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Puddles and Downpours

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Simon Blackquill was not a superstitious man, but he could safely say that the universe was out to get him. 

The terrible Tuesday that he was being forced to suffer through was enough to make him want to claw his own eyes from his skull out of sheer frustration and indignation. First, his alarm clock didn’t go off at the time it was supposed to (and by ‘alarm clock’ he meant his lovely hawk Taka, who would start off her morning routine by softly nipping at Simon’s fingers until he awoke from his painfully broken sleep.) That usually worked like a charm, however Taka had been preoccupied with a rather persistent mouse that morning, so Simon was left to his own defenses, which meant waking up an hour later than usual. 

Then, in the midst of his rush to get ready, he had gotten his entire hairbrush wedged deep in the unyielding terror that he called his hair. Athena, who he had been on speaker phone with at the time, was convinced he had cut his own arm off from the sounds of his screams of anguish. 

“You’re gonna have to cut it out of your hair if you want to leave on time!” She had advised after twenty minutes of trying to tug it out using brute force.

“That’s easy for you to say. It’s not your head!” However, with every precious minute that went by where he stood in his bathroom making no progress whatsoever towards leaving his house at a reasonable hour, the idea started to look better and better. This led to him leaping into his car two hours behind schedule with his vest half-buttoned and a piece of his hair noticeably and considerably shorter than the rest. 

He had sprinted into the prosecutor’s office out of breath and exhausted, making a beeline for the elevator before any passerby could comment on his hair. He had already had enough and it wasn’t even ten thirty in the morning. Simon spent that eternity long elevator ride dreading what the rest of the dastardly day would bring him, but as he made it out of the elevator to his floor two hours late and looking like he had been hit by a bus, the Chief Prosecutor only gave him a polite smile before going back to discussing one thing or another with the group of people crowded around the copier. Simon let out a breath he didn’t even know he was holding. Despite how awful his morning had been, something about being in a building built entirely on procedures and outlines had brought him back down to a state of calmness and tranquility. He couldn’t help but feel that he had left all of his rotten luck at home and he could carry out the rest of his day stress and problem free.

And then that turned out to be a load of absolute hogwash. 

If anything, his luck had gotten worse as the stress of his already terribly complicated job combined with the calamities of every single possible thing that could go wrong going wrong in the simple eight hour long span of a workday. All of the paperwork he had left sorted in organized chaos on his desk the night before was nowhere to be found, and when he interrogated Klavier Gavin knowing that he had used his office for a short while after he had left last night, he was absolutely no help, saying that he hadn’t laid a finger on any of his possessions the entire time. Simon had to hold himself back from calling on Taka to use his pretty blond locks in her latest nest. He had been able to locate the documents after a short moment of panic when Prosecutor Von Karma returned them to him in a neat Manila folder, having used them for a reference regarding her own case. He would have chastised her for taking them without asking if not for the painfully obvious whip hanging from her hip. Thus, he quietly spent an extra half hour returning everything to the way he had left it last night without a word of complaint, leading him to be even more behind schedule than he previously was. 

Mix that in with a coffee incident in the break room, a bawling witness in the precinct, and simply being in the same room as the Payne brothers and you’ve got Simon Blackquill’s absolute catastrophe of a work day. He was one excruciating problem away from packing up everything he’s ever owned and spending an entire year in isolation at the top of a mountain. Any mountain. He found himself envying his little bird love who could simply fly away from any situation she deemed too stressful to handle. Sadly, Simon didn’t have any vacation days left at the moment and he surely didn’t have any wings that he knew of. So he was forced to sit idly by and watch as any hope of a satisfying and soothing workday was whipped repeatedly and savagely by Prosecutor Von Karma. 

Once the clock on his laggardly operating computer read five o’clock, Simon packed up his lazily written notes and documents and practically galloped down to the parking lot. All he wanted to do was get into his car and break every single traffic law until he was safe and sound in his cozy little apartment. The sooner he got home, the sooner he would fall asleep and the sooner he fell asleep, the sooner the worst day he’d faced in a while would be over. With any luck, he would be home within the hour with a bowl of noodles in his lap, a sleepy hawk on his shoulder, and a mind filled with nothing but restful thoughts.

But the universe was not finished with him yet.

He had hastily thrown his homework in the back of his car to be finished later and shifted around until he was comfortable in the driver's seat, adjusting his mirrors and pulling on his seat belt. It had taken him a while to re-learn to drive after everything that had happened, having spent seven years in a cell where driving was the furthest thing from his mind. Luckily, he had one very plucky and determined redhead in the passenger’s seat to cheer him on during their practice. Said cheering usually consisted of screaming in his ear to make a turn two seconds before he was supposed to, but he appreciated the support nonetheless.  

He was violently ripped from his pleasant recollections when he turned the key to start the car and wasn’t met with the familiar rumblings and sounds of the engine purring to life. 

Shit.

Of all the days for his second-hand excuse for a car to absolutely refuse to start, it just had to have been that already dreadfully hideous workday. He had felt his anger bubble to a boiling point as he jumped out of his car, slamming the door as hard as he physically could for good measure. Then, he pulled out his ancient cellphone, dialing the one and only lifeline that he had who could possibly salvage the rubbish situation, practically growling as he was given no choice but to stand on the sidewalk and listen to the dial tone. 

“Hello?” When Athena finally answered, she sounded awfully chipper, a fact that the Twisted Samurai couldn’t help but envy.    

“Hey, it’s me. My bloody car won’t start and I’m stranded at the Prosecutor's office. Can you come pick me up?” Simon had probably sounded more irritated and snappish than he initially meant to when he started the call, but he couldn’t help himself. He just had to be as far away from that God-awful place and that disappointment of a car as possible. He had felt the familiar pang of distress he’d been feeling all day when he heard Athena inhale through clenched teeth over the phone, the same way she always did whenever she was about to say something she knew would make Simon upset. 

“You know I would be over there in a heartbeat if I could! It’s just that I’m at Juniper’s place right now, which I think is about a solid hour away from the Prosecutor's office.” She must have felt Simon’s panic all the way from across town because she had quickly added, “But, if I leave right now and drive just a teeny bit over the speed limit, I should be able to get to you real soon!” 

Simon was mere moments away from stringing together a very colorful assortment of words ripe for Athena’s ears when he stopped himself. There was no way he could fault his “basically baby sister” for spending some quality time with her girlfriend. Yelling at her for no reason other than the fact that he had an utterly nefandous day was unfair and he told himself that repeatedly just as he had stubbed his toe on a parking meter. 

“Don’t you dare drive too recklessly, Cykes-dono. If you hurt yourself, I’ll kill you.” He took a deep breath as he prepared to stand in that one spot for a very long time. “I’ll see you in an hour.” 

He had felt he was utterly doomed, pacing like a damsel in distress over that one block of sidewalk as he lay in wait for his nineteen-year-old knight in shining SUV.  Normally, that situation wouldn’t seem too bad to Simon. After all, there was plenty worse out in the world than having to wait outside for an hour on a cloudy day and he had experienced all of it. What made it all particularly awful was the ever growing sound of thunder and rainfall approaching from over the horizon. 

And thus, there Simon stood, waiting in front of the Prosecutor’s office, freezing, sopping wet, and fuming as the noise of everything else was shrouded by the ever persistent pitter-pattering of the rain surrounding him. He had tried to make his way back into the office earlier only to remember that the doors locked automatically from the inside. Even the umbrella he had left at the office last night specifically after reading the weather forecast for the following morning had mysteriously vanished from it’s spot behind the coat rack when he had checked. Was he really that bad of a person? Did the universe truly believe he deserved all this? 

Simon let out an irritated growl. The universe. 

Ever since he had woken up in his hawk-less bedroom that morning, the universe had been piling one appalling atrocity on top of another on a silver platter for Simon to swallow. It dragged him throughout a worthless, egregious time span, watching with glee as he fumbled about, panicking and suffering. And for what? To plop him down senselessly on this stationary sidewalk to collect gallons of raindrops as he shivered to the bone? Why, universe? Why this very sidewalk? What could possibly be so important that you would shove Simon kicking and screaming through a disgusting excuse for a Tuesday all to make sure he was here? On this sidewalk, at this time. Why. The Hell. Now? 

“Well, if it isn’t Prosecutor Panda.” 

Simon turned his neck so fast, he was convinced he had heard it snap. A figure had appeared from around the street corner making their way towards him, apparently having just exited the Prosecutor’s office from the back door. Their boots made sloshy clicking sounds as they sauntered down the sidewalk through puddles, paying no mind to how soggy their pristine shoes were becoming. Simon could barely make out the black umbrella they held in their perfectly pampered fingers through the haze of the falling raindrops pelting every part of his body. He felt himself wince as what little sunlight that was able to pierce through the cloudy sky reflected and danced off of their many golden accessories, not the least of which being the large hoop earrings that dangled by their cheeks. 

 In those few moments of analyzing their silhouette to try and assemble an identity, it was the telltale lilac braid curling around sturdy shoulders that had given them away. Well, that and the very familiar gibe at his appearance that was still ringing throughout the courtyard.

“Sad Monk.” 

Nahyuta Sahdmadhi in the flesh simply grinned at his use of the nickname as he situated himself on Simon’s right, shaking the rain off his shoes and tugging at his pale white coat. It had been a while since he had seen the peerless prosecutor now standing beside him. He had even almost convinced himself that Nahyuta had been a mirage formed by his mind's unwavering rage until he heard his voice once again. “I hadn’t expected to see anyone out here in this weather. Shouldn’t you be on your way home by now?”

Simon felt his face scrunch up in disgust. Yes, he should have been. By God, he should have been. However, he did not feel like expressing how intensely he felt this way to Nahyuta, who had only just recently become a character in the Simon Blackquill disaster day extravaganza. His patience was already extinct as he let out a disgruntled huff. “Yes, well I’m not just ‘anyone,’ aren’t I?”

That should have been the last of it. Nahyuta would be so dumbfounded by his useless answer that he would take off running towards his car and drive away in frustration, marking an end to their conversation worthy of concluding his heinous evening. They would never speak again, Simon wouldn’t care, and the two of them would waste away in their offices six doors away from one another until they both inevitably died face down on top of their paperwork. 

However, this distant reality slipped away as he felt himself turn back to Nahyuta who had not moved an inch since Simon’s retort. His eyebrows were knit together in what appeared to be genuine concern and curiosity. Simon couldn’t help but feel uneasy as their eyes locked in a sort of silent battle. It seemed as if Nahyuta would not yield until Simon provided him with what he deemed a suitable response to his inquiry and Simon felt he had no choice but to concede. 

“. . . My car broke down. I’m waiting for my ride,” He murmured into his shoulder.

Apparently that was good enough for Nahyuta because his posture visibly straightened, marking the fact that he was no longer leaning into Simon’s personal space to provoke actual communication. “Oh my. That sure is a conundrum isn’t it.” 

He began to pull at the bag slung over his shoulder, rifling around in it until his hand produced a set of silver keys. Simon had only barely turned his head to face him when he swiveled back with his bag in hand. “Of course, I’d be willing to give you a ride in my car-” 

Nahyuta’s voice skittered to a stop. All at once, the sound of the rain suffocating Simon’s ears was drowned out by Nahyuta’s howling laughter. He was all too aware of everything around him, trying to determine the cause of such an outburst as Nahyuta swatted at the air, trying and failing to stop himself in favor of being able to breathe again.

“I’m sorry!” He gasped out after a few more moments of snickering. “It’s just. . . because of the rain, your bangs are plastered onto your forehead. I can barely see your eyes!” 

Oh, just lovely. Simon felt the horrendous betrayal of warmth flush his cheeks as he rapidly swatted at his bangs, tucking the loose strands behind his ears. Nahyuta noticed his movements despite his efforts to hide them and once again lost himself to a fit of giggling. “Yes, laugh it up, Sad Monk. I never did ask for your opinion on my hair, now did I?”

He prayed Nahyuta didn’t notice the shortened strand hidden behind his ear from that morning’s events.

“And as much as I would love to spend an entire car ride alone with the likes of you, I’ll have to pass. Athena would kill me if I had made her drive all this way for nothing.” It was an answer that took absolutely no thought. Thirty minutes in a car alone with the man who had prosecuted his friend for murder and thrown an odd batch of terror beads at anyone who dared defy him, including Simon himself? Hard pass. Just the idea of the situation alone caused Simon’s stomach to constrict in uncomfort. 

Yet, something else about Nahyuta’s offer was unusual to Simon. With an eleven word suggestion that he had proposed so nonchalantly, Nahyuta was able to send Simon’s heart racing and his stomach churning. The all too familiar jolt of panic seared through his brain, as if an invisible someone was holding a knife to his neck. Of course, he in no way felt physically threatened by Nahyuta or his previous rancid actions. He knew for a fact that he would never harm him without good reason. Simply put, Simon just deeply felt that if he got in that car with Nahyuta, something thoroughly unfavorable would occur that he would much rather avoid. 

God, Simon, A voice in his head lectured.  It was just a simple offer to drive you home. Can you, for once in your life, not act like a total dork and assume that people are always trying to harm you in some way? 

It was honestly upsetting how his conscience was beginning to sound more and more like his older sister, who was currently doing time in prison for mass kidnapping. Of all the people who could be stuck in his head criticizing his every move. . .

Nahyuta’s laughter gradually died down as he began to fiddle with his own hair, seemingly amplifying his holier-than-thou aura. “Yes, well believe me. I don’t want a soggy mess such as yourself in my car, either.” He clarified. “I just thought I’d offer to be polite and then inevitably turn you down if I saw you getting too attached to said offer. I do have my leather seats to think of.” 

Simon merely grunted. There was the Nahyuta he recognized. Not the one who had been offering car rides willy-nilly. “Gee thanks, Your Holiness.” He solemnly sputtered.   

Nahyuta only looked more pleased with himself, if that was even possible.  

All too suddenly, the winds around them began to pick up speed, sending spires of cold rocketing through Simon’s soaked skin. His body was racked with uncontrollable shivers and the chattering of his teeth echoed throughout his entire skull. God, Simon hated the rain. Sure, it was pretty and soothing in postcards and pictures but standing out in the thick of it was nothing short of torture. 

Nahyuta’s smile slipped from his face. He glanced at his own body, completely dry and spotless as well as the umbrella he cradled in his hands. Then his eyes grazed over Simon’s pathetic form. “Oh. Well, here.” He said, inching closer. “If I am not taking you home, at least let me-” 

Nahyuta made a few quick strides, aiming to stand shoulder to shoulder with Simon, but stopped when he caught him visibility flinching. Already, Simon felt he was way too close. Previously, they had ten feet of courtroom floor and two large benches keeping them apart and now they were supposed to be just fine squished together like the two ends of a sandwich? It was all too strange and suspicious. What exactly was Nahyuta planning, glued to his side like that. Then, Simon’s eyes flickered to the area above his head. 

Nahyuta’s umbrella. 

He had simply moved in order to cover him from the rain. Simon would have smacked himself if his bones weren’t frozen solid. All he had wanted to do was prevent him from freezing to death and Simon had lunged out of his way like he was threatening to pull his teeth out with pliers. He contemplated scooting closer towards Nahyuta in an attempt to fix the already awkward situation, but what little courage he had dissipated at the thought. Despite the monk’s good intentions, something about the thought of him and Nahyuta standing pressed against one another under his tiny umbrella still brought him panic.

Nahyuta noticed his state of concern and corrected himself, stepping back to his original position. Then, he lifted his arm higher above them, now allowing the umbrella to cover both of them from the distance Simon preferred. He noticed that, this way, the right side of Nahyuta’s body was completely exposed to the rain, allowing raindrops to splatter over his previously spotless shoulder. Simon could have easily prevented this by simply moving in closer until their shoulders were touching, but he ultimately decided against it. What was it about the Last Rites Prosecutor that, for lack of a better word, flustered Simon to his very core? 

“There we are.” Nahyuta said softly once they had reached an acceptable position. “Much better.” 

Simon offered Nahyuta his thanks through his sheepish murmuring as he savored an existence where he wasn’t being pelted by microscopic water bullets. Nahyuta simply hummed in response. The two dragged through a somewhat awkward silence, listening to nothing but the distant thunder before Nahyuta broke it. 

“You had reminded me, how is Athena?” He maneuvered himself so that he was facing Simon, careful to keep the umbrella in it’s position perfectly above both of their heads. “I have not seen her since her visit to Khura'in last summer.”

Ah yes, the visit to Khura’in. Simon had awoken from a much needed nap only to hear Athena announcing that she would be going on a vacation to a country notorious for killing defense attorneys over the phone. Before he could even let out a gasp of disbelief, she had hung up, and then immediately got on a private jet with the entire motley crew of Wright Anything Agency members. He was still furious with her for doing something so reckless.

“Oh? Well, Athena’s doing just fine.” Simon answered. “Wright-dono has her working on twice the number of cases she’s used to now that Apollo’s in Khura’in. She has also recently gotten together with a friend of hers from when she was younger. She’s a nice girl, very calm and quiet. They make quite the cute little couple. Though, Juniper’s Grandmother can be quite protective at times.”

Nahyuta smiled. “I would imagine that would mean the addition of one burly, monstrous chaperone such as yourself to most of their get-togethers?” 

Despite his snarky choice of words, Simon smirked. If he had a dollar for every time he got an urgent phone call from Juniper’s Grandmother, practically begging him to watch the girls during their dates, he would never need to work another day in his life. He had accompanied them to the movies (Athena made him sit in the very back), countless restaurants (he had to eat at minimum three tables away), and to a cluster of sweet little shops that sold everything from candied goods to mystical antiques (he was plagued with keeping an eye on their bikes.) Athena, though she never said it out loud, was never a huge fan of his presence. He made it up to her, however, by keeping mum about the many instances where Athena entered the courthouse looking especially flustered with sunflowers entangled in her hair. She always claimed it was from falling hair first into some sort of garden on the way over, but Simon always knew better. Unless there was a new plant recently discovered that could leave lipstick marks on the collars of those falling on them, Athena was not being entirely truthful. 

“Yes, you would be correct.” Simon sighed. “Completely unrelated, but roller blades are not a good look on me.” The three of them had made a pact that the swerving-into-fruit-punch-stand incident of 2028 would never be discussed outside of the roller rink.  

Something about that mental image must have been particularly hilarious, because Nahyuta let out an indecent snort, dissolving once again into senseless laughter. It was shocking to Simon how different this laugh was to the laugh he sported when they last saw each other. While previously grating and forced, Nahyuta’s laugh now felt more soft and carefree, like the sound erupting from his mouth could take physical form and swaddle Simon up until the harsh rains could no longer touch him. 

Actually, those comparisons didn’t stop at his laugh. Now that they were standing side by side and Simon could really see the man beside him, Nahyuta as a whole seemed fresher and less tense. The bags that had prominently taken residence underneath his eyes were practically gone. His posture, previously so precise and enforced like he had a gun pressed to the small of his back, was looser and comfortable. Even his smile, perfect eyes placed with an imperfect crooked grin, seemed to suit Nahyuta more than it ever had. Nothing about him was unmistakably different, Simon thought as Nahyuta began to collect himself once more. He just seemed more present. More real. Like he was someone Simon could sit down and have an actual conversation with, unlike the unattainable fairy of a human he was led to believe Nahyuta was last summer.   

Hell, even just being able to witness this side of Nahyuta made Simon start to lose all of his pent up tension. He felt himself shake off the rain and relax his shoulders for the first time since that dreadful day had started. Something about Nahyuta now was. . . refreshing. Though he still wasn’t entirely certain, Simon felt that no matter what had happened in Khura’in that caused such a drastic change, Nahyuta had changed for the better. 

“Well, I’m happy for her.” Nahyuta finally said as the last remnants of his untamed laughter echoed throughout Simon’s head. “Of all people, someone as good as her deserves a pleasant and peaceful existence.” The hand that wasn’t holding the umbrella moved and formed one of the monk’s iconic prayer poses: his middle and ring fingers pressed against his thumb while his pinkie and pointer finger remained flexed. His eyes fluttered to a close as he murmured something in his native tongue that Simon couldn’t quite understand, presumably some sort of prayer for Athena’s well being. Then, as quickly as it had started, Nahyuta ended the prayer and his eyes shot back open, glancing around at the rain soaked tiles beneath his feet. He looked almost too regal and well-put-together, with his far off look and his perfect posing. Simon needed to fix that. 

“Does this mean you no longer doom her to live as a spring chick in her next life?” Simon questioned. That worked like a charm. Simon could practically see the rain evaporating off of Nahyuta’s face as the deep crimson blush spread over his nose. He was known throughout the Wright Anything Agency for his colorful array of insults. From Putrid Pepper to Reverse Panda to Spring Chick, none were safe from Sahdmahdi’s backhanded titles. 

“Ah. Of course.” Nahyuta floundered, poking and prodding at the braided hair in his hands.“You, however, have not earned you way above panda status. You’ll be doomed to walk as a bipedal panda bear for as long as I see fit.” His hands flew from his hair to shove an accusatory finger under Simon’s chin, grasping at his rapidly depleting confidence. Simon merely bent backwards to avoid his wrath, slyly grinning to himself.

“As long as you see fit, eh?” Simon chuckled. “I suppose I could live with that. After all, you are the one with the umbrella.” The tension Nahyuta held in his extended arm visibly melted as a bashful smile spread across his face. Shaking his head to himself, Nahyuta readjusted his previously aggressive stance so that the aforementioned umbrella fell back into place above both of their heads. 

“Yes, I suppose I am.” 

So he was. Unlike Simon, Nahyuta had both an umbrella and a working car and yet, he hadn’t taken advantage of either. Instead he remained in the freezing, pouring rain only sheltered by a fraction of an entire umbrella as he idly chatted with Simon, water collecting in his shoes. The oddest part was that, even after all his years of analyzing witnesses with experience in behavioral psychology, Simon hadn’t the foggiest idea as to why. 

What he wouldn’t give to know just what exactly the monk was thinking. Maybe if he had Athena’s emotion-detecting super hearing. . . 

“My, look at me. Rambling on and on about your eternal damnation as a bamboo-feasting folivore when I never thought to ask you how you’ve been, Panda. How has life without meddling sad monks been treating you?” Nahyuta snapped Simon back to reality, looking at him expectantly as Simon registered just what exactly he had been asked.

How had he been? Simon thought back once more to the chain of events that had brought him there: an incident of hawk-caused tardiness, a bad hair day for the ages, a paperwork induced heart attack, a moribund car, a case of hypothermia at the hands of a missing umbrella… but no matter how hard Simon searched and tried to remember just a sliver of the uncontainable rage he had been feeling just moments before, his mind kept returning him to that moment. The present. A present in which he stood drenched on a sidewalk right beside Nahyuta Sahdmadhi and he was smiling at him, awaiting an answer. How had he been? 

“I’ve been scraping by just fine, Nahyuta.”

Nahyuta stared at him with great focus, as if he was expecting him to continue, but truly that was all he had to say. Simon understood more than most that things were never going to be perfect. Not like the life he had at the Cosmos Space Center almost eight years ago. But Simon didn’t need perfect. Recently, things had fallen back into a comfortable lull that he had previously never dreamed of having again, cooped up in that monstrous cell for days on end. He never thought he would have Athena, the person he could without a hint of uncertainty call his best friend, with him in the passenger’s seat cheering him on throughout every speed bump and rocky turn. He never thought he would have Prosecutors Edgeworth, Von Karma, and Gavin to offer a helping hand writing a report or interrogating a witness whenever he needed it. He sure as Hell never thought he would see Aura smile again, not like she had when he visited her at the detention center last Wednesday. He never thought he would ever get a fragment of his old life back, but he was wrong. Now Simon, for the first time in a very long while, felt he had people close by that he could confide in and learn from without any fear that the world would crash down around him. He meant what he said. 

He would be just fine. It only took him one session of small talk with Nahyuta Sahdmadhi to truly understand that.  

“That’s wonderful to hear, Panda.” Nahyuta said at last. He was gazing at the sky, where the faintest hint of a rainbow was beginning to make itself known. The sporadic sounds of bird calls could be heard beyond the clusters of office buildings. He seemed deep in thought as he took in all of these things, the way the earth was interacting with the rain. Nahyuta seemed to be moments away from closing his eyes and losing himself to a Khura’inese prayer once more when Simon spoke again.  

“What about you?” Simon asked. “How have things been in Khura’in?” 

Nahyuta’s eyes shot towards Simon’s in surprise, as if he hadn’t expected him to reach out in an attempt to spark conversation. Come on Nahyuta, he wasn’t that insociable.  

“Oh wow, where to even begin.” His eyes shifted around as he thought over everything that had occurred in the past year. “Well, Rayfa has taken excellently to her new duties, seeing as how she’s next in line for the throne of Khura’in. She’s gotten far better at communicating with her subjects and servants of the crown without the aid of her head-whacking staff and she has gotten marginally better at catching frogs outside the palace with the help of Datz, which I guess is a victory? I can’t very well say I understand the games the two play.” Nahyuta paused, looking puzzled with a hand resting under his chin before continuing.  

“Overall, I’m very proud of her and her ability to face adversity head on. She seems far happier these days, with Apollo and I never too far away from the palace. It’s truly lovely seeing her so confident and joyous everyday and a pleasure to stand at her side and council her need be. Though, she has taken to calling me ‘Braid Head,’ which, I’ll admit, isn’t the worst thing I’ve been called. ”

“My, whatever do you mean, Sad Monk?” Simon rested his head on the backs of his hands in an attempt to appear overwhelmingly cutesy and innocent. Nahyuta rewarded his outburst with a playful smack on the shoulder. 

“Yes, you are quite the charmer, Panda.” Nahyuta rolled his eyes.  

“In addition to the eccentric and haughty baby sister,” he continued after Simon’s astute distraction. “My brother has made quite a name for himself in Khura’in. From what I’ve seen, his workload would be enough to give even the greatest American lawyer a heart attack. As would be expected, fixing an entire country’s damaged legal system hasn’t come too easily to dear Apollo. However, as he constantly insists, he seems truly fine with his responsibilities. I couldn’t imagine anyone else worthy enough to take on what he’s taken on. I only hope he knows he has people in his life who would do anything to help carry the load if he only would ask. And for some nearby, I do mean anything.” 

At ‘anything’ Nahyuta made a twisting motion underneath his left ear, mimicking the drill-like hairstyle of a certain ‘rockin’ prosecutor. Blackquill couldn’t help but snort at the motion. 

There would never be another who earned the title of ‘lovesick fool’ more than Klavier Gavin. Simon could say that with almost absolute certainty. There would be entire days where he would walk into Simon’s office, under the guise of some sort of legal question, only to talk his ear off about the deafening defense attorney. Whether it be how adamantly he wished Apollo would come back and visit the states, how urgently he wished to tell him his new song ideas, or how much he missed seeing that forehead of his, the topic was always Apollo. Yet, whenever anyone confronted him about his tendency of tying every conversation back to the guy, he simply rattled off senseless excuses and refutations in German with his hands knuckle-deep in his long hair. Klavier must have thought he was an expert liar, with how often he denied his feelings for Apollo Justice. However, he clearly wasn’t as great as he thought, seeing as how people across the world in Khura'in were well aware of his intentions. 

Their giggles reached a fevered pitch as they took turns mimicking Gavin’s broken German. Simon felt his insides tumble and twist with every new sentence exiting Nahyuta’s mouth. Had he always been so amusing? Or had Simon’s sense of humor gotten particularly more juvenile?

Nahyuta wheezed out the last word just as Blackquill calmed his own laughter. “Overall, I believe everything’s going pretty well for my family in Khura’in.” He sputtered, sighing to himself. 

“And for you?” Simon prodded.

Nahyuta paused, visibly confused by his question. “I beg your pardon?”

“While I love to know that Justice-dono and Her Benevolence are doing well, you have yet to say anything about yourself. How have you been, Sad Monk?” Nahyuta looked at Simon as if he had grown a second head before he suddenly seemed to have a flash of clarity. 

“Ah, I understand! You must be curious as to why I’m still at the Prosecutor’s office so late. I can assure you, Simon, that I will not be snatching up any of your cases any time soon. I was simply reviewing the details of one of my own. Apparently, there’s some discourse over the true murder weapon and the responsibility of clearing everything up has fallen on me. I have yet to make any real headway in solving the mystery, thus I stayed an extra couple hours to try and make some progress before being plagued by another stressful, sleepless night. I always find that I work far better in the rain, yet today proved to be just as fruitless as the others.”

Simon merely laughed and crossed his arms, shaking his head to himself in disbelief. Nahyuta’s head snapped towards him at the sound. 

“What? Are you laughing at my misfortune, you miscreant?” Nahyuta accused. Simon shrugged, whimsically nodding until his chuckling ceased.

“Yes, but only partly.” He finally said. “It’s just. . . and I thought I was reticent about my personal affairs.”

Nahyuta’s eyes widened and his mouth opened in mock hurt. “What do you mean? I just told you everything about my personal affairs, Panda! Everything about my family, my work-!” He cut himself off when he saw Simon’s quizzical look. “What?” 

“You know perfectly well that’s not what I meant, Nahyuta.” Sure, he was happy to hear about the monk’s family and his escapades at work, but he couldn’t help but be curious on how Nahyuta himself was doing. He didn’t have the complete picture, but from what little he was told by Athena and from what he’s pieced together himself, he’s come to understand that Nahyuta had been through a lot not just in the past year, but throughout his entire lifetime. A royal family conspiracy, a father on the run, hundreds and hundreds of unjustified public executions, and at the very center of it all was Nahyuta. That couldn’t have been easy to deal with at the end of the day. 

Nahyuta’s playful grin was replaced by a serious, solemn glare. He stood there in silence for a good while, collecting his words. Simon watched as he wrestled with his tongue, trying to decide just how much he wanted to share. His eyebrows furrowed, deep in thought. It was as if he had yet to ask himself how he had been those last few months and he had yet to even try to formulate some sort of comprehensible answer. 

“Ah, of course. The age old question: ‘How have I been.” Nahyuta spoke far softer than before to the point where Simon was surprised to hear his voice without its usual fire and mischief. His eyes remained locked on the rain pooling at his feet, barely flinching as the fresh drops joined the fray with a splash.

“I suppose you could say I’ve felt. . . unshackled? Freed? All words suddenly lose meaning when I try to single just one out. I mean, you live your whole life as nothing but a simple fly entangled in a spider’s web and the moment you are sliced free, it’s as if you lose all ability to truly feel without the dread that somehow that spider was still there. Watching you from behind the nearest corner. Ready to pounce the very moment you made another mistake. At the end of that trial, I felt this rush of so many things at once: an excruciating happiness mixed with a debilitating fear. I had gained and lost so many things. . .” He paused, swallowing.

“. . .So many people in such a short span of time, I felt myself begin to succumb to the sheer overwhelming nature of it all. Yes everything had changed for the better, there is no doubt about that. But, change is a difficult beast to tame, nonetheless.” Nahyuta fiddled with the ends of his hair. Every so often his eyes darted to Simon’s, verifying he was still listening and he wasn’t being overtly boring. Every time, he was met with Simon’s sturdy and patient gaze. 

“It had been so long since I was allowed to truly think for myself that, even now, I find myself at a loss for what I truly am. I continued to resort back to old habits, habits I had learned from her , that had supposedly helped my country, my family, my career. . .”

Nahyuta’s voice shifted from quiet to non-existent as he seemed to have lost his train of thought. Well, not so much lost it, but more like he had been violently shoved off of one train to another spiraling next to him and he was now being forced to endure the long, twisting, turning ride until his mind produced the answer he was searching for. His eyes were steady all of a sudden and the carefree Nahyuta seemed to once again be locked behind a cold brick wall of old disguises used to cope with past mistakes. Nahyuta’s posture tightened and his fists clenched. Simon mentally cursed himself for being so persistent. 

As he stood beside the now silent Nahyuta shivering in the cold, Simon couldn’t help but look at Nahyuta’s hands, one clamped firmly around the handle of the umbrella and the other tightly pressed against his thigh, far beyond his reach. Then, for reasons he was not quite sure of, Simon placed a trembling hand right above Nahyuta’s on the handle, grasping onto it firmly while his eyes did not move from his shoes. Nahyuta’s eyes rocketed back to his face, suddenly all too aware. He quizzically glanced at their hands now placed right beside one another, Simon's just barely above his. 

What the Hell was he doing? Was that Simon’s odd attempt at comfort? Grabbing at the umbrella Nahyuta so selflessly shared with him as he wrestled with the voices within his head. Hadn’t he previously been so terrified at the prospect of the two standing right beside one another that he leapt away from Nahyuta when he caught him moving closer? Why now did Simon decide that having their hands practically touching was the best way to go about things? Why now did he decide to act so recklessly? Of course, this would only lead to Nahyuta’s outrage, as he would most certainly rip the umbrella out of his hands and dash towards his car. Once again, Simon ruined everything with his self-sabotaging tendencies. 

Simon’s brain, filled to the brim with panic, halted to a grinding stop. Was it his imagination or did he feel a gentle, hesitant movement at the base of his fingers? He timidly raised his head to see that Nahyuta’s pinkie was grazing his knuckles, swiftly moving back and forth in a sort of silent thanks. 

Well, that was unexpected. 

Out of the blue, Nahyuta took a deep breath, clearly about to say something that had been weighing heavily on his mind. “Listen, Simon. I have never been given the chance to sincerely apologize to you about my actions during the trial last Summer. I was cruel and manipulative towards both you and Athena and there is not a day where I don’t wake up dreading my behavior.” Simon could practically see the self-loathing emanating from him like smoke. His eyes were filled with such genuine sadness and distaste, as if even mentioning his own actions disgusted him to a point where he could barely conceal his own detestation.  

“They were horrible, my actions, and I do not fault you nor Athena for any distaste you may carry for me.” Nahyuta said, eyes carrying the slightest hint of cloudiness. “I know it is highly unlikely that you would choose to forgive this humble servant of the Holy Mother-”

“Sad Monk.” 

Simon placed his free hand on Nahyuta’s shoulder before he could start an entire sermon on the street corner. He was doing it again: the Holy Mother shtick. The real Nahyuta could barely be seen anymore underneath that mask of sanctity. How awful. Simon needed to get him back. He had moved to reassure him that there were no hard feelings for his actions and to hopefully bring the real Nahyuta to light once again, but his actions had unforeseen consequences. 

His sudden movement had directly resulted in the two of them cramped together underneath the tiny umbrella protecting them from the rain, one false step away from collapsing into each other's arms. Nahyuta and Simon were suddenly both very aware of how little space was between them as all coherent thought tumbled from their heads, now both moving to accommodate the hand on Nahyuta’s shoulder. Simon couldn’t help but notice the overwhelming smell of lilac and peaches mixed with the rain Nahyuta carried in his hair. Even he was shocked by the sound of his own voice when he finally spoke again.  

“Sad Monk.” Simon repeated, unsure of what exactly to say. Then, he grimaced at his use of the nickname. It didn’t seem like such a harmless moniker anymore. “Nahyuta.” He decided. That was much better.

 “It's okay. Honestly, you do not need to worry about it." Simon must have still sounded flustered about their close proximity because Nahyuta was visibly not convinced.

"I ‘do not need to worry about it?'” He mirrored. “Simon I was. . . Revolting! To you and so many others-!"

"I understand, Sad Monk.” Nahyuta froze, mouth open and ready to spit out whatever the rest of his sentence entailed. It seemed, however, that his words were rendered useless as he registered Simon’s two-worded confession. 

“Un-Understand?” Nahyuta gasped. 

“Yes. Don’t think you are the only one who’s acted less than ideal in order to push people away.” Nahyuta seemed to be holding his breath, nails digging into his palms, but all tension left his face when he searched Simon for signs of anger and found none. 

He knew all too well the pangs of self-loathing. Of looking at yourself in the reflections of your shackles and not recognizing who you see. In only a moment, Simon’s mind was transported back to who he was when he had taken the fall for Athena, a person who died eight years ago along with his mentor. He had taken on the persona of a stone cold killer, a murderer, all to save the young girl from a less than ideal fate. He had pushed her away and everyone else who so much as tried to help him all to keep them safe. Far away from him meant far away from danger. It hadn’t even occurred to him that he was so wrapped up in his facade that it had gradually become who he was, the old Simon Blackquill nothing more than a cloudy memory. The only unwavering truth he held onto those long seven years was the knowledge that some people were worth losing himself for. Nahyuta must have known that, too. 

“You’ve-? Simon?” Nahyuta struggled, completely at a loss for words. 

“Look, Sad Monk, I won’t turn this into an excruciatingly long lecture about self-loathing and self-worth the way Edgeworth-dono carries on for hours about that Samurai show of his. Just. . .” He let himself take a moment to just breathe. “I know for a fact that everything that had happened last summer couldn’t have been easy on you. I want you to know that you are completely and undoubtedly forgiven.”

For a moment, the only sound for miles was the splattering of the rain. Then, a new sound materialized as if from nowhere, accompanied by the sweet, calm smile on Nahyuta’s face. 

“Oh.”

It was the sound of complete and utter disbelief, as if someone had told him that he could grow wings and fly away if he truly cared to. But at the same time, it was hopeful. It was like even the idea that Simon would ever come close to forgiving him was something he believed to be unattainable and yet, there it was. It was a sweet, gentle sound that meant, now that Nahyuta had his forgiveness in his grasp, he would never let any sort of harm ever come to it. Nahyuta let out a relieved laugh. 

“I hope that was a good ‘oh?’” Simon chuckled, overjoyed at the sight of his friend’s smile. 

“Yes, it was.” Nahyuta said. “It’s just. . . I haven’t realized how good it would feel to actually talk about this, and for you to actually understand and forgive it’s all just. . .” The monk was completely at a loss for words, flexing and clenching his hands as if it would help him find the words faster.

“Simon.” Nahyuta settled on. “Thank you for listening.” 

Simon couldn’t stop the sincere smile growing on his face even if he tried. “Any time, Nahyuta. Thank you for sharing.” 

The two stood in comfortable silence, each of them holding on tightly to their teeny tiny umbrella. Simon enjoyed the bliss of his completely weightless chest, a feeling almost foreign to him, in the company of the other prosecutor. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Nahyuta staring at him. Not at anything in particular, just him, smiling to himself like a fool. Simon didn’t dare to call him out on it for fear that he would stop. Sadly, he inevitably did, choosing instead to look at the distant mountains through the lens of the rain. Simon saw this as a chance to watch the monk at his shoulder while he was distracted. Payback in the finest sense. 

The rain was starting to soak Nahyuta’s braid. As if in a trance, Blackquill found himself watching as a droplet followed the curve of Nahyuta’s jaw and fell rhythmically onto his golden brown boots. His emerald green eyes fluttered to a close and he let his head roll back, giggling as he shook out what seemed like gallons of water from his hair. 

It was a new beginning. A new beginning in which two monsters consumed by their own disguises stood shoulder to shoulder without tearing each other to shreds. A realization that the two could coexist peacefully with nothing but hope towards a brighter and healthier future. They could brag about their strengths, they could show their scars. They were no longer enemies formed by unfortunate circumstances. They had the potential of becoming so much more. 

At least, that’s what Simon had thought, until he had made a despicable discovery. 

“You deceitful, machiavellian, fool-hardy fopdoodle!” Simon howled. 

Nahyuta stared at him wide-eyed in shock. That really had come out of left field. “. . . Simon, I am honestly unsure of what exactly a good majority of those words meant.” He confessed. 

Simon only scoffed. “Oh, don’t act so innocent, Sad Monk. You stole my umbrella!” He dramatically pointed towards the very thing shielding them from the ever-persistent rain. On a tag, still dangling from the handle, the initials “S.B.” could be seen written in black marker, Athena's doing. Apparently, he had always been awful about misplacing his things and she had decided labeling everything he owned was the best course of action. Simon had thought that the umbrella looked familiar. If only he had known how familiar. . .

Nahyuta looked at the umbrella, then at Simon’s infuriated expression, then back at the umbrella. Then, he had the gall to look guilty as Simon, for the twelve hundredth time that day, felt himself begin to convulse with rage. “Well,” Nahyuta finally said. “This is unfortunate.”

“Unfortunate? Is that all you have to say, you umbrella-thieving bastard? Is the act of stealing the belongings of innocent passersby an enjoyable hobby for you?” Simon yanked at the umbrella so that, for a split second, Nahyuta was completely vulnerable. Without so much as a scream, Nahyuta merely yanked at it right back, narrowing his eyes.

“I’ll have you know, you dastardly, unscrupulous scoundrel, that I found this umbrella discarded on the floor of the office. Knowing that it would be raining tonight, I decided to give the poor, forgotten object purpose. You really should treat your belongings better, Panda.” He playfully twirled the umbrella above them, sending rain splattering in miraculous patterns. Simon chuckled at the act in a moment of weakness, quickly shrouding it in a malevolent growl. 

“Oh Holy Mother, what a cold stare.” Nahyuta jested, pressing a palm to his lips. “Whatever did I do to deserve such a thing?” 

“You rascal.” Simon let go of the handle in favor of folding his arms in exasperation. “Because of you, I was doomed to wait here for eons in the pouring rain until you arrived so pompously with my possessions resting comfortably above your head. I hope you enjoy your dry bliss knowing it has brought me nothing but suffering.” 

The two glared holes into each others’ foreheads until Nahyuta, once again, lost himself to his own laughter, Blackquill following close behind. His anger completely evaporated at the sound. “I truly am sorry, Panda.” He finally said. “I never thought to look at the tag.” Simon merely shrugged and turned away, exaggerating his shivers for good measure. If he was going to spend an eternity shivering to the bone, Nahyuta could spare a microscopic moment of guilt. 

“Perhaps I can make it up to you by paying for your coffee one of these days?” 

Blackquill visibly started, choking on his gasp of surprise as it came out. Did he just- did he just ask Simon on a-? He turned and gawked at Nahyuta, who was tilting his head in an unspoken question. 

No, no of course not. Nahyuta was probably only proposing getting him a drink on one of his annual coffee runs or something similar. That had to be the case, because the alternative would be unthinkable. . . right? 

Before Simon could even begin to register what words were again, he was startled back into the present by the sound of a car horn reverberating through the parking lot. He turned to see Athena in a now soaked raincoat leaning out of her car window frantically waving at him. Through the passenger’s seat window, he could faintly see Juniper’s from cradling Taka. He had been wondering where she had flown off to. Simon guessed Juniper’s kind, warm arms were far more appealing to his feathered friend than his jagged soaked shoulders. 

“Ah, and there’s your ride.” Nahyuta said, destroying the silence. He sounded a bit defeated as he tugged at his coat and moved to leave. “I won’t keep you out of the warmth any longer than needed, Simon. Have a great night.” As he made his first steps back to his car, Simon couldn’t help but notice that Nahyuta himself looked a bit shocked that he proposed their little coffee meetup. 

“Nahyuta.” He paused mid-turn at the sound of Simon’s voice, green eyes popping against the dark sky. 

“I’m. . . more of a tea person myself.” Simon muttered. He was terrified that he’d said something wrong, awkwardly hovering at his spot on the sidewalk before Nahyuta simply smiled at him that subtly mischievous way he always did. 

“I’ll keep that in mind. And here, before I steal it a second time.” Nahyuta moved to pass Simon the umbrella. He seemed to be mentally preparing himself for the freezing walk to his car down the road, looking around him like the rain would burn holes in his skin. However, Simon just held his hand up in disapproval. 

“Keep it for the night. We wouldn’t want that holy frock of yours to get drenched in the rain on the way to your car, now would we?” Nahyuta looked as if he was going to protest but stopped once another roar of deafening thunder shook the ground, sounding far closer this time.

“Thank you for your kindness, Panda.” Nahyuta conceded. “You’ll find your umbrella in your office tomorrow morning along with a breakfast treat as a symbol of my thanks. I’ll make sure of it.” 

Simon was moments away from spouting another sly remark when he heard the barely audible excited ramblings of Athena from the parking lot, no doubt wondering what he and the last rights prosecutor were speaking about in the middle of a storm. 

“I must be going now, before Athena throws herself out of her car.” Simon stated. It was a genuine concern of his. “Have a good night, Nahyuta. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

For the final time that night, Nahyuta gave him a kind smile, sending shivers through Simon’s spine. “Rest well, Reverse Panda. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He twisted the umbrella in his delicate fingers before turning on his heels and walking away. 

Simon ran into Athena’s car, quick to buckle up and rip the soaked jacket off his trembling form. Ah, to be in a warm car again far away from the horrid rain. He let out a contented sigh as he watched Nahyuta strut over to his car from his window. He was smiling to himself as he skipped over puddles. The rain seemed to swirl and melt around him, forming a beautiful sheet of color. The image of his far-away smile made itself at home in Simon’s mind to the point where he forgot he was soaking wet and shivering to begin with. Despite everything, he felt himself grow excited for what work would entail tomorrow.

“So,” Athena said after they pulled out of their parking space. “What were you guys talking about?”