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Where did everyone go QAQ

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Dang, Jasmine! Back at it again with the fanfics! Will I ever stop?
(..Not as long as inspiration is within me. Writer's block is the worst.)
Okayyy, a little bit of back story for this one. So, we all know that Apollo was torn up emotionally over Clay's death, right? But we don't really get to see it, ya know? There is that one scene where he screams "IT'S NOT FAIR" and you can tell he's withdrawn, but then he sort of just..gets over it, it seems? I wanted to write something where he's visibly struggling to move on but refusing to talk to anyone until an unexpected source intervenes. I don't wanna spoil too much, so let's get right into it. I call this one "A Ghost of a Chance".

Though he would not admit it, Apollo was hurting. And why wouldn't he be? He'd just lost his best friend from middle school, someone he'd known for well over a decade. And he didn't even get to say goodbye... Apollo was hurting badly, very badly. And it showed. He was a naturally quiet young man outside of court, but now it seemed he became the personification of silence. The unabashed, bright smiles Apollo usually wore disappeared, replaced by blank faces and lips pressed into a thin, serious line. Of course, the other members of the agency tried to comfort him as best they could- pats on the back, sympathetic glances, warm smiles, gentle hugs. Apollo accepted the affection without complaint, but remained as aloof as ever. Nothing seemed to be able to lift him from his despair. And the worst part? Apollo vehemently denied the pain. "I'm fine," the 23 year old would say time and time again. And he utterly refused to talk about Clay's death. Athena had learned that the hard way.

"Do you want to.. talk about it?"
"No. I'm fine." He'd begun to walk away again, but she grabbed his wrist, stopping him.
"No you're not. Apollo, please... Talk to me."
Apollo turned back, coffee eyes stunningly cold.
"I have nothing to say."
Athena stared, taken aback. "Apollo, what's come over you?"
He yanked his hand away roughly, startling her. "Nothing. I'm FINE."
Her chest heaved, and she took in a shaky breath.
"Why are you being so stubborn?! I just want to help you-"
"I don't NEED your help," Apollo snapped, eyes blazing. "I SAID I'm FINE. I'M FINE, OKAY?!"
With that he quickly exited the office, running his fingers through his dark hair, and the door slammed soon afterwards. Athena just stood there, tears beginning to leak out of her ocean eyes. "Oh Apollo..."
Trucy was suddenly there, arms tightly around the redhead's waist. "It's okay, Athena..."
"Why is he shutting me out, Trucy?" the 18 year old sobbed. "I just..I just wanted... "
" Polly is hurting real bad," the young magician whispered, laying her dark head onto Athena's full chest. "He'll come around eventually, he just... needs some time."
She hoped she sounded more optimistic than she felt.

Apollo knew he should reach out and get help from someone. But, he didn't really know how..all his life, whenever the claws of pain and grief reached for him, he just sort of dealt with it, alone. No, it wasn't the best way, but that's how it had always been, and he had accepted it, becoming afraid of being vulnerable, of being transparent. And so, he swallowed his grief and put on a smile.
"I'm fine."
But he wasn't.
And it showed in the way he poured himself into his work, the way his eyes lost their sparkle, the way he began to get snappy, even with Trucy.
What is wrong with me?
He was ashamed of himself, and withdrew still further away as a result.
I don't want to hurt anyone...
And so the cycle continued, and Apollo became more and more miserable. Who knows how long it may have gone on, had a certain someone not intervened...

The 23 year old is sleeping in the guest room Phoenix has in the office. He spends so much time here, sometimes he'll spend the night instead of going home. Everyone is slumbering now, and Apollo is alone, for the first time in a long time. Here in the night hours his thoughts which he had suppressed finally began to sneak in.
Why did he have to die? Why does this keep happening to me?
He tosses and turns, eventually picking up Clay's navy jacket and wrapping it around himself. Minutes pass, and he falls into a depressed slumber.
Some hours later, Apollo awakes. He has no idea why. He's not hungry, he doesn't feel sick or need to use the restroom... And then, Apollo gets this...feeling.

Something is about to happen, he realizes.
Suddenly, it's cold. The 23 year old trembles with a tiny sort of whimper, pulling Clay's jacket tighter to himself. Did someone turn down the air...? Swinging his legs over the bed, Apollo gets up to check the thermostat, but he can't shake the feeling that someone is watching him, and he's suddenly too frightened to move. "Hello? Is anyone there..?"
That's when it happens. A strong, chilly wind begins to blow, and Apollo gasps, hiding his face with upraised arms. It whips his messy hair and snatches his breath away, and he shivers. But this is no ordinary wind. It carries some sort of presence, a realness, it's... alive? Or rather, there's something alive in it...
Someone is here. That enough stuns him, and he ventures to speak. "Wh-who are you?" he asks, voice trembling and breathless. "What do you want with me??"
"Apollo!" the presence shouts, and the defense attorney looks up with a startled cry.
It knows me!
"Why are you ignoring me?!"
Apollo's eyes widen. "What? I'm not ignoring you! It's hard to ignore a presence that makes a storm in your room, you know! And I don't even know who you are!!"
"That's where you're wrong," the voice continues, softening. It sounds...familiar, and Apollo scarcely dares to hope.

"..Clay?" His voice is wobbly.
"Face the truth, AJ. You miss me terribly, and yet you're refusing to voice it. You say you're fine."
"YOU WERE ALWAYS A TERRIBLE LIAR, APOLLO!!!" Clay thunders, and the wind gains strength. Gasping, Apollo attempts to hide his face again.
Trembling, the 23 year old slowly uncovers his face, eyes shiny with unshed tears.
What's happening? This has to be a dream.
"Why are you doing this?" Apollo whispers, eyebrows raising in fear and confusion. He's never seen Clay so passioned before.
"I've been watching you. Your friends tried to help you in the quiet, conventional manner, but you turned a deaf ear, so now I gotta yell at you."
"DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW?!" Books fell off their shelves with dull thuds.
Apollo flinched, nodding. "Good!" the ghost thundered, eyes flashing. "Gosh, you're so stubborn, Apollo.. But now that you're listening, I guess I can tone it down a little." The wind dies away, and a ghostly Clay appears. Apollo's eyes grow to the size of tennis balls, and he stumbles back. "You have to let them help you Apollo," the phantom is saying now. "This pain is eating you up."
"It's not that easy, Clay," he whispers back, chest heaving. "You of all people should know that." Clay draws nearer, leaning his head on his best friend's shoulder. "Did I say it was gonna be easy? No, I didn't." Apollo glares at Clay, emotions scrambling all over the place.
"You blame yourself, don't you? I'll bet you are. Thinking you couldn't save me and things along those lines. Am I right?"
"How could I not?! I found your killer, but that's not going to bring you back!! Justice wasn't enough! I...I wasn't enou-"

"STOP!!" Clay roars, that freezing wind blasting again with a vengeance. Apollo covers his face once more, fighting tears. Clay's voice is choked now, and somehow his eyes are misty. "Don't ever say that again, do you hear me?! You ARE enough, Apollo! You did what you could, didn't you?! Heck, you were willing to accuse Athena of murder to find the truth, to get to the bottom of everything. Not everyone has the strength to do that you know." The human is shaking now, and he ventures to peek again. "Don't you EVER say you aren't enough," Clay repeats, his eyes hard and pained. "Stop beating yourself up, and STOP trying to bear this burden alone, Apollo. Your friends love you and they wanna be there for you. Why can't you accept that?" Silence.
"Is it because this is how it's always been? You just..suffer in silence???"
"I'm not suffering," Apollo whispers. "I'm f-fine-"
"THAT'S A LIE!!!!!" The raven haired male shrieks, gusts of winds whipping through the entire room. It's so strong Apollo is driven to his knees, and he cries out.
"THAT'S A LIE, AND YOU KNOW IT! YOU KNOW IT!!!!!" Suddenly hands are touching his shoulders and shaking him vigorously. "Stop lying to yourself, Apollo! Stop it!!!" The chestnut haired male stiffens at the fire in his best friend's eyes, and it's hard to breathe.
"But I'm fine-"
"You're NOT!!!!!!!!" Apollo yelps at the ghost's holler, and Clay's chest heaves. "You're not." Then he hugs his friend in despair. "Just... stop." Without thinking, Apollo tries to hug back, but he can't. His hands go right through Clay, and that's when it really hits home. Apollo stares at Clay for about 5 seconds, and then his face contorts with grief. "I..I can't touch you anymore..'re gone...."
And then the dam bursts, and Apollo cries. It's not the quiet little sobs that manage their way out every now and then. These are deep, gut wrenching wails. He hasn't cried this hard since he was a child, and once he's started, he can't stop. It's like he's sprung a leak. And Clay's arms are around him now, voice tender and soothing. "You know, Apollo, the first step to getting fixed is admitting that you are broken."
There is a very long silence, and then the spiky haired boy speaks. "Clay?"
Apollo swallows hard. "I..I'm not.. I'm not fine." It hurts to say it, but it's the truth, and he needs to face it head on. Clay nods in understanding. There's no degrading pity, no fear of comforting. He's brutal, he's raw, he's caring.
"I don't know what to do," Apollo continues softly, pulling his knees up to his chest. Clay smiles again, shaking his head. "Yes you do. You just don't want to. There's nothing to be afraid of, Apollo. Like I said..your friends just want to help you, but you have to let them." Apollo nods, slowly. "I understand."
The raven haired ghost leans on his shoulder, and there is peaceful silence. Suddenly, the door cracks open, and Trucy is there, hair loose and in a sky blue tank top with royal blue shorts. "Polly? Who are you talking to?" Apollo jumps a bit at the intrusion but then turns to the side to motion to Clay. "It was-"
Clay is gone, and the only movement is the curtains gently blowing in the wind.
Was I...?
"...No one. I just had a bad dream. Everything is fine Trucy, go back to sleep."

As the days pass and Clay does not return, Apollo becomes convinced he was dreaming the whole thing. It certainly made sense. He's grieving, and his brain is making things up to cope with the pain. But somewhere in his mind, he's not so sure. Was it really just a dream? Apollo becomes much less snappy, but his eyes are troubled, wandering, questioning. Phoenix notices that the younger man often looks at him as if to say something, but decides against it at the last second. When he's confronted about it, Apollo immediately clams up.
You need to stop trying to carry this burden alone.
Later on that day, they're cleaning the office, and the windows are open. A breeze suddenly rushes through, whipping everyone's hair. Athena, Phoenix, and Trucy laugh, but Apollo's face is as pale as the moon.
The wind is COLD.
Clay is here.
I wasn't dreaming.
Then as suddenly as it comes, it's gone (the presence, not the wind) and he trembles slightly.
Clay was here.
"Apollo?" Athena asks in concern. "Are you alright? You look pale..." She comes closer, eyebrows raising all the way up to her hairline.
It came and went so fast..perhaps I just imagined it?
"I'm alright Athena," he hears himself saying. "I thought I heard someone calling me, but I was mistaken." He receives worried looks, but no one presses further, to his relief.

That night, he awakens at an odd hour, and this time he sits up in anticipation. Sure enough, the wind comes again, but it's much gentler this time, and warmer. Clay materializes in front of him, grinning. "Boo." Apollo throws his hands up in mock terror. "Ahhhh."
They talk for a very long time about everything and nothing, and when it's time for Clay to go, Apollo is misty eyed. "I miss you, Clay." The ghost quirks a brow. "What do you mean?" he teased, winking. "I'm right here." Apollo shakes his head. "No, no. I mean..I miss having you here..alive... you should be up in space right now, among the stars. became one instead. It's.. it's not fair, and I miss you." He bows his head and pull his knees up to his chin, sniffing. "Remember what I said," Clay finally replies quietly. "You don't have to suffer alone. I miss you too Apollo, in a strange kind of way. Things won't be the same anymore, but it doesn't have to hold you back. You can move on, without me. Not saying I won't come visit," he says quickly to Apollo's grief stricken face. "But you can't keep living in the past, Apollo. It's holding you back. You need to learn to let me go." Apollo's cheeks are wet now, and he's shaking. "Do you understand?" Clay whispers. The spiky haired young man just nods, wiping his dark eyes. "I'm going to go now, but don't worry. I'll come back." He hugs Apollo tightly, who has begun to quietly sob. "Goodbye, Apollo."
"...Goodbye, Clay." The apparition fades away slowly, and a gentle breeze begins blowing through the room, disturbing Apollo's hair a little. He sits in silence a little longer, then gets up and quietly opens his door, feeling thirsty. As he closes it as quietly as possible, he hears it- a choked sob.
Someone's crying!
Freezing up, Apollo strains his ears to listen. That's definitely not Trucy, he's heard her before. Who IS that? Suddenly he sees a shadow turn, and Athena's blue eyes drill through him in the darkness, illuminated by Widget's interface (which is dark blue at the moment). Her cheeks are as rosy as her hair, which is currently free of a holder. Athena freezes as well, probably not expecting to get caught.
She's crying...
Apollo has never seen Athena cry before, not like this. She's always so happy, so enthusiastic...
Why is she crying?
And then it hits him. Athena can hear other people's hearts. She must've picked up the sorrow in his weeks ago, and attempted to comfort, lift the burden. And all he had done was shut her out and shut her down. That same crippling shame he felt after accusing Athena of murder grips him, and the tears flood his eyes again.
She's crying for me.
Athena slowly stands, and there is silence. Then, all of a sudden, she speaks. "Apollo? Are you okay?" He wants to say "I'm fine", he really does. But somehow he can't.
It's okay to not be fine. Let them help you.
He can only shake his head weakly. No, he's not fine.
Athena hesitates only a moment before raising her hands up in a hugging gesture. She says nothing, but the message is clear-
Please, let me put my arms around you, let me hold you...
For a long time, no one moves, and it seems as if Apollo is passively refusing the hug. But then, in one swift movement, he's racing across the room and virtually crushing Athena in a hug, choking.

(Note: as of now, this story is not done. I am merely m
uploading to save my progress. However, I do hope you enjoy what's done so far!)

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Tfw your best friend is on trial but then makes you scoot over so she can question one of the witnesses-
(Apollo is so done with Athena's shenanigans.)

Uh oh. Guess what time it is? Guess. What. Time. It. Is?
STORY TIME- This is a sequel to my Justicykes story "Dance With Me," and has thus been titled "Encore."

In the early morning hours Apollo awoke, and practiced his voice routine as usual. As he prepared for the day's events, he couldn't help but think about the dance he'd attended last night, and his moonlit kiss with Athena. A light blush dusted his cheeks, and Apollo smiled to himself. It had been wonderful. But- (his smile faded back to a poker face) was it true attraction? It had been a spur of the moment act, and they'd both been high on adrenaline. Athena had been dolled up and decked out, it was easy to find her attractive then. But now, in the mundane environment of the workplace...would it be the same? Had he just been blinded by feelings? He had to know. He had to find the truth.

When he arrived at Wright Anything Agency, Trucy was already there, smirking. Apollo could feel sweat beginning to form on his brow. That was the face Trucy wore when she'd thought up a new trick she wanted him to test, or when she found out something juicy. "What?" he asked, raising a brow. His half sister leaned forward, eyes half lidded. "I saw that." Now Apollo was confused. "Saw WHAT?!" Trucy giggled, bouncing up and down on her twinkle toes. "You know what, Polly! You and Athena were smooching it up under the moon last night!!" The male's face turned redder than his vest, and he squeaked in alarm. "Wha- you SAW?!?! I THOUGHT YOU WENT TO BED!!"
"Nope~!" Trucy drawled, giggling. "I saw it all!" She then began to sing, swaying her hips back and forth.
🎶Polly and Athena sittin' in a tree-🎶
"Don't you DARE," Apollo thundered, cutting her off. "It's- it's not LIKE THAT, Trucy!" She put her hands on her hips, frowning up. "You can't fool me! I saw how you two looked at each other!!" The 24 year old groaned, putting his face in his hands. "Oi vey... I'm gonna go get to work." Trucy giggled sweetly. "Okay, Polly! Try not to think too much about your girlfriend ~!" Apollo stiffened, face exploding. "She's not my girlfriend," he muttered, stalking past the door. It suddenly opened, and he jumped about a foot in the air, squawking. Speak of the devil, it was Athena. "Morning, Apollo!" she chirped, face rosy. "Good to see ya!" Trucy waved happily in greeting, then spoke. "Oh, Athena! I just wanted you to know you have my permission to date Polly." Both young adults blushed profusely, and Athena began to stammer. "A-Ah...thanks?" She gave Apollo a look.
What the heck is she goin' on about?
He just shook his head, too embarrassed to explain.

As the day went on, Apollo watched Athena on the down low. She was the same as ever.
And yet, she wasn't. Last night had changed that, shown him a different side of her. He could feel his heart beat accelerate, and tried to suppress his emotion. After all, Athena could her his heart, right? Apollo didn't wear his emotions on his sleeve, and he definitely didn't like showing the ones he deemed private. Athena passed by, and he ducked his head, cheeks hot.
What have you DONE to me?!

Eventually lunchtime rolled around, and Phoenix and Trucy left to go get lunch, whatever that might be. (Apollo wasn't sure, but he thought her overheard Phoenix say something about "burgers" and "Maya".) After some time of silence, Athena looked over to Apollo. He seemed so nervous and stiff, probably thinking about last night. Standing, she practically marched over to him, beaming. Time to loosen him up.
"Apollo." His head jolted upwards in surprise, mouth slightly open. "Hm?" She extended her hand excitedly. "Dance with me."
"What? We don't have any music or anything-"
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong," she giggled, pulling out her phone. Hooking it up to the speakers, she searched through her songs. "Ahh, let's see...somethin' slow..."

(All About Us by He is We began to play.)

Take my hand...
Athena gracefully offered her gloved hand to Apollo, and he shyly took it, letting her pull him out of his chair.
I'll teach you to dance..
Together the friends moved to the center of the room, she putting her hands comfortably on his shoulders and he on her back.
I'll spin you around..
Won't let you fall down
Would you let me lead?
*You can step on my feet...
Give it a try
It'll be alright!
Athena gave Apollo a reassuring smile, and he returned a shy one back.
The room's hush hush and now's our moment
Take it in
Feel it and hold it...
Eyes on you
Eyes on me
We're doin' this right
Nothing fancy here. The two simply moved back and for, basically hugging. Athena buried her face into Apollo's chest, and he lowered his head into her hair. It was..nice.
'Cause lovers dance when they're feeling in love
Spotlight's shining it's all about us
It's all..
About us...
And every heart in the room will melt
This is a feeling I've never felt but
It's all..about us.
The second verse began, the guy taking the lead vocals.
I'm feelin' brave..
I don't know what's got into me..
Why I feel this way...
Apollo dipped Athena down slightly, and she giggled.
Can we dance..real slow?
Can I hold you?
Can I hold you close?
The chorus repeated, and the youths began to dance a little faster, getting comfortable. Apollo boldly twirled Athena around, her hair practically whipping his face. But he didn't mind. This was fun.
Do you hear that love?
They're playing our song...
Do you think we're ready?
Oh I'm really feeling it..
Do you hear that love?
Do you hear that love?
She was his best friend, his sister, his sunshine.
He was her stability, voice of reason, a stronghold.
But something had kindled the previous night, and they'd moved past the friendship stage now. More than friends, less than romantic partners. Just what were they? For now, they'd let time decide. As Apollo looked into Athena's eyes, he felt the same emotion he'd felt when the spotlight illuminated her youthful face, when she'd worn that amazing dress, when she moved with a grace he didn't know she had.
This was real. He just knew it. It had to be. He pulled her close to him as the chorus repeated once more.
I love you, Athena.
And as the song ended, Widget lit up, but his interface was one Apollo had never seen. It was light pink with happy closed eyes and a tiny blush. A little smile was there, too.
The two stared in amazement.
" that?" Apollo whispered, first to regain his voice. "I've never seen that one before." Athena slowly looked up, cheeks flushed to match.
"...I think it's love."

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"Wha-! Trucy, slow down!"
These two are the cutest siblings ever, I swear.

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Ugly sobbing
That's fine. Stomp on my heart, why don't ya?

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TFW you're literally dying but you're trying to be optimistic about it-
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