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Athena and Simon were happy to see the pelmeni arrive; truth be told, both were incredibly hungry at that point. Aleksi waited for them to taste it before leaving the table, his eyes fixed primarily on Athena.

Athena bit into the dumplings. "Mm... Is this... Beef, pork, and mutton?" she asked, and Aleksi nodded excitedly.

"It is traditional dish in Izhevsk. We put onion in as well, and garlic." Aleksi rubbed his hands together as Simon nodded, his face surprisingly reflecting that of contentment.

"It is indeed delicious, Aleksi," Simon said, putting his fork down for a moment as he wiped his mouth. "You always outdo yourself, from what I am told. I believe the rumors."

"I will inform the chefs the great Simon Blackquill approves! And the beautiful Miss Athena!" Aleksi rushed to the kitchen.

Athena chuckled. "The great Simon Blackquill, huh?" She put more pelmeni into her mouth.

Simon nodded, slightly amused. He picked up his wine glass and swirled the liquid inside. "Aleksi is an old fashioned man. All the men are great, and all the women are beautiful." He took a long sip and glanced at Athena's empty glass. "Did you not want any wine?"

Athena blushed slightly. "Well," she said quietly, "I am only 19."

Simon set his glass down. "I apologize. I hadn't considered you were not yet of drinking age."

"It's okay," Athena responded, awkwardly sipping her water. "I drank a little while in Europe, because of the different drinking age laws there, but other than that, no."

Simon chuckled. "I may be a prosecutor, but I am no Miles Edgeworth. If you would like a glass of merlot with your meal, I won't tell anyone."

That's... surprisingly lenient of him, Athena thought to herself. He's not... testing me, is he? No, Simon wouldn't do something like that. Hesitantly, Athena reached for the bottle, but Simon grabbed it first, offering to pour. "I've never had merlot," she admitted.

"Well, I hope you enjoy it." Simon set the bottle down after filling her glass and continued eating.

The two continued with small talk, mostly office gossip, as they finished their main courses. Apparently Klavier Gavin had made a few passes at Franziska von Karma, mostly as a joke, telling people he liked it rough. Of course, von Karma was hardly publicly pleased with the attention, though Simon mused she was also amused, as he'd caught her smiling a few times after talking with Klavier. When Athena asked if they would end up dating, Simon shook his head. He had it on fairly good authority that Klavier was not at all Franziska's type. He then changed the subject and asked if there was anything interesting going on on the Wright side. Athena mentioned she had heard Phoenix had a date tomorrow, but she didn't know who it was. Simon mused he might have an idea, but didn't want to mention who.

Then Aleski came back with the ptichye moloko. Being the sly man he was, he encouraged the two to move their seats so they were next to one another, and had put the two pieces on one plate, with two forks. Athena shyly allowed Simon, who seemed to be reveling in how red her face was, to feed her a bite off his fork.

"It's so... light. Milky, and chocolatey. Oh my gosh this is so good," she said, mostly to her lap. Her face was still quite red, and Simon was still grinning. He seemed bolder in front of Aleksi, but Athena didn't mind, if she was honest with herself. She watched as Simon filled up her wine glass, which emptied the bottle.

"Would you like more merlot, Simon?" Aleski asked, getting ready to head to the kitchen.

"No thank you," Simon responded. "Are you sure you don't want me to pay for any of this?"

"Of course I am!" Aleksi said, a bit of hurt creeping into his voice. He hand waved the suggestion away. "You two enjoy the ptichye moloko." He quickly left, giving Simon a wink.

"I apologize if I made you uncomfortable," Simon said as soon as Aleksi was out of earshot. "I figured he would enjoy a small show of a happy couple. His own wife of thirty-eight years died of cancer a few years back--"

"That's horrible," Athena said, and Simon nodded.

"--and he has spoken several times about wanting young people to live their life to the fullest."

Athena put some of the cake onto her fork and offered it to Simon, blushing yet again. This time, Simon also blushed. "I didn't mind..." she said quietly, and gently placed the fork into his mouth.

Somehow, the cake tasted a bit sweeter with Athena feeding it to him.

Once the cake was gone, the two moved to leave. Aleksi bid them farewell, kissed Athena's hand and called her beautiful, shook Simon's hand, and waved as they left.

"Ugh," said a figure sitting alone on the other end of the restaurant. "I question that fool's judgment."

A waiter stopped by the table. "Would you like your check, Miss--"

"Yes, please."

The waiter nodded and rushed to the register, nervous about his customer's short temper. At least I'll get a good tip, he thought to himself, and quickly grabbed the check.

Outside, Simon hailed a taxi, citing Gumshoe's incessant rambling as an excuse. "I... am actually unsure of what to do next," he admitted as they got into the taxi.

"Hm. Well we could hang out at my apartment, if you wanted," Athena offered. "I have tons of movies we could watch, or uh, board games or something... Or we could just talk I guess?" Simon nodded, so she gave the taxi driver her address. They made small talk as the driver navigated the streets of Los Angeles, and when they arrived, they rushed upstairs, as it had gotten much colder since the sun had gone down.

Athena and Simon entered her apartment and Athena took his jacket. "Do you... mind if I change into sweatpants or something?" she asked, and Simon laughed.

"I don't see why not."

"Okay, make yourself at home! There's all kinds of stuff in the fridge." She went into her bedroom and shut the door, and Simon could hear drawers opening and closing.

Simon decided to take a look around as he loosened his tie. Bright, colorful paintings decorated the otherwise plain walls of her apartment. Her furniture was fairly simple as well, definitely influenced by modern European fashion. He walked over to where his coat hung on the wall and placed his tie over his jacket, and then unbuttoned his shirt slightly.

Athena's bedroom door opened and she came back into the living room wearing a pale yellow tank top and red sweatpants. "Did you get a drink?" she asked. Simon shook his head, so she sighed and went into the kitchen, grabbing two bottles of water she'd filled herself. She tossed one to Simon and flopped onto her couch, patting beside her. Simon followed her instructions and sat down beside her.

"You don't have to be so stiff, Simon," Athena said cheerfully, grabbing a pillow and throwing it on his lap. She then laid on the couch with the back of her head resting on the pillow, so she was looking up at Simon. She smiled as Simon blushed. Payback for feeding me, she thought playfully.

The two spoke on a variety of topics for quite some time, and eventually Simon felt comfortable enough to start playing with Athena's hair. She chatted happily as he ran his fingers through her hair, silently noted how soft and silky it was. After a few hours, the discussion turned to relationships, and quickly became intimate.

"So... how many people have you, um..." Athena was turning red. An awkward silence hung in the air, and Athena began to regret asking.
 
"...Oh... Hm. One, shortly before I went to prison. Obviously while there I didn't get any opportunities to meet people." Athena frowned. "I-I did not mean that as a jab," he added quickly. He paused. "...What about you?"
 
"...Also one... but it wasn't very good," she said, her blush intensifying. Simon couldn't help but notice how far down her throat and chest that blush went.
 
"What was wrong with him... or her...?"
 
"Him," she responded a little too eagerly. "He uh, well I couldn't feel anything."
 
Simon's eyes widened. "He was inadequate?"
 
Athena reddened further. N-No," she stammered, "Emotions. I didn't feel his emotions."
 
The realization dawned on Simon. Of course she would be bothered by that. "He did not love you." Athena turned her face away, hand instinctively moving to hold her other arm. He was almost afraid to ask, but he did anyway. "Did you love him?"
 
She nodded meekly, but then seemed to regret it. "I mean, I'm not sure..."
 
Simon felt a pang of anger and jealousy, but worked to suppress it. "We don't have to talk about it." He continued to run his fingers through her hair, gently working out any tangles he came across. Athena quickly turned her head back and looked him in the eyes.
 
"No! No. I just... did you love her?"
 
Simon did not hesitate. "It was a mutual fling." In truth, the girl he'd been with hadn't meant much to him; rather, it was a momentary lack of self-control on his part, after a night of heavy drinking. They both had woken up the next morning and nervously gotten dressed. Simon had made breakfast and they'd sat in silence together, before she mentioned she wasn't interested in anything serious and he'd responded in kind. He didn't even remember her name.
 
"I see..." Athena fell quiet. "...His name was Ethan. He was an American, but we both went to school in England at the time. We um, you know, after a few dates, and then we went on one more date... and then I didn't hear from him. I guess he moved, but didn't think to tell me." Simon could feel her sadness. "I mean, it doesn't matter anymore, it just... it stinks to know there are people out there like that."

Without thinking, Simon leaned down and kissed Athena on the forehead. "I would never do such a thing," he promised.

Athena blushed. "Simon..." She glanced away and noticed the clock. "Oh! It's so late!" She jumped up and looked at the clock again.

Simon glanced at the clock hanging on the wall. Indeed, it was late, nearly midnight. Perhaps he should go home. He definitely didn't want to overstay his welcome. Simon moved the pillow back to the couch and stood, rebuttoning the top two buttons of his shirt. "As much as I would love to stay here, I think I should head home. Trucy's show is tomorrow, yes?"

Athena nodded. "Are you going?" It was Simon's turn to nod. "Maybe we could go together?"

"That would be wonderful, if you are not tired of me by then." He made his way to the coat rack on the wall and grabbed his tie, putting it back on properly. Athena followed and grabbed his jacket, helping him put it on after his tie was fixed. "Thank you for the lovely evening," he said, heading toward the door.

"Wait," Athena said, grabbing his hand. "Simon... Thank you for tonight."

She leaned in, tiptoeing, and kissed Simon on the cheek. As she leaned away, Simon quickly put his hand behind her neck and pulled her face toward his, pressing his lips gently against hers. After a moment, he allowed her to pull away and smiled, trying not to blush. Athena stared at their feet, but looked like she was over the moon.

"I will see you tomorrow," Simon said, opening the door.
"Yes," Athena responded. As soon as the door closed behind Simon, she locked the door and sprinted back to her room, launching herself in the air and landing on her bed, squealing with delight. She hadn't had so much fun on a date in years, which was sad, given she was only 19. Apollo's words regarding Simon's mental state and ability to communicate quickly flashed in her mind, but the feeling of his lips on hers quickly drowned that out.

Meanwhile, Simon was sitting in the back of a car with Gumshoe cheerfully blathering on about something or other. Simon stared out the window, completely oblivious to the world around him. If he'd had more money on him, he'd have opted for a taxi, but in all honesty, he was quite content no matter what happened. Tomorrow was the magic show, and he was going to see Athena again. She liked him. She had been okay with him kissing her forehead, and she'd even kissed him on the cheek. And when he'd kissed her on the lips, she had been okay with that too. He felt like a teenager! It was ridiculous, but he'd never been happier.

He definitely owed Aura a thank you present.

February 2017

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Athena Blackquill
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