Their first kiss happened when Phoenix was in fourth grade.
“Listen up, everyone! Stand next to your field trip buddy!”
All of the fourth graders tumbled out of the buses like frenzied bees bursting from a hive. They flew across the parking lot in unpredictable patterns, eager to fly around after the long trip up the hill to the Griffith Observatory. The teachers swept around like keepers, trying to wrangle everyone back into order.
Phoenix waited next to Miles in the shadow of the alcove near the entrance wall. They watched the chaos swirl around them. “Have you ever been to a planetarium before?”
It seemed the kind of place that would suit Miles: lots of smart things to learn, quiet, and chock-full of stuff that seemed like science-fiction. He still thought it was incredible that Miles enjoyed things like Signal Samurai and Star Wars; he had once spent a whole afternoon prodding Miles about his favorite stories before the other boy shyly admitted his preferences, as though he was worried Phoenix would make fun of him. But he hadn’t, and he would forever remember Miles’s amazement as he realized he didn’t always have to be so studious and serious with Phoenix, that he could be silly if he wanted. Since that time their bond had grown, to the point that Phoenix considered Miles his best friend.
“No, I haven’t. I’m looking forward to it.” Miles smiled at him, and Phoenix felt a bubble of excitement swell up in his chest. So much of their friendship was spent introducing new books or toys or shows to each other; there was a thrill in knowing they were both going to experience something for the first time together.
Today was going to be fun.
“Larry Butz! Put that down and get back in line!”
A grasshopper soared over their heads and landed on one of the girls in their class, and a shriek joined the chorus of insanity. Larry ran toward the two of them and ducked behind Phoenix, avoiding the incensed glower of their teacher. Miles rolled his eyes while Phoenix scooted away, trying to distance himself from Larry and avoid catching any of his trouble.
The students were eventually herded into a domed circular room inside the building. The lights dimmed and stars surrounded them, thousands of them, bright pinpricks of light against an endless darkness. Phoenix stayed between Miles and Larry, and as the other students faded to shadows and silhouettes, he never felt so small in his life. It seemed like they were soaring through the sky. That floaty sensation lasted through their trip around the galaxy, as the space around them turned into nebulas and white dwarfs. It was beautiful.
The second part of the presentation featured all the constellations, and as he half-listened to the astronomer’s lecture he pointed out the Big Dipper to Miles, and Miles showed him Orion, and between them they could pretend they were charting out the course of their lives in the sky. Miles stared up into the top of the room, the lights reflecting in his dark eyes, mouth agape with marvel, and Phoenix wondered what it would be like for the two of them to just drift away into that peaceful, glittering place. He liked the idea.
After the show, the students evacuated to the observatory grounds for lunch, and Larry joined the pair to crowd together at a tiny picnic table. The midday sun beat down, a stark contrast to the air conditioning inside. Phoenix wiped at the sweat beading on his forehead. He pulled a cherry-flavored Signal Soda out of his lunch bag, unscrewed the top, and took a long, satisfying chug.
“You should drink water to cool down, you know,” Miles said, with the air of one imparting great knowledge. In demonstration, he unpacked a clear plastic bottle from his bag and took a careful sip, resisting the temptation to gulp the whole thing down.
“Yeah, but soda just tastes better when it’s hot outside.” Phoenix held out his halfway-gone drink, tilting the lip of the bottle forward. “Have some.”
Miles’s normal reticence wavered, powerless in the face of that earnest grin and the colorful figure printed on the container. After a moment of hesitation he took it and allowed himself a small mouthful. Phoenix watched Miles’s eyes widen; no one could resist that taste. He nodded, and Miles took a longer gulp before surrendering the nearly-empty soda.
“Ew!” Larry pointed a finger at the two of them, face wrinkled up in disgust. “That’s gross!”
Phoenix blinked, taken aback by the unexpected outburst. “What is?”
“Don’t you know what sharing drinks means? It’s swapping spit! You basically just kissed each other!”
Phoenix felt his face turn red, more than it already was from the heat. Was Larry right? Had he just accidentally kissed Miles? He knew he should be repulsed on principle – kissing was supposed to be gross – but he did not feel that instinctual revulsion at the idea of kissing Miles.
Was Miles upset?
To his surprise, the other boy smirked. “If sharing drinks is kissing, then how many of the girls in our class have you kissed, Larry?”
Larry counted on his fingers, tongue sticking out in concentration. “Eleven!”
Miles shook his head. “Well then, why do you think it’s gross if you’ve done it so often? You’ve contradicted yourself.”
Larry spluttered. “W-Well, I wouldn’t share drinks with either of you. You’re my friends! I don’t wanna kiss my friends!”
“Why not?” Phoenix was still trying to figure out what unspoken rules he had missed, and couldn’t follow Larry’s perplexing logic.
“Because!” Larry proudly stuck out his chest. “You can never be friends with someone you kiss. Kissing just ruins your friendship.”
Phoenix felt an unpleasant weight in his chest at those words, and couldn’t explain why. He wanted to stay friends with Miles, but…
Miles was having none of it. “That makes no sense. You can be friends with someone you kiss. That just makes them more special.”
Larry rolled his eyes, exasperated. “Well, you two have kissed now, so let me know if you’re still friends later.” He and Miles glared at each other, tension sparking. Sensing that anything more he could say would start an argument, Larry threw up his arms and declared that he was going to sit with the girls.
Phoenix and Miles returned to their food in silence. He felt awful that there had been a fight, or a near-fight, and angry that he didn’t know the same stupid rules that Larry did. He flushed at the thought of kissing Miles, even by accident. Underneath all of those feelings there was something else, something he couldn’t quite grasp hold: something new, and awkward, and amazing.
“Want some water?”
Miles offered his bottle, carefully avoiding looking at him, cheeks tinged pink. Phoenix grinned, and that something he couldn’t identify bloomed into warmth.
If he was going to kiss someone, he was glad it was Miles.
Their first kiss happened when Miles was sixteen years old.
The von Karma estate was opulent, meticulously maintained by generations of the family, with marble floors and spacious rooms, rich walnut finishing and brass railings. Each piece of furniture was an antique and to so much as leave a glass on a bare surface was to invite starvation and physical discomfort as punishment. Because the manor was so large and archaic, it also meant proper insulation was nothing more than a pipe dream. Drafts blew through the hallways, stealing beneath coats and leaving icy caresses against goose-fleshed skin no matter how many layers one huddled beneath. It was no wonder so many classic ghost stories took place in old European homes; living in a perpetual gloom and frost could convince the staunchest skeptic that death lingered near.
Nights like this were particularly miserable: the thick of winter, snow howling outside, the dying embers in the hearth not nearly enough to remove the bone-chilling ache of cold. Miles had already woken from his usual nightmare, and the stress it wrought was compounded with feeling like a failure and a burden due to von Karma’s upbraiding that evening. He turned fitfully under the covers of his quilt, sleep eluding him as he shivered and huddled inward for warmth.
He longed for the balmy California sun.
Perhaps it was thoughts of home – his true home, an ocean away – that brought on the dream, once his eyes finally remained closed despite his shivering.
Behind his eyelids the darkness ceded into soft light, leaving muted impressions of shapes without shadows. He was laying outside, hands curling into rough tendrils of grass, breathing in the blistering, summery smell of earth. It was the scent he grew up with, from a time before misery and death. What reason could he have to worry here? In his dream logic he understood that he was safe; this was right.
Someone lay next to him, limbs sprawled and barely touching his own. He knew this person, felt completely at ease in their presence. Their skin was smooth, familiar, fingers tracing little trails up and down the back of his hand. Lazy. Peaceful.
The touch skimmed higher, over his wrist, his elbow, his bicep, a slow journey that began with innocence and transformed into excitement. He knew what the figure intended, and despite himself he let the easy seduction continue.
It had been so long since he allowed himself such thoughts, since he indulged in the pleasure of touch. The feelings of need and want simmered beneath the surface, boiling with the surge of adolescence, but were normally kept under a carefully locked lid. He dared not suffer any humiliation or weakness.
He should stop this.
The person loomed over him, hands braced on his shoulders. There was a grin – he knew there was a grin – and a voiceless assurance that this was wanted, he was wanted. Panic gripped Miles as the figure leaned down: he shouldn’t do this; it was a distraction; only his studies mattered; perfection was all that mattered; this did not matter; he shouldn’t–
The pressure against his lips silenced all protest. Warm. Gentle.
Instinct took over. His knees bent, rising to brace the figure between them. Arms reached to pull them closer, to feel all of them, fitting against all of him. Skin moved against skin, all hot, delicious friction.
He should be embarrassed at their lack of clothing.
His mouth yielded open, and his nails threaded through dark hair, and his body stirred with desire. Again and again they met, tongues sliding wet, teeth dragging against lips, eliciting obscene noises of pleasure. A palm slid across his chest, and his breath hitched as it moved against his flank, reached his hip, slipped down, inexorably down. His hips canted, desperate, searching, and he moaned into the mouth of his partner as a hand brushed between his legs. Heat surged through him, molten pools forming at each point of contact. The figure was pliant while he was taught, tension coiling higher with each stroke and kiss. Perhaps it lasted only a minute, or an hour, but to Miles it was an eternity of sensation.
And he knew he was safe, that he was cared for, that the only thing left for him was to look into those blue eyes and just let go.
Miles woke with a shudder. Grey morning light drifted into the room, not yet dawn. The air on his exposed face was cold, the sweat on his overheated skin cooling quickly, but the rest of him felt much too warm, stifled and… sticky.
He threw off his covers, and cursed at the visible dark spot on his nightwear. What kind of prosecutor was he going to be, if he was so easily distracted? What would von Karma think, if he were to catch him in such a mortifying condition?
But even as he discarded his garments in favor of clean ones, he could not bring himself to be wholly disappointed by the experience. His blood still sung, and the tension in his muscles had lessened, and his mind finally gained a moment of respite from the ever-present pressure of perfection.
He could not recall the face of the figure in his dream, but whoever he had conjured left him feeling homesick, and determined to fulfill his ambitions as quickly as possible.
Their first kiss happened when Phoenix was a senior at Ivy University.
After the sixth straight hour of pouring over his study guide, the words were beginning to swim across the pages. Flashcards were scattered over his desk, a multi-colored mess of glossary terms and citation numbers. Prima facie melted into stare decisis and joined mens rea into a legalese gumbo. And if he couldn’t keep the vocabulary straight, he’d be cooked.
He could stop; he was tempted. But Phoenix knew that if he gave in he would never find his way back to his books. He would start to sketch, or mindlessly gaze at whatever was on television, or succumb to sleep, and the whole evening would be lost. He had to make every hour, every minute, count, had to cram as much knowledge inside his head while he still had time.
Only two weeks remained before he sat for the admissions exam to law school. He could afford to take it just once. It was an all-or-nothing gamble.
At least the university had allowed him his own dorm room for his final year. The quiet allowed him to concentrate as long as he avoided thinking about certain topics, like the catastrophe with Doug Swallow and– not Dollie. Dahlia. After the incident, he supposed the school wanted to avoid their name being dragged into another lawsuit, and gave him leeway with his classes and living situation. Part of him was saddened at the loss of a roommate; he always performed his best when he had someone he could study with, or cheer on, or even just vent to.
Now, all the encouragement he had were two items pinned to the corkboard above him.
…It wasn’t really stopping if he just took a break, right? A motivational break.
He marked his place among the dog-eared chapters and pushed the study guide aside, slid off his headphones, and glanced up. As he rose his muscles screamed from the blood flowing back into them after sitting hunched over in his chair for so long. He stretched, arms high, shirt riding up on his stomach. He tried to hold on to his foot behind his back, pulling at his stiff limbs, and inevitably lost his balance and fell on his ass.
But the good news was he spotted a forgotten packet of instant ramen underneath the desk. Maybe some food would reinvigorate him too. While he waited for the microwaved water to work its magic on the noodles, he unpinned a business card from its place on his corkboard.
Mia Fey was printed at the top, followed by Fey & Co. Law Offices. His former attorney had finally opened her own practice; he wasn’t sure what argument led to her leaving her former office, or if the separation was amicable, but it looked like she had landed on her feet. He was determined to join her one day. After she had saved him, he could think of no better person to work for: someone with integrity, compassion, courage. Who defended the weak. A friend to those with no one on their side.
He placed the business card back and removed the thumbtack from the second item on the board, careful not to cause any rips or tears. It was a newspaper article cut from last month’s copy of the Los Angeles Times, featuring a scathing criticism of Miles Edgeworth’s latest conviction. While the author acknowledged the young prosecutor’s skill in extracting a guilty verdict, she condemned the heartless conduct used to secure it and the underhanded tactics he employed.
Heartless. Underhanded. That was not the Miles he remembered, the brave, selfless boy who rescued him and laughed with him and who wanted to help the helpless just like his father.
The article included a full-color picture of the prosecutor, facing the camera head-on with a scowl. Phoenix could find evidence of the boy he once knew in those features – same silvery bangs, same grey eyes – but his demeanor had completely changed. Gone was the smile, and any hint of sympathy had been replaced with something hard and unkind. His heart simultaneously sped up, and cracked in two every time he glanced at the photograph.
It didn’t hurt that his friend had grown up to be quite striking.
This was his motivation. He had to confront Miles and help him find himself again. He believed his honest, selfless best friend still existed, and the first step to seeing him again was to pass the entrance exam. All he had to do was connect the legal terms to something that mattered to him.
Prima facie: First disclosure. What had he learned the first time he read a news report about Miles? Stare decisis: Adherence to previous decisions. He had already decided to rescue Miles; his resolve was firm. Mens rea: Guilty mind.
Blood rushed to his cheeks. There were certainly some… guilty thoughts he’d had over that picture of Miles. Over each photo of Miles he could find, really. Notions about confronting him in a courtroom lobby, ridding him of that preposterous vest, running his fingers through those bangs to see if his hair was as soft as he remembered, seeing if he could make those lips press up into a smile– Or just press into those lips…
In his deepest fantasies, Miles harbored the same kinds of feelings for him.
Gently, aware of precisely how silly he was acting – and not caring – Phoenix brought the photograph to his lips and pressed a delicate kiss to it. He let out a long breath and carefully re-pinned the clipping above his desk.
He had more work to do.
Their first kiss happened when Edgeworth was on the brink of choosing death.
In the aftermath of Lana Skye’s trial, Edgeworth found himself included in the victory celebration in spite of his protests. At the garish restaurant they trooped to, Detective Gumshoe indulged Ema’s endless questions about forensic processes over drinks, both alcoholic and virgin. She and Lana also shared awkward but sincere murmurs of conversation as the sisters began the delicate process of repairing their strained relationship. Such a bond was worth preserving. He wondered if Franziska would ever forgive him for severing her own familial tie with her father. Perhaps she would have preferred if von Karma’s plan had succeeded and he had been imprisoned instead.
As the others talked amongst themselves, Wright attempted to engage him: to discuss the trial (disastrous), or to ask how he had spent Valentine’s (alone), if he had any plans for Easter (none), what sorts of trials he had been assigned (pointless). As his answers grew more distant and short, Wright was content to pick up the slack, chattering about Maya Fey’s training and his need to take on more cases. The attorney’s tongue grew looser with each drink, and though he didn’t reach the point of excess, his face flushed pink with inebriation.
As the table grew more festive, Edgeworth shrunk further into his own head.
Was Gant correct? Would he, too, end up a monster? The road to hell was paved with good intentions, and even if his own goal had been to punish criminals, it was clear to him he had strayed from that righteous path. Wright might have saved him from execution, but he certainly did not deserve to remain as he was.
At the end of the night, Gumshoe promised to return the sisters to their destinations safely. Wright, on the other hand, was in no condition to get himself to his apartment alone – at least, that was what the prosecutor told himself. Having abstained from drinking, he insisted on driving the attorney back himself. With only token resistance to preserve his pride, Wright clambered into his passenger seat, buckled in, and offered his address.
The drive was quiet, and at a stoplight Edgeworth looked over and found Wright dozing against the window. Phoenix had never been good with sugar as a child, and it seemed he was no better with alcohol as an adult. In the ambient glow he looked serene: mouth slack, the white tips of his teeth barely visible, dark strands of hair falling onto his forehead, lashes long against his cheeks – a far cry from the rattled mess he had been in court.
Edgeworth felt his lips curve up in a fond smile. The man was utterly ridiculous. He wondered how well Wright would do with something other than that restaurant’s diluted swill, perhaps a few of his own favorite European vintages, and the idea of the attorney getting tipsy at a cozy café with him was more appealing than he expected. Being in the man’s company fostered so many disparate feelings, some of them painful: indignation, astonishment, a startling tenderness, perhaps even, if he were honest with himself, attraction.
The light changed, the warm red light in the vehicle switched to garish green, and the spell was broken.
What was he thinking?
His stomach churned with a sharp spike of disgust. His life was a lie. He had pursued convictions at almost any cost and damned who knew how many souls in the process. He had so badly wanted to penalize the wicked, to dole out the punishment denied to him as a boy, and he’d let himself become blind to true justice: a heartless, misguided vigilante. And here he was daydreaming about– What? Spending time with Wright? Pretending that his childhood friend would be anything less than repulsed by a man who had discarded true justice for perfection? How could anyone deem him a good man?
The boy Phoenix knew had died long ago. Perhaps the man should too.
Soon Edgeworth pulled into Wright’s complex, and he gently shook the attorney awake. He allowed Wright to lean against him as they climbed the stairs outside and waited through several attempts to unlock the apartment door. Wright could hardly keep his eyes open, though due to exhaustion now more than intoxication.
Once the entrance was pushed open Wright gave him a tired grin. “You wanna come in, Edgeworth? Lemme make you some coffee.”
He recognized the slightly garbled articulation of someone staving off sleep. “That’s quite all right. I should be going.”
Wright scowled. “You brought me home. ’S the least I can do.” He yanked on the prosecutor’s jacket, and Edgeworth squawked unheeded about wrinkles and dry cleaning bills as he was pulled across the threshold.
The apartment was dark, and Wright did not bother to turn on a light as he shuffled into his kitchen. Edgeworth, at a loss, merely followed him. The attorney scrounged up two mugs and set them on the counter, but was halted in his trip to the coffee maker by an enormous yawn.
“Wright, this is absurd. Get some rest.”
He managed to steer Wright out of the kitchen and onto his living room couch, curbing the other man’s protests by promising to finish making their drinks. Wright collapsed onto the cushions, and Edgeworth only had to wait a few moments for the attorney’s body to go lax and fall to the side, and his breathing to slow and even out. All that remained was for Edgeworth to remove Wright’s shoes and lift his legs onto the sofa. A threadbare blanket rested on the back of the couch, and he carefully placed it over the attorney.
He stood there, in the dark of Wright’s apartment, feeling like some mixture of intruder, voyeur, and beleaguered friend.
Did Wright consider him a friend, even now?
The one thing Edgeworth knew with certainty was that his life could not carry on as it had. He needed to become someone worthy of the court, of his position and the people who placed their trust in him – of the man asleep in front of him. He needed to change. He wanted to. And the first step to making that happen was to… leave.
Before he exited the apartment, Edgeworth leaned down and allowed himself one last, selfish moment of sentiment, something he could not imagine doing if Wright were awake. He smoothed back the hair on Phoenix’s forehead and pressed his lips to the warm skin there. In the end, he was not only a sham, but a thief too.
It would be some time before he could face Wright again.
Their first kiss happened when Phoenix caught Edgeworth at the airport.
Maya’s voice sounded tinny over the phone, likely due to the poor reception in Kurain. “So, are you gonna go see him off?”
Phoenix cradled his phone to his ear with his shoulder, hands busy sorting through papers on his desk. “W-Well, I hadn’t planned on it–”
“Nick! Get your butt over there and say goodbye! You’ll regret it if you don’t.” She was indignant, as if scolding Pearl. He drew in an audible breath to refute her but she cut him off. “Nope, don’t even try. Go hug it out with him before he leaves.”
Edgeworth’s supposed suicide had left a scar on Phoenix’s soul; his subsequent return from the dead had allowed it to start healing. In the months since Maya’s kidnapping the two of them had had many long discussions, sometimes in Edgeworth’s office, sometimes over private dinners, about how the prosecutor’s perspective had changed. Learning the truth about Edgeworth’s disappearance had been a balm to that wound; the hurt would never completely fade, but now it existed as a reminder of what – who – was most important to him, and his determination to never let his friend suffer in that way that again.
The pair had started again, on more equal footing, building on their trust and background, and friendship kindled anew. He learned of Edgeworth’s goals for the legal system, his ambitions and hopes, and he vowed to support the prosecutor as best he could in his devotion to truth. He discovered Miles’s lingering interest in The Steel Samurai, and his fondness for tea, and his pollen allergy and fussiness over neckwear and indefatigable capacity for climbing stairs. He saw his friend smile with him again, indulged in quiet laughter together, treasured the moments when they would catch each other’s eye and share their thoughts with merely a raised eyebrow or smirk.
Their bond, re-forged, was enough. He would never push. It was enough.
He wished it was more.
A lopsided smile slid across Phoenix’s face. “Hug it out, huh?” If only it were so simple.
“Yeah, just give him a big hug and tell him you’ll miss him.”
Part of Edgeworth’s plan to cleanse the initial trial system of corruption was to study the judicial systems of foreign countries. While Phoenix understood, on an intellectual level, the reasons why Edgeworth was leaving again, his heart grieved the loss – less than when he believed the prosecutor was dead, but enough to result in a palpable ache.
Maya was still speaking. “And give him a hug from me too. Tell him he better come back so we can argue over the new season of The Pink Princess.”
Phoenix eyed the office clock. If he left now…
“All right, all right, Maya. You win.”
“A-ha! I knew you’d listen to reason. Well, get moving Nick! Go-go-go!”
One taxi trip later, and Phoenix’s resolve wavered in the international terminal of the Los Angeles airport. How could so many people travel in and out of one city? A mob of people criss-crossed the spaces between the ticket lines and the walkways and the information kiosks. What hope did he have to find Edgeworth in all of these people? He wrangled his way to the departure listings and found the airline Edgeworth was likely to fly; Germany was his first stop, after all. He propelled himself toward the security checkpoint closest to the gate, scanning the crowd for silver hair, for overpriced luggage, for–
A flash of magenta at the corner of his eye.
The prosecutor halted, bag rolling to a stop behind him, head swiveling to find the source of his name. Their eyes met, and Phoenix hurried to meet him.
“I was not expecting you, Wright,” Edgeworth said, a ghost of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. Phoenix felt a not-unpleasant twist in his stomach; seeing that expression made him wish he had arrived sooner. “I can only assume you are here to bid me a safe flight.”
Phoenix shrugged. “Well, I had to make sure you left with good memories this time. I, um, figured it’s the last chance I’ll get to see you for a while.” Eloquent, he thought, mentally rolling his eyes at himself. Despite his bumbling words, he kept his gaze focused on his friend.
Edgeworth looked somewhat taken aback, cheeks tinted pink. “I– I appreciate the sentiment.”
The advantage of crowds was that they afforded a particular kind of privacy. Though they were in public, everyone else’s attention was focused on their own selfish tasks, and the attorneys could carve out a moment just for themselves without fear of prying eyes.
Nodding once, Phoenix stepped forward, raised his arms, and circled them around Edgeworth’s shoulders. The prosecutor stiffened at the unexpected contact, but shortly his body relaxed, tension evaporating, and he even placed one arm around Phoenix in return.
Edgeworth had come a long way already.
“One more thing,” Phoenix said, leaning back.
The impulse had hit him like a bolt out of the sky. This was dangerous territory, certainly skirting an unspoken line. He might regret it later. But before he could think better of the idea, or lose his sudden nerve, he pressed a swift kiss to Edgeworth’s cheek. The memory of smooth skin against his lips would have to last him a long time.
Edgeworth’s eyes widened and he froze, staring at Phoenix. His skin had flushed a darker red.
Phoenix glanced to the side, one hand rising to the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Maya says goodbye too. She also says you better come back so you can nerd out over your shows together.” It was cowardly, hiding his actions behind the intentions of another. At least this way he could laugh it off if Edgeworth…
Edgeworth cleared his throat, a delicate noise to hide his own discomfort.
“You may inform her I will do no such thing. However, if she wishes for more thoughtful discourse, I will be happy to oblige.” He fixed Phoenix with an indecipherable look. “I should be going.”
“Have a good trip, Miles,” Phoenix said, and he could hear his voice catch; partings brought out the sentimental idiot in him. “We’ll miss you.”
I’ll miss you.
Edgeworth’s mouth opened a fraction, but his intended reply instead turned into that small, soft smile. “Goodbye, Phoenix.” He gripped his luggage handle and quickly moved away, stepping behind the barriers of the security line and out of Phoenix’s sight.
Phoenix remained there for some time, feet rooted to the spot, Miles’s voice echoing in his ears. That was the first time he had called him by his given name since they were children.
Their first kiss happened when Edgeworth was once again leaving for Europe.
“Even after all of this, you’re still going back.”
They sat side-by-side on the sofa in Wright’s apartment, Edgeworth’s final visit to the attorney before his departure. His bag waited at the entranceway; it had been easy to convince himself to bid a final farewell to Phoenix. Actually leaving was proving to be difficult.
The airport taxi would arrive soon.
“My business can no longer wait. There are many things I left undone when I departed so suddenly.”
The murder trial for Iris Hawthorne was finished. Maya Fey and her cousin Pearl were returning to Kurain to begin the process of title succession and to grieve. Franziska was terrifying Detective Gumshoe as much as possible before she grew bored and turned to new cases. Godot – Diego Armando – awaited his own trial and judgment. Larry was moping about his lost chance to date Iris. The sister herself awaited a new trial on lesser charges. And Phoenix – he was finally at peace with what had happened during his college relationship.
As for Edgeworth, his part in the sorry ordeal had come to an end. Phoenix Wright was not, in fact, dying, as he had feared. His courtroom deception was an experience he never cared to repeat. The mystery of Iris and Dahlia, of Melissa Foster, had come to gruesome light. He had no more reason to stay, not in any official capacity. He still had much to learn overseas before he had a hope of overturning Los Angeles’s corrupt legal system. Yet he found himself reluctant to leave Wright’s side.
Phoenix looked at him, eyes a deep, ocean-blue in the sun’s last light. The stress of the trial and the fever had worn away, and he seemed stronger for it. He offered a crooked smile to Edgeworth, a placating gesture that was half sincere in wishing him well, and half apology. “I’m sorry I’ve put you through so much trouble.”
He met it with a smirk. “There is no need for you to apologize. You can blame Larry for my recklessness in my haste to get to you.”
Edgeworth waged a futile battle to keep the blood from rising to his cheeks; that statement was sure to betray too much of his emotions if the attorney read between the lines. His time abroad discovering his path in life, and learning the nuances of law inside and out, had not stopped his breath from stalling or his pulse from quickening every time he thought of his childhood friend. It was ridiculous, valuing one man so deeply, but the heart knew nothing of logic, only what it wanted. Who it wanted.
He was not certain where he and Wright stood with each other. Three years had sharpened his feelings, turned hesitation and undefined yearning into certainty. Wright’s feelings for him, however, were more ambiguous. The man’s actions proved that he cared for him, but, as modern parlance would put it, he sent out mixed signals. Changing his entire career to see him again, a sustained friendship, lingering touches, even that incident at the airport last year spoke to great affection, possibly romantic attraction. But Wright flew by the seat of his pants, without plans or thought for consequences, after all. If Phoenix felt something more for him, wouldn’t he have already shown him?
The sun slipped behind the horizon at last, leaving the room in a soft orange-purple glow.
Phoenix’s smile turned wistful. “Yeah, yeah. You have great things to do over there, I get it. But you know, I hoped you’d be here for a while longer. Maybe even decide to stay.”
Stay with me, he heard Phoenix finish in his mind. Stay for me.
He rose, stepping around Wright to move toward his luggage. Phoenix was affecting him. If he lingered any longer, he would be tempted to throw caution to the wind and postpone his return indefinitely. But duty and justice came first.
Wright jumped after him, startled by his sudden movement. He felt a hand close around his wrist, and he halted. “W-Wait, Edgeworth, I didn’t mean–”
“There are things I must finish before I can consider a more permanent arrangement here,” he said, pre-empting Phoenix. His back was turned, and it was easier to say the words when those eyes were not boring into his own. “But I will return soon.”
He glanced back over his shoulder, and that was his undoing. That expression on Phoenix’s face: no surprise, no shock, just gentle contentment and happiness. Eyes soft. Mouth slightly open in a smile, as if hearing Edgeworth say he would come back was the most wonderful news he’d ever heard.
What chance did he have? He was merely a man, of flesh and blood, not stone. If Wright refused to clear up matters between them, he would do it himself.
Edgeworth spun on his heel and tugged his arm free of Phoenix’s fingers, and with both hands he gripped Wright’s shirt and pulled the man against his chest, instantly closing the distance between them. One bold move to claim his heart’s desire. He could feel the heat radiating between them, hear Phoenix’s surprised gasp of air. One hand slipped around Wright’s waist to rest on his lower back, holding him in place; the other crept up to his face, grasping his cheek.
Blue eyes widened, recognition dawning in that last moment.
As Edgeworth tilted his head, heart beating madly, he felt lips meet his own, rough and insistent, finishing what Edgeworth had started. His eyes closed, and he surrendered the last of his control to Phoenix.
It was never going to be a slow kiss. It couldn’t be, not after nearly two decades, after experiencing death and purpose and life, not after their endless pursuit and near-misses and all the kisses that had already happened in some fashion. Tension exploded into passion, into taste and touch and exhilaration.
Miles Edgeworth offered his heart, and Phoenix Wright gave his in return.
The kiss ended when Phoenix moved his lips down, sliding from mouth to jaw to neck, slow drags against his skin to allow them to catch their breath. Edgeworth drew in aching lungfuls of air, unwilling to release his arms from the man before him. “I will return,” he repeated, voice low and fervent. “I promise.”
A long moment, filled with infinite possibility, passed between them before he had his answer. He felt a smile at his throat, and heard it in Phoenix’s voice.
“And I’ll be right here.”
In the decades of their relationship, Phoenix and Edgeworth had experienced many different firsts together: smiles, adventures, realizations of feelings. Disappointments, separations. Arguments. Reconciliations. First kisses. First dates. First nights.
Because of their long association, deciding which events truly stood as the first of its kind remained an ongoing battle. However, both agreed that this day marked a new beginning for them, another first to signify their bond of trust and love, and the lives they had built together.
I do had never meant so much before.
Phoenix pressed his lips along the smooth curve of Edgeworth’s neck, teeth gently grazing the skin and drawing delicious murmurs of approval. It was one of his favorite ways to ensure he had all of the prosecutor’s attention. Edgeworth’s hands wandered lower to impatiently remove the last of their clothing, roughly palming the swell of firm flesh. Away from the celebration, and their daughter and coworkers and makeshift family, they finally had the opportunity to enjoy one another in private. Once their pristine formal wear had pooled in undignified puddles at their feet, they maneuvered around the hotel furniture with purpose, clumsy in their excitement to sink into the soft, inviting bed.
It was far from the first time; they were intimately familiar with what elicited shudders of excitement and gasps of pleasure from one another. Phoenix understood exactly how to flatten his tongue and hollow his cheeks once Edgeworth threaded his fingers through his hair, and to take him deeper when he heard just the right timbre of desperation in those quiet moans, and to pull back when those taut thighs began to tremble. Miles long ago memorized how to crook his fingers just so inside Phoenix to make his voice trip over his name, and which rhythm reduced him to an incoherent mess.
It wouldn’t last as long as they wanted, their long day prolonging their desire to the point of urgency. Edgeworth knew Phoenix wanted to see him come undone every time; Phoenix knew Miles would always cling to him in those final moments before release. And they knew how much they treasured the aftermath, to lie against one another and listen to heart beats slow and breathing even out, to curl into the other and lazily trace hands and fingers reverently over bare skin.
This was just their first time for tonight, and for tomorrow, and for the rest of their lives. So many more firsts awaited them, and they would face them together. They both lifted their heads, and their lips met in a tender kiss.
It felt just like the first time, again.