Follow the Fool
The fact that she had no idea where she was didn’t disturb Adrian Andrews in the least. She could certainly infer much from the surroundings. Outside the thin white curtains that fluttered in a gentle breeze, the blonde American could see a stretch of thin, pearl-white sand that stretched as far as her eyes could perceive to either side—pure white, gently glowing in the dying light of the setting sun. Past that, there was an endless, vast expanse of water, the fiery orange light of the sunset glittering off the gently rolling, crystal-blue waves in a very storybook manner.
That, plus the blazing hot weather (though tempered by a cooling sea breeze that smelled of salt and memory) told Adrian that she was, in fact, somewhere tropical—though the skyline she could make out bordering the beach looked an awful lot like Hamburg, Germany… and there weren’t any beaches like this anywhere near Hamburg… but then, that knowledge was firmly pushed to the very back of her mind where she didn’t let it worry her at all.
More specifically, though, she was in a hotel room, a large (if not extravagantly so) room with all the facilities one would expect out of a modern, up-to-date establishment. The entire room felt fuzzy and muted like it was in watercolor except for the vibrant beauty out the open sliding-door window, and the large king-sized bed
The blonde woman smiled warmly at nothing in particular, feeling the ever-so-slight sensations of her hair being played which send subtle golden tingles up and down her spine. She could feel those warm final rays of the setting sun caress the bare skin of her legs, and let herself sink into the bed, enjoying every last sensation. Slowly and almost subconsciously, Adrian started running the back of her hand up and down her companion’s legs, only a thin layer of blankets between their skin… she smiled, watching the dying embers of the sunset glint off the thin gold band encircling her ring finger.
Franziska made a soft, barely noticeable noise deep in the back of her throat, a sort of “Mmf” sound that was her only reaction as her dark eyes continued to dart back and forth rapidly, scanning the multi-page legal document. She briefly stopped playing with
Without averting her eyes from her work or missing a beat, Franziska responded, “You’ve seen my bookshelves in my office, correct?” The American woman made a small affirmative noise, and her partner continued simply, “that’s how.”
The two lay there for what could have been an hour or thirty seconds, the only measure of time the slow, lazy descent of the sun to the horizon, the only sound the ruffling of paper as Franziska turned through the pages of the document.
“I’m not distracting you, am I?” she said at last, adjusting her glasses with her free hand as she did so.
Franziska looked at her, averting her gaze from her work and arching a blue-gray eyebrow inquisitively. “…a bit,” she admitted with a shrug and what might have been the barest hints of a teasing smirk, “…but not excessively.”
There was no mistaking
That blue-gray eyebrow remained arched, and Franziska cocked her head to the side just slightly enough to be noticed. “I would like to finish re-reading this brief in peace,
“I… didn’t say I didn’t,” said Franziska, and Adrian could see the little differences in her face that most people would miss that plainly registered a deeply concealed amusement. “Did you ever hear me say that?” As she spoke, she reached out, slender fingers gently plucking the thin glasses from the other woman’s face, folding them, and setting them to the side of the bed on top of the discarded legal brief. “You were going to leave them on again and they were going to break,” there was the definite hint of a lopsided grin on her face, barely visible but there nonetheless. “Foolish girl…”
There was a pause, and Franziska von Karma nodded at last. “My fool.”
The blonde woman could feel the warmth of the other woman’s cheek on hers as their heads gently turned, her breath hot against her cheek, the soft wetness of her lips just about to brush across her own—
—Adrian Andrews’ eyes slid open to the gentle, warming light of morning seeping through the windows that on any other morning would have been energizing and accepted… but today was rather unwelcome.
With a heavy sigh,
She sat up, yawning and brushing some hair from where it had fallen into her face during the night’s sleep. Though she couldn’t see the clock on the other side of the kitchen counter, it was late-early morning. Franziska was long gone by now… off to work.
The water and steam were hot, rejuvenating as they enveloped her body, but it was an external warmth, and external warmth was certainly not uncommon back in
Come to think of it,
She dressed, her long locks wrapped in one of Franziska’s towels to help them dry, trying to purge that silly little dream from her mind, not thinking about the feel of the other woman’s skin against her own, the soft whisper of clothing on satin, the heat of her lips…
…Slightly frustrated and realizing that she was blushing despite herself, Adrian was acutely aware of the fact that she was failing to put such thoughts from her mind rather spectacularly. “Welcome back to the real world, Adrian Andrews,” she said half under her breath, trying to ground herself firmly in reality. It had been silly, meaningless sap, and she knew it.
Her train of thought was suddenly interrupted by the apartment door opening. She looked up, a bit startled, to see Franziska step through the door carrying a small paper bag in her hands. The young prosecutor saw
“M-morning,” Adrian tried not to stammer, feeling her face grow hot as every little detail from that wonderful dream she’d tried (and failed) to push from her mind came crashing back. “I… I thought you were at work already.”
Franziska shook her head, and walked over to the table where the blonde woman sat, placing the paper bag on its top. “I… decided to go in late today, actually. I thought that maybe… you would like to see where I worked. Perhaps it would be more interesting than having obscure local history shoved in your face for yet another day.”
“…perhaps. Anyway, I saw you were still asleep, so I went and… I bought us… I bought breakfast,” Franziska said a little bit too hastily, pulling the contents of the paper bag out. As she set a croissant in front of the blonde woman, their hands brushed for the briefest of instants, and then the two reflexively pulled away as sparks stung their skin.
There was silence as the pair looked at each other, and
Franziska shook her head, forcing a short, sharp laugh. “Static electricity.” Adrian nodded silently as Franziska sat down a bit harder than she would have liked, busying herself by scrutinizing the jam and toast in front of her.
In her dream, neither of them would speak for eternities on end, just lying together in the silence, and it felt so rich and right… Adrian quietly nibbled at the croissant Franziska had bought for her, staring at her plate and the surface of the table, refusing to let her eyes wander anywhere near the other woman. She could feel her heart pounding beneath her breast, so hard and fierce she felt it would burst from her chest if not restrained.
Neither of them looked at the other in the heavy, thick silence. It was stifling, almost excruciating, but not for any of the reasons that
Was it so different just because it was Franziska? She had certainly had a unique life… but she was, on some level, human flesh and blood like everyone else.
The air was heavy, oppressing, and choking. “It’s very good,” said
“Oh. You’re… welcome,” returned Franziska, in that voice that had so easily and smoothly and seductively whispered in her ear—her breath was hot on her cheek—not an hour before. It was the exact same voice, but it felt so different, so jarring. The two of them fell silent once more.
Why? Why was it so different, and excruciatingly stifling? In that watercolor room by the infinite ocean, everything had been so easy… she had felt warm, safe, and light. Here, she felt very much drawn in to the physical space of Adrian Andrews, confined to a fragile, vulnerable body.
There was a part of her that wanted to dismiss everything Franziska had said—the meaning behind those frustrated, passionate words—as fantasy, her assigning depth where there was none. A part that wanted to desperately believe that Franziska did not feel anything of the sort, because that would make everything so easy. If that were the case, then
If Franziska’s words had meant what she thought they did, though…? Their hands joined, fingers entwining together in their own little embrace. No… that… that was dangerous. Extend yourself too far, leave yourself open and honest and true… and you would find yourself at the mercy of the cruel Fates.
If Franziska felt that way… it terrified
And here the two of them were, eating breakfast together in such an awkward, choking silence that Adrian half wanted to just stand up and scream if only because it wouldn’t be silent anymore.
She was not a stupid woman. There was a tension between them, a spark that had been more than just static electricity.
Franziska von Karma had feelings for her. She was sure of it.
But it had never… it had never felt like that. Franziska is not Celeste. She feels… she feels something. I… I want it to feel like that.
The blonde woman forced herself to look up, to look at Franziska, who noticed the motion and lifted her eyes to see what was going on. Those dark eyes that had been the same but so different in that quiet room locked with hers, and
She also knew that Franziska would never admit it. In the dream,
It would be so easy to not do it. To convince oneself that it was just a trick of the mind and fall into the silent, distant love she was used to. Extending herself like that was horrifying, but
The eye contact was like a sizzling live wire—though you wanted to break it, your body wouldn’t let you let go. Slowly, despite herself,
It might have been her imagination, but she thought she saw the corners of Franziska’s mouth turn up in an incredibly slight, minute way. And then, so perfectly timed it might as well have been rehearsed, they both suddenly broke the contact, looking anywhere but at the other.
“So…” began Franziska, a slight waver in her voice that was quickly masked as she continued to speak, “…to the Prosecutor’s Office, then?”
Franziska didn’t know what had been running through her head when she’d come up with this absolutely brilliant plan, but she couldn’t imagine for a single moment that it would be anything even remotely related to logic or reason. Oh yes. You’re distracted by her to the point where you cannot work. The obvious solution, then, is to bring her to your workplace where she will be right in front of you. Truly your best idea in ages, Franziska.
The other woman had pushed one of the two chairs normally reserved for more official visitors and clients to the side of the room where she’d no longer be blocking Franziska’s access to her massive bookshelf. Franziska hadn’t told her that she didn’t really need to get the bookshelf unless she was dealing with particularly obscure law—and certainly not when she was being asked to perform a simple task that an adding machine could do just as effectively.
In fact, they’d barely said more than a few words to each other all day, ever since breakfast. Franziska’s eyes kept flicking up over her desk in the briefest of glances at the other woman before she caught herself and forced her gaze back to the pile of papers on her desk… at least for a minute or so. Brilliant idea, that. Thankfully, the “already done” stack was dwarfing the “yet to do” stack, though they still didn’t seem to be changing size all that quickly.
Over the week that
The whirlwind had been building and building, gathering more and more momentum until it threatened to consume her entirely. Franziska knew she could not ignore it and could not escape it, so she opted to confront it instead. If there were any single place on the entire planet where Franziska von Karma was absolutely certain she was in complete and utter control, it was here. Her office, the Prosecutor’s Department… she was in command, firm and unyielding. It was her altar, her temple—if she were not in control here, she would not be in control anywhere.
So, unsurprisingly, it was particularly vexing to the young prosecutor that she could not concentrate here, of all places. She had tried to confront the thundering momentum of the whirlwind, and she had failed. Franziska refused to admit defeat, though—her cheeks hot, she poured every ounce of her normally-iron will into forcing her attention and gaze down to the numbers and writing on her desk. The prodigy would get this done if it killed her.
She looked up in an instant, her concentration shattered at the sound of her name. It had been soft, quieter than even a whisper—barely more than a breath. In her ears, though, it had been thunderously loud. Franziska felt her cheeks grow hot, though attributed it to shame at not being able to concentrate. Over in her chair, she saw
“Yes? What is it?” said the prodigy at last.
Startled out of her reverie,
Franziska arched an eyebrow, tilting her head to the side. “You… said my name just now.”
The effect on the other woman was rather striking.
“I’m not… distracting you, am I?”
“…I only have thirteen more payroll calculations to go through,
The blonde woman cocked her head to the side, the slightest hint of a teasing smile on her face. “How many did you have left when we got here, though?”
Franziska paused, looking to the side hesitantly before replying. “…seventeen,” she admitted. “Yes, you are distracting me, Adrian. However, you are not distracting me…” she paused, searching for the right word, settling on “…excessively.”
She’d intended her words to be reassuring and soothing. If anything, though, they seemed to have the opposite reaction—
“Left out of the office, down the stairs, third door on your right—that takes you to a little lobby. The ladies’ room is at the end of the second hallway. I can… show you, if you’d like.”
The other woman shook her head quickly. “No, I’m sure… I’m sure I can find it on my own. Don’t worry!” With that, she practically ran out of the room, leaving a rather confused and stunned Franziska behind.
What was wrong with her? When she’d arrived in
No, that wasn’t quite right, Franziska corrected herself. There was definitely a marked change from the
Her hand still stung from the shock of static electricity over breakfast, which was strange. It hadn’t been a particularly strong shock, and there was no mark on her hand, but for some reason Franziska was perfectly and acutely aware of the exact spot where their hands had touched. …strange.
Franziska scowled, for her heart had started to race again. She wished it would stop doing that. The beautiful prodigy looked down at the small stack of thirteen papers filled with names and numbers, numbers that she had to ensure added up to equal the correct number. Franziska was logical, she was good with numbers.
If she hurried, Franziska estimated that she could do these thirteen in just over six minutes. Putting every last bit of her focus into this one last task, she set her pen to paper, making quick calculations, her writing hurried but still impeccable as always. Twelve left… then ten… then seven, then three, then two… then one more…
…she was done. It had taken her just under eight minutes, though—she’d missed her deadline, Franziska realized with a silent frown. Disappointing, but then again she hadn’t expected Patrolman Alders to have so many individual wage corrections that she’d been forced to double-check in order to ensure accuracy.
Making sure the now-single stack of papers was neatly in order, Franziska got up from her desk, turned left out of her office, walked down the stairs, and turned the handle, pushing the third door on the right in to find the little lobby she’d directed
The blonde woman looked up at Franziska, smiling softly. “Hi, Franziska. Don’t worry, I found my way.”
Letting the door close behind her, the young attorney offered her companion her hand, helping her stand on her feet. The two of them held that grip for a second more than what would have been ‘proper’ before releasing, and Franziska felt that jolt that she knew was most definitely not static electricity this time around.
Franziska crossed her arms in front of her chest, tilting her head to the side inquisitively. “I’m inclined to agree. At least, I would be if I had any idea what you were referring to. What is it,
She could see the hints of a blush forming below
The question didn’t require much thought, for making weighty decisions was part of her daily routine. “Simple. I weigh each choice on its logical and practical benefits and drawbacks. It often becomes… easy… to distill most decisions down to that, if you have practice.”
Franziska paused, momentarily startled. “Then, that would only leave…” She stayed silent for a few moments, thinking to herself. “…in the complete absence of rationality or logic? I suppose then I would just choose what I felt was the most… right. Whichever felt like the best choice—though I can’t see any real situation where logic and reason wouldn’t be a factor.”
“You’d be surprised,” said
Feeling herself start to get annoyed, Franziska arched an eyebrow. “Are you going to tell me what this is about,
She looked at Franziska with that same sad smile on her face, though there was something in those deep, dark eyes of her that caused every muscle in the young prodigy’s body to suddenly tense up. There was a desperation in that simple gaze… a longing, a desire, a need so powerful that it made Franziska’s entire body shiver. That single look told Franziska what a week of conversation had failed to do.
“I… wh-what… and…” stammered the young lawyer, finding every single word in her extensive vocabulary wiped from her mind in an instant. Franziska suddenly found it hard to breathe, feeling her face grow hotter than ever before, past the point where even she could make an excuse for it. “I… what are you… my fool? You… you aren’t making any sense.”
Franziska had tried to fight the whirlwind, and now she knew without a doubt that she had lost. Still, her pride refused to just… submit.
There was a thunderous crash that would have made both women jump, startled out of the intense moment… if it hadn’t come from the powerful, sudden opening of the door that Adrian had been leaning against, sending her stumbling forward, crashing first into Franziska and then into the wall of the room.
Franziska made a slight yelp at the collision, eyes closing reflexively—and opened them to find Adrian’s face not two inches from hers, a deep flush mirroring Franziska’s own, eyes wide… the two of them were pressed up against the wall thanks to inertia, in what might very well have been an embrace at any other moment in time. Neither of them looked away, focused on the other… “O-oh…” said
So close… they were so close together… their eyes locked on one another, the gentle warm puff of each others’ breath… it would be so easy just to lean in, lean ever so slightly closer… without realizing it, they were leaning in ever closer, slowly drawing together…
“Oh! I’m… not interrupting anything, am I?”
Startled, Adrian and Franziska quickly pushed away from each other, the gaze that had been only for the other now fixed on the man who had entered the room with such a… boisterous entrance. Gunther Hertz stood there, stroking the stubble of his beard with an expression on his face that suggested he found everything rather hilarious. “Oh… I, uh… was interrupting something. Wasn’t I?”
Whip or no whip, if the phrase ‘if looks could kill’ had suddenly become reality, Gunther would have been a smoking stain on the carpet, so potent was Franziska’s glare. “What. Are. You. Doing. Here?! ” she snapped, every word precisely cold, enraged, and venomous. Her hands immediately went for her whip before realizing that it was still in her office—had Adrian not been standing right there, she might well have attempted to throttle him.
Gunther paused, flashing a lopsided grin and tossing his ponytail over his shoulder. “Perhaps legal machines like your self are unfamiliar with the concept, Miss von Karma, but us mere mortals have biological needs. The men’s room is right over there. Surely, such a finely honed mind like yours can piece that one together?” He laughed bawdily, switching to English. “My deepest and most arduous apologies to you two lovely ladies for interrupting whatever liaisons might have been occurring… though perhaps it might be wiser to hold them in a more private area than the public restroom lobby, hmm?”
Still blushing fiercely,
“Oh, my lovely rubber-tree, I am glad you noticed. I have always believed… that every entrance should be as dramatic and noticeable as any that have come before it!” he pointed dramatically at the two to punctuate his statement. “You never know who could be on the other side of the door! Perhaps the Pope! And then, he would be quite impressed, wouldn’t he?!”
Though she appeared to have her more… violent emotions in check, the white-hot rage had not left Franziska’s voice. “Shouldn’t you be pestering the police on one of your foolishly foolish little cases, Gunther Hertz? Isn’t there someplace else you should be?”
Gunther grinned, shaking his head from side to side and holding his arms out wide. “Nope,” he admitted, idly stroking the stubble on his chin. “As a matter of fact… I was hoping to see you, O Lovely Maiden of the Prosecution Stand. I was wondering if you would be gracing us with your presence tomorrow night…”
The male attorney frowned, smoothing the top of his light blond hair and turning to
Gunther waggled his blond eyebrows in a rather disturbing fashion. “Yes.”
“…and you’re a defense attorney, right?”
“Also yes!” chuckled the flamboyant man, giving a slight golf-clap in front of his face.
“So, you aren’t exactly invited, are you?”
“Oh, of course not!” Gunther clapped again, chuckling as he did so. “Quite the deductive reasoning, my chamomile gumball! Keep working at it, and you might just give the little kitten herself a run for her money someday!” Franziska found herself really wishing she hadn’t left her whip in her office. He held a finger up in front of his face, wagging it from side to side. “No, I am not invited. However, I’ve never let a silly thing like permission stop me before!”
Franziska’s eyes slitted, her voice even and deadly. “We will not be attending your frivolous, foolish event, Gunther Hertz. Go waste someone else’s time.”
Her companion shrugged softly, looking at Franziska and tilting her head to the side, her long blonde hair cascading over her back. “I don’t know, it sounds kind of… fun, doesn’t it, Franziska?” The corners of her mouth turned upwards in a hesitant but visible smile.
The prosecutor’s tone of voice softened ever so slightly—and only slightly—as she turned to the American woman, a scowl on her face. “It is foolish, and extravagant, and a waste of time. A foolishly foolish event for foolish fools to foolishly consort with other fools in a night of alcohol-driven tomfoolery.”
Gunther laughed again, deep and loudly. “Precisely the point, my dear Prosecutor! Though… I do admit that last year’s was rather dull… though being caught, thrown out, and spending the night sleeping in my car certainly put a damper on things.”
“You are a fool who learns nothing from his many foolish mistakes, Gunther Hertz,” snarled Franziska, once more itching for the familiar feel of her whip in her hands. “You still plan to return, even after last year’s debacle?”
Opposite her, the flashy defense attorney clucked his tongue. “Oh, but I have learned from my mistakes, Miss Prosecutor. For example…” he tossed his cape over his shoulder dramatically. “I will not make my grand entrance through the front door and attempt to bluff my way past the Master of Ceremonies and the ushers this year! That is a mistake I have certainly learned from!”
“I certainly hope to see the two of you there,” he grinned again. “But alas, I must take my leave of you! There are places to go and people to see! …in all likelihood,” he admitted, “though I don’t know where or who they will be, precisely! I am off!” With that, he left with as much of a grand flourish as he had arrived, leaving the two women alone in the small lobby.
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