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"Wait, let me get this straight. Simon gave you this bracelet and it was all romantic and stuff and then he just broke away and was mean again?" Apollo was scratching his head. "That doesn't really make sense." He cracked his neck, still feeling the g-force simulation Clay and he had done earlier this morning. He almost wished there was some other horrible training method lawyers went through that he could subject Clay to. Maybe I'll make him take the Bar, he thought vengefully.

Athena nodded, still feeling a bit slighted. "Well, not mean really, but yeah. I could have sworn that was what his heart wanted..." She was sitting on the kitchen counter, feet swinging gently, trying not to hit the cabinets so Phoenix wouldn't yell at her later. She was still really confused about what had happened last night. It had been a sour ending to an otherwise amazing day.

"And what you wanted," Apollo added. He appeared to be rather displeased, with his arms crossed, leaning against the end of the counter. Clay, on the other hand, looked nonplussed, standing beside Apollo sipping on coffee. He actually appeared, though empathetic with Athena's plight, to be enjoying the discussion.

"...Yeah, I guess I did." Athena buried her head in her hands. "Ugh, I feel so awkward now!" Taking her heads out of her hands, she looked at the two men on her right. "Is it weird that I like him?"

"No," said Clay at the same time Apollo answered, "Yes."

Responding to Clay's dirty look, Apollo clarified his position. "You like a guy that is like ten years older than you and was in prison for seven years because everyone thought he killed your mom. I'm not saying it's wrong, but yes, it is a little weird."

"Well when you put it that way..." Clay sighed and walked to put his coffee cup, now empty, in the sink. He gave Apollo another dirty look as he rejoined him.

Apollo ignored him and looked straight at Athena. "I'm actually more worried that you're upset with how last night turned out."

It was Athena's job to give Apollo a dirty look. "Well wouldn't you be upset if Clay did something like that?"

Apollo nodded. "Yes, because that would be uncharacteristic of him." He glanced at his boyfriend, who merely tilted his head. Looking back at Athena, he continued. "But Simon is always like that. He always has a wall up. It seems like he's always kind of been that away, and prison made it worse, according to what Aura told Phoenix after his name was cleared, and then again at her trial."

"So what if that's what he normally does?" Clay asked, running his hands through his hair and then shrugging. "That doesn't make it any less frustrating." 

"No, it doesn't, but if you can't handle him now... I mean, assuming you guys dated, would you be okay with him doing that when you wanted to be close, or talk? When something was bothering you?"

Athena stared at the ground, her legs dangling lifelessly. "He's not always like that," she mumbled.

"He seems to be like that when it matters most."

Ouch, Athena thought.

Apollo frowned. "I'm not trying to be a jerk, I just don't want you to get your heart broken because you fell for something Simon can't be."

"Oh..."

"To be fair," Clay said, putting his left arm around Apollo's waist, "That's what my parents said about me dating Apollo." Athena looked at Clay in surprise, and Clay looked at his boyfriend and smiled. "He's not the most positive-minded person, though he is realistic, and my parents didn't want him to make me cynical, even if they did love him to death as my best friend. So they didn't want me to date him, and they think he's amazing! I think he's still a grouch pot, but I also like to think that he's less of one than when we started dating." Clay chuckled as Apollo turned red.

"I guess that's true," Apollo mumbled from the side of his mouth, his hair falling in his face. Clay laughed and reached over with his other hand and smoothed it back into place.

"I don't want to change him," Athena said thoughtfully after a few moments. "I just want him to be happy, and I want to understand him. I just wish I knew what he was thinking."

"Don't you, though?" Apollo asked. "I mean, you can hear his emotions."

Athena shook her head and jumped down from the counter, turning toward Clay and Apollo. "I can read his emotions, but that doesn't mean I know what he's thinking. I can infer, but I can't completely accurately predict. Remember during his trial when I was able to tell that he was lying about how he felt about mom's murder? I didn't know why he was hiding his emotions, or what had happened. I knew he was sad when he said he stabbed my mom, but I didn't know he was lying to protect me, because he thought that I had accidentally killed her. That's how it always works, no matter who I'm talking to."

Apollo nodded. "I see. So you know he panicked and backed off, but you don't know why."

Athena nodded and grabbed her arm. "It could be because he legitimately felt uncomfortable with me being near him, or him realizing how I feel and not wanting to give me false signals, or him liking me, or any number of reasons..."

"Well, I think he likes you," Clay responded confidently, putting his hands on his hips and smiling. Apollo sighed, and Clay rolled his eyes. "Don't you start! I said that at the party."

Apollo made a face. "When? You didn't say that to me."

Clay sighed. "Yes I did! I told you I could see what was happening, but you were clueless as usual." Another eye roll. He was enjoying this too much, perhaps.

Apollo's brow furrowed, but then his face showed recognition. "Is that what you were talking about...?" Apollo looked back at Athena, befuddled. He frowned when Clay laughed.

"W-what...?" Athena's eyes darted between the two of them. Was there some inside joke she was missing?

"During the party, Simon put his arm around you, and you hugged him really close. He didn't seem so concerned about you two being close then." Clay tapped his finger on his chin. "So that, in my opinion, would rule out him not wanting to give you false signals, or feeling gross about you being near him or something." Clay held up his pointer finger. "So that leaves, out of probable reasons, him genuinely liking being around you as the reason he did that and was okay with you holding onto him like that. Furthermore, this makes his movements later a little more understandable."

Apollo frowned. "...How, exactly?"

Clay beamed. "Well, I'm no psychologist, but I do understand people pretty well. I would say... that during the party, with everyone around, it probably wouldn't seem as obvious if you two hung around one another. He could be close with you without you really paying attention to it."

"I did tell him his heart was practically singing... but I thought that was because of the party..."

"It probably was," Apollo tried to say, but was cut off.

"When you were together later, there was no cover up for you being that close, especially with the romantic undertones. Overtones. Whatever-tones." Apollo sighed, but Clay continued. "So that could have made him nervous. There was no party to mask how he was feeling."

"So you're saying... Maybe he does like me?" Athena was trying her best not to look hopeful, especially with that look on Apollo's face.

"I think so, and I'm rarely wrong about these things." Clay looked slyly over at Apollo, who blushed. "Just ask him."

Apollo sighed yet again. "Look, maybe what Ace Attorney Clay over here is saying is true. But that doesn't take away from what I said earlier. If it is true, Simon still isn't able to tell you that himself, and that's a legitimate problem."

"Maybe he was trying to, with the bracelet," Clay offered, but Apollo shook his head.

"When it came down to it, he couldn't be open about how he felt. He panicked, and pulled away. Assuming that means what Clay thinks it means, that is a serious problem. I think that especially someone in Athena's position, who can feel emotions... It would hurt to be in a relationship where you knew something was going on but couldn't get the truth." No argument came from Clay this time. "I'm not saying you shouldn't like Simon, but I'm not sure he's the best person for you to date. Maybe he'll open up, but until then... I dunno, Thena. I just wouldn't want you to get hurt because you have more information than the rest of us but still not enough to feel completely at ease. Just look at how you're feeling right now." Suddenly, Apollo regretted being so earnest all the time. He always seemed to be the bearer of bad news or unpopular opinions. 

Athena stared at the ground. "I get what you're saying... I'll... have to think about it. But until then..." She played with her bracelet.

"Don't worry about it," Apollo said, reaching out to grab her wrist and hold her bracelet up to the light. "It's a pretty bracelet, from a beloved friend. You can be proud he considers you someone he appreciates and likes having around."

"Am I... interrupting something?" Miles Edgeworth had just walked through the front door and was holding several manila folders. 

Apollo jerked back his hand and rubbed the back of his head. "Ha... no, no. Just having a short break."

"Hmph." Miles tapped the folders on his hand. "Is Mr. Wright around?"

Athena shook his head. "He, Trucy, and Pearls went out to lunch. I think they should be back soon. Wanna wait in his office or out here or something? Want some coffee?"

Miles was still eyeing the space between Athena and Apollo, and Apollo found himself taking a large step backward. "I prefer tea, if you have any." With that, he sat at the kitchen table and placed the manila folders down. No one said a thing as Athena poured him some chai tea and Miles sat there, sipping it, waiting for Phoenix's eventual return.

February 2017

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Athena Blackquill
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