foxysquidalso: (the divine mr. gavin)
[personal profile] foxysquidalso
Title: A Game of Cards
Word count: 2,700
Pairings, Characters: Phoenix/Klavier, hints of Phoenix/Kristoph
Rating: G
Warnings: this story contains a musical number of sorts, as well as mystifying references to the film Casablanca.
Summary: Of all the borscht joints, in all the towns, in all the world, Klavier had to walk into Phoenix's.
Notes: Set following the events of AJ. Written for the lovely [ profile] sam_cc as a Kristophmas gift! ♥ I had to combine lawyers and card games for her somehow.

He had another long night ahead of him, at the end of which he'd hopefully end up with another few dollars. Though actually, as much as he liked to joke about his impoverished straits, the pay at the Borscht Bowl wasn't too bad, as long as he won, which he always did. He was a lucky man.

Phoenix laughed at that. Lucky. That was a good one. Though maybe he was lucky in some ways, if not so much in others.

He picked at the keys of the piano, idly, waiting for the night's challenger to appear. He had only one scheduled for the evening, which was nice. Sometimes he had a few individual challengers in one night, or a group all at once, which he didn't mind, but it could get stressful.

To entertain himself, he tried to play "As Time Goes By", because he'd always loved that one scene in Casablanca, but his attempt didn't exactly sound like it was supposed to. He got stuck on one part near the beginning. Though he usually didn't care a great deal about the quality of his playing, for some reason, he found himself growing annoyed by his inability to reproduce the song accurately, so he repeated the measure a few times, trying to get it right. None of the patrons seemed to mind. They never did.

"Hello, Wright."

His heart seized up at that familiar cadence, and tightened further as he turned to see a tall blond man standing in the doorway. The moment passed; his heart relaxed. This was a different blond. It was just that for a moment, he'd thought--well, it was obvious what he'd thought, what with the family resemblance and the subtle but undeniable mannerisms the Gavin brothers shared.

"Hello, Gavin," he said. The words came easily. How many times had he said them to someone else?

"Nein, call me Klavier."

The gratuitous German was a comfort. That was something Kristoph had never done. He never would have made a mistake on purpose. His English was perfect, so much so that Phoenix had been surprised to learn he'd been born in Germany. Kristoph Gavin was full of secrets. "Can do." He withdrew his hands from their position above the keyboard.

"Don't let me interrupt your playing, please," said Klavier. "How does that line in the film go? 'You played it for her, you can play it for me'?"

That quote struck a little close to home, closer than Klavier probably realized, but Phoenix only laughed. "That's the one." Yet he didn't start playing again. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure?"

"I have an appointment."

"You?" Phoenix asked. "You're my challenger?"

"That's right. We're going to play poker."

Phoenix wasn't sure what to think about that, but he did know what to do. He rose from the bench.

"Not yet," said Klavier, and he seated himself at the piano, where Phoenix had been sitting a moment before. He started to play the song Phoenix had been failing to play so miserably. He didn't miss a note.

"You play piano," said Phoenix.

"It's my name," said Klavier. "It would be a little embarrassing if I didn't."

"Speaking of which, is that really your name? Your legal, birth name?"

Klavier glanced up at him, continuing to play even as he looked away from the keys. He smiled. "If I was picking a stage name, don't you think I would have chosen one that was a little more appropriate?"

"Like guitar?"

Klavier frowned. "No, that's a cognate. It wouldn't sound nearly as nice in English. But to answer your question, my father did name me Klavier." He continued to play the song, and he did not stop until he had played the whole thing, without error and seemingly without effort.

Phoenix began to see how it might be annoying to be in a band with Klavier.

Once the song had been performed correctly, Klavier did not hesitate to follow Phoenix down into the Hydeout. It felt a little strange for them to be alone together like this, considering everything that had happened between them, and the person who was the reason it had happened.

Phoenix had already been considering giving up this job, and this made him think he probably should. There were too many memories here. Every time he'd tried to quit, the establishment had offered him more money, which made him look like a good bargainer, if not someone who was determined about quitting. The management didn't have a strong personal liking for him, but he imagined they were eager to hold on to their undefeated poker player. It wasn't as if they could easily replace him, or his seven year winning streak.

Olga was waiting downstairs. She glanced up with a sharp grin as they walked in.

"It's okay, we can do the dealing tonight," Phoenix said.

She looked Klavier over, and her grin faded. Phoenix had a pretty good idea of what she was thinking.

Klavier seemed not to notice, or pretended not to. He smiled politely at her. "Good evening, Fräulein."

Olga shrugged. "Fine with me. It's your call, big shot. I could use a break. Have fun, boys."

"This is cozy," said Klavier as the loudmouthed dealer left with loud footsteps.

"That's one word for it."

Klavier sat down at the table, sitting where his brother had murdered a man. "So, we're going to play poker."

"Right you are." For all of the problems Kristoph's poker playing had caused him, Phoenix had never played a game of poker with that Gavin. Zak Gramarye, the man who had died here, had said one could learn all one needed to know about a man by playing poker with him. Phoenix could guess at what Gramarye had learned from his game with Kristoph, but Phoenix had had to learn those same things in a much more difficult way than with a game of cards. What would he learn about the younger Gavin tonight?

"Wundervoll," said Klavier brightly. "How do we play?"

"What do you mean?" Phoenix asked.

"Poker. What are the rules?"

Phoenix paused to take this in. Was there some way he could be misunderstanding the situation? No, it appeared to be completely straightforward. "Let me get this straight. You don't actually know how to play poker?"

"I haven't the faintest idea," Klavier admitted. "I've never much cared for games of chance."

"Then why did you want to play me, if you don't mind me asking?"

"Ah." Klavier's brightness faded, but he continued to smile, if less brilliantly than before. "I suppose I simply wanted to see you. To talk. And perhaps, apologize."

"You don't have to apologize. You've done nothing wrong, as far as I understand."

"That doesn't change the fact that I played a role. Ignorance is a poor defense, at best."

Phoenix couldn't disagree with that. "You could say the same of me. We both made mistakes. Everyone does."

"You're quite the philosopher, Herr Wright."

"No, call me Phoenix."

"Phoenix," said Klavier.

Phoenix tried not to think of the fact that he said it like his brother did. Somehow, that was one word they pronounced the same way.

"This is difficult for you," said Klavier, "isn't it?"

He was perceptive, like his brother, but Phoenix didn't answer him.

"It's funny," said Klavier, continuing to smile his dimmed smile, "as a child, I was always compared to him. Even now, some people, when they see me, see him first. Such as you and your coworker. With the Gavinners, I was able to escape that for a while, but do you know what the press says now? 'Klavier Gavin's brother is a murderer.'"

It was difficult to know what to say to that. "I'm sorry."

"He's my brother," said Klavier. "I try to accept him for what he is. That is what I've always done. You don't have to avoid mentioning him, or be so careful around me. I understand. You can be honest with me."

Zak Gramarye had been wrong about many things. One didn't have to play a game of cards with a man to understand him. Maybe cards had been necessary for Zak Gramarye, but not for Phoenix Wright. He believed what Klavier said. He sat down across from him.

"Now that that's out of the way, will you teach me to play poker?" Klavier asked again.

Klavier was right. It was out of the way. As simply as that--though it hadn't really been simple at all, had it? It had taken them more than seven years to arrive at this day, but now that they were here, everything fell into place at once. The cards were on the table, and it felt like this was where they had been headed all along. "I would be delighted," said Phoenix. He shuffled the deck.

That was when he realized that Zak Gramarye had been right after all. He did learn something very important about Klavier Gavin by playing poker with him. He learned that the man was the most terrible, horrible, abysmal poker player the world had ever known. Klavier was undeniably intelligent, and he learned the basic rules very quickly, but that was all he learned. His version of a poker face was smiling and laughing whenever he had a good hand. He couldn't bluff. In fact, he steadfastly refused to bluff. Even Apollo was better than Klavier. Even Apollo.

Phoenix had never played so many hands in a single game. He had never beaten anyone so many times in a row. And never had defeat been accepted more cheerfully.

"I fold, Phoenix. You've beaten me again."

"You don't have to fold yet, you know."

"No, it's all right, I know when I've lost."

Phoenix nodded. It wasn't that Klavier was losing on purpose. He was definitely trying. He was simply that kind of poker player, or more precisely, not a poker player at all. "That was pretty good for a first try," said Phoenix encouragingly, sweeping up the cards and reshuffling the deck.

"Are we finished already?" There was an earnest note of disappointment in the man's voice.

Klavier's eyes were very blue. More blue than his brother's. Phoenix realized that he didn't want him to leave yet. It wasn't as if he had another challenger scheduled for that night. "Why don't we play a friendly game of something else? Are there any card games you do know?"

"I know Go Fish," said Klavier. "Also, Old Maid. And War."

"Go Fish," said Phoenix thoughtfully. He used to play that when he was a kid. "That sounds like fun."

"Ja, I'm very good at Go Fish," said Klavier proudly.

"Are you really?"

"I don't think I would be flattering myself if I said I was an expert."

"I see." Phoenix tapped his chin thoughtfully. "That's interesting."

"Is it?"

"You know what that kind of talk means, don't you?"

"What does it mean?" asked Klavier.

"It means it's my duty to take you down a peg. A Go Fish peg, no less."

Klavier's eyes flashed. He snapped his fingers, and his rings flashed, too. "I am up for the challenge, Herr Wright."

"I hope you are, Mr. Gavin."

That night, Phoenix's winning streak ended at last, but as he'd only lost at a game of Go Fish, he was pretty sure it didn't count. Even if it had counted, he wouldn't have traded it for anything, the sight of Klavier Gavin leaping to his feet and shouting, "Go Fish!" as his hand swept forward in a mighty point.

When it was all over, Phoenix sat back and applauded. In a game in which one was supposed to answer questions honestly, Klavier was capable of winning. "Well done! That was masterful."

Klavier bowed. "Thank you. You're very kind."

"You must need some refreshment after all that grueling playing."

"Ja, I could use a little something, now that you mention it."

"How about some grape juice?"

"Just what I had in mind."

"Then follow me. It's on the house, to celebrate your victory. Although--" He lowered his voice to a confidential level. "I'd appreciate, for the sake of my job, that you not tell anyone that you won."

Klavier drew two lines over the center of his chest. "Cross my heart. Your secret's safe with me."

Having played cards with Klavier, Phoenix was sure that it was.

When they returned to the more respectable, less subterranean level of the Borscht Bowl, Klavier was drawn back to the piano. He sat down in front of it again, and Phoenix wasn't about to tell him to sit somewhere else. "I'll be right back," he said. He didn't have to get the grape juice himself, but he didn't mind doing it. For many years, he had suffered from a faint paranoia where other people handling things he was planning to ingest were concerned. While he was seeing about the grape juice, he reported his win to his bosses upstairs. They were not surprised, so he didn't get any warm congratulations, only nods.

On his way back downstairs, he became aware of a loud, but tuneful noise. Someone was singing. It didn't take a lawyer's keen instincts to figure out who. He took the remaining stairs two at a time, and returned to the Borscht Bowl's main dining room to find that something incredible had happened. Klavier was singing and playing the piano, but that wasn't the incredible part. No, what was amazing was the fact that the patrons of the club actually seemed interested. They were paying attention.

Klavier's hands fluttered over the keys, and, showoff that he was, he played without looking, without sheet music, turning over his shoulder so he could sing and smile at the crowd at the same time. Grape juice in hand, Phoenix stood back and shook his head. Klavier Gavin was nothing like his brother. He was a gigantic, glorious, golden ham.

Phoenix didn't escape Klavier's notice for long. He paused in his playing long enough to gesture to him and say, "Phoenix, come here!"

Smiling at the patrons, who were actually looking at him for once, Phoenix crossed the room uneasily.

"Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Phoenix Wright," said Klavier as he approached, and Phoenix was startled to see the audience gaze upon him with respect and admiration.

"Why don't you sing for us?"

"No, I couldn't, honestly. I don't really sing."

Klavier looked up at him with an expectant, trusting smile. This was certainly not the ending Phoenix had envisioned for their evening together, but he would hate to disappoint someone who smiled at him like that.

"You must know the words," said Klavier, and he began to play the opening bars of "As Time Goes By", which Phoenix had so foolishly allowed him to overhear earlier. "Let's sing it together."

Phoenix wished he could retreat into his usual excuse of saying that he didn't do requests, but it wasn't as if this was exactly a request. It was a man forcing him to sing. In front of a crowd. Such an unfair tactic, and typical of a prosecutor. He took a deep breath, and he started to sing.

Klavier waited for him to begin, then joined him as soon as the first note emerged from his mouth. Phoenix could sense at once how Klavier supported him, singing around his voice, holding him up. Klavier knew exactly what he was doing, and he made Phoenix sound ten times better than he would have normally. It was nice. It was even kind of fun. He relaxed into the song.

You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh

He tensed again as he realized belatedly that it was a slightly strange song to be singing with another man he didn't know very well, but Klavier was enjoying himself so much, Phoenix supposed he couldn't mind. He put a hand on Klavier's shoulder and returned Klavier's smile. A smile was still a smile, too. They sang together:

The fundamental things apply
As time goes by.
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foxysquidalso: (Default)
also ran

August 2012


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