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Thread: [M] Pokemon: Avarice Versus Justice! (Ashen and Headwrapper)

  1. #131
    The Moonlight Knight
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    "I'll be fine," Clive protested as Yulia's Beartic approached him. "It won't be too far." Still, despite Clive's protesting, Zita remained close by. Clive trudged along slowly as they made their way back to the station, his mind sorting through the details of everything that had transpired. Maybe he was jumping to conclusions, but there was something ominous about his interaction with Sierra. Even before the mysterious Psychic had appeared, Sierra's attempts to flee suggested a motive beyond her need to escape. Was she leading him away from something?

    While trying to focus on the experience, Clive could feel his blood pressure rise in frustration. For hours, he had been pushing aside the anger he felt towards... everything,, but now this damn sprained ankle was going to bring the worst out of him. Each step he took was too short, was not in tempo and hurt, and he could feel his foot swell more and more in his shoe. He filled his lungs to capacity before letting out a loud sigh, and made a motion at Zita, finally giving in and accepting the help that was offered. Beartic were typically a bit taller than an average person, so Clive had to reach upward to place his hand on the Pokemon's shoulder to pull the weight away from his ankle. As awkward as it was at first, he quickly decided that the relief from the pain made it worth it.

    Finally, they reached the police department. It felt like it had been so long since Clive had seen the broad, dark doors that lead into the front. Upon entering, the place looked strangely empty, despite being busy. Every single body was constantly in motion. Not one single person was sitting at their desk, and those who were present were rushing to get to wherever they were going. It was going to be a stressful few days, nights... weeks, Clive knew.

    When he was finally given the opportunity, Clive gently lowered himself onto a chair. He panted silently as he worked to loosen his shoelaces, and slowly, very slowly, peel his shoe off of his foot. "I wish I wore my boots," he thought out loud, thinking that the added support may have prevent the injury. After the sharp pain from removing his shoe, there was a bit of relief as his ankle was given the chance to breath. Yulia rushed over to hand him a small bag full of ice, and Clive studied his partner's face as he took the bag the from her. Part of him wanted to tell her to stop looking so damn guilty like everything revolved around her, but that was a dangerous, slippery slope he did not want to go down just yet. Any chink in the armor, and bend in the bars of his cage, and he would let too much of his emotions go at once. He continued to assure himself that there would be a time, and a place.

    Clive watched Yulia leave for her debriefing. When she was out of sight, he glanced down at his swollen ankle, gently icing it. Knowing that all there was to do was to debrief and plan next steps, the intensity, panic, and adrenaline were all starting to ebb away. With Clive's frustrations locked away, all that remained was exhaustion. Exhaustion, and the notion that despite everything Avarice had done, there would be a tomorrow, an opportunity to bring justice and remove the threat that Avarice has become.

    A burst of green flashed in Clive's peripheral vision, and he glanced up quickly to see Natasha march down the hallway. "Nat? You're here?"

    The woman lowered herself down onto a chair next to Clive, sitting in it sideways. "We got things under control at the department store, mostly. We are working with the management there to finalize the numbers for all of the stolen goods. I needed to come back for a debriefing before the chief goes in front of the press. You know how it is. The longer it takes for his message to go out, the more panicked and upset people will be. An incomplete message is better than a late one." She glanced down at Clive's foot, before glancing around the hallway. "Where's your partner? Where's Jean? What happened at the Gym?"

    The zipped bag of ice nearly burst when Clive clenched it tightly. "No one...?" He paused, his eyes still as they stared straight back in Natasha's. His question morphed into a plain statement. "No one told you."

    Natasha's head tilted suddenly. "Told me what?" she snapped. "What happened?"

    Not a single muscle moved on Clive's face, until he broke himself away from his colleague's gaze and turned away. "Nat... Avarice had a trap set up at the gym. A contingency plan if things didn't go there way. Jean got hurt. Really bad. He's in the hospital right now. He had lost a lot of blood." Finally having blurted it all out, Clive, turned his head to look at Natasha again, and he almost grimaced, feeling his heart sink into his stomach. Natasha's lips had turned white and dry, and her eyes were widened, frozen in shock. Worry painted her face with wrinkles, rippling across her forehead and branching away from her lips.

    "You saw it happen," she asked, weakly.

    "Yeah, we got there right before it happened," Clive replied.

    "He shouldn't have even been there."

    "Nat, you couldn't have kn-"

    "Well, you should have!" Natasha snapped. "This was your case! You've been on Avarice for months, and yet you did not realize how big of a threat they would become. No, somehow you ended up on the other side of the continent while they planned to tear the roof off of our city." She stood, concluding the discussion before Clive had a chance to speak. "I need to go." With that, she hurried off. Clive sat in silence until it was time for his debriefing.

    The conversation with Natasha, the showdown with Sierra, and events at Saffron all swirled around in Clive's head while he gave his debriefing. After eventually offering up everything he could offer, he stood up, assuming he would be dismissed.

    "And where do you think you're hobbling off to?" the Chief asked. "No, no. You're coming to help me prepare for this press conference. This was your hot case, and now it's on fucking fire. And you're gonna have to say a few words too."

    Before Clive could interject, another man spoke up. It was the mayor of Goldenrod. "Detective, what he means to say is, you and your partner have the most awareness of the Team Avarice case. In addition to the clarity your experience can provide, the people of Goldenrod need to know that the case is being worked by people they can trust. You helped resolve a city-wide crisis early in your career, before I was even mayor. The chief just needs you to help ensure his statement is accurate, and you just need to read a short script afterwards. Show the people that someone who has helped protect them before is part of the team working to protect them again now. No need to answer questions or any of that. What do you say?"

    "I'm sorry, but shouldn't I be working the case right now? I have a suspect in booking right now, and-"

    The Chief cut him off. "Yulia can work the suspect. Tell her, then come to my office. Those are orders and that's that." He slammed his notebook shut, and hurried off. The mayor politely nodded towards Clive and stood to gather his things.

    Clive made his way outside to where Yulia was, and leaned himself against the wall of the GRPD. "Hey. I need you to work Sierra for me. I'm going to be busy. The Chief wants me to help him put his statement together."

  2. #132
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    As Yulia’s attention flittered between the six separate documents she had started drafting, she kept one eye on her phone, jumping every time its screen lit up. Every notification was for some spam email, some unimportant news; she had not yet received word on any of the things she was waiting on. The notifications were a constant distraction, even to the woman who had been a pro at shutting out such things before. The drumming in her head wasn’t lighting up, and she was working too slowly and too distractedly to be productive. Frustrated, she kicked away from her desk and started back towards the lobby, reaching into her purse for her box of cigarettes.

    On the way, she nearly ran into Natasha, who was storming away with an intense anger in her gaze. “Na—” Yulia started, but the other woman was too busy to even notice her, and from the looks of things, there were important things to do. Yulia debated going after her, but she couldn’t face her, not while her partner was in the hospital, not while she still believed it her fault.

    Outside, she balanced the unlit stick between her lips. Her ex had often scolded her about her habit, about her lack of moderation, and she was better than she was, but this was an exception, and she needed some kind of relief from the pain in her head. Before she could light her smoke, however, she noticed Clive through the window of the doors. He was finished with his debriefing, then, so Yulia tucked her cigarette back into its box and headed inside.

    He was angry. Clive had kept his cool through all the turmoil of the day, and once this was all over, he would need a break. They both would. Yulia greeted him with a nod and prepared to ask how he was doing, how his ankle was, but her questions got lost somewhere in her throat when he spoke instead. She arched a brow, confusion spilling over her features. Clive was going to make a statement? To the public? That didn’t sound like him at all. “No, that’s alright,” she insisted, “I can help the chief with that.” But judging from his reaction, she realized it wasn’t a choice either of them could make. She nodded solemnly, only able to offer a sympathetic smile. “Don’t worry about Sierra," she said instead. “You’ll be great out there. The people trust you.” And right now, they would need that more than they’d ever need a panicked Yulia. She bowed her goodbye and started towards the holding cell, all the while wishing she had lit that last cigarette.

    Yulia watched the woman from the other side of the two-way mirror. She absently tapped at the notebook in her hands, rehearsing the things she wanted to say. Key words and phrases were written across the page, in a different language so no one would be able to read. She had done countless interrogation practices during her time at the Academy; this certainly wasn’t her first time here, so why did she have such a bad feeling in her throat? Sierra was dangerous, she knew, but not only for the reasons the rest of her team knew. She soothed the edge of her skirt, dusted her blouse, then went into the room, walking with all the confidence she could fake.

    She took a seat across from the criminal. Sierra looked small, afraid, her eyes wide as she watched Yulia. The detective tried to ignore it and cleared her throat. “Sierra,” she acknowledged. “You have the right—”

    “I don’t want to talk to you,” Sierra cut in, indignant despite the way her voice quaked.

    Yulia nodded. This was not going to be easy, but she hadn’t expected it to be. “I was hoping you and I could talk a little bit. You can help—”

    “What are you trying to pull?” Sierra stood up, but she reconsidered what she had been about to do, and she sat back down. “You dress in a cop’s uniform and suddenly you think you’re not guilty?”

    Yulia hesitated. The room was being watched, of course, and this interaction was being recorded. Anyone watching would have found Sierra’s words nonsensical, or perhaps irrelevant. If Yulia addressed them, would that make her guilty, like Sierra was suggesting? If she ignored them, would anyone watching assume Sierra was losing it? The silence stretched between them, and Yulia quickly continued before it became suspicious. “If you can help us catch the rest of Team Avarice, we can lessen your sentence. This can be mutually beneficial, but I need your cooperation. Why don’t you tell me what happened today?”

    Tears welled at the corners of Sierra’s eyes. Her hands clenched, and she gritted her teeth, as if she was fighting to say something. “I’m not crazy,” she said, a plea. “I don’t belong in here. None of this were my fault. If not for Phoenix, and that damn… that woman.” She turned away to hide the stray tear rolling down her cheek.

    Yulia made a note in her book. “What woman?”

    Sierra turned back to her, glaring. “You know this,” she cried. “Why are you asking me what you already know? I can’t… I don’t… I’m not talking to you.” She turned her whole body away this time. “I demand a lawyer. Or are they one of yours, too?”

    Yulia had to keep herself from flinching. This woman was going to put her in danger. “A lawyer will be assigned to you,” Yulia replied, even and rehearsed, dodging the comment that followed her out of the room. She had faith Sierra would ultimately bite her tongue, but the snarky comments she was making only served to put Yulia on edge. She glanced down at her notebook. Phoenix and… that woman. At least they had something of a lead. She would pick this up once Sierra had a lawyer. Yulia hoped Clive was having a better time with his duty.
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  3. #133
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    "Well, that's about as ready as we'll get," the chief announced, slowly guiding his mouse over to print the document that he, Clive, and the mayor had finished writing.

    The mayor sighed in his seat, standing up carefully on tired legs. "Yes, let's go then." On either side of the door behind him stood a pair of armed officers, watching silently. Clive watched them intently as they opened the door and followed closely behind the mayor while he made his way out and down the hallway.

    Clive sighed loudly, before stepping to follow. He felt the chief shoot him a glance, but he ignored it. The sooner they got this over with, the better.

    The press conference was held outside of the Town Hall. Clive was surprised to see the turnout. The crowd overflowed out of the barriers that were set up, watching the podium with eager intent. The detective grimaced at the sight of cameras and microphones in the front few rows. Reporters crowded the those rows, disgustingly eager as they browsed through their little notebooks. As he and the chief made their way around the crowd to the front, shielded by a small wall of officers, Clive found himself searching for Yulia somewhere. Maybe in the crowd, or lurking behind the backdrop that stood behind the podium. Whether she was around or not, he was not able to locate her before taking his seat on one of the chairs that lined the elevated tribune that he shared with the chief, the mayor, and others he did not recognize.

    The mayor spoke first, offering his condolences to those who suffered due to the actions of Team Avarice. He thanked the GRPD for their quick action and highlighted their success in mitigating the overall damage. He urged the citizens to stay strong in these difficult times, and report any suspicious activity in the future. He then handed off the podium to the Chief of the Goldenrod Police Department, to let him explain what transpired and to describe what measures were going to be taken moving forward.

    Clive shuffled in his seat nervously as he watched the chief approach the podium. Even while the chief was addressing the crowd, Clive continuously folded and unfolded his printed out page in his hands. All he was expected to do was read his part, maybe answer a question or two, and then dismiss himself from the podium. He listened silently as the Chief described the circumstances of the attack, meticulously describing the exact times that the attacks started, where they took place, and how they were executed. It was strange to hear the chief talk for so long without cursing up a storm, but it was a solemn affair after all. Soon, Clive heard his name.

    "I will turn it over to our lead detective on this case, Mr. Clive Oiler. Clive?"

    As the chief stepped away from the podium, Clive slowly marched forward. He moved slowly, but dutifully fulfilled what was expected and stepped to the podium, taking the chief's place. With maybe too much care, he gently placed his folded up page onto the podium, and took a moment to consider the large number of microphones in front of him, which greedily stared straight back. He swallowed, hard, before drawing a breath and starting to speak.

    "Good afternoon everyone, I'm Detective Clive Oiler. I have been leading the open case on Team Avarice for the last six months, and I would like to take a moment to describe what we presently know about this criminal organization, as well as answer any additional questions. Team Avarice is a criminal group that is actively using abused Pokemon in order to strengthen their group. Their precise objectives are not known, but it is clear by their actions that they seek to obtain power and influence at the expense of the livelihoods of people and Pokemon alike. As the Chief has described, the shameful events that have taken place today have proven just how dangerous this criminal group has become. To that end, my partner and I, backed by the GRPD, are working diligently to expose these criminals in hopes of dissolving the group, permanently."

    The detective paused, glancing around at the solemn, pleading faces down below. He cleared his throat. "I will be taking a few questions at this time." Almost immediately, the reporters stood up, leaning forward to call out their questions, ignoring the line they had formed. Clive tensed, freezing in his tracks as the sudden surge of stimulus reached him. Some woman, dressed in a blue suit jacket and a matching pencil skirt, stood next to the podium and quelled the reporters with her arms spread in front of her. Eventually she got them seated again, and would direct the order in which their questions were presented.

    "Hello, Rachel Degine of Olivine News. Detective, how many Team Avarice members are in custody?"

    "Their are currently four suspects that have been taken in for interviews after today's attacks before we press any charges. We will issue a full report once the interviews have been completed."

    "Doug Bine, Goldrenrod Channel 7. Detective, can you speak more about your colleague that was injured in the battle against Team Avarice."

    "He is currently under the care of Goldrenrod Medical for serious injuries. I have been advised not to disclose more at this time."

    Several more questions passed, while Clive carefully worded his answers. He was told not to over discuss, which was not a problem for him anyway, and to share details honestly, but only the ones that were asked for. As the queue of reporters began to draw to a close, a smug looking reporter, dressed in a tan trench coat and brown pants, addressed him. The man's green eyes peered through slightly squinted eyelids, and his light brown hair rested atop of his head like a Slakoth on a tree branch.

    "Detective, Oliver Burnstine, Channel 9 News. Is the GRPD really able to prevent another attack like this from happening again?"

    Clive licked his drying lips, before answering hoarsely. "We are committing every resource we can to surveillance of this case. The protection of the citizens and Pokemon is our top priority- to that end, we have enlisted the support of other police departments in relevant cities to identify and shutdown any Avarice operation that is discovered."

    "Like Saffron City? There are several reports on social media and other news outlets that a similar attack, albeit smaller in scale, took place in Saffron also."

    "Yes we have counterparts in Saffron assisting with the case."

    "Last question from me, should the social media statements that Phoenix was behind these attacks be believed?"

    "We have not drawn conclusive evidence on that yet. Thanks."

    Just when he thought he had finally dismissed this reporter, Oliver, Clive was irked to hear another question come from his mouth. "Detective, after so many months on this case, do you really think it's likely that you and your partner, new to the force, will be able to pin down Team Avarice? They seem more organized than group of wild Drowzee."

    Clives hands slammed against the side of the podium, ringing through the microphones in front of him. He leaned forward, his tight jaw and the lines around the sides of his nose revealing his irritation. "Before I leave this podium, there is one thing I want to make sure everyone, everyone, understands," he announced, a defiant timbre echoing in his voice.




    Natasha stood up, despite the people surrounding her in the waiting area of the hospital. With Jean in the middle of surgery, she was forced to be subjected to the only thing the place seemed to want to air on the televisions: the press conference. Undoubtedly, she was surprised to see Clive even glance at the podium, yet alone answer so many questions behind it. But now... this. "Stop, you idiot," she sighed. She felt even herself grow silent when Clive seemed to stare straight at the camera. His voice, accompanied with a slight buzzing from the old television's speaker, ran out.

    "Team Avarice is nothing but a lot of cowards, organized only out of their desperation to keep their pitiful existence as a group afloat. Like every challenge this world has ever faced, they too will come and go, and fade away to nothing but a bad memory. Every possible, legal, measure will be taken to dismantle their facilities, expose every single coward in their group, including their leaders. That goes doubly for Phoenix. After all of his showboating at the expense of good people and Pokemon, I will be proud to put him in cuffs myself."




    Clive was stiff armed away from the podium by the chief, who offered to answer a few more questions before concluding for the day. At first, it Clive frowned defiantly, but knowing he had made a mistake, he followed marched off of the stage, lead by a few security officers. He could hear the reporters behind him shouting, hoping for him to elaborate further, to soak up more of his dramatic outburst. It was fine, the chief and the mayor would spin it as some crap about how passionate the GRPD was to tackle this case at full force. Best case, he would get an earful later. Worst case, well, who knows?

  4. #134
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    Yulia learned fairly quickly that she wasn’t going to get any more information out of Sierra. She instead turned her focus to the vague hints she’d already gotten, about Phoenix and some woman. All the leads she found about the high-ranking Avarice member online were from gossip blogs and even some conspiracy articles, and it was even harder to find dirt on the woman he might have been working with. Yulia took notes on what little she could and wrapped up her investigation for the day.

    When her work was finished—for now, as her mind was too scattered to be useful anymore, even if her job was never really done—Yulia made her way to the police station lobby and turned to the TV hanging in the corner of the room. It was always set to some news channel, and she figured every one would be tuned to the conference being given in front of Town Hall. Instead of Clive, she saw the mayor instead, addressing the people and summarizing the results of the attacks. Clive was seated behind him, tiny on the screen, waiting his dreaded turn. If she got there quickly enough, she would be able to support Clive from the crowd and comfort him if anything went wrong. Maybe it was the paranoia, or her nerves from the day’s events, but she had a feeling things were going to go wrong. So she set up a radio on her phone to follow the news, and she started for Town Hall to see the conference unfold in person.

    By the time she arrived, Clive was already at the podium answering the crowd’s pointless questions and looking all too uncomfortable about it. Yulia wanted to be up there with him, answering the questions herself and assuring the crowd the authorities now had things under control, but she remained still. Her presence up there would likely just make things worse for everyone. Besides, she was shaking, and though she refused to acknowledge them, several people around her were casting her wary looks. She would have confidence in her partner, despite his exhaustion, despite his pain, despite his reservations about talking to other human beings. Clive had been working these sorts of things far longer than she had. He would handle himself just fine.

    As the conference continued, Yulia turned her attention to her phone while still keeping an ear open for Clive and the reporters he was answering to. She tried again, fruitlessly, to check on Jean, on the other casualties from the attacks, on the damages that were still being uncovered, but she looked up when a reporter from the crowd caught her attention. He was asking far too many questions, once that had been answered before. Why was no one turning him away? And then his final question landed, settled in the air, an insult disguised as innocent curiosity. Perhaps this opinion was one shared by the public—that she and Clive weren’t fit for bringing Avarice down. That they, in her inexperience, would only allow them to make things worse. The suggestion, as irrational as it was, turned Yulia’s guilt to anger, clenched her fist at her side. She turned to Clive who had the floor, awaiting his response.

    It was… less than graceful. In fact, it was downright dangerous. The crowd turned uproarious at Clive’s passionate outburst, his threat, everyone clamoring for more information from the detective who had broken his composure. Yulia struggled towards the front of the crowd, an impossible task. By the time she got there, Clive had already been whisked away, and the chief had taken his place at the podium to fix the damage he’d done. She considered asking for the mix herself, trying to explain to the public what was going on, that they would stop Avarice, and that such threats weren’t necessary, but someone in the crowd tapped her shoulder to ask if she was okay, and that was when she realized just how badly her body was trembling, her breathing ragged, her headache violently thundering. She would be useful to no one, now. She needed to go home.

    On her way there, she texted Clive a wall of text to explain that she was leaving, that she would be by his side if he needed anything, that he needed to get some rest, too. She sent several other messages to several other people, pleas to keep her updated if anything changed. When she arrived at her home, her Glameow greeted her with a loud, hungry meow. Yulia rolled her eyes. “You’re so needy,” she murmured, but at least here, feeding her pet, she felt more useful than she had all day.

    She couldn’t remember dozing off, but she woke up on the floor several hours later, headache persistent as ever and a cramp forming in her neck. Yulia sat up and rubbed at her eyes, trying to remember how she’d gotten here. She was home. She’d walked here after the conference, and had fed Fritz, and… then what? She made her way to her laptop to check for any updates from the attacks, from her partner, and she saw it was the middle of the night. Cursing herself for passing out, she reached for her phone to check on Clive. Was he okay? She’d told him she’d be there for them; had he needed her? She saw instead a message from Natasha. Jean… would be okay. A huge sigh of relief escaped her at the news. Natasha’s text said she’d give more details in person, so Yulia quickly replied with a thank-you and a suggestion to meet for coffee tomorrow. She only hoped the text wouldn’t wake up the poor woman.

    Everything else was coming along, too. The public had been successfully pacified, though she couldn’t imagine the chief was very happy about the extra measures he’d had to take to ensure that. Plans for repairing damages were already being made. Clive had successfully put a target on his back, but with the absence of any alarming messages from him, she assumed he was safe for now.

    Still exhausted, Yulia went to the bathroom to prepare for actual sleep. The woman staring back at her from the mirror had dark smears on her face, no makeup she had used. She rubbed at them, took them between her fingers and examined them carefully. Was that… charcoal? When had she…? She shook the thought, too exhausted to deal with more tonight, and stepped into the shower. In the morning, she would get in contact with Clive, with Natasha, with the chief. The worst was over. She just needed to rest.

    Just as soon as she stepped out of the shower, her cell went off in the next room. She pulled a towel around herself and hurried towards it. The caller ID struggled to place the person calling her, and it flickered between different names, a weird glitch. After watching it a moment, Yulia answered with a wary, “Hello?”

    She could almost hear the smirk on the other end of the line through the deep voice that answered her. “Yulia.”

    She straightened, subconsciously pulling the towel tighter around her body. “Who is this?” she demanded.

    There was a sigh, then, “Your partner has some gall, pulling me into the spotlight. I take the stage on my terms.”

    She hesitated, then dared, “Phoenix?”

    The line went dead, and she was left only with the frantic beating of her heart. Had that really been Phoenix? How had he gotten her number? What reason did he have to call now, in the middle of the night? Just to threaten Clive? No—if he’d wanted to do that, he’d have called Clive him. That had been a threat for Yulia. She swallowed, hard, and dialed her partner’s number. Even if it was late, even if he should have been asleep, Yulia needed to hear his voice, to know that he was okay, to know Avarice hadn’t gone after him already.
    Last edited by Ashen; 09-25-2021 at 10:12 PM.
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  5. #135
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    It was a cool, silent night in Ecruteak City. Free from the light pollution that plagued more modern cities, only the pale light of the moon above served to illuminate the wooden boards that constructed the buildings in the city.

    Clive took a sip of his tea silently, watching the kimono girls perform their dance on the stage above. From his seat on the floor, the stage elevated the dancers well above him, commanding the attention of him and the rest of the patrons of the dance theater. Each movement of their dance, every detail of the patterns on their kimonos, and the serious expressions born on the girls faces, all was laid bare for the entire audience. Clive wondered how the dancing kimono girls would fair if people were shoving microphones in their face, asking stupid questions about their craft.

    He heard a small clank as the older man set down his own cup of tea. "You just can't help but turn into your old man, can you?" the old man grumbled. His white eyebrows were furrowed, although Clive was sure they were permanently set that way, and a white scruff covered his cheeks and neck. "I should have broke your legs the day you said you were going into the academy. I should have seen it all coming. Hello? Is the tea going to pour itself?"

    Clive sighed softly, as he gently lifted the teapot between them and refilled the old man's cup. The urge to snap back in anger, gnash his teeth, and find somewhere private to kick something, was all gone now. The steel cage, the prison, had been torn asunder earlier that day.

    The old man let out a gravelly sigh as he took the tea up to his lips, taking a sip. His tongue could hardly feel the heat of the scalding hot liquid, and after he was satisfied with his drink he wiped the excess away from his pale, cracked lips with his thumb. "If you want to disappear, you just need to ask," he then said with a hushed voice. His gray eyes watched Clive for a long, tired moment, before he shifted his gaze back towards the dancers. "So how did the Chief take it?"

    "As well as you would think," Clive said. "But he didn't take me off the case." He paused, nodding casually in response to the surprised look from the old man's face. "Maybe he will, if the right person convinces him. I expect that she will try tomorrow."

    "I hope she succeeds. I'm not even going to ask you what you were thinking, because I know you weren't. That's the problem with you Oilers, always thinking with the wrong head."

    "You think that's what I'm doing?"

    The old man shot a steely, cold, glance towards Clive, and downed the rest of his small cup of tea. "I practically raised you, and I know what parts of you I failed to fix. Don't pretend any of this was planned, like you're smart, you're just a fool." After sighing once more, he adjusted himself on the floor to look more directly towards Clive. "Look, this head-on big shot stuff, it's not you. I knew that when you were still just a little boy without parents. That's why I taught you to fight dirty, how to use the shadows to your advantage. That's why I thought maybe, just maybe, you would be more safe doing this stupid cop shit than your daddy was."

    "You did make sure I'd be safe," Clive said thoughtfully. "It wasn't the targets on his back that did him in, remember? It was trusting the wrong people."

    "What did I say about pretending you're smart?" the old man grunted harshly. "Anyway, the Chief didn't take you off the case. So he still thinks you need to be the one on the case. Probably because there's barely any of you left to take on the case anyway. So he gave you a slap on the wrist. Then, you had a fist fight with a few Graveler." He raised an eyebrow towards Clive's bloodied knuckles. "Then, instead of getting back to work, you came to drink tea with an old man. Shouldn't you be with that new partner of yours, how did you put it? Dismantling Avarice's facilities and exposing each and every coward? She's probably got just as much of a target on her as you do, thanks to you. At the very least you should have brought her here. I'm tired of only seeing girls in kimonos everywhere I look, such a waste of youth, and I'm getting too old to travel."

    Clive rolled his eyes, choosing to be selective about which of the old man's statements he would entertain. "She... can handle herself. And I think we both need a little space until we throw ourselves back into it headfirst." The old man hummed in response, and both of them sat in silence as they watched the dancers close out the rest of their show. When the last of the night's shows ended, the pair stood outside of the theater briefly before parting ways.

    "Clive... Come back soon, okay? I'm getting old. Much too old. Don't let another couple of years pass before the next time."

    Clive looked down, bashfully. "Yeah. Of course." The older man declined Clive's offer to walk him home, insisting that the young detective needed to be hurrying home itself, and not to linger too long on the road back. They bid each other farewell, and parted ways.

    It was late, very late, when Clive finally reached his apartment. Once in his bedroom, he laid out his belt along the length of his bed, and took three of the Pokeballs to release his Houndour, Umbreon, and Zorua. He would let them sleep in the apartment that night... extra sets of ears would not hurt. Without bothering to brush his teeth, he tore away at his clothes, tossing them haphazardly throughout his apartment as he double checked the locks on his windows and door. Finally, he settled down onto his bed for the first time in what felt like ages.

    He laid sleeplessly for a long while. The silence was... strange. Occasionally, he would stand near the door of his bedroom, and could barely make out the sounds of his Pokemons' breathing in the living room. When he laid back in bed, he would be in a blanket of silence again. The soft breathing in another bed, the gentle rise and fall he had grown accustomed to, was not there anymore. Yet, he still felt watched. Like a thousand pairs of eyes were watching him from the darkness. Just when he decided to sit up, he heard something stir in his coat on the floor. Rotom emerged from the breast pocket, and floated into Clive's view. It was a call from Yulia. He cleared his throat before commanding Rotom to accept the call. "Hello? No, I wasn't sleeping. Can't, actually. Are you at home?"

    They talked for a while, awkwardly at first, but eventually they grew more comfortable as they broached the numerous difficult topics they needed to speak about. They talked about Jean's condition improving, and how Clive suspected Natasha was going to try to boot him from the case and try to take it over herself. Clive apologized for his outburst at the press conference, but ultimately standing firm that he did not regret what he said and was determined to see things through. Clive chose not to bring up the events in Saffron, but if Yulia brought them up he would remain mostly silent. He did not fully blame her for being at the wrong place during Avarice's right time, and he preferred to keep it that way. After a while, he asked a rather curious question. "Hey, your commute to Goldenrod is kind of far right? I was just curious, that's all."

  6. #136
    The Ashen One
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    The phone didn’t ring long, but the wait to hear her partner’s voice stretched on for eons, and Yulia could have sworn she was losing her mind. When she finally did hear Clive, content and confused and not at all like she’d woken him up, she let out a sigh of relief. It hadn’t occurred to her to ask why he had been awake until several minutes later. Even if it was late, and she was exhausted and ready to collapse, she took comfort in the sound of his voice, in not being alone tonight, and she didn’t want to hang up.

    So she didn’t, and she was surprised when Clive didn’t either. Yulia sat on her bed and absently curled her hair around her finger as she listened to Clive. They had much to discuss, and none of it could wait until they reconvened for work the next day. Yulia tried to assure him; even if he had made a dumb and dangerous move on live television, she knew how dedicated he was to his work, what this meant to him, and she had confidence Natasha would see that, too, some way or another. Natasha was just stressed about her partner’s condition, Yulia assumed, and now that Jean was on his way to recovery, things would slowly start going back to normal. They would catch Avarice, deliver them to justice, and move onto the next case. Or that was what Yulia wanted to believe. It’s what she had to believe. And she hoped Clive could believe it, too.

    When the conversation lulled, Yulia hesitated before bringing up Saffron. She had apologized already, but she didn’t feel it was enough, so she told Clive again how sorry she was that she had misled him, that she had allowed herself to be misled. He didn’t respond much; maybe he was tired of hearing her already, or maybe he just wanted to let her talk. Either way, when she had said what she wanted to say, the line went quiet, and she shifted awkwardly.

    His question broke the silence and caught her off guard. “It’s about a forty-five-minute drive,” she answered. Immediately she was up and moving towards her laptop, looking through her email and news alerts for anything that might be going on at the police department. This late at night, she could probably make the trip in just over half an hour if she really needed to. But no one had tried to notify her of another attack, and without realizing it, she let out a sigh of relief. Clive mentioned something about curiosity, but the tone of his voice made her question that. Was Clive Oiler… afraid? Her thoughts drifted back to the call from Phoenix, and she wondered if they would be safer together. Because she knew he wouldn’t ask, Yulia told Clive, “I’ll be right over.” Then, she hung up the phone and started packing a bag.

    She dressed quickly and shoved her pajamas into a duffel bag. It would be a long trip, but she would better be able to protect Clive from right beside him, and after everything that had happened that day, a bit of precaution couldn’t hurt. Though he hadn’t exactly invited her to his place. Was she jumping to conclusions? Yulia tried to convince herself of what she knew: that his voice had asked her more than his words, and that this was safer for both of them. Swallowing her paranoia, she finished her packing.

    His address was saved onto her phone… somewhere. Yulia spent a few moments looking for it as her coffee brewed. When she found it, she plugged it into a map online and mentally tried to picture the area. When her cup was done, she was about to exit her apartment when her Glameow meowed at her. “You should be asleep,” she told the poor Pokemon. But Fritz huffed at her, and he pawed at the leg of her pants. “I’m going out tonight. I’ll be back tomorrow, just in time for supper, okay?” Fritz was indignant, and he shook his head, meowing more loudly. He wove himself between her legs, making exiting the apartment impossible.

    That was how she found herself driving through the dark with the bratty cat Pokemon in the passenger seat, licking his paws and glancing at her with a look of pride. “I hope Clive isn’t allergic to you,” she sighed, but the Glameow did not acknowledge her. He stretched out on the seat with a yawn and closed his eyes. Yulia sighed. She turned her thoughts elsewhere, to Clive, to the call with Phoenix, to the dangers they might face throughout the night. Would Avarice do anything so soon? And if Phoenix himself did come to his apartment, what would he do when he saw her there? A bad feeling rumbled deep in Yulia’s chest, and though she tried to force it away, it only worsened. She stopped the car in the middle of the road, clutching at this new pressure. “We’re going to be fine,” she said confidently. “Nothing will happen to him, Freya.”

    A honk from behind her startled her back into motion. The only other person on the road this late, and they were going the same way she was. Of course. Yulia muttered an apology the other driver could not hear and continued on her way.

    When she pulled up to his apartment building, Yulia sent Clive a text to tell her she had arrived. She balanced her duffle bag across her back, her laptop bag over one shoulder, and her cranky Glameow in her arms, then locked her car and started for his apartment. When he greeted her, she offered a small smile. “Meet Fritz,” she said, motioning her head to the kitty in her arms. Fritz meowed warily at the stranger. “He doesn’t do Poke Balls,” she explained, “and he didn’t want to be alone tonight, either.” Once the door was closed, she set the cat down, and Fritz immediately went exploring. Though he hissed at Shadow, he eventually settled down by Clive’s bed and went back to sleep. Yulia took a look around, too, and she set her bags by the entrance. “I’m sorry for intruding,” she started. “I just…” Her eye caught on a window, at a flashing light outside, and when she saw it had captured Clive’s attention too, she realized just how on edge they both were.

    Yulia turned back to Clive, and she shifted awkwardly. She hadn’t visited anyone’s place since… her ex, she suddenly realized, and she didn’t know how to act in her partner’s apartment at four in the morning. It would be laughable later, maybe, but now, she was all too aware of how out of place she was in a man’s apartment. She looked to the couch in his living room and decided that was where she’d be sleeping, so she moved her bags there and unpacked a blanket she’d stuffed into her bag. “I don’t know about you,” she said, “but my brain is fried. You must be exhausted too. Do you want to… watch a movie? Until we fall asleep?” She tried to convince herself this wasn’t awkward, but she was doing a terrible job. Tired as she was, she still wasn’t ready for sleep, not anymore. If anything happened, if someone attacked them, she wanted to be alert, ready; sleep could come later.
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  7. #137
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    The man cleared his throat as he placed his now barely warm cup of coffee into the cup holder of the police interceptor vehicle. He glanced over towards his partner. "I gotta take a piss, I'll be right back." He groaned abnoxiously as he stepped out of the car. As he briskly marched towards a nearby gas station, he adjusted his belt, flashing a few ultra balls that hung at his hip.

    When he returned, his partner gave him a knowing nod. "He's still up," he said gravely, pointing towards a window, several stories up one of the nearby apartment buildings. The apartment was lit, and occasionally a figure would walk passed the window.

    "Anyone enter the building?"

    "Not for a few hours now."

    "I guess I'd be scared shitless too if I said the things he did," the first cop grunted, leaning his seat back slightly and glancing up towards the window. "So arrogant."

    "Think they'll take him off the case?"

    "They better not, what are we babysitting his ass for?"

    "Yeah."

    The two men continued their watch, occasionally shifting at the sound of the radio or after cracking a wise joke. They passed the time easily, well accustomed to the long nights on patrol. After a while, about forty-five minutes or so, the officer in the passenger seat motioned. "Look. Isn't that..."

    "Yeah, his partner. Look, she even brought her puddy tat," the officer in the driver's seat jeered. "She doesn't look like she's coming to walk him to work either, huh? Think they're uh... you know?"

    "Nah. I don't think so. Wouldn't really explain why she'd only be showing up at this hour... Whatever, it's their business."


    Clive stood in silence after Yulia had hung up, staring at his phone blankly. He wanted to call her back or message her, tell her not to make the journey back to Goldenrod over his silly question. Every time he started to tap at his screen to do so, he would stop and pause, erase the message, or back away from the contacts screen. After a while he realized that he had hesitated for too long, and it seemed like it was pointless to try to stop her.

    After throwing some comfortable clothes back on, he dropped down onto his couch. He felt silly, childish, for letting himself sound so helpless. Like someone who needed protected, when he always saw himself as someone who protected others. Even so, he was glad that Yulia was the one who volunteered to join his side. Despite Clive's doubts, despite the mistakes they had made, there was no one else he would trust. No one.

    He sighed loudly as he slid his hands down his face, and glanced over towards his Pokemon, who all sat patiently as they watched him. For a moment, he considered cracking open his laptop and working on the case during the long lull in the middle of the night. It would be a useless endeavor if he tried, he knew. The tireless thoughts, the hypersensitivity to every sound and movement, the deafening silence around him- it would be too much to handle. Quickly, he snatched up the remote and turned the television on to a random channel, letting the low volume fill the empty space.

    Rotom let out a few brief buzzes, signalling Yulia's text. She had arrived. Clive's steps were completely silent as he ambled across the apartment to let his partner in. Upon opening the door, he raised his eyebrows curiously at Yulia's feline cargo, and stepped aside to let her in. Once his partner was inside the apartment, Clive peeked down the hallway outside, then retreated back into the apartment himself and closed the door.

    "I should be the one to apologize," he said during their conversation. "You finally got to go home after all of this time, and now you're stuck with me again." He disappeared into his small kitchen, and came back with some cups of water for the both of them which he placed on the coffee table.

    The detective stood awkwardly for a moment, scratching at the scabs on his knuckles for a few seconds. He suddenly grew abashed by them, and placed his hands on his hips as he pretended to be preoccupied with watching Shadow stalk Fritz, the intruder, from a distance. "Uh, yeah, that sounds good. The remote's by you." He gently motioned towards the couch, inviting Yulia to sit.

    An awkward moment lingered as Clive stood in his apartment, devoid of seating options besides the one singular couch against the wall. He lowered himself quietly onto the opposite end of the couch, shooting his partner a momentary glance. "I uh... Thanks for coming, Yulia. I'm glad you're here."

    They did watch a movie, as Yulia suggested. They eventually turned off the lights, and were mostly silent as they watched the first part of the movie they had chosen. Clive realized that he was more absorbed in his own thoughts than the movie's narrative, and that his eyes sneaked glances at his partner at every opportunity. Symbolism and fanfare were not usually things at the forefront of his mind, but he could not help but feel like there was a significance in this time they shared together. Something that solidified their partnership, something that banded them together despite any frustrations, doubts, fears, or disagreements they had.

    Like their earlier conversation on the phone, they eventually learned to manage the uncomfortable stillness. Clive tossed his feet onto the coffee table, and occasionally snorted out a chuckle or two at certain punchlines in the movie. He found the most comfortable spot to nestle his head against the backrest of the couch, letting his elbow hang over the side of the armrest. The movie began to grow fuzzy, and he would blink and miss small bits and pieces of what was happening. This happened a few times, until one time he opened his eyes and the movie was completely over, and a different program had been playing on the screen. The sun was beginning to rise, its first few rays spilling into the living room through the window. With their help, Clive saw that Yulia was still awake.

    His feet fell to the floor as he straightened up. "Sorry... sorry," he said, wiping away at his eyes with the tips of his fingers. "You should sleep a little," he croaked tiredly, slowly rising to his feet to get out of the way. His mouth felt dry, and he swallowed a few times while appraising Yulia. Finally, he gave her a little nod before trudging back towards his bedroom to chase after the opportunity for a little bit more sleep.

  8. #138
    The Ashen One
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    Throughout the movie, Yulia found herself dozing off, but she couldn’t sleep properly because she would jolt awake every couple minutes, convinced that whatever crash or other loud noise from the TV’s speakers was someone breaking into the apartment to attack them. Even when things were quiet, her mind wandered too quickly for her to rest, thinking of everything and nothing. She couldn’t focus on the movie, on the characters, on the somewhat ridiculous plot, but she did turn her attention to her partner.

    Clive was so close to her, trying to relax, though his eyes weren’t on the screen, either. He hadn’t quite asked her here, but he had expressed gratitude at her coming regardless, and Yulia thought maybe, despite how paranoid she’d been at how she’d ruined things between them, they could still trust each other. They had both made mistakes, catastrophic ones, but they were still here, and didn’t that mean something? She still trusted him, enough to believe together they would take down Avarice, and after that… Who was to say? But as Yulia pressed herself against her side of the couch, as she stole glances at her partner illuminated by the TV screen, as she listened to his breathing and the short exhale through his nose at the funnier moments of the movie, she found comfort in being with someone she cared about, who cared about her, and she thought maybe she could get used to this.

    Every so often, Yulia heard Clive snoring before he woke himself up, and she smiled to herself. She wanted to tell the poor, exhausted man to get to his room and properly get to bed, but every time she looked back at him, his eyes were closed again, and he looked too peaceful to disrupt. She tried to watch the movie then, hoping it would also lull her to sleep, but when it didn’t, she felt herself growing more frustrated.

    Clive moved suddenly, and Yulia greeted him with a smile. He had been asleep now for a while, and finally, he was retreating to his room. Though his suggestion to her was a well-meaning one, Yulia wondered if sleep were even possible for her now. As he walked down the hall, Yulia called after him, wishing him a pleasant respite. With her partner gone to bed and her Glameow off… somewhere, Yulia was entirely alone.

    She tried propping the pillows on the couch and tucking the blanket around her, and as she lay down, she could feel herself drifting off. But a sudden pain in her head jolted her upright, tugging the blanket from where she’d tucked it. As she fought the pain, she looked around the apartment, squinting through the dark to see Clive’s furniture, the ordinary pieces any apartment would have. What else did he keep around here…? She stubbornly swallowed the thought and again rested her head on the pillow. She was a guest, and it was none of her business knowing what her host had hidden here, if anything at all. If she allowed herself to look, she could only guess at what would happen to Clive.

    Hours ticked by, and Yulia lingered on the edge of consciousness, unable to rest. She felt a tickle in her hand and startled, only to find the wide eyes of her Glameow begging her. She sighed and scratched him between the ears as her drumming heartbeat normalized. “Do you want to go out?” she asked, and when the Pokemon started for the door, Yulia put her shoes back on, wrapped herself in her blanket, and headed out into the cold early morning.

    Fritz pawed around outside, looking for a place to do his business and clearly irritated her had to do it outside like some Growlithe. Yulia had long ago gotten used to his sassy looks, though, and she ignored his attitude to watch the people outside. The world was starting to wake for the day, and she was not at all ready for it. She looked through her phone, at the few notifications she had, and when Fritz nudged her leg, she went back inside. Confident she would not sleep anymore, she instead went to the bathroom to get ready for her day.

    The woman in the mirror looked exhausted, and Yulia cursed herself for leaving her makeup home in her haste to pack. She did what she could to wash her face, then went back to the living room. As she grabbed a pillow to set it back in its place against the arm of the couch, another sharp pain seized her, and she slumped forward, unconscious.

    She rose again only a moment later, curious eyes taking in the surroundings as if for the first time. She made her way to the kitchen, where she poked through drawers and cabinets and located Clive’s biggest knives. “You have made this all too easy,” she mused, but she set the knives back where they belonged. A glance down the hall suggested Clive was still asleep, and she smirked. She had far too much freedom. She located her phone and pulled up a map, memorized her current coordinates, and let out a breathy sigh. “Idiot,” she whispered. She started for Clive’s room, silent on her feet, but she paused, clutching her head, and in the next moment she was on the floor with a graceless crash.

    The world was spinning too hard for her to get up, so she stayed here, legs bent awkwardly under her and breathing ragged. There was no way Clive had been able to sleep through that, especially right outside his bedroom, and she scolded herself for not letting him sleep. She would tell him she was fine, when he asked, would tell him she’d just gotten dizzy, and that she’d be up in a minute. But inside, she cursed herself for bringing her here, for endangering him like that.

    In another moment, Fritz scurried towards her, licking at her cheek. “Sorry,” she said to him, scratching him under the chin. “In my purse, Fritz, can you…?” For once obedient, Fritz did as he was told, bringing the bottle of pills she had trained him to retreat. She couldn’t remember how long it had been since her last dose—hours? Minutes?—so she took another, hoping they would clear her mind. She didn’t know Clive’s plans for the day, but it was getting late, and they’d be needed down at the police department, surely, but they could wait a little longer, wait until they’d had breakfast, until they readied themselves as well as they could.
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  9. #139
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    Moments after Yulia's fall, Clive emerged from his bedroom. He shot a sideways glance out into the living room, before looking back down the hallway. "Yulia?" he asked with a puzzled expression. "Are you alright?" He could not help but glance around the apartment a second time, stepping into the hallway as he glanced around. Despite Yulia's insistence that she was fine, he brought her a glass of water from the kitchen, and knelt down to hand it to her. His expression was neutral, passive, as he looked her over after giving her the water.

    He exhaled heavily through his nose, turning his head to glance back towards the hallway. "You know... You already told me about your... curse, and everything. You don't have to put up a brave face if you don't feel like it." He thought back about the "brain thing", Yulia's curse... the file he started for her. "Anyway." He stood. "We have work to do." He offered his hand to help Yulia up, before disappearing back into his room.

    Once fully dressed and prepared for the day, Clive had stopped inside of his apartment's small kitchen. He paused for a moment as reached for the white, paper packet full of hot chocolate mix. Right, she already knows, he thought as he snatched up the packet and emptied it into a paper coffee cup. "If you're hungry or something, feel free," he called to Yulia while he poured hot water from an electric kettle into his cup. "I'm uh, out of coffee, though. And there's not much food, I tried to make sure there wasn't much that could go bad while we were gone. Most of the grocery stores were closed yesterday, can you imagine?"

    Although Clive had left the chief a few messages to excuse the pair's absenteeism for the day, the time came that the pair were ready to move along. The detective yawned loudly as he locked the apartment door behind them. "You sure your Glameow will be alright?" he asked Yulia. "Not many choices of furniture to scratch up in there." They would have to stop at the apartment again later, he thought, for Yulia to pick up Fritz before heading home. He wondered if Yulia would linger in the apartment when they did, if she would want to stay... Don't think like that, idiot, he thought to himself. Why would it matter, anyway?

    He lead the way down the usual, short path between the apartment and the GRPD. It took no time to reach the station, and Clive paused at the base of the steps leading to the front door. It was going to be a long day. He watched Yulia on her way through the door. It'll be fine, he reassured himself, before following suit.



    "That is just absurd."

    Natasha's voice was controlled, but stern and insistent. Clive wanted to wince each time she spoke. Daggers were interlaced with the woman's strong voice, penetrating coldly with each word she directed towards those who would hear. Clive watched tiredly, sitting still in his chair in front of the chief's desk, immediately next to the one Natasha sat on.

    "That childish outburst made it plain as day. He's a liability if he stays on this case. People will get hurt."

    "Nat-"

    "It's not just about you, Clive," Natasha interrupted. She turned her head abruptly towards him, causing some of her straight, green hair to shift in front of one of her dark, puffy eyes. "You are going to get yourself hurt, you might get Yulia hurt, and who knows what other casualties Avarice might cause because of you. We both know you're not normally like that. The stress of the case is getting to you, and you need to let someone else take the wheel."

    Clive tilted his head back, eying Natasha nastily. Where his face once held a tired expression, it now held a sinister, vicious, almost vile facade. "Oh is it, now?" he hissed. "I'm the one who's pressed about the case, am I? Me, who has only been working the case for months, who's been electrocuted, stalked, and dragged around like a puppet. But not you Nat, you only started freaking out when your partner was hurt doing his job. Jean was a damn hero, and I did the best I can to make sure his effort and sacrifice was not for nothing. What have you been doing in the meantime?"

    "Enough of this," the chief announced, pounding his fist onto the solid, wooden desk. "I decided Clive is staying on the case. That is my call -- don't you say another damn word -- that is my call, and I will not tolerate this insubordination, got it? Now get back to work, we're just fucking around in here while there's criminals to catch.

    After leaving the chief's office, Clive paused in front of the door for a long moment. He turned an apologetic gaze in Natasha's direction, be she had already turned and begun her march down the hall. Her black suit hugged tightly against her figure, and Clive noticed her gloved hands clenched even more tightly as they swung on either side of her. He exhaled heavily through his nose as he turned to begin his own march in the opposite direction. The chief was right, there was work to do.

  10. #140
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    You don't have to put up a brave face if you don't feel like it. Yulia knew Clive was trying to be nice, trying to relieve the blushes of embarrassment blossoming across her cheeks, but still, his words gave her pause. They comforted her, if slightly. She didn’t have to hide this from him—but didn’t she? There were too many details still that Clive did not know about her curse, too many things that would ruin their case if she told him. Clive had meant well, but Yulia wished she could trust in his words, that she could really trust him to the pain she felt. All she wanted more than anything was for her secret to no longer be hers.

    After ensuring she was okay, Clive had started off. Yulia cautiously sipped at the glass of water he’d brought her, then nodded to herself, dismissing her previous thoughts. She got up on shaky legs and met him in the kitchen, where she watched him reach for a hot chocolate packet. It wasn’t much of a breakfast, and she frowned thinking he’d be running on nothing else, but she had no place to judge; most of her breakfasts consisted of worse. She joined him with her own borrowed mug of hot chocolate, and as they sat together, sharing their tiny breakfast, Yulia’s thoughts returned to routine, returned to work, and all the things they needed to do. She thought to the chaos of yesterday. Even if she knew they wouldn’t be expected down at the station today, Yulia wanted—needed—to be there.

    And Clive felt the same way. Yulia was grateful Clive suggested driving to the station, and Yulia all too enthusiastically nodded her agreement. She prepped her bags and set them by the door to retrieve later. Before she left, she gave Fritts a kiss on his head. The Glameow only hissed in response before trotting away. Yulia cast a last glance around the apartment. Would she be back here? Not just to pick up her pet and her things—would she come back to… hang out? Not out of necessity, but to visit her friend and trusted partner? She shook the thought. Calling to Fritts to be good, she turned to leave. Yulia didn’t know what would be awaiting them at work, and as much as she wanted to return to her duties, she did not want to find out.

    She hadn’t expected to find Natasha, red-faced and eyes like daggers, arguing with the chief. The woman was enraged, and Yulia had never seen her quite like this. Jean. Yulia couldn’t imagine what the elder woman had been feeling while waiting for news of her partner, and now that he would be okay, she must have needed an outlet for all the anger she hadn’t let herself feel before. Clive was an easy target to direct it at after the press conference, but even still, Natasha was going too far.

    But her concerns were not unfounded. The chief was adamant, but Natasha’s concern for everyone’s safety was apparent. Maybe she was right. Maybe Clive had been too involved in the case, and maybe he would end up overworking himself to madness. What kind of partner was Yulia to stand by while that happened and do nothing? But she had to stop Avarice, for herself more than anyone else, and she couldn’t do it alone—she couldn’t do it without Clive. She was selfish to let him keep working, to not intervene, but no matter how much she wanted to dissolve this fight, Yulia kept quiet, useless.

    As Natasha stormed off, silenced by the chief, Yulia cursed herself with regrets of all the things she did not say. She turned to Clive, wanting to reach out to him or even hold him, but he didn’t need the comfort, and she didn’t want to offend him. The man had always been fine on his own. She thought back to when they’d first met, how hard it had been for him to adapt to having a partner. How stoic he had been. How strong. And now… Yulia tried not to settle on Natasha’s accusations. If nothing else, Clive’s rashness was incentive to bring Avarice down before it was too late, before Clive worked himself insane. Yesterday’s chaos had been a setback—a lot had gone wrong—but they had gotten new details, more to go off of, and Yulia believed they would catch Avarice. Together.

    For all the fanfare it had started with, the day continued without event. Yulia spent most of it at her computer typing away, only taking an odd cigarette break. She didn’t see Natasha again, and she hoped in vain that the woman had gone home early for much-needed rest. She also didn’t see much of her partner, in part because she was so focused on her work, but she wondered about him throughout the day, and about Natasha’s warnings. The more she thought about the threat he was to himself, the more her hands shook, and she wondered if perhaps he wasn’t the only one too stressed to work efficiently on this case.

    At the end of the day, Yulia and Clive started back for his apartment mindlessly discussing the monotony of their work. Yulia didn’t ask after Natasha, didn’t even bring up that morning in their conversation. It wasn’t a conversation she knew how to navigate quite yet, and she hoped Clive wouldn’t bring it up either. Back at his apartment, Yulia found Fritts napping on top of her duffel bag which was already covered with his fur. If she had to guess, he likely hadn’t moved from that spot since they’d left. Yulia brought her bags to her car, but before she picked up her Glameow, she looked around the room. She hesitated, not quite ready to go home alone. “Hey, Clive,” she said softly. “Let me treat you to pizza?” She was already pulling her phone from her pocket and looking up the number of the nearest pizza parlor. “As thanks,” she added, “for letting me stay here last night.” It was just an excuse, but it provided her a reason to stay here—and an easy out if that was not what Clive wanted. Besides, she told herself, after the stress of the day and the tiny meals they’d had thus far, they could both use some empty calories.
    Thanks to Craze for the beautiful Bravely set!

    ~Recruitment Thread~
    Spoiler: Ashen's Personal Hall of Fame 

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