The Sound Of Silence
They had the engagement party the same night. Really, it should — would — have been impossible to throw together something of that magnitude in under a day but then again, Ema supposed Klavier had a whole host of people at his beck and call. The fact that she loosely fit into that category made her scowl so deeply that several people from the precinct had edged away from her. Apparently no amount of make-up, jewellery or dresses (or even that it was her engagement party) would make any of them feel safe around her.
She did as Klavier had requested, mostly because she would have been lost otherwise. She allowed him to pick out the dress for the evening and made the colossal mistake of not perusing it until an hour before the guests were due to arrive; it was a backless midnight blue number that dipped dangerously low, baring more skin in one area than she ever had in her whole life put together. But that wasn't all! Oh no. Her leg was left utterly bare through the high slit, stopping several inches above her thigh. It was, as Ema had shouted at him, as if he wanted something to fall out.
To which Klavier's simple defence had been to point out the modest neckline, smile dazzlingly and walk off.
She couldn't insist on another dress since it was too late and she couldn't kill him as there was no conceivable scenario in which she could get away with it. Still, the satisfaction the act would bring had left her musing the possibility for a good ten minutes before Lana arrived to help her get dressed.
Ema had prepared with several stories and arguments to explain away the sudden engagement. She was certain Lana would see right through her lie but, much to her shock (and some disappointment) her sister simply asked if Ema was pregnant. When Ema (scandalised by the idea of carrying the fop's spawn) spluttered and vehemently protested in the negatory, Lana simply smiled, hugged and congratulated her.
Well. There went that. It wasn't until the disappointment of her sister's lack of questioning hit her that Ema realised that somewhere in the back of her mind, she had been hoping her sister would save her again but it seemed Lana had decided to treat Ema like the adult she was. Aside from a little chastising for not telling her she was dating Klavier, Lana said little else on the matter. By the end, Ema was decked out perfectly for the fiancée of a rock star.
She was still whimpering at the thought.
Why had she let Klavier kiss her? In hindsight, she could see that his words had spun their magic on her, making her temporarily lose control of her logic but really — there had been no need to kiss him.
Ema vowed she would not engage in such activities again. She had spent years single – she would just treat Klavier like a living arrangement. After all, this was all to rectify the mistake she had made by betraying his trust. But that was all! She had made this perfectly clear and Klavier seemed to understand and respect her wishes since, upon delivery, her belongings had been moved to a different room from Klavier's.
She could do this. If she looked at this logically, it was perfectly doable. Tomorrow it would all start: the media would focus on their engagement and forget the little tidbit she had fed them.
She'd just been telling herself this when Klavier announced the wedding was in two weeks — it had taken everything she had not to look shocked (since their guests, especially Lana, would have questioned why the bride looked so surprised by this news). Of course, afterwards she had confronted him about this, only for him to tell her the faster they moved with their wedding, the faster the 'unfortunate headline' would fade and the faster they could get this business over with. And Ema, recognising he was saving her from months of public scrutiny as to what she would wear and who she would invite, acceded.
Despite their impending nuptials, Ema was surprised when, winding down from the party (consisting of nearly ripping the dress in two trying to get out of it), Klavier dropped by to say good night.
"You are still up," he said by way of greeting as he let himself in.
"No. Really?" she said sarcastically, scrubbing her face with a make-up cleanser. "I hadn't noticed."
Klavier chuckled, leaning against the armrest of a chair. "I expected you to be asleep. You looked exhausted by the end of the night."
"I feel tainted," she scowled, holding up the facial wipe which was smeared with foundation. "I can't go to sleep with make-up on. Do you know how bad it is for your skin?"
"Ah, I fear I do not."
"Well it's hell! It totally suffocates it, blocks up all your pores and then makes it break-out!"
Klavier watched her rant in amusement, his arms crossed.
"I feel self-conscious enough without having the world watching me now. I don't want a damn pimple on my forehead to be on the front page of some magazine tomorrow!"
Klavier laughed. "We have people to prevent such an unfortunate mishap from occurring."
"EVERYONE WILL BE WATCHING!"
He pushed himself to his feet then, walking over to her and took her by the arms. "Ema," he said, looking into her face. "Breathe."
Ema stared at him, her eyes panicked and tried to focus on doing as he said.
"Now," he continued when he saw her breathing steady a little. "Do you think the celebrity world is made up of dolls? We are all human beings and I can tell you, I have seen my fair share of them up close and cosmetic-less. They are nowhere near as attractive as they look in public."
"No but. You will learn the illusions of this world. Besides," he added tucking her hair behind her ear, "you have nothing to worry about."
"Nein. I have never seen you with... ah... pimples or any such acne."
"That's because I refuse make-up."
"Then we shall endeavour to apply as little as possible. It is not as if you are in any need of it."
"Thanks, I guess."
He gave her a long look, as if he was scrutinising her and just as she was getting uncomfortable with his nearness (and starting feel the dangerous anticipation of another potential kiss), Klavier stepped back, putting some distance between them. "I will let you rest. We both have work tomorrow and I believe you will need as much rest as possible."
"No kidding," she said grumpily, turning back to the dressing table, grabbing another face wipe.
"Oh, before I go, there is something I need to let you know…"
She heard the amusement in his voice. "My doctor has advised me against bumping my head again anytime soon. I am slightly concussed it seems." Ema's eyes flew up to his reflection, her expression horrified. "If you could please avoid throwing anymore logs at me until I am healed, I would appreciate it."
Ema turned to face him, her voice guilt-ridden. "I'm so sorry," she said. "I don't know what I was thinking… Is it serious?"
"Nein," he said. "But I would rather not chance a brain injury."
"Of course… I was entirely irresponsible."
Klavier paused in the doorway and glanced at her over his shoulder, his amused look surprisingly gone. "Do not linger on it. I told you as I know you have a penchant for throwing things and we will be around one another a lot more now."
Ema didn't answer, his remark only making her feel heavier. She watched him close her door without another word and she slowly sank to her seat. She had given him a concussion… A concussion! And he was willing to marry an abusive woman? She shook her head; he was more desperate to bury this scandal than she had realised. But then, she thought as she turned to glance at herself in the mirror and an old suspicion began to form in the pit of her stomach, this marriage also gave him an advantage – control. And though she knew he was nothing like Kristoph, the reminder that the two were brothers left her with a slight chill that stayed with her until she passed out, curled up in the alien bed she had to learn to accept was now hers.
Klavier was already awake when Ema got up an hour earlier than she needed to – she had forgotten to change her alarm the night before which would have taken into account that his place was in the city and therefore closer to work. When she emerged from her room, she found him standing over a plate of eggs, bacon, tomatoes and toast, the sleeves of his black shirt rolled up. Her surprise (after all, he had pretended he didn't know the first thing about cooking) only grew when he greeted her while waving her over and pushing it her way. "Eat up."
She stared at him. "You… didn't need to make me breakfast."
"I heard your alarm," he told her, sitting down at his stool and opening up a folder he had obviously been work on. "It was no problem."
"Thank you," she said gratefully, sitting opposite him. "I'm usually in such a hurry I don't get to eat breakfast."
"I know," he said without looking up from his work.
"How do you know?"
"I suspected your penchant for Snackoos comes from your hunger as well as a desire for stress relief."
"Oh." Ema went back to her breakfast, trying not to let his comment annoy her too much. She was too tired to snap at him for being a know-it-all fop right now. She chewed her food slowly, glancing out of the window where the rain was washing away the last of the snow and she gave a small sigh of relief – she hated the frosty weather. Her car was well equipped to deal with the ice and after all the expenses of the house, she always had little money to rectify that situation.
But now I apparently don't have to worry about that, she thought glancing back to Klavier. Now that my fiancée is—
Her toast got stuck in her throat at her own musings causing said fiancée to stop rolling his sleeves down and glance over. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," she said hoarsely, grabbing a glass of water and gulping. When she looked at him again, she could have sworn she'd caught him just stemming a smile as he examined his shirt, damn the fop. But before she could call him out on it, he closed his files again and stood.
"Be right back," he said shortly and left the room, his chains chinking all the way to his bedroom. She returned to her food moodily (surprisingly still able to eat despite her bad mood) and didn't look up this time when he returned (announced by the chink of chains and heavy boots) though she did notice, out of the corner of her eye, that he had changed his shirt (having gone from black to deep blue). He sat down opposite her again, reopening the files and started to make notes on one and Ema, who actually was looking at him now, noted how strange it was to see him working so hard. It had started a few weeks after the break-up of the Gavinners: Klavier had begun to pay less and less attention to his guitars and more to his work and, on several occasions, she had even seen him organising his desk. Of course, at the time she had put it down to some sort of impending breakdown but now, almost a year later, she couldn't deny that it had become a way of life for him. The more they worked together, the more she saw his dedication to his legal career increase. And, after all, it made sense; the band had broken up and he showed no inclination of going solo so why would he feel the need to hone his skills as he had always done?
In fact, it was more than just the shift in focus that had changed. She glanced at his hair, now cropped short, to the colour of his shirt and the white coloured jacket he had just thrown onto a stool; everything about him was changing. However, she thought with a slight scowl, his penchant for hitting on skirts had stayed as potent as ever…
…even if he had been cooler since this whole mess had begun.
What do you expect? She turned back down to her breakfast with a slightly more glum expression. Would you have forgotten so easily if he had told the whole department about your kiss? What you did was worse.
"Are you nervous?" Klavier asked and she looked up to see him watching her.
At first she opened her mouth to ask what on earth would she be nervous about before the answer crashed on her and butterflies swarmed her stomach. "Yeah," she said taking another sip of her drink. "I guess so."
"Try not to be," he told her calmly. "Everyone from the office has already had a chance to absorb the news and express their, ah, surprise."
"The party last night?" he reminded her, amused.
"Oh." She paused. "Yeah, I guess you're right."
"And yet, it still does not comfort you," he deduced seeing the lack of amendment to her expression.
"Can you blame me?" she asked with exasperation. "You kinda—"
"Yes?" Klavier prompted when she stopped abruptly. "I kinda what?"
Ema's mind whirred in an attempt to substitute her original comment with something else. She didn't think telling him that he had suddenly thrust her in an uncomfortable situation would go over well considering her own actions. "You kinda have years of experience dealing with the spotlight," she said, relieved she had found an acceptable response. "I have none."
"I had none too once," he reminded her.
"But you prepared yourself for it," she argued. "You wanted it."
"You think I wanted the world following me around, panting like hungry dogs sniffing for a bone?"
"Duh," she said. "You went into showbiz. What else could you have possibly expected?"
"There is a difference," he said, his voice tighter now, "between expecting something and wanting something."
"You're telling me you didn't want the fame?"
"Of course I wanted fame," he almost snapped. "But the right kind!"
"And what," she scoffed, annoyed by the tone of his voice, "is the right kind?"
Klavier seemed ready to snap back when he visibly caught himself, took a deep breath and spoke in a much calmer voice. "You are well aware the Gavinners' music was based on crime and the criminal justice system, ja? We were trying to raise awareness. We were trying to let the world know we were trying to clean the streets and that we needed their support for that. Have you any idea how many fans stepped forward to help us in our investigations?"
"Oh yeah," Ema said sarcastically. "I have an idea all right… trampling right through our crime scenes is definitely a huge help…"
Klavier's eyes flashed with anger. "It is far more than I can say for your failed attempts at a Forensics career! Tell me, how many cases have your chemistry sets solved?"
She cast her eyes down at her plate as the bite of his words dug into her skin. There was no retort, no sharp words to stab him the same way he had her and it was perhaps this, more than anything else, that caused the wave of guilt that washed over his features.
"Ema…" His tone was full of regret. "Forgive me… that was brutal of me."
"It's fine," she said briskly, pushing away her plate. "I did insult you first."
"Nein," he said, shaking his head. "That was below the belt. I did not mean it."
"Yeah." She picked up her plate and went to the kitchen to clean up, still quiet. After all, what could she possibly say in response? It was true. She was a failure. She had screwed up the one thing she'd wanted to do for half her life, now reduced to play with chemistry sets to fulfil the hole left behind by the lost ambition. Her cheeks coloured at how ridiculous she must look to Klavier.
"Perhaps this only adds salt to the wound and I am a selfish ass for saying it but I am grateful that you did not join Forensics."
Yeah, I bet. How else would you insult me?
"I would not have had the pleasure to work with you," he added when she stayed silent.
"Yeah but you also wouldn't have had to deal with all of this," she said, setting the plate down in the sink and turned to look at him, interrupting before he could comment on that remark. "I'm going to get changed and head to work."
"I will drive you."
Ema didn't bother arguing with him this time and Klavier was surprised at the lack of opposition — he could never have imagined his tough little Fräulein was just too afraid of speaking in case he heard the sob she was holding back.
The two officers looked at each other nervously while Klavier tossed aside a box of files as he rummaged for the misplaced bag of evidence they had arrived to collect. It was a simple enough task especially given the good nature of the prosecutor and it had saved them a patrol they had not relished (the weather was still nasty). But, now that they saw the way he violently tossed things about and heard the vehement foreign utterances (which they could only assume were German curses), they were suddenly doubting the wisdom of their choice.
"Here," he said, flinging a bound set of files which they both fumbled to catch — and promptly dropped. Klavier's growl however, had them both moving in record time and they were soon out of the door, closing it behind them, leaving him alone once more. He kicked a bag over (not really caring what was in it or even if it belonged to him) before falling into a seat and rubbing his head to distract himself; ever since he had dropped off Ema to work, he couldn't find the concentration he needed for his case despite the pressing matter that the trial was tomorrow. He kept seeing her face, devoid of emotion. Her mouth set softly and slightly plumped and if it hadn't been for the slight shine to her eyes he'd glimpsed in the car, he would remained oblivious.
He had made her cry.
He cursed himself again, despising himself in every which way he could muster. What sort of madness had led him to treat her so cruelly? He could not deny that he had a snide trait but spite had never really been his style. There had been enough of that in Kristoph for the both of them.
He shook his head. What was it about her comment that had bothered him so much? It wasn't as if this was the first time she had shot insults at him or even made fun of him and yet never had it stung so much as it had this morning. Was it because he was still angry at her for the stunt she had pulled? No, that couldn't be it. He hadn't been angry at her for the other sarcastic remarks she had made… He had even indulged her invective just as always. He didn't feel angry at her now as he sat thinking about what she had done. After all, she had agreed to marry him to rectify the situation; granted, he had given her a rather harsh ultimatum but she wasn't fighting as she could be since had had asked her to help him.
And that was another thing. What on earth had possessed him to force her into such a terrible choice? He could barely fathom it. He had every right to be angry (who wouldn't be?) for having his secret, one he had kept for so long, plastered across the tabloids but did it give him the right to push Ema into such an appalling position? Of course not and he knew it – but it was too late now. The announcement had been made, the world knew about it and already they were forgetting the scandal Ema had revealed earlier. If he tried to break it off now, they would both be subjected to all sorts of theories and scrutiny.
And, he told himself, this way he could protect her better. Just an hour earlier, Ema's boss had strode into the office demanding to know if their pending nuptials would interfere with their work. When he'd demanded to know if she was pregnant, implying in the process that it would explain why someone like him would want a girl like Ema. It had taken all of Klavier's patience not to punch the discourteous bastard and remain calm as he spent the entire hour trying to expel those doubts before finally making a vague threat that the chief understood very well: Ema's job was not to be trifled with or he would suffer the wrath of the prosecutor's office and even though the man nodded and assured Klavier the matter was resolved, he made a mental note to keep a closer eye on the department in case Ema did suffer the repercussions of this mess. He knew she was too stubborn and proud to ever admit it if something was wrong.
But first, he had to find a way to undo some of the hurt he had caused; sitting up, he looked around for his phone, finding it in the pocket of his jacket (which he'd thrown haphazardly over a cabinet). He leaned back in his seat while pulling up a browser to search for what he wanted and then lifted his phone to his ear, rocking as he waited for someone to answer. Just as a female voice rang out a greeting on the line, there was a knock at his door.
"Guten morgen," he said, slowly rising to his feet. "I require the most expensive and beautiful bouquet of flowers you have to offer."
"Of course," chimed the girl, obviously not recognising him. "Can I ask what sort of occasion you're looking at?"
"Ah," he chuckled into the line, walking over to the door when he heard another slow knock. "My fiancée had a very unpleasant morning. I wish to put a smile on her face."
"Awww, you're sweet!" she laughed. "Does she have a favourite?"
Klavier paused. Did Ema have a favourite? He had no idea. He had to remedy this for future reference; something told him this would not be the last time he'd have to apologise for something. "She likes many flowers," he said vaguely, reaching for the door handle.
"Well, our most expensive bouquet is priced $199 featuring a mix of dozen Mik—"
The rest of her description fell on deaf ears when he opened the door and found Lana standing there, an arm folded behind her back and a faint smile on her face. He snapped the phone shut without another word to the chattering girl and stepped aside, inviting her inside with a wave of his arm. "Fräulein," he murmured. "I am sorry I kept you waiting."
She accepted his invite, stepping into his office and glancing around it critically. He took in her scrutiny of his office and moved to his desk, motioning at the seat opposite his. "I did not expect you."
"I can tell," she said, slowly sliding into the chair and crossing her legs, leaning back though her shoulders and back remained straight. He watched her fold her hands over her lap and stare at him with those piercing though not unkind eyes. "I hope I didn't interrupt an important conversation."
"Nothing I cannot take care of later," he said dismissively.
"I didn't have a chance to speak with you much last night," she said, brushing down the material of her dress. "Unfortunate since we are to become family."
Klavier was no fool; he had expected the third degree from her last night and had been somewhat surprised when she had been nothing but kind and welcoming — it was obvious now that she had saved it for a more private venue. Even though her stare left most people severely uncomfortable if not downright shaking in their boots, Klavier simply leaned back in his chair and grinned. "Indeed. I am glad you are here now."
"I have to say, I can't pretend I wasn't surprised when Ema told me the news," she went on. "Up until recently, all I heard was what a fop you are."
So Ema had complained about him to Lana? "Ah," he laughed. "Believe me, I still hear it."
Lana smiled faintly. "So it is not something she has simply taken to calling you behind your back."
"Nein, Fräulein," he said with another laugh. "It is most certainly not a secret. We both know how outspoken Ema is about her opinions on people, ja?"
"It depends," she said. "Sometimes Ema's 'I hate you' is just her way expressing her affection without denting her pride. A rather unfortunate trait she picked up from my younger days."
Interesting. "Of course," he said with a wink. "Otherwise this engagement would be very questionable would it not?"
"Yes," she said simply, staring at him. "It would."
He met her gaze head on despite the obvious message in her words. He sensed she knew something wasn't right and though she wasn't about to come out and accuse anyone, he could see that she was here to set some sort of warning. Even though she had said nothing to question his character, Klavier could feel his earlier doubts about the sort of man he was becoming resurface: if she knew what he was doing to her little sister, he had no doubt she would come at him with a KA-BAR and damn the consequences – and he had no doubt that he deserved such a fate.
"I promise to look after her and do everything I can to make her happy, Fräulein," he said quietly and with all the honesty he could muster.
"I believe you," she said simply. "But can I trust that you'll succeed?"
She definitely knew something wasn't right. It was in her eyes. Had Ema said something? Did she hate him so much and had made it clear to Lana?
Or was she simply doubting him because of who his brother was?
This possibility made him grind his teeth for the smallest moment before he spoke again. "I am confident I will," he lied smoothly.
Lana regarded him closely, then looked at her nails as if she was considering her next words carefully – and when they came, it took everything he had not to lose his temper. "Is Ema pregnant?"
"Nein," he ground out, not doing as great a job of hiding his ire as he would like. "She is not."
She raised an eyebrow at his tone. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you."
"My apologies," he said though his voice remained tight. "I have had a similar implication this morning and it was not a pleasing conversation."
"The thought of a child is disagreeable to you?" she asked.
The words were out of his mouth before he could register the sly look in her eye as she posed the question: "Nein, what is disagreeable, and quite frankly irksome, is people assuming the only reason I would marry Ema is because of a child. She is a good woman and deserves more respect than such backward assumptions."
Another thoughtful silence followed in which Lana examined him and he realised he had fallen into an elegant trap: there was a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth and she slowly pushed herself out of her chair. "I see," she said calmly. "I apologise for the question. I was just simply confused as you might imagine but perhaps it is time I realised my little sister is not so little anymore. She no longer tells me everything…"
"I am sorry," he added as smoothly as he could, rising with her. He mentally kicked himself for allowing himself to rise to the bait. "I did not mean to be rude."
"It's all right," Lana said, actually smiling at him now. "A man who defends Ema to me is exactly the sort of quality I'd want in a husband for her. I no longer doubt you'll make her happy."
He tried not to let his surprise show at the sudden change in opinion. "Leaving already?" he enquired.
"I have a meeting with Miles in ten minutes and I know he'll be waiting for me in advance."
He followed her as she went for the door, subconsciously congratulating himself on managing to appease the older sister when she suddenly stopped short of opening the door and turned to looked at him, causing him to stop just as abruptly to avoid bumping into her. "By the way," she said with twinkling eyes. "Ema's favourite flowers are lilies and white roses. She thinks red roses are a cliché."
Klavier blinked. "Ah… thank you…"
"It is surprising that you don't know your fiancée's favourite flowers but then again," she added, the amusement in her gaze growing, "I expect you simply have a hard time with flowers?"
He just continued to blink, even more taken aback by the plethora of meanings hidden in that single sentence. "Yes… Flowers have never been a speciality. I have never given a woman flowers before now."
"Unless, of course, one is to assume the article recently released about that old flame is true," she said. "Which I doubt."
Had he just been congratulating himself on fooling her? She knew more than he had realised. But if that was true, why wasn't she dragging Ema away and threatening to take him to court for blackmail and extortion or some such? Why was she, instead, helping him excuse his deplorable lack of knowledge of a woman he was supposed to be in love with and marry in two weeks?
"I'll see you soon, Klavier," she said genially, opening the door. "Take care."
He managed a nod before she slipped out and he was left staring after her, an uneasy feeling growing in his stomach born of a distrust of older siblings – especially of one who shared some alarming traits and history with his own brother.
Just what the hell was Lana Skye up to?
It was now later afternoon and several hours had passed since the older Skye's visit. Klavier hadn't seem Ema in that entire time and every time he had tried to track her down, she was either out for work or in a meeting with a witness or suspect. He had tried lingering around her desk for a while but when he saw the way the women were starting to eye him, he promptly made his exit. Now, back in his office and surrounded by his friends (to whom he had confessed his uneasiness), the young Gavin found his thoughts in disarray again.
"You know," Deston said with a small chuckle. "It is possible that Miss Skye is more wise than she is untrustworthy."
"And let's face it, she forged under duress to protect her sister while your bro just threw a temper tantrum," Raoul said bluntly. "Day and night, dude."
"Ray…" Seren threw Raoul a warning look.
"Nein," Klavier said distractedly, waving off Seren's attempts at kindliness. "He is right. There is not even an ounce of Lana's honour in Kristoph. I am seeing deceit where there is none."
"Probably because of the deceit you're starting to feel the weight of," Ray added with a smirk.
"Would you shut up?" Seren said with some exasperation.
Again, Klavier was more stung by the truth of the words rather than his friend's bluntness. It was just what he'd been thinking of all morning and a good part of the afternoon, wasn't it? He had turned into a jerk in the span of a few days and now that the strange haze of madness was retreating he was beginning to see what he had done – for a moment, a sort of panic rose in him: was he experiencing some kind of psychotic episode? Was he exhibiting manic symptoms? He quickly shook that thought away by standing up and starting to pace around the office, ignoring the four pairs of eyes that followed his every move. No… He wasn't crazy. Kristoph was insane enough for both brothers. He refused to believe he, too, was doomed to suffer the lunacy that had destroyed Kristoph.
"You could just let Ema go," Deston suggested calmly.
"Are you stoned?" said the fourth pair, having been quiet until now. "Why the hell would he do that?"
"Because she deserves the chance to choose who she wants to marry," Deston said calmly, looking at the red-haired beauty beside him. "I think that's one hell of a reason for him to do it."
"And you think she doesn't want to marry him?" Raina laughed. "God, men are such idiots."
"Believe me," Klavier said, still pacing. "She most certainly does not want to sport my ring or name."
"Or that's what she believes," Rain threw back casually.
Klavier stopped pacing to look at Deston's wife. "Explain."
"It seems pretty obvious to me." Raina shrugged. "Lana thinks Ema's in love with you and that's why she's not interfering."
A long silence followed this statement before Raoul let out a bark of a laugh just as Klavier snorted very uncharacteristically – and very loudly. "Have you ever seen how she behaves around him?" Raoul jabbed at thumb in Klavier's direction.
"She probably substitutes me for every victim at each crime scene," Klavier said incredulously. "She wants nothing to do with me and quite frankly, after the way I have behaved, I do not blame her."
She was unperturbed by the response to her theory. "So? Des and I weren't exactly best friends when we first met."
"He didn't force you to marry him," Raoul pointed out.
"As if he could," Raina smirked.
"The point remains," Klavier interrupted. "Ema is as far from feeling any sort of affection for me as Kristoph is of redeeming himself."
Another silence followed, this one more sombre as they were all momentarily distracted by the reminder of the disturbed man they had all respected (somewhat) even if they hadn't all liked him. Raina's eyes softened as she watched Klavier slump in a seat and rolled her chair over to him, patting his arm comfortingly. "Do you want to let her go?"
"If I could… If I could release her from this charade without creating another sensation for the media, I would apologise… wish her the best…"
"But you're worried about her?"
"She would be hounded and Gott knows what stories would emerge."
"You're right," Deston said slowly. "If you let Ema go now, the media will be all over you both for a long time."
"You have feelings for her too, don't you?" Raina smiled when he simply nodded, his expression turning miserable. "The Gelegenheit beim Schopf packen, Klavier!"
He looked up into her eyes at the words, searching for conviction: she was grinning at him and on meeting her gaze, Raina winked. Behind her Deston was chuckling but looking at his partner lovingly; "I think Raina's got a point, K."
"Might as well take it all the way now," Seren agreed.
"Hey," Raoul said with a smirk when Klavier looked at him as if looking for approval. "Uterus knows best."
They all laughed a little at that, the mood in the room growing quite a bit lighter and Klavier looked at his friends with gratitude and a renewed sense of hope. This had started badly but it didn't mean it couldn't well. Ema had shown a kinship to him at times that neither could deny. And, he recalled with a wider grin, she had kissed him. At the very least, there was a physical attraction – he could build the rest.
They were all so caught up in their 'plan' and jokes that none of them heard the slight thump of a detective slumping against a wall right outside the office, a large bouquet of beautiful flowers in her arms and a shockwave of emotions in her wide eyes.