windsnocturne: (Clay/Apollo)
[personal profile] windsnocturne
Title: Fragile
Fandom: Ace Attorney
Prompt: lacerations/knife wounds
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Clay/Apollo
Warnings: Spoilers, canon-typical violence

Summary: In another reality, Clay Terran survived his attempted murder. Not that it makes things any easier on Apollo.




It's been six months since the bombing at the Space Center, and he still can't touch Clay.

At first, it was only common sense. The wound was deep, Clay nearly bled out and if it hadn't been for Starbuck waking up and screaming, Cosmos wouldn't have found them in time. Apollo remembers the smell of the hospital, refusing to leave Clay's bedside, waiting for him to open his eyes.

Neither of them was allowed to touch the wound even to clean it, Cosmos hired a live-in nurse to care for Clay during his recovery. Apollo visited whenever he could, even during the UR-1 retrial he would let Athena and Mr. Wright handle things while he sat by Clay's side.

It was nearly a month before he could no longer see the remaining blood seeping through the bandages, and four when the nurse was no longer needed. Apollo kept visiting Clay, but the visits became rarer and more strained, and lately he almost dreads them.

In the hospital, he remembers holding Clay's hand until a nurse told him not to touch, the slightest jolt or disturbance could re-open the wound or offset the blood flow, even the slightest germs could infect the wound. So he kept his hands to himself, even after Clay woke up and even after he was discharged.

It's okay to touch his hands now, but Apollo can't bring himself to even consider it.

Why do I feel like this? Clay's my best friend, I was devastated thinking I'd lose him. But lately, just thinking about him makes my chest ache and I feel like crying.

Clay hadn't changed. He was still the same gentle, idealistic person Apollo...

Loved?

No, if it were only his feelings it would be simpler. Clay hadn't changed, Apollo was sure he himself hadn't changed.

But I still see him lying there, unconscious and bleeding, the doctors' hushed voices. He may never recover, they said, hanging by a thread, a miracle he didn't die right then and there.

He wants to vent to Athena, wants to see if Widget can figure out what's going on with him. But she's had her own issues to wrangle with since the retrial ended in a Not Guilty verdict for Prosecutor Blackquill. A few times he almost spills everything to her, and he catches her about to do the same. He's tempted to put his own problems aside to help her.

But she has Juniper and Prosecutor Blackquill for that. I'd just be in the way.

Clay doesn't say anything about his sporadic visits, but he comes into the Space Center that evening. Starbuck brings them Chinese takeout, but neither of them can eat much.

"Are you feeling all right?" Apollo almost drops his chopsticks, setting his container of noodles down on the small table.

"Hm? I-I'm fine! Why would I be anything else?" But even he doesn't believe himself. "I should be asking you that question."

"Apollo." Clay's voice is tender but serious. "You're pale, and you've been quiet all evening. In fact, you're always quiet when you visit." Apollo curses inwardly, clenching his fist. Clay's always known him too well, and right now it's more uncomfortable than welcome.

"I don't want to overstimulate a patient recovering from a serious stab wound," he says flatly. Clay actually laughs before his face grows serious again. He pushes aside his mostly full container of rice and reaches out to tug at Apollo's arm.

"Sit with me." By now Clay no longer bleeds through the bandages, the scabbing is cleaner, there's less risk of infection. But Apollo still remembers that nurse's panic, don't touch him, don't infect him, don't disrupt the flow.

"I don't want to hurt you."

"Apollo." The touch to his arm is more insistent, Clay's voice carries a tinge of vulnerability. I need you. And Apollo lets himself be pulled onto the bed, Clay's hand grasps his, and he freezes.

"A-are you-"

"I felt it. That night at the hospital, I felt your hand," Clay says quietly. "I felt it, but then it was gone. I didn't feel it anymore after that."

"The nurse told me not to." Apollo feels almost guilty blaming her, she was only doing her job. "I didn't want to make it worse."

"You've never made anything worse." Clay squeezes his hand and Apollo's throat tightens. "But it's not just that. Lately, you seem..."

"Distant." Apollo's voice hitches a little, and he closes his eyes. "I've been scared. I almost lost you that night, Clay, and I was so happy you survived, but I can't stop thinking about it. If we hadn't found you in time, if Starbuck hadn't woken up when he did, you-"

"I know." Clay's other hand rests on his cheek, and Apollo's heart nearly catches in his throat. "But I'm here."

Apollo relaxes, shifting to lean against Clay's shoulder. He's warm, he still smells faintly of soap and anti-bacterial cream, his hands are gentle. They're both quiet for a while, Apollo letting Clay's body heat soak into him, easing his fears and doubts.

"Sorry," he mumbles after a while. "You're the one recovering from almost being killed and you're having to take care of me."

"So we're even." Clay smiles. "We didn't even know each other that well when my mom died, and you took care of me." His hand caresses Apollo's cheek. "Thank you."

Apollo's arm slides around Clay's waist, bringing their bodies closer together. No wince, no gasp, no blood.

"Is this okay?" he still can't help asking.

"I'm not going to break." And Clay kisses him before Apollo can say anything.
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