Clay woke up in high spirits. He had finally made headway in figuring out how Fulbright was tracking them. Throwing his door open, he grabbed Apollo by the shoulders. “Delete your phone-tracking app thing!”
Apollo knit his eyebrows together. “What?”
“I know what you said. Just, why?”
Clay had to think fast. “I read it’s saving people’s location, and publishing it. If you go to a certain website, you can access everyone’s location.”
Apollo’s eyes widened. “Oh shit, glad you found that.” He opened his phone. “You deleted yours right?”
I can’t believe he believed that…
Oh wait. You haven’t started habitually lying to him yet.
“Good, well I’ll see you later. I have to leave for work.”
Clay said goodbye, then was left alone to figure out how the hell he was going to use this new information.
So Fulbright isn’t tracking our location. I could run and Apollo would be fine. But no… Fulbright knows where he works. I’ll have to get Apollo to go somewhere else. But how do I do that?
Clay flopped down on the couch and threw an arm over his face.
He gets pissed when I act all suspicious -like. I should let him see the notes Fulbright leaves me. Then when Apollo asks questions, I’ll dodge them. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. But he’ll just camp out in my room if I only try to dodge his questions. I’ll have to push him a bit farther if I want him to leave…
Clay sighed. “Here goes nothing.”
He waited anxiously for Sunday to roll around. Once the day arrived, Clay convinced Apollo that they should go out. While they were driving, he purposefully hit all the potholes he could. After about twenty minutes of this, a tire blew out.
“Ugh,” the two men exited the car. Clay rubbed his hands together “You get the tools while I get the spare.”
It was only four o’clock by the time the spare was switched out. They’d need to kill some more time.
“We should go and get another tire,” Clay said.
“Really? Can’t it wait?”
“If we don’t get it changed now, I’ll push it off until I blow another tire and then we’ll be shit outta luck. We should just get it changed now. We don’t have anything else to do right?”
Apollo shrugged. “I guess not,” and they both climbed back into Clay’s car.
An hour later the tire was fixed. Clay said he was starving.
“Are we going on another field trip?” Apollo asked, a slight smirk on his face.
“Well, I mean, I’m just really hungry. You don’t have t come along if you don’t want to.”
Apollo said that he could use some food as well, and the two made their way to a restaurant.
Once they were seated, Apollo looked around at the other people seated around them. He seemed to me thinking about something. “You’ve been acting strange lately. Anything goin’ on?”
Alright, commencing stage 1 of operation Get-Apollo-To-Leave.
“Nah, I guess it’s just the launch getting canceled that’s bothering me. Y’know life dreams and all.”
Apollo’s hand went to his wrist. “What?” He was looking Clay in the eye.
Clay repeated himself, and Apollo knit his eyebrows together.
“You’re sure that’s all that’s bothering you?” Apollo was visibly concerned.
Clay swallowed the urge to spill his guts to his friend, and said that he was sure. Apollo didn’t seem to have much of an appetite after that. He just pushed his food around his plate while Clay finished.
There was a note in front of their apartment door when the two returned. “Oh hey,” Clay picked it up. Unsurprisingly, it was from Fulbright.
“What’s it say?” Apollo asked.
“Fulbright came by. Apparently he wanted to talk to me.
“Why would he want to talk to you? Have you done something wrong?”
Clay forced himself to stutter as he said he didn’t know, and Apollo’s hand, once again went to his wrist.
“You’re sure nothing’s going on? ‘Cause you can talk to me if you need to.”
“I’d talk to you if something was going on. When have I not?”
Apollo mumbled something under his breath that sounded like, “right now,” and the two parted ways into their respected rooms.
. . .
The next day, Clay asked if he could hang around the Agency. Apollo said yes, and the two made their way to the law office/ magician’s headquarters.
“Why do you have an interest in my job all of a sudden?” Apollo asked.
Clay turned to face Apollo. “I just want to see where you work, I guess.”
Another hand around his wrist, and the two walked on in silence for a few minutes until Apollo said, “did you do something illegal?”
Clay’s eyes widened, and his mouth fell open from genuine shock. “No! I don’t commit crimes. I’ve got a job I need to keep.”
Apollo studied his friend’s face. The answer seemed to suffice since he turned his attention back to the pavement, but Clay could sense that Apollo was still seriously questioning what he was saying.
Finally they arrived at the Agency, and Trucy answered with a smile. Clay made a mental note to not mention wedding rings or Kickstarter.
“Hi Polly! Hi Clay.”
The two entered the office and Apollo plopped down on one of the couches. Clay sat down next to him, and could practically see the gears turning in Apollo’s head. Hopefully he didn’t decide to bring Athena into this. Clay did not want to have to go through another therapy session.
“What are you doing here, Clay?” Trucy asked.
Clay shrugged, trying to seem somewhat nonchalant. “I have nothing better to do, I guess.”
Trucy cocked her head to the side and squinted her eyes.
Please don’t tell me she’s suspicious too.
She continued to stare until Clay gave her a nervous smile. Her face cleared up and she grinned. “Okay!” The teenager moved her attention to somewhere deeper in the office.
Clay leaned over to Apollo. “Is she usually like that?”
Apollo glanced down the hall Trucy had skipped down. “…No, at least she doesn’t act that way around me.”
The door to the Agency opened and Athena strode in.
“Hey Apollo,” she noticed Clay. “Who’s this? A new client?”
“No, this is my friend Clay. He’s… visiting.”
Athena stuck her head out. “Athena Cykes. I work with Apollo.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Clay Terran.” He shook her hand.
I have to kill some time until Fulbright shows up…
“So Apollo told me you have superpowers too.”
Athena furrowed her brown. A few moments later, she seemed to understand what Clay was referring to and smiled. “Yeah, but I wouldn’t really call it a ‘super power’. I just have really good ears.”
Clay held up his hands. “I’m just sayin’, if you two became a super-duo. You’d be able to fight a lot more crime.”
Athena smiled. “I’d be open to Apollo and me becoming superheroes if he actually went out for a joy every so often.”
Apollo sighed. “Athena, we’ve been over this… I don’t want to.”
“I’ll jog with you. Unlike some people, I appreciate the art of being able to go up a flight of stairs without being completely out of breath.”
Apollo narrowed his eyes. “You wanna go?” He readied his fists.
“I could knock you out in one punch.”
Apollo lowered his fists. “And how do you know that?”
Shit… I did not mean to say that.
“Well I’m quite a bit stronger than you so…”
With a sigh, Apollo said, “oh right. Thanks for-”
There was a knock on the door and Clay’s eyes widened.
“I have to use the bathroom.”
Athena pointed. “Oh it’s over-” Clay was gone. “… There.”
He knocked on the closed bathroom door, but heard humming on the other side.
“Closed for cleaning!” Trucy called out.
Good god that thing really is a porcelain menace.
Clay looked around for another hiding spot. Fulbright never searched deep into the Agency, so Clay hid behind a wall.
Wait… I didn’t tell Apollo not to tell Fulbright I’m here.
In a panic, Clay pulled out his phone and started typing as fast as he could.
Dont tell them im here
He sent the message just as the door opened.
There was the ding of Apollo’s phone, and Clay prayed he’d read it in time.
“Detective Fulbright?” Athena asked. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m looking for a man by the name of Clay Terran? Have you seen him?”
“Oh-” Athena was cut off by Apollo,
“Nope. I haven’t seen him since I went to work this morning.”
“What are you doing?” Trucy asked.
Clay jumped. He hadn’t heard her show up. “Sh. I’m not here.” He whispered.
She nodded and hid behind the wall as well. “Why are we hiding?”
“Fulbright’s looking for me.”
“Did you do something illegal?”
“No I- why does everyone think that? Do I just look like the criminal type?”
Trucy frowned. “Hm… no. I don’t think so.”
Fulbright started talking again. “Where’s the little girl that’s usually following you around? What was her name? Tracy?”
“Trucy.” Apollo corrected.
Trucy looked at Clay who gestured for her to go.
“Are you Trucy?” Fulbright asked.
Clay held his breath as the two talked. Trucy was asked questions about Clay and she answered that she had no idea who he was, nor what he looked like.
It seemed that her response didn’t satisfy Fulbright. “Can I search the office?”
“You got a warrant?” Apollo asked.
“…No. I don’t.”
“Sorry, but you’re gonna need one if you want to search the office. Can I ask why you wanted to search it in the first place? We haven’t done anything illegal.”
There was a brief moment of silence. “No reason. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t have any illegal substances around.”
“Well we don’t, thanks for the concern.” The door opened and closed, and Clay poked his head out. The coast was clear.
“Hey,” he said.
“What was that all about?” Athena asked. “Why is Fulbright looking for you?”
“Yeah Clay,” Apollo had his arms crossed. “Why is Fulbright after you?”
Clay swallowed. “I-I don’t know. He’s been after me for a few days and he hasn’t told me why.”
Apollo flinched and looked at Athena who met his gaze. “You don’t have any idea what’s going on?” He asked.
“If I did, I’d tell you. Promise.”
Apollo frowned and pressed his finger into his forehead. Clay could tell he wanted to say something, but he kept his mouth shut. Without so much as a word, Apollo had made Clay feel like complete garbage. It seemed like he was pretty good at that.
The rest of the afternoon was awkward. Phoenix returned a while later and Clay had the usual conversation. Apollo sat silently at his desk and focused on his paperwork while Trucy and Athena watched the Steel Samurai.
Clay wasn’t completely sure what to do. After a few minutes of indecision, he finally sat down next to Trucy and tried to drown his sorrows in elaborate action scenes until the Agency closed for the night.
Clay drove himself and Apollo home. Occasionally, he’d try to say something, but wouldn’t receive any kind of response.
Once they were home, both men went to their rooms and shut the doors.
Clay climbed under the covers of his bed. He was just beginning to doze off when Apollo barged in.
“Why won’t you tell me anything?!”
Clay took a deep breath, here goes… “What?”
Apollo crossed his arms. “You know what I’m talking about. I’m not leaving until you tell me.”
Clay wasn’t completely sure how he was going to make Apollo leave, but he knew he’d have to do a lot. There wasn’t much that made Apollo freak.
Lets just start small.
Laying back down, he threw an arm over his face and said, “Apollo, I really don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You know why Fulbright’s breathing down your neck.”
“And how did you figure that out? Did my nose twitch or something?”
Apollo narrowed his eyes. “How did you know?”
“Just a guess, I guess.”
Alright, he’s getting mad. I just need to poke him a little more.
“Aw well, I guess we’re at an impasse. I don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re not gonna leave until I tell you about the thing I know nothing about.” Clay rolled over. “If you need me I’ll be asleep.”
Apollo walked away.
No no no no…
He flipped the light switch and the room was bathed in light.
“Why won’t you talk to me?!” He yelled. “Why do you have to deny everything?”
Alright, he’s getting mad… I just need to push it a bit more.
“Maybe because I don’t know anything. Did that ever occur to you dumb ass?”
“Ugh, you’re doing it again. Why won’t you tell me the truth?”
He knew what to say. Now all he had to do was hope Apollo didn’t hate him forever. Clay braced himself for the verbal lashing he’d probably receive, then said, “wow, first you present forged evidence-”
Apollo’s eyes flared.
“Finish that god damn sentence. I. Dare you.”
Clay swallowed. “I said, first you present forged evidence and now you’re bullying me into saying what you want me to say. I didn’t know you were as crooked as your old boss.”
Apollo set his jaw. His eyes were still trying to burn a hole in Clay’s skull. “Fine. I don’t have to subject myself to your asshole behavior. If you want me to leave, I’ll just go to Rah’bel’s house.” He turned to leave.
“Good. You’re more useful there than here.” That was probably overkill…
Apollo turned to look back. “I’m going then. Maybe I’ll find someone who’ll actually talk to me.” He had a look of desperation on his face. Clay wanted so badly to apologize, but he couldn’t. If he wanted Apollo to live, he had to do this.
“Then leave already. You’re giving me a massive headache.”
Apollo just stared. This behavior wasn’t like Clay and they both knew it. But eventually, he turned and left. The front door opened and slammed shut.
And then Clay was alone.
What do I do now?
About half an hour later, his phone rang. It was Rah’bel. Clay ignored the call, opting to rub his face with his hands and let out a long sigh. He hoped to all things holy this didn’t permanently harm their friendship. But telling Apollo he’s no different than his old boss wasn’t something that could just be fixed with an ‘I’m sorry’.
Rah’bel left a message Clay thought about deleting it, but decided he might as well see what what she wanted.
“Hey, this is Rah’bel. Apollo just called me, and he told me what happened. He’s spending the night at my house, and he’s going to talk to Fulbright tomorrow-”
Clay’s blood ran cold.
What do I do?
There were a few outcomes of Apollo visiting Fulbright. He could get killed, Fulbright could turn Apollo against Clay, or Fulbright could kill them both.
I could call Rah’bel… No Apollo would probably be listening in. Besides, I would only look more suspicious if I told Apollo not to see Fulbright.
Clay’s hands were shaking. What could he do. What. Could. He. Do?
He sat staring at the wall for what seemed like hours. His mind was completely blank. Then the sudden realization hit him.
He messed up. All this hard work and heartache for nothing.
I really don’t want to wait until Fulbright finds and kills me. But… I can’t just kill myself.
Or can I?
Clay sat up. He did keep a container of bleach under the sink. A small smile crept up his face.
Looks like all those jokes about drinking bleach are finally coming to fruition.
Now all he had to do was get to the kitchen.
Aaaaand we’re going.
His legs were shaking.
He still didn’t move.
Clay’s insides had seized up. Tears threatened to fall as he made his way to the kitchen. He opened the cabinets under the sink, and pulled out a large container. It was mostly full.
His fingers closed around the cap.
How’s Apollo gonna react to this?
Clay pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind. It didn’t matter, he wasn’t going to be here much longer. He ripped off the cap and chugged the bleach down before he could think of anything else. A cough escaped his mouth.
Holy shit that burned!
He fell to the ground, his head narrowly avoiding the corner of the counter.
I should’ve thought of a less painful way to kill myself.
Clay curled into a ball as he tried to calm himself down. His stomach felt like it was melting; which it was. The feeling of sheer terror caused his whole body to seize up, making it impossible to move.
The only thing he could do was turn his attention to the cool linoleum pressed against his face. He had never realized how pleasant it felt on his skin. His body had stopped shaking, and Clay was left lying on the ground. He was beginning to feel extremely groggy. He tried to think of what he’d do when he woke up, but his mind was working about as fast as a snail. He could feel himself slipping away.
I’m going to be okay.
Clay closed his eyes.
It’ll all be over soon.