Chapter 1: It Never Goes as Planned
Okay, you know what writing this made me realize? ...That I FUCKING LOVE FRANZISKA. ALL HAIL THE PRINCESS OF PERFECTION. Anyway, this is turning out longer and taking longer than I had expected, so it'll have to be split into parts! It's turning into an entire sequel at this point. But at least this way I don't keep you all waiting as long.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Alright, you two, listen up!"
Phoenix and Trucy immediately stood next to one another and straightened their backs. Phoenix threw in a military salute, which was ignored. Miles looked like a commander, with his hands on his hips like that. His expression was gravely serious. It didn't match the frilly apron.
Why hasn't he gotten a less girly apron, anyway? Phoenix wondered. Miles ignored his perplexed expression and pressed on.
"Four days," he began. "We have four days in which to get everything ready for Christmas, and my sister arrives tomorrow. Which means that this house has to sparkle. No dust, no debris, no trash— spotless."
"But we just cleaned up yesterday—"
"SPOTLESS. It's not a negotiation—"
"You keep saying that," Phoenix interrupted. "I mean, it's not like she lives here. How much of a perfectionist can she poss—"
Miles' expression darkened so suddenly that Phoenix froze in shock. He looked like he was having traumatic war flashbacks or something.
"You have no idea," Miles said, his voice low and fearful. Phoenix decided not to ask for anything more than that— his terrified expression said more than enough.
Phoenix was already wondering if having her over was really such a good idea.
The plan had been somewhat last-minute. Franziska had announced that she'd be in the States for three days, all of which she graciously offered to spend at the Wright's. Phoenix quickly learned from reading her text messages over Miles' shoulder that she was...
...She was odd. He simply didn't know any other way to put it.
For one thing, she usually addressed people by their full names, and this included a man who was more or less her brother. The first of her long messages had begun with Miles Edgeworth! ...Exclamation point and all. Phoenix knew that she was odd, but he hadn't been able to determine if she was scary or not.
"I'll clean my room!" Trucy offered, and Miles patted her on the head.
"That's good. Make sure you clean everything, okay? And get all of your laundry together for me. Your clothes need to be cleaned and ironed."
The little magician trotted up the stairs, her arms full of smaller versions of the usual cleaning supplies. Phoenix watched her go, and then turned to Miles.
"Franziska's probably not going to see her room."
"I know that. But it's best that she be occupied elsewhere. I'm sure her cleaning skills aren't up to Franziska's standards..."
He trailed off, biting his lip and folding his arms nervously. Phoenix laughed softly and moved forward to wrap him in a gentle embrace. He felt Miles' stiff muscles relax somewhat as he rested his head against his shoulder.
"Alright— this sister of yours. What's got you so anxious about the visit? Is it just that you haven't seen her in a while?"
"...Mostly," Miles murmured. "She doesn't know much of anything about what I've been doing for the past few years, and we've yet to breach the subject of her father."
Phoenix rubbed Miles' back and squeezed him a little tighter.
"It'll be okay. You've both had time to heal, and he isn't around anymore. He can't hurt the two of you if you refuse to let him."
"...I suppose you're right."
Phoenix smiled and pulled back to look at Miles.
"I'm always Wright."
"Shut up." Miles tried to act mad, but his lip curled up at the corner, and Phoenix chuckled.
"Now... Is she really as scary as you're making her sound?"
Miles blinked for a moment, and then he pulled out his phone. He scrolled through several lengthy text messages until he found the one he was looking for, and then he handed it to Phoenix. Phoenix knew who had sent it the moment he saw the opening.
Miles Edgeworth! You will be pleased to learn that I have cleared a full three days in my very busy schedule to go and check on you and your well-being. I have decided that I shall stay with you and your current client, so you would do well to make sure that I have a proper place to sleep. (I WILL NOT be delegated to a couch, Miles Edgeworth!!!) As I am sure that you know, I will settle for no less than a queen-sized bed and must have a full set of clean and pressed linens for each day.
While I will stay with you for as long as possible, I DO have my own errands to which I must attend, as it is rare that I make it to the United States. I have secured transportation, and so to that end, you needn't worry. I will not answer questions about my business here, as that is no one's concern but my own.
I have procured a present for the child you have described at length, and another for this strangely lenient boss of yours. I would appreciate having permission to place them beneath the family's Christmas tree, but would understand if it was deemed inappropriate for the occasion. I am also bringing a bountiful supply of PROPER candy and sweets from a PROPER German Christmas Market, and not the absolutely rubbish imitations you Americans so frequently attempt.
Some final notes: You would do well to remember that I will address you in German when I wish for conversational privacy. Also, I should not have to remind you of this, but I will not stay in a filthy home. You are well aware of my standards. I pray that you find the time to clean house before my arrival, lest you come to know the stinging taste of leather.
Best Wishes— Franziska Von Karma
Phoenix stared at the message for several long seconds after he'd finish reading it. He could hardly believe that it was real. What human being actually talked like that, let alone texted like that?
"...What does she mean by leather?" He finally managed to ask. Miles shuddered.
"My hope is that no one finds out," he grumbled. It was clear he didn't intend to answer, and so Phoenix didn't press him on it any further.
The two men held a sort of huddle for a minute or two to discuss the plan of action for getting everything sufficiently clean, and they decided it would be fastest to tackle each room together. Miles did not admit that he also wanted an excuse to spend some time alone with Phoenix, something that was rare for the new couple. Miles sat and crawled along on the floor to carefully dust and scrub the bottoms of furniture while Phoenix stood on a stepladder (he insisted on calling it that) to get to the higher places. Above them, they both heard Trucy moving things about and bounding around her room.
"So... Trucy said you have a special dinner planned," Phoenix commented. Miles looked up at him, mildly startled out of his focused state, before responding.
"Um... Yes. Since Franziska's coming, I decided to make a traditional German dinner. The main focus of Christmas dinners tends to be roast goose."
"Huh. I've never had goose before."
"Well, there's a first time for everything. It's been a long while since I last made it, though, so I can't promise excellence."
Phoenix paused his movements to look down at Miles and grin.
"I'm sure if you're making it, it'll be delicious," Phoenix chirped. Miles rolled his eyes.
"Aren't you a bit biased?"
Phoenix shrugged, laughing softly.
By the time all of the furniture in the kitchen and dining area had been cleaned and scrubbed and Miles had moved on to mopping the floor while Phoenix washed all of the dishes, Miles had fallen silent for a while. He spoke up after a few minutes of quiet mopping.
"There's... Something you should know in advance. I, uh... She doesn't actually know that I'm gay, so we'll have to keep this under wraps, and Trucy will have to be told the same. I— I'm terribly sorry. It's just that I don't want to—"
Phoenix dropped his dishes to turn to Miles and wave his hand at him, urging him to stop.
"Hey, don't apologize. I get it. This is family, after all. You'll tell her when and how you're ready," he reassured him. Miles looked nervously at the floor.
"...I didn't want you to be disappointed. I know you want to go screaming from the rooftops, but it'll have to wait."
"And I don't mind waiting! I can reschedule my rooftop-screaming for the spring." Phoenix chuckled, and Miles managed a little smile. Finally, he nodded.
"Alright... Thank you."
Phoenix returned to the soapy water and changed the subject to something lighter.
"Y'know, this is the first Christmas season in a long time where I have proper Christmas-y plans, and thankfully Miss Fey's understanding and isn't making me work much. I have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off. No classes, either. Got someone to take notes for me tomorrow."
"That's nice. What were you planning?"
"Well..." Phoenix looked out the window above the sink as he thought about the things he'd scheduled throughout the week. "When your sister gets here tomorrow, I'll barely have time to meet her before I have to go to work. But I told Trucy that I want her to help you guys get all the decorations set up. When I get back, we'll all decorate the tree together."
"I suppose I can try to finish wrapping all of the presents tonight," Miles thought aloud, mentally jotting everything down in a schedule.
"I got out of my evening classes tomorrow, so I thought we could all sit down for your dinner, and then we can make the Gingerbread houses I got."
Miles smiled to himself at that, something warm lighting up his eyes.
"She'll like that. She won't admit it, but she will. It was always one of her favorite parts of Christmas."
"That's sweet. ...Now, you said Franziska has stuff to do in the morning on Christmas Eve, so Trucy found a caroling group that'll drop by to take her around town in the evening. It's chaperoned, and she'll get to spend some time with Pearl. In the meantime, we can use her absence to finish getting everything ready."
"How have you planned all of this without my knowledge?" Miles asked suddenly, his tone mildly annoyed. Phoenix snickered.
"I wanted to surprise you! I'm not totally incompetent!"
"Hmmph. I hope you didn't plan too much for Christmas Day. You know I'll have to spend most of it cooking," Miles reminded him.
"I wouldn't leave you out," Phoenix insisted. "Christmas Day is gonna be a family day, and you know that includes you. My parents should come by like last time, and you can cook while we hang out in the kitchen and living room decorating cookies for desert and watching movies and stuff. We typically don't open presents until the afternoon, which gives you time to get everything in the oven to come and join us."
"Ah. That sounds nice."
"And you have to promise you won't hang out in the background like last time."
Miles snorted and nudged Phoenix in the back with the handle of his mop.
"Things have changed a bit since then. You needn't worry."
Phoenix laughed, and then he focused his full attention on the dishes. He tried to, anyway. Miles could tell that he was hiding something, that he had planned some kind of surprise that he didn't plan on admitting to yet. Miles had never been crazy about surprises, as he was always worried he wouldn't react well enough, but he had a feeling that Phoenix knew him well enough to keep that in mind.
He smiled as he finished mopping the kitchen floor and announced that he was moving onto the hallway. This was already shaping up to become his best Christmas ever.
Phoenix knew, somehow, that things wouldn't go according to all of his carefully laid plans. His life had never worked out that way.
He was working when his phone rang. Normally, he glanced at the caller ID and ignored it with plans to call back later. This time, however, he saw that the call was from his father, a man who rarely made telephone calls.
Mia Fey turned in her desk chair to face her assistant and smiled. She looked tired. Everyone planned on taking Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off to spend with their families, and they'd collectively agreed to get everything settled tonight and the following morning. It had been a long six hours of nothing but endless paperwork and phone calls. Phoenix, too, was feeling the weight of it on his upper back.
"What is it?" She asked calmly, not letting her fatigue show.
"I hate to ask, but do you mind if I take this call? I think it's important."
Mia laughed quietly and waved a hand, gesturing vaguely at the door to the hallway outside of her office.
"You're not a slacker, Phoenix. You're allowed to take calls."
Phoenix nodded shyly and slid out the door and into the hallway, his fingers already pressing the call button. He instantly spotted another one of the office's lawyers, one who enjoyed teasing him, and shot him a warning glare as he held his phone to his ear. The man laughed dryly as he sipped from a coffee cup that still appeared to be steaming. Diego Armando was never without a cup of coffee.
How haven't you dropped dead from the amount of caffeine you consume, anyway?
Before he could ask the question aloud, Phoenix heard a click, followed by his father's voice.
"That you, Nick?"
"Yeah— I'm sorry, but I'm at work, so I'll have to make this quick. What did you need?"
Phoenix heard his father sigh, and thought he heard his mother say something in the background.
"Well, I hate to tell you this, son, but it seems like your mother and I won't be able to make it down for Christmas."
Phoenix felt his expression fall. He hardly ever got to see his parents, as they'd moved to a smaller town shortly after he'd moved out. The holidays were usually his only guaranteed time to spend with them.
"Really? What happened?!"
"Again, I'm real sorry about it... Your mother broke her hip."
Phoenix covered his mouth with his hand. Her bones had been deteriorating as of late, even if it was somewhat early (his parents had had him later in life than most, but still). Even so, he hadn't expected something like this.
"Oh my god, what did she do?!"
Phoenix heard a bit of shuffling, and then a different voice, one heavy with guilt, but sweet nonetheless.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart— it was my fault. You know how stubborn I can be, and I just had to try and carry all of the groceries by myself."
"Mom! You have to let dad help you every once in a while!"
Phoenix could see Diego snickering at him as he eavesdropped on the conversation, and he didn't particularly care enough to throw a pen or a balled-up piece of paper at him like he usually would.
"Oh, I know. I do feel awful. You know how much I love spending time with my grandbaby."
"Well, if it's not too much trouble, I could try and arrange for her to spend some time with you on Christmas Eve... Would that be okay?"
Phoenix couldn't see his mother, but he felt like he heard her smile.
"That would be wonderful, if you could manage it. I do feel terrible about all of this."
"...Well, mom, I actually have something to tell you about that might make you feel a little better. It, uh, it was pretty recent, so I haven't found a chance to tell you guys about it yet, but..."
Phoenix paused to look up at Diego, who was still eying him over the rim of his mug. He gestured at him to go away, and he shook his head. Phoenix groaned and ran into the nearest bathroom.
"Is something wrong, sweetie?"
"No, no, a coworker was just trying to eavesdrop."
"So... What did you want to tell me about?"
Phoenix smiled as he thought of how he wanted to phrase the admission.
"You remember Miles, right?"
Phoenix's mother giggled.
"Of course I do— such a lovely man. Tell me again, why can't you settle down with someone like him?"
Phoenix did his best to suppress his laughter.
"Funny you should mention that, because, well, we're together. Miles and I. We've, uh, been a couple for a little over a week now. Which doesn't seem like a long time, but considering that we live together, every day is like three or four dates."
Phoenix only heard some kind of squealing sound for the next minute or so, followed by his mother eagerly relaying the information to his father. She had to repeat herself several times, as her words were too jumbled to be understood. Once he'd absorbed the information, Phoenix's father laughed and took the phone.
"Now, listen, I told your mother! I told her! I called it!"
"I'm sure you did, dad."
Phoenix's mother asked too many questions, and afterwards the trio decided that Trucy could get a ride down to the hospital to visit her grandma and grandpa. Phoenix was sure he could take her, or could get Miles to take her, while everyone else continued their Christmas preparations. It meant his plans would have to be changed, or at least rearranged, but he could accept that if it meant his parents still got to be involved.
"Trucy will show you how to set up Skype, okay? And that way you can still watch her open her presents. I love you guys, and I'll talk to you later."
He hung up the phone and left the restroom, still smiling at how lucky he was to have such supportive parents. Diego had left, probably bored with having no one around to pick on. Not that he was a bully by any means, but he enjoyed poking at and teasing people, particularly Phoenix.
"Everything alright?" Mia asked when he returned to the office. He jumped, startled by the fact that she'd been waiting.
"U-uh, it's kind of rough. My mom broke her hip."
"Oh, god, is she going to be okay?"
Phoenix sighed as he pulled his chair over to Mia's desk and plopped into it.
"Yeah, but they can't come down for Christmas... And after you worked so hard to get us those couple of days off, too."
Mia smiled and shook her head, checking her watch. She clicked her tongue at Phoenix as he moved to stand up.
"We've been at this for a while. Let's go get lunch, okay?"
"Wouldn't it be dinner by this point?"
Mia laughed, and Phoenix smiled. He was also lucky to have such a great boss.
It had started out as a paid internship. Mia occasionally taught classes or gave seminars at his school, and had noticed him for his work ethic. She'd offered him the opportunity to learn from the best by helping out around the offices, and he'd gladly quit his crummy retail job to take advantage of it.
Now, over a year later (he'd taken the internship shortly after hiring Miles), he was an actual employee of the offices despite not yet having his degree. It wasn't required to be an assistant, after all. And he was certain that by the time he had his badge, he'd have far more experience than any of his classmates and competitors.
Mia stood up and dusted herself off, and Phoenix fetched his blazer and held the door open for her. Her heels clicked against the hardwood of the hallway as she jogged over to the door across the hall and threw it open.
"Mr. Grossberg, Phoenix and I are going to get dinner, okay?"
Mr. Grossberg, huddled over his ostentatious hardwood desk, shot up to look at Mia, his mustache twitching in his surprise. Diego, who'd apparently been organizing the books, looked up to glare at Phoenix. Phoenix scoffed.
"Chill out, Armando. I'm taken, anyway."
Mia perked up at that and looked at Phoenix with curiosity in her eyes.
"Really? Since when?"
"Uh, about a week ago."
"Well, we'll have to talk about it over dinner. ...Diego."
She called the other man's name sternly, and he looked somewhat shyly at her. Phoenix tried not to laugh.
"I'm always behaving myself!"
Mia didn't allow Diego any further time to argue, and she turned on her heels and briskly walked down the hall.
"Um, well, see you both later!" Phoenix shouted as he ran after her. He was sure he heard Mr. Grossberg laughing at Diego's jealous expression.
When he got home, Phoenix immediately relayed what had happened to his mother. Miles was much more upset than he'd expected him to be.
"...I don't have any parents," he admitted under his breath. "I was looking forward to pretending that I do."
Trucy made a soothing sound and hugged Miles from the side, and he ruffled her hair.
"Well, Trucy will still get to see them, and we'll talk to them over the computer. It's not the same, but it's better than nothing," Phoenix sighed. "Now, Trucy, it's late. You need to be in bed."
She protested, but Miles eventually convinced her to go to sleep. Phoenix yawned and stretched as he plopped down in the oversized armchair— the nice, new plush one that Miles had gotten him to replace his ratty old one. Phoenix still smiled every time he sat in it and marveled over the swiveling features and the cupholders and the slot for the remote control.
When he'd released all the air from his lungs and finished his stretch, Miles pushed him aside and squeezed into the seat. There wasn't quite enough room for him to sit beside Phoenix, which left him sitting about halfway on his leg. Phoenix didn't mind.
"I hope your mother feels better soon," Miles murmured sleepily, gently rubbing the back of Phoenix's neck to release the tension there. Phoenix hummed for a moment before responding.
"Yeah, me too. I should've known something would go wrong, though."
"We can make it work. As long as nothing else goes wrong—"
As if on cue, Phoenix's cell phone rang. He groaned loudly as he fished it from his pocket, faced with some difficulty due to being cramped into a chair meant for one person. Miles tried to look sympathetic, but it was clear he found it amusing.
"What is it, Larry?!" Phoenix half-shouted into the phone. Miles buried his face in his chest in a vain attempt to conceal his laughter.
"Dude, you'll never believe it! Cindy dumped me! Abandoned me for another man!"
"You cheated on her!"
"Still! I'm heartbroken, man! And now I ain't got nowhere to go for the holidays! Nowhere, Nick! I'm alone! I'm old man Scrooge, dude!"
Miles sounded like he was choking, now, and Phoenix gave him a warning shove.
"Don't tell me. Don't you dare—"
"You've got an open couch, at least, right?! Your couch turns into a bed! Have a heart, man!"
Phoenix sighed and rubbed the space between his eyes. He could already feel a migraine forming, but Larry knew full well that Phoenix couldn't turn away someone who asked to stay and had nowhere else to go.
"FINE, Larry. You can have the couch and spend Christmas with us—"
"Aww, thanks, dude—"
"BUT you can't come until Christmas Eve, specifically between the hours of seven AM and noon, GOT IT? And you'd better bring something for my daughter!"
"Oh... Because Franziska will be out," Miles whispered to himself. Larry had started to respond, but paused upon hearing the voice.
"Hey, hey, is that Miles? Lemme talk to him! Give him the phone!"
Before he could refuse, Miles seized the phone for himself and ignored Phoenix's protesting wine.
"Hello, Butz. What did you want?" He asked. Larry snickered under his breath.
"Hey, buddy! Listen, Nick said he finally grew a pair and asked you out. Is that true?"
"So, tell me: have you two banged yet?"
Miles scowled as he thrust the phone back into Phoenix's hand. Phoenix didn't waste any time hanging up. He sighed and shook his head.
"And there's another wrench in my plans. I mean, he'll probably go along with whatever else we're doing, but you'll have to plan to cook for one more person, right?"
"Well, no. I was planning on your parents being here. If I keep things the same, we should have more than enough. But we'll likely need to come up with another activity or two to keep him entertained."
Miles waited a moment as Phoenix groaned and wiggled his shoulders, and then he smiled somewhat mischievously. It made Phoenix pause.
"...What is it?"
"Well, Franziska will be here tomorrow. I hid away all of my things and prepared the guest room for her."
"...If she's in the guest room, where are you supposed to sleep?" Phoenix wasn't sure how that hadn't yet occurred to him. He'd assumed Miles would take the couch, but then, his parents were supposed to sleep there, weren't they? And now Larry had claimed it.
"I guess you'll just have to scoot over and make room for me," Miles replied, his smile widening slightly. After a quiet second, Phoenix realized what he meant, and then he grinned as he pulled the man close and squeezed him between his arms.
"I'm sure I'll live."
Phoenix was a bit too eager to get settled into bed. He threw on his pajamas without any concern for whether or not Miles had entered the room, and he threw himself onto the mattress and burrowed under the comforter the moment he was dressed. Miles tried not to laugh as he crawled in somewhat sheepishly.
Phoenix wiggled around until he was lying on his side, facing the other man, and took hold of the hand he had resting near his face.
"Hi!" Phoenix sang.
"...Hello," Miles replied through an embarrassed laugh. "You don't use a top sheet?"
"Nah, they're more trouble than they're worth."
As soon as there was a moment of quiet, Phoenix felt the fatigue begin to settle in. He wiggled around again, coaxing Miles to rest his head on his chest, in the crook of his arm.
"Hey— you keep that hand above the waist, mister. I have to get up early, remember?" Miles growled. Phoenix quickly raised his wandering hand.
"I wasn't gonna do anything!"
"Of course not."
Another long pause.
"...So sex is off limits."
"Until this is all over and done with, yes."
"Can we still smooch?"
"...That should be fine."
"What about cuddling?"
"What do you think we're doing right now?!" Miles retorted. Phoenix laughed and gave him a tight squeeze.
As soon as both men had adjusted to be completely comfortable and had had a moment to breathe, Phoenix asked the question that had been on his mind for a while.
"What was it like? Growing up with Franziska, I mean. What sort of a little sister is she?"
Miles didn't answer for a long moment. Phoenix worried, briefly, that he had already fallen asleep.
"...That's hard to explain. It would take too long."
"Well, alright— what was Christmas like?"
Miles paused again. Phoenix could just barely see his eyes, and he saw them flicker up to look at the headboard above him.
"...It was nice. ...Sometimes."
Miles scoffed softly, a sound that was little more than a quick exhale of breath.
"In that sense I'm referring to her father, not to her. He had... difficulty allowing children to just be children. Everything had to be a competition, had to be about success and being the best at everything, so he didn't much like seeing us get along with one another. Or with other children, for that matter."
"He wouldn't let you have friends?"
"Not really, no."
Miles looked like he was gazing far away as he tried to recall the exact details of what he wanted to say, like he was picturing it in his mind.
"My first Christmas there..." Phoenix looked at him intently. He always liked listening to his stories— when he got into it, Miles really knew how to paint a picture. "I'll never forget it. Most of it was amazing. It was the first time I'd really been able to smile there, and it was when Fran started treating me like a brother."
Miles smiled softly as he reflected on his sister, and Phoenix hummed to show that he was still listening. He took note of his referring to her as Fran.
"We got one week off of school for winter break. That was when Fran first took me ice skating. She was so patient... Every time I fell down, I wanted to cry, because we were taught to hold ourselves to such high standards. But she kept telling me that it was okay, that I was doing just fine. We were out there for hours until I could finally do it on my own, and she gave me a hug, and while she was holding me she admitted that she hadn't had anyone else to go skating with. She was happy.
"That mansion was enormous, and it was beautiful, but it usually didn't feel like anyone lived there. Christmastime was different, because there was decor everywhere, and the constant smell of food, and guests bustling in and out at all times to drop off gifts and catch up with Von Karma. We kept an advent calendar, and we put lights on all the stair-rails and columns and hung wreaths on all the doors... There was this gigantic tree, a real tree, and Fran and I so got excited to see our respective piles of presents grow larger and larger.
"The whole week, we did Christmas activities and went ice skating and built snowmen. We watched Christmas movies, and we baked cookies and gingerbread houses— or, well, Fran's was more of a gingerbread castle. Sometimes we snuck away to have snowball fights with the neighborhood kids, and we stopped by every Christmas Market in the area, and every night of the week there was an amazing dinner. The feast we had on Christmas Day— it's actually traditional in Germany to eat a light meal the night before to make room for all of the food, and believe me, you need it."
Phoenix tried not to laugh as he watched Miles ramble. Miles didn't have as many happy childhood memories as other people did, so he had never taken them for granted. They meant more to him, perhaps.
"It sounds great," Phoenix replied when Miles paused.
"...It was great. Up until that evening, when we gathered around the tree to open our presents."
Miles furrowed his brow.
"...All throughout the week the piles had gotten quite large, and I noticed right away that they were much smaller when it actually came time to open them. I wasn't about to complain about it, of course, but I did wonder what had happened to the other gifts. And then I looked at the tags, and..."
Miles trailed off, taking a moment to swallow down the lump in his throat.
"...Almost all of the gifts were for me. Altogether, there were about twenty presents. Fifteen for me, and five for her."
"That's... Really weird. Why would he give you more presents than his own daughter?"
"...They were earned. Franziska hadn't done as well on her recent exams as he had expected her to, and to him, that meant she hadn't earned as many presents as me. The fact that I was several years older didn't mean anything to him. As far as he was concerned, she had lost. And that didn't come without a punishment. ...None of her presents were even toys. Just practical things, like books and clothes.
"...I'll never forget the look on her face. Like she was sad, but also guilty. She honestly thought that she had failed, and that meant she deserved to be treated that way. And all for scoring an 83 on an exam meant for high schoolers."
Phoenix squinted in confusion at his ceiling, unable to process how a person could think that way. He'd never do something like that to Trucy. Some people really weren't meant to be parents.
"That is... That's really messed up."
Miles took a moment to readjust himself, to more comfortably nuzzle his head into Phoenix's shoulder and stretch his legs. Phoenix felt his eyelids begin to droop, and quickly checked his phone to make sure he'd set his alarm for the right time.
"...Nick?" Miles' voice was quiet, now, and his eyes had fluttered closed. The word was barely audible, mumbled against his shirt like that. Phoenix leaned in to be sure he'd hear him.
Miles felt around for a moment until he found one of Phoenix's hands, and then he gently squeezed it.
"Can you promise me... Can you promise me that you'll keep that story in mind when you meet her tomorrow? ...All of it?"
Phoenix raised an eyebrow, but nodded gently nonetheless.
"Sure," he agreed. "I will."
"Thanks. ...Now go to sleep." Miles rolled off of Phoenix and curled into himself, facing the other direction. Phoenix felt a pang of momentary disappointment, but realized that it'd probably be hard to sleep with Miles on top of his arm. As much as he liked holding him, his arm would have fallen asleep quickly.
"Okay, but can I have a kiss first?"
Miles let out a frustrated-sounding groan and rolled over once more, using his elbow to hoist himself up to where his face was aligned with that of his boyfriend. Phoenix chuckled and cupped his face in between both of his hands. Miles brought their lips together slowly, gently, resting one hand on Phoenix's chest. Miles felt a stealthy prodding at his elbow, but didn't allow Phoenix to knock him down. If he did, Phoenix would surely roll over on top of him and steal as many kisses as he could.
"Don't think I don't know your tricks," Miles huffed when he returned to his previous spot. Phoenix feigned offense for a moment before laughing it off.
A couple of minutes later, Miles' breathing slowed and evened out, alerting Phoenix that he'd fallen asleep. Phoenix smiled at his back until he, too, drifted off.
Introducing Mia, Grossberg, and Godot (still known as Diego Armando here)! This was supposed to be a short thing, but over time I decided I wanted to expand this universe more and ended up wanting to write things like Phoenix's days at work and the relationship between Mia and Diego and Phoenix, etc.
Next time, Franzy will arrive in all her glory!
Waking up next to Miles was nicer than it should have been.
Nothing had happened—Miles had been insistent that he really did need to wake up early. Even so, the simple act of waking, of fading into the world, and seeing his peaceful face before anything else was strangely delightful.
Phoenix didn't move right away. He smiled to himself and tenderly brushed the hair out of the other man's face, wondering if he should wake him or if he should take the opportunity to relax and enjoy this moment. He didn't get a chance to make a decision, as the gentle touch of his hand was enough to wake Miles. That, or he'd already been awake. He gave a tired smile.
"You wake up like a Disney princess," Phoenix teased. He was certain that Miles would have rolled his eyes if they were open, but instead he let out a little huff of breath that he recognized as a chuckle.
"Your spikes are all matted," Miles murmured after a while. Phoenix touched a hand to his head. His hair was, in fact, flattened on one side. He laughed.
"Yeah, I'll fix that. I wanna make a good impression for your sister."
Phoenix regretted it as soon as he'd said it. He had wanted to cherish this reverie for a little longer, but the mention of Franziska had Miles shooting up in the bed with his eyes wide and brows furrowed. He had untangled himself from the sheets and sprung to his feet before Phoenix could implore him to stay a while longer, and after a moment, Phoenix felt a shirt land on him.
"Get dressed. You have work."
"Five more minutes?"
Phoenix didn't say anything for a minute more, as his place in his bed allowed him a good view of Miles hurriedly changing his clothes. Miles suddenly stopped, turning around and catching the pair of eyes on him, and glared.
"Don't just sit there gawking at me, get dressed!"
Phoenix couldn't help but laugh as Miles angrily threw his discarded pajamas at him.
Phoenix found that Miles wouldn't let him wear his usual blue suit, and made him wear a more typical and more expensive grey one, only allowing him to wear a blue tie. He made sure that Phoenix was clean-shaven and that his hair looked as normal as he could possibly make it, and he even went as far as making Phoenix wear proper dress socks with his work shoes. Apparently Franziska was very judgmental in terms of attire, and would notice if he was wearing something cheap.
Miles, himself, wore a cashmere sweater that Phoenix hadn't seen before with a nice pair of slacks. He earned himself a gentle punch in the arm when he nuzzled his face into the soft fabric.
Trucy was dressed up in one of her holiday dresses over white stockings and had her hair tied partially back into a red ribbon. Phoenix wondered if Miles had coordinated her outfit with her ahead of time, or if she had simply taken the excuse to get dressed up. For once, she didn't insist on wearing her top hat or one of her capes, as she always seemed to do at the least appropriate of times.
"Everyone has to be on their best behavior."
"And the house must stay clean. Any messes are to be cleaned up instantly."
"And don't bring up her father or mention our romantic relationship, okay?"
"Got— wait, what?!" Trucy, who'd been staring expectantly out the window, sprung back from the windowsill to fold her arms. "Why can't I talk about you and daddy?!"
Miles sighed as he looked down at her.
"Trucy, sweetheart, I want to talk about it. I do. But I'm not entirely sure how she will feel about it and I don't want to risk upsetting her."
"Why would she be mad?!"
A long pause, one where Phoenix looked genuinely perplexed and helpless, and looked to Miles for some kind of help. Apparently he'd been so focused on teaching Trucy to be accepting that he'd forgotten to explain that others... Well, that they weren't always so understanding.
"...I'll talk to you about that later, okay, honey? For now, just do what Miles wants."
The little girl huffed in annoyance, but reluctantly agreed to the terms. Only a couple of minutes later, Miles warned everyone to stand up straight and get into position, as he had a view of the car pulling into the driveway. Phoenix could already see that it was much nicer than his own, and possibly even more expensive than Miles' red sports car.
The woman who stepped out was almost exactly what Phoenix had been expecting. She wore gloves and a fitted skirt with a puffy blouse and a frilly neckpiece (Miles said it was called a cravat, right?), along with expensive-looking earrings and high-heeled shoes. She had a practical bag thrown over one shoulder, not quite a purse and not quite a satchel, and walked with a determined and professional stride. Phoenix could hear the heels clicking against the pavement and held his breath until he heard her knock at the front door.
"She kind of looks like a princess," Trucy whispered from the window. "A scary princess, but still."
Phoenix snickered, and Miles shot him a glare that instantly silenced him. He opened the door, and Phoenix saw the woman's sharp eyes focus in on Miles and on nothing else. There was something strained in her expression— this was their first meeting in years, after all, and there was a lot left to be said.
There was a moment of tense silence. Finally, she forced her mouth to widen into something resembling a smile.
"Miles Edgeworth. You're looking well, I see," she said. Miles tried to smile back.
"I am well, thank you. ...Fran. It's been a long while," Miles said carefully, taking her hand in his and shaking it. The girl smiled at him, the cloud over her features having suddenly disappeared. She had one of those smiles that looked devious, or more resembled a smirk. It was like there was something permanently haughty in her expression. Miles stepped aside to allow her into the house, and she did a strange little bow as she entered.
"There's no need to be so formal, Miles Edgeworth! You—" She froze suddenly, and her eyes darted around the room. Her expression was unreadable as her lips settled into a thin, tight line. Then, her nose wrinkled as her lips curled into a sneer, a look of nearly pure disgust. "You... How have you lived in this tiny, drab place for so long?!"
Had he been drinking something, Phoenix would surely have choked on it or spit it out, as oddly comical a description as that was. Without a prop to show his shock, though, he simply jolted in place, reflexively grabbing hold of Trucy's shoulder.
"H-Hey! I know it's not exactly a mansion, but tiny and drab is—"
"And you!" Franziska didn't let him finish and turned her disdainful look to him, pointing at him with one hand on her hip. "I was told that you are a lawyer-in-training! What kind of hair is that for a guardian of the law?!"
"Guardian of the law...?" Phoenix shook his head in disbelief. Surely she would start ranting about the holy goddess of the law (or something) any minute now.
"Fran, please," Miles warned, crossing his arms sternly across his chest. He and Franziska seemed to have a silent argument for a moment made up only of the force behind their glares. For now, Miles was granted victory (his glare was one that could topple the greatest of foes), and Franziska turned to look down at Trucy.
"Oh, and you must be Trucy. I've heard such wonderful things about you," Franziska cooed, kneeling down to shake Trucy's hand. Trucy looked like she didn't know how to react, but acted polite anyway. Franziska smiled, more naturally this time, and Phoenix's eyes widened.
What's with the sudden change in attitude?!
"She doesn't mind well-behaved children," Miles whispered, reading Phoenix's mind. "...And she's less fond of men than women in general. Don't ask me why."
Phoenix wasn't going to argue with her on it. It was more important that she was nice to Trucy than whether or not she liked him. And besides, he had plenty of time to try and change her mind.
"Phoenix Wright," he said, extending his hand. Franziska raised an eyebrow at him as she shook it. She had a more firm handshake than most of the men he met in law school, and he wasn't sure how to feel about that.
"Franziska Von Karma. Prosecutor." Her devious grin returned.
"...Right," Phoenix choked as his reply. Trucy stepped in to save him.
"I'll show you to your room, missus!"
"Oh, will you? How polite. Guide me to my bedchambers!"
Franziska allowed Trucy to take her by the hand and lead her up the stairs, her suitcase in tow. Phoenix waited until she was out of sight, and then he grabbed Miles by the arms and shook him.
"What was that?!"
"I tried to warn you."
"Why does she introduce herself as a prosecutor?!"
"Because she is," Miles explained with a casual shrug. Phoenix's expression implored him to explain further. "She got accepted into Germany's equivalent of Harvard Law when she was thirteen, Nick."
Phoenix froze. It took a full minute for his mind to process the statement as something that could possibly be a fact, and another thirty seconds for him to realize that Miles was being completely serious.
"It's true. She graduated law school, and her father made her enroll in lots of internships and overseas programs before he would allow her to take the bar. He didn't want her sullying the family name by going in too early, apparently— he didn't think she was ready for a debut. She didn't take his death well and stepped away from it for a while, focusing instead on traveling and studying other legal systems, but... She says she passed the bar a couple of years ago, and she's already very serious about prosecution. Very career-driven, that one."
Phoenix heard Franziska coming back down the stairs before he could ask more questions. He wondered what kind of law schools Germany had, that they would allow literal children to pursue such a heavy and important sort of career (would they have allowed her to take the bar so young?!), but that was a question for another day.
For now, he had to get to work.
"I'm gonna head out," Phoenix announced as soon as he had Franziska's attention. "I'm gonna help my boss get things in order so I can spend the next couple of days with all of you."
"Very well. I shall remain here and get myself settled in," she replied.
Phoenix had to work very hard to resist his urge to give Miles a goodbye kiss.
When Miles returned to the living room with the sparkling cider (he decided against champagne, as he wanted Trucy to be able to partake of the celebratory drink), he found Trucy excitedly looking over Franziska's shoulders as she fished through her bag. He set the glasses and the bottle down on the coffee table and slid onto the couch on Franziska's other side.
"What are you looking for?" Miles asked casually.
"German treats!" Trucy declared. Franziska smiled.
"I informed you that I would bring proper market treats, did I not? Fear not— this is only a small portion of what I have with me."
She produced a small paper bag that Miles recognized, along with the soda bottle-shaped candies inside. He nodded his approval at Trucy, who threw herself on the bag. She made a strange face as soon as she'd bitten down on a few of them.
"They're very sugary, sweetheart. Don't eat too many, okay? You don't want to spoil your dinner."
"Okay," Trucy relented. She took a small handful of candies from the bag and gave Miles a nod, asking permission, that he returned.
"She's very well behaved," Franziska remarked. Miles smiled warmly as he agreed. "It's nice to see you so relaxed. I will admit that I didn't understand your career choice at first, but I feel I am beginning to understand." She put the bag of candies away after confirming that Miles did not want any (he had never been very fond of sweets), and then she crossed her legs and leaned forward, resting her chin on the hand of the arm she propped up on her knee. "So! Tell me, Miles. What have you been doing these past few years?"
Miles couldn't help but jump at her sudden interest, but swallowed down his sip of cider and returned the glass to the table.
"Well... I graduated with a degree in child psychology from Yale and settled down here. It's where I grew up with my father."
"Yale is a good school."
"Thank you. I decided on nannying after it was recommended to me by a friend, and I started out working with an agency."
"A good agency, I hope?"
"The best around. I've stayed long-term with a few families... I was with the Justice family, prior to coming to work for the Wrights, for a little over two years."
"That's a long time."
"...Yes. Anyway, I got my inheritance proper from the estate around then, and so I decided to offer my services for a very low fee. I put an ad in the paper, and that led me here. ...It's been a delight, really. Mr. Wright is the best sort of boss one could hope for."
Trucy frowned at hearing her father referred to by his last name, but didn't say anything, as Miles had instructed her to do.
"He seemed not to act much like a boss at all," Franziska grumbled. Miles laughed.
"I think he forgets that he is. He's always preferred to think of me as a friend who helps him out when he needs it, and he buys me gifts and snacks and things."
"One of those sentimental fools, then?" Franziska snickered. Miles shrugged, but nodded, not adding how much of sentimental fool he knew both Phoenix and himself to be (if someone had told Miles, before he'd been hired by the Wright family, that he would fall in love with his boss, he likely would have laughed). "I suppose it's alright in your case. Anyone else may take advantage."
"Miles wouldn't do that!" Trucy interjected. Franziska raised an eyebrow at her and smirked.
"Oh, he wouldn't? What makes you so sure?"
"Miles would never do that to anybody! I know because he's my best friend!"
Miles felt his cheeks redden as Franziska looked smugly at him and put a hand over her heart. He was too embarrassed to comment on the improvement in Trucy's grammar— that she had stopped saying bestest.
"Best friends, eh?" Franziska paused to laugh, a free-spirited kind of laugh that Miles had not heard from her since they were children. "...How sweet."
Miles did nothing but watch her expression soften for a moment, wondering where this more gentle side of her had come from. It had been there in the beginning, but years of Manfred's abuse and the conflicting feelings brought on by his death had long since buried it. When they'd broken contact, Franziska had been such a vicious person that Miles could barely speak to her for more than a few minutes without seeing her erupt in anger. Now... Now she was about as close to being a normal person as she could get. She hadn't even resorted to using her preferred weapon.
Not yet, anyway, Miles thought with a shudder.
For now, he dared to dream that things would stay like this.
Phoenix had trouble reading documents in his excitement to get home and see his boyfriend and his daughter. Mia, apparently, could see this in his expression.
"I know you must want to get home real bad," she said, laughing under her breath. "Now that you've got a whole new family waiting. But I do have to say— you never struck me as bi. I guess almost no one fits into a neat boxed stereotype, though."
Phoenix couldn't help but chuckle at that as he reminisced on a particular conversation.
"God, you sound like my parents. I didn't say anything until after I left the house. They didn't have a problem with it... They were just so shocked that they thought I must've been pulling a prank. I'd never expressed any interest in guys before."
"Did you not know?"
"...That's... a little complicated. See, I liked girls, too, so I thought that was... Well, normal. Most guys like girls. They're 'supposed to'. I knew what being gay was, and I knew that people said it was bad. But I didn't know that being bi was a thing. So if I thought a guy was cute, or crushed on one, well... I just dismissed it. Guess I thought it happens to everyone and it doesn't mean anything."
"That makes sense. And I suppose you'd only ever dated girls simply because it's easier and it's expected."
"Yeah, yeah! That's how I would put it." Phoenix was laughing quite hard, now, and Mia paused to look curiously at him. "I-I'm sorry, I was just... Well, I told them because I had started casually dating a guy once I got into college. I met up with my parents, and I had mentioned over the phone that I was seeing someone and things were going pretty nicely. I just left out... You know. Certain details."
"Certain details, indeed!"
"S-So that afternoon, my mom got all nosy and demanded that I give them more details. I just decided, right then, to just come right out and say it, you know? Thought it might be easier if it was casual. So... My mom asked me what her name was, and I said 'James'. She looked at me funny for a second, and then she said 'well, that's an unusual name for a girl'."
Mia laughed so hard that she let her face fall against the desk. Phoenix grinned proudly. Mia had a sweet laugh, something like the chiming of a bell, but her professional nature meant that she didn't do it often. Phoenix couldn't help but feel strangely proud whenever he made her laugh like this.
"That's adorable," she eventually said. Phoenix smiled.
"Well, that's mom."
Phoenix tossed the file he'd just finished organizing back into its drawer, most of it having been added to the dispose pile. Mia sighed behind him.
"I don't know how I let Marvin talk me into this..."
Phoenix noticed, just then, that she had a much larger stack of files than he did. He quirked an eyebrow.
"You planning to stay longer?"
"I'm trying to get through as much of it as I can now, because Marvin talked me into working through the holiday. He wants to take the opportunity to completely change over our filing system and go through all the books. My family could really use the overtime pay... otherwise I would let his outdated filing become someone else's problem."
For a moment, Phoenix could only wince and look at her sympathetically. Then, he took a deep breath, looked at the filing cabinet, and took several extra files.
"I'll do more! You shouldn't have to do all of this by yourself."
"You don't have to do that—"
"I want to! You've got enough to worry about as it is." He locked eyes with her for a moment, and then she resigned herself to it and looked back down. Phoenix didn't have to go into detail about her family situation.
Diego had explained to him, a long while ago, that Mia had no father and that her mother, a successful author of children's picture books, had passed away (under admittedly mysterious circumstances) when she was quite young. Her aunt had taken in Mia and her younger sister. Morgan Fey was a bitter woman, constantly jealous of her sister Misty even after said sister had died.
She took this jealousy out on Misty's daughters.
Mia had endured many years of emotional and verbal abuse living with her aunt, much of which she received for trying to protect her sister. She made up her mind as a teenager that she would take her and escape as soon as she was old enough.
Mia had done just that, and she'd raised her sister on her own since then. All of this meant that Mia shouldered her job at the law offices, her duties to her younger family members, and her legal and emotional battles with her aunt on her own. Her sister, Maya, was now old enough to be alone, but their younger cousin, apparently still stuck with mean Aunt Morgan, needed all the help that she could get.
If Phoenix could help relieve her burden in any way, he would. He looked up to Mia Fey, for her work ethic and strength of will, more than he'd ever looked up to anyone else, and she was exactly the sort of role model he wanted around for his daughter.
In time, perhaps, Phoenix could be like her— strong, even in the face of the greatest of challenges.
Phoenix burst through his front door without bothering to knock as soon as he'd gotten it unlocked. He was simply too excited to wait for someone to let him in.
"I'm back, everybody!" he shouted. He heard the pitter-patter of Trucy's little feet on the floor as she rushed to hug him. He picked her up. "How's your day been, sweetheart? Has Auntie Franziska been nice to you?"
"She's not so bad," Trucy squealed through a laugh. She was probably referring to the woman's outward demeanor. Perhaps most of it was an exaggerated facade. Phoenix truly hoped that was the case. In the meantime, he bounced Trucy up and down a couple of times before he carried her into the kitchen.
"Ah," Miles said, lighting up upon seeing him. "Nick— you're just in time. We're about to assemble the gingerbread houses. It should be finished baking soon."
Phoenix winced. Miles was probably so used to saying it by now that he thought nothing of it, but he had called him Nick instead of Mr. Wright. Whether or not Franziska had caught it, he couldn't tell— she didn't betray it in her expression. But maybe she'd just learned to keep her emotions hidden in her career as a lawyer.
Phoenix decided to play it off. He set Trucy down, left for a moment to hang up his blazer and remove his tie, and then returned to take his seat at the kitchen table.
"Sorry that we don't have the tree set up yet— I must look really lazy. But we all wanted to do it together, and to let you be involved," Phoenix explained as he pulled out his chair. Franziska didn't reply. Instead, she looked at him like he'd just sprouted a second head. Miles snickered as he carefully set down the gingerbread tray.
"Most Germans don't set the tree up until Christmas Eve."
"Oh. I'm sorry. You must have been really confused," Phoenix apologized sheepishly. Franziska huffed.
"I don't understand so many of your American pastimes. Is it true that you use strings of false lights to decorate your trees?"
Phoenix raised an eyebrow.
"Of course we do. What else would we use?"
"Ha! Real candles, of course! I'll bet you have one of those plastic replica trees, too." She leaned back in her chair, smirking, as Phoenix gaped at her.
Real candles? Isn't that a serious fire hazard?!
Before he could voice this concern, Trucy piped up.
"No, we got a real tree this year! I picked it out!"
"It's currently in the corner of my bedroom," Phoenix admitted. "Having the empty tree sitting in the living room seemed too lonely. ...I'm gonna have to sweep up all the needles. I didn't realize that real trees left so many."
Miles took off his oven mitts, and then he returned to the table with everything they'd need to decorate the gingerbread. Once that was done, he use a spatula to divide the gingerbread pieces amongst everyone. Each person had the pieces necessary to build a simple house, a little 'yard' to put them on, and four tiny gingerbread figures to decorate and use as 'residents'.
"I'll be the same size as daddy," Trucy giggled. Miles laughed, somewhat embarrassed that he hadn't thought much about the comparative sizes.
Franziska became surprisingly relaxed when she started assembling her pieces.
"Gingerbread in Germany is different," Franziska noted, looking at Trucy. "It's either very hard or much softer, like a sweet honey cake with a nutty flavor. We call it lebkuchen."
Trucy cooed. "Leggochin? It sounds tasty!"
"No, sweetie," Miles laughed. "Lebkuchen."
"Leb-ku-chen," Trucy said carefully, enunciating all the sounds.
"Yes, that's right! Good job," Franziska praised.
Phoenix felt caught off-guard watching her act so friendly, but he couldn't object, especially since his daughter seemed so happy.
"Why don't you teach her some other German words?" Phoenix suggested. Miles exchanged a glance with Franziska, who nodded.
"Well," she began, "the German phrase for Merry Christmas is..."
Phoenix grunted as he and Miles turned the corner with the bulky tree. The branches were poking him in the face. Miles didn't complain. He led them to the living room, where they had readjusted the furniture a bit to make room for the tree. Trucy clapped as soon as she saw it.
Franziska had to assist the men with getting it back into the stand, making sure to fill it up with plenty of fresh water. Afterwards, she forced them to adjust the branches to her liking. Apparently she could tell if something was crooked better than the average person could, and she wouldn't stand for it. It was at least twenty minutes before a single decoration found its way to the tree.
Phoenix lugged the big box of ornaments from his storage closet. He always smiled looking at his ornaments. He hadn't purchased any of them— they were all gifts and hand-me-downs. He felt the tree had more character that way. What was the point of having a tree if it looked the same as everyone else's?
As was tradition, Phoenix gave Trucy the bag of tinsel 'snow' and picked her up so that she could throw it on the tree. Miles would go around and more evenly distribute the sparkly strands when she finished. Then Phoenix and Miles ran the string lights around. Finally, it was time for the ornaments. Each decorator was given their choice of boxes full of them, and then they got to work.
Franziska had gravitated towards the more sparkly crystal pieces. There were only about seven of those, but she was such a perfectionist that it took her quite a while to decide where they should go. Miles quickly hung his tiny pinecones so that he could help Trucy with her little crocheted snowflakes, and Phoenix, meanwhile, hung miniature books and stockings and wicker stars. Before long every ornament had been carefully placed, and the others stepped back to observe it as Phoenix bent down to plug the lights in. The lights glinted off of the tinsel strands, lending it just a bit of sparkle, and illuminated the faces of the observers. Trucy clapped gleefully. Franziska actually looked impressed.
"It's... quaint, with a humble dignity. It does not boast with decadent baubles. It feels no such need."
"Bubbles?" Trucy murmured.
"Baubles," Miles clarified.
Phoenix stood beside Miles, smiling once at him and then at the tree. There was a long moment of silence, eventually interrupted by Franziska's sudden "ah". She walked to the couch, where she had left her purse, and returned with a little paper bag like the one she'd given Trucy. She gestured at Phoenix before placing it into his outstretched hand.
"For you. I was informed that you enjoy these and thought you ought to experience the real thing."
"Oh, lord," Miles grumbled, covering his eyes.
Phoenix's face lit up as soon as he looked inside of the bag. He snatched it and ran up the stairs, leaving behind a confused Franziska and a giggling Trucy. Miles groaned and ran to the end of the stairs.
"Mr. Wright!" he shouted. "I know how strongly you feel about Haribo, but you'll spoil your dinner if you eat them all!" He heard Phoenix scoff.
"Apparently I've never TRULY EXPERIENCED Haribo," he shouted back, slightly muffled by his bedroom door. "I feel lied to, Miles! Betrayed!"
Miles turned to glare at Franziska.
"Do you see what you've done?" he hissed. She could only blink.
"Daddy, don't make him go up there and get you!" Trucy cried.
A pause, and then Miles heard the bedroom door creak open. Phoenix approached slowly, giving Miles a pleading, hopeful look. It didn't work. Miles snatched the bag of gummy bears from his hands. Phoenix pouted and let out a small whine, but offered no other protest.
Miles left, likely to hide the bag somewhere. It wasn't until he was gone that Franziska finally allowed herself to laugh at the ridiculous display.
Dinner was light compared to what Miles usually made, but he insisted that there was good reason for this. Phoenix ate almost voraciously, starved both by a long day at work and by Miles' refusal to let him eat his gummy bears.
HIS gummy bears.
Franziska chatted with Trucy, teaching her more German words (hello, goodbye, counting to ten— the basics) while Miles periodically got up to look in the oven. Phoenix could smell something, but couldn't quite put his finger on what it was. He was sure that it was something sweet. Perhaps some cookies? He didn't want to ask and spoil whatever surprise Miles had planned.
A loud series of beeps. Miles' secret baking project, it seemed, was finally finished. Phoenix casually strolled over to the oven. Miles pulled his mitts back onto his hands and very carefully lifted something out, setting it on the stovetop to cool as he searched for something to cut it with.
"...A fruitcake?" Phoenix tried not to sound disappointed. Miles still managed to detect it. He scoffed.
"Not a mere fruitcake. A stollen. My first attempt at a Dresden-style. It's normally reserved for Christmas dessert, but I wanted Fran to have a warm welcome. It'll make her feel right at home."
"You're assuming I know what a stollen is."
Phoenix looked closely at the dessert. A fruitcake by any other name tastes just as spongy and gross, right?
Miles smirked. He cut out a slice, plated it, and held up a forkful of it.
"Doubting me, are you? Try it."
Phoenix quickly checked to be sure that Franziska was distracted, and then he took the bite without bothering to grab the fork for himself. Miles seemed startled, but didn't comment on it. Phoenix thoughtfully chewed for a moment, and then it hit him— the strong and sweet multi-dimensional flavor. He felt like his face had melted. He allowed himself a moment of pure, cake-y bliss.
When he opened his eyes again, he was surprised to find that Miles was glaring at him. He looked both disappointed and horrified.
"What did I do?!"
"Please don't make that face at the dinner table. Your daughter is here, for Christ's sake. Have you no decency?"
For a moment, Phoenix failed to understand what it was that he had done. When it hit him, he felt like he could die of embarrassment. He felt the tips of his ears grow hot.
"L-let me help you cut that," he loudly announced. "At least you know I enjoy the cake," he added under his breath.
"You didn't have to enjoy it that much."
Trucy ran up just then, thankfully putting an end to that conversation.
"It's a German Christmas cake."
Franziska, still seated at the table, perked up.
"I thought that I smelled stollen," she laughed. "But I thought that it couldn't be. A bit early, isn't it?"
"It is," Miles admitted as he and Phoenix set down the cake and the plates prepared with slices. "But I wanted to set the occasion."
Trucy couldn't finish her entire slice of cake. It was both heavy and rich, making a single slice feel like an entire meal. Phoenix understood the light dinner now.
"Not bad," Franziska teased when she had finished.
It was as close as she would get to complimenting Miles' culinary skills.
For now, anyway.
Phoenix sent Miles and Trucy and Franziska to bed and stayed up to wash the day's dishes. He whistled as he scrubbed, making quick work of the previously high-stacked pile. He paused his movements when he heard the soft padding of vaguely unfamiliar footsteps behind him.
"Did you need something, Franziska? I thought Trucy showed you where you'd be sleeping."
The footsteps stopped. The woman made a startled sound before speaking.
"She did. I wished simply to converse with you alone."
Phoenix stopped his scrubbing, dried his hands on his apron, and turned to face her. Her pajamas were an embroidered royal blue silk, with what looked like sequins on the collar details. Even her sleepwear was fancy and expensive-looking.
"What did you want to talk about?" Phoenix smiled as he asked, trying to look inviting.
Franziska crossed her arms, and Phoenix saw a brief hesitation in her expression. Miles always looked similar when he wanted to share something personal, or ask a serious question. Perhaps it was a testament to how they had been raised.
"...Miles. Does he seem happy to you?"
Phoenix's smile widened for a brief moment. How cute. She was truly concerned about her "little brother".
"Very," Phoenix reassured her, thinking back on the past year and all of the joy it had brought him and his daughter. "He has it good here, and he's opened up to us. He's got his issues, like anybody else, but he's getting better."
Franziska nodded, but she didn't look fully convinced. Phoenix briefly wondered just how bad their falling-out had been. Miles had said they hadn't gotten along in at least six years, and hadn't spoken at all for four. It wasn't something that could be repaired overnight, but it was nice to know that Franziska intended to try.
"That's good to know. Has he... mentioned me?"
Phoenix's smile vanished. He suddenly wanted to fidget. All that he could think about was the story that Miles had told him the previous night.
"...Yeah. We talked about it. It's why he called you."
"You were there?"
"I-it's not like I was eavesdropping! I don't even speak any German!"
"That's not what I meant."
Franziska fell silent. She studied her fuzzy grey slippers. Phoenix tried to think of what he was supposed to say, but abandoned it in favor of what he wanted to say. There were questions lingering in his mind that practically burned the tip of his tongue.
"Hey— what was he like as a kid?"
"Miles? ...Sad, for the most part. He'd so recently lost his father, after all."
Her eyes grew colder with those words. Phoenix remembered that she, too, had lost hers. It had been the catalyst for all of this. He could argue that her father had been lousy and that she was better off without him, and he might be correct, but even so, the loss had hurt her. That was the important thing.
"What about when he wasn't sad?" Phoenix prodded. Franziska shrugged.
"He was shy. Never had much interest in chasing after girls." (Phoenix chose not to comment on that.) "He liked to read and to play our piano, and he always wanted to learn. It could be difficult to get him to relax and play, but when he did, he was quite competitive." She leaned back, slightly raising an eyebrow. "Why? What is he like now?"
"Don't you already know him?"
"We have not spoken in quite some time before now. I simply wish to know if there's anything I should know ahead of time... Have there been any drastic changes from what I have described? Tell me, how would you describe him?"
Phoenix had to pause at that.
It wasn't that he didn't know how to describe Miles. It was simply that he couldn't do so without sounding like a lovestruck teenager talking about the cute guy in his science class, and he was supposed to be keeping his romantic relationship with Miles a secret. He reddened a bit, completely unintentionally, and tried to think of an acceptable response.
"U-uh— Same as you just did, I guess. He hasn't changed much. Uh, so what kind of books did he like to read?"
Franziska furrowed her brows. She had the same crease between them that Miles did, though not quite as pronounced, perhaps only because she was younger. She looked suspicious of him, but Phoenix couldn't help his curiosity— Miles hardly ever talked about his childhood, and he had, here and now, a living testimony of it.
He wanted to see Miles' baby pictures. He wanted to hear about Miles' first crush, or about his favorite books growing up. He wanted everything, every piece of Miles both past and present, and— if he should continue to be so lucky— future.
"He mostly read detective stories. Sherlock Holmes and the like," Franziska eventually answered. "He... would read to me, sometimes. If I had trouble sleeping."
Phoenix smiled, bright and wide. He was sure that the fondness in his eyes might betray him, but he couldn't help himself.
"He reads Nancy Drew to Trucy. Almost every night."
Franziska allowed herself a smile, one that crept upon her and seemed to catch her by surprise. She was actually quite pretty when she wasn't glaring or looking down her nose at someone.
"Then I suppose that he really hasn't changed much. Or, rather, that he has become himself again." She tightened her fist, balling up the silk of one of her sleeves. "When last we spoke, he was withdrawn. ...I-I suppose that I was, too. It's not fair to cast the blame on him. But..." The fire returned to her eyes. Phoenix was relieved to see it. "Things are going well thus far! The barrier between us shall be no more."
"You know, you're actually kinda sweet when you wanna be—"
"This conversation never happened," Franziska interrupted, "and I will deny it ever having happened to the very end of my days."
Phoenix laughed, but nodded.
It had been nice while it lasted, he supposed.
It only took Phoenix another minute or so to finish washing the contents of the sink. He hung the towel and apron to dry and left the dishes on the rack, and then he turned to Franziska once more.
"We should get to bed," he suggested. She gave only a hum of agreement.
The woman followed him to the stairs, trudged up them behind him, and stopped near her bedroom door. Just as Phoenix was about to bid her a good night, she froze halfway through turning her doorknob.
"...Wait. ...If this is your guest bedroom, then where has Miles been—"
Phoenix dove into his bedroom, leaving her question unanswered. She'd surely press the issue in the morning, but perhaps by then, Miles would have thought of a plausible excuse. He was the smart one.
Miles didn't stir when Phoenix crawled into bed. Phoenix watched his eyelashes flutter and tenderly stroked the man's silver hair until he eventually fell asleep.
IT'S FINALLY BACK! WHY DID THIS TAKE ME SO LONG
(Funny how this is a nanny AU and Miles calls Franziska "Fran" lmao) Also, I don't know if anyone else ever noticed, but Franziska almost never whips women. If I recall, the only lady she's ever whipped was Lotta.
Next chapter may take even longer than this one did, because it is probably gonna be loooooong. I'm dividing these up by "days" rather than length, so chapter three will be weirdly long compared to the other chapters. I've got to jam a lot of content into it! It'll be worth the wait, though, I promise! We'll be bringing crazy Uncle Larry and a surprise guest into the story. <3
Some notes: In the original story, Fran tells Miles that she "just" passed the bar. Felt the need to explain that this is not a retcon— they hadn't spoken in so long that "just", to Fran, roughly translates to "almost two years ago". I also decided to make the Feys into a normal not-spirit-clan family. They're still pretty traditional, but not living in their own village or anything. I decided to do that just because this AU generally seems more down-to-earth/slice of life, and the whole spirit medium thing didn't fit.
To Phoenix's surprise, it was Miles that was reluctant to get out of bed on Christmas Eve.
"C'mon, sleeping beauty," Phoenix prodded through a breath of a laugh. "You've got a lot of work to do today, remember?"
Miles groaned and shoved himself further under the sheets.
"Precisely. I don't want to spend the entire day working. Can't the dinner just cook itself...?"
He nuzzled into Phoenix's shoulder. Phoenix blinked at the ceiling fan, ignoring the tickle of Miles' fine hair against his bare neck.
"...You DO have a lot to do."
"You just said that."
"W-Well, no, what I mean is..." Phoenix sighed and patted Miles' head. "...I-If you really don't wanna be cooped up in here all day..."
Miles peeked up, his silver eyes hopeful and glistening.
"...I mean, I can always plan to see my parents some other time. And you don't really have any family. S-So if you want, you can take Trucy to the hospital. I'll just stay behind and get started on the prep work."
Originally, Miles had planned to take Trucy anyway, but Phoenix had decided to do so when he'd realized it might be his only chance to see his parents in person for a while. But if that arrangement meant that Miles had to spend most of the day by himself, confined to the tiny kitchen, he could set that aside. He could see his parents any time, seeing as he still had parents. Miles didn't have that luxury.
Miles, surprised at the offer, pulled back to properly look Phoenix in the eye.
"...Really? You mean that?"
Phoenix grinned, affectionately stroking a thumb along Miles' jawline. He liked watching his pupils dilate in response to touch when he was up this close.
"Yeah, I mean it. Trucy'll show them how that Skype thing works, right?"
"Why does your nine-year-old know more about technology than you do?"
"HEY. It's not like you're any help! You and your books—"
Miles laughed, interrupting Phoenix with a quick kiss, before he finally moved to climb out of the bed.
"Alright, alright. I'm up. I'm going. Don't— don't you dare stare at me again!"
Phoenix's grin spread from ear to ear as he made a show of putting his arms behind his head and leaning back against the pillows.
"Y'know," he teased, "I could really get used to this arrangement."
It was worth the pillow that was promptly thrown in his face.
"...So Miles is gonna take you to see grandma instead, like the original plan, okay?"
"Okay!" Trucy chirped. Phoenix breathed a sigh of relief. He should have known that such a simple change in plans wouldn't phase her.
"Okay," Phoenix parroted back. "It'll be alright. Grandma and Grandpa like Miles."
"Yeah!" Trucy giggled. "They said that he... He's..." Trucy faded off, frowning all of a sudden, and turned to quickly scan her surroundings. She then leaned in and asked, in a hushed whisper, "...What do I call you?"
Ah, Phoenix thought. Now there's a question. Miles fidgeted uncomfortably, but didn't try to remove Trucy's hand from his.
"Well, you've called me Miles all this time, haven't you? What's wrong with that?"
"Guh— I dunno, it just doesn't sound right! Miles is like... like my other daddy now! Two daddies!"
"Oh my god," Phoenix whispered, sounding horrified, before Miles could respond to Trucy's very serious assertion. "GUH. ...She's picking up on your noises."
"What noises?" Miles huffed. He ignored Trucy's stifled laugh. "I don't make any noises!"
Phoenix crossed his arms.
"There's no way you're not aware of it— y'know, your, your—" he gestured with his arms and fumbled for an apt description.
"Your Edgeworth noises!"
Miles scoffed indignantly. Trucy couldn't hold in her laughter any longer.
"And what, exactly, are Edgeworth noises?!"
"NGHOOOOOOOOOHHH!" Trucy screeched at the top of her lungs before howling with laughter. Miles could only stare open-mouthed as Phoenix made a similarly strange noise— something closer to "mmmmmmmmmnnnngg!"
"That is not— I have never made such a sound in my life!"
Trucy and Phoenix paid him no mind and continued doing their best impressions. Miles heard heels on the stairwell.
"Is this... some sort of bizarre American morning ritual that I've yet to encounter?" Franziska's voice asked. Miles could imagine her sneer without seeing it.
"No, it isn't," Miles retorted. "...Fran, do I make noises?"
Franziska paused, standing before the coffee maker that she had already well acquainted herself with.
"Noises?" She repeated the word, like she was re-acquainting herself with English. "Oh, noises— you do. Lots of them, actually."
Miles covered his face with his hands as Phoenix clicked his tongue in a wordless "I told you so". Trucy already had devious intentions in mind— she approached the woman and faced her with a broad smile.
"What kinds of noises?!"
Franziska blinked at her, blank faced, before shrugging her shoulders and offering a weak and warbled "hnngraaahhh?"
"I'm quitting," Miles muttered as Phoenix doubled over. "I'm running away from home—"
"Oh, come on, you say that three times a week," Phoenix managed through the last of his laughter. When he straightened himself out and stood up, he noticed that Franziska was somewhat dolled up. She'd pulled her hair into a romantic-looking updo, and she was wearing expensive earrings and lipstick. "Someone's looking fancy. Are you seeing somebody special—"
"I informed you already that I have business to attend to, did I not? My manner of business is no business of yours, fool!"
You really enjoy repeating words, don't you? Phoenix thought as he winced.
"...Right. I didn't mean to pry."
Franziska only huffed and adjusted her tailored jacket as she waited for the water to boil. Her clothing, today, was more modern-looking than it usually was. Some kind of business meeting, maybe? At the same time, she looked as if she was dressed for a date.
"I can never get proper tea here," she grumbled.
"Oh, that? I've found some tolerable suppliers. I did have to do some digging around, though," Miles agreed. "You certainly won't find it at any grocery store."
"Which reminds me," Franziska said, "you should check the paper bag that I left for you on the coffee table. I got you proper candied oranges and marzipan and some jams, among other things."
Candied oranges? Marzipan? Those didn't sound like things to be used in a Christmas dinner to Phoenix, but he was apparently incorrect, if the glow on Miles' face was anything to go by.
"I appreciate that," Miles gratefully replied. "I've grown tired of hunting for something acceptable at the international grocers."
Franziska only nodded, as her coffee had finished brewing. She quickly poured it into her thermos and filled the pot with clean water to rinse it, and then she made her way for the door. Phoenix scrunched up his nose at the thought of her drinking it that way, with no creamer or sugar at all. Miles had a tendency to drink it the same way.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be going," she called from the doorway.
"Alf Weederson!" Trucy cried. Miles chuckled.
"Auf Wiedersehen," he corrected.
Franziska didn't reply in words, but she couldn't help but smile as she waved and then ducked out of the townhouse. Phoenix, meanwhile, continued to frown as he recalled how many languages Miles could speak, and the fact that he'd been teaching Trucy bits and pieces of German and Spanish and French. Was his daughter going to end up smarter than him, and at nine? He'd be proud of her if that was the case, but it didn't bode well for his future in the field of law.
Maybe I'll ask him to teach me, he thought.
The next half hour was a rush of movement and noise. Miles got Trucy ready to leave and left very detailed instructions for Phoenix, and Phoenix checked in with Larry to make sure that he'd arrive and get settled in before Franziska's return. He also called his parents to let them know about the change in plans, and, as he'd expected, they seemed as unfazed as Trucy had been. If anything, his mother seemed eager to interrogate Miles. Before he knew it, Miles had Trucy dressed up in her coat and her good shoes and out the door, and then Phoenix was alone in a quiet house.
For a moment or two, this was satisfying, and allowed him to inhale a deep breath. He didn't get a lot of quiet time. Another moment, and it was lonely. He'd gotten used to the constant murmur of a family, of coworkers and friends, and a place without those sounds seemed lifeless. He exhaled.
Might as well get started.
Miles was a meticulous man when it came to the housework. Somehow, even while getting ready to leave the house and while trying to keep a nine-year-old focused, he'd managed to leave a very detailed list of tasks for Phoenix to complete. He'd described it as prepwork for Christmas dinner. That's what he had called it. But Phoenix couldn't figure out what the hell half of the ingredients were supposed to be for.
It was true that he trusted Miles. He wouldn't cook something that no one would like. But what sorts of things did he plan to make?
Phoenix emptied the little bag of supplies on the counter and found ginger root, of all things. He was supposed to grind it up into a powder, but for what? What even is marzipan? Why did they need a jar of molasses? And what were those strange-looking wooden stamps that Franziska had included in her gift bag? There were also some oddly-shaped glasses with etchings of some kind of town on them, and spice packets, with a name that Phoenix couldn't pronounce, that seemed to be for some kind of drink...
He sighed and decided to work on something familiar. It seemed that Miles would need an absurd amount of potatoes peeled, and that was a tedious and time-consuming task. Getting that done would free up a lot of time for other things, and Phoenix thought he was pretty good at peeling potatoes.
He'd only just finished getting everything ready and fetching a few peelers (and the first aid kit, just in case he nicked his finger) when he heard someone throw the front door open.
"Yo? Yo, Nick! The life of the party has arrived!"
Larry spun his way into the kitchen, striking a number of confident poses. Phoenix snickered.
"Nobody else is here, Larry."
"...Oh." His friend's little dance ceased, and he looked dissapointed. He recovered fast enough, though. "What are you up to?"
"Well, I let Miles take Trucy to the hospital to see my parents, so I told him I'd get started on all the food. Do you mind lending me a hand? It'll be a while before Trucy gets back."
Larry frowned slightly, but shrugged.
"I mean, sure, yeah. Do you mind helping me get settled in first?"
"Oh— no, not at all." Phoenix wiped his hands off on his apron, and then he followed Larry back to the front door.
He had two bags with him— one stuffed full of his own clothes and belongings, and another, presumably, full of presents. Larry opted to keep his things in the bag once he found a nice hiding spot near the sofa, and they emptied out the other bag. As Phoenix had suggested, it was full of presents. They were wrapped pretty badly, but it was the thought that counted. Larry had gotten one present for Trucy, one for Miles, and one for Phoenix. He hadn't thought to get anything for Franziska, seeing as he didn't know anything about her.
"So what is this sister of his like?" Larry asked as they made their way back to the kitchen. Phoenix's mouth twisted as he thought of how to answer that question.
"She's... interesting, to put it mildly. Really harsh, a major perfectionist, and kind of mean, but... She's not so bad. She likes Trucy, and it's obvious that she really cares about Miles in her own way."
"And how's he? Haven't seem him in a little while."
"Miles is Miles. Same as usual. He's a little stressed out, on account of seeing Franziska for the first time in so long, but it's been going pretty well."
Phoenix paused his movements at the counter as something occurred to him. He hated to have to ask this of his best friend. He peered over at Larry, who was using the sink to wash his hands.
"By the way..." Larry looked over his shoulder at him. "I know it's kind of weird, but could you not mention the fact that we're seeing each other while she's around?"
Larry raised an eyebrow.
"What? Why not?"
"Well... Miles doesn't know how she would react. We've already had to tell Trucy not to bring it up."
Larry seemed mildly annoyed, but he mumbled his agreement anyway.
Larry Butz was kind of an unreliable guy. He was always running late, always breaking off relationships that had lasted a few months at best (getting dumped, anyway), and he always needed money. Sometimes he vanished off of the map entirely only to reappear a year later with wild stories about his time chasing an ex through China and a dire need to crash on someone's couch. To some people, he probably seemed like more trouble than he was worth.
But Phoenix knew better than that. They had been friends since he was in elementary school, and Larry had been loyal to him and stuck by him through some rough times. He was great with Trucy, and he was always willing to help when it really mattered, even if he did complain about it.
That, and Phoenix understood why Larry was the way he was. He'd come from a very unstable background. Even now, he often had to bail his mother out of jail, and his father was an alcoholic who hardly remembered what day it was. When one considered that, it made sense that Larry had turned out a bit flaky and reckless himself. He'd lacked the structure and safety that most kids grew up with and took for granted.
Honestly, for all his flaws, Phoenix was impressed that his friend managed to be so happy-go-lucky.
"Are you sure we can be trusted with this stuff? Edgey's the one who can actually cook, not you. Lord knows I can't cook, either," Larry thought aloud, dragging Phoenix back into the present.
Phoenix blushed as soon as he'd processed the statement. He'd improved a lot with Miles' careful instruction, but he was still a pretty abysmal cook when left to his own devices.
"W-Well, I mean, it's not like we're making the whole meal. It's prepwork. So it's just... You know... Prepping. Preparation."
Larry stopped scrubbing his hands and looked over his shoulder again to glower at Phoenix.
"Wow. ...You plannin' to use those mad literary skills in the courtroom?"
"Wha—" Phoenix stuttered for a moment before he threw a dishrag at Larry. "Shut up, you didn't even graduate high school!"
Larry only laughed it off before retrieving the rag from where it had stuck to his back and drying his hands with it.
"You know how to peel potatoes, right?" Phoenix asked when he saw Larry warily eyeing the stack.
"I do, but... Does he really need that many?!"
"Just go with it," Phoenix sighed. "He knows what he's doing."
"And what do we do if we finish this?"
"We, uh... grind up some ginger..."
"...Or crack a whole bunch of nuts."
"I... That sounds..." Larry threw up his arms in a mock surrender before he took a potato peeler for himself. "Forget it. It's not my decision anyway."
It only took a few minutes for both men to become accustomed to the rhythm of peeling. It was actually sort of relaxing, once Phoenix allowed himself to focus on the task at hand.
They got to talking about the day's plans. Trucy didn't have to go caroling until the evening, and with Larry's extra help, the prepwork would surely get done faster. Larry suggested that everyone go ice skating together sometime in the afternoon. It seemed like a silly idea at first, but as Phoenix thought about it, he realized that it might be just the thing to help everyone get the most out of the holiday. Miles had mentioned Franziska being an impressive figure skater.
He paused his work to text Miles about the idea. He seemed genuinely excited about it, and after a few minutes, he added that Franziska, too, liked the plan. So it was settled— ice skating. One more thing to look forward to, even if it did make the day a bit more hectic.
After a couple of hours of peeling potatoes and washing vegetables and grinding ginger, Phoenix decided that it was alright for them to take a break. He properly covered everything up and then plopped down on the sofa. There were board game boxes and video games on the coffee table, but Phoenix was too tired to do anything like that. He popped open his can of soda. Larry imitated him.
"...This is really nice, you know," Larry remarked after slowly looking around the room. "Presents under a tree, a big TV, all these garlands... You're a lucky guy."
He said it casually, but his expression was bit sad as he took the first sip of his drink. Phoenix didn't know how to respond. He didn't. The intention was clear enough, he thought. The typical Christmas scene was something a lot of people took for granted, and something that many others had never had.
Over the course of the next twenty minutes, both men recalled their early Christmases, back when they'd been mischievous elementary school students. Larry had spent Christmas with Phoenix and his parents on more than one occasion. Larry very fondly remembered Mrs. Wright's delicious ham, while Phoenix teased him about the time he'd planted mistletoe at a high school Christmas party only for it to backfire miserably on him.
This brief oasis of calm was interrupted by harsh noise.
Franziska threw the front door open and slammed it shut behind her. She quickly removed her coat and scarf and hung them up as she called out to whoever was listening. Phoenix could hear her doing all of these things, and he knew the sound of her sharp heels.
"I have returned! I expect that you have all been using my absence as an opportunity to further clean this pigsty!"
Phoenix sprang into action and thrust all of the extra books and knick-knacks off of the coffee table and behind the couch, shouting back at Franziska that of course he had cleaned. Larry laughed, incredibly amused by his friend's terror. Phoenix shot him a warning glare as he heard the woman's shoes clicking against the (vinyl) hardwood of the hallway.
"...I can see hardly any difference in the condition of this place! Your cleaning is foolishly useless!" Franziska declared upon entering and observing the living room. Her gaze missed Larry, who was mostly hidden by Phoenix's frame, and she locked Phoenix in a furious scowl.
"Oh. Uh... I'll try harder next time," Phoenix mumbled, unable to meet her eyes.
Before Franziska could scold him any further, Larry rose from the couch to stand in front of her, his eyes wide. He began to raise his shaking hands.
"Miss, um... What's your name?"
Phoenix saw what was about to happen and slapped a hand across his own face. It was too late to save him. Larry would have to learn the hard way. Franziska did her strange little bow before extending one of her own hands to shake Larry's.
"Franziska Von Karma, prosecutor. And who might you be?"
Larry's other hand shot forward, and he gripped hers tightly with both of his. His face lit up, and his eyes sparkled.
"I'm... Your future husband!"
"I beg your pardon?!"
It was, in fact, too late to save him.
There was a sudden loud sound that pierced the air, a crack, and Larry shrieked in both pain and terror as he withdrew from the angered German. Phoenix couldn't comprehend what had just happened.
Then, he saw it: Franziska's fearsome weapon.
"I-Is... Is that a whip?!"
Franziska didn't answer in words. Instead, she cracked the whip and raised it high, threatening another strike, as she fixed Larry with a challenging glare. She was all but daring him to try making another move on her, like she wanted to spill his blood. An intense aura emanated from her.
Suddenly, all of Miles' warnings rang in the back of Phoenix's head. "Don't disappoint or upset her," Miles had warned several times, and he'd shuddered whenever someone asked what he meant by that. Her texts had even mentioned something about the stinging taste of leather, and Miles had hurriedly restocked the first aid kit when he'd gotten the confirmation that she was coming...
This, surely, was what he'd been thinking of. Franziska Von Karma literally carried a goddamn whip on her person at all times.
"J-Just ignore him," Phoenix stammered, shielding his grimacing friend with his body. "He means well, he's just kind of an idiot! A-And he was just, y'know... caught off guard by how incredibly pretty you are!"
"I will not be so easily swayed by empty flattery, Phoenix Wright! You will find that my intelligence, and not my beauty, is my most attractive quality!"
"No, she's right— smart girls are hot, too," Larry whimpered. Phoenix jabbed him with his elbow.
"Shut up, Larry!"
Just as Phoenix contemplated abandoning Larry to save himself and running out the front door, they were both saved by the bell. Or, rather, by the sound of a Skype call coming from the laptop computer on the table. Phoenix scrambled to answer it. Larry hid behind him, sneaking occasional glances at Franziska. She put the whip back into its holster somewhere on her hip, but kept her fingers on the handle and her gaze hard and merciless.
"H-H-Hey, Miles! What's up?!" Phoenix did his best to greet the man cheerfully, who seemed to be standing in the hallway outside of a hospital room. Miles immediately pursed his lips.
"...What's going on over there?"
"Oh, nothing. Franziska just got back, and she was just showing us her, uh, weapon of choice—"
"Fran!" Miles hissed the name, and then he looked around before retreating into the nearest bathroom. He checked the stalls for eavesdroppers before continuing. "You promised to keep the violence to a minimum!"
"Don't lecture me— I had no choice! Why don't you ask my poor, hapless victim?!" Franziska argued, poking her head in front of the webcam as best she could. Miles glared, studying Phoenix for signs of an injury.
"...What happened?! Who did she attack?!"
Phoenix sighed, and then he moved out of the way enough to let Miles see Larry on the couch, wincing and tightly gripping his left arm.
Miles rolled his eyes.
"...Oh. It was only Larry."
"What's that supposed to mean?!" Larry cried through the pain.
Miles ignored his protests. It had probably come out harsher than he had intended it— if he were forced to subject either the man he loved or said man's idiot friend to Franziska's wrath, why would he pick Phoenix?
"Fetch the first aid kit from its usual place. You'll find adhesive bandages and a cream for treating certain kinds of burns, and ice tends to soothe the pain," Miles calmly explained. He was rubbing his temples like he was developing a headache. "And in the future, Larry, I would suggest keeping your flirtations to yourself." His expression clouded. "...If you value your own life."
Larry flashed a weak thumbs-up.
"D-Duly noted, dude!"
"I've got it. I'll treat him. ...Can I maybe talk to my parents? Or at least my daughter?"
"Oh— of course. My apologies. I wanted to make sure that I had this working properly before I introduced it to them. Now, which room were we in...?"
Miles returned the hospital room, where Phoenix's parents and daughter sat waiting patiently.
Once Larry and Franziska had settled down, the trio enjoyed a pleasant Skype call with Mr. and Mrs. Wright senior. As Phoenix had suspected, his mother had interrogated Miles. She'd apparently been told to keep things private though, as she didn't actually say what she'd asked about. Trucy kept her grandparents and a few nurses entertained with her most reliable card tricks, and eventually, Miles decided that it was about time he and Trucy return home. Phoenix felt better about the whole situation once they hung up.
Franziska, surprisingly, kind of apologized for whipping Larry, while Larry apologized for being too forward. This was only after Franziska was informed that Larry was a longtime family friend, and that it had been his idea to go ice skating. Phoenix supervised the two of them (and treated Larry's wounds) as they had a tense but polite conversation. After a while, his fear that Larry would say something wrong and that she would whip him again faded away.
Franziska definitely had her issues, but she was trying. That was the most important thing. Phoenix had to remember that she was trying so hard for the sake of the man he loved with all his heart. It was easy to forgive her outburst when he thought about that.
"Why did you decide to come here, anyway?" Phoenix asked after a while. "I'm sure there are more exciting places you could have gone."
Franziska's mouth twisted before pressing into a hard line.
"Is that not obvious by now? I am here for the sake of my brother. I..." she paused, unsure if she should divulge this information. Her eyes settled on Larry's arm, and she seemed to decide that she owed them this much for her sudden burst of violence. "...I have had plenty of time, in the years that he and I have not spoken, to think on my relationship to my father, and I eventually realized, with some outside help, that..." She sighed and squeezed her arm. "...That my father should not be missed. ...I misplaced my anger at never receiving my father's affections, and I chose to direct it at Miles, who had done nothing wrong, and... And I need to correct that."
Phoenix stopped moving as he processed her words. It was a shockingly mature admission. Franziska, it seemed, intended to take all of the blame for their relationship having turned sour. He was sure that Miles wouldn't allow her to do so, though, once they discussed it in person.
"That's really big of you," Phoenix praised. "He'll be glad to hear it. Just... Tell him that, alright? ...He says he feels bad about not being able to provide the comfort that you needed after your dad died, you know. He doesn't think it's all your fault or anything."
Franziska made a strange sound, like something between a snort and a giggle.
"Is that so? ...The fool."
She called him a fool, but she shook her head rather fondly.
Miles and Trucy returned from their hospital excursion before long. Trucy was already excited about going ice skating. She asked about why Uncle Larry seemed "kinda scared", but was assured that everything was okay.
Phoenix snuck away from the others as they stood in the living room, and he stood close to Miles as he re-donned his coat. He took this brief opportunity to pinch at his hip.
"So, uh... How long has she carried a whip?"
Miles only chuckled at first, and then he opened the door and let Franziska, Trucy, and Larry exit before him.
"Don't be silly," he said sweetly. "She's only had that for a few years."
"Oh? Really?" If she'd only had it for a few years, then maybe there wasn't too much to be worried about. Maybe Miles had been exaggerating all this time.
Miles smirked as he gestured for Phoenix to go on ahead.
"...When she was younger, she only carried a riding crop."
Phoenix's face went pale as his boyfriend shut the front door behind them.
As expected, Franziska had turned out to be an excellent figure skater. Better than that, actually. She was perfect, as she apparently was at most things. She also paid for everyone's lunch at a local café, which saved Miles some more time and effort.
"You're shockingly graceful," Phoenix laughed, keeping his eyes on the road. Franziska barked out a quick laugh.
"I shall ignore, for your sake, the insult you've so thinly veiled... I am indeed! Miles is a sap, so he likely told you already, but we spent many a winter day skating on the lake near my home."
"He said you taught him, and that you helped him up when he fell," Phoenix recalled. Franziska smirked over at her brother. He and Franziska sat on either side of the car's back row with Trucy in between them, while Larry had claimed shotgun.
"Of course I did. Was I supposed to let him make fools of us both?"
"So kind of you," Miles retorted through a quiet laugh.
Trucy pointed out all of the familiar places in town to Franziska as they drove, giving the best tour that she could. They passed her school, which led Franziska to ask polite questions about what her favorite subjects were, and whether or not she was getting good grades. Trucy boasted about all of the talent shows she had won with her magic act, and seemed eager to debut some of her tricks for their guest from overseas, so Miles agreed to take up his old role as her assistant in order to help her do so. That, it seemed, would have to be the first order of business upon returning home.
Phoenix, Franziska, and Larry say on the couch as soon as they were back in the house. Trucy ran off, dragging Miles behind her, to fetch his coat and neck puff and her hat, cape, and props. With the limited space of the living room, she had to rely on her oldest tricks, many of which involved the traditional deck of cards. Miles didn't actually have much to do besides help her hold things. He played along, though, by gesturing in over-the-top ways and bowing whenever he was mentioned. Franziska seemed to find this hilarious.
Despite being a generally unreliable guy, Larry was great with kids. Every time Trucy completed a trick, he acted as though he'd never seen anything more incredible. He even begged her to tell him how some of the tricks worked just so that she could drop the line about magicians and their secrets.
Both Trucy and Miles bowed low to the ground when the show ended, and their little audience clapped and cheered. Trucy ran back upstairs to put her things where they belonged. Miles put his nice clothes away and re-donned his frilly apron, returning to the kitchen.
"Do you want some help?" Phoenix asked, peeking around the doorframe. Miles waved him off.
"Go relax for a while," he ordered. "You got a surprising amount done while I was away. And Larry has already volunteered to help."
Phoenix raised an eyebrow at his notoriously troublesome friend.
"Did you, really?"
"Hey, I kinda crashed your plans at the last second," he grumbled through a shrug, his hands stuffed into his pockets. "Least I can do is help out a little, right?"
Phoenix accepted their terms and returned to the living room. He smiled as he sat down with his bag of gummy bears. Dinner wasn't going to be ready until later in the evening as usual, so Miles had begrudgingly agreed to return the bag to him. He saw Franziska roll her eyes at him.
It may have been a holiday, but Franziska was still a busy businesswoman. She'd pulled out her laptop computer and was absorbed in responding to emails. Phoenix snuck glances at her when he could. She looked very focused and mature like this, and it clashed when he realized just how young she actually was.
Trucy returned, eventually, with a pile of Christmas movies. Phoenix allowed her to pick the first one, and then she squeezed into his armchair with him. He was reluctant, at first, to share his gummy bears with her, but being an adult— being a parent, especially— meant making sacrifices. Trucy still had some of the candy that Franziska had given her, and she shared that in exchange.
It wasn't much of a sacrifice, after all. That was always how he felt about having Trucy in the end.
"How did this even happen?! What are the odds?!"
Miles was utterly exasperated and ran a hand through his hair. Larry laughed uproariously and slapped at his own knee. Phoenix could only shake his head at the perplexing board.
Trucy's caroling group had showed up to take her, so the adults had decided to take advantage of the quiet and play a few rounds of Scrabble. Since both he and Franziska were lawyers (almost, in his case), he had been expecting an exciting final round with plays of obscure legal terms that the others wouldn't understand.
Instead, Franziska had managed to win by piecing together iterations of the same word over and over again.
"No one likes a sore loser, Phoenix Wright," she mocked as she collected the wooden tiles. "I have secured a most perfect victory!"
"And what, pray tell, is perfect about this?!" Miles screeched, becoming uncharacteristically flustered. That managed to get a laugh out of Phoenix.
The board, before Franziska had cleared it, had been covered with tiles she had placed. Her completed words were fool, foolish, foolishly, foolishness, foolhardiness, and tomfoolery.
It seemed that Franziska had a favorite word.
"I'm going to go start dinner," Miles grumbled when he'd recovered from the shock of his third straight loss. As mature as he was, he really didn't like losing at board games. "And... get some more prep done, I suppose."
"Alright, but don't work too hard. I'm sure we'll all love whatever you make," Phoenix complimented as Miles stood and left the room. Miles shot him a look that he couldn't quite read before responding with a very formal "thank you, Mr. Wright". When Phoenix turned, he saw Franziska raising an eyebrow at him.
Shit. Had his remark been too openly mushy?
"...Such a sap," the German girl mocked under her breath.
She didn't say anything more. Phoenix had forgotten how hard it was to pretend not to be in love with someone, and his affection had accidentally leaked into his tone. At the very least, Franziska hadn't pounced on it. Maybe she thought he was just an overly doting boss?
Miles fiddled around in the kitchen, likely doing more prepwork, for a while before Phoenix heard him turn on the stovetop. Larry started up the video game system, so Phoenix joined him on the floor to play a few rounds. Franziska hadn't grown up with video games of her own, and so she easily got distracted from her work in watching the men play.
"If you wanna play, I can teach you," Larry offered, momentarily pausing the game in order to look at her. Franziska turned her head away and glared at the Christmas tree.
"I-I have no interest in such childish games!"
"...Oh, alright. Suit yourself."
The game resumed. Franziska continued to stare at the tree.
"...Was that there before?" She quietly asked herself.
"Was what where?" Phoenix glanced to where she was looking, and then he, too, noticed it.
At the top of the pile of presents, there was a very, very small box, and it was unprofessionally wrapped in what seemed to be leftover scraps of wrapping paper that someone had snuck away from the garbage pile. Franziska picked it up and found that a label was scribbled on the top of it in marker, as whoever had made it had lacked a proper tag or sticker.
"...To Aunt Fran, from Trucy," she read aloud.
Phoenix couldn't help but grin. For a second, Franziska had looked like she was about to cry.
Franziska eventually admitted that she did, in fact, want to try playing the video game. Phoenix stepped aside to allow her to try it out. Larry had always been patient when it came to pretty girls, so he didn't seem to mind the frustrating process of teaching a person the most basic of basics. Franziska didn't even know what a joystick was, and had to keep looking at her controller to remember which buttons were which. Her face reddened with the frustration of it, but she kept going. It was... strangely inspirational, Phoenix thought.
Miles poked his head out from the kitchen to watch for a while. He held his breath, afraid that the very act of breathing aloud would embarrass Franziska out of her state of (relative) relaxation. She was too immersed in the new experience to notice him.
For all her ignorance, Franziska proved to be a quick learner. Worse, still, she was a hell of a shot. In the last round that she played, she barely managed a victory over Larry. She stood up and cheered something in German at the top of her lungs. Phoenix didn't ask her to translate.
Things got quiet again before long. Franziska returned to her work, and Larry passed out on the couch. Phoenix used it as an opportunity to study for his upcoming exams. After a while, he checked the clock. Trucy would return from her caroling trip soon, and then it would be time for dinner. Phoenix smelled the air. Something smelled delicious. He followed his nose.
Miles, still apron-clad, moved around the kitchen so fast that it was hard for Phoenix to track with his eyes. Based on the amount of prepwork that had been done that, Phoenix had expected a wide array of food, but the pot and pan on the stovetop didn't seem to have too much in them.
"...What are you making, exactly?"
"Well..." Miles focused on slicing the potatoes on his cutting board before he answered, likely so that he wouldn't get distracted and slice open a finger. "Dinner is typically rather light on Christmas Eve in Germany. To make room for the absurd amount of food the next day, of course. I'm just making sausages and a, um... warm red potato salad... sort of thing."
Phoenix chose to ignore Miles' vague description of the side dish and eyed the sausages that simmered in the pan. They didn't look like anything he'd seen in a local grocery store. Miles must have gone to an International market in search of bratwurst.
As he looked around, he was able to mentally confirm that Miles was multi-tasking. The goose, now fully thawed, was on the counter near the sink. Trucy had said something about it earlier— "that's a funny-looking turkey", to be exact. Phoenix giggled as he recalled that conversation.
It was just as Miles looked up with a questioning glint in his eye that Phoenix heard someone knock on the door. It seemed that Trucy was a few minutes late in returning from her caroling expedition.
"You keep cooking— it looks delicious," Phoenix assured Miles. "I'll get the door."
"Alright. You can send her in here if you'd like."
Phoenix jogged down the short hall and swung the door open, prepared to greet his daughter with an eager grin. He had been expecting Trucy to return right about now, but he had expected her to return alone.
Instead, she had another girl with her. A girl that Phoenix recognized.
"...Pearl?" He called out to her when he saw her. The girl had always been shy, but her expression seemed a bit off, and she wouldn't look up to meet his gaze. She just squeezed his daughter's hand tighter. "What are you doing here?"
"...Daddy, can I talk to you for just a sec?" Trucy asked. She was being unusually serious. She left Pearl standing by the doorway, and then she took Phoenix by the hand and led him into the living room.
She took a deep breath.
"...I know that we're busy, daddy, and I know the house isn't really big, but is it okay if we have Pearl here for Christmas too?"
Phoenix couldn't conceal his surprise. He tried to read Trucy's expression. It didn't look like she was asking for a simple playdate. Had something serious happened? He knelt down to Trucy's height and lowered his voice when he spoke again.
"That... Trucy, honey, if she really needs a place to stay, she's welcome to stay with us, but... Shouldn't she spend Christmas with her own family? What happened?"
Trucy frowned deeply. Phoenix had been afraid that she would do that.
"Pearl's mommy got taken away by some police men. She might have done something really bad, so Pearl's not allowed to be at her house right now. They're still infesti— they're still investigating."
"That... That's terrible!" Trucy was taking this seriously enough to correct her own speaking errors. That alone was proof that this was the real deal. "What about other relatives?!"
"She says she only has some cousins who can take care of her. And they have to work and stuff until kinda late tomorrow, and they haven't had time to get presents or anything yet, so..."
Trucy was nervously kicking the floor and studying her shoes. Phoenix thought about the implication behind her words.
"...She doesn't have any presents, then?"
Trucy shook her head.
Phoenix let out a long sigh.
"...Take her coat for her," he relented. Trucy's eyes went wide. "And show her where to put her shoes. She also needs to know where the bathrooms are, and where your room is."
Phoenix didn't often have his daughter's friends sleep over, as some parents found it "inappropriate" for their girls to stay in a house with no mother. He thought this was weird and silly, but he didn't want to start fights with other parents if he could avoid it, so he'd always accepted his fate in this regard.
This time was different. Miles would literally kill him if he left a child without a home on Christmas.
Miles wandered over just then, in the process of cleaning his hands with a dishrag, where he barely caught sight of Trucy running off with Pearl's shoes. Phoenix took Pearl by the shoulders and guided her toward Miles, toward the kitchen.
"Look, Miles, we have another guest! Pearl needed a place to stay, so Trucy and I decided that she could join us for Christmas this year," He said cheerfully. "Increase the amount of food and cookie dough," he very quietly hissed.
Miles nodded, looking very slightly panicked (it showed only in his brow), as he ran back into the kitchen.
Phoenix wanted to apologize for making the man's job even more stressful, but at the same time, what else were they to do? Just leave her on the street corner, or at the police station? That was no place for a little kid on Christmas Eve.
He guided Pearl into the kitchen, which already smelled like spices and cooking oil, and smiled proudly at his boyfriend as he scurried about the room and gathered up more potatoes.
Miles would be fine. That guy could handle just about anything that was thrown at him, and he did it with a distinct sort of grace.
Pearl joined the Wright family for their late (but delicious) dinner that night before Trucy took her to her room to help her get properly settled in. Phoenix heard her rustling around up there, likely constructing some kind of bed fort.
Phoenix called the local police station as soon as the girl couldn't hear him anymore. They confirmed Trucy's story. Her mom had been arrested on suspected murder charges, of all things. He was surprised that they had allowed Pearl to leave at all, but it had been a chaperoned and pre-planned event— Pearl had left the house by the time the police arrived. They had then called the group chaperone and explained the situation to her, at which point Trucy had offered to let Pearl stay in her room. The police were glad to have a proper confirmation of the girl's whereabouts, and they promised to relay the information to Pearl's family. One of her relatives would swing by to get her tomorrow afternoon, he was told, sometime around four or five.
He sighed as he hung up the phone. Pearl hadn't had time to get any of her own clothes or things out of her home, so Trucy had assured her that she could lend her some comfortable pajamas. Phoenix had fished through the emergency stock that Miles had thought to get, and there, he found an extra toothbrush and some other essential toiletries. Those things weren't a concern, but that didn't mean Phoenix was without worries.
"We have to do something." Phoenix made this command as soon as both girls were secured in Trucy's bedroom. Miles and Larry sat on the sofa, while Franziska was in an armchair. She raised an eyebrow.
"About what, dare I ask?"
"Do you have enough candy and sweets to fill up a stocking for her?" Miles asked, gesturing at the stairwell banter with his eyes. "We already had to provide the stocking for Larry, so..."
"I have enough," Franziska replied with a casual gesture. "I made sure to bring plenty in case of some sort of emergency."
A candy emergency? Phoenix found the excuse a bit strange, but didn't comment on it.
"I also want her to be able to participate in the cookie-making tomorrow," Phoenix added.
"I can make more dough rather quickly," Miles assured him. "The recipes aren't too complex, and Franziska was kind enough to provide her stamps."
Phoenix frowned, slightly, in confusion.
"...That's what those wooden stamp things are for? Cookies?"
"As well as the jams," Miles confirmed. "We don't have enough time to make proper Springerle, so I decided to make simple Butterplätzchen and let the children stamp those. I'm also making softer Lebkuchen that they can cut into shapes with stencils, and they can help me drizzle the glaze on them when they're ready to eat. I plan to use the jams for Spitzbuben."
"That... actually sounds delightful," Franziska admitted. She looked very hungry all of a sudden. Miles smirked.
"I didn't forget about you, though," he said in a teasing tone. "Vanillekipferl are also on the dessert menu plan."
"...That sounds nice, of course, but that sounds like a lot of cookies," Phoenix interrupted, ignoring Franziska's blush (he guessed that the last cookies Miles had mentioned were favorites of hers) and the fact that the words sounded made-up. "Are we feeding some kind of army?"
"They're meant to last at least a little while after Christmas," Miles answered through a laugh, "and I was planning to make baggies to give to the neighbors, and to your parents and coworkers and such. You just fill the gift bag with one of each kind of cookie and attach a note. People tend to appreciate them quite a bit."
Phoenix nodded. That was a really good idea, actually. And he knew that Trucy would enjoy going door to door and delivering the baggies... It would also get the kids out of the house just long enough to do anything that the adults needed to complete in secret, or without being fussed over by hungry and impatient children.
Phoenix frowned again as soon as the problem at hand resurfaced in his mind.
"This all sounds great, but there's just one more thing. ...Pearl doesn't have any Christmas presents. ...Not a single one."
"What?!" Larry sprang up from the couch. "That's fucked up! Little kids like her are supposed to get huge piles of presents!"
"I..." Franziska looked oddly pained, and Phoenix could easily imagine why. "I am inclined to agree with Mr. Butz! This should be the one day of the year on which children do not have to worry about anything."
"Even so, what are we to do about it?" Miles asked the obvious question.
There was a silence as all of the adults thought.
"...There has to be at least one place that's still open near here, right...?" Phoenix wondered aloud. Franziska scoffed at the notion, but Miles had already pulled out his phone and started searching for nearby stores.
An intense moment passed as everyone held their breaths and awaited the search results. There was a ding, and Miles' eyebrows rose.
"...One toy store is still open... They must be trying to take advantage of those few last-minute shoppers."
Larry, Phoenix, and Miles exchanged glances. Franziska backed away and shook her head.
"...No. No, you've all gone mad! We have only an hour, and what would we even get her?! Furthermore, wouldn't we still have to wrap everything?!"
"I happen to be an excellent wrapper. And Trucy and Pearl wear the same size in terms of clothes," Miles suggested, talking much faster than he normally did. "And Pearl doesn't have any modern electronics. No music player, no video games, no computer— none of it."
"Trucy said she doesn't have a bike or anything, either," Larry added. "...Kid's got kind of a depressing life."
"Pearl likes books, and she likes stuffed animals and dolls, and she likes dresses, and she and Trucy bond over Steel Samurai and Pink Princess and Jammin' Ninja and Kid's Masterpiece Theater!" Phoenix said everything he could remember in a jumbled rush of words. Then he ran off somewhere, and Miles, too, stood and shoved his phone back into his pocket.
"Th-This... This is insane!" Franziska stammered. "The three of you can't honestly be planning to—"
"The three of us," Miles corrected, throwing Franziska's jacket at her. "Nick knows Pearl best, so he should stay with her and make sure she's comfortable, and we can't very well leave the children alone."
Miles bit his tongue as soon as he'd spoken, realizing too late that he'd said Nick and not Mr. Wright, or even Phoenix. Franziska, thankfully, didn't notice.
"The three of us can cover more ground than one person, especially if we run!" Larry shouted. He already had his coat and sneakers on.
Phoenix came barreling down the hall, and he threw a strange bundle at Miles that he easily caught, along with the car keys.
"And what is that?!" Franziska was thrown something once again, and she turned it over in her hands. "A... A walkie-talkie?!"
"Trucy and Mr. Wright and I use them to communicate around the house sometimes," Miles explained. "They should work acceptably as long as we're staying within the same store. Everyone, let's move!"
Miles and Larry rushed out the front door. Franziska pouted and grumbled under her breath, but put her shoes on anyway.
Miles gave Larry and Franziska two of the walkie-talkies, and Larry assigned them codenames that served no actual purpose, as Miles drove as fast as he reasonably could to the toy store. The lot was far from crowded, but there were more cars than Miles would have expected at ten PM on Christmas Eve. ...Actually, it was about ten thirty by the time Miles made it to the store through the holiday traffic. The store shut its doors at eleven. That left only thirty minutes to shop like a group of madmen.
Two madmen and one madwoman, anyway.
"Stick to the things we know she'll like," Miles shouted as they jogged through the parking lot. "Don't get bogged down with unnecessary things! It will only waste time! Wait at the registers when you've found everything. We should be there by eleven fifty to guarantee enough time to check out!"
"Gotcha, Agent Fancypants," Larry replied. He ran into the store before Miles could reprimand him about the codename for the third time.
Franziska (Agent Whiplash) ran for the children's costumes and clothes first. Miles decided to try the electronics section, as he had the most money to spare. Larry (Agent Red Hot) had headed for the outdoor toys, perhaps in search of a bicycle.
Already, he could see that this was going to be unpleasant. There were several other people running around and snatching up just about everything with a discount sticker. He suspected that these were not desperate parents, but that they were resellers— they'd take advantage of the ridiculous holiday discounts and resell the items as soon as they were back to regular price. He'd heard tales of such a thing before. If he wanted to get the good stuff before these people snatched it all up, he'd have to hurry.
"God, I don't like to run," he muttered under his breath as he broke into a sprint.
He heard several women giggling at him as he passed.
Franziska ground her teeth as she looked through the dresses. She'd already used the walkie-talkie to ask Miles what size the child in question wore, but that didn't mean she truly understood American sizes. That, and a lot of these outfits were marked with either small, medium, or large. Not exactly clear. But then again, she didn't understand most of what Americans did.
After a while, she got the hang of it. Comparing the dresses marked with proper sizes to those that weren't made it easy enough to eyeball it. She picked the ones that looked the fanciest (she'd enjoyed dressing up as a duchess when she was a little girl) and tucked them under her arm.
When she found herself at the wall of costume jewelry and cute accessories, she didn't know what to do. What kinds of things would this particular girl like? A lot of the trinkets looked cheap or gaudy, which Franziska that knew she wouldn't have liked when she was her age, but that didn't narrow down her choices much.
She whined under her breath and stroked her chin in deep thought. Just then, another woman, older than her and fashionably dressed, jogged to her side.
"Buying something for a little girl?" She asked. Franziska nodded. "Is she a relative of yours? Or do you not know her very well? You seem a little agitated."
"I-I have only just met the child... Complicated circumstances that I won't bore you with. I was told that she likes pretty dresses, but... I'm not sure what to pair them with."
"...I'll tell you something. There's an easy trick to this," the other woman said, laughing. "...See, you're a very pretty young lady. Chances are that that girl wants to emulate someone like you."
"...Is that so?"
"And kids like to think they're being treated like grown-ups, too. So, just... get her something that looks like what you would wear!"
For a moment, Franziska blinked at the woman, not saying anything. She turned her gaze to the wall, picked up a pair of clip-on costume earrings, and held them up to her own ear. They looked a lot like the ones she was wearing. She looked to the stranger for approval. The woman smiled and nodded.
"That's the idea." She gave Franziska a friendly pat on the arm and turned to leave. "Good luck! I've still got plenty of kids to shop for, so I should get back to it."
"Good luck to you, as well," Franziska called after her, giving a pleasant wave.
She smiled as soon as she was alone again. Then she turned back to the wall of accessories with a renewed sense of purpose. Maybe this didn't have to be so difficult, after all. ...And maybe Americans weren't so bad.
"Nuh-uh, lady! I was here first!"
Larry ripped himself away from a woman's grip, holding a pink scooter with a discount tag taped to it. The thing was a steal, and Trucy had mentioned Pearl not having a bike or anything like that.
He'd gotten to it first, but some woman had stomped up to him and tried to take it right from his hands, saying he didn't look like he had a child. As if someone could tell such a thing just by looking. Sure, she looked like the very definition of a PTA mother, but did that give her the right to act so judgmental?
"Don't be so rude, sir!" The woman cried, putting her hands on the hips of her business suit. "My daughter has wanted a scooter for a while! She's just outgrown her bicycle, and I haven't had time to get her a new one!"
"Oh, yeah?! Cry me a river! This kid's never even had a frickin' bicycle!"
"Is the profanity really necessary? Show some civility!"
"That— profanity?! You wanna hear some real profanity, woman?! You've gotta be fuckin'—"
Larry's voice cut itself off abruptly. He studied the finely-dressed woman from head to toe, realizing that she matched a description he'd once heard, in both looks and rotten and entitled personality. If his guess was right, she was the woman that Phoenix had ranted to him about over the phone for twenty straight minutes. She was the woman that had bad-mouthed Phoenix, then yelled at and both hurt and embarrassed Miles in a grocery store a short while ago.
His eyes narrowed.
"...Are you Karen Nichols, by any chance? Would you happen to know a Phoenix Wright, or a Miles Edgeworth?"
The woman, who was definitely Karen Nichols, sneered.
"Those two? Unfortunately. But Mr. Wright's lazy parenting and his nanny's vulgar mouth has nothing to do with—"
"FUCK you, Karen! Eat a dick!"
With that, Larry hopped onto the scooter and kicked off, rapidly gliding down the smooth floors and away from Karen, who shouted after him and threatened to call and speak to the store manager. He flipped her the bird in response.
As he skated along, he pulled his walkie-talkie from his pocket and clicked the talk button.
"Agent Red Hot here— Mission is going great! Just got me a sweet deal on a great present! ...Also, watch out for an angry lady in a business suit. She's fuming in aisle 12. Over."
Miles lowered his walkie-talkie after explaining the discount he'd come across.
Trucy had something called a 3DS and liked playing age-appropriate games with it. Apparently, according to the employee, a 2DS was a cheaper model of the same system that could play the same games. The store was selling heavily discounted 2DS models that came in special patterns to match their games. Pokémon was popular with the kids these days, right? Miles had taken a Pokémon 2DS from the case and thanked the (very sleepy) employee before taking off in the direction of the discount games.
He stopped, for just a moment, to look at his surroundings. Twenty minutes had already passed, meaning he only had ten left. Figuring out what the hell a 2DS was had taken up a large chunk of his time. What could he do with the remaining ten minutes that would be worthwhile...?
He was still thinking it over when Larry suddenly rushed past him on what appeared to be a children's scooter. A pink one. Was that destined to become part of their presents, or was it just so he could get around faster? He had said something earlier about a "sweet deal"...
After another second, Franziska zoomed by in the opposite direction. She had taken off her high heels and held them in one hand, and was running at full speed in her socks and trying not to slide along the tile. A pile of presents was tucked beneath her other arm.
Miles gaped at nothing for about thirty seconds. Then, he snickered and snorted in the middle of the empty isle. He was sure that he looked foolish, but it didn't matter to him somehow.
It seemed he would have to step up his game.
By eleven fifty, all three "agents" had found a few good gifts. Larry had the scooter and some safety gear to use while riding it, and he'd found a cute stuffed cat and a few good books about art and animals.
Franziska had several dresses that were, technically, costumes, but they looked like normal fancy dresses to someone like her. She'd also grabbed some costume jewelry and a little CD player, along with the soundtrack CDs to Kid's Masterpiece Theater and Pink Princess.
Miles had found a Moozilla plush and a doll of the Princess from Jammin' Ninja, one that could actually be dressed and have her hair brushed like a Barbie. He, too, had a stack of books. But most importantly, he had the 2DS and a couple of child-appropriate games.
All in all, it looked like Pearl would have a very special Christmas. Her presents would almost overwhelm Trucy's at this rate, but since it was her first real Christmas, Trucy would understand.
Both Miles and Fran profusely thanked the frazzled cashier as they rushed through the checkout process, and then the three of them fled before a certain angry PTA member could catch up to them. Miles tore out of the parking lot. Larry relayed the finds to Phoenix over the phone as they rushed along.
"Good job, guys. I knew we could count on you," Phoenix cheered when they made it back into the house.
Each of them placed their presents on the coffee table and the nearby floor, trying not to make too much noise, before promptly throwing themselves onto the sofa.
That was enough exercise for one holiday season.
Silence. After all of the frantic rushing and the unexpected changes in plans, finally: calm and silence.
This couldn't last long, though. Pearl's presents still had to be wrapped, and she still needed a stocking, and Miles would still have to adjust some things...
"Did you put them to bed?" Miles asked in a quiet, sleepy voice. Phoenix, nearly passed out in the armchair, groaned before responding properly.
"Yeah, yeah... They should be asleep. I read them a story. They didn't wanna settle down at first, but I think they were more tired than they would admit."
"Like children, then," Miles chuckled. Phoenix noted that his voice, when he was tired, sounded an awful lot like his voice when he was drunk on a bit too much of his expensive wine. "As long as they're asleep, we don't have to worry about keeping watch for them. Larry, do you know how to wrap presents...?"
Larry shrugged. The movement seemed difficult for him. He was mostly sprawled over the arm of the sofa, as he'd tried to leave enough room in the middle of it for Franziska.
"I mean, I wrapped the presents I got for you and Trucy and Nick, so... k-kind of? I'm not good at it, but I'll manage. I guess."
"Miles is the best at it here," Phoenix said. "He should wrap the bigger stuff, or the stuff that's shaped weird, and Larry can wrap the smaller stuff and make the bags for things we can't wrap. ...Does that seem fair?"
The other three adults responded with a collective sound, like a muffled hum of confirmation. Phoenix didn't bother to ask them what the shopping trip had been like. He could tell just by looking at them.
Phoenix, who hadn't had to run around like his life depended on it, took it upon himself to fetch the wrapping paper and necessary supplies. He returned with it to find that the others had dragged themselves into upright positions and started sorting the presents, removing them from their plastic bags. Franziska used her nails to peel off price tags. Miles hid the receipts in his bag.
Once everything was set up, Larry pulled out his phone. He tapped on his preferred radio app and found a playlist full of relaxing Christmas songs. The soft voices singing about snowfall and bells and happy children instantly calmed Phoenix's mind.
Franziska yawned and leaned back against the couch as Larry studied the choices of wrapping paper.
"I'm sure Phoenix Wright has been wondering about it, so I suppose it's about time that I explain something else, yes...?" Franziska lazily rolled her head over to look at Miles. "...Miles. Let's make the Gluhwein, shall we?"
Phoenix furrowed his brow. Another mysterious German thing. Miles, apparently, knew what it was, as his face lit up enough to make the dark circles under his eyes disappear for a moment.
"That's a splendid idea, Fran. ...I'll be back in a few minutes."
Miles stood (groaning a bit as he did so) and left the room rather unceremoniously. Phoenix shot Franziska a questioning look. She only smirked.
He took a moment to study her. She... Trucy was right. Franziska wasn't so bad. Sure, she had a penchant for the occasional violent assault, but she was actually rather soft-hearted beneath the frosty exterior.
Miles had talked at length about how vicious she had been when they were last in contact. Perhaps she'd only acted that way because of how deeply she was hurting, and with time, she truly had come to understand and accept the reality of her circumstances. And, perhaps, this acceptance had brought her a kind of peace. She was, in some ways, very mature for her age. Even if she had trouble expressing herself from time to time.
Phoenix decided that he liked Franziska, whip and snarky comments and all.
Miles returned after only a few minutes, as promised. He made two trips, carrying a glass in each hand both times, until he set all four of them on the table. Phoenix recognized the strange glasses that Franziska had given Miles earlier. This time, they were filled with an oddly-colored drink that had steam rising from it.
"It's a warm mulled liquor," Miles explained as Phoenix wrinkled his nose at the glass. "It's usually served at Christmas markets in these special glasses, but it can also be prepared at home. It's not quite as good, but it'll suffice."
Phoenix took a hesitant sip when the drink had cooled enough. When it first hit his tongue, it tasted strange, almost spicy. But he adjusted, and then he liked it. He took another sip.
"Kinda weird, but not bad," Larry piped up. Phoenix had nearly forgotten he was there, as he was being unusually quiet. He'd chosen a wrapping paper that he liked and cut out a small section of it for some of the jewelry Franziska had found. Miles had already gotten started on figuring out how to wrap the scooter.
"Yeah," Phoenix agreed. "It's pretty good."
The four of them spent the next hour like that— listening to a quiet Spotify station and wrapping presents of varying sizes and shapes, and with noticeably different degrees of skill, while sipping on Gluhwein and sharing jokes and friendly banter that even Franziska participated in.
It was just past midnight by the time everything was finished. The extra stocking had been hung, Miles had adjusted his cookie dough, and the wrapped presents had been placed beneath the tree.
Franziska almost deflated as soon as she visually confirmed everything.
"...And with that, I really should turn in," she sighed dramatically. "Miles, do you mind—"
"I can take care of the glasses," Miles offered before she could finish. "All of you need to go to sleep. I ought to get a bit more prepwork done, but the rest of the house should be in bed."
Franziska didn't wait for further permission. She retreated to her bedroom. Larry waited until he heard the door close before following his friends into the kitchen.
"Dude. Your sister is hot," Larry sang. Miles splashed him with sink water as he washed the glasses.
"Don't. Just... Don't."
Meanwhile, Phoenix pulled a stack of papers out of his satchel, the one that almost always hung on the back of his seat at the kitchen table.
"I'm just gonna look over the budget... Miles, how much did you spend on the presents?"
Miles clicked his tongue in a scolding fashion.
"Don't worry about that. You know that I have plenty to spare, as does Fran. Reimbursing Larry might make sense, but you needn't worry about us."
"Nah, man," Larry said dismissively. "I woulda spent the money on booze or dirty magazines anyway. It's been put to better use."
"...Well, alright," Phoenix replied after frowning for a moment. He didn't like to accept charity if he could avoid it— not out of some foolish pride, but rather out of a guilt that he couldn't help.
He paused as he looked over the paper in front of him, and he seemed to have been struck with a sudden thought.
"...Wait, Miles." Miles looked over his shoulder. "I know this is kind of a weird question, but... am I still paying you? ...I-It's still written in my budge—"
A freshly-dried glass slammed against the countertop.
"What did you just ask me?!"
Larry, halfway to the stairwell, suppressed a laugh. Phoenix stared down his boyfriend, wide-eyed and panicked. Miles, however, had never lost a glaring battle in his life. Phoenix was no match for the force of it.
"Wh... What did I do?! What did I say?!"
Miles scoffed and threw down his dishrag.
"In case you'd forgotten, my original contract does not cover those kinds of services! ...Or do you causally offer to pay everyone that you sleep with?! Exactly what kind of business do you think that I—"
Miles' tirade was interrupted by a painful-sounding howl of laughter from the stairs.
"...It's not that funny, Larry," Phoenix grumbled. His face was, perhaps, more red than it had ever been. That's how it felt, anyway.
"I mean, that answers my question," Larry squeaked out through his laughter. He wiped a tear from his eye and then flashed a thumbs-up. "Congrats, I guess!"
"Go to bed already!" Miles commanded. His face was red now, too. "It's none of your business anyway!"
Larry did, at the very least, have a bit of mercy in him. He didn't push the issue any further, and he made his way up the stairs, laughing as he did so.
For a few heated seconds, once they were alone, Miles did nothing but glare at Phoenix with his arms crossed, his finger impatiently tapping against his own sleeve. Phoenix looked around for some kind of escape route, refusing to meet his sharp eyes. Then, Miles took a deep breath and seemed to calm down.
"...In case you were still unclear... No, you don't have to pay me anymore. I'm still here because I want to be, not because I have to be."
He said those words in a mildly scolding and terse tone, but the intent behind them wasn't lost. Phoenix couldn't help but melt just a little bit.
"...Christ, I love you."
"I'm well aware," Miles retorted, feigning disinterest.
"You— just shut up and get over here."
Phoenix crossed the room and pulled the other man into an embrace. His mouth found Miles' as he ran his hands into his silvery hair. Miles' hands seemed to wander, like he couldn't make up his mind. He made a soft sound against Phoenix's lips.
Phoenix wasn't a teenager anymore— it wasn't that he could barely keep his hands to himself or anything like that. It was simply hard to pretend not to be romantically interested in Miles at all, and to constantly avoid so much as squeezing his hand or smiling a special smile at him. He'd been holding back for a while now. It was easy to get carried away under the circumstances.
Miles eventually ended up sitting on the countertop with his arms around the other man's neck. Phoenix had completely forgotten about what time it was, or about the fact that Miles still had to put all of his food and things away. If he could do anything he wanted... Well, it was better not to get too distracted, even if the feeling of Miles' tongue pressed against his made it impossible to think about anything else.
It was Miles who pulled his lips away, earning a bit of a disappointed whine from Phoenix.
"You should go to bed. Don't wait up for me."
"Huh?" Phoenix tilted his head. "You gonna do some more prep?" Miles might have said something about that a little while ago, but he'd honestly thought that he was just looking for an excuse to stay in the kitchen after Franziska left.
"I'd... like to get just a bit of head start on tomorrow's work, if that's alright. Things got thrown a bit out of order for a while there."
"That's true." Phoenix smiled. "I'll see you... in the morning, then?"
"In the morning." Miles gave him a parting kiss on the forehead. "Go to sleep."
Phoenix couldn't pretend not to be a little disappointed— it hadn't been long since the arrangement began, but he'd really gotten used to and fond of falling asleep next to Miles. He'd keep his complaints to himself, though, if it meant that Miles could focus on what he felt he had to do.
He obediently trudged to his own bedroom and set the alarm, and though he'd thought it would be difficult to fall asleep alone, he passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow.
It had been a long day, after all.
Miles hummed quietly as he cracked open as many walnut shells as he could. Most of the prepwork was done, but he wanted to get a head start on tomorrow's if he could, and to do so while he still had this burst of energy.
It was late, and it had been an eventful day. He'd expected that everyone else would be sound asleep by now. He was so sure of this that he wasn't listening to his surroundings, and he didn't hear the padding of slippered feet on the stairs.
Miles jumped in place, dropping a few nuts on the floor and grabbing hold of his own heart. He whipped around and found his sister staring him down.
"Christ, Fran, you scared me half to death!"
Normally, Franziska would have made fun of him. Instead she squeezed one of her arms and frowned.
"I apologize. That was not my intention."
When Franziska fell silent, Miles looked to the clock on the stove. It was well past one in the morning. She should have been in bed at least an hour ago.
"...What's wrong?" He asked. "Did you need something? It's awfully late."
"I'm well aware of that," she grumbled. "I... simply wanted to ask you something. I should have asked hours ago, perhaps even this morning, but... I suppose I've been putting it off. And then, somewhere in all the day's chaos, I... forgot."
She bit her lip and glared at the floor. Her cheeks were slightly red. She looked young and embarrassed, prompting Miles to remove his apron and coax her to join him at the kitchen table. He could tell that this, whatever it was, was serious.
"Talk to me, Fran. You can ask me whatever you'd like."
A long pause.
"...Are you still angry with me?"
Miles' eyes widened. Before he could mentally formulate a response, his head shook. Denial. His heart knew this before his head did.
"Of course not," Miles assured her. "I've had plenty of time, and... I've spoken to professionals. I understand what happened. And it wasn't your fault."
"But I put everything on you," Franziska groaned. "I made it your fault, when we both know that it wasn't. Of course you couldn't play nice and pretend to be sad at his passing, he... He was a monster, Miles. The things he would say about your father right in front of you, the way he'd try and pit us against each other..."
She trailed off. Nothing more had to be said about exactly what kind of an awful parent Manfred Von Karma had been. Miles didn't want to speak ill of the dead, but frankly, the world was a better place with that man gone. He couldn't hurt them anymore, anyway. ...Or, perhaps, that wasn't true. Even in death, his shadow haunted the places he had been. The mark he'd left was difficult to erase.
"...I'm sorry," Miles mumbled. "That I couldn't provide you with what you needed. We both experienced that life, so I of all people should have been there for you—"
"You really are a fool, aren't you?!" Franziska scoffed all of a sudden. She still wouldn't meet Miles' eyes. "...I came down here, partially, to apologize to you, and now you're trying to... Do not be so obtuse!"
"So Phoenix Wright was correct... Hmph. True to his namesake, I suppose."
Miles tried to look unaffected by her unexpected mention of his (secret) boyfriend.
"Mr. Wright...? What, exactly, was he correct about?"
She scoffed again and turned her head to look at the fridge. She'd look anywhere, it seemed, except for her brother's face.
"He said you would say that. That you feel some leftover guilt for not comforting me well enough, or some equally ridiculous thing..." Finally, she looked at Miles. She was glaring, but... Baby steps. "Now, listen— I took my anger out on you simply because you were still there. ...Do you understand? There was nothing that you could have said, nothing that you could have done, that would have changed the way that I treated you. I... I've spoken to 'professionals', too."
She lost a great deal of her fighting spirit when she'd finished her tirade. She redirected her gaze to the table. Miles wasn't sure, for a long moment, what to say. He'd thought she would still hold some resentment towards him, and that that was her reason for not contacting him in so long. It seemed he had misjudged her all this time.
"...Why?" Franziska looked up, not understanding his question. "Why were you so angry with everything?"
She sighed and brushed some of her hair behind her ear.
"B-Because... Because he never loved me, and deep down, I knew that. But I had spent so many years doing nothing but trying to earn his approval, even when it meant changing myself, and I couldn't understand why I never received it... And then, suddenly, he was gone. I would never have that chance again. It... It wasn't fair, so... I got angry. It was easier for me to be angry and lash out at those around me than to cry. I'd always been taught not to show any weakness."
"He didn't deserve to be loved by you."
"I know that. ...I know that now, anyway." Her lip trembled, for just a moment, before she regained control of herself. "Anyway, I know that I didn't treat you fairly, and I don't expect any apologies from you for that. It had very little to do with you and everything to do with my own shortcomings. ...I hope that you can find it in your heart somewhere to forgive me."
"I forgave you a long time ago."
Franziska say anything for a little while— nothing that Miles was meant to respond to, anyway. As she processed the situation, she nodded to herself several times, each one a bit more sure and confident. "Yes," she mumbled every few seconds, "good. That's good." Finally, she swallowed and met Miles' eyes.
"If that's all you wanted to know—"
"N-No, Miles, that's not what I came here to ask you. There is... just one more thing. A personal request."
Miles had begun to rise from his seat, but quickly sat back down.
"...Oh? What is it? If there's something you need, we'll do whatever we can to accommodate you, you know."
"It's... It's not something like that. And I would have asked earlier, but we only discussed it this morning, and I cannot help but think that it would be a good thing for us both. E-Even so, this is Phoenix Wright's home. His holiday. I wouldn't want to do such a thing without his permission—"
"I still don't what you're talking about, Fran! There's nothing I can do if you don't ask me plainly."
They stared one another down. Franziska's face grew more red by the second. She stood and bowed very slightly, putting on an air of courtesy.
"I... I-I wanted to know if it would be alright for me to... to have my girlfriend over. ...She would very much like to meet everyone."
Miles had never truly known, before that very moment, how to define the word "dumbfounded". But at that very moment, he was struck with such an intense shock that conscious thought fled him in favor of a high-pitched screaming in the back of his head. He couldn't form words. His face couldn't even register the emotion, as it was too difficult to process her words as facts.
"...I... I'm sorry, your what now?"
"M-My... My girlfriend! ...She lives here, in America."
That word. She had said it again, and still, it didn't make sense in his brain.
"...You're... You're dating a woman?! Since when?!"
Franziska abruptly stood, her kitchen chair screeching against the floor.
"I am sorry to have bothered you."
She turned and began to walk, briskly, away, with her shoulders trembling as she tried to hold them high. Miles grabbed her by her arm and pulled her back.
"You've got the wrong idea! I'm not angry— I'd have to be the most enormous hypocrite on the face of the earth!"
Franziska had started trying to tug Miles' hands away, but she froze when she understood his words.
"...You? A... hypocrite...?"
Miles couldn't think of what to say. He threw his hands out as his sides, and then he covered his face. He was laughing, almost hysterically, for reasons he didn't quite understand. When he felt composed enough, he pointed up, indicating the bedroom above their heads.
"Franziska... Phoenix Wright is not my boss. Not anymore, anyway. ...He's so much more than that. Honestly, I haven't called him Mr. Wright in months! I... I call him Nick. ...I've been sleeping beside him, in his bed, since you arrived."
Franziska's brow furrowed as she studied his face. He could see the moment that the pieces of the puzzle fit themselves together in her head.
"Are you... Are you telling me that that man is your lover?!"
Miles cringed and gestured at her to lower her voice.
"I'm not fond of the word lover, but if that's how you insist on phrasing it, then... Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying."
They stared at one another for what felt like a full minute of silence, each one piecing their pasts and their shared history together with new bits of information. The gaps in Miles' understanding of his sister suddenly made sense, were filled in with the truth that encompassed so many things.
Somehow, Manfred Von Karma, a notorious bigot, had ended up with not one, but two gay children. And each one had spent a lifetime hiding it from the other for fear of what they might think or say. Miles had never heard anything more outrageous, had never conceived of anything so ridiculous.
Franziska, this time, was the one that laughed. Miles joined her. Before long, she was laughing in a way that Miles had never seen. The expression looked like it belonged to someone else— a softer girl with a kinder upbringing. Her cheeks were stained pink, and there were tears at the corners of her eyes. The laugh was girlish and light.
"So we're both fools," she finally managed to squeak. Miles grinned and nodded.
"It certainly looks that way."
"I should have known!" She wiped her eyes and tried to recover her lost breath. "You never did chase after the girls. And you ran when they chased after you. A-And that Phoenix Wright— he asked far too many questions. It hardly seemed like a professional interest, but I thought him a mere sentimental fool!"
"...Questions?" Phoenix hadn't mentioned that detail to Miles. Perhaps he was embarrassed. Franziska shorted as she giggled at the memory.
"Oh, he wanted to know just about every little detail of our shared childhood in Germany. He wouldn't leave me alone until I gave him some answers. ...B-But we are getting side-tracked here. How long... How long have you been...?"
"I've known for a while," Miles explained, not needing her to clarify her statement, "ever since I was a little boy. I've privately been in a few serious relationships. Even so, I was publicly closeted until about a year and a half ago. I... I was actually fired back then for telling my client's child."
Franziska covered her mouth.
"The... The Justices? Is that why you left that family?"
Miles gave a solemn nod. Franziska grit her teeth.
"How... How utterly absurd."
"You're right... It was. I only told the truth because their son was struggling with his own orientation. I haven't been able to contact him, but I can only hope that he's alright."
"...I pray that he is," Franziska said quietly. She, it seemed, knew all too well what a parent's hateful words could do.
Miles took in a long and heavy breath, and released it through his nose, slowly expanding his lungs. He felt clean. He felt refreshed. Everything made sense. Everything was finally as it was intended to be. Manfred's shadow, it seemed, was losing its power. Franziska had freed herself from his hold over her and was donning her own set of wings.
It wasn't just time that had changed her. It was freedom, and acceptance.
"...I would love to meet your girlfriend, Fran," Miles eventually said. Her eyes lit up like stars. "And I'm sure that Nick will have no objections. ...While we're at it, I suppose I should properly introduce him to you. ...As the man I love, rather than my boss."
"...Thank you, Miles."
After a moment of awkward eye contact, Franziska spread her arms out wide, inviting her brother into a hug. He grimaced, slightly, before attempting to return it. It was immediately obvious that neither one was accustomed to it. The difference in heights proved to be an issue. Franziska wasn't sure what to do with her head or her hands, and Miles didn't know how to release the tension in his muscles. Franziska laughed under her breath and shook her head when they parted.
"...We'll have to work on that," Miles said.
"Indeed. That was just atrocious," Franziska agreed.
He sent her off to bed when the exchange was through, and then Miles scurried about the kitchen to put everything away and gave the kitchen a last once-over. He skipped up the stairs, two at a time, and rushed into the bedroom that he'd been sharing with his "lover". He hopped onto the mattress and gently shook Phoenix.
"What, what is it?" Phoenix slurred, his eyes only halfway open. Miles knelt eagerly in front of him.
"Listen, Nick," he whispered. "You won't believe what I'm about about to tell you."
Yooooooooo this took me a ridiculously long time and I'm so sorry, but it just wouldn't cooperate with me for a while! Sometimes the brain just don't make the words go, you feel?
Anyway, I feel like I should explain what "warm red potato salad" means... I had to do a lot of research for this damn fic, all about Christmas in Germany, particularly the food. A common Christmas Eve dinner there is, apparently, sausages and potato salad. And it reminded me of this dish my mom makes (I LIKE TO INCLUDE MY MOTHER'S FOOD IN MY FICS OKAY). It's basically diced red potatoes, creamy tuna, and fresh corn. We eat it warm with a fork, and I always cut up the potatoes a bit more and add extra salt to it. Conceptually, it sounds kind of gross! Really gross, actually! And I'm not sure what kind of seasonings are in it, or how, exactly, the tuna is made. I don't know if it was an idea of hers, or if she read it in a magazine somewhere once or something. It's an all-around weird dinner that we have a lot. But it's DELICIOUS. JUST TRUST ME ON THIS.
Chapter 4: And to All a Good Night
IT’S FINISHED HERE IT IS I PROMISE I AM NOT DEAD
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Phoenix woke, on Christmas morning, to the pain of not one, but two small girls jumping on him. He hissed through his teeth.
"Daddy, get up! It's Christmas! Miles is already up, you sleepy-head!"
Phoenix groaned and pulled himself upright. Sure enough, the space next to him in bed was empty. He was still groggy, but he had a very vague recollection of a conversation the night before. Something about Franziska bringing an extra visitor? He'd only been semi-concious, so very little of what Miles had said had registered. He'd have to ask the man for details.
Trucy dragged him out of bed and Pearl ran ahead of them, wearing something Christmas-colored that she'd borrowed from Trucy. Her hair was done up in an elaborate bun and fastened with a green ribbon. Was that Franziska's doing? How long had the others been awake?
"Nice of you to join us," Miles chuckled when Phoenix made it into the kitchen. Larry, with bags under his eyes, was enjoying a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. Franziska was also an early riser and was already getting the cookie dough ready. Pearl watched with wide, fascinated eyes.
Phoenix wandered over to Miles, who was standing by the stove and doing something to the goose with a baster full of water.
"Merry Christmas, Miles." He leaned in to whisper. "Hey, what was it that you were saying last night? I was half asleep. I don't remember."
Miles raised an eyebrow at him, and then he smirked.
"You don't? ...I'll leave it to you to figure out, then. It should prove to be amusing." Miles looked past Phoenix to the counter, and once he confirmed that Franziska was still there, he leaned in and gave Phoenix a quick kiss. Phoenix flinched.
"H-Hey, we're supposed to—"
"Not keeping anything hidden from me anymore, I see," Franziska laughed. Phoenix turned to her, bewildered.
"Wait, you know?!"
"I do indeed, Nick. As of last night."
Trucy screeched, nearly startling Franziska out of her seat.
"If Aunt Fran knows— I don't have to keep it a secret anymore?!"
"No, sweetheart," Miles confirmed. Trucy let out an exaggerated groan of relief and collapsed on the floor. "Now, now— you don't want to get your dress all dusty."
Franziska took a moment to recover from being addressed as "Aunt Fran" before she said anything more. Phoenix tried not to laugh at her. He also didn't comment on the fact that Miles had apparently cleaned and scrubbed the entire kitchen again. The floor was sparkling. Trucy's dress would be fine even if she rolled around on the linoleum for about an hour.
"We ought to get to know one another more properly, Phoenix Wright," Franziska finally commanded. "If I am to trust you with my little brother's heart, that is."
"...He's older than you are."
"What of it?!"
While Pearl and Trucy were already full of Christmas spirit, it took the adults a bit longer to adjust and catch a bit of that holiday feeling. It also took at least one cup of coffee for each of them. The previous day had been exhausting. But they managed to wake up, in time, and then the smiles spread.
Breakfast was made up of breads and cheeses and jams paired with homemade hot cocoa. Phoenix had never seen such a variety of cheeses. He tried types of bread that he'd never heard the names of, and Miles laughed as he made an unpleasant face at the taste of sourdough. Trucy had to be stopped from eating the apricot jam with a spoon, while Pearl dabbed tiny little dollops of strawberry jam on her toasted bagel and ate it more happily, perhaps, than any child had ever eaten anything. It was kind of sad. Larry ate most of the cheese by himself when no one was looking and earned a swat to the head from Franziska.
When breakfast was finished, everyone dispersed. Larry once again provided the use of his phone as a Christmas radio, leaving it to broadcast happy music in the kitchen, while Phoenix put on a winter-themed movie marathon for the girls. He sat on the sofa with them, listening to the familiar Frozen soundtrack for what felt like the eight thousandth time in his life, as he made his obligatory phone calls to family and friends and coworkers.
As Miles was busy with the cooking, Franziska took it upon herself to teach the girls how to make the cookies once the dough was ready and the oven was heated. Phoenix lingered in the doorway to watch. He tried not to giggle as Franziska laid out perfectly-shaped rectangles for the girls to use the stamp on. She, meanwhile, kept herself entertained by spreading jam on the... the jam cookies. Phoenix had forgotten what the silly German word for them was.
Miles finished what he was doing before long, putting the goose and a couple of other things into the oven, and joined everyone at the counter. Phoenix watched him roll delicate little croissant-shapes with his long fingers. Franziska eyed the dough hungrily. Those must have been the ones she liked best. The ones that Miles had thought to include just for her. Vanilla-something-or-other.
When he ran out of excuses to stand there in the corner and watch the others work, he returned to the living room and opened up his laptop. He made sure that the Internet connection was stable, and then he called up a particular lawyer on Skype. Mia Fey smiled when she recognized his face.
"Phoenix," she said, sounding tired. "I hope your Christmas is going well?"
Phoenix laughed. He knew he'd made the right decision in giving her a quick call. Being stuck in the office and drowning in paperwork was no way to spend a Christmas morning.
"We ended up with more people than planned, but Miles handled it just fine. And his sister is actually pretty cool. ...Aside from the occasional random act of violence."
Mia chuckled, and she didn't seem to realize that Phoenix had been completely serious about that last bit. There were lines under her eyes, and she'd put less effort than usual into her hair and makeup, but she still looked like herself.
"A change of plans, hmm? I'm in a similar situation. A family emergency came up. I hope to have all of this finished soon enough to spend at least some of the holiday with Maya and my cousin."
Mia frowned at the mention of the emergency. Phoenix couldn't imagine what it was, and he didn't want to ask her about it and risk upsetting her further, but he gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile anyway.
"I'm sure you'll manage. You're always so capable."
"Thank you. I appreciate that."
They exchanged typical formalities, and then Phoenix let his boss go to call the people he'd been planning to when he'd opened his computer up. It took the man who answered him a while to figure out where the camera was.
"Hey, dad. Merry Christmas. Where's mom?"
"Right here." The laptop moved until it properly faced the hospital bed. Mrs. Wright smiled weakly and waved a hand. "She's been recovering very well, but she's tired, so she's not feeling too talkative. She's listening, though."
"That's good. Hang in there, mom!"
"Enough stalling! Where's my grandbaby?!"
"Alright, alright," Phoenix laughed. "I'll get her."
Trucy was pulled from the kitchen to talk to her grandparents just as Miles put the first batch of cookies in the toaster oven. She tugged Pearl along with her, telling her that her grandma and grandpa were nice and would like to meet her. Phoenix was glad that his daughter made such a good friend. He left her to the catch-up and returned to the kitchen. Miles ran around as he moved things in and out of the oven. He was forced to make use of every inch of that oven, the stovetop, the toaster oven, and the crockpot, and all at once.
"Y'know, when I'm a hot-shot lawyer, I'll get you a bigger house with a better kitchen," Phoenix flirted from the safety of the space behind the island. "You'll have a whole bunch of ovens. What are those ones built into the wall called?"
"I could easily buy my own house any time I wanted."
Franziska barked out one quick laugh. She was still sitting idly in one of the stools near the counter and seemed to be filing her nails.
"That's true," she boasted. "The fortune left to us by my father is likely more than your foolish little brain could possibly imagine."
Phoenix had started to offer a retort, but paused to contemplate the reality of that statement. How much money did Miles have sitting around? He had a nice car, and his previous apartment had been rather extravagant, but he really didn't spend much on himself otherwise. He lived the life of any relatively normal middle-class man.
"...How much money do you have?"
Miles shut the oven door and slowly peered over his shoulder at Phoenix. Larry, at the table, held his breath and awaited an answer.
"Are you sure you want to know? I can't help but feel like you'll get angry, for whatever reason."
"What? I won't get mad. Tell me."
"...Our total inheritance, around the time of Manfred Von Karma's death, was worth about... thirty million US dollars?"
Miles' expression was akin to that of a normal person theorizing about the next week's dinner plans. Phoenix had had no idea that he was dating a literal multi-millionaire. He'd known that Miles had plenty stashed away, but he'd never imagined an amount that large.
"It was split equally between myself and Franziska, leaving me roughly fifteen million. A large chunk of that value is in the estate and its property, though. And I don't have access to all of the remaining cash amount, either. It's being managed by the firm he had appointed to the task."
"S-Still— how much does that leave you?!"
"...In my bank accounts?"
Miles casually leaned against the counter and looked up at the ceiling. His mouth moved as he counted in his head.
"About... two or three million. Four at the most. In my savings. It's divided into several accounts, some of which are for investment purposes. Money multiplies itself when managed properly."
"That you have that kind of money just sitting there— it's fuckin' crazy!" Larry shouted. Miles glared at him.
"It's not— it's not sitting there, thank you very much. I happen to make some very substantial charitable donations. One of the accounts is for that sole purpose. Recurring monthly withdrawals. ...I'd feel guilty sitting on it without putting it to SOME use. There are people who need it more than I do. But I also happen to think that it's wise to make sure that the money can support me and a family, and sustain a good standard of living, for the rest of my life in the event that I were to become disabled. Or end up facing some other unpredictable tragedy. ...You never know."
Miles had, technically, already said as much. Back when Phoenix hadn't known what he looked like and they'd only communicated through emails, Miles had explained that he had enough money to have no real need of work. Phoenix had almost forgotten. And it made sense that the man would be a bit paranoid about potential emergencies considering what had happened to his father.
"...You're right," Larry grumbled as he thought over Miles' explanation. "Sorry. I know you're not that kinda greedy guy. What, uh... what kinda stuff do ya donate it to?"
"Oh, there are plenty of causes, but finding good charities is... surprisingly difficult. A lot of it is like tossing money into a bottomless basket, and a lot of them are so poorly managed that the money will never help any actual individual. But I'm particularly interested in anything benefitting children, animals, humanitarian efforts, or civil rights—"
"That's all really great, Miles, and I'm glad to hear it," Phoenix interrupted, "but you're gonna have to slow down. I still have to wrap my head around that number."
Franziska seemed to find Phoenix's plight very amusing. Phoenix could barely process the concept of having millions of dollars at his disposal. How many times in the past had he been afraid that he'd be unable to pay his electric bill?
"I'd like to remind you that YOU said you wanted me to keep my funds as separate from yours as possible," Miles scolded. "And that you wanted Trucy to be raised with a proper understanding of money and of work. Would you really want me to suddenly move us to a mansion and hire a butler?"
"...No," Phoenix admitted. "No, that wouldn't be good for her. ...Or me. I'd probably get lazy again real fast. Lazy and fat." That, and it wasn't like Phoenix was entitled to his money anyway. It was Miles'. Simple as that.
"And just so that we're clear, I never had any intention of allowing either of you to starve. Had it become necessary, or had you asked, I would have given you whatever you needed. I'm not Ebenezer Scrooge."
"Obviously. You're not that old, and you're not a duck."
"Larry, that's—" Phoenix sighed. "That's not what he was referencing, but sure. Go with that. He's not Scrooge McDuck either."
Phoenix shook his head and returned to the living room, leaving Franziska to the task of explaining literature to Larry.
"I think Pearl DID end up with more presents than Trucy," Larry realized aloud from beneath the Christmas tree. He was organizing the presents into stacks that could be easily handed off to each giftee. Everyone had at least one present. There were another couple of new presents that hadn't been there the previous night, these ones addressed to some guy named Adrian. Franziska's guest, Phoenix assumed. One of the little boxes was clearly from her while the other was hastily made by Trucy, as far as he could tell. She'd drawn a little heart after Adrian's name. Franziska must have explained the situation to the girl already.
"It'll be alright," Phoenix assured Larry. "Trucy probably would have given her the extras if that wasn't the case. It's not like she doesn't have plenty of toys."
Phoenix took another cookie from the dish on the coffee table and checked his cell phone's text messages for the third time in an hour. As weird-sounding as the cookie names had been, they were good. They were really good. Franziska had already eaten a good chunk of the crescent ones, but Phoenix liked the jam-filled ones better anyway. The smell of food was everywhere now. Phoenix's stomach rumbled whenever he thought about it, even knowing that dinner was still a long while away.
"That should be the last of them," Franziska sighed as she left the kitchen and joined Phoenix on the sofa. "The baggies of cookies are assembled. Perfectly, if I may say so myself."
"I helped," Pearl squeaked from right behind the German woman. She didn't seem to be afraid of Franziska in the slightest. If anything, she'd been glued to her side for at least an hour. Pearl was remarkably well-behaved, though, so Phoenix wasn't exactly surprised to see them getting along.
"Pearl is good at ribbons!" Trucy declared. She had a basket in her arms stuffed full of the snack bags. They were little cellophane baggies tied shut with curly gold ribbon. Phoenix recognized Miles' elegant cursive handwriting on the labels. He thought it strange, for a moment, to think that Miles had let the girls tie the ribbons rather than doing that himself, but then he remembered that the man was strangely clumsy when it came to fine detail work. He sometimes had trouble folding things or lettering very small labels. It was the sort of thing that Phoenix wouldn't even notice in other people, but Miles was a hardcore perfectionist and clearly hated his inability to do everything perfectly.
"Are you ready to make your deliveries, Trucy?" Phoenix asked, grinning. She looked ready to dart out the door at any second. She nodded. He knew that she liked most of the neighbors.
"I can take them door-to-door," Larry offered. "Miles still has plenty to do in the kitchen, Fran doesn't know the neighborhood, and I'm bored."
Phoenix contemplated that for a moment. Larry was good with kids, but he was also scatterbrained and not very attentive, so he didn't often trust him to look after Trucy by himself. But they'd only be gone for a half hour at the most, and they'd stay within the neighborhood. It would be fine, he thought.
"Sounds like a plan," Phoenix agreed.
With that, the girls were bundled up in their coats and mittens and hats and sent on their way with Uncle Larry following closely behind them.
"There are extras for your family and coworkers," Miles called, poking his head into the living room for just a moment. Phoenix flashed him a thumbs-up. He was distracted by his phone.
"...What are you plotting, exactly?" Franziska asked in a whisper as soon as Miles had left. She squinted at his phone, which Phoenix quickly put away.
"There is nothing beneath the tree for my brother from you, and you have been in secret communication with someone all morning. What sort of foolish thing, pray tell, are you planning to do? ...You had better not be proposing. It is far too early for that."
Phoenix looked over his shoulder to confirm that Miles was still absent before he leaned forward.
"It's nothing," he hissed. "Don't worry about it." She glared at him. Phoenix sighed. "...It's a surprise, alright?"
"Fine. I will keep quiet."
"Thanks. I appreciate that. ...Do you wanna tell me who this mystery guest of yours is? I don't mind the company, but I'm curious."
Franziska scoffed and waved a gloved hand. Why had she bothered to perfectly manicure her nails if she was just going to put gloves on? She and her "little brother" were equally neurotic about the strangest things.
"Do not bother to ask me. Miles already informed you, and you could not be bothered to listen! You will have to find out when the time comes."
"Alright, alright. Fair enough." It wasn't exactly his fault that he'd been half-asleep when Miles had allegedly told him about the guest, but he understood her irritation anyway. She'd never admit it, but Phoenix suspected that Franziska also just wanted to see the look on his face. The last-minute visitor had become a surprise all its own.
Franziska, distracted, gazed at the windows. Her brow furrowed.
"...It is still so bizarre to me," she mumbled to herself. Phoenix's curiosity was immediately piqued.
Franziska flinched. She must have been talking to herself. Still, she composed herself and answered.
"Oh, um. ...Snow. There does not seem to be any. Christmas in Germany looks quite different."
Phoenix laughed. Franziska looked so genuinely confused.
"Yeah, you're not gonna get a lot of snow in California. You must be used to a white Christmas." Miles had talked about snowball fights and ice skating on the frozen lakes when he'd talked about his winters in Germany. The snow seemed to be a given for them.
"What even IS Christmas without snow?!"
"Settle down, Fran," Miles called from the kitchen. Franziska had gotten unintentionally loud. She clamped her mouth shut. Phoenix didn't mind the sudden change in volume— not if it meant that she felt more comfortable around him.
"...I suppose I will have no choice but to become accustomed to it," she grumbled. Phoenix raised an eyebrow.
"Oh? You sound like you're planning to make this a tradition."
Franziska, embarrassed, slapped Phoenix with the coloring book on the coffee table. The look on her face made the blow completely worth it. ...Even though she was surprisingly strong and his face stung for several minutes.
"Slow down, kiddos! Uncle Larry is old! He can't keep up with you!"
"He's right, Pearl. He probably has bad knees. Or a bad back, like daddy."
"That's—" Larry glared. He hadn't exactly wanted Trucy to agree with him so easily. "My knees are fine. My back is fine."
"Then why can't you keep up, Mr. Butter?" Pearl asked. Larry had stopped trying to correct her strange pronunciation of his name. This girl had trouble with the English language as a whole and made Trucy's frequent mispronunciations seem hardly noticeable.
"Because, uh... You just get slower when you get big like me. Your body gets heavier!"
"But your legs are longer!" Trucy argued.
"That's just to make up for it."
Trucy and Pearl shared an aaahhh of understanding. Larry flashed a proud grin. ...Maybe his ability to deceive children wasn't a talent he should be so proud of. It might give people the wrong idea.
The girls made it to the next house, the last on their route, before long. Trucy ran to and knocked on the door a little too hard. Larry stood just far enough behind them to let them feel like they were in charge, but close enough to let the adults inside know that he was keeping watch. Kids seemed to be particular about that kind of thing, and adults were paranoid these days. It was hard to navigate that line sometimes. Especially since older women were so quick to assume he was some kind of creep. They'd treated Phoenix like that in the beginning, too, back when he'd still sported stubble and a beanie.
The door swung open after a few seconds. Larry vaguely recognized the woman who answered. She clearly knew Trucy. Her smile turned warm the moment she recognized the girl.
"Little Miss Wright! And you've brought a friend, too... What brings you all the way over here on Christmas? Isn't your father worried?"
"Nope! I have daddy's permission!" Trucy announced proudly. "We came to deliver cookies! ...Oh, and this is my friend Pearl. She's nice. I like her."
"Cookies, you say?" The older woman leaned against the doorframe, intrigued. Trucy nodded and pulled the last baggie from her basket. She handed it off with a little bow.
"Yep! They're German cookies!"
"Yeah— because my other daddy used to live there and his sister is from there! She's my new Aunt Fran. My daddies wanted to make sure she felt like she was still at home."
Larry tried to mask his surprised expression. Had Trucy realized that she'd done that? That she'd casually addressed Miles as her other daddy? Perhaps it had simply felt natural for her. It had certainly sounded natural. Whatever the reason, it was something that Miles would probably want to know about. Larry cracked a little smile.
Trucy hadn't paused to allow her statement to register. She pointed at the cookies inside the bag, one at a time, and confidently informed her neighbor of their names.
"These ones are lebkuchen! They're squishy gingerbread with a sugar sauce."
"Glaze," Larry corrected from the background. "A sugary glaze." He was surprised that Trucy had pronounced that word correctly. He probably couldn't do it. He wouldn't even try. The success was short-lived, though.
"These are vanilla curls," Trucy explained, still sounding sure of herself, "and the ones with the jam are spidoodles. The stamped ones are butter plates!"
...Close enough, Larry thought. What were the chances that the neighbor knew German, anyway? Trucy and Pearl said goodbye to Mrs. Phillips and ran back to Larry, even faster now that they didn't have to worry about dropping their cookies. They'd successfully killed about a half hour with their little excursion. Hopefully there would be some more food when they got back. Was it time for lunch yet? He didn't know, but he was hungry.
He didn't bother asking the girls to slow down again. He chased after them, quickly working up a sweat. Phoenix nearly fell off of the couch in his fright when they threw the front door open. Trucy laughed before tackling him in a hug, and then she started rambling about how much everybody had liked the cookies.
"And Uncle Larry was very good," Trucy finished with a wink.
"He was, was he?" Phoenix laughed. Trucy liked her Uncle Larry, so she always felt a need to vouch for his behavior.
Larry didn't bother to reply to Phoenix's teasing. He made his way for the kitchen in search of more food. Instead he found Miles leaning against the counter and talking to someone on their "home phone", or Phoenix's old cell phone. He looked agitated.
"What's up, Miles?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. Miles shot him a look and hushed him.
"...Right. Of course. I understand. Even if you and I have had our differences, that sort of vulgar behavior is unacceptable. I'll be sure to reprimand him. Right. Yes. Merry Christmas. Goodbye."
Miles hung up and set the receiver on the counter. He crossed his arms and glared at Larry. If looks could kill, he'd have died just then.
Larry winced at his tone.
"Yeah?" He wanted to argue that he hadn't done it, but he wasn't sure what it was yet, so that would probably backfire on him.
"That call just now was from a very angry member of the Parent-Teacher Association at Trucy's school. She claims that last night at the store, you recognized her in some way, named both myself and Phoenix, and then proceeded to tell her to, and I quote, 'eat a dick'. ...Is this true?"
Larry forced the widest grin he could manage, and he was certain it was wobbly and awkward-looking. He chuckled nervously. In any other scenario, he would have laughed at the way that that expression sounded coming from Miles and at his overly formal finger quotes around it.
"...I-I, uh, might have said that. ...Okay, yeah, I did. I totally did."
Miles stared Larry down, his face unreadable, for a painfully long minute. Then, suddenly, his expression seemed to melt.
"Come here," he said, and he wrapped his arms around Larry in a tight embrace, patting his back. Larry let out a howl of laughter and returned the squeeze. "Thank you," Miles mumbled, sounding very pleased, into his shoulder. "You're a good friend.”
"Hey, man, it's no problem!" He gave Miles' back a hard slap. "Next time I'll tell her to eat a whole SACK of dicks."
"Would you? I... I know that I should be a little bit more grown up, but my god, I just can't stand that woman," Miles sighed. Larry scoffed.
"Dude, I met her for a grand total of about five minutes and decided the same thing. She's just nasty."
"What's going on in here?!" Phoenix sputtered, bewildered, from the doorway. Miles laughed and beckoned him over.
"Larry told Karen Nichols to eat a dick."
"I... I can't believe you would do that!"
The sentence could have been interpreted as a reprimand, in another context, but Phoenix's sappy and touched tone of voice indicated otherwise. He, too, pulled his longtime friend in for a hug. Larry was thoroughly amused by it all.
"Oh, by the way," he whispered when both men had finished thanking him, "at that last house, Trucy casually referred to Miles as her other daddy."
"...She what?" Miles asked, his face once again devoid of visible emotion. Larry smirked and explained exactly what had happened from beginning to end, and Miles' brow twitched ever so slightly. "That's, um... You know, I just remembered that I forgot something upstairs. Excuse me for a moment."
Miles scurried away before Larry could protest. He squinted at the spot where he'd been a moment earlier.
"Is he mad? I thought he'd be kinda happy," Larry asked, dreading the response. He turned to see Phoenix snickering into his hand. "What's so funny?"
"He's not mad," Phoenix insisted, barely able to talk through his giggles. "He's probably crying. He just didn't want to do it in front of everybody. Trucy said something like that a couple of days ago, I think, but he didn't really get to respond and probably didn't think she'd say that kind of thing even when he isn't around."
It took Larry a moment to process that Phoenix was being truthful, and then he laughed. Miles had looked a little panicked when he'd run off in such a hurry.
"What a frickin' sap."
"Yeah," Phoenix agreed, sighing happily. "He is."
Miles recovered and returned to his cooking and preparations before long. Phoenix had convinced him to move dinner forward by a little bit. The original plan had been to open presents first and save the food for last, but Phoenix had successfully argued that it would make more sense to do it the other way.
"If we let the kids open their presents first, they're going to want to play with their new toys instead of sitting down for food, or they'll be too riled up to listen," he'd insisted. Miles had accepted this as a likely possibility and agreed to move the schedule around, but it meant that he had to work faster. That, and he felt like Phoenix had intentionally left something out, but he wasn't about to say such a thing without any evidence.
One PM was rapidly approaching. Miles eyed the clock every couple of minutes. Franziska had assured him that her guest was punctual and wouldn't be more than a minute late, but the time seemed to drag slowly by. Franziska paced the kitchen as she, too, waited, her heels a constant clicking rhythm against the cheap linoleum tiles.
"Are you waiting for your boyfriend or something?" Phoenix finally asked from his spot at the kitchen table. Franziska flinched. She raised an eyebrow at Miles, who smirked and shook his head.
"Something like that," Franziska curtly replied. She didn't expand upon it. Phoenix shrugged, figuring that was all he was going to get out of either of them.
One-o-clock, at last, struck. The doorbell rang exactly on cue. Franziska made an uncharacteristic sound, some kind of a nervous yelp, before collecting herself.
"I'll get the door," she offered to Phoenix, who had been halfway through standing up. "This is my guest, after all, and I'm sure my face is the one being expected."
Miles tried not to laugh at Franziska's intentional avoidance of pronouns. He lowered the heat on the stove, cleaned his hands, and made his way for the front door alongside his sister, coaxing Phoenix along with them. He had to see this.
"I wonder what kind of guy she's into," Phoenix whispered. Miles smiled deviously.
"I'm not entirely sure. We'll have to find out."
Phoenix, meanwhile, didn't understand why Miles had been so tight-lipped about all of this. He didn't mind the extra guest, as he'd been told the guy wouldn't impose, but he generally liked having some idea of what kinds of people were going to be in his home.
Franziska reached the front hall first, paused for a moment (she probably hadn't wanted to seem too eager), and then slowly opened the door. She affectionately greeted the person standing there. Phoenix couldn't hear their voice or see their face and struggled to see this "boyfriend" past Franziska's back.
"I'm so glad you could make it," Franziska said sweetly. She gave the other person's hands a quick squeeze. She turned, smiling awkwardly at Miles and Phoenix, and then stepped aside to allow the newcomer entrance.
Phoenix choked, pointing, wide-eyed, at the unfamiliar figure. Miles laughed at his expense. Larry, too, was giggling in the background, likely at his facial expression.
Phoenix found himself looking at a woman when he'd expected a man. She was definitely pretty— she had blonde hair fastened into an elegant formal updo and finely-tailored clothes fit for a high-ranking businesswoman— but that wasn't what concerned him.
"Phoenix Wright. Miles Edgeworth." Franziska bowed politely at both men as she addressed them. She gestured at the woman by her side. "This is my girlfriend, Adrian Andrews. We met at the local courthouse about a year and a half ago."
"Are you both gay?!" Phoenix screamed, sounding exasperated. Miles laughed. Franziska couldn't mask her chuckle.
"Apparently so," she answered with a shrug. "My father considered himself perfect in all things, but he was not a very successful homophobe or deterrent. His strategies seem to have backfired."
"Miles." Adrian extended her hand. "I've heard a great deal about you."
"That's good to know," Miles chuckled, shaking her hand and giving it a slight squeeze. He'd always assumed that Franziska would be into the intelligent types, and this was still true even if he'd guessed incorrectly about gender.
"And I'm Phoenix, boss-turned-boyfriend," Phoenix grumbled. He sounded annoyed with himself for having been caught off guard. Miles would never let him hear the end of it.
Adrian was a very polite and unassuming guest. She took the small plate of cookies that had been offered to her, and Franziska made them both glasses of Gluhwein, and they sat together on the sofa in the living room, chatting casually. Trucy and Pearl were curious about her and asked lots of questions. None of them, thankfully, about the fact that she was a woman seeing a woman. Trucy, by now, probably found that sort of thing so normal that it was hardly worth mentioning.
Phoenix sat with them and watched movies with the kids and asked Franziska or Adrian the occasional question. Adrian, too, worked in law, though she was more of a bookkeeper and secretary than anything else. Phoenix knew, though, that such people were just as important in keeping the system running as the lawyers and judges were. Adrian was a no-nonsense sort of businesswoman and had every intention of advancing through the ranks. She was already quite successful for someone so young. Larry took the opportunity to apologize once more to Franziska for having hit on her— "I didn't know I was barking up the wrong tree," he teased. Franziska rolled her eyes, but she did smile.
Phoenix rejoined Miles in the kitchen when he'd had his fill of interrogating. Miles had removed a couple of finished dishes from their scattered ovens and cooking contraptions and was scooping something that looked like red cabbage into a serving dish. The time for their first German-style feast was rapidly approaching.
"Aunt Fran's girlfriend is really pretty," Trucy said dreamily as she wandered into the room. She sniffed at the air. She'd apparently been attracted by the smells of the food that had nearly finished cooking. "I made her a present. I bet she'll like it. How is your goose?"
"It's coming along as planned," Miles answered. "Dinner should be ready in about thirty minutes. ...Who decided that holiday dinners happen so early, anyway?"
"I don't know, but I guess it's because you're typically doing stuff throughout the day and make enough food to have two dinners," Phoenix guessed. "Besides, I'd die of impatience if I had to wait until six or seven."
"That's probably true."
Miles spent the next thirty minutes moving about in a blur of momentum. Phoenix didn't say anything. He just watched, amazed, as Miles fit every single serving dish on the countertop and on the table. Phoenix took it upon himself to set said table. The goose was magnificent, the side dishes numerous and professional-looking. There was even another of those fruitcakes for dessert, and some kind of giant bread loaf to accompany the meal. How had he even managed to make everything? He'd turned the ovens into something like clown cars, apparently— much larger on the inside than they appeared to be. When it was all said and done, Phoenix found himself looking at the kind of feast that made his stomach rumble preemptively. Miles had really outdone himself.
"Dinner is ready!" Miles simply yelled that at the top of his lungs as he washed his hands, not bothering to go all the way back to the living room. Phoenix laughed at the immediate sounds of glee and stomping footsteps. As expected, Larry got to the kitchen first and practically threw himself into a chair.
"Come on! Come on!" Phoenix heard Trucy and Pearl chanting in unison. He wandered to the living room to see what was going on. Adrian was still seated on the couch and shaking her head as both girls tried to drag her along with them to the kitchen.
"No, it's alright," she insisted. "I was invited at the last minute and I don't want to impose. I can eat when I go back home, really."
"No, you are absolutely joining us," Miles huffed as soon as he had caught up. "I made plenty and I won't have anyone refusing it."
He didn't leave her much room to argue when he tugged her off of the sofa by her wrists. She laughed under her breath and shook her head, but went along with him anyway. Phoenix noted the fact that Franziska smiled as soon as Adrian entered the room.
Everyone was seated as soon as Miles had had an opportunity to carve the goose and fit all of the main courses on the table. Serving everything, even when using the buffet style, was a bit of a pain. There were more people seated at the table than there were ever meant to be. Still, it was the good kind of irritating. Knocking elbows with the laughing people seated next to him only served to remind Phoenix that this was a happy occasion.
"Let's eat!" Larry declared, and then he made some kind of animalistic howl before he pounced on his plate. Phoenix and the others followed suit. Phoenix only managed a couple of bites before he found himself punching the table.
"Is something wrong?" Miles asked. He looked mildly concerned.
"I don't deserve you."
"That's a little—"
"He really doesn't, dude."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Larry."
"Hey, you said it first!"
"At least he likes it," Miles grumbled. He looked to his left at Trucy. "Trucy, sweetheart, is it alright for—"
He trailed off when he noticed that Trucy seemed to be in another world. She was shoveling food into her mouth at an absurd rate, her eyes sparkling with glee. Pearl was still excitedly studying and smelling everything.
"If I can properly articulate what everyone else is thinking," Adrian teased, "you've really mastered the art of the goose! I've had many a goose that was too dry or too oily."
"Thank you," Miles sighed. "I was beginning to fear that I'd have to wait a while for any kind of proper answer. ...And, yes, it admittedly took me a long time to learn to cook goose. I won't lie and claim to have gotten it right on the first attempt. It's not quite my recipe, either... I tweaked an old one of Julia Child's."
"Are these apples?!" Pearl asked in a strangely shocked voice after finally taking one little bite of stuffing. Miles laughed at her enthusiasm.
"It's an apple and sausage stuffing."
"What is the other stuffing made of?"
"Prunes, pork, and chestnuts."
"Oh! I love prunes!"
Phoenix had never heard of a child liking prunes before, but Pearl seemed to like fruit and other sorts of healthy food in general. He and Larry were glad to finally understand where some of the things they'd prepared had gone. For one thing, Miles had needed so many potatoes because he'd made mashed potatoes as well as potato dumplings. The nuts had been for the stuffing and the cake, and some of the fruit and odd spices had gone into what appeared to be two different varieties of pudding. Ground ginger and marzipan were, apparently, in the cookies. Miles seemed to find it laughable that they had been so confused by the ingredients to begin with.
"I've never even liked kale," Phoenix said as he scarfed down the last of the stewed kale on his plate. Miles lectured him for talking with his mouth open.
Everyone had seconds. Only a couple of people managed to start a third plate. Miles reminded everyone that there was dessert, too, and it was decided that the dessert should be covered up and saved for after the presents had been opened. Any more food at that moment, and someone would likely explode.
The girls could barely contain their excitement as they rushed into the living room. Miles gathered up all the plates and put them in the sink. Phoenix promised he'd help him wash the dishes later. Miles gave him a grateful kiss on the side of his jaw before running along to catch up with the others.
Phoenix, admittedly, tagged along a bit more slowly. He really shouldn't have eaten so much, but that was why he'd chosen to wear the jeans that were a size too big.
Miles was in charge of present distribution. Phoenix hooked up the Skype call once more and positioned the laptop in such a way that his parents could see just about everybody. Everyone waved at the camera, and the newcomers briefly introduced themselves. Each person had just barely gotten into position with their respective piles when there was a knock at the door.
"That must be my cousin," Pearl realized, looking a bit embarrassed. "She's a little early, I think."
"No, no, it's my fault," Phoenix realized. "I moved the schedule around. If we'd gone with Miles' plan, we would have already opened your presents by now." He'd had his reasons for changing things— Miles' present had been delayed a bit in its arrival. It was also the kind of thing that made more sense to open after eating dinner, anyway. He couldn't admit that yet, of course.
"Go ahead and let her in," Miles suggested. "She can watch if she wishes. A pity we don't have anything for her, though. It might be a bit awkward."
Phoenix, as the owner of the house, stood up and walked to the front door as the knocking repeated itself. He made sure to smile and politely greet the person waiting on his doorstep. He had started to, anyway, before his thoughts ground to a halt out of sheer confusion.
"Maya? ...What are you doing here?!"
He knew he was thinking of the right person. The teenage girl on his doorstep was definitely Maya Fey, his boss' younger sister. She always wore purple and her favorite geta-style sandals and always had some of her hair pulled into a little bun in the back. She looked just as startled as he did.
"Wha— Oh, hey, Mr. Nick! Sorry to bother you. I must have the wrong address." She started to look through her phone, as if double-checking the directions she had received, but stopped as soon as she spotted someone standing behind Phoenix. "Pearly?! Why are you with Mr. Nick?!"
Phoenix looked at the girl that had somehow snuck up on him and them back at the girl on his doorstep, now a thousand times more confused.
It took several minutes to calm everyone down and figure out what was going on. Trucy and Miles had to get involved. Once it all added up, Phoenix found himself laughing hysterically about what a small world it was.
Apparently, Pearl was the younger cousin that Maya and Mia had both mentioned on several occasions. They had always been somewhat private about her due to the delicate legal situation and her tender age, so Phoenix had never known her name. Pearl's mother, Morgan, had remarried, so Pearl no longer had the legal last name of Fey.
Morgan had been arrested on suspicion of Misty Fey's murder— something Mia had been attempting to prove for years— on Christmas Eve. Mia and Maya had been told only that Pearl was staying with a friend and given the address at which to pick her up. Phoenix's name, somehow, had never come up, and it had been dismissed as an unimportant detail in the midst of the night's shocking events. Phoenix had been told that Pearl's cousin would pick her up.
Everyone involved had failed to put two and two together.
"So lemme run through it again," Trucy said, still sounding a bit disbelieving. "My best friend, Pearl, is your boss's cousin, and you know Maya from work. Miss Mia is Maya's big sister. But nobody realized. ...Right?"
"Yeah, Trucy. That's it," Phoenix confirmed through a heavy sigh. His head was starting to hurt, and he felt like an idiot. He hadn't thought to ask for the name of Pearl's relative. The revelation had also explained the "family emergency" that Mia had mentioned that morning.
Phoenix turned to look at Maya. The younger Fey sister had never been to the Wright household before, but Phoenix didn't mind having her there. He liked Maya, and Maya seemed to like him. She was spunky and independent and always ready with a joke. Hardly anything seemed to slow her down. Her presence had a way of making the often-stuffy law offices feel a little bit more lively. She was at the age where she was looking at college options. She hadn't decided on a school yet, apparently, but was determined to become a children's book author like her mother had been.
It was strange to think that Maya and a meek, quiet girl like Pearl were actually related, but they did share that distinctive trait of resilience that seemed innate in all Fey women.
"A-Anyway, I really appreciate you taking care of Pearly. You didn't have to buy her so many presents. Really." Maya stood awkwardly in the corner of the room, playing with her hair and clearly unsure of what she should do next. Pearl, too, seemed torn.
"Don't worry about that. It wasn't any trouble," Miles lied, not mentioning the fiasco they'd gone through to acquire so many gifts at the last minute. "We were told that there are no presents to speak of at your sister's house."
"Sis and I got each other a couple of little things, but we didn't think we'd get to see Pearly much, if at all," Maya explained. "Aunt Morgan was fighting us on it. We don't even have a tree set up."
There was a silence where no one was sure what to say or do. Phoenix shot a pleading glance in Miles' direction. They had a silent conversation made up of eyebrow movements and shrugs and vague hand gestures. When Phoenix was certain that they'd arrived at the same conclusion, he turned to Maya.
"...You were planning to pick Pearl up and take her back to your sister's place so you could have dinner together, right? Do you have anything special planned?"
"We were just gonna make spaghetti and meatballs," Maya admitted.
"So, there's, uh. No real reason to go back to your house other than to be in the same place at the same time."
"That's true, I guess," Maya agreed through a shrug. "We don't really care about all the fancy stuff as long as we can stay together. It's about family, right?"
Phoenix exchanged a final confirmation glance with Miles before gesturing vaguely at the living room as a whole.
"Then... Why not stay here?"
Maya looked very flustered very fast. Phoenix shrugged, trying to make the offer seem casual.
"Pearl's already here, she's got presents, and we've got a tree and a huge Christmas dinner and dessert and cookies. It's a little cramped, but there's room here for you and Mia. You can just call her and tell her to come here instead of meeting you back at your place. We can all celebrate properly together."
Maya was immediately conflicted. She chewed on her lip and stared tentatively at her phone.
"...You really wouldn't mind?"
"The more the merrier!" Trucy declared. "I like Miss Mia!"
"Trucy is right," Miles agreed. "I had to do quite a bit of work to get all of this put together, so I don't mind sharing it with as many people as possible."
"The house does look really nice," Maya confirmed.
There was a long pause. Everyone held their breath and waited for Maya to arrive at a decision. Finally, she smiled and pulled her phone close to her ear after dialing a familiar number.
"I'll call Mia," she relented. Trucy and Pearl cheered.
"You've got to be careful, son," Phoenix's father teased through the laptop's speakers. "At this rate you'll take in the entire neighborhood!"
Phoenix just rolled his eyes and didn't bother to retort. Trucy laughed, though.
"It'll take sis a little while to get here, so she said we should start without her," Maya explained when she'd finished giving her sister the details of the situation. She took a seat on the floor, as close as possible to Pearl. Larry had preemptively dragged another kitchen chair into the room for Mia.
"That's settled, then," Miles sighed. "Let's begin again and actually get started this time—"
The doorbell rang. Miles glared at Phoenix. He jumped up from his seat on the arm of the sofa and scurried off, apologizing under his breath. He was gone for only a minute or two before he casually ran back into the living room, trying to disguise the fact that he was out of breath. Trucy raised an eyebrow at him, and he nodded at her, but didn't say anything.
"Why did you run all the way upstairs?!" Miles demanded. Phoenix shrugged.
"Just a package. I put it away, and now we're good to go."
"What package?! Why would you be receiving a package on—"
"Come onnnn!" Trucy and Larry both impatiently interrupted the argument. Miles crossed his arms and shot Phoenix a look.
"...Are you done? No more interruptions?"
"That's it, I swear!" Phoenix held up his hands in mock surrender. Miles rolled his eyes.
"Alright, then. ...We will be going in order from youngest to oldest, so, Pearl, you get to go first."
Pearl squealed in delight and picked the small package that Trucy had made for her. Her little fingers eagerly tore away the wrapping paper in peeling layers, revealing a padded envelope. Inside, she found a set of bookmarks that Trucy had made for her all by herself. She hugged them to her chest and thanked Trucy about a dozen times. If she was that excited to receive a few scraps of paper, Phoenix had a feeling she might faint by the time her stack of gifts was through.
Trucy had found the time to make or otherwise collect some kind of gift for almost everyone. She hadn't had time to get anything for Maya and Mia, but promised she would remedy this "next time". She presented Larry with a special "beard comb" and Miles with a set of crocheted pot holders that she'd learned to make in school. For Phoenix, she had the required trophy of every embarrassing dad— the classic "world's best dad" coffee mug. She'd made friendship bracelets of some kind for both Adrian and Franziska.
"Do you like it?!" Trucy asked excitedly as Franziska opened hers. There were red, black, and yellow beads, symbolic of the German flag, framing square white ones that spelled out "Fran" in black lettering. Franziska chuckled as she allowed Adrian to help her tie it onto her wrist.
"I love it," she said, sounding honest. "A pity I can't wear it at work, though. My colleagues would get jealous, and then you would have to make more for a bunch of grouchy old businessmen."
"That's true," Adrian agreed, holding up her own wrist to compare their bracelets. "You'll have to save it for special occasions."
Trucy scrunched up her nose at the thought of making bracelets for Franziska's pompous coworkers. Phoenix found himself surprised at how naturally Franziska had handled the situation. Trucy wouldn't ever demand to know why Franziska wasn't wearing the bracelet with her business suits.
Phoenix and Miles always had to wait a while before they got to open their presents, seeing as they were the oldest, but Phoenix enjoyed watching the others open their gifts enough to make up for it. He smiled with some mixture of pride and embarrassment as he finally got to the long, thin box Miles had gotten him. Inside he found a very nice silk tie and a gold chain for his suit coat.
"You didn't have to go and get me something so expensive," Phoenix said sheepishly as he tried to imagine the color against his preferred blue suits. Miles clicked his tongue.
"If you're going to impress everyone at the law offices once you've passed the bar, you'll need to dress the part." He leaned in a bit closer to Phoenix and lowered his voice. "...Besides, it didn't exactly break the bank."
Phoenix scoffed, and Miles laughed. Maybe it really hadn't been any trouble for a literal millionaire.
Pearl was just as excited to receive her scooter and video game system and other things as everyone had expected her to be. Maya and Trucy promised to take Pearl out to the parking lot to practice with the scooter. Miles reminded her to make sure that she wore her safety gear as well as suggesting that they wait for Mia, who would surely be excited to see it. Pearl clearly had no idea how to use her new 2DS, but Maya had a similar device of her own and insisted she'd have no trouble teaching the girl. She sounded excited by the possibility of trading Pokémon with Pearl.
Franziska had purchased a very nice tennis bracelet for Adrian, who had gotten her a pair of earrings. Miles gave his sister a new handbag, which she seemed quite satisfied with even after smelling the leather and inspecting the stitching to determine its authenticity. Phoenix had remembered Larry mentioning his desire to learn to play the harmonica and had chosen to gift him with one along with a tutorial book. And Larry, who had worked as a set designer at a production studio at some point, had managed to snag a prop from the set of Pink Princess for Trucy. Phoenix didn't ask if he had come by it honestly or not. He didn't want to burst Trucy's bubble.
Each present was thoughtful and perfect for the giftee. All in all, everyone seemed thrilled with what they'd received. Miles felt a deep sense of satisfaction as he observed the happy group. He was a bit miffed that Phoenix had apparently forgotten to get him anything, but he was an adult, and so he wouldn't raise an issue over something so small. Phoenix probably had simply forgotten in all of the commotion. There was now a mess of wrapping paper and empty bags and tissue paper and ribbons strewn about and collected into a series of piles. Miles hadn't thought of that beforehand. He knew that there were plenty of trash bags in the kitchen, though, which would easily fix the problem. He squeezed his way out of the room and made his way for the hall.
"Wait, Miles, where are you going?"
Miles stopped in the doorway and turned to face Phoenix, raising an eyebrow.
"...I'm going to get a trash bag for all of this wrapping paper. Why do you—"
"You still have one more present to open!" Trucy insisted, despite the fact that there were no remaining boxes or bags in the room. "Sit back down!"
Trucy jumped up from the floor to grab Miles by his hands and force him to face her. He only barely noticed Phoenix leaving the room. He thought he heard Larry out in the hall, too, who had slipped away after opening his presents and been elsewhere for several minutes. Franziska watched Phoenix go, a hand tentatively brushing against the handle of her whip. Larry ran back into the room with no explanation of where he'd been, jumped onto the couch, and whipped out his sketchbook. Pearl and Maya hid her faces in their hands to try and hide their giggles. Everyone else apparently knew something that Miles and Franziska did not. Upon further inspection, Adrian didn't seem to know, either, but her expression remained mostly unchanged, if perhaps a bit curious.
"Th-That's... Trucy, sweetheart, you didn't have to get me anything else," Miles insisted. Trucy huffed and folded her arms.
"I don't have any money, duh! Daddy paid for it and I helped pick it out! It's from daddy. You know he wouldn't forget you, silly!"
Miles flushed a bit at the fact that the girl had somehow read his mind.
"Yeah, sit down, Mr. Ehjiwerth!"
Miles sighed and allowed himself to be guided to the couch, where Trucy forced him to sit in the center. She and Pearl then sat on either side of him once Adrian and Franziska parted and slid to the ends to make space for them. Larry was forced onto the couch's other arm.
Phoenix re-entered the room with a somewhat large box that he moved carefully, holding it tight to his chest. It was surely the package he'd been so vague about earlier. He set it down on the coffee table in front of Miles and immediately jumped back to pull out his phone and start filming him. Miles scoffed.
"You can't film vertically, Nick. Everyone knows that. If you insist on embarrassing me, at least do so with decent cinematography—"
"Alright, fine!" Phoenix restarted the video once he'd turned the phone horizontally. "Happy now, Spielberg?!"
Miles looked around and noticed that everyone seemed to sit on the edge of their seats, whether literally or metaphorically. He noticed that the box wasn't actually sealed— all that he had to do to open it was lift the lid. He noticed Phoenix gesturing at him to hurry. Was this why he'd been acting so secretive all day? Just for this single moment? Miles gulped, almost afraid of what he'd find, and gripped the edge of the lid with careful fingertips. He gave Phoenix one last suspicious look. Then, he whipped the lid off and put it on the table in one fluid motion.
He didn't have to lean forward to see what was inside of the box. The present took that upon itself, and popped its little head up to be seen above the cardboard edges of its temporary cage. Miles covered his mouth as everyone around him gasped in shock or squealed in delight.
"...That— This is— Are you serious, Nick?!" Miles managed to choke.
Phoenix laughed. His wide grin was radiant and proud. Miles was reminded again of why he'd fallen in love with him in the first place.
"Of course I am! ...Go on, pick her up!"
"Her name is Bitty," Trucy said proudly. "I named her!"
Miles tried not to sob like a fool as he reached forward to retrieve his present from the confines of the box. It licked his face as soon as it was close enough.
It was a puppy— an actual and literal puppy— so small that he had mistaken it for a kitten at first. At a glance, it appeared to be a Pomeranian, all fluffy black fur and rapidly wagging nub of a tail and awkwardly short, stubby legs. Miles held it close, cradling it like a baby and staring in disbelief before glaring up at Phoenix.
"Y-You'd better not have bought her from that store in town—"
"Of course not!" Phoenix laughed. "I know how you feel about those places. She was kind of a last minute plan. Somebody a couple of counties over found a pregnant stray, probably abandoned by some backyard breeder, she had six healthy puppies, the rescue needed people to take them in, and... here we are."
"Exactly how long have you been planning this?!"
Phoenix scratched the back of his neck.
"I... guess it's been about a month?"
All that Miles could do was shake his head. Phoenix had started arranging this before they'd even started dating. That was the kind of friend he was, and Miles determined in that moment that, romantic partner or not, Phoenix Wright was still his best friend. He had no words to express how grateful he was for that.
About five months ago, he and Phoenix had stayed up late and had each had a couple of glasses of wine. They'd talked until about one in the morning. Miles had mentioned, during that conversation, that he loved dogs and wished he could have another. He'd been certain that he couldn't get one because his apartment building didn't allow them and he was otherwise always living in hotels or in other people's homes. He didn't have any place to keep a dog, he was sure. Phoenix had said that he, too, thought about getting one sometimes, as Trucy would like one and it would teach her some lessons in responsibility.
Phoenix, it seemed, had remembered that conversation despite having been a bit fuzzy-headed from the wine at the time. And in giving him the gift of a pet, he was saying something quite significant: You live here now. This is your home. Miles would have the opportunity to raise a family pet with Phoenix and Trucy.
"I've been dying to ask— is it okay if she sleeps in my room?! I've been hiding her bed in my toys!" Trucy piped up. Miles nodded after a few seconds. He was still so surprised that his thoughts were on a slight delay.
"That's fine. You did a very good job at helping your father with the surprise."
Everyone was eager to pet or hold Bitty. She was remarkably calm and well-behaved and seemed to like everyone as long as they gave her attention and scratches. Phoenix explained, while she was being passed around, that he and Trucy had both gotten all of the necessary supplies and hidden them in various places around the house. Miles could hardly believe that they'd managed to slip such a thing past him. He definitely would have been suspicious if he'd suddenly found a dog's water bowl or a leash.
"I can't believe you," Miles laughed when the dog had been returned to him. "What compelled you to do something like this?"
"Well... You said you've wanted one for a while, but that you thought you couldn't have one. But, y'know... you live here. And Trucy and I can help take care of her." It was what Miles had expected him to say, and he said it like it was obvious.
"Ah," Miles sighed happily. "My clothes will constantly be covered in fur. ...Not that I mind it, in this case." He rubbed his head against Bitty's. "You can shed your fluff wherever you want to."
"I did get a lint roller," Phoenix admitted. "Gotta keep my suits hair-free, at least."
"That seems fair."
Phoenix's parents bid the group their farewells, Phoenix ended the call, and Mia Fey, who Miles had met only once or twice and in passing, arrived before long. She seemed shocked at the sight of the dog. Her surprise didn't last long, though. She said something about knowing how Phoenix operated. He was a bit embarrassed by that.
Maya and Pearl were both delighted to see Mia, and Phoenix and Trucy both admired her a lot. Franziska and Adrian, both newcomers, were polite when they introduced themselves. The three of them ended up getting along spectacularly well and spent a while talking about law. Miles assumed that they had a lot in common and imagined that the business was still a bit difficult for women at times. Even ferocious women like his sister.
"I really have to thank the two of you for looking after Pearl," Mia said, stroking the sleeping puppy that was sprawled across her lap. "Maybe it's fate that you ended up working for me."
"Maybe. The world does feel awfully small these days," Phoenix agreed. He lowered his voice to keep the children from hearing him. "Listen, if you need anything, you just call, alright? The whole situation is... more complicated than I would have imagined."
"Complicated is a good word for it, I guess. It's hard to label family members 'villains' even when it's totally deserved."
"And we'll return the favor when we can!" Maya added. "Sis talks about how hard you work all the time. I could always look after Trucy and the dog if you two wanted to get out of the house. I won't even charge. Promise!"
Miles gave Phoenix a smile at that. As much as the two of them loved Trucy, adults wanted time to themselves every once in a while, and romantic dates were a bit hard to pull off with a little girl around. Phoenix told Maya that he appreciated her offer and that they'd gladly accept it sometime.
They were all up much later, talking and laughing and eating and watching corny movies, than Miles had thought they would be. Even when he started to get tired, he didn't have the heart to split everyone up.
The Feys were the first to go, as Pearl was used to turning in early. She gave everyone tight hugs and asked if they could do the same thing again next year. She jumped up and down with excitement when Phoenix told her she was welcome anytime. Maya and Mia, too. Larry had to help them carry everything to their car, and Miles made sure they took some cookies and candy with them.
Larry didn't stick around for much longer after the Feys were gone. Miles was surprised by how genuine he was when he thanked Phoenix for having him and promised he'd make it up to him somehow. Phoenix had explained that they'd been friends since they were children, so there was probably a lot of history there that Miles didn't yet understand. He was sure that he would understand eventually. Larry was already the type to defend Miles in the face of his enemies, so he knew they'd be good friends sooner or later.
Adrian stayed for as long as she could, but she did have to work the next morning. She gave Franziska a parting kiss and Trucy squealed, thinking that it was cute. Franziska blushed and bid her a fond farewell. Adrian thanked Trucy again for her bracelet before she left.
The house seemed comparatively empty as soon as the door was shut behind Adrian. Almost. Bitty started making "puppy noises" as if to fill the silence, and Trucy laughed.
"Well," Phoenix said, "I think it's time you got to bed, sweetheart."
"It is," Miles agreed. "You two should turn in. I'll put everything away."
Trucy made a whining sound in protest, but didn't argue otherwise. Before she could trudge up the stairs, puppy clutched in her arms like an infant and father right on her heels, Franziska stopped them both.
"If the two of you are turning in for the evening, I ought to say my goodbyes now. I'll have to be up very early to catch my flight. Miles is going to accompany me, as I do have to drop off my rental car."
There was a pause. Phoenix looked at Franziska and waited for her to elaborate.
"Phoenix Wright. I... cannot thank you enough for allowing me to spend the holiday here," she began, glaring at the floor with a reddened face. Miles held his breath so that he wouldn't laugh at her. She was definitely maturing, but her pride showed at moments like these. "As you know, Miles and I have not properly spoken in quite a while and needed time to reconnect. And this has been... everything I could have asked for. So, thank you."
She gave him an elegant little bow. Phoenix grinned.
"Hey, no problem. You can come by next time, too. We managed to accommodate a lot of people at the last minute, so it can't be too much trouble if we have time to plan."
"You're forgetting about your parents," Miles reminded him. Phoenix's smile faded.
"...We'll figure something out."
"I certainly hope so," Franziska said with something like a shrug. "It was... nice. Having such a large party. It was reminiscent of the grand banquets that my father used to throw, but without, well. My father."
"Your daddy was mean, right?" Trucy asked with a scowl. Franziska nodded.
"He was. But that is in the past, and were it not for him I wouldn't have met my brother, yes?" Franziska knelt down to Trucy's height and raised a scolding adult finger. "You should always remember to be grateful for having such a kind family, alright? Not all people receive such a blessing. And I know that things were not easy for you once upon a time."
"Yeah. Before I had this daddy I had my mommy and another daddy that I never saw. But mommy was sick and didn't get better, so she went to heaven and I got my new daddy." She smiled in Miles' direction. "And now I have two!"
Putting her casual acknowledgement of Miles' newfound role aside— Trucy may have been a child, but that didn't mean that Miles couldn't be impressed by her. Her resilience and honesty were things he would find admirable in someone three times her age. Franziska's head tilted to one side.
"So you know all about that sort of thing, then."
"Uh-huh! I'm sorry yours was mean to you. He shouldn't have done that."
"Miles and I will manage just fine, and we are working past it, but I do appreciate that. But enough about that— thank you for your present. It has been nice to get to know you and I look forward to seeing you again, young lady, so... So behave yourself!"
"I will, Aunt Fran!" Trucy grabbed Franziska into a tight hug before she knew what had hit her. Miles couldn't help but chuckle as she returned the gesture as awkwardly as usual. "Aunt Fran, you have to practice hugging."
"Oh, I know. And I will. Why don't you head off to bed, then?"
As Franziska stood back up, Phoenix took Trucy by the hand and guided her up the stairwell and to her room. Franziska waited until she heard the door close.
"...I was beginning to think I would never have any nieces or nephews," Franziska said quietly. "I do wish I could have been there from the beginning, perhaps met her sooner, but I won't complain."
"Don't you think I feel the same way? Apparently I have a daughter now."
"She seems to think so. You don't plan on denying her, do you?"
Miles shook his head.
"No," he said. "No, I don't. Some might consider it sudden, but I won't complain either."
"Sudden. Hah! Considering how quickly she latched onto you, it must seem like forever for her. She told me a great many stories about you."
"I don't doubt that one bit."
Franziska yawned, and then she retreated to the comfort of her little guest room. She and Miles could talk more in the morning, she promised. Miles looked forward to it. He was smiling as he made his way back to the kitchen that he'd spent half of his day in.
He probably should have been scared. He'd only been with Phoenix for a number of weeks, and Trucy already seemed to consider them married. They felt married. They'd already discussed it. They had a pet now, too. A lot was changing, and it was happening so quickly that Miles' head could barely keep up.
But he wasn't scared. He'd moved past that already. Everything that was happening felt like a natural progression and he wasn't going to let his more "logical" impulses get in the way of that.
He was only alone for a few minutes before he heard footsteps behind him.
"Nick," Miles scolded, "didn't I tell you to go to bed?"
"You spent half the day tying the chaos together," Phoenix reminded him as he picked up the pile of dishes to wash. "I can't let you clean it all up by yourself."
Miles wouldn't argue with that. With Phoenix's help, he had the mess cleaned up and the leftovers safely packaged in what felt like no time at all. Phoenix pulled open an infrequently-used drawer to reveal the spot where he'd hidden the books he'd gotten on the subjects of potty training and dog health.
"I still can't believe you went and did something like this," Miles laughed as he flipped briefly through the pages. He himself knew the basics already, but if Bitty was going to be a family pet Phoenix and Trucy definitely had to learn a thing or two.
"Yeah, well, you told me you wanted one real bad. ...I wonder if I've just gone and given you more work to do, though?"
"Maybe, but it's certainly worth it." Miles gave Phoenix a knowing smile. "I'll bet she never put Bitty in the bed. I'll bet she's sleeping on her mattress instead."
"...Probably. She was a little too eager to have her sleep in her room."
With the work done, the two of them enjoyed a glass of wine together over quiet conversation. They hadn't had a proper moment alone since the previous night. The effects of that became quite obvious once they were back in the safety of their bedroom and their lips met. Miles had been worried about sharing a room, thinking that it would be awkward, but instead found himself forgetting that he'd ever slept anywhere else.
As he was having this thought, Miles felt Phoenix's lips traveled down to his neck. He grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back.
"Hey," Miles warned. "Franziska is still here, remember? She's right next door and I have to be up early to take her to the airport."
"She's probably asleep if she has to get up early."
"That's true..." Miles was tempted, of course, to oblige Phoenix, but did have a reputation to uphold, so he had to at least pretend to be too dignified for a moment or two.
"Oh, come on," Phoenix encouraged, his tone a teasing one. "We don't have to go all the way, y'know. What ever happened to just fooling around?"
"That's such a juvenile term," Miles scoffed. He smirked. "...Still, you aren't wrong."
"Is that a yes?"
"Only if you're quiet."
"Who are you to tell me to be quiet?"
Miles couldn't help but smile as Phoenix partially undressed him with careful hands. He was glad that he'd found someone who was so good to him. He didn't know how long this "honeymoon phase" would last, but he knew that they had a friendship that would endure even when things were no longer as romantic and sensual. They had grown comfortable with one another. They were home. As they shared tender kisses and affectionate touches, Miles recalled every other time that someone had touched him like this and concluded that it had never been like this and would never be the same.
With Phoenix, it didn't necessarily have to lead somewhere. And so, when Miles announced that he was tired, Phoenix released him without any complaints and allowed him to change into his pajamas. He waited, head rested against his arm, for Miles to crawl under covers with him. And as soon as Miles did, Phoenix leaned in close, pressing a kiss against his forehead. He waited until Miles opened his eyes to look at him.
"...So," Phoenix said, grinning, "what do you want to do for New Year's?"
[breaks down your bedroom door] AAAAAAND AFTER A HIATUS OF LIKE A FUCKIN YEAR, HERE IT IS!
Most of this has been finished for months and months and MONTHS now, but for some reason the last scene just wouldn't cooperate. I might do more stuff with this AU in the future, but it'll be a while and I wanna finally play Apollo Justice first. Because I wanna incorporate him and have an idea for how to do so.
This is the SECOND fic I've written that involves giving one of the characters a surprise puppy and I don't even care at all, I HAD TO (Larry snuck off during the present exchanging bc I felt bad that the pup was sitting there alone in the bedroom until Phoenix went to get her, so Larry went to keep her company)