about him. He remembered that one message on the answering machine. He'd never found out who that call was from.

"Mr. Gavin, I can't understand you."

He smiled and said something else Apollo couldn't understand before holding him closer, pressing his mouth to Apollo's until there was no room to speak in any language. Apollo closed his eyes. His heartbeat was fast and hard. It felt like it didn't belong to him. It was somebody else's heart. Mr. Gavin loosened Apollo's tie and unbuttoned his collar. He spoke words that sounded like a question.

"I don't know," said Apollo, helplessly.

Mr. Gavin leaned down to lick his throat. Apollo touched his hair. It smelled sweet, like lavender. He shivered. Mr. Gavin was undoing all the buttons on his vest and the shirt underneath. Was this wrong? No, they were both adults.

The next time Mr. Gavin spoke, it was mercifully in English. "Let me take you to bed."

His hands were so soft, sliding over Apollo's bared chest, his throat, his sides. He seemed to be touching him everywhere. "Yes, I want to go."

"I desire you so much, Apollo."

Mr. Gavin left off the light in the bedroom. His breath was warm against Apollo's ear, but now he didn't speak. He was completely silent, except for his breathing, as he stripped Apollo of the rest of his clothes. Apollo didn't say anything. He kept his eyes closed in the dark, his fingers twisted in the sheets, Mr. Gavin above him.

Afterward, Mr. Gavin sent him back to his room. The house seemed different as he walked through it that night. The hallway was cold. When he reached his bedroom door, he heard claws clicking on the floor and turned to see Vongole trotting out of the dark. "Hi, Clams. You want to come hang out with me?"

He opened his door, and Vongole answered his question by walking through it. Apollo laughed. "Okay, cool."

Vongole wasn't allowed on the beds, but when Apollo sat down on his, she jumped up beside him. He didn't push her off. He was glad of the company. He didn't want to be alone. Vongole pushed her cold nose against his cheek. "Aw, thanks," said Apollo. "Yeah, you can stay up here, I'm not going to tell on you."

Suddenly, his eyes stung, and he gave Vongole a hug. She must have sensed that he was upset. She stayed still and let him hold her. Why was he sad? He should have been happy, shouldn't he? Mr. Gavin loved him, didn't he?

Except Mr. Gavin hadn't said that he did, and Apollo wasn't happy.

Vongole slept on his bed that night, keeping his feet warm with her body. The next morning, Mr. Gavin acted much as he did every morning. He was cheerful, making tea, and he in no way acknowledged that anything unusual had taken place. Apollo never called back the boy he'd gone on a date with. He didn't go on any more dates.

His life with Mr. Gavin had changed, and it would never return to what it had been before. Mr. Gavin no longer asked him so many questions about his day. When Mr. Gavin came home--later every night, it seemed--he wanted to have sex, and always in the same way: in his bed with the lights out. While they were in his room together, sometimes he would speak in German, but usually he wouldn't speak at all.

When they weren't having sex, Mr. Gavin rarely mentioned it. He behaved as he always had. At work, for the most part, he was as polite and professional as he had been previously, but sometimes, during his lunch break, he would call Apollo into his office, sit him on his desk, and start to kiss him so fiercely, Apollo was afraid Mr. Gavin was going to split his lip, or that his mouth would be so red, everyone would know.

Apollo still saw his college friends, but he no longer spent time with them outside of class. He didn't have the energy to see them, not with his classes and his job and everything else. If his grades slipped, Mr. Gavin wouldn't be pleased, so he worked harder.

Mr. Gavin had given him more duties at the office, claiming that the greater responsibility would be good for him. He answered the phones sometimes, and he assisted the legal secretaries.

"You'll make a wonderful attorney," Mr. Gavin told him one day, as he hung up the phone. "You have a ringing voice."

He hadn't thought he was being particularly ringing, but he did enjoy the praise. "Do I? Really? Thanks!"

"Yes." Mr. Gavin reached out and briefly brushed his finger over the underside of Apollo's jaw. "Sometimes, you cry out. It's quite a pleasant sound."

"Oh. Well." He reddened, but didn't pull away.

"Don't worry, as pleasant as I find it, I'm sure it'll strike fear into the hearts of other men, in court. It's a talent that could certainly stand you in good stead. Maybe you should take voice and diction lessons to hone your raw gift."

"I'd like that."

"Imagine, Apollo. Gavin and Justice, Attorneys at Law. That has a nice ring to it too, don't you think?"

It did have a nice ring, but he had to admit that the ring was less nice than it would have sounded to him a year ago. "Mr. Gavin," he blurted, not entirely sure what he was going to say as he prepared to say it. "Can I ask you a question?"

"You can always ask me a question. There's no need for this prefacing. It only wastes time."

"Do you think I could have an apartment of my own?" Where had that come from?

"You want to move out?"

Apollo knew Mr. Gavin well enough to know when his faltering smile was about to turn into a frown, so he tried his best to manage the situation. "I'd like to try living on my own. Like you said before, more responsibility might be good for me. I'd still work here and come to visit whenever you wanted." Why had he asked this now? Had the praise given him confidence, or had the idea of living with Mr. Gavin always inspired him to act?

"A place of your own," said Mr. Gavin, consideringly.

At this point, Apollo couldn't tell whether the man's mouth, in its neutral state, was going to turn up or down at the sides. It could easily go either way. Finally, thankfully, he smiled. "That might be an interesting exercise."

"Thanks, Mr. Gavin." He was still saying thank you too much, as he had when they'd first met. Some things never changed, but fortunately, some things did. That was how he escaped. It was that easy to win his freedom. Maybe it was only partial freedom, but it meant a lot to him to have his own space, his own home. It wasn't until later that he thought to ask himself whether it had been so easy because Mr. Gavin hadn't cared if he'd gone.

Only Vongole was sad on the day he left, running back and forth through the house, sniffing at the boxes he'd packed. There were so few boxes. So few things in Mr. Gavin's house were truly his. Before he left, he knelt beside the dog and kissed her head. "I'll miss you, Clams," he whispered, so Mr. Gavin couldn't hear him call her by the wrong name.

***


It wasn't until years later that he realized something. He realized why he hadn't been angry or sad or hurt for such a long time. He'd been afraid. He had been afraid all that time, until one day, with no warning, no time for him to prepare, Mr. Gavin was gone. His fear was gone. All his other emotions came back in a rush. In a rush, too, on that day, he drew back his arm and punched Phoenix Wright in the face.

***


"Penny for your thoughts, Apollo."

"Huh?"

"Oh wait," said Phoenix. "What is it the kids are saying these days? Computer for your thoughts?"

Apollo turned to look at him. "That doesn't make any sense. You went from penny to computer? For one thing, they're not the same kind of thing. And don't you think that's escalating things a little too much?"

"I don't need to tell you about the value of a dollar these days, do I?"

"I know all about it at my salary," said Apollo.

"Heh. Good one, Apollo." Phoenix leaned back, then stretched out his arms, taking up most of the back of the couch in this way. He yawned and put his feet up on the much-abused coffee table. There was a hole in one of his socks. Apollo glared at it, wishing it would close up, but it remained. "So," said Phoenix, "what are you thinking about, currency and electronics aside?"

"Nothing really, Mr. Wright."

"Please, ugh, don't call me that when it's after office hours."

"Sorry, I keep forgetting."

"Come on, unburden yourself. It's good for the soul."

"Like I said, it isn't anything really important, you know? No big deal. I was going to ask Klavier about it, but he's had such a hard time lately, and I didn't feel like bothering him with questions that might upset him."

"Uh huh," said Phoenix, nodding. "You do realize you haven't told me what it is yet, right?"

"Right." The truth was, he was avoiding the subject. Not because it was avoidable on its own, but there were other thoughts closely associated with it. "I was wondering, do you know what happened to Mr. Gavin's dog?"

"His dog?" Phoenix blinked. "That's right. He mentioned he had a dog." He didn't act like the subject of Mr. Gavin was a sensitive one, discussing it easily. "I'm actually not sure. I hadn't thought about it. Why do you ask?"

"I was just wondering."

"I'll see if I can't look into that for you."

"It's not--"

"Important. I know." Phoenix began to talk about something else, and judging by his casual manner, Apollo wasn't sure if he would ask anyone about it. He hadn't told Phoenix about the time he'd lived with Mr. Gavin. Sometimes he wondered if the man had found out about it on his own. There were records, if one knew where to look for them, but if Phoenix did know, he betrayed no hint of that knowledge.

Three or four days passed before Phoenix mentioned the dog again. "Apollo. Hey, Apollo." Phoenix had woken up from what might have been an afternoon nap or an outrageously late sleep in. He'd wasted no time in bothering Apollo, coming up behind him and startling him in the midst of his filing.

"What is it, Mr. Wright?"

As it was still office hours, Phoenix didn't object to the more formal form of address. He drew back in mock horror. "I think you need your morning coffee."

"I already had it."

"Hm, I guess you usually are grumpy throughout the day."

"I'm not grumpy," Apollo protested.

"In any case, Mr. Justice, I have some information for you."

"What's that? Is it going to help me with this filing?"

"No--probably not, I'd say."

Apollo sighed. "What is it, then?"

"You asked me the other day about Mr. Gavin's dog."

"Oh yeah!" Apollo brightened, dropping the file he was holding back into its cabinet, then pushing it closed. "What did you find out?"

"At first, I wasn't sure who to ask, because I didn't want to bother Prosecutor Gavin unless I had to, but then I came up with the excellent idea of asking Miles. He's a dog person, and also, he knows everything."

"Miles Edgeworth?"

"The very same. Miles was only too happy to inform me of the dog's whereabouts. Apparently, Klavier wasn't able to take the dog, but one of Mr. Gavin's colleagues is looking after her, for the time being."

"That's good. I'm glad she's okay." He needed a break from filing. He sat down on the couch.

"Apollo?" Phoenix asked. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Hey." Phoenix sat down beside him. "You can tell me if you're not."

Apollo sat with his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. "I don't know. I felt dizzy all of a sudden."

Phoenix patted his shoulder. "It's all right. Maybe you need a sandwich."

"No, I'm not hungry. Thanks, Phoenix."

Phoenix's arm slid around him, and Apollo moved into the touch instinctively, resting his head against Phoenix's shoulder. He was very warm. "That's better," said Phoenix. "I know a nap always cheers me up."

"I don't know why," Apollo mumbled. "You sleep all the time anyway."

"And I guess being grumpy cheers you up," Phoenix concluded. "So go ahead, be as grumpy as you want."

"I'm not grumpy."

"That's the ticket."

Apollo managed a weak smile. That had actually cheered him up a bit. "Thanks."

Eventually, Phoenix did make them both sandwiches, and if Apollo didn't go back to filing that day, his boss didn't mention it. He hadn't expected to feel so strongly about it, or so sad, but he was happy Vongole was being taken care of and hadn't been sent to a shelter. He knew she'd have hated that.

He didn't expect to hear more news of Vongole, but one morning, he was shocked to arrive at the Wright Anything Agency in the morning and discover that Phoenix Wright was already awake and waiting for him at the door, smirking. Trucy stood at his side, also smirking. They looked so similar in that moment, that if that had been the first time he'd met them, Apollo would never have guessed they weren't related by blood.

"Good morning," he said, warily.

"We've got a surprise for you, Polly," Trucy announced, bouncing in place.

"That's right, Polly," Phoenix echoed.

"Don't you start calling me that, too," Apollo told him.

"I think it's cute," said Phoenix.

Apollo could feel himself starting to blush, but Trucy grabbed Phoenix's arm and distracted him before he could notice. "Daddy, let's show Apollo," she demanded impatiently.

"Is this some kind of magic trick?" Apollo asked, still wary, but then he heard a noise behind them, ruining their surprise. A dog barked.

Apollo's eyes widened. "Is that--"

"Happy birthday, Apollo!" said Phoenix.

"Daddy, it's not his birthday," Trucy chided as she pulled her father out of Apollo's way. There, behind them, was a golden retriever. It was unmistakably Vongole. He couldn't have failed to recognize her. She barked again and wagged her tail, then ignored her years of perfect training, raced across the room, and jumped up, her paws striking the front of his vest.

"Clams!" said Apollo.

"Clams?" asked Trucy.

"The dog's name is obviously Clams," Phoenix informed her.

"What happened?" Apollo asked. Clams had settled down and put all feet back on the floor, so Apollo sat down on the floor beside her and scratched her behind her ears. "Why is she here?"

"We adopted her," Phoenix explained. "The lawyer who was taking care of her wasn't planning on keeping her permanently, just until he found a good home for her, so when I asked to take her, he had no objections."

"Wow, that's amazing. Thank you so much. I didn't think I'd see her again."

"I always wanted a dog," said Trucy.

Phoenix sighed the sigh of a world-weary father. "Yes, I know."

"Let's play with Clams." Trucy pulled him again, this time toward the dog, and he went with her willingly.

Clams was clearly overjoyed at having so many people to play with at once. Her tail didn't stop wagging. Apollo showed Trucy and Phoenix all the tricks she knew, which lead to Trucy excitedly planning how she could use the dog in her act.

"She just got here," said Phoenix. "Don't start making her work yet."

"You made Apollo work when he first got here," Trucy countered.

"That's different." He grinned at Apollo, and Apollo felt warm. "He likes working."

"Yeah, I sure did love that work," Apollo agreed sarcastically.

"See? He loves it."

No work got done that day, unless one counted Clams' enthusiastic repetition of her tricks. Apollo stayed for dinner, then after dinner, until he fell asleep on the couch.

A soft touch woke him, and he sleepily opened his eyes to find Phoenix smiling down at him. The man had taken off his hat and looked ready to go to sleep himself. "Hey, Apollo."

"Hey. What time is it?"

"Late. I thought I'd wake you up, see if you wanted to stay the night." He laughed. "In retrospect, that doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?

"Not really."

"Well, I thought you might need to go home for some reason. Or maybe take a shower or something. I can loan you some pajamas, if you want."

Apollo sat up and rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands. Clams was lying in front of the couch, slumbering peacefully. He smiled to see her there. "I'll stay. If it's so late, I might as well."

Phoenix sat down beside him. "You can come and visit Clams whenever you want. I don't mind you staying here. What's one more person? It's not like we're in any danger of running out of oxygen here."

"Good. I wouldn't want to use up all the oxygen."

"You don't seem to take up that much oxygen in any case."

"I hope that's not a thinly veiled short joke."

"Maybe. Maybe not." As he had the other day, Phoenix put an arm around him. This time, Apollo wasn't upset, so he wasn't exactly sure about Phoenix's reason for the gesture, but he had no complaints about it, even if he was supposedly grumpy all the time. He leaned against Phoenix, letting his head settle on the other man's chest. He might not have known what it meant, but it felt nice.

"I like staying," murmured Apollo.

"Stay as long as you want."

"Thanks, Phoenix."

"Go to sleep, Apollo," said Phoenix, so he did.
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