No matter how much the The Wright Tattoo parlor strived to keep itself in spick and span condition, the spotless decor somehow made the place appear even more vacant. And somehow, Apollo knew it wasn’t because of the parlor’s cheesy name.
He watched the weak grimace on Mr. Wright’s face stretch thinner as the hours passed. Dusk turned into dawn in a few short hours and the bits of conversation they had turned stagnant. The silence that spread across the tattoo parlor was a striking contrast to how rowdy it was when customers were around. Or perhaps it was because a certain magician by the name of Trucy Wright was missing today. Her upbeat attitude (and strange behavior) would often lighten days like this, parlor tricks aside.
However, the idle chatter in the room wasn’t entirely gone.
“How’s your essay going?” his boss questioned, leaning against the bench Apollo was stationed in, skimming the words the latter wrote to pass the time. In Apollo’s defense, the day was late, and with little to no customers, what else was he supposed to do? Twiddle his thumbs and wait? “I’m surprised you haven’t finished it yet.”
“Synonym for rebuttal?” Apollo replied instead, lingering on the word for longer than he would have liked to. Toying with the snug and helix piercings he had hidden on his left earlobe, a nervous habit he was training himself to stop. Apollo stared at his computer screen with tired eyes, letting out a yawn. “I’ve used it three times already and-”
“I get it, repetition doesn’t make a strong argument.” Mr. Wright supplied, bending over to peer at Apollo’s laptop, to which the latter shifted it closer to him. “Sentence?”
“‘The chance of rebuttal in a closing argument, if the judge were to allow it, should supply reasons to why it is needed to refute the opposing side, as well as clear evidence for said contradiction.’” Apollo quoted, highlighting said text for better guidance. He scratched the side of his neck where a tattoo laid visible, a habit that never seemed to leave him, even after weeks it was freshly inked on.
Mr. Wright hummed in reply, nodding along as he read the sentences prior for more context. “Try counter-argument or counterstatement. And you might want to take out the if the judge will allow it part and make it a new sentence.”
As he did so, Mr. Wright took a look around the store and sighed. During their three minute talk, not a single bell chimed from the doorway. And Apollo couldn’t blame him, after all, it was the third time this week the parlor proved empty. Days like these made Apollo wonder if he should even return work the next day, with how low business and customer revenue was. Although he knew he would never quit this job (after all, a paycheck WAS a paycheck. Plus the company wasn’t all that bad), the fleeting thought would always come around when he was met with no customers to work on or tend to.
“Maybe I should close shop early, just for today.” Taking in his employee’s stunned expression, he huffed a laugh. “So you can finish your essay on time. Just for today.”
“No buts or rebuttals! There’s no need to wait for customers who aren’t going to come.”
Apollo smacked his lip, an improved rebuttal forming in the speed of light, ready to insist that a single customer was better than none-and that he could continue working on his essay while waiting-until Mr. Wright stopped him. “I don’t know how long we can keep the parlor open for business anyway.”
With the way business was running, Apollo couldn’t say that he was surprised. After all, he predicted the situation might boil down to such. But hearing it straight from Mr. Wright was different. “I thought you said your work as an attorney supplied enough for both-”
Mr. Wright huffed another laugh, walking over to the cash register, located in the center of the parlor. “I said that when we were getting customers. And if I keep paying for this out of my own pockets, I’m not going to be able to supply anything in a few months. Don’t tell Trucy I said that.”
Knowing Trucy and her talent at perception, it wouldn’t take long for her to piece together the picture herself. Mr. Wright’s daughter was smart, Apollo knew this. “She’d probably do anything to help us, knowing her.”
Smiling now, Mr. Wright leaned back against his chair, humming to himself. “She would, she’s too kind.”
“You’re the one who raised her.” After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, his mind supplied. Apollo made quick work of powering off his laptop and setting his belongings to the side, meticulously cramming them into his bag.
Mr. Wright quirked an eyebrow up at him. “Am I doing a good job?”
“But try not keep it as a secret from her. She’s not fond of liars, like her father.” Apollo said, attempting to joke. Using a hand to adjust his bracelet and fix over the wrinkles in his outfit, he gave one finalizing glance around the near desolate parlor.
“Then I guess I’m off for the day.” Despite how much he didn’t want that to be the case, he gathered his items into his bag and walked off to the doorway, making sure to sign out his time stamp for the day.
His boss waved goodbye off-handedly, more focused on the task in front of him. As he was collecting their earnings from the cash register, his attention was brought back to Apollo as he heard the latter clear his throat.
“And to answer your earlier question, I think you are. Just stop giving her soda for breakfast or else Mr. Edgeworth will have your head.”
“Closed for business?!”
Apollo lurched in his seat, his hands fumbling to catch the piercing gun he was using for his client’s requested tragus ring, of which he almost mis-pierced in his surprise. He murmured a quick apology and proceeded to disinfect the gun and the skin of interest. Again.
Once this customer left, he was going to lecture Trucy about her volume.
Speaking of Trucy, he watched the Wright father and daughter duo from the corner of his eyes.
“But what about Apollo?” Trucy argued, blatantly waving a hand in his direction. “ And Athena? And family game night?”
Her father reshuffled the papers in his tray. “You know as well as I do that they’re still invited.”
Ignoring the spike of guilt that surfaced inside him for eavesdropping, Apollo listened intently to the conversation. He had every right to, after all, their business was as much as his. Or did three years of work at the parlor mean nothing? (Plus, he could use the excuse that he heard his name during their banter. If he was caught, at least.)
“Are you telling me we’re giving up? We can’t just throw in the towel!” Trucy argued, no doubt crossing her arms and scrunching her eyes shut. “C’mon, we haven’t tried everything yet.”
“Trucy,” Mr. Wright started lowly, making Apollo hear the tenderness in his tone, “I know you love the tattoo parlor but the Wright Anything Agency can go without it. We already have a great magician on our side,” By the sounds of Trucy’s snickers, her dad was probably rustling her hair, or some other fatherly gesture. “ And there’s no reason to fight a losing battle.”
“But we can’t just quit! Hold on, let me think about this for a second.”
With the way Mr.Wright was going on about it, it sure sounded like a losing battle. As he finished the disinfection procedures, he lined up the gun to the tragus area. Maybe it was time to buy a new calendar-to count how many days he had until he was sacked from his job.
“Ack!” His customer cried out, and for the second time that day, Apollo widened his eyes, lurching back. “My deepest apologies, sir. Just...give me a second to prepare, ja?”
Biting his lip, Apollo gave the man a nod, to which the latter gratefully accepted. Taking the time to give the man another glance over, the prime reason for his nervous outburst came clear. The hesitant smile, the erratic tapping of the foot, and how he was currently rubbing his fingers together. How Apollo didn’t notice beforehand, he had no clue.
Standing up to lean against his tattooing table to get a better view, he pursed his lips and sighed, crossing his arms. “Is this your first time?”
“Huh?” the man said, obviously not expecting conversation. Turning to face Apollo, he plastered on a bright smile, one that was purposely reaching his eyes to appear genuine. “Why do you say that?”
Apollo deadpanned. “You’ve been fidgeting since you’ve got here.” And he wasn’t the type to judge or point out appearances, but other than the rings and the chain belt, not a single piercing or tattoo was on his skin. Noticing the customers' surprised glance, he tensed under the gaze and turned away. “Sorry.”
Instead of the complaint of poor customer service that he was expecting, Apollo received a laugh. An honest, warm chuckle that would have made him stumble over if he wasn’t standing. “For what? Don’t be sorry.” Dammit, he had a nice voice.
The light rush to his face told him that he was indeed flushing. “Sorry, I mean-” Apollo stammered, trying to piece together words.” NOT sorry. Yeah. You, you…” Taking a deep breath to murmur the words ‘I’m fine` to himself, Apollo continued sheepishly. “You get what I mean.”
If he wasn’t wounded enough by his own eloquent reply, the twitching grin of the man killed him. This was just a customer! The first one he had in days, but a customer regardless. Apollo had no reason to be so nervous.
“I think we both need to relax.” Dammit the guy noticed. “But for the record, ja. I mean, uh...yes.” Perking his head up, Apollo watched the man toy with the rings. “I guess it is my first time.” he repeated, before stopping his movements entirely to shove his hands into his pockets. “I’m surprised you noticed actually. Then again, I tend to be better at handling it.”
“I’m just perceptive, I guess.” Apollo paused, now scrambling to find another conversation point. “So...why a tragus ring?”
The customer seemed to have calmed down, settling into the booth chair. Smacking his lips, he laughed to himself again-causing Apollo to take a sudden deep breath- before saying, “Would you believe me if I said that I was dared to do this?”
Ahhhh. A victim of a bet, or in this case, a dare. “I know tragus rings are more painful, since they’re a piercing through the cartilage, so I thought I could handle it.” The man toyed with the wisps of his blond hair. “Guess not.”
“You do know you’re not obligated to say yes to those types of things, right?” Apollo said, giving an impromptu lecture before he could stop himself. “I mean, it looks like you’ve done your research and all, but it still seems like a reckless decision.”
The man seemed to be momentarily startled by the speech, and before Apollo could apologize, the man responded. “Ja, I understand.” Taking a deep breath himself, the man shot him with a kind smile, one less bright and glimmerous than his first smile. This one seemed more genuine. “Thank you, Herr...sir.”
“Oh! Uhhh...you’re welcome.” Apollo tinkered with his piercing gun, not used to the direct eye contact he was being given. Realizing that they’ve been stalling this entire time, he chided himself for his dawdling and clicked the gun into lock. “So...piercings.”
Another twitch of the lips. “Piercings.” The man parroted, snapping a finger.
“I can…” Apollo took another glance over the man, feeling another flush coming when the latter caught him. “...give you earlobe piercings, if you want. They’re less painful, and it’s only half the cost of tragus pieces.”
The man hummed, tapping his foot again as he contemplated his options. “Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Plus, I think you’ll look good with them.” Apollo said, screwing his mouth shut as soon as the words escaped him. Whatever gave him the impulse to say that, he didn’t know. To avert his eyes away from his client, Apollo busied himself by disinfecting his gun with a new alcohol wipe. Again. “Not that it matters or anything, since these are just the placeholder earrings we give out.”
Apollo heard the man hum again. “I’ll take your word for it. I trust your expert analysis. Or the perception you hold yourself to.”
Unable to tell if the man was teasing him or otherwise, Apollo wordlessly walked over to him and brought over the piercing gun and a marker. After taking a moment to mark the spots in the earlobe to which they would be even, he handed the man a mirror to verify if he was okay with their placement.
“Are you ready?” Apollo asked after the man nodded, handing him back the mirror. “It’s going to feel like a bee sting.”
“Ja, don’t worry. I think I’m in safe hands.” Once again, Apollo had to stamp down the brief fluttering in his stomach before he accidentally pierced his client somewhere other than the requested area of choice.
After piercing both earlobes, to which Apollo had to disinfect again for sanitation purposes, he led his client back to the front desk, where his boss and his daughter were still talking. A quick glance around the shop proved his suspicions. No new customers. In the absence of conversation with his client, Apollo overheard more of the business delegations.
“What you’re proposing is a really delicate idea. And our parlor is fragile enough.”
“But think about it! What do we have to lose?” Trucy responded, a reassuring expression working up her face. (Oh what Apollo assumed it to be, hearing the determined pleading tone in her voice.)
“More money. Besides, we would have to find a new place altogether. And even then we would be pinching pennies-”
Remembering that he had a customer right in front of him, no doubt overhearing the negotiation himself, Apollo returned to the front desk. After a rushed flipping of their receipt book and a frantic search for a working pen, Apollo handed a written receipt to the man.
“Well Mr.-” Apollo tried to make a discreet glimpse at the appointment sheet on the listing, before remembering that the customer was a walk-in. Not that they had any scheduled appointments to begin with. “Sir,” he interjected, saving himself. Pointedly ignoring the quirk of the lips in response, he continued. “Your total is thirty dollars.”
Being handed two twenty dollar bills, Apollo was about to hand the change back and thank the customer for coming, before the man shook his head. He waved off the hand holding his remaining bills and winked at Apollo. “Keep it. For the good conversation we had. I would have put it in the tip jar but alas, there is none.”
“You don’t have to, it was nice ta-”
“Unsinn, I insist.”
Already shushing the argument Apollo had ready at the tip of his tongue, the customer walked off. “Until we meet again, sir. You’re a very interesting person, I must say.”
As the front door swung to a close, Apollo’s eyes lingered at the waning figure out the window until he was no longer in view.
Well. That happened. Minimal embarrassment and minor cardiac arrests aside, he was ten dollars richer. A part of Apollo wanted to scold himself for acting so...unprofessional with the man, he forced himself to relax and shake away the jitters crawling up his skin. At the end of the day, the person was a stranger, someone he’d probably never meet again, nor even recognize. (And yet, a part of Apollo could not shake away the image of the man snapping a finger up at his face to catch his attention, or forget the low, hushed humming that would sound out whenever the man flicked around his hair.)
And as much as he wanted to focus on his interaction with the customer and nitpick each word that was exchanged, he had other things to focus on.
Stuffing the change into his jeans pocket, Apollo wiped his hands on his sweater vest before walking up to the duo behind him, remembering the discussion the two were having.
“I’m telling you, it’ll work!” Trucy exclaimed, using every bit of her energy to convince her father of such. Whatever ‘it` was. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner!”
Sighing, Mr. Wright scratched the back of his head. “It’s a tad ambitious, but-”
“Just give me time!” she pleaded clapping her hands together into a praying position. “Don’t worry about a thing, Daddy! I’ve got it all taken care of!”
Mr, Wright hardened his stare and grimaced. “I know that, but you shouldn’t-”
“No buts!” Trucy exclaimed, and for a moment, Apollo recognized it as the phase Mr. Wright said to him a night ago. “You can count on me. I promise.” To demonstrate, Trucy beamed a smile and gave them a thumbs up. “Have I ever led you guys wrong in the past?:
Mr. Wright opened his mouth to argue before turning to Apollo, who nodded at the sudden acknowledgement, albeit with a pause of hesitance. “What do you think?”
“..think of what?” Apollo asked hesitantly, grasping on the first few lines of their conversation, knowing that he was out of loop with what was going on.
As Mr. Wright groaned, Trucy walked up to him to sling an arm around Apollo’s shoulders. For a split second, Apollo glanced at Trucy’s feet and realized she wasn’t even tiptoeing to reach his shoulders. To sooth his bruised pride, he pretended the magician was wearing heels. “Don’t worry your pretty little head, Polly!” Trucy chirped, using her hand to flick the ends of his hair. “I’ll figure it all out by tomorrow. We got this!”
“Are you trying to convince me or yourself?” Apollo murmured, resigning to the fate of his hair being messed up-for now, at least. At this point, he was used to Trucy’s antics. He made a mental note to fix it up into it’s usual style once he had the opportunity.
For now, he rolled his eyes, knowing Trucy would find humor in the gesture. He was rewarded with a laugh and another brush of the hair. “Fine. Go do your thing. What’s the worst that can happen?"
“You’ll see!” Grabbing her tophat, she leaned over to her father to plant a kiss on his cheek before walking out the doorway, a skip in her step present. “I’ll be home in an hour or two!”
Mr. Wright stared off at his daughter’s departing figure and Apollo was able to see a fond smirk spread across his face. “She’s very responsible for her age.” The latter remarked, taking the time to smooth out the wrinkles in his outfit and comb his hair back.
“No kidding. Almost too responsible sometimes.”
Apollo glanced at Mr.Wright, expecting him to add more into his statement; he instead remained silent, a thoughtful, near contemplative, look in his eyes.
Not knowing what else to say, Apollo prompted him. “She’s a miracle worker, alright. I wonder where she gets it from.”
Mr. Wright hummed in thought, before the same grimace crossed over his face. “This is why I didn’t want Trucy to get mixed in with all this.” He stated, shaking his head. “I hate the fact that she has to help us with all this.”
“Can’t be worse than taking her to crime scenes.” Memories of his first trial of being the co-council of the Wright Anything Agency spoke otherwise, with the reminder of Trucy providing evidence from her magical panties being a highlight. “And everyone needs help in awhile, don’t they?”
Mr. Wright hummed in response, before straightening in his chair to meet eye level with Apollo. The uncanny, familiar feeling of fear shriveled it's way into his chest as Mr. Wright shot him a grin.
“I can see why you say that.”
Apollo blinked up at him with squinted, suspicious eyes. “What?”
“Your customer service skills seem to be improving.” Mr. Wright laughed as he watched Apollo splutter to catch his breath after suddenly choking on air. “Did you happen to catch his name?
Aiming to regain his composure, Apollo took a deep breath and answered calmly. “NO, SIR!”
Mr. Wright pursed his lips, but moved on from the topic, to which Apollo was forever grateful. “That’s a shame. You both seemed to work well together.”
Apollo huffed, rolling his eyes once again, the sarcasm now intentional. As if anyone could see that in the twenty minutes that they talked. “Trucy's a bad influence on you, sir.”
“Who said I got that from Trucy?”
His next day at work began in the same pattern as last. The only major difference being that he was holding a different stationary instrument.
“APOLLO!” Trucy hollered, bounding up to him with the same spring in her step. Apollo winced, near dropping the tattooing machine he was in the process of refilling. Taking the time to disassemble the needles and place them on his station’s desk, he gave Trucy a blatant scowl.
A beat of silence passed by before Trucy opened her mouth, to which Apollo interrupted her before she could say anything. ”Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!”
“Oh, silly Apollo.” Shaking her head sympathetically, she took the time to pat Apollo’s shoulder. “Already a grandpa.”
“I’m twenty-two.” he grumbled, before noticing the paper Trucy had grasped in her other hand. Picking up his curiosity, she held it up for him teasingly, waving it around like a dog-treat.
“Aren’t you going to ask?” She said, and dammit, this was one of the times when Apollo wished Trucy didn’t know him so well.
“I’m almost afraid to.”
“Don’t be.” Unrolling the paper, she presented it to Apollo with a flare only she was capable of. “Ta-da! What do you think?”
Taking a minor step back, (since Trucy practically shoved the document one inch away from his face), Apollo blinked as he skimmed its contents. “Are these...coupons?” Even without Trucy’s nod of confirmation, a second skimming of the paper proved that they were indeed coupons, printed onto the page in dual rows of five. They seemed to be in the suitable format, detailing the parlor’s whereabouts and their contact information. But something puzzled him.
Scratch that, two things puzzled him. Right as he was about to ask, Trucy beat him to it.
“I call this Operation: Networking!” Trucy said, handing him the coupons to properly hold. Now with her hands free, she reached into her hat and pulled out some business cards and a memo pad. “You know how I perform at the Wonder Bar, right?”
“How could I not?” The details of Trucy’s ‘operation` were slowly beginning to piece together. “So you’re planning to promote the parlor?”
“Yup!” She cheered, flipping into a page of her memo pad and showing Apollo a detailed outline of which she obviously drew. (Assuming from the funny doodles in the small corner and the loopy handwriting.) As he skimmed the notepad, she continued “Honestly, I should have thought of it years ago or something.”
Apollo couldn’t help but agree. From what he witnessed of the magician’s performances at Wonder Bar (which he visited as much as he could with university, a job, and an office internship under Mr. Wright on his shoulders), the place would be great for promoting the parlor. Most attendees who frequented there knew Trucy and her tricks for years now, and dualed with her nightly performances, it was her second home away from home. Advertizing the parlor would be a fool proof plan for customers, especially with patrons of their caliber.
Realizing that Trucy was waiting for him to say something, he nodded to himself and gave her a reassuring smile. “I’m impressed. You should run a business when you’re older.”
Trucy made a show of scoffing and rolling her eyes, a habit she no doubt obtained from him. “You guys just suck at marketing. Someone had to take the helm.” Flipping to another page of the notepad, she pointed at a circled agenda. “I also plan to make flyers and get some connections with other business around two, like the Kitaki’s!”
“Er. Make sure you have someone with you when you do that.” Apollo remarked, sweating when he remembered the connection Trucy had with the local crime boss and gang members in the area. “But there’s one thing I think you need to edit in your coupons before you give them out to anyone.”
Trucy hummed in acknowledgment, leaning over to peer at the paper as Apollo pointed at the unmentioned detail that irked him. “I could be wrong, but since when did we have two locations?”
To which Trucy gave a short giggle and held her hand out, allowing him to hand back her copy of coupons. “Don’t worry about that.” She played off, neatly straightening her papers on a nearby desk before storing them up her hat once again. “You can-”
“I do.” Apollo reaffirmed before she could say it, swiping her top hat to place it on her head himself. “But I’d still prefer if you’d tell me.”
Trucy winked up at him, adjusting her top hat with a mischievous smirk plastered on her face. “I think Daddy should be the one to tell you.” And in the blink of an eye, Trucy was racing towards her father, who seemed to be watching them from the corner of his eye.
Apollo licked his lips and swallowed, leaving behind an audible gulp. As he followed the magician, a series of ill-timed notions were made in his anticipation. A good percentage of them ended with him being jobless, despite the encouraging aura that near radiated off of Trucy. He only wished that Mr. Wright’s words from the previous day rang true about him and Athena.
So as Apollo stepped up to the duo, he unfortunately imagined an all too-realistic and visualized scene of lining his head up on the chopping block, awaiting the swing that would sever his neck. Needless to say, Apollo held his breath and swallowed to reawaken his drying throat. “Am I needed for anything, sir?”
The abrupt crack in his words wasted years of daily vocal warmups. Thankfully, it was swept underneath the rug.
Mr. Wright took a glance at Trucy, who nodded up to him. Now trading a raised eyebrow for a similar mischievous smirk, he jutted his chin to Apollo.
“What do you think of becoming the lead manager of the Wright Tattoo extension parlor in Corville Avenue?”
An uninterrupted pause rang in everyone’s ears before someone grabbed the chance to answer.
“Excuse me, but what?!”
Looks like his Chords of Steel didn’t go to waste after all. Go figure.
The next few weeks seemed to pass by in a blur. Of course, that could be attributed to his university's fall semester exams coming to a close, but becoming the sole worker of his job’s new location was a close second.
Incidentally, Mr. Wright managed to have enough funds saved up for their new parlor, but even Apollo knew that each moment onwards would have frugality in mind. No doubt his boss would be pinching pennies, if he wasn’t doing so already. The gods above must have blessed them, since the area for rent that Trucy came across managed to be affordable.
With this in mind, as Apollo visited the third block on Corville Avenue for a negotiation on its structural integrity and other business exchanges, a week after he was given the offer of management, the businesses success was the prime thing on his mind. Mr. Wright and Trucy were depending on him, and trusted him with such a high position. From here on out, one of Apollo’s top priorities would be the tattoo parlor, next to his law office internship and his university.
Apollo took a moment to slap his cheeks and rub the sleep out of his eyes, a yawn escaping him. Why their client wanted to meet this early in the morning, he had no clue. He didn’t even have the time to prepare his daily vocal exercises! Fortunately, at least he wouldn’t be missing his upcoming morning class in a few hours.
Now cycling to the predetermined spot, which happened to be a thirty minute bike ride from his apartment, Apollo surveyed the area, taking note of the multiple shops and shelters that littered the area. And as his eyes caught on a nearby flower shop, he recognized the ‘FOR RENT` sign on a neighboring shop that Trucy had sent him so many pictures of. He stopped his bike at the entrance.
The flower shop almost took up the entire space of the sidewalk, and Apollo could see rows of different, multicolored flowers seperate the two shops, most he could not name. The ones he were familiar with, which, really, were only the roses and speckled bits of daisies, were all hung back neatly, organized in a fashion that wasn’t unappealing or blinding to the eyes. Neat.
The second thing he noticed was the garish motorcycle parked in the alleyway separating the two stores. He gave it a low whistle and leaned his prized bicycle next to it. He’d have time to stop and gawk at it later. Right now, he had a conference with the sales marketer.
Thirty minutes into the meeting and it was taking half of Apollo’s willpower not to glance at his watch for the second time in the past fifteen. Crossing his arms to give his body something to do other than sit down and dawdle, (or tap his foot, or adjust his bracelet for the tenth time that morning), he leaned forward and forced a smile, nodding along to the conversation that was going in one ear and out the other. And as much as he wanted to hold the marketer’s words in high regard and give her the respect she deserved, the woman already asked him for his age three times and shook her head disapprovingly at his neck tattoo twice.
Said tattoo would have been covered with a layer of foundation if he had enough time this morning, or if his flatmate had the compassion to wake him up earlier. But he couldn’t blame Clay for that, not when he took fifteen minutes primping up in the mirror and gelling his hair.
In other words, listening intently was proving to be a struggle.
Apollo scanned the inner layout of the empty soon-to-be parlor, scrutinizing the moldy grout that encased most of the floor tiles. Based on their talk, the store used to be a laundromat before it was flooded by a customer's wash. Coupled with breaking some sanitary violations and health and safety code procedures, the place inevitably shut down.
As Apollo’s eyes swept the area, no doubt adding together the funds for the construction’s repairing and it’s materials, he noticed a moving figure outside the shop window.
After a few seconds of trying to distinguish their features, Apollo widened his eyes, now thankful that he was biting down his bottom lip for the past several minutes. If he hadn’t, he would have spluttered gibberish right then and there.
He turned his head to the marketer with the goal of actually listening for once instead of pretending he had. But another stray glance towards the window proved that yes, it was the customer from less than a week ago, and yes, he probably worked at the flower shop next door, assuming from the watering can in his hand.
And yes, his sleeves were rolled up to display sun-kissed tan skin.
“Yes!” Apollo squawked, fumbling to tear his eyes from the scene to the unassuming gaze of the marketer. “How can I help you?”
“We’re all done here for the day.” She said, handing him some documents. “I just need you to sign these and turn them in by next week or so. If you have any questions, please email me using my business email.”
“Thank you.” He voiced, putting the papers in a folder tucked away in his arm.
He blamed Mr. Wright and Trucy for his apparent low attention span.
After bidding their farewells, Apollo now stood in front of the doorway, the shop keys in his hand. The marketer, having departed already, left Apollo alone with the task of locking up for the day.
Well, mostly alone, at least.
It was a simple task really, but Apollo may have spent the better part of two minutes trying to find which side to put the key in. Perhaps he also spent an additional two trying to find the correct direction the doorknob twisted. (He may have also let a few colorful words slip by in his frustration.)
Apollo could practically feel the man’s gaze shifting over to him, as he struggled, with a lock of all things. A swift, inconspicuous glance to his right proved that the blond was now leaning against his own doorway, a faucet to his side refilling his watering can.
Under the stare, Apollo couldn’t help but feel underdressed in comparison to the man, despite the rational thought that it didn’t matter. Perhaps it was because this was the first time they properly met, no longer under the pretense of being customer and employee.
So of course it would be reasonable and self-explanatory to why Apollo caught himself staring- no, not staring, observing- the man’s aforementioned ‘sun-kissed` skin, and how the rings he once fidgeted with were missing, gloves taking place instead. The new addition of the hoop earrings didn’t go unnoticed.
Meanwhile, Apollo was pretty sure he was wearing the same shirt he slept in a day ago. He smoothed his gelled hair for a moment in his self-scrutinization, before wondering why on earth he was nitpicking his own appearance out of nowhere. And of course, a second look at the man proved that yes, he was still watching him.
A faint rush of heat spread to his ears and Apollo grit his teeth, cursing his stupid, pounding heart. Perhaps it was the spur of the moment, or the headache reaching his temples, but he couldn’t help but point out the man’s gawking.
(And maybe it was also due to his own short-temper.)
“Do you need something?” Apollo almost snapped, settling his voice down to an even tone as he stopped jiggling the doorknob around. “You’re staring pretty loudly.”
The man, almost surprised at the sudden acknowledgement, raised his hands in mute surrender. Making a strained smile, he clicked his tongue. “Entschuldigen sie, but I couldn’t help but notice your doorway troubles.”
From the sudden hum of laughter, he must have noticed Apollo’s defeated grimace. He clicked his tongue again and turned off the faucet, wiping his hands on his apron as he began striding up to Apollo, to the latter’s own surprise. “Would you mind if I helped? I think our buildings have the same locking mechanism.”
Despite having a refusal at the tip of his tongue, Apollo stepped to the side, crossing his arms. “I could have done it on my own.” He turned away once he was met with a teasing-or at least what he identified as a teasing-tilt of the lips, “but if you insist on helping, knock yourself out.”
Knock yourself out? Since when did he say such sarcastic remarks? To a person who was offering to help him, no less. And he wasn’t a complete stranger. Apollo recalled their last interaction, specifically, the man’s chimes of laughter, and frowned, not wanting a repeat of those moments. Or the comment he had from his boss afterward.
As Apollo drifted off in thought, the man continued to tinker with the lock, patiently, twisting the doorknob and key to have the lock cooperate.
“You have to turn the knob and key at the same time.” he narrated aloud “I mean, what you were doing was pretty a-door-able but-”
“Har de har har.” Apollo said before he could stop himself, electing a chuckle from the man. Biting back a laugh himself, he peered at the lock again. Noticing his gaze, the stranger unlocked the door again and handed him the keys. “You give it a go. I won’t always be there to open the door for you.” He said, his coy smile widening.
Concentrating on the task at hand, Apollo reminded himself of more reasons to cut their conversation short, such as his already hectic schedule He couldn’t detour on it for some stranger, no matter how friendly he was being. He was going to lock up the parlor, get his bike, and cycle to his morning class. No questions asked. Besides, it’s not as if the guy knew who he-
“Oh! It’s you!” the man suddenly said after Apollo successfully locked the doorway, snapping his fingers as if to jog his memory. Squinting his eyes down at him, (making Apollo’s ear go red again at the direct eye contact and examination) “Last week? ‘The Wright Tattoo`? You might not remember me but-”
“I do.” One of these days, he was going to glue his lips shut. To prevent things like this. “For a second, I thought you didn’t remember me.”
The man hummed. “Interesting.” he wondered aloud and Apollo had to bite his tongue from asking why. “Guess you’re my new neighbor now.”
“Oh, yeah.” Right, they were probably going to see each other more often. That’s just great. Wonderful. Pocketing the keys, Apollo rubbed his temples to ease them of the stress they were going through. “I see you sell flowers?”
The man raised an eyebrow and pointed a trowel at the rows of flowers in front of them. “How could you tell?” he joked. “But this isn’t my main job.”
Hmmm. A tad bit secretive. Apollo was going to have to push that, if they ran into each other again. Rolling his eyes instead, he asked. “Fine then, wise guy. What’s your name then?” Referring to him only as ‘the man` was becoming redundant. It would be nice to finally put a name to a face. After that, he would get his bike and go. Simple as that.
“Oh, forgive me for not introducing myself sooner.” he apologized, putting the trowel back into the pocket of his apron, all while walking up to Apollo. “You can call me Klavier. And, you are?”
“What’s your last name?”
“Well then, Mr. Gavin,” Why was he being so formal? “I’d hate to cut our conversation short, but I really have to run. I have class and-”
“Oh! Forgive me if I took any of your time.” Klavier said, stepping away, turning back from him. Brushing his hands together, he began walking to his abandoned watering can, with Apollo not far behind him. “And you say you have ‘class` around these parts, ja?”
Dazed by the sudden drift in conversation, part not knowing what to say other than a useless ‘yes ` in confirmation, Apollo nodded, forgetting that Klavier couldn’t see him.. He watched Klavier lift his watering can and begin sprinkling some trays of dirt nested on top the window still. And of course, that was the moment the sun decided to beam an early ray on top of them and of course now would be the time that Apollo was reminded how pretty this guy was. Despite how much his brain scolded him for drifting to that forbidden territory, he couldn’t help but stare.
As much as Apollo would have wanted to create an eloquent description on this sight that he was seeing, he remembered after a still minute that he zoned out in the middle of a discussion. Once he noticed that the florist glanced at him, raising an eyebrow at his assumed lack of response, Apollo grunted, loud enough for Klavier to hear.
“The University?” Klavier pressed, receiving another nod in confirmation. “Hmmm, so college and a parlor job? I’m impressed.”
There was that jittery feeling in his chest, unfolding his whole resolve. He grimaced in distaste. “Why? Because of the tattoo?” It would be strange if it was, considering how Klavier had barely glanced at it during their conversations. In actuality, Klavier looked like the type to own some tattoos himself.
“What about your tattoo? It looks wonderful on you.” Apollo had to remind himself that Klavier was talking about the tattoo, not...well. “And for the record, I’m impressed because you have an impressive amount of work on your shoulders.”
He had to refrain from snarking back that Klavier was one to talk, being cryptic and hypocritical. Instead, he nodded and began to backpedal to the alleyway. If this guy was going to be difficult, then this conversation was over. Apollo didn’t want anything to do with it, period. He had better things to do.
Just as he was walking away, Klavier called out to him again. “Until we meet again, Herr Tattoo-Künstler!”
Right, Apollo thought, refusing to rise to the bait of his apparent nickname. With the way the past ten minutes went, he hoped not.
Speaking of time, he glanced down to his wrist watch and groaned. He only had thirty-five minutes to spare. Either way, that gave him a good few minutes to think to himself.
Apollo sat on his bike seat, pinching his features together as he contemplated in silence, knowing that ‘Klavier` was in ear-shot distance, assuming from the sounds of water pouring. Why was he making such a fuss out of that guy? He thought sourly, frowning for the umpteenth time that day.
Afterall, it was just a lock and some small talk, as well as some biased introductions, first interactions be damned. And up until that point, the florist had yet to do really...anything with him. Sure, there were some (Apollo’s ears burned at the remembrance of Klavier pointing out his tattoo) misinterpreted exchanges, but it was all underneath the rug. And if anything, he could apologize to Klavier for his rude attitude the next time he saw him. Simple as that.
He was being defensive for nothing, making a mountain out of an anthill, or whatever figure of speech Trucy would call him. Groaning aloud, Apollo slapped his cheeks and combed back his drooping hair spikes. Thinking about this was going to get him nowhere, he resolved, pushing the tip of his finger into the middle of his forehead after easing his temples.
I’m Apollo Justice and I’m fine. I’m Apollo Justice and I’m fine. I’m-
Something flicked the corner of his eyebrow.
“Aww, are y-”
“I’M APOLLO JUSTICE AND I’M FINE.” he hollered at the top of his lungs, before slapping a hand over his mouth. After turning to meet the perpetrator (who sounded and felt much closer originally), Apollo shot him the fiercest glare he could muster. It wasn’t that hard. “You!”
“Me.” Klavier said, before jokingly pulling at his ear, allowing Apollo to notice the change in earrings. “Man, think you broke my eardrums there for a second.”
“It’s your fault!” Apollo seethed, crossing his arms in a huff. “You don’t just walk up to someone and jab their head.”
“Ja, ja.” Klavier said, taking another step away from the hot-head. “My apologies for disturbing you. I was planning to nab my hog behind you.”
Apollo’s suspicions were correct after all. The motorcycle belonged to the florist. “It’s fine.” he brushed off, now concentrating on the promise he made to himself less than a moment ago. “Actually, I’m the one who-”
“Oh no no,” Klavier waved off, already suspecting what he was going to say. “Danke, Herr Justice, but I deserved it.”
Whatever apology he had died down on his lips and he watched Klavier walk to his side to pick up his helmet. He hummed to himself before turning to Apollo, seemingly sizing him up. (Or...something else, but Apollo’s mind didn’t want to stray into that rabbit hole.)
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Apollo Justice.” he finally said after a beat of examination, flipping his bangs to the side, flashing him a coy smile. A confused feeling of unease washed over him as he wondered how in the world Klavier knew his name, before remembering he flat-out screamed it to him.
Klavier began to outstretch his hand for a handshake before pausing, instead snapping his finger. “Pardon, this will only take a moment.” he said, briskly walking to the front of his store.
In less than a minute, Klavier returned, with a long stemmed flower wrapped in a towel. “Here.” He handed it to Apollo as if it could break at any moment. “Now’s better than never, ja?”
Apollo peered at the flower cautiously, pinching a petal between his fingers. “What for?”
“You’re opening up a new shop here, ja? Think of it as good luck.” He then tapped the top of his own forehead, winking at him. “You’re going to get wrinkles early if you keep frowning as much as you do.”
“Excuse me-” As Apollo opened his mouth to retort, Klavier brushed his hair to the side again and put on his helmet.
“Forgive me for taking up your time again.” Uprighting his motorcycle, he began wheeling it out of the alleyway. “And I wasn’t joking earlier. You’re a very interesting person.” For some reason, Apollo could imagine Klavier winking at him in that moment. “Until next time, Herr Forehead.”
Apollo watched the engine of the motorcycle roar into life before driving away with the man who just happened to leave him with a bigger headache and his ears flaming.
Pursing his lip, he glanced at his watch again and groaned loudly. It would be a miracle if he made it to class on time.
Holding the flower up to his face, Apollo rolled his eyes and placed it inside his bag. The gesture was sweet, if anything, but something still unnerved him about Klavier. Perhaps it was the smooth talking, but based on the florists demeanor, he seemed to have done this type of thing often.
A part of Apollo grimaced at the thought of being toyed with.
Hopping onto his bike, Apollo brushed his hands together and made his final decision. He was going to apologize to Klavier the next time he saw him. Then, he was going to avoid him as much as possible.