Follow the Fool
It was Friday night in
From the living room, she heard
All in all, not completely fair. Still,
Slipping her stocking-clad feet into the high-heeled black shoes she had selected, Franziska checked herself one final time in the mirror before turning the bathroom light off, and crossing her bedroom to the living room where
While Franziska had seen
The two of them were opposites—while
Though they were opposites, they were almost complementary in nature, a sort of individual yin and yang, both giving and receiving in return. More tangibly, they both suddenly found themselves wearing matching blushes, quickly averting their eyes from the other.
Franziska swallowed, fighting the urge to stare at the floor, overwhelming though it might be. “Thank… thank you,
The blonde American laughed, shaking her head. “This is so silly. I feel like I’m back in high school, going to my senior prom again.”
“I... never went to any sort of prom,” Franziska said in a soft reminder. “Being a prosecutor doesn’t leave much time for frivolous things like that.”
Arching a slender eyebrow, Franziska inquired, “What went wrong for you, then?”
Across from her, Franziska shook her head. “I thought it was a foolish, frivolous, and absolutely unnecessary expense.” She paused briefly, “also, there were no companies willing to hire at such a last-minute notice.”
The event had been going on for a few hours by the time the two arrived at the large hall rented for the occasion. Eventually,
“Franziska von Karma,” said the prodigy curtly, adjusting the long velvety gloves she wore as she talked. She briefly glanced to the blonde woman standing at her side, amending her declaration, “…and date.”
Without waiting for the majordomo to check her name off the list, Franziska pushed her way past him, silencing his protests with a glare. The two women found themselves inside a large elliptical ballroom. The room’s border was dotted with white-clothed tables that varied in size, ranging from smaller ones that could only seat two or three people, to massive pieces that could comfortably fit twenty or more. Many of these tables had people seated at them already, with food and drink set before them, but some were empty.
Off to the side, there was a long table piled with hors d’eouvres of every type one could imagine—and right behind that, there was a well-stocked bar that seemed to be immensely popular and crowded. At the opposite end of the ballroom was a raised stage where the live band was seated. There were about ten of them, and Franziska’s sharp eyes could pick out quite a variety of instruments—there were cellos and violins and flutes and all the rest that one expected of a chamber orchestra, but it also looked as though there were guitars and other, more colorful instruments for a wide range of styles. They were, undoubtedly, being paid handsomely for their talents.
“Taxpayer money at work,” said Franziska, irritation coloring her voice (though she spoke softly enough that only
Franziska nodded silently in response, leading
Her companion gave that knowing half-smile again, placing her slender, bare hand on top of Franziska’s velvet-gloved one, giving it a brief squeeze. “I know you will, Franziska. Don’t worry about it.” Despite Franziska’s fierce attempts to order otherwise, her heart began racing yet again. She refused to give into the temptation to look at the floor, though, instead forcing her gaze up to
She was a prosecutor. Her life was based around finding details and piecing together the most minute aspects of a case to solve puzzles of life and death. She had to be as observant and sharp-eyed as she could be… so it was shocking, really, that there was so much about Adrian Andrews that she simply had not noticed. The little specks of color in her dark eyes that reflected the dim, muted light in the ballroom, for one… but also, just the way the corner of her mouth curved up in a half-smile, or how the slight blush coloring her cheeks contrasted the rich golden color of her hair wonderfully, or how there was that one loose strand that had worked its way out of her carefully-done hairstyle to softly brush against her face…
Franziska could feel her cheeks getting fiercely hot again, and reflexively looked away, telling herself that the bottle of champagne in the bucket of ice in the middle of the table was truly fascinating to look at. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw
The embarrassing silence was mercifully interrupted by a young waiter with an attractive-looking if boyish face, who held a bottle of wine in his hands along with two wide-mouthed, crystal glasses that he set on the table in front of the pair. “Madams, the establishment’s drink of the night tonight is a very delightful Alsace Riesling, vintage ‘03. Very light, dry and flavorful, I recommend it highly.”
Nodding an affirmative, Franziska gestured to the empty glass in front of her with a gloved hand wordlessly, and the waiter obediently moved over, tilting the bottle and filling her glass with the expensive white wine until she cut him off with another silent motion. Across the table,
As the waiter moved on to the next table, Franziska brought the glass to her mouth and took a small sip of the drink, nodding silently in approval to herself. She’d never really had the time to spend on such frivolous things like wine, but it was a guilty pleasure she allowed herself once in a while—and she knew a good vintage when she tasted it. “For such a short time studying it, your German is astounding,” she said softly, putting the fine crystal glass down on the white tablecloth.
Looking over at the couples dancing on the ballroom floor to what was apparently a waltz of some kind,
“No, thank you,” said Franziska softly if resolutely. “I find it… foolish and cumbersome, hardly dignified. Dancing is for those inebriated fools over there to trip and fall all over themselves.”
The two of them were silent for several more minutes, looking awkwardly over at one another briefly, then quickly glancing away before they were caught doing so. Franziska tried to concentrate on the live band up on the stage, admitting that they were very good, and also very versatile. Once they finished the waltz they’d been playing, their leader—a short, mousey woman with short, dark hair—announced that they would next be playing a samba of sorts, and her musicians moved to swap instruments accordingly.
However, their plans were cut short as a tall man in a sky-blue tuxedo (that Franziska thought was absolutely hideous) stepped up to the stage, apologizing to the musicians for interrupting, and appropriating one of their microphones for himself. Though he had a bit of a pot-belly, he wasn’t exactly overweight, with a dark black beard and neatly trimmed black hair framing a surprisingly friendly face. He was powerfully built, though he had the appearance of a weightlifter or athlete gone to seed over the years.
“The Chief of Police,” said Franziska to
“What are you doing that for, Franziska?” asked the blonde woman, adjusting her glasses absentmindedly. She didn’t seem all that inquisitive, merely slightly curious.
Indicating the Chief with a small nod of her head, Franziska sat back in her chair, sighing softly as she spoke. “At every event, the Chief supposedly gives what he believes to be an ‘inspirational’ speech, culminating in a toast. He is a foolish man in his position merely by circumstance, though I… suppose that he is competent enough,” Franziska said, a slightly irritated tone in her voice. “Though I do not respect the man or his ways, I do respect his office, and I will… reluctantly… participate in the toast.”
The tall Chief of Police began to speak, a rich, resonant voice—though even
As the Chief spoke, Franziska gave a rather loose translation. “He’s welcoming everybody… telling how glad he is to see us here, thanking the staff and musicians…” there was a very dull tone in her voice, as if even relaying the speech was excruciatingly boring. “He’s very drunk, obviously. He’s talking about the duties of the police department, recognizing individuals for their achievements.” Several detectives were called to stand up and give a little wave to polite applause—which both Adrian and Franziska participated in—as their names were called.
Franziska sighed. “Ah, here comes the toast. Yes, the duties of policemen and detectives are what should always be focused on. Etcetera, etcetera, ‘to duty.’” That said, the room collectively echoed the Chief and downed their champagne. Franziska merely sipped it.
Pausing for a second, Franziska set her champagne glass down on the table next to her other drink, raising a blue-gray eyebrow. “Very well,
The prosecutor blinked. “…the food?” she asked warily, as if she was certain
With a giggle,
“Very well,” nodded Franziska, a bit stiffly. “Then I will wait.”
Now that the band was playing again, the blonde American looked out at the dance floor once more. “Are you… sure you don’t want to go dance, Franziska? Just once?”
Once more, Franziska shook her head, sipping her wine but giving no indication that her feelings about the foolishness of dancing had changed in the past fifteen minutes. Again,
Suddenly, there was a surprisingly loud cough from behind them, and the two women turned to see one Hans Ernst, looking relatively dapper and neat (though dressed in a tuxedo that looked a bit old, and just one size too small). The young patrolman stiffly started to salute before remembering he was off duty and opting for a more formal ‘at attention’ pose instead. “Good evening, Prosecutor von Karma! Good evening, Miss Adrian Andrews!” he said in his thickly accented English. “It is very nice to see you here!” he continued, awkwardly.
The powerfully built young officer flushed softly, becoming even more stiff and awkward (though that hadn’t really seemed possible to the two women). “I… was wondering if either of you elegant woman would give me the honor of a dance tonight!”
Narrowing her eyes, Franziska shook her head curtly. “No,” was all she said before taking another sip of her wine—emptying the glass—and looking off to the side at nothing in particular. Despite his size, Hans seemed to shrink, looking rather dejected.
The waiter returned, seeing an empty glass in front of the young prodigy, and filled it again at her wordless request. She took another sip, trying not to look over at the dance floor. The band had moved into a sort of tango, it seemed, and it didn’t look like either Hans or Adrian had any clue how to dance a tango. Still, the two of them, from what Franziska was absolutely not looking over at, seemed to be having a wonderful time just making it up.
Franziska scowled, and she had absolutely no idea why she was doing so. She felt… annoyed, or irritated, or angry, and there was absolutely no logical reason for doing so. Yes, she was at this foolishly extravagant event, but it really wasn’t so bad, and she was there with a rather remarkable woman as her… companion, and for some reason now she found herself even more annoyed.
As ludicrous as it was, Franziska realized that she was jealous—which was irritating in and of itself. Not only did von Karmas not get jealous (after all, what could perfection possibly have to be jealous of?) but… there was no reason for her to be jealous, anyway, right? Though she couldn’t hear it over the music of the band and the dull roar of conversation in the ballroom, she saw
Continuing to scowl, Franziska turned her chair around so that it was facing completely away from the dance floor, looking at the colorful random patterns that covered the walls of the ballroom. Even though she was absolutely not jealous over
She had been glaring intensely at the wall for about a minute when, out of the corner of her eye, Franziska saw a male figure approach her. Even if she hadn’t seen the black, military-cut tuxedo with the crimson-lined cape, or the long ponytail draped over his shoulder, she would have recognized Gunther Hertz immediately by his silly, loping walk. The defense attorney stood behind her, apparently gazing at the wall just like she was, and Franziska hoped ineffectively that he would just give up and go away if she didn’t acknowledge his presence.
After about half a minute of silence spent scrutinizing the wall, Gunther spoke, almost thoughtfully, “if I tilt my head like this, and close my eyes just right, I think I can see what looks like an elephant. But then again, I’m rather drunk, so it’s entirely possible that I’m making it up!” He laughed loudly to himself. “And I notice that you are by your lonesome, my dear Prosecutor von Karma… but you are here, nonetheless! How are you finding yourself on this fine night?”
Her voice was flat, a monotone. “Is there anything I can say that will convince you to leave me alone?” She took another sip of her wine, and suddenly felt that her velvet gloves were far too uncomfortably hot. Though it wasn’t entirely the most proper way to go about it, Franziska gently bit the thick material, taking the long dress gloves off with aid from her teeth.
“No, no… not really, Miss Prosecutor.” Gunther drew up a chair, sitting beside Franziska and resting his boot-clad feet idly against the wall of the ballroom. “I am glad to see you and your companion here, you know! After all the trouble I went through to sneak in through the back entrance, it would have been most disappointing to miss two of the people I invited myself!” He laughed again, rocking slightly unsteadily in the chair.
Franziska turned her head, looking at him with a glare that fell somewhere between mildly curious and absolutely disgusted. “Exactly how drunk are you, Gunther Hertz?”
Laughing again, Gunther shook his head, his long ponytail flying wildly by as he chuckled. “Oh, that is an excellent question, Miss Prosecutor. But… on a scale from one to ten?” He paused in thought. “I am extremely inebriated. ” Franziska saw him turn to look at the dance floor (the one she was absolutely not looking at under any circumstances whatsoever), chuckling once more to himself. “Ah, your friend seems to be enjoying herself!”
Suddenly, Franziska felt herself desiring to punch Gunther in the face even more than she normally did. Completely inexplicably, of course. She crossed her now-bare arms in front of her, frowning to herself silently, letting Gunther continue talking. “You know… I don’t know if your American friend understands me,” the flashy defense attorney sounded almost pensive. “Perhaps… my comparisons and metaphors do not make as much sense in English, no?”
“I find it hard to believe there is a language in this world in which you do make sense, Gunther Hertz,” said Franziska softly, taking another sip of the dry, sweet wine.
The defense attorney looked at her, a lopsided grin on his face that she supposed might have been charming if it had been on anyone else but him. “Well said indeed, Miss Prosecutor!” He looked almost thoughtful for a moment. “You know, Prosecutor von Karma, I’ve been thinking,”
“Is that a fact?” Franziska said dryly, interrupting him.
“Oh, it is! I’ve been thinking about how possibly brilliant my rose metaphor was when I first saw the two of you the other day at the Courthouse.” The tall man stroked his chin, covered with what seemed to be perpetual blond stubble, as he talked. “I said that you were the those, and that your lovely companion was the rorns.”
He paused. “I believe I meant to say thorns and rose, but it is entirely possible that my mistake was intentional. Anyway! Your friend? She is the rose. But what is a rose without its thorns, I ask you? It certainly is a lovely flower, yes, and smells just as sweet… but it is defenseless! It is vulnerable! And there are tons of other lovely flowers out there, that are just as red, just as white, or even pink! No, the rose needs the thorns, I say. Or else… it is not a rose!”
Gunther grinned, idly playing with the bottom of his blond ponytail. “And you, my dearest Prosecutor? Oh, you are the thorns. The thorns are prickly, and they hurt and scratch! Much like kittens can hurt and scratch!” He blinked once, pausing in the middle of his speech. “…I wasn’t talking about kittens, was I? Regardless, thorns hurt. But with the rose, the thorns are what gives it character, what makes it so truly beautiful. For yes, it is lovely, but yes, it can hurt! Separated, the rose and thorn are generic and… boring. It is only together that they are truly what they are!”
He continued on his impassioned metaphor-turned-rant, pointing a finger out directly at the wall. “And then you have the stem! The stem, why… it is green! And it has those little… tubes… that ferry the water up and down so that the rose may bloom and that the thorns may… well, the thorns don’t really need water to scratch and prick, do they? They are… green, though.” Gunther paused, scratching his head slightly bashfully. “I do believe I may have extended that metaphor slightly too far, Miss Prosecutor.”
“Really.” Franziska’s statement was hardly a question as she placed her mostly-empty glass of wine back on the table.
Gunther cleared his throat, sitting up straight. “My point… may have gotten lost in the metaphor, I’m afraid. My point was that you,” he pointed straight at the young prodigy, who reflexively jumped slightly—her stern self-discipline was slightly sluggish, Franziska realized with a frown—“should go ask her,” his finger pointed in the general direction of the dance floor, “to dance. That was my point. And now that I have made it…?” He laughed jovially. “I shall move on! I hear that the chefs make an absolutely wonderful banana flambé. I suppose being covered in fire does improve its flavor, somehow.” With that, he got up and started to leave.
“Gunther.” Franziska’s voice was curt and hard as it usually was when in his presence, though tinged with a sort of pensive contemplation that she herself was surprised to notice.
The flashy attorney turned, arching a blond eyebrow. “Yes?”
“How… why do you do it?” The prodigy’s face was flushed with possibly slightly more than just embarrassment. “How are you so jovial all the time? You have stood in court opposite from me forty-two times. Forty-one of those times, your client was found guilty. Almost all of them confessed to their crimes during trial.”
Franziska swallowed despite herself, tucking a maddeningly stray strand of blue-gray hair back into place. “How? You take the cases of guilty people—of murderers, and thieves, and extortionists… you defend people who have broken the law, and yet you stand here, and you are drinking, and you laugh. Every time I see you, you laugh, even after a loss. How do you defend those people?”
Gunther, surprisingly, was silent as he tilted his head to the side, smiling as always—though it was more subdued and wistful than his normal grin. His voice, likewise, was strikingly calm, sober, and serious. “Because someone has to. Even the guilty deserve a fair trial, Franziska.” He bowed formally, the blond ponytail flopping over his shoulder. “Good night, Miss Prosecutor. Do consider my advice?”
With that, he faded into the crowd once more. As he was presumably headed in search of the aforementioned banana flambé, Franziska didn’t feel it was incredibly unlikely that the fool would end up setting the place on fire. A fool, spouting foolishly foolish metaphors about foolish subjects that he foolishly presumes to be able to speak about.
Maybe, though… even Gunther Hertz could be right, once in a while? It was not absolutely impossible, Franziska allowed. Even the smallest probability still had a chance.
Franziska stood up and turned around in the direction of the dance floor—and jerked back, startled, as she saw Adrian right in front of her, having returned from her dance with the lumbering policeman, who was no longer visible. Clearly not having expected Franziska to move so suddenly,
The young prosecutor hadn’t expected
The two of them stood silently, Franziska trying to collect her jumbled thoughts and trying not to blatantly avert her eyes,
“Oh. Very well, then,” managed the prodigy as she willed her thoughts and mind to unscramble themselves, picking up her own glass. “What, then, shall we toast to?”
The blonde woman smiled softly, raising her glass ever so slightly. “To foolishness,” she said quietly, before taking a drink of the bubbly liquor.
Franziska had already started to drink her champagne by the time the words registered in her head, and she stopped abruptly, puzzled and slightly irritated that Adrian would be mocking her so, even as gently and well-intentioned as it was. “…excuse me?” Her eyes narrowed slightly—and then widened, as
“I am not doing anything. You, right now, are asking me to dance. And I’ve accepted.” With that,
“I… I protest!” said Franziska softly but fiercely, once
The band had started playing again, a slower beat that seemed to invite a more personal, subdued atmosphere to the entire ballroom. All around them, Franziska was dimly aware of countless other couples dancing… though it was muted and out of focus, dreamlike.
Disappointed turned to startled-if-happy as Franziska placed her hand on the gentle curve of Adrian’s waist, a suddenly resolute and determined look in the beautiful prosecutor’s eyes and on her face. “I will dance,” said Franziska softly, feeling the color on her cheeks and knowing that it matched the sudden flush on
The other woman seemed suddenly flustered, as if she’d thought her plan out this far but hadn’t really worried about what would come next. The brief confusion was suddenly replaced by subtle but extremely present happiness as
There was probably a melody, there was probably a beat to the song, there was probably an entire world outside of that dance floor and the two of them, but it didn’t really matter. Somehow, as the two of them started to sway in time with the music, they found themselves drawing together. It hadn’t been intentional… it had just happened. Franziska’s arm was around Adrian’s waist, feeling the heat and warmth of her skin and body…
Adrian’s hand had shifted, moving slowly up the curve of Franziska’s shoulder to her neck, idly—subconsciously—playing with the other woman’s neatly cut blue-gray hair as though it were the most natural, simple action in the world. Neither of them said a word; neither of them had to.
There was no motion, there was no ‘in-between.’ To think that time existed outside of that little section of the dance floor was foolish, of course.
Neither of them said a word; neither of them had to.
Whether it had been Franziska’s movement or Adrian’s—or just a mutual agreement because it just was right—the two moved… they adjusted, shifting their position ever so slightly her breath was hot on her cheek, and for one perfect moment, their lips met, brushing across one another’s so softly and so gently that it might as well have been imagined, ephemeral… if it hadn’t been so very real.
Suddenly, the entire world came crashing back, the music and the band and the people around them… Franziska’s face was flushing a deep, dark, red that she couldn’t have imagined she was capable of. Her voice was stunned, shocked as she broke that perfect silence. “I… that was… I never… my first… it was my fi—”
Her voice was cut off as their lips met in a second kiss, this one far deeper and hungrier than the first. Adrian softly stroked the back of Franziska’s hair absentmindedly, pulling back for an instant stray strands of her hair fell messily against her face, imperfect and wonderfully so before leaning in and resting her head on the German woman’s shoulder comfortably.
“I couldn’t tell,” whispered Adrian in her ear, silver sensations running up and down her spine… there was a smile in her voice that Franziska couldn’t see, but knew was there. A loving smile, a serene smile, a warm and happy and secure smile. Franziska had no idea how she knew that so absolutely, because she couldn’t see it—it was illogical and irrational. It was
The world was shrinking again, the only certainties the faint taste of strawberries why strawberries? on her lips, the weight of
Though there was a pause before she spoke,
Every muscle in her body tensed up, from her feet to her stomach to her arms that suddenly squeezed
“I hope you don’t mind.”
Franziska exhaled a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, trying to will her extremely tense body to relax, but since it didn’t seem like any part of her body was listening to anything her brain said anymore… it didn’t really matter. The young prosecutor shook her head slowly, closing her eyes and ever-so-slightly resting her head on
She could feel
There was suddenly a flash of light in the world that had somehow ceased to exist around them, and Franziska might have heard startled exclamations and screams if she’d been paying attention to anything but the taste of strawberries. Somewhere in the distant echo that was the ballroom, there was the signature flickering color of fire, but neither that nor the panicked cries could make the world matter again.
The sprinklers installed in the ceiling, though, were a different matter entirely. Though the fire spreading across the makeshift kitchen installation failed to register in the minds of Adrian and Franziska, their high-tech sensors recognized the heat instantly, and they activated, raining cold streams of water down on the partygoers before.
Freezing streams of water would be enough to jolt anyone out of such a reverie, but even that elicited a sluggish reaction from the two women. Franziska’s first, involuntary reaction was to hold
All around them, the dancers and musicians and drunkards were scrambling for cover, heading for the exit, while the staff ran around trying to salvage the disaster. Franziska thought she saw a familiar blond ponytail amidst the throng, and some part of her registered the fact that she had probably been right in her earlier prediction. But there still wasn’t very much in the world besides her, the blonde woman in her arms, and the taste of strawberries on her lips—they were just now colder, and wetter.
The two of them stood still in the pouring water, slowly orienting themselves in reality. “Your… hair is ruined,” pointed out Franziska softly, and it was true, because
“So is my dress… and yours,” Adrian retorted, watching as each individual bead of water trailed down Franziska’s jawline and then dropped to the floor. “We… should probably follow everybody,” she said, her voice barely audible over the sound of the falling water.
Franziska nodded in agreement. “We should,” and yet neither of them moved. Neither of them wanted to move.
And then, suddenly, foolishly, Franziska felt herself start to laugh. At the absurdity and the foolishness of it all. It felt nice to laugh.
Morning. Saturday morning, to be exact. Franziska von Karma generally preferred to get up on the early side of things so that she wouldn’t waste her day. However, sometimes it simply felt nice to sleep in… she allowed herself a small, imperfect yawn, blinking her eyes to try and clear the sleep from them. Franziska nodded softly—she should really get up, start her day.
A quick glance to the side told her that getting up would be difficult at best.
The only problem with that was that
Franziska was about to tap Adrian on the shoulder, waking her up… but something stopped her, caught her free hand right before it descended. She didn’t really… mind having her arm trapped like that, honestly. It wasn’t so bad after all.
Gently slipping her other arm around the blonde woman’s body, Franziska pulled up the sheets and allowed herself to fall back asleep.