perverbially: (Default)
perverbially ([personal profile] perverbially) wrote on July 22nd, 2010 at 12:54 am
(FIC: ADRIAN/FRANZISKA) If Love is Surrender - Chapter 7
Title: If Love is Surrender
Fandom: Ace Attorney
Spoilers: Major JfA spoilers
Pairing(s): Adrian Andrews/Franziska von Karma
Genre: Drama/Action
Summary: Adrian Andrews saves herself.
Warnings/Rating: [Click for boilerplate warnings list]. This chapter in particular has some strong suicide triggers.
Notes: Thanks for sticking with it, guys. This chapter was simultaneously incredibly satisfying and incredibly difficult to write, but I've been looking forward to it for so long, I just... well, I really hope you'll understand why <3 Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] prunesquallormd for keeping my shit in check.
Disclaimer: S'cool, Capcom. I'm just borrowing, I promise.
Previous Chapters: [CHAPTERS 1&2] [CHAPTER 3] [CHAPTER 4] [CHAPTER 5] [CHAPTER 6]


CHAPTER SEVEN: "FALLING FOR THIS"


When Adrian wakes, it is to the familiar silhouette of someone she hasn't seen in years shimmering before her eyes. She reaches a hand out to them; it falls uselessly through the air, landing with a clatter in, of all things, a cup of water. Someone swears.

"Hey, be careful, yeah?"

She blinks, and a swell of pain rushes to her head, her vision fading in and out in waves. Her face feels awkward, somehow - she reaches a damp hand up to it, realising quickly that the cause of the distortion is the twisted frame of her glasses; they are set slightly off centre, but fortunately the vital parts are still intact. Thanking God silently for her foresight in finally giving in to the call of polycarbonate lenses, she adjusts them as best she can, before trying to get her bearings.

On the nightstand before her rests a framed photograph of Celeste and Matt, the same one she remembers as being taped to Celeste's noticeboard at some point. They are glowing, both of them - Matt's arm is curled possessively around Celeste's waist, and she is leaning into the contact eagerly, smiling softly at some long-forgotten joke. Beside the dust-laden frame is the dirty lid of some kind of thermos, filled to the brim with water. Her throat aches with dehydration just looking at it.

"I got you a drink," Matt says needlessly. She looks at him in confusion; he is sitting in a chair by the dresser, watching her with shadowed eyes.

She swallows, her voice cracking as she speaks. "Why...?"

"Because I was trying to be nice, god," he snaps abruptly, running an exasperated hand through his slicked back hair. "I didn't mean to knock you out, to be honest. Kind of put a stall on our little talk, didn't it?"

Adrian doesn't answer, swinging her legs off the bed and clasping the cup between her hands. She takes a long swallow of tepid, stale water, but immediately feels a little better.

"You still want to talk?" she says slowly, licking her dry lips. "I got the impression you'd become bored of me."

"Yeah, well, you didn't have to fuck around like that, did you?" he grumbles. "Jesus, and here I thought we were getting somewhere. Luckily, I've had some thinking time, what with you going all Sleeping Beauty on me."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

She leans into the headboard, taking another grateful drink from the tumbler as she waits for him to elaborate. He seems nervous, keyed up, somehow - he taps out a rhythm on the chair arm, a tune she vaguely recognises from somewhere. His hard eyes are fixed on hers, appraising her expression coolly.

"I think it's time to be straight with you, Adrian. I didn't just want to talk to you out here, you must know that."

She's surprised by how frightened those words still make her, even through her resigned, soul-deep exhaustion. Her hands slip on the cup, and it almost plunges to the floor before she regains her control. She takes another sip, stalling the seemingly inevitable.

"Yes, I thought as much."

Matt raises an eyebrow, amusement alighting on his features. "You're always thinking, aren't you, Adrian? Don't worry - I've seen to that for you."

The tumbler slips again. It clatters against the floorboards this time, the remaining liquid pooling idly around her bare feet (and just when did she take her shoes off? Oh god, he must have done it for her, oh god...) She looks down into the puddle, suddenly seeing it for the first time.

"What have you done to me - ?"

He chuckles darkly, any kindness or concern draining easily from his eyes as he looks into her panicked face.

"Matt, what was in that water?"

"A little of this, a little of that," he says finally, his grin twisting cruelly. "You know how Celeste suffered with her nerves, babe - she had all kinds of goodies in that medicine cabinet of hers."

"You - you've poisoned me...?!" Adrian's voice comes out a disbelieving whisper, her throat constricting painfully with panic.

"Calm down, will you? It's nothing fatal, not yet anyway," he snorts, rolling his eyes. "It's just to chill you out a bit, okay? We've got work to do before the endgame, after all."

"Do you even know what you've done?" Even now, she can feel a thick, clinging drowsiness descending upon her, and she clenches her shaking hands into fists, fighting for control. "Whatever you've given me, if they react badly in combination - you could kill me!"

"I didn't give you enough to kill you," he snaps dismissively, face colouring with annoyance. "Because I don't plan to kill you at all, okay? You're getting that particular honour, babe."

Adrian's stomach turns over.

"What?"

Matt sighs heavily, impatiently, reaching behind him on the dresser. A swooping, cold rush of horror almost knocks her sideways when she sees what he's holding, her rapidly clouding vision picking out the loop of a noose. No, no, no...

"You're going to finish what you started, Adrian," he informs her coldly, twisting the makeshift noose carelessly between his fingers. "You know what I hate most? A loose end. And you and me - we're loose ends, dude. We're going to fix that, right here, right now."

"I won't do it," Adrian says, fear reducing her voice to a mechanical, stilted monotone. The world begins to slide away from her, like trying to hold water in her hands. She clings to the edges of reality precariously, fighting tooth and nail to retain her failing sense of self-preservation.

"You forget," Matt grins. "I'm the one with the gun here. But hey, cheer up, huh? I'm getting ahead of myself, because we've got some things to attend to first. Well, you have, at least."

"Such as?" she chokes.

"Your confession, Ms. Andrews," he says, standing up with a flourish. He pushes her back on the bed with the pistol, before returning to the dresser: a pen and several sheets of writing paper land in her lap.

"You're going to confess to everything - starting with your involvement in Juan Corrida's murder."

"I've already - "

"Not that bit, dude," he chides, with a wink. "We're already heard your pathetic little confession in court - what I want is the full, dirty story. How you became my manager as ammo for your own personal vendetta; how you fucked your dead girlfriend's fiance for a note that didn't even exist; and, most importantly, how you manipulated and cheated an entire court into believing I killed Juan."

In spite of her panic, she can't help the disbelieving tone her voice takes on. "That's just... absurd. They won't believe it - after all the things you've done - "

"The courts, maybe," he shrugs. "But the public - who are they going to believe, huh? Matt Engarde, or the no-name whore who framed him? You should know by now, Adrian - that's all I really care about. If we're going down, I want my 'refreshing like a spring breeze' reputation at least partially restored in the process. Think of it as your last act as my manager, if that helps."

"They'll know I wrote it under duress. Every word will be meaningless."

"So I guess you'd better put your heart into it then, huh?" he jabs her in the ribs with the pistol, and as she starts to write she realises numbly that she is stuck between a death at his hands, or a death at her own. Experience reliably informs her that hanging is a far more painful method, even when done right - which she highly doubts it will be, judging by the way the pen shakes between her fingers. On the other hand, she's well aware that he will force her if necessary, such is his desire to avoid committing murder with his own two hands. She knows he's perfectly capable of making things so much worse for her if she resists...

She battles the urge to let go of herself with every passing moment, clinging to the present even when she can no longer see the point. He dictates what she should write, instructing her to modify her phrasing where necessary, all the while looking over her shoulder with the gun buried painfully in her side.

"Right, I think that covers that. Now, for the other bit: your part in Celeste's suicide."

"I didn't have a part - "

"Change the record, will you?" he grunts, wiping his forehead on his sleeve. "We've all heard your butter-wouldn't-melt martyr act before, and it's getting tired. Besides, this one's a much easier job - all you need to do is confess to your affair with her, and admit that it was most likely a contributing factor in her suicide. After all, it turns out she didn't leave a note, right?"

"You're horrible," she says quietly, unable to help herself. "This means nothing to you, does it? She was a real person, in case you've forgotten, not some kind of toy in your little game."

The gun jerks; his hand grasps the hair at the back of her head, pulling her face to his. "God, you're so naive. Get this into your head, Adrian: people are toys. You can't blame me because Celeste - because you - lost the game. That's the way it goes. Some people win; some people lose. Celeste lost. You lost."

"Do you really think this is winning?" she gasps, breathless with pain.

Matt stares into her face for a long, uncomfortable moment, his expression a combination of so many different things she can't even begin to fathom what he's thinking. His hand is shaking, tangled viciously in her hair; she feels a few strands give way under the pressure, before he abruptly releases her.

"It's not how I pictured it, no," he concedes, and even while she's choking back a much-needed breath, she sees something twist behind his eyes - almost like genuine, human regret. "But you know me, dude. I know how to make the best of a bad hand, and right now that's exactly what we're going to do."

"How exactly - " Adrian begins, stalling when she hears the beginnings of a slur creeping into her voice - she allows herself a tiny, hoarse cough before trying again. "What I mean is - how is this going to restore your reputation? It's still a terrible scandal."

"Yeah, well, there's not much I can do about that, I admit," Matt says, waving a hand, his tone jarringly light once again. "But I'll take what I can get, you know? As soon as this story breaks, all the fans who never believed I would do such a thing will come crawling back. It's planting the seed of doubt, right? You just gotta give the public that, and they'll do the rest."

"But there'll be an investigation. They'll question you - Franziska will, she'll know you're lying - and the truth will come out eventually, no matter how you try to hide it. All of this will have been pointless."

"You can't question a dead man, dude," he says, laughing coarsely. "I think you're misunderstanding me, Adrian. The only thing I want right now is my reputation back, in whatever form. Apart from that, though...? I'm well aware I'm a dead man walking. I just want the big finish to be on my terms."

The room is starting to shrink around her, any useful, coherent thought - any inkling of an escape plan, no matter how ludicrous or unlikely - sinking impotently beneath the blank sickness filling up her insides. He pushes the pen back into her hand, and as she starts to write once more, she realises with a sudden jolt of finality that this is really it.

She doesn't want to die.

"Don't do this," she says, when they've finished the letter. She looks into his face, searching for any sign of a crack in his resolve, any shard of the humanity she saw earlier.

He laughs at her, an empty, hollow sound.

"I'm not going to do anything. You are."

He stands, walking back to the dresser. The noose is a blur of colour in his hands as he backs the chair against a wall, balancing on it precariously whilst he secures the end to a beam. She watches him - useless, pathetic, weak - from the bed, hands cold and limp in her lap. This isn't fair, she thinks numbly, before admonishing herself for the childishness of such a statement; this last display of the futile, ridiculous innocence she has always fought so hard to suppress, simply because it hurts too damn much otherwise. She knows the world isn't fair - it's cold and sharp and hard, and yet, against all logic and reason, all she wants is the chance to live in it again.

"Please," she says, but it is just a fragile whisper against the wave of desperation building inside her.

Matt snorts dismissively, jumping down from the chair with some vestige of athletic ease. He points the pistol at her.

"Sniveling to the very last, huh? Jesus, you really are a pathetic little bitch, aren't you?"

She had thought she was beyond crying, but this last stab at the self-confidence she has worked so hard to build almost shatters her. A tear slides down her nose, and she scrubs it away furiously, hating herself, hating him, but most of all hating that this is what it has come down to: a choice between falling, or being pushed.

"Well, come on, then," he snaps sharply, impatience interrupting his apparent pleasure at watching her crumble. "You know what to do, don't you?"

Adrian doesn't move, limbs locked protectively around herself. She fights the desire to cover her ears with her hands, to just shut his voice out for one moment so she can think.

"There's the hard way, or the harder way, dude," Matt says blithely, and he's mocking her now, slipping seamlessly back into the character he has been assuming on-and-off all night. "Your choice."

When she doesn't answer for the second time, his patience runs out. There is a heart-stalling bang, and it takes her several shaking seconds to realise he hasn't shot her; the photograph frame on the bedside table is shattered into thousands of tiny shards, the bullet that felled it embedded in the cabin wall.

"Don't fuck around with me, Adrian."

He crosses the room to her, grasping her forearm and pulling her bodily upwards. Her knees give out, the floor rising up to meet her - useless - but he jerks her shoulders angrily, righting her and pushing her towards the chair. He only stops manhandling her when she's directly under the noose, grasping the chair's back for support.

"There we go, that wasn't so hard, was it?" he mutters. He runs a hand through his sweaty hair, before giving her a strange, twisted smile. "Now, if you don't mind, I think I'm going to sit down and watch the show. You can take it from here, right, babe?"

She watches him wordlessly as he sits back down on the bed, chin resting on one hand, gun in the other. He gives her a wink.

"It's your time to shine, Adrian. Break a leg, yeah?"

Adrian feels herself shaking her head, an automatic, blind movement of disbelief.

"I won't do it," she whispers again, echoing her own words in a way that makes her question whether she is, in actuality, dreaming.

"You will," Matt says, smiling coldly; he cocks the pistol once again, focusing its aim on her stomach. "Giving up is kind of your forte, after all."

Adrian looks up at the distorted shape of the looped rope above her, not fully seeing it. The dream comes back to her in a sickeningly short flash, not giving her time to even savour it properly - a cruel irony, she thinks, at this last juncture, when she would welcome such a distraction with open arms.

She sees her hand as though it belongs to a stranger, tentatively reaching out to touch the curve of the noose. Her fingers meet cool, braided leather; even under the weight of her panic, a tiny flare of recognition sparks, setting off some kind of familiar, blazing trail of fire within her, the feeling growing and rushing through her veins like a storm.

And then, the revelation comes.

"This is - "

"Yeah," Matt says, sounding ridiculously pleased with himself. "I thought it would add a bit of drama, you know? Do you think she'll like it?"

Adrian can't speak. She's barely even listening to him: all she knows is that she needs to get the whip down somehow, and her brain seems to scream back into life at the suggestion, sorting through any and all the options with an ease she never would have believed she'd be capable of in such a situation. It's like her blood has come back to her, singing with the possibility that if she plays her cards right, she might just get out of this.

"The knot's wrong," she hears herself say, her voice laced with a satisfyingly realistic shake. She prays he will believe it's fear.

"What?" he snaps. Adrian chances a glance at him, watching his mouth twist with irritation. "What do you mean, 'wrong'?"

"I mean," she says, licking her lips as she turns back to the noose, "that the knot you've used won't work for this particular purpose. It won't hold my weight."

"You're kidding," he says, and she hears him lean forward on the bed behind her, the old springs groaning painfully. "You're really light, though, right - ?"

"Which of us has done this before, Matt?" she snaps unsteadily, the adrenaline coursing through her masquerading easily as hysteria. Matt swears loudly.

"Fix it, then, smartass," he retorts petulantly, and as she haltingly steps up onto the chair, untying the whip from the beam with shaking hands, she realises that he actually sounds insulted by her criticism. The urge to laugh is surprisingly difficult to suppress, even in light of her situation.

Once she's on the ground again, back carefully turned on Matt, she sets to work immediately, knowing she has only seconds before he realises what's going on. Even as she's struggling to unravel the knot he has put in the whip's length, she can hear him moving behind her: the sound of his feet connecting with the floorboards fills her ears, apparently coming to check on her progress. Hurry, hurry, hurry! her mind chants desperately, but before she knows it he is at her elbow, craning his neck, his eyes betraying only mild frustration at the delay.

He is so stupid, she thinks, triumphant.

There is no room to aim, she hasn't got the knot out, the whip isn't even unravelled - and so, blindly, she does the next best thing. Her arm rises in an arc, right back over her shoulder, and she jams the butt of the whip straight into his eye.

He screams, a sickening, visceral sound, collapsing backwards onto the bed. Her limbs are moving independently of her brain by this point; there is a sharp crack, and the gun is on the floor, skittering across the wood like an escaping wild animal. She fumbles after it, tripping over her own feet and landing hard on the ground. Her fingers grasp warm, slippery metal just as she hears Matt dragging himself upright, calling her every name under the sun through howls of agony.

"Stay down!" she cries desperately. Unable to stand in time, she twists her grounded body to face him, only to find him throwing himself heavily across the bed towards her. A split second is all that's between them - he could easily overpower her, she knows that well enough - but at the last moment, the whip in her right hand seems to act of its own accord. Her muscles flaring wildly, she hears Franziska - "... you must treat it as an extension of your arm..." - before the popper hits its target, right into Matt's bloodshot eyes.

She barely registers the wails that follow; back on her bare feet, clutching the whip and gun like trophies, her body seems to reward her victory with one last burst of giddy, unfettered adrenaline.

Adrian runs.

The sun is low over the mountain now, but still searingly, medicinally bright to her tired eyes. She doesn't even feel the pain of the rocky path under her feet as it spirals downwards, and though some subconscious part of her registers the danger of running so haphazardly at such an altitude, the only thing her conscious mind tells her is to keep going, keep going, because she's free, thank god -

Even when her legs disappear under her, that's the one thing she clings to.

I'm free, I made it.

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[CHAPTERS 8&9]
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