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Begone Dull Care

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The first impression Edgeworth got of Wright was of a young man in blue scrubs, struggling to pull an enormously large older man out of a car, and yelling “Narcan!” at the top of his lungs.

Edgeworth was lying on his side on the ambulance bed, staring into nowhere. The ambulance had only just arrived, and the EMTs who had been speaking to him gently for the past half hour were preparing to bring him into the hospital.

They opened the ambulance doors and jumped out, abandoning Edgeworth. Not that he cared.

“Narcan!” The voice yelled again, and Edgeworth finally looked up.

A car had pulled up behind his ambulance. The woman in the driver’s seat appeared to be having a nervous breakdown, and the man in scrubs was still trying to extricate the unconscious man from the back. The EMTs rushed up and helped him.

It was quiet then. The man in scrubs stopped shouting. They all settled down on the pavement. Edgeworth heard gasping.

It was past midnight. It was warm. Edgeworth heard sirens in the distance, and could see the outline of palm trees against the sky, even in the dark.

It had been a long time since he saw so clearly. The smoke from the forest fires must be receding.

One of the EMTs walked back to the ambulance. “Hey, you’re up,” he said. “Think you’re ready to talk?”

Edgeworth didn’t even give him the dignity of a glare in response. He settled back down on the gurney.

The EMT didn’t seem to take it personally. He bent Edgeworth’s arms again, and arranged them so his wrists were elevated. He pulled up the sides of the gurney, and busied himself with some other gear until the other EMT came back. They wheeled him out of the ambulance and into the ER.

Edgeworth didn’t remember much for a while after that. Only the vague feeling that the man in the scrubs had looked familiar.

The next thing he remembered, Edgeworth was lying on a bed in the hallway. He was covered by a thin sheet and an equally thin blanket. He still had his shoes on. His wrists looked the same— bandaged tight, with blood just starting to seep through the pads.

It wasn’t as claustrophobically crowded as Edgeworth might have anticipated, had he ever watched one of those mindless, sensationalist medical dramas. But an emergency room in downtown Los Angeles on a Saturday night was surely a busy place. He was an important person, with good money and good insurance, but was still left in the hallway like so much trash waiting to be taken out. He felt this was appropriate.

There were other beds in the hall. A few were empty. One was occupied by a large, smelly, snoring man. On another sat a young woman with a bandage on her head, looking despondently at her phone. There were several closed doors, and Edgeworth could hear muffled conversation through the door nearest to him.

Around the corner, where Edgeworth presumed was the main part of the emergency room, it was noisy. Even if Edgeworth could have slept, it was not a restful environment.

Edgeworth had not slept in days. But he did have moments where he seemed to “go away,” and would forget long stretches of time. He was simply elsewhere.

After another such diversion elsewhere, he was roused again. The bandages on his wrists had been changed, and a buxom young woman was crouched by his bed, fiddling with his hand.

“Oh, poo!” she muttered, flicking pink hair out of her eyes. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Edgeworth reflected that she probably should be wearing her hair back. Mostly, he felt and thought nothing.

The smelly, snoring man was still there. The young woman with the bandage on her head was gone. A door across the hall was open, and voices drifted out.

The woman with the pink hair cursed, and Edgeworth felt a prick in his hand. He involuntarily flinched.

“Don’t move!” The woman hissed. Her name tag said April May RN. She stabbed a tiny needle in the back of his hand again, as if that area hadn’t been through enough.

Edgeworth couldn’t even muster a sigh.

The young man Edgeworth had seen earlier emerged from the room across the hall, wiping something on his hands. For some reason, Edgeworth watched him. He still mostly felt and thought nothing, but a nagging familiarity stirred somewhere in him.

“You all right, April?” the young man asked.

“Stay over on your side, Trite,” Nurse May snapped.

The man ignored her, and stepped closer. “Do you need help?”

Nurse May huffed. “I can’t find a vein.”

“Well, you’ve torn up that hand pretty good. Maybe it’s time to try somewhere else.” The young man picked up the chart attached to Edgeworth’s bed. “He’s dehydrated anyway, you might not get anything coming out. Do you want me to get a bag for Mr… Edgeworth?”

The man sounded surprised. Maybe he looked at Edgeworth, but Edgeworth was staring at the ceiling now. Maybe they’d get the hint and leave him to dehydrate to death.

“I haven’t had the time. I needed to change his stupid bandages!” Suddenly Nurse May stood with a huff, hands on her hips. “If you want to deal with him, Trite, by all means. I have other patients to take care of!” She stomped off.

“April—” the man called after her, then sighed. He came over to the side at the bed, smiling gently at Edgeworth. “Hello… Edgeworth?” he said, almost questioningly.

Edgeworth felt his gaze slide over to the young man. He was wearing a white shirt under his dark blue scrubs, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His name tag said Phoenix Wright RN. He had black hair that he wore slicked back, and a ridiculous, open, hopeful face. He looked familiar, but it’s not like ridiculous, open, hopeful faces are that unique.

Edgeworth looked away.

“So you can understand me, and you’re responsive, you just don’t want to talk?”

Edgeworth sighed pointedly.

“Okay,” Nurse Wright said affably. “Well, I’m Nurse Wright, or Phoenix if you prefer. I’m going to put an IV in you, because you need fluids, and then I’m going to draw some blood for a blood test.” He started busying himself around the bed. “I know you’ve been waiting, Mr. Edgeworth, but the doctor will stitch you up as soon as he can. Sit tight.”

He went away. When he came back, Edgeworth kept his gaze firmly on the wall. Wright spoke, but gently, and only to explain what he was doing. He wiped alcohol over the other nurse’s attempts at blood work and taped on a cotton ball. Then he put an IV line near Edgeworth’s inner elbow, dripping cool fluid that chilled his whole arm pleasantly. After that, he took a few vials of blood out of Edgeworth’s un-mangled hand.

Edgeworth’s blood was stubborn and slow, and the draw took so long that it started to hurt. Just take the blood from the floor of my kitchen, he thought, but of course, said nothing.

Nurse Wright was quiet as he labelled the blood vials and taped a cotton ball on Edgeworth's hand. “Did she… did Nurse May know you were wet? Did you say anything?”

Oh.

In another life, Edgeworth would have died of mortification right on the spot. Sometime in his interminable wait, when his mind was finding refuge elsewhere, he had wet himself. He didn’t remember doing it, and there were enough unpleasant odours around that he didn’t notice the smell. But it must’ve been some time ago, because it was cold.

All of Edgeworth was cold.

“It’s okay,” said Nurse Wright. “Hold on.”

He left again. Perhaps now that Edgeworth was more aware, the hallway seemed busier. He heard sobbing from one of the closed doors. From the open treatment room Wright had come from, the young woman emerged, now positively drenched in blood, but with her head stitched. She curled up on her bed, bloody face and all. Behind her, another man in scrubs came out, and walked away at a brisk pace.

There was suddenly a loud commotion around the corner. A number of men and women in scrubs, and a few security guards, ran down the hall towards the commotion. There was a great deal of shouting, some authoritative, some threatening.

In another life, he may have been interested in what was going on. In this life, he lay in his own urine without a care.

If only Father could see you now, he thought in a voice that was partly Manfred’s, but mostly his own. The thought evoked no feelings except exhaustion.

The commotion lasted about fifteen minutes, then quieted down. It was another ten minutes before Nurse Wright returned with a small stack of sheets, towels, and blankets.

“Sorry about that,” he breezed. “Now, the easiest thing would be if you just stepped into the bathroom and cleaned yourself up, and I got you a new bed.”

Edgeworth closed his eyes.

“No? Okay, well, I can’t wheel you into the treatment room because there’s not enough space. But I know you’d want your privacy, so we’re going to improvise.” He put the stack of sheets and towels on the rack under the bed. With an office clip, he clipped one corner of a sheet to Edgeworth’s IV pole, and a corner of another sheet to the chart holder on the door near the foot of Edgeworth’s bed. He then clipped the sheets together to create a makeshift curtain, with himself pressed tight against Edgeworth’s bed.

“This is going to be uncomfortable for a while, but you’ll feel better after.”

Edgeworth had a curious out of body experience as Wright stripped his soiled blanket and sheet. The nurse gently removed Edgeworth’s shoes and stashed them under the bed. He then very gently removed Edgeworth’s slacks— expensive, bespoke trousers now ruined by urine— and his silk underwear. He cleaned Edgeworth with a warm cloth.

It was a testament to how little Edgeworth cared anymore that he just laid there and let him.

The real issue was the sheet under him. “Are you going to cooperate while I get under you?”

Obviously not.

It was a struggle to remove a sheet from underneath a stubborn man who couldn’t even bother to stay alive anymore, but Wright persisted. Soon the sheet was off, and Wright was wiping down the waterproof mattress cover around Edgeworth. When he was satisfied, he covered Edgeworth’s lower half with a paper gown, and began the whole struggle anew to get a clean sheet under him, so he wouldn’t be lying on the plastic waterproof cover.

Edgeworth did not cooperate, but he didn’t resist, either. It had been a long, long time since he’d been cosseted and cared for like this.

“Now, there is a bathroom right across the hall,” Wright said. “If you feel like you can’t get up, you can flag me down and I’ll snag you a bed pan.”

Edgeworth shifted to turn away.

“As long as you don’t talk to anyone, the doctor’s not going to let you go,” said Nurse Wright. “If you won’t get up or ask for a bed pan, I can give you a condom catheter so this doesn’t happen again. Which do you want, Edgeworth?”

Edgeworth said nothing.

“Okay,” said Nurse Wright. “Condom cath it is.”

Wright had already cleaned Edgeworth’s privates, but the idea of the nurse installing some kind of apparatus on them made Edgeworth’s mind rush elsewhere in a hurry.

When he roused again, he was snuggled under a clean sheet and a new, thicker blanket. Even his feet were tucked in. Between the IV drip and the warmth, he was starting to feel a little bit more human. Not much, but a bit.

Edgeworth could feel the condom catheter resting on him, much like the name implied. It wasn’t painful, but it certainly wasn’t comfortable. He supposed it was objectively better than wetting the bed again, but not by much.

He had shifted onto his other side when he was elsewhere, and now faced out to the hallway. Nurse Wright was with the girl with the stitches. Her face was now clean of blood, and Wright was bandaging her head and speaking softly.

When he was done, he checked on the smelly, snoring man. As he turned to leave, he noticed Edgeworth watching him. He smiled.

Edgeworth looked away.

He was next roused by the sound of insipid giggling. Nurse May was leaning against his bed and flirting with a tall, handsome man, sharply dressed under a white lab coat. The man— a doctor, if Edgeworth wasn’t being presumptuous — held a clipboard, but had eyes only for the pink-haired nurse.

Someone cleared their throat pointedly. Nurse Wright had appeared around the corner, and stood with his hands on his hips. “April, it’s time to move the guy in curtain six.”

Nurse May must have made some kind of face at Wright, because the doctor stifled a laugh, and Wright frowned. “Cammy and I can’t do it on our own, April, come on!”

May huffed. She pouted and caressed the doctor’s arm. “To be continued,” she purred, before flouncing off.

“Sure thing, kitten,” the doctor said back, watching her go with an appreciative gaze.

Nurse Wright narrowed his eyes at the doctor. “Don’t encourage her,” he said before turning away.

Edgeworth would have rolled his eyes, if he was feeling like himself. His mind felt fuzzy and numb, though as the IV drip fed him his fluids, it was becoming sharper by the minute. He was immensely resentful of this.

The man eyed Edgeworth’s chart, and then turned to smile at him, a very lazy and self-assured smile that might be considered rakish or might be considered arrogant.

“Good evening, Mr. Edgeworth,” he said, and he sounded incredibly polite and cheerful, almost like he was talking to a small child. “I’m Dr. Armando, or Diego, if you like. I’m going to suture your wounds, and we’re going to have a talk. Though I’ve been made to understand you’re not in a talking mood?”

Edgeworth fixed his gaze on the ceiling.

“I see,” said Armando, with a tone at least 80% less compassionate than Wright’s. “Well, don’t expect us to be mind readers.” He used a flashlight to look in Edgeworth’s eyes, and then listened to his heart and lungs. Then he stepped away and came back with a stool.

He sat near Edgeworth’s bed and started carefully unwrapping his right wrist. “Depending on what your blood test says, if you don’t tell me anything, I’ll have to keep you here until a bed opens up in psych. If you cooperate, though, you might be home by sunrise.”

Edgeworth looked over at his exposed wrist. The EMTs had haphazardly closed the wound with a number of butterfly bandages, but blood still seeped out.

“Not bad,” said Armando. “Certainly dramatic. But you missed your target. I’m going to go out on a limb, Mr. Edgeworth, and say you didn’t know what you were doing.”

A barb like that would usually have him recoiling in fury. Now he just sighed. Add it to the long list of failures, he thought.

“I’m giving you a local anesthetic,” Armando said. “This is going to pinch.”

It did pinch, slightly, and there were more pinches down his wrist. Edgeworth looked back up at the ceiling as the doctor worked. He felt his skin tighten, but no pain. A curious thing, not unpleasant.

“That’s a nice shirt, Mr. Edgeworth,” the doctor went on. “You know, our psych ward is full, and so are the psych rooms here in the ER. It’s no place for a man in your condition to convalesce. If you talk to me, we can probably transfer you to a private facility that will be much more your style.”

They were quiet a moment. Suddenly a SNAP startled Edgeworth, and he flinched away, staring at the doctor in bewilderment.

“Thought so,” Armando said, frowning. He had finished stitching the wound, removed his gloves, and snapped his fingers by his patient’s ear. “Mr. Edgeworth, if you can understand me, you have to give me some indication. Otherwise I’m going to have to run some other tests that you’ll find unnecessary and unpleasant.”

Edgeworth glared.

Armando glared right back.

“You’re staying in my ED until a room opens in psych,” he said after a pointed pause. “That could take days. If you speak with us, we can probably discharge you somewhere nicer. Do. You. Understand?”

Edgeworth breathed harder, felt his blood move faster. This whole fruitless effort was to avoid ever having to speak to others ever again.

Stubbornly, he screwed his eyes shut. Finally, he nodded.

“Are you capable of speaking?” the doctor demanded.

Another hesitant nod.

“I’m admitting you on a psych hold. You’ll be here at least three days. If you’re lucky, some of those days will be upstairs.”

Edgeworth turned away.

Armando sighed. “Oh, shit,” he muttered, and stood from his stool. He gently placed Edgeworth’s stitched up arm on the bed. “You stay put. If that nosy little nurse sees I lost another—”

“Dr. Armando?” Nurse Wright appeared again. “What’s wrong?”

Armando, looking on the ground, grunted. “I lost the needle,” he mumbled.

Wright pursed his lips, but knelt down to assist with searching.

Suddenly, Edgeworth was overcome with bizarre mirth over this ridiculous fucking situation. Two grown men, professionals of their field, searching for a lost needle like a grandmother over her quilting. Only the quilt had been his flesh.

He covered his face as his body was wracked with silent laughter.

“Edgeworth!” Nurse Wright cried. “Mr. Edgeworth, what’s wrong?” He pulled the patient’s hands away from his face.

“I’m… I’m laughing…!” Edgeworth choked out. Wright’s face positively melted in relief.

“I thought you were having a seizure!” he cried.

“Calm down, Trite.” Armando stood. “I found it. Here. Fetch me another.”

“Yes, doctor,” Wright mumbled, taking away the discarded needle.

Edgeworth took a few shaky breaths to calm his random, foolish mirth, as the doctor pulled his bed out from the wall and turned it.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Armando. “Laugh at the foolish doctor. Got you to talk.”

Edgeworth shut up in a hurry, all laughter leaving him cold. The doctor pushed his bed against the wall so he was facing the other way, and sat on the stool to work on his left wrist.

Wright returned with fresh tools, and hovered nearby as Armando unwrapped the wrist. The doctor finally looked up at him in annoyance. “Do you need something, Trite?”

“You said I could observe your sutures.”

“You helped with that other patient’s head laceration,” Armando grumbled.

“Oh,” said Wright. “Well, when I see Chief for lunch this week, maybe instead of telling her how you let me help with sutures, I’ll tell her how well you and April have been getting on.”

Edgeworth found himself looking up at Nurse Wright again. He found it hard not to look at Wright, in fact. That tip-of-the-tongue familiarity was maddening.

Armando grunted. “Fine. Here.”

Nurse Wright beamed, then turned that gentle, kind smile on Edgeworth. “I’m giving you the local anesthetic, Mr. Edgeworth,” he repeated the doctor’s words from earlier. “This’ll pinch a bit, but then it will feel better.”

He administered the shots, tongue poking out in studious concentration, and Edgeworth kept watching his face.

“Nurse Wright here is thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner,” Dr. Armando said in that fake, cheerful tone as he started stitching Edgeworth’s wrist. “Then he’ll be able to stitch up wounds and prescribe medicine and almost be a real doctor.”

Nurse Wright rolled his eyes, which were large and dark and hopeful, even in an emergency room in downtown Los Angeles on a Saturday night. “Then I’ll be able to take some work off Dr. Armando’s hands, so he has more time to flirt with nurses.”

“Hey!”

Insomuch as he felt anything, Edgeworth was surprised the doctor would allow such unprofessionalism. But later, he’d realize Armando had been glancing between Edgeworth and Wright, and had perhaps been encouraging it.

For now, Nurse Wright smiled brightly, watching intently as Armando stitched the wound closed. “Soon Dr. Armando is going to let me stitch a wound at his direction, which is all I’m allowed to do as an RN.”

“If you keep your mouth shut.”

“He’s dating a very good friend of mine,” Wright explained. “But don’t worry, if he was actually cheating on her, I’d tell her right away.” He winked at Edgeworth, whose throat tightened suddenly.

“Phoenix!!!” a woman wailed from around the corner. It sounded like Nurse May.

“I should go,” Wright said sadly.

“Alright, kitten,” Armando said breezily. “Next laceration is yours.”

Nurse Wright beamed at the doctor, then at Edgeworth, then he was off.

Edgeworth was stuck on kitten. He scowled.

Armando finished up with the wound. He watched Wright walk off, then caught Edgeworth’s scowl.

“A lot of hot nurses work here, Mr. Edgeworth,” he said as he packed up his tools. “Nothing wrong with looking.”

Edgeworth stubbornly turned his face to the ceiling.

Armando chuckled. “We’re both men, Mr. Edgeworth. I saw how you looked at Nurse Wright, and I know what it means.”

Edgeworth closed his eyes.

“I’m happy to see it,” the doctor went on, “because it means that when you’re not in one of your little dissociative states, you’re right here with us, and that’s a good sign. So I’m going to help you out.”

He leaned in to speak quietly, conspiratorially. “You’re in luck, because Wright plays for the same team you do. But I’d be careful, because he’s dating a lawyer, and you know how they can be. They certainly make terrible patients.”

In another life, Edgeworth would have been horrified for a number of reasons. As it was, he simply had no idea what to do with this information. It was in one ear and out the other.

Armando straightened and talked normally. “I’ll see you again when your blood test comes back. Wright will bandage your wounds. Get some rest, Mr. Edgeworth.”

He went away, and Edgeworth heard him talking to the young woman with the head wound.

Without Nurse Wright there to helplessly stare at, Edgeworth eventually drifted off elsewhere.

When Edgeworth next returned to himself, he realized he had no idea what time it was, and how long his mental diversions elsewhere had lasted. It could have been a mere hour or two that he’d been in the emergency room hallway. It could have been days.

His IV bag was at a lower level than the last time he’d noticed, but not by very much. Unless they had changed it in the meantime, he’d only been here a few hours.

The young woman with the head wound was gone, along with the smelly, snoring man. There were new patients. A middle aged man who looked like he’d started a fight and lost, sitting on his bed with his arms crossed and a scowl on his bloodied face. A teenaged girl who had apparently had too much to drink, and lolled on her bed with an IV in her arm. She had two friends crowding around her bed, talking softly, occasionally giggling nervously. And there was an old man who rocked back and forth on his bed, groaning loudly.

But the groaning was not what had roused Edgeworth.

“Give me a break, pal!” A familiar voice shouted around the corner. “I’m his friend!”

Panicked horror rushed through Edgeworth. He shot up straight in his bed, and immediately started thinking about how to remove the IV and the embarrassing condom apparatus so that he might flee. The only thing that stayed his hand was the presence of the three very young ladies, who certainly didn’t need to be exposed to his worthless manhood this evening.

Nurse Wright came around the corner at a hurried pace. “Mr. Edgeworth!” he stage whispered. “Shh, please, don’t get excited!”

“How— how did he find me?” Edgeworth gasped, his voice small and raspy.

“Your friend?” Nurse Wright gently placed a hand on his shoulder. Edgeworth realized he was trembling all over. “He was the one who called 911. He said he got some weird texts from you. He got to your place after the EMTs had taken you and he… well, he saw the whole scene you left behind.”

Of course. Even in the frazzled state he’d been in, Edgeworth must have sent some last messages tying up loose ends at work. He must have made some foolish, Freudian slip, and Gumshoe was just good enough a detective in this case to piece it together.

“He didn’t know what hospital you’d been taken to, so he’s been driving all over trying to find you.” Nurse Wright pulled another blanket from the stack he’d left under Edgeworth’s bed, and draped him in it. He rubbed Edgeworth’s back to warm him. “And… he said something about a dog?”

“No!” Edgeworth cried. “She was already dead. I mean…!” Edgeworth was choking now, and breathing hard, and tears were starting to come. How ridiculous. He hadn’t even cried when he was attacking himself with a knife. “My dog, Pess. She died some months ago. I didn’t leave her. I wouldn’t.”

“I know. You love dogs.” Nurse Wright rubbed his back for another moment. “Your friend thought you were dead. He’s beside himself.”

“I do not want to see him.”

“Okay. I’ll tell him.”

Well… that was easier than Edgeworth was anticipating. He was still sitting up in bed, clutching his knees, when Nurse Wright returned.

“Your friend wants to know if he should call your sister?” Wright looked and sounded surprised, like he had when he read Edgeworth’s name on his chart.

Edgeworth froze.

“I do not want to see her,” he finally said.

“I understand. It’s okay, we don’t want a bunch of visitors down here anyway.” The nurse stroked his back again softly. “But seeing her and letting her know you’re here are two different things, right?”

Edgeworth shivered and sniffled. Eventually he relented. “He may call her.”

Nurse Wright smiled and squeezed his shoulder.

Edgeworth lay back down and pulled the blanket over his head. It wasn’t long before Wright came back again, and gently touched his arm.

“I’m going to bandage your wrists,” he said, and Edgeworth reluctantly lowered the blanket.

What a tedious day. Back and forth, nurses and doctors, and his useless self in the middle, taking up expensive resources.

The EMTs should have let him die. Gumshoe should not have called 911.

He should not have sent those weird texts.

After the rush of horror and panic and shame subsided, he was quite happily settling back down into numbness. If they insisted on saving his life, he’d have to find a way to stay in this state of feeling nothing at all. Perhaps they’d have a drug for it.

Nurse Wright used some sort of saline solution and cotton balls to clean the remaining blood on Edgeworth’s arms, and from around the stitches.

“Dr. Armando has his days, but he does very nice sutures,” Nurse Wright said admiringly.

Edgeworth only stared at him.

“This is my favourite part,” Nurse Wright went on. “Cleaning, I mean. It’s probably the bulk of what nurses do, at least down here, but I like it.”

The man could certainly chatter, and it was annoying. But Edgeworth watched his face, and his expressive eyes, and found it kept him from slipping away elsewhere.

“I want to get my master’s and be an NP basically just so I can stitch wounds,” Nurse Wright chuckled. “Diagnosing isn’t as interesting to me. It just seems like so much detective work, and I’m not actually that interested in science. I’d just like to stitch up a wound and keep it clean so the person can heal. I could do that all day long.”

He put a thick pad against the clean, dry stitches, and started wrapping it tightly with clean gauze.

“What are you up to these days, Edgeworth?” he asked. “What do you do for work?”

Edgeworth still watched him, but said nothing, his face blank and stony. No more foolish tears or sniffles.

Nurse Wright only smiled gently. “I don’t mind placing lines, either,” he went on, ignoring that Edgeworth had ignored his question. “That was the thing I was most worried about when I started, because I didn’t see how I could do it without hurting someone. Now it’s easy. Same with taking blood. It depends on the veins, though. You were a breeze. You have beautiful veins.”

Edgeworth didn’t respond.

Nurse Wright screwed up his face. “Phoenix, you’re going to get written up,” he muttered. He finished bandaging Edgeworth’s wrist, and gathered his materials. “I’m sorry if that was weird. And I don’t mean to come off as one of those nurses who never shuts up about being a nurse. I was just hoping you’d talk again, and I didn’t know what conversation to make.”

He covered Edgeworth in the blanket again, and Edgeworth resisted snuggling down into them.

“Maybe next time I’ll try the mean nurse routine,” Wright said. “Some people respond to that. Get some rest, Mr. Edgeworth.”

When Dr. Armando next came to speak to him, Edgeworth’s mind had not even fled elsewhere.

“Ah, still with us, Mr. Edgeworth?” drawled Armando, smirking that lazy, arrogant smirk. “Got your blood test results. The EMTs said they didn’t see any pills, but you fooled them, didn’t you?”

Edgeworth closed his eyes.

“Well, unfortunately for you, but perhaps luckily for this hospital, you didn’t take enough codeine to actually do any damage. At worst, you may have hurt your liver about as much as a few nights of heavy drinking.”

Edgeworth sighed quietly. He only vaguely remembered taking the pills. He must have thought they’d make his assault upon himself easier.

“Other than that, you’re in decent shape. Blood sugar is the tiniest bit on the low side, so I’ll have something brought to you.” Armando stared down at Edgeworth. “I know you probably don’t feel like eating. Maybe you can get Wright to hand feed you.” He winked and stalked off, while Edgeworth clenched his teeth.

Soon, Nurse Wright returned with yet another buxom female nurse, this one with sleepy eyes and an abundance of long, blonde hair. Wright smiled brightly at Edgeworth as they pulled his bed from the wall and pushed it along.

“Finally got a partition free for you,” he said cheerfully. “It’s no nice, quiet room upstairs, but you’ll have a bit of privacy at least.”

It was a marked improvement, being in a small, cozy, cordoned off area. It almost felt like being in a room. Though the emergency room was still noisy, there was an illusion of privacy that was calming, and the lights were dimmer, since he had a lamp that Wright turned off.

“Aaaand,” Nurse Wright continued as the blonde nurse slipped away, leaving them alone together. “I have a surprise for you! Your friend came back with some pyjamas.” He gestured to a chair near Edgeworth’s bed, which had a paper bag presumably full of clothes.

Edgeworth was puzzled.

“I hope you’re not stuck here too long, but if you are, then a change of clothes will help a lot,” the nurse continued. “Let me know when you feel up for it and I’ll help you change with all these lines. Okay?”

Edgeworth was still frowning at the bag of clothes. Gumshoe had been concerned that he was dying, called 911, and arrived at his home to find nothing but blood. He’d driven all over town trying to find him, been barred from seeing him, and still went all the way back to fetch clean pyjamas for him? What kind of rube would bother with all that?

“In the meantime, the doctor wants you fed. We don’t get hot food down here, but I’ll see what’s in the canteen. You sit tight.”

He left Edgeworth staring at the clothes. Edgeworth huddled up under his blankets, and let himself enjoy, in a matter of speaking, the relative darkness of his little area.

He heard someone groaning, and realized the nurses were wheeling the unfortunate old man from the hallway to the area next to him. He sighed. So much for peace and quiet.

The old man was carrying on, and seemed to be in a great deal of pain. “I know, Mr. Kudo,” he heard Nurse Wright saying. “We’ll take care of you.”

He tried not to eavesdrop, but it was hard when it was right next to him. Dr. Armando carried out an exam, and the old man grumbled and shouted and complained the whole time.

“Three mikes of morphine,” Edgeworth heard Dr. Armando saying quietly. “Every four hours. Nothing else and nothing sooner.”

“Got it,” said Nurse Wright.

“I’m going to try to track down the GI surgeon and get to the bottom of this. I need a freaking coffee.” Armando grumbled.

After several minutes, the old man’s groaning quieted down. “I’ll be back at 7:00 for another dose, Mr. Kudo,” said Nurse Wright. “Let me know if you need anything before then.”

He mumbled something in response, and the curtains rustled, and Nurse Wright must have finally left for the canteen.

“Dinner time!” he said cheerfully when he came back. “I found a sandwich and a fruit cup. Your lucky night!”

Edgeworth looked at Wright, as he could not resist doing, but pointedly did not acknowledge the food.

Nurse Wright placed the food on a tray that he wheeled over Edgeworth’s bed, and raised the bed so Edgeworth was sitting upright.

“Most people in the ED don’t even get to eat, unless they have a friend bring them something.”

Edgeworth pointedly looked away. He had lost his appetite days ago, and nothing that had happened tonight brought it back.

“Alright,” sighed Nurse Wright. “Guess it’s time for the mean nurse routine.” He straightened up and frowned. “Mr. Edgeworth, I have two rules here. All my patients are clean, and all my patients follow doctor’s orders. The doctor said you have to eat, and neither you or I can do anything to change that.”

Edgeworth almost smirked. Wright’s “mean nurse” routine was entirely too soft and adorable to be effective. Maybe in a few years he thought charitably.

Nurse Wright glared at him, or at least tried to. “If you stay on this dumb little hunger strike long enough, the doctor will tell me to put in a nose tube and you’ll be force fed. I don’t like to do it, and it’ll be extremely unpleasant for you, but doctor’s orders are doctor’s orders.”

Edgeworth scowled. He already had a line feeding him fluids and another line taking his fluids away because he failed to care for himself in the most basic of manners.

This appeal to what remained of his pride worked. He grudgingly took the fruit cup off his little tray and opened it.

“Good!” He was rewarded with one of Nurse Wright’s bright smiles, which was too much to look at.

The nurse brought Edgeworth a styrofoam cup of water, and stayed with him for a while. He watched Edgeworth eat, despite the glares Edgeworth kept shooting him.

Thankfully, there was another commotion out in the main room, with lots of shouting and banging of doors and machinery beeping. Nurse Wright gave him an apologetic look, and left.

Edgeworth made a good faith effort on the sandwich and the fruit cup, but they tasted like cardboard in his mouth, and the whole business of chewing and swallowing was such a chore. He finally pushed the tray away with both items half-eaten. He considered hiding the food somewhere so they would think he’d eaten it all, but he decided Wright would be too clever to fall for that.

He sighed. His bed was still upright, so it was hard to rest, and he couldn’t be bothered to figure out how to lower it.

The commotion continued outside his curtain. It appeared to be an all-hands-on-deck situation.

Edgeworth was stuck without his phone, or anything to read, and his mind was finally not taking refuge elsewhere. He could do nothing but sit and think, which was the last thing he wanted to do, and his brain soon began to get noisy.

Edgeworth prided himself on his orderly, logical thinking, but lately things had been so spotty and confused. He’d realized he simply couldn’t remember vast sections of his teenaged years, and more and more often he’d been “checking out,” as Gumshoe called it, sometimes even in the middle of cases.

When Pess died, it all suddenly got several magnitudes worse. Edgeworth couldn’t bear it. He was losing his mind, and if he did not have his rational, logical mind, then he truly had nothing.

Whatever crisis was occupying the ER staff went on for goodness knows how long. The fuzzy noise in Edgeworth’s head grew louder.

He realized he had no idea where Nurse Wright had taken his trousers. He might not have had his belt on anyway, as he remembered putting away his jacket, waistcoat, and cravat before commencing his assault.

He had his shoes, which might still be stashed under his gurney, unless Nurse Wright had secreted them away somewhere. Shoelaces? No. Edgeworth had seen enough strangulation cases to know it was very difficult to pull off, and one had to be extremely dedicated. He wasn’t dedicated enough to find his arteries.

There must be enough drugs around here to do the trick, he thought, but immediately dismissed it. They were likely locked up, and he was surrounded by health care professionals who knew what they were doing, when he hadn’t even taken enough codeine to do any real damage. It must’ve looked like he’d gotten all his cues from Hollywood films, like a fool.

So much for an orderly, logical mind.

In any case, Edgeworth was beginning to think he didn’t actually want to go through the gruesome action of killing himself.

He just didn’t want this life.

Edgeworth was sleepily sinking into numbness again, just in time— he was dangerously close to the sluggish sort of gloom that had plagued him since early adolescence. A dissociative state sounded marvellous right about now.

But as the crisis in the ER was winding down, the unfortunate old man in the next curtain over started moaning, getting louder in volume until he was howling in pain.

“Nurse! Nurse!”

Nurse Wright was in the area immediately. “Yes, Mr. Kudo?”

“Morphine! Please!” the old man cried. “You said you’d give me more ages ago!”

“It’s barely been an hour, Mr. Kudo,” Nurse Wright said, with infinite patience. “The doctor said you could have it at 7:00, and it’s only 4:00 now.”

“You’re lying! It’s been hours! You said I could have it! It hurts so bad!”

He moaned loudly, and Edgeworth heard his bed rattle as he rocked back and forth. He certainly sounded like he was in pain. He sounded frail and desperate, and surely a soft, bright-smiled man like Wright would cave to such distress.

To Edgeworth’s surprise, Nurse Wright didn’t even sigh. “Sir, the doctor said you can have more morphine at 7:00 and you will, I promise.”

“You’re all trying to kill me! Where is that beaner doctor, anyway? Probably taking a nap instead of doing his job!”

Edgeworth’s brow raised. He might have been sullen and uncooperative with Dr. Armando, but surely slurs were uncalled for.

“Mr. Kudo, please don’t speak about Dr. Armando that way,” Wright said firmly. “He’s working with the specialists to figure out what’s wrong. Your scan didn’t show anything, and he’s running all over trying to get you help.”

“He wants me to die! You’re all trying to kill me!” The old man sounded panicked and wheezy.

There was rustling, and Edgeworth thought Nurse Wright must have been trying to hold the belligerent old man down.

“Give me that dilada stuff! The morphine doesn’t work!” the old man spat.

“The doctor gave you morphine for a reason,” Nurse Wright pleaded. “Please try to rest!”

“Don’t touch me, you homo!”

SMACK!

Edgeworth shot up straight. Had the old man slapped Wright?

“You’re probably in cahoots with that beaner! You’re trying to kill me! You like seeing me in pain!”

Edgeworth had heard enough. He clutched his gown around his lower half, took hold of his IV pole, and marched over to the curtain, which was luckily within reach of his cath line.

“Sir!” he commanded as he ripped open the curtain. Nurse Wright and the old man both gaped at him. “Please cease your tirade! It is indeed 4:00 AM. I assure you that Nurse Wright can tell time correctly. The doctor said you would have your drug again at 7:00 and not a moment sooner. You heard it, I heard it, and so did everyone else in the vicinity!”

“You—!” the old man gasped indignantly, but Edgeworth gave him his full courtroom glower that usually cowed lying witnesses.

“I understand you are having a bad night, sir, but there’s no need to take it out on this young man. He has no power to decide your treatments. And lest you accuse him of conspiracy again, I should tell you that I am a prosecutor for the county of Los Angeles, and we take false allegations very seriously.”

The old man blinked, then scrunched up his face, and turned away to hide under his blankets, muttering hatefully.

Nurse Wright stared at Edgeworth, who closed the curtain and went to sit on his bed.

“I can bring you some Tylenol,” Edgeworth heard Nurse Wright say after a moment. The old man murmured softly. He did not shake the bed anymore.

There was a few more moments of murmuring, and the old man sobbing quietly, and then going silent.

Nurse Wright came into Edgeworth’s area.

“Hey, uh, thanks,” he said. “You didn’t have to do that, though. I can take care of myself.”

Edgeworth looked away.

“Guess I owe you another one,” Nurse Wright muttered, so quietly that perhaps Edgeworth was not meant to hear.

He didn’t wish to talk anymore, but he felt a certain duty. “If he hit you, you should report it to the police.”

Wright huffed a little laugh. “Nah, I’ll save that for the big stuff. This was like a warning swipe from a cat, you know? Even if he’s not really in pain, he thinks he’s in pain, which is just as bad a place to be.”

“He shouldn’t have used that language,” Edgeworth said, and it was the last thing he wanted to say on the subject.

Wright smiled gently. “Thank you. I think he knows that. Since you’re up, want to get changed?”

Edgeworth nodded.

Nurse Wright unhooked the IV from the port in Edgeworth’s arm, and while Edgeworth shrugged out of his bloodied white shirt, Wright got a pyjama top out of the paper bag. He helped him shrug it on. Edgeworth did up the buttons, and Wright pulled something else out of the bag.

“Aww, cute doggo. Should I put these out?”

He was holding two picture frames. Pess looked out cheerfully from one. The other was likely Edgeworth and Franziska on the day she was called to the bar. Gumshoe must have taken them from his mantle.

He shook his head.

Nurse Wright fed his cath bag through one leg of his pyjama pants, and looked away while Edgeworth pulled them on. It did feel a little better to be in one’s own, clean clothes.

Wright connected his IV line. “So you’re a prosecutor now? Thought I saw something about that, but figured it was a mistake.”

Edgeworth frowned.

“Not talking to me again, huh? And I was so excited to tell Dr. Armando.”

He tidied the remains of Edgeworth’s meal. “Solid effort on eating! I was hoping for a few bites of fruit at the most. Thanks.”

He lowered Edgeworth’s bed and pulled the blankets up for him. “When was the last time you slept, Edgeworth?”

Edgeworth shrugged. He stared at the ceiling.

“I can bring you a sedative if you’d like.”

Edgeworth considered it, then shook his head. He was afraid it would make the nightmares worse.

“Oh, I thought I saw… your friend brought earplugs!” Nurse Wright fished again in the paper bag, and produced a drug store package of bright orange ear plugs.

After a moment, Edgeworth nodded. He really wanted to tell Nurse Wright that he and Gumshoe were not friends, but it looked like he would have to tell Gumshoe that first.

He took the earplugs and stuffed them in his ears. Then he settled under the covers and pulled them over his head.

Edgeworth wasn’t sure when he fell asleep. He might have dissociated first, but eventually he started dreaming. For the first time in weeks, it was not a nightmare. It was warm and he felt calm. Pess was there.

Edgeworth’s first dog Arnie died when Edgeworth was about six years old. He took Arnie’s death very hard, because he was only just starting to understand death, and he barely remembered his mother. Arnie had been there before Edgeworth was born, and sort of represented his mother, in that when he died, Edgeworth understood that his mother was dead, too.

A few weeks after Arnie passed, he had a dream that Arnie simply walked through his bedroom door and cuddled with him. It felt like Arnie was visiting him to say goodbye.

His next dog was Atticus, who was with him through his father’s death, and the upheaval of moving away to a new family. At first, Manfred directed his unpleasantness at Atticus, calling him a filthy mongrel, making him sleep outside, and finally kicking him out of his way. When Edgeworth stood up to this last cruelty, it only caused Manfred’s rage to rain down on him instead. This continued until Atticus died, but Edgeworth did not resent him for it. He deserved the poor treatment, as far as he was concerned, and Atticus did not.

He saw it as good training, because at this point, Manfred was starting to belittle and rage at Franziska. Edgeworth had foolishly thought her immune, being Manfred’s biological child, but he was mistaken. By now, it was a habit to step in and direct Manfred’s ire away from her. Loving Atticus had been practice for loving Franziska.

He’d had similar dreams when Atticus died. The dog came to visit him a few times, let the young man pet him and cry into his fur. He forgave Edgeworth for allowing Manfred to hurt him at all, and said goodbye.

(Edgeworth did not believe in ghosts, of course. He knew this was simply his mind healing after the loss of his beloved pets. The only dreams he’d had about his father were those terrible nightmares. He deduced that this was because he knew deep down that he’d done something to cause his father’s death, and he could never be forgiven.)

By and large, Pess had a better life than either Arnie or Atticus. Edgeworth had more disposable income than his parents did, and Pess had a professional dog walker who regularly took her on adventure walks to the beach and the mountains. She had the finest gourmet dog food, access to better veterinary resources, and certainly no deranged old man kicking her whenever he felt like it.

Edgeworth had not dreamed of Pess since she had died three months ago. Maybe because he understood her death was “good,” a long life well lived, passing away at home in her sleep at an age ancient for dogs. Or maybe it was because he could barely sleep at all.

In this dream, he was in his childhood home, in the small back garden, and it was warm and bright. He felt hydrated, and well fed, and his brain was not fuzzy and noisy.

The back gate opened, and Arnie and Atticus bounded through, youthful pups yapping in excitement.

“You two,” he said fondly. He knelt down to pet them both. They wagged their tails happily. “Yes, hello. I’ve missed you, too. Oh, my silly boys.”

The back gate creaked again, and Pess emerged, her tongue lolling out joyfully. Her yellow fur was so shiny she was positively glowing.

“Oh, Pess. Hello, darling,” said Edgeworth.

The other two dogs stepped away as Pess shuffled down the garden towards him. He wondered why she was still old and stately, why she had not been restored to youth like the other two had, even in his dream. Regardless, she was beautiful, and his chest hurt at the sight of her.

“Gorgeous girl. How I’ve missed you.” He was crying now, and he sat fully on the ground.

Pess walked into his arms, and nuzzled him. Her weight felt delightful. He petted and kissed her, and she looked up at him guiltily.

“Now, now,” he scolded. "You mustn’t think this had anything to do with you. You are a good dog, the best dog. It was my own stupid choice, Pess. Please do not blame yourself.”

“You shouldn’t blame yourself either, Miles,” a familiar voice said behind him.

Edgeworth turned and only saw the briefest glimpse. “Father…?”

Curtains rattled on their pole. Edgeworth snapped awake.

“Oh shit,” Nurse Wright whispered. “Were you asleep? Did I wake you?”

Edgeworth blinked and scowled. He saw an orange ear plug lying on his chest. It must have fallen out in his sleep.

Nurse Wright looked mortified. “I was trying to be quiet. I’m sorry. You really need your rest.”

Edgeworth shook his head. How was Wright to know? He looked around in confusion. There was a sealed bottle of water and a muffin wrapped in cling film on his tray.

Nurse Wright shoved his hand in his pockets. He was wearing a hoodie over his scrubs. “It’s almost noon on Sunday. You came in around midnight last night. Does that help?”

Edgeworth looked away, but he didn’t wish to be rude. He nodded.

“I wanted to let you know my shift is done. April was done a while ago, too. So Rhoda will be looking after you.” Nurse Wright shifted on his feet. “Dr. Fey will be here soon. She’s the psychiatrist. Talk to her if you won’t talk to me, okay?”

Edgeworth closed his eyes.

“Tonight’s my night off,” said Nurse Wright. “So I won’t see you. And hopefully you’ll be feeling better and on your way by my next shift, right?”

Edgeworth pulled the covers over his head.

“Bye, Edgeworth,” Nurse Wright said softly. “Take care.”

Chapter Text

The next day was very bad for Miles Edgeworth.

He wasn’t entirely sure what was happening either in his brain or in the emergency room. But it seemed every quarter inch of progress he had made since arriving here— allowing them to care for him, eating, speaking up in Nurse Wright’s defence— was wiped out by a very sudden, spiralling descent back into the madness that had brought him here.

He only knew, afterwards, what he was told. His memory was a blank space. Gumshoe, the fool, had tried to visit again, and Edgeworth was apparently so overcome with panic that he had fled to the bathroom he had avoided so carefully before. There, he tore off his bandages, ripped out his IV, and fruitlessly tried to open his stitches.

He was very easily apprehended and sedated. He woke up back in the same small curtained area in the emergency room a long time later— apparently even now, there wasn’t enough room for him in the psych ward. In another life, he would have felt foolish and embarrassed. Without Gumshoe, or anyone else he knew, around, he once again felt nothing.

The doctor tried to speak with him again, as well as a psychiatrist, who was a surprisingly young woman. He simply lay hunched over and didn’t answer them. He didn’t remember what they said to him, only that Gumshoe would not be trying to visit without an invitation again.

But it’s not like Gumshoe was ever the problem. The problem was always in Edgeworth.

Dr. Fey prescribed him something, but when Teneiro, the nurse with the old fashioned cap, came in to give it to him, he just turned away and ignored her. Her nervousness put him on edge, which seemed to make her even more nervous. She just put the pills on his tray and mercifully left him alone. Since two small pills would hardly be enough to kill him, Edgeworth didn’t bother taking them.

At some point, long after Edgeworth had lost his grip on what day or time it was, the curtains rustled. “Hey, you’re still here!” said a familiar voice.

Edgeworth cracked an eye open.

Nurse Wright smiled at him gently. “I was kind of hoping you’d have moved on by now,” he said.

Edgeworth managed a shrug, but looked away.

Nurse Wright settled himself into a nearby chair. He put his chin in his hands and regarded Edgeworth.

Edgeworth stared back at him.

“I’m a little early for my shift,” explained Wright.

Edgeworth huffed a sigh. He had other questions. Why was I left alone for so long? Shouldn’t I be on suicide watch? Why on earth are psych patients kept in the emergency room for such a blasted long time? But mostly, Why couldn’t I have even killed myself properly?

Even if he were in the speaking mood, he’d never voice that last to Wright, or to anyone.

Wright noticed the little paper cup on Edgeworth’s tray. He picked it up and looked inside. “How long have these been here?” Rightfully not expecting an answer from his patient, he looked at Edgeworth’s chart. “Who gave these to you? Rhoda?”

Edgeworth stared at the ceiling.

“She just left them here? You glared at her, didn’t you.”

No, but now Edgeworth glared at Wright. Wright just smiled back.

“Well, you have to take your pills, Mr. Edgeworth. That glare’s not going to work on me.” He poured a fresh cup of water. “Did anyone explain to you what this is?”

Dr. Fey had, but Edgeworth wasn’t paying attention.

“This is fluoxetine. You might know it as Prozac, but this is a generic. They gave you lorazepam yesterday, which is a benzo. So you tell me if you feel dizzy.” Wright held out the cups to Edgeworth. “You’ll tell me if you feel dizzy, right?”

Edgeworth grudgingly nodded, though he had no intention of doing so.

“These are going to take a week or two to start working,” said Wright.

Edgeworth heaved a large sigh.

“I know that’s a long time to wait. But if you take these now, and you eat something later, then the doctor might give you some lorazepam tonight.” Wright sing-songed the last part.

Edgeworth was fairly certain Wright couldn’t actually make any such promises. He also thought the nurse's feeding tube threat the other day had been a bluff as well. But the idea of another black-out sleep was tempting.

He took the pills and swallowed, drank the cup of water, and made an exaggerated shrug. See? There.

Wright was only smiling at him coyly. “Let me see under your tongue.”

Edgeworth glowered harder.

Wright sighed indulgently. “There’s no point in being prideful, Edgeworth. You’re not my first psych patient. You’re not even my only psych patient today. Let me see under your tongue.”

Edgeworth scowled, and finally brandished his tongue at the bothersome nurse. Then he threw the paper cups at him, crossed his arms, and absolutely did not pout.

Wright had the audacity to laugh, though he at least tried to stifle it. He picked up the paper cups. “Thanks, Edgeworth!” He chirped, and then got his damnably sunny self out of Edgeworth’s area.

If Edgeworth’s count was accurate, he had been in the ER three days. Four, if Wright had two days off work— but that would mean he’d lost more than 24 hours between the panic attack and the benzos, which was a troubling thought. If he could contain that to one day, then he could blame the bulk of it on those delicious drugs, and not have to worry about it too much.

He was starting to feel things again, besides numbness and panic. Anger, mostly, and annoyance. And also the comfort of his personal pyjamas, the taste of a cold cut sandwich in his mouth, a cup of cold water on his lips.

And curiosity, for some reason. He was feeling well enough now to sit up slightly on his bed, and look through the gap in his curtain. He had a prime view of the nurse’s station.

After forcing pills on him, Wright had left him for some time, though Edgeworth could hear snatches of his voice speaking to other patients. Later, Wright came back with his lunch, using the same technique of annoying Edgeworth into eating. Then he once again left him with a maddeningly warm smile.

Edgeworth heard him in the next curtain over for a while, speaking to a woman with laboured breathing. (They had moved that spiteful old man at some point when Edgeworth had been knocked out.) Nurse Wright was with the woman for some time, and if Edgeworth was correct, it sounded like he was washing her feet.

Is that something they do here? Edgeworth wondered what kind of situation she was in that she would need a nurse to wash her feet.

After finishing with the woman, Wright sat in the nurse’s station, slowly typing up some kind of form, and gossiping with the other nurses. The curiosity was biting now, and there was something else. Something Edgeworth couldn’t place.

Another nurse, the one with long blonde hair, walked up to the nurse’s station with a large and garish bouquet of flowers. “Look what Phoenix got,” she sing-songed the same tone Wright had used earlier, drawing her words out childishly.

“Oh my god." Nurse Wright's shoulders went up in embarrassment. Cammy, or whatever her name was, put the flowers on the counter of the nurse’s station.

“Awww!” Nurse May simpered. “Are they from Kristoph?”

“Looks like it.” Wright’s hands were hovering over his mouth as he looked at the flowers.

“To my darling Phoenix,” the pink-haired nurse read the card with a flourish. “May these brighten your day half as much as you brighten mine. Yours forever, Kristophhhhh,” she drew out the name teasingly.

“Why can’t I meet a hot, rich lawyer,” Cammy whined. “I thought the ER would be full of, you know, ambulance chasers.”

Kristoph? A lawyer? Dr. Armando had mentioned to Edgeworth that Nurse Wright was romantically involved with a lawyer, but it had been lost in the murky haze of the last few days.

It couldn’t be. Not Kristoph Gavin. Surely someone of Nurse Wright’s calibre wouldn’t debase themselves with the likes of that smug, slimy defence attorney.

May was saying something caustically cruel about Cammy’s intelligence, but Wright, whom Edgeworth might have expected to put a stop to the bullying, was just staring at his flowers with a large, content smile on his face.

Edgeworth could identify that strange feeling now, and its source. It was that smile. He felt affection from that smile. Comfort. It sparked something foolish and shameful like affection in return.

But all the smiles he’d received from Wright were professional. Compassionate, but professional, and ultimately false. This was something else. Something personal and joyful, and not meant for people like Edgeworth.

There was a pathetic, jealous, ugly feeling rising in Edgeworth that was much stronger than affection, and much more unpleasant.

Now he remembered. It was this sort of feeling that had made him want to stop feeling altogether.

“We’d both been so busy lately,” Wright was saying. “We had an argument today about me working so much overtime. I guess he wanted to apologize.”

“Well I think he earned some overtime of his own tonight,” said Nurse May.

Wright’s smile turned bashful, and his face flushed a pretty shade of pink. The other nurses giggled.

Just like that, all of Edgeworth’s emotions died. He slid back into a comfortable feeling of nothing. His mind was eager to flee Elsewhere, but instead he huffed, and laid back down, and pulled his blanket over his head.

Nurse Wright was unfortunately correct. The pills Dr. Fey had given him were not working, or at least not yet.

He spent an indeterminate amount of hours slipping in and out of fugues and generally being uncooperative. He didn’t dream anymore.

What would he return to when this was all over?

He’d go back to work, he supposed, and his empty home, and put criminals away until the end of time. A worthy occupation, perhaps, but they never stopped. Manfred was never satisfied. His colleagues respected him, but he didn't derive any joy from that anymore.

And eventually he’d have to face Kristoph Gavin in court, and look at that cool, collected smile with the knowledge that he got to go home to the delightful Nurse Wright, while Edgeworth went home to nobody.

He could get another dog, he supposed, and within 10-15 years that dog would die and leave him, too.

Maybe if Edgeworth was completely uncooperative, and allowed his fugues and panic attacks to take over, and made no effort to manage, they’d keep him in the psych ward forever.

But they didn’t do that, did they? These days they put the most helplessly insane out on the street to fend for themselves as soon as the funds ran out.

Oh, hell, he thought. You’ve got money. I’m sure there’s some doctor who would be willing to be paid to keep you locked up and sedated for the rest of your life.

He was jolted to reality when his gurney moved.

“Wha…?” He looked around in bewilderment. Nurse Teneiro was at his side, while some new man pushed him down a hallway.

“You’re going to a room upstairs, Mr. Edgeworth,” she said cheerfully, and nervously. He caught her nerves like a cold. He wouldn’t be missing her.

“W… Wright?” he managed.

She looked quizzical. “Nurse Wright’s off shift. He said goodbye when you were signing your intake forms, remember?”

That was troubling. Edgeworth had lost chunks of time before, but according to Gumshoe, he would just sit and stare. He wasn’t talking and signing important papers. He was getting worse, and he was pretty certain he couldn’t blame that on benzos or Prozac.

“Wait…” he bleared, still confused, still not entirely on this planet, still half in the haze of his own sadness. “Where’s Wright?”

“He’s gone home,” Teneiro said patiently. “You’ll get a new nurse upstairs. And with luck, you’ll never see Wright again.” She smiled at him.

On some level, Edgeworth knew this was emergency room humour. The never wanted to see him again in the kindest way possible.

On another level, he felt cold and panicked. Why hadn’t he considered this before? Not only would he have to carry on living like this, but he’d likely seen the last of Nurse Wright. For some foolish, stupid reason, it filled him with dread.

If the emergency room was a crowded, underfunded cesspit, the psych ward was not the vast improvement Edgeworth might have imagined it would be.

It was clean, at least, or it had the benefit of not being overrun with all types trampling about. It looked a bit like a hotel. A cheap hotel, but still.

It was not quiet. There was shouting in other rooms, and crying. There were a few nurses around who looked exhausted and wholly apathetic.

He was brought to a room with two beds, and told to get off his gurney. There was a window facing outside, with gauzy white curtains, and an interior window to the hallway, with Venetian blinds that were currently open.

They had removed his condom cath and his IV port, apparently, before moving him. They evidently felt he was well enough to take care of his basic needs again.

And, well… he could, couldn't he? There was a small private bathroom, and he used the facilities, and then spitefully washed his hands.

He looked at the shower a long time. It was strangely nice to have a private bathroom again, after the public sick room of the ER. This shower had many bars and assistive devices on it that looked rather intimidating, though.

Edgeworth was starting to get rank. His hair was dirty and his scalp itched. But he couldn't be bothered. He didn't feel like a clean, tidy person inside, so who cared?

When he got out of the bathroom, a strange-looking man with a grubby white lab coat was standing at the foot of Edgeworth's bed.

"Ahhh, Mr. Edgeworth, I presume?" The man had a manic grin and terrible teeth. "Sit down, hmm, hmmmm. Let's take a look at you."

Edgeworth obeyed, awkwardly sitting on his new bed.

The doctor peered down at him with an unsteady gaze. "You look like a healthy young man, hmmm!" He was wringing his hands in a vaguely upsetting manner.

"Erm… forgive me. I was under the impression that I would be under Dr. Fey's care," Edgeworth said hesitantly.

"Ooooh, yes!" the doctor sighed lustily. "If only we could all be under Dr. Fey's, hmmm, care. She does have considerable talents, hmmm!" He made grabby, groping hand gestures. Edgeworth's stomach turned.

"Now, now, Mr. Hotti," said a new voice. "Leave the poor man alone."

"Nurse!" the strange man exclaimed. His tics continued, and his lecherous breathing deepened. "I've asked you to call me doctor, please. Especially in front of the new, hmm, patients!"

The nurse, a very short, impish-looking woman in her 50s, gave the man a knowing smile. "That would be confusing for everyone, Mr. Hotti, and you know it."

Hotti lurched over to her. "Are there any other new patients for me to examine, hmm? This one's a man."

"No," she said. "But your show's about to start. I've already put the TV on the right channel for you."

"Hmm!" the man staggered out of the room without a backwards glance.

Edgeworth felt like melting away onto the floor. How embarrassing.

"Don't feel bad," the jolly nurse said, eyes twinkling as she smiled at him. "It's human nature to believe the authority of anybody wearing a white lab coat."

He raised a brow at her.

"He keeps stealing them. It was just easier to let him keep that one. He's harmless, really. If he's bothering you, just use that call button there." She gestured at the remote near his bed.

That man is my roommate?! he thought in alarm, suddenly missing the noise of the emergency room.

The nurse fussed around the room. "Now, we've put your shoes and clothes in a locker, you'll get them later. I see you have some extra pyjamas there." She gestured approvingly at the brown paper bag that was sitting on a nearby chair. "We have a nice robe and some slippers for you. Dr. Fey will talk to you later on. For now, you just relax." She went over to a closet to get out a thin, plastic-wrapped, blue bathrobe.

Edgeworth slumped over. In addition to embarrassment, he was feeling slightly ashamed at having this old lady wait on him like this. He didn't need it. You’re not unwell, like that Hotti fellow. You're just lazy. You don't deserve to be taking up room lounging around here.

The nurse got up on her tiptoes to hang his robe on the wall nearby.

"You don't need to do that for me, Nurse, uhm…"

The woman smiled brightly. "Go ahead and call me Bikini, sweetheart, everybody does!"

Bikini? the image that conjured up left Edgeworth momentarily dumbstruck, but at least his mind was quiet.

The old nurse caught his look. "Oh, ho, ho!" she laughed. "That's how all the young men look when they hear my name. Believe it or not, I was quite the peach in my day. Back then you could only be a nurse if you were a sexy nurse." She did a little shimmy that made her look wholly ridiculous.

Edgeworth made an undignified noise which he tried to swallow. "As you wish, Nurse… Bikini. Still, you don't need to trouble yourself." He started to get out of bed.

"No, no, no," she scolded. "You are here to rest. Old Bikini can handle this just fine." She retrieved the slippers, and set him on the floor by his bed, bending over with a groan. "Now," she said as she straightened up. "Let's see those bandages. Time to let the wound breathe."

After trying to withstand her good-natured, expectant gaze, Edgeworth grudgingly presented his arms.

Bikini rolled up his sleeves, and removed the gauze and pads. "Nice and clean!" she said approvingly.

Edgeworth stared down at the stitches while Nurse Bikini disposed of the bandages. They were indeed clean. That was Nurse Wright's work, before he'd walked out of Edgeworth's life forever.

The slashes were long and violent. Longer on the left than the right. The cuts were swollen under the stitches, which looked like they strained to contain the flesh. They did not weep, but were shiny in some parts, and starting to scab in others.

Healing already. He didn't feel ready.

Bikini wrote something on the whiteboard on the wall, then on Edgeworth's chart. She dropped the clipboard.

"Oh, rats," she muttered. She started to bend her knees with a groan.

"Please, Bikini. Allow me." Edgeworth stepped out of bed and retrieved the chart for her.

"Well, aren't you the gentleman. I suppose I'll allow it this once, but it's back into bed with you!"

Edgeworth obeyed, a small smile playing at his lips. He glanced out the window at the hall and the nurse's station. There was one young woman sitting at a computer. She appeared to be looking at a social media site. "Do you have anyone around who can do the heavy lifting for you?" he asked out of genuine concern.

"I would hardly call picking a chart off the floor heavy lifting, Mr. Edgeworth," Bikini said haughtily, though it was a cheerful sort of haughtiness. "But to answer your question, yes. They don't work a broken old lady down to the bone. Well, not anymore. Here, I have a joke for you. What do you call a nurse with a bad back?"

Edgeworth sighed. "Very well. What do you call a nurse with a bad back?"

"Unemployed!" she cackled. "Wah, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!" he could hear her laughing all the way down the hall.

--

Edgeworth rested for a while, lying in bed and staring at the exterior window, through which shone a sickly yellow light.

A severe-faced, brown-haired young nurse named Mimi came to give him his medication later, and bring him to his session with Dr. Fey.

She led him to a small office. Two comfy-looking armchairs with their own side tables were near the window. In pride of place on the wall was a framed print of an ink circle, inside which was written "Breathe, you are alive," in flowing calligraphy.

Dr. Fey looked up from her desk as Mimi left. "Good afternoon, Mr. Edgeworth," she said cheerfully.

He thought Dr. Fey was too young to have her profession when they first met in the emergency room, but up here in this quieter environment, she seemed to have a maturity beyond her years. She was stunning, and shapely in a way that would be impossible to tame in any professional outfit.

Today she was wearing a pencil skirt and a long-sleeved blouse that showed only a small hint of cleavage, and a large pendant on a necklace. When she stood to usher him over to the chairs, he saw she was wearing very high heels. She had the female equivalent of Dr. Armando's sharp style.

Edgeworth had noticed many of the doctors tended to dress like that, like they could be lawyers if not for their white lab coats, while the nurses wore ugly flat running shoes and easily-washable scrubs. It was a class thing, he supposed, in a very literal way-- the doctors diagnosed and made decisions and got the glory, but it appeared nurses did much more of the work.

“How’s the transition so far, Mr. Edgeworth?” Dr. Fey asked as they settled into the chairs.

Edgeworth shrugged, and stared out the window. It was a sunny afternoon. People were walking on the street in shorts and t-shirts; a young woman rode by on a bicycle, wearing a bikini top and a flower crown.

He looked at the floor.

“Do you remember speaking to me in the emergency department?” she asked.

He shook his head.

“Well, I'm Dr. Fey. You can call me Mia, either way is fine with me. You’re on a 72-hour hold here. It’s Tuesday evening now, which means the earliest I can let you go is Friday afternoon. But I’m happy to keep you the weekend if I feel you need it.”

Ah. A legal disclaimer. He could handle this. “I understand,” he said.

She smiled softly. “Thank you for communicating that,” she said, which made him bristle. How condescending! “So, I think the best thing for now is to establish some goals for this week. How does that sound?”

Edgeworth shifted in his seat, crossing and uncrossing his ankles.

“My main goal is getting you stabilized, so when you leave here you have a safety plan and a treatment plan in place. I’ll refer you to a psychiatrist to continue your aftercare.”

“Aftercare?” Edgeworth raised his head. “I don’t...”

“Yes?” Dr. Fey prodded.

Edgeworth frowned and looked back down at the carpet. “I don’t want to see a psychiatrist,” he mumbled.

“I’m afraid that’s a condition of your release, Mr. Edgeworth. If it’s an issue of money--”

“It’s not,” Edgeworth grunted.

Fey let the silence sit for a moment, but he felt her eyes on him, and he hated it. "We don't have to make any commitments to anything right now," she said. "For now, maybe you can tell me why you think you're here?"

Edgeworth glared at her. "I'm here because I attempted to kill myself, and it's standard procedure to hold one against one's will in such a case."

She smiled, and he hated that, too. "That is a factual summary of events, yes. But what happened before that?"

Edgeworth shrugged.

"Can I share what I think happened?"

Edgeworth sighed. "Go ahead," he said, after a long pause.

"Thank you," she said. "I don't think you really wanted to kill yourself. I think you were in pain, and you wanted to express that."

Edgeworth scoffed.

"Am I wrong?" Fey asked. "Please, tell me."

"Why would you think I didn't want to kill myself?" he spat. "I tried to kill myself. Ipso facto."

Dr. Fey nodded, and pretended to think about what he had said. But she obviously wasn't going to sway her stupid opinion.

"I understand what you mean," she lied. "And I've seen people come in who had done exactly what you did, who did mean it. But Mr. Edgeworth, you're very smart and educated. I know you know more effective means than cutting yourself. Some of those other patients don't have the education or resources you do. Or the support network."

"So what?"

"My theory is that there was part of you, however small, that knew this wouldn't work." She leaned forward. "You texted your friend. And whatever you said told him that you were in danger."

Edgeworth hugged himself. "I don't even remember sending that text," he muttered.

"Whatever part of you decided to do it must have known how he'd react," said Fey.

Edgeworth shook his head. He dug his nails into his bicep. "I don't know what I was thinking," he said quietly. "I don't know."

Fey was silent a moment. "Is that difficult for you? Having uncertainty?"

Edgeworth shifted. He stared at the floor. He shrugged.

"If it's not presumptuous of me," said Fey, "I'd like to give you permission. While you're here, while we're together, I give you permission to have uncertainty. It's okay to not know something. It’s okay to not have an answer."

Edgeworth huffed. He felt himself getting hot. This woman was absolutely infuriating.

"Now, let's talk about your treatment goal. I'm confident diagnosing you with depression now, but I'd like to talk to you more, get to know you better."

Edgeworth actually said the word "Ugh."

Dr. Fey laughed a very constrained laugh. "I know you're not in the mood to talk to me now, but we have a few days. I just wanted to communicate my intentions to you now that you're a little bit more lucid." She flipped through her notebook. "You didn't speak much to me in the emergency department, but you shared a little bit. You said you've been having memory problems lately, and difficulty sleeping."

Edgeworth grudgingly nodded.

"And you mentioned something to the nurses about losing your dog?"

Edgeworth stiffened. "I didn't-- she died weeks ago, I didn't do anything to her!"

"Of course not," Dr. Fey frowned, her eyes large and sympathetic. Edgeworth found he could not look at her. "Oh, Mr. Edgeworth, nobody thought that. I'm just trying to establish a timeline."

She was quiet a moment, and then offered him a box of tissues.

Jesus! Edgeworth scoffed, and spitefully took a tissue to wipe at his foolish eyes.

"Losing a loved one can be a stressor," said Fey. "Or a trigger, if you like. I can imagine that perhaps it dredged up some bad memories."

Edgeworth shrugged.

"Out of curiosity, Mr. Edgeworth, did you give yourself any time to mourn after your dog died?"

Edgeworth almost choked. "It's not-- it's just a dog," he spat.

Dr. Fey frowned. "It's never just a dog," she said. "It's a family member."

Edgeworth shook his head and stared at the floor.

"I'll cut to the chase," said Dr. Fey. "I think you might be suffering from PTSD."

Edgeworth's head snapped up. "PTSD?"

"Yes. Post-traumatic stress disorder."

"I know what it means."

Fey smiled. "Sometimes people don't."

"I don't have PTSD," Edgeworth spat.

"I could be wrong. Like I said, I'd like to get to know you better. Right now it's only a provisional diagnosis."

"Why--" Edgeworth broke off and shook his head. "I don't have PTSD," he repeated.

Fey was nodding thoughtfully. "Okay. I accept that that's where you are right now. That's fine. Is it okay if I tell you why I think you might have it?"

Edgeworth threw up his hands in a resigned shrug.

"Thank you," said Fey. "I know you're frustrated, and I appreciate you listening to me. In the emergency department, we went through a checklist together, though I know you don't remember that. You indicated that you were experiencing nightmares. That you felt emotionally numb, distant from your peers, and that you had trouble taking enjoyment from hobbies.

"Now, those can certainly be signs of depression, but you had several panic attacks, one of which I personally witnessed, and the ED staff reported that you had several fugue states as well."

She looked at him. He looked back. "And?" he said.

"There's a few more questions from this. Do you find you have difficulty concentrating?"

"Not usually," he said pridefully.

"Lately? Maybe more than usual?"

He shrugged.

"What about irritability? Jumpiness?"

Edgeworth scowled. "Yes, but that's just… me."

Fey smiled. "Could be," she said. "I'm 100% open to being wrong about this, Mr. Edgeworth, but we have to rule out all possibilities. What is it you do-- you're a prosecutor, right? So you know it's important to rule out all the other suspects before laying charges."

"That's the police's job," Edgeworth said.

"Oh, right," she smiled.

"The prosecution must be certain before they bring a case before a judge," said Edgeworth. "Deadly certain."

"Yes. That makes sense." She nodded. "Do you think that might be why you're so uncomfortable with uncertainty?"

Edgeworth looked away.

"So, we've got irritability and jumpiness," she said. "And difficulty concentrating-- maybe. So what I'm wondering is, do these symptoms come along with intrusive thoughts?"

Edgeworth looked at her questioningly.

"An intrusive thought is an unwanted thought," she said. "A thought or image that is distressing, that just pops into your head."

"How is that different from any other thought?" Edgeworth sneered.

"That's a good question, Mr. Edgeworth," she smiled.

Edgeworth's sneer deepened.

"Let's see if I can explain," she went on. "A certain amount of intrusive thoughts are normal. Like, sometimes people might see a scary movie, and occasionally get spooked from randomly remembering it for some time after. It's what I like to think of as a systems check. It's saying, 'Hey, is that scary thing still around? Should we be worried about it?' It's our caveman brain trying to keep us safe.

"Or, a normal thing that happens that people feel ashamed about is when you're standing on a train platform or a cliff, and you have a sudden thought like 'What if I pushed my friend over?' or 'What if I jumped off?'"

Edgeworth scowled.

"The reason it's normal is because, like I said, it's a systems check. Your caveman brain is thinking, 'We're standing awfully close to the edge. Better make sure we're not planning anything unsafe.' Then you notice the intrusive thought, and usually people are a little bit disturbed by it. They might step back from the edge. It's a useful tool."

"Hmm," said Edgeworth. He would never in a million years admit to thinking of pushing someone else off a train platform. Though he'd certainly thought of throwing himself off one before.

"But when intrusive thoughts become overwhelming, or revolve around a traumatizing event, they're no longer a useful tool. They interfere with our lives. A soldier is a classic example." Dr. Fey sat up straighter. "Imagine a soldier goes to war, and he's surrounded by danger. He is trained to anticipate danger around every corner. Every car, every stranger, every shop front. He's in a traumatic event, and he has to survive it. Being on high alert can save his life.

"Then he gets home, and he's not in danger anymore, but he's still on high alert. His caveman brain is just trying to keep him alive, and it doesn't understand that the trauma is over. So he's still worried about every car and every shop front, and they're triggering all these intrusive thoughts and memories. The tool is no longer working for him, and it backfires, because now he has to relive the traumatizing event over and over."

"I haven't had any traumatizing events," Edgeworth said, but his heart was pounding, and his breath was shortening. He gripped his bicep hard and tried to curl up on himself.

"Mr. Edgeworth, can you look at me?" He looked up at Dr. Fey, and she smiled brightly at him. "Let's take a deep breath," she said. She took a very slow, exaggerated breath in.

Edgeworth couldn't help but copy her movements. He slowly uncurled, and shakily breathed in and out.

"Let's have a drink of water," she said, gesturing at the glass on his side table. She took a drink of her own, and smiled at him while he took his, like she was looking proudly at a child.

Edgeworth slumped back in his seat. "PTSD is for soldiers," he finally muttered. She'd basically said as much herself.

"Well, that's the thing about trauma," said Dr. Fey. "It means different things to different people. It doesn't have to be big and dramatic. It doesn't have to be war, although yes, many veterans do suffer from PTSD. It can be anything. A car crash. Abuse. Anything your caveman brain wants to protect you from. I've even heard that sometimes judges and lawyers can get PTSD from listening to testimony or seeing photos of violent crime scenes."

Edgeworth barked a laugh, then he looked away.

"What was that look?" asked Dr. Fey.

"What look?" he grumbled.

Fey smiled gently. "I think I understand why you laughed. I'm sure crime scene photos are old hat to you. But you looked sad after. You grimaced."

Edgeworth scowled. He was beginning to dislike how perceptive this woman was. "There…" he sighed and hugged himself. "There is somebody I work with who I would rather not see the kinds of things we often see. I try to shield them from it."

"Why?"

Edgeworth closed his eyes, and tried not to think about Kay. "Because I would hate for them to be negatively affected," he grit out.

"Ah," said Fey. "And what if they were? Affected, I mean. Would that change how you felt about them?"

Edgeworth crossed his arms and stared stubbornly at the floor.

Dr. Fey shifted through her notebook. "What if I told you abused children experienced PTSD at a higher rate than either soldiers or law enforcement officers?"

"Really," he said drily.

"Mm-hmm. There's also studies that show soldiers who experienced child abuse themselves may be more likely to develop combat-related PTSD than their peers." She tilted her head. "Would that change anything for you?"

Edgeworth looked away. "No."

"You're a rational man, Edgeworth. Think about it. Consider the evidence." She held up a printed checklist with almost every box filled in. "You can keep this, if you like."

"No, thank you," he said.

Fey smiled. "Alright. Well, that's where I'm at with your diagnosis right now. So our goal is to investigate this a little more, then get you ready to leave here with a plan for treatment. We're going to meet twice a day, once before lunch and once before dinner."

"Twice?" Edgeworth scrunched up his face.

Fey nodded. "It sounds like a lot, but there's really not much else to do here, Mr. Edgeworth. You'll get lots of time to just rest. There is an open support group that meets after lunch, but it's not mandatory."

"Good," Edgeworth grumbled.

"So your job is to rest, and to talk with me. I want you to be honest, and like I said, it's okay to be uncertain. I'll also give you little homework assignments."

"Homework?" Edgeworth scowled again, though a small part of him did like the idea of being given assignments, and having something to do.

Dr. Fey nodded. "That's right. For today, I just want you to start noticing your thoughts."

"What?"

"Notice them," she repeated. "Just try to step back occasionally, when you're in that head of yours, and notice what you're thinking about. Or even that you're thinking. Don't try to change it or judge it. Just notice it."

Edgeworth furrowed his brow. "That's it?"

"That's it." She smiled. "Just once before we meet again, if you remember. One more thing, then I'll let you get some rest." She regarded him with maddeningly steady gaze. "If you left here today, would you try to hurt yourself again?"

For fuck's sake, the answer should have been easy. Edgeworth knew what she wanted to hear. He knew what he wanted to hear. But he found he couldn't talk because the only word that would come out was yes.

He leaned forward and hugged his knees, resting his head down. He stayed there stubbornly until she got the picture, and left him alone.

Mimi came shortly to bring him back to his room.

--

Edgeworth mostly lay awake that night. The ward imposed "bedtime" of nine o'clock was far too early. He missed the twilight timelessness of the ER, it suited his mindset far better.

"Doctor" Hotti snored, of course, because the universe had been conspiring to keep Edgeworth from a consistent sleep. He'd forgotten to ask Mimi for his earplugs, and they were still in his brown paper bag of personal belongings, and the distance between his bed and the side chair was insurmountable when his mood was like this.

In any case, he didn't sleep well. Hotti was awake before the nurses started their morning rounds, and he'd opened the curtains to sunshine what felt like mere moments after Edgeworth had fallen asleep.

"How's that appendix, Mr. Edgeworth, hmm?" the other patient grunted, hands groping and grabbing at air obscenely. "Might put you under the knife today, hmm?"

Please! Edgeworth huffed internally. At least being murdered by a madman would be an interesting way to die, and I wouldn't have to do anything. He pulled the blanket over his head and tried to block out the sunlight.

Eventually Hotti wandered off to do his "rounds," leaving Edgeworth to grind his teeth in peace.

PTSD, he thought bitterly. Who did that Fey bimbo think she was? The protege of Manfred von Karma was not a sensitive, traumatized simpleton. Von Karmas were the picture of mental toughness, strong and perfect.

But you are, of course, not a von Karma, he thought.

Still. PTSD was for soldiers, for victims of violent crimes. For abused children-- maybe-- he would grant Fey that part, as she was the expert. But he'd never been abused.

Disciplined? Certainly. Put in his place, taught a lesson. Toughened up. Perhaps he'd been struck once or twice. He couldn't entirely remember. But Manfred von Karma was not some drunken redneck who couldn't handle his emotions. Manfred von Karma was perfectly in charge of himself. He'd done what he'd done to improve Edgeworth, to help him grow.

It was just old fashioned parenting. It wasn't abuse. It wasn't that bad. It didn't count.

PTSD! he mentally scoffed again. He was a well-bred, well-educated, white collar professional with opportunity and privilege handed to him since birth. So what if he exposed himself to violent murder day in and day out in his profession? It was no worse than the average American saw on television… he assumed. And it's not like he witnessed all those crimes first hand. It's not like he was there.

Except for Father.

Anger surged in him, the anger he had been trying to suppress or cut off for so long. It was unpleasant, this helpless, up-front rage at the man who'd murdered his father and been exonerated due to insanity, and the vile defense attorney who helped him.

You cannot plead insanity and escape your responsibilities, he scolded himself, and the old bailiff who wasn't there, but who had taken up permanent residence in his psyche. You cannot blame a weak mind for your stupid decisions, you must take ownership!

Then why did you try to take the easy way out? another thought challenged him, and suddenly the thoughts were coming too fast to corral. If you had succeeded in your foolish attempt, you wouldn't be dealing with this now. But you did fail, and you must be a man. You cannot blame it on "PTSD," you cannot be like the man that killed Father.

On and on and on the thoughts came, a relentless torrent, the pressure pounding on his head like a waterfall.

And insidiously hiding under each one was that one persistent little uncertainty.

He shoved the doubt down and down until he could lock it away, a tiny, hard, heavy little lockbox to keep it silent. At least he was still able to do that.

Nevertheless, his thoughts were fast and relentless. You should have done a better job. No one will be able to look at you after this. The room was empty and quiet, but his mind was as noisy as it had been the night he tried to kill himself.

He couldn't breathe. He felt weightless for a moment, an elevator in freefall, then he hit something hard, an elevator snapped to a halt at the end of a taut cord. His vision was spotting. His heart was pounding so hard it hurt.

Bikini appeared by his side, groaning a bit as she kneeled by him. He was on the floor. He had fallen out of bed.

"Mr. Edgeworth, breathe," Bikini instructed, and she sounded like a slowed down record, at least compared to the rapid fire of his thoughts.

"Am I dying?" he managed to ask, while his primary thought was God, please, say yes.

"You're not dying," said Bikini, and she groaned again to stand up and leave the room.

The dark spots overtook his vision.

--

They gave Edgeworth something to calm him down-- not lorazepam, regrettably, because it didn't knock him straight out. It just made it so he could breathe again. He ended up once more back in bed, feeling raw and ripped open.

Bikini had left him a breakfast tray, and stayed with him for a while, rubbing his back. But there were more deserving patients here and not enough nurses, and she eventually had to leave.

So Edgeworth was alone in bed, crying his heart out. It was a very strange sort of cry-- it felt like it came from the drug more than from himself. It was the trade off to take away the panic and slow his thoughts. They were quiet now, and sluggish, and he was just sad.

This was the absolute fucking worst, this ability to feel. He'd come into this hospital feeling so little he was barely alive, and now he was a gibbering wreck. He would have to leave an unfavourable review on whatever website on which one rates health care. I was brought in after attempting suicide. I left feeling objectively worse.

The anxiolytic was also starting breaking down one of those lockboxes he had built for himself. And out came that horrible uncertainty, the doubt which threatened his entire sense of self and righteousness and justice.

He wasn't absolutely sure what had happened to his father. He wasn't sure the right person had been charged. He wasn't sure the anger that had sustained him for years was warranted.

The whole thing simply made him terribly sad. All he could do was cry.

--

At some point Edgeworth eventually cried himself to sleep, or into a fugue state. Either way, when he was aware again, it was early in the afternoon. There was now a tray with lunch.

Still day two, he thought. Which means I missed my morning session with Dr. Fey, but not the evening. Blast.

Edgeworth wasn't sure what he was meant to do. He should probably try to walk around. He just sat there and indulged in feeling like a worthless sack of human waste for a while.

Eventually a familiar hairstyle in the hallway caught his attention, and he looked up. The figure walked into a patient room.

Nurse Wright? Did nurses change departments like that? Maybe he was hallucinating. Surely hallucinations could not be controlled just by mental toughness. He could be locked up and sedated guilt-free if that were the case.

Alas. Some time later, Wright was in the hall again. He noticed Edgeworth, and came into his room with a big smile on his ridiculous face.

"Hey Edgeworth!" he said. "I didn't think you'd still be here!"

Edgeworth just stared. He could only ever stare at this man, it seemed.

"Still not much of a talker, eh?" Wright looked at the whiteboard and chart. "Well, things are quiet. Can we have a visit?"

Edgeworth glanced at the chair near his bed.

Wright sat with a little grunt that reminded Edgeworth of Bikini. He once again put his chin in his hands and smiled guilelessly at Edgeworth.

"What on earth are you wearing, Wright?" Edgeworth heard himself ask.

Wright looked down with a little laugh. "Oh. I usually go to pediatrics on my float days, but they needed people here. So, oops."

Instead of his dark blue scrubs over a white long-sleeved shirt, Wright had reversed the colours. He wore a dark shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbows under a set of white scrubs.

White scrubs decorated with tiny little cartoon Signal Samurai faces. He smiled bashfully as Edgeworth kept staring, rubbing at the back of his neck.

"And, are those… sunflowers?"

Wright looked down again. Two enamel flower pins were stuck on his chest near his name tag. "They're daisies," he said. "They're like… customer service awards. I always forget they're on this set of scrubs."

"Ah," said Edgeworth. "So this is your getup for working with children."

"Yeah. I'm not, uh… I'm not one of those nurses who normally wears cutesy scrubs, heh." There was the faintest hint of a blush on Wright's cheeks, which Edgeworth stubbornly did not look at.

"But the children like it," he surmised. "Signal Samurai."

"Yeah! This is the old version though, from the '90s."

"Yes," said Edgeworth quietly. "I remember. I used to watch it."

Wright smiled sweetly, shoulders going up. "I know," he said, just as quietly.

A jolt ran up Edgeworth's spine. He felt curiously elated, then completely humiliated.

He covered his face. "Phoenix Wright," he muttered. "I knew you were familiar."

Wright laughed. "I was wondering if you were going to recognize me!"

"This is mortifying," Edgeworth grumbled.

"It's okay," Wright shrugged. "I guess I just didn't leave as much of an impression as I thought."

"I… I'm sorry, Wright. It was rude of me."

Wright made a face. "No, it wasn't. And you were going through something. Don't sweat it."

"No, it's…" Edgeworth sighed. He pulled his pyjama sleeves over his stitched and bandaged wrists. "This is not how I would liked for us to meet again."

He heard Wright shift, then felt a warm hand on his elbow. "Edgeworth, please don't be embarrassed. Really."

Edgeworth looked away.

"Lots of people come through here," said Wright. "I came through here."

Edgeworth looked at Wright skeptically. "You mean the emergency room?" He would have assumed his old friend Phoenix and that buffoon Larry would have gotten themselves in some major trouble eventually.

"No-- well, yes, but I mean here. Psych." Wright twisted and pointed to a room across the hall. "There, actually."

Edgeworth furrowed his brow. Phoenix seemed so comfortably sure of himself. That didn't make sense. "When?"

"About… four years ago? Before nursing school."

"What happened?" Edgeworth caught himself. "If you… don't mind me asking," he hastily amended.

Wright shrugged affably. "It's okay. Though you are a patient, I probably shouldn't…" he glanced down the hall. "Well, we're old friends. Don't judge me too harshly, okay?"

"Of course," said Edgeworth.

"I kind of… ate poison," Wright said, wincing in embarrassment. "And… and glass."

"You ate glass?"

"I didn't chew it," Wright added defensively.

"Why in the heavens would you--?"

Wright crumpled in embarrassment, tilting almost entirely to one side. "There was a girl."

That did not clear things up for Edgeworth. "…Oh?"

"And I was in love," said Wright. "And she… kind of framed me for murder."

"You…" Edgeworth started. "I remember this. You were the defendant who ate the evidence?"

"That's me," Wright smiled weakly. "I wasn't trying to hurt myself. Except maybe I was, a little? It's hard to remember now. It was just, like… the noise." He made a gesture at his head that Edgeworth understood instinctively.

"Yes," he said. "The noise."

"So I was here for a week. And Chief-- Dr. Fey helped me turn things around. She's great." He smiled goofily. "It was hard, though, to really accept what Dahlia had done. Part of it was pride, I guess. Do you know that feeling…" he leaned forward, brow furrowed thoughtfully. "When the fire alarm goes off in your building, and for the first few seconds you think, this isn't happening. This isn't real. It's going to stop in a moment. But then eventually you can't ignore it anymore?"

Edgeworth may have stubbornly worked through one or two fire alarms and been dragged out of his office by Gumshoe. "Indeed," he said.

"I just didn't want it to be true. I really… really believed she was innocent. I wanted to help her, even if it hurt me."

Edgeworth felt a smile tug at his lips. "That makes sense, I suppose. I do remember you being rather…"

Wright smiled wryly. "Stupid?"

No, of course not, Edgeworth thought with surprising gentleness. "Sensitive," he finally said.

"Ha." Wright grinned. "Yeah. Well. Don't fall in love with a psychopath, I guess is the lesson." He sprawled back in his seat. "It's a shame, 'cause I really like being in love."

Kristoph Gavin's smug face came into Edgeworth's mind, and part of him desperately wanted to confirm with Wright if that's who he was dating, to scold him for his poor choice.

But surely that would be inappropriate, and who was Edgeworth to judge anyone's choices? His thoughts were coming quicker now. He wanted Wright to keep talking to distract him.

"So you became a nurse after that?"

"Yeah, basically. I actually was thinking of being a lawyer for a while."

"Really?" Edgeworth drew back, considering Wright in a tailored suit and waistcoat. It was vast improvement over his Signal Samurai scrubs and hideous nurse's shoes… although the scrubs were sweet in their own way.

Wright laughed again. "It was so dumb. I just had this vague feeling like I wanted to help… someone." He cleared his throat. "I was looking for an identity, you know? Then Dahlia came along and I was like, well, okay, great. Here's someone who needs me. I can be something. I can just… be hers." His knee was jiggling nervously. He picked at the hem of his shirt.

"She should not have done that to you," Edgeworth said. "You didn't deserve it."

Wright smiled sadly. "Thanks. I know. Anyway, so, I was here, and I was a mess, and Dr. Fey saved me. And the nurses… well, Bikini's great. But mostly what I realized was how the nurses weren't, like, these compassionate angels. They were just doing a job, and the job was helping. I needed someone to wipe the drool off my face, and they did it."

"And you wanted to do that," said Edgeworth.

Wright shrugged. "It was more like I could do it. I could help people who come here because they need help. Instead of looking for someone to… put all my eggs in their basket."  

"How'd you choose the emergency room?" Edgeworth asked, just to drown out the noise in his head.

"I wanted to do psych first," said Wright. "But it can be hard. People are here for so long. I… uh," he shifted in his seat. "Dr. Fey says I had enmeshment in my family like… way back, heh. My earliest role was helping my mom. I'm always trying to repeat that pattern, like… to build an identity around having a person to help all the time.

"In the ED, there's just less chance to get attached. You know, a patient gets a cast or stitches, or they get sent to another department. Even when someone dies... I don't get a chance to get to know them, usually. Sometimes it's hard, with frequent flyers... but overall, it's better for my mental health." He smiled ruefully.

"Hmm," said Edgeworth. He'd never once made work accommodations around his mental health, and couldn't think of anyone who had.

Wright was looking at him tenderly. "Do you want me to keep talking? Am I bugging you?"

Edgeworth stared down at his hands. "Keep talking," he said, after a long pause.

"Okay. Uh… I don't know if it's appropriate to tell you so much about my issues, heh…"

"I would like to know, if you would like to share," said Edgeworth. "We are old friends, after all."

"We are old friends," Wright smiled brilliantly. He put his chin in his hands again. "You know, I wanted to be just like you."

Edgeworth stiffened.

"You were the first person who ever stood up for me. You were my hero. I just wanted to do that for other people. So I thought, a defense attorney. Like your dad."

Edgeworth hugged himself.

"Can you imagine? One client at a time, huge stakes, I'm the only one who can save them? Plenty of enmeshment potential." He smirked. "I'd lose one case and go to pieces."

"Yes," Edgeworth said drily. "I imagine you would." Especially if he caught half the hell Edgeworth would if he lost a case. You'll have to live vicariously through Gavin, my dear.

Nurse Wright was looking at him in concern, perhaps worried he'd crossed a professional line. Edgeworth could hear the unasked question in the air. Why did you become a prosecutor?

Wright seemed to know this would not be proper to ask. "The problem with emerge," he said, "is it's very physical. And because I'm a guy, I kind of have to do more of the heavy lifting."

Edgeworth made an effort to engage. "Bikini told me a joke about a nurse with a bad back."

"Oh yeah. Ha." Wright stretched. "I can already tell my back is going to get jacked. And there's only so many punches you can take."

Edgeworth sat up straight, scowling. "Punches?"

Wright waved a dismissive hand. "It's just a fact of life down there. No biggie."

Edgeworth bristled. "And I suppose as a male nurse, you're required to take more punches than the female nurses?"

Wright wrinkled his nose. "Not as many more as you might think."

"Listen, Wright, I understand that when you see people in the emergency room, they are not always in a rational state of mind," Edgeworth said, barrelling through the derisive thoughts this spurred about himself. "But there is no universe where it is acceptable for anyone to punch you. Honestly, this sounds like a symptom of your enweavement."

Wright looked startled.

"…Forgive me, Wright," Edgeworth sighed. "I'm certainly in no position to be lecturing you."

"No. Hey." Wright touched Edgeworth gently on the arm again. "It's okay. You were just looking out for me. Just like old times."

"Quite," Edgeworth muttered. Wright patted his arm, and Edgeworth did not move, afraid it would make the nurse stop. "So, then, what will you do when your back goes?"

"Well, that's what I was saying. I don't know." Wright sighed. "I like pediatrics, or neo-natal, but some of the moms don't like having male nurses around. I don't know. Everything I think I could handle is kind of rough and tumble."

"You could be an expert witness. Not full time, of course. Consulting."

"An expert witness?"

"You would review charts, procedures, maybe give testimony sometimes. That sort of thing."

Wright looked adorably confused. "Wouldn't you use a doctor for that?"

"It really depends on the nature of the case. I've called on doctors, nurses, EMTs. Any sufficiently experienced professional in their field. We like to have a few on staff, so to speak." Edgeworth regarded the nurse. "You could… work for the defense, as well."

"Oh, yeah," said Wright.

Edgeworth sniffed. "There would be more work with the prosecution, of course. Since all the cases go through us."

"Well, not civil cases," Wright said.

Edgeworth frowned.

"It sounds good." Wright grinned. "Do I have to, like, get on a list?"

"I have a business card…" Edgeworth looked at the brown paper bag. "Ah. Well. I'm easy enough to find at the prosecutor's office. Just get in touch whenever you're ready."

"Great! And we can hang out again."

Edgeworth's throat went dry. He swallowed, and realized he had just made plans for some vague, distant future. "Indeed." Hopefully Wright would not take it too personally when it did not come to pass.

Wright was standing. "I'm really glad you're feeling a little better, Edgeworth. I have to get back to work."

"Can we--" Edgeworth snapped his mouth shut.

Wright looked at him expectantly. "Have another visit?"

Edgeworth burned with embarrassment. He nodded. "It's just that there's… not much else to do here."

Wright was thoughtful. "Do me a favour." He wheeled Edgeworth's untouched lunch tray over. "Eat as much as you can. Then go hang out in the activity room."

"Ugh," said Edgeworth.

"You just said there's nothing to do," Wright pointed out.

"I'm aware of my words." Edgeworth crossed his arms.

Wright smiled indulgently. "It's… okay, no, you're not going to like it there. But I have to keep an eye on other patients. And you have a session with Dr. Fey later, and she'll be happy you tried. It'll show that you're making an effort."

It shouldn't require an effort. Edgeworth hissed at himself. You should just be able to be a normal human being!

"Anyway, if I can get a moment, that's where I'll be," said Wright. "So if it's quiet enough, we can visit then."

"Very well," Edgeworth grumbled.

"If you eat all your lunch," Wright stressed.

Edgeworth heaved a petulant sigh, and started in on his thin cheese sandwich. At the very least, it earned him a winning smile from Nurse Wright.

--

They didn't get to visit. Edgeworth, with a lot of spite and grumbling, kept up his end. Despite an overwhelming desire to go back to sleep forever, he dragged himself to the activity room.

His first thought was that it was like the soft room of a police precinct, where young children were looked after while their parents were interviewed. It had that similar bleak sense of being an afterthought.

There was a sparse bookshelf with some old books; some worn, dated board games, and a few decks of cards. A TV was droning on, but Hotti, the only viewer, seemed to be having an animated discussion with nobody, unrelated to the program.

Two other patients were playing a board game, but Edgeworth stayed well away from them. He looked at the small collection of books. Some Arthur Conan Doyle, Of Mice and Men, something called Shopaholic Ties the Knot, a few random selections from the Wheel of Time series, Dianetics (?!) and Flowers in the Attic. (?!?!)

They all seemed wholly inappropriate in their own way. But he thought trying to curate a better offering might lead to nothing but preschool books.

He looked between The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Fires of Heaven before settling on the latter, and retreated to an isolated corner. It was nice to be able to read after days without any stimulation in the emergency room. But between looking up for Wright to appear and the waterlogged feeling in his head, it was hard to focus.

After that morning's embarrassment, and the great sobbing fit brought on by the drugs, he was noticing that he was levelling out somewhat. He felt more normal, for a given value of normal-- just generally morose, and irritated, and fed up. Quite a lot of I don't want anymore of this, but somewhere before I need to die right this minute.

Nurse Wright did make an appearance, but he was busy. He was here to work, after all, not be waited on hand and foot like Edgeworth. He would check in on Edgeworth and the other patients, then disappear again on his rounds.

Regardless, Edgeworth kept waiting for him to return.

He began to feel quite pathetic. Why had he basically offered Wright a consultancy? For all he knew, he wasn't going to be welcome back at the prosecutor's office. Von Karma was probably making sure of it.

And Franziska… oh. She was probably catching all sorts of grief from her father by now. And it's not like she would deserve it. She was hardly her brother's keeper.

It was curious to notice the difference in his thoughts now. On the night he tried to die, Edgeworth was well convinced nobody would care. If anything, he thought, von Karma would be pleased, and Franziska would be sighing in relief-- no more failure of an adopted little brother to sully her family's perfection.

Now he thought-- well, von Karma would probably be unbothered to be rid of him, but angry at this blow to his reputation. Franziska… she would be upset, at least. Not relieved to have lost him, necessarily. He wouldn't be terribly surprised if she never spoke to him again.

And Gumshoe. He was starting to feel a little bit bad about Gumshoe. At the time, he completely believed Gumshoe would shrug it off, close off their old cases, and be re-assigned a new prosecutor, never giving him a second thought. He'd been baffled as to why the detective would call 911 for him, or drive about town in a panic looking for him.

But of course, Gumshoe would have done that for anyone.

Then there was Kay.

"Oh, shit." Edgeworth slumped back on the couch, covering his face with the book.

Would Kay have heard he was there? Would Gumshoe have told her? He hoped not. He hadn't spoken to Kay in weeks, and barely thought about her since then. Maybe if he had-- well.

Kay had been through worse and come out smiling. She would survive. They all would get over it in the long run. He didn't really see any evidence to the contrary.

Then there was Nurse Wright. You were my hero. Edgeworth scoffed. If he had been brought to a different hospital and died there, Wright would have never even known. Why should it be any different, now that they've spoken a total of thirty minutes, if Edgeworth left the psych ward and found a way to kill himself?

Nurse Wright was a professional. He saw people die all the time. Surely he had developed even a small measure of professional detachment. Surely he would get over it, too.

Though there was all that business with enweaving or whatever Wright had called it. Maybe he was wrong, and Wright might take it terribly hard if he were to die.

In that case, perhaps the kindest thing to do would be to stop leaning on Wright for support, and get out of here before the silly man got too attached.

Edgeworth returned the book, and went back to his room. He slumped on the bed, and desperately wished for a fugue state, until Mimi came to give him his Prozac.

Chapter Text

Mimi came by later to escort him to Dr. Fey's office. He slumped in the armchair by the window until Dr. Fey came in, dressed sharply once more in a dark skirt suit.

"Good evening, Mr. Edgeworth," she said, and she was technically correct, but it felt incongruous to how sunny it still was outside.

"Good evening," he replied nonetheless.

"How are you?" She smoothed her skirt as she came to sit across him.

He shrugged.

"I missed you this morning," she said. "I understand you had a bit of a bad time."

He stared out the window.

Dr. Fey was quiet, and the quiet stretched out so long, Edgeworth huffed and turned back to her. "It was a panic attack," he said.

She nodded. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"No," he spat. He ran shaky hands through his hair. "Forgive me. I am out of sorts right now."

"That's okay. Want to talk about that?"

He sighed heavily. "I'm angry," he said, after a long, pregnant pause.

"What about?"

Oh, so many things, he thought. "I was speaking to one of your nurses. An emergency room nurse that… he had a drift day?"

"A float day. Yes. You're talking about Nurse Wright, I think?"

"Quite," Edgeworth grumbled. "I met him in the ER, and then I saw him here. And he said that it was common for him to be punched by patients in his line of work, and he seemed to be tolerant of that. So I'm angry. I find that unacceptable."

Fey looked thoughtful. "That's interesting."

"What is?" He glared at her.

"Your concern for him. You're a very caring person, Mr. Edgeworth."

"I most certainly am not," Edgeworth scoffed. "I'm concerned about justice."

Fey only smiled. "Alright. Fair enough."

Edgeworth shook his head. "People can't go about punching one another without consequences," he said.

"I agree," said Dr. Fey. "But sometimes that's life, isn't it?"

Edgeworth just shook his head again.

"Mr. Edgeworth," Dr. Fey began slowly. "I wonder if you've given any more thought to what I was saying about PTSD?"

Yes, and it gave me a panic attack, so thank you very much for that, he thought. He stared out the window and grit his teeth.

Fey let them sit in silence for a while. "What about my little homework assignment? Did you find yourself noticing any thoughts?"

Edgeworth considered. "Not on purpose," he muttered.

"Oh?"

Edgeworth sighed. "When I was speaking with Nurse Wright, I noticed that… well it wasn't a thought, per se." He stumbled around for the words. "The thoughts are always so fast, I could never notice just one. They were coming in… balls?"

He felt incredibly foolish, trying to explain this ephemeral feeling to her that he had never even explained to himself. People considered him to be verbally eloquent, but he was really quite a visual thinker. He found it easier to conceptualize those rapid-fire thoughts as a ball of static electricity careening around his head, rather than full sentences of words.

Edgeworth didn't say that to her, though. He just left it at balls and felt immensely stupid.

Dr. Fey looked happy though. "Yes!" she said. "I know exactly what you mean. Did you notice anything else?"

"Well…" he shifted uncomfortably. "I noticed that when speaking with Nurse Wright, even though I could feel the… the balls… on the periphery, as it were, I could be distracted from them. I remember thinking quite clearly, keep talking to me, to distract me from the noise."

Fey was nodding. "Yes, the noise. That's great. So, when you had these distractions, did you notice it was easier to step outside of those thoughts? To be outside of the ball, so to speak?"

Edgeworth thought. "Maybe it's more of a tangle," he said. "There's… tendrils. And yes. It was a little bit easier to… stay out of the tangle."

Dr. Fey was smiling hugely, and writing in her notebook. "That's wonderful, Mr. Edgeworth. Great work."

Edgeworth scowled.

"I wonder if you can think of any times before today when that happened? When you were able to notice the tangle but stay outside of it? Maybe because you were distracted?"

Edgeworth sighed. He knew this was progress, and that if he kept cooperating with her, he could be let out sooner. But he wasn't sure that he wanted to be let out, and he was very sure he didn't want to be doing this uncomfortable, introspective work.  

"When I was in the emergency room," he said. "Nurse Wright… a patient was being belligerent to him, and hit him, I think. I got out of bed and told the man off. I was out of the tangle then."

Fey beamed, nodding. "See? You were already doing it. We just need to shore up that tool."

"I suppose," Edgeworth muttered. But he didn't much see the point of going down this road if he was never going to see Wright again. "You don't think it's problematic that all my examples involve Nurse Wright?" he asked hesitantly.

She looked up from her notebook. "Why would that be problematic?"

"Well… I wouldn't want to put all my eggs in his basket, to borrow a phrase."

Dr. Fey furrowed a brow. "What do you mean?"

Edgeworth shrugged. "Never mind," he said.

She was thoughtful a long while. "If you're saying what I think you're saying, then I appreciate that you're being mindful of it. I think that's a very good sign that you want to develop these tools independently, and not be reliant on another person. But I'm not worried, because I don't think it's true."

Now Edgeworth furrowed a brow. He was sort of hoping he'd sabotaged this whole exercise somehow.

"Are you sure you can't think of any other examples where you were distracted from the tangle? It's okay if you can't, we can revisit this later."

Edgeworth thought. He was so sure he was doomed, that he'd gotten a glimpse of peace talking to his old friend and would never have it again. But now that she mentioned it…

"When Nurse Bikini was assisting me," he said. "Talking to her was pleasant."

"That's great! Any others? Maybe from before…?"

He frowned. Certainly not, he was about to say, but then:

"My dog. Pess. Before she died, obviously. I remember, when I would get overwhelmed… well, she could tell, I think. She would interrupt me and want to play. So I'd take her out, and be focused on her. The noise was quieter, then."

Fey wrote in her notebook. She smiled tenderly at him. "That's wonderful, Mr. Edgeworth. I'm really glad you shared that with me."

Edgeworth shrugged.

"Let's talk more about how you distracted yourself from the intrusive thoughts, the tangle."

For the next twenty minutes or so, Dr. Fey had him practice little breathing techniques, all focused on noticing his thoughts, so that when they came upon him, he could step out of him. It was tedious, and not nearly as easy as he would have expected, and exhausting.

She saw him flagging, and switched to a different exercise. She wanted him to list five things he liked, like a fucking child.

He scoffed, baffled. "Why?"

She met his gaze. "Well, this is probably not going to be useful to you right now, but I want to develop a list of safe topics for you. So later you can use them in your mindfulness practice."

Edgeworth rolled his eyes.

"So?" she prodded.

He sighed. "Dogs," he said. "Justice, I suppose." Then a long pause. "I don't know."

"It's a start," she said cheerfully. "Now, it's okay if you don't want to do this, but do you think you could list five things you like about yourself?"

"I'm not going to do that," Edgeworth said quickly.

"You won't even try?" she asked.

They were quiet a long time.

"I…" Edgeworth chewed his lip. "No. Please."

"Okay. I understand. You mentioned a colleague the other day, somebody you wanted to shield from your work?"

Edgeworth was confused. "Yes?"

"How about this. Can you think about that person right now? What's their name?"

"Her name is Kay. And, well… she's not really a colleague," he said.

"That's alright. Is she a friend?''

"I… suppose."

"Do you like Kay? Respect her?"

Edgeworth didn't see where this was going. "I… yes. I suppose."

"Okay. Indulge me, Mr. Edgeworth. I want you think about Kay. Close your eyes."

Edgeworth sighed, but obeyed.

"I want you to imagine Kay in full detail. Imagine she's standing here in this room. Imagine her face, her hair, her clothes."

Well, really, if Edgeworth was resisting, it was hair that did it. He was imagining Kay with her ridiculously high ponytail, her key-shaped hair stick. Her bright, irrepressible smile.

"Are you picturing her? Can you see her?"

"Yes."

"Can you tell me what you like about Kay?"

"She's clever. Brilliant, really. She's very tenacious. And… kind," Edgeworth said shakily. "She has… she's been through a lot, but she has a bright spirit. I admire that."

"That's great. She sounds wonderful."

Edgeworth nodded, but some terrible watery guilt was starting to well up inside him.

"We can stop anytime you want, Mr. Edgeworth," said Dr. Fey. "But I wonder if you might want to try one more thing?"

"What," Edgeworth sniffed contemptuously.

"I'd like you to try to imagine being Kay, looking from her eyes. What does she see when she looks at you?"

Edgeworth immediately stiffened. All he could picture was a rough sketch of a man dressed like von Karma. The man didn't even have a face. There was only a scribble where his face should be.

"What does she see?" Dr. Fey prodded.

"I don't know," Edgeworth sputtered.

"That's okay," Fey said gently. "It can be hard to visualize ourselves sometimes. What do you think she likes about you?"

"She… she thinks I'm smart," he said pathetically. Then he was hunched over his knees, gasping.

Dr. Fey came over. She must have gotten on her knees on the floor. She patted his back gently. "Take a breath, Mr. Edgeworth," she said. "What's going on? Can you tell me what you're thinking?"

"I don't know what she sees," he choked out. "I don't know what she likes about me."

"She must like something," said Dr. Fey.

Edgeworth shook his head. "I don't-- this is--"

"Are you in the tangle right now?"

Edgeworth nodded. Thoughts were suffocating him.

Kay thinks you're intelligent and charming and funny, was immediately shouted down by She's obviously foolish because you are exactly none of those things, which was then berated with Don't fucking talk about Kay that way, which was pummelled by Any idiot who sees anything worthwhile in you must be foolish, you absolute walnut, and around, and around, and around.

"Okay, let's do our exercise." Dr. Fey held his hand, and looked up at him. "Take a deep breath. Tell me where you are."

"I'm in… your office…" he gasped. She had him describe in great detail the chair he was sitting in, the decor on the wall, the colour of the carpet. She had him notice that the sun was setting, that the window was open, that the clock on the wall was ticking gently.

Finally he was calmer, and breathing easier. Dr. Fey got back in her chair and regarded him sympathetically. "Well, that exercise certainly brought something up," she said.

"Ugh," he responded eloquently.

"Did you notice anything about that?"

"That it was unpleasant and I don't want to do it again," he spat.

Dr. Fey smiled. "Well, that's understandable. Anything else?"

He sighed wearily. "It was… contradictory thoughts."

She nodded. "Yes, those can be distressing. Can you elaborate on that?"

"No. I don't know."

"That's okay." She smiled at him again. "You did really great work today, Mr. Edgeworth. I know it was hard. I'm proud of you."

He scowled and looked away.

"Think you're up for some homework?"

"No," grumbled Edgeworth.

She laughed. "Well, unfortunately for you, I'm assigning some. I'd like you to keep noticing your thoughts, when you can. And I'd like you to try to do something nice for yourself tonight."

Edgeworth scowled. "Like what?"

"I don't know. Maybe watch TV for a bit. Or ask for extra dessert at dinner."

"The food here is vile."

"Well, it doesn't have to be those. When was the last time you had a shower?"

He frowned. "Are you telling me I have a stench?"

She laughed again. "No. I'm saying that I get the impression that you usually like to be clean. Is that true?"

Edgeworth shrugged. "Perhaps."

"Then treat yourself to a long shower. And not in a perfunctory way, either. Really try to enjoy it. Okay?"

He sighed. "Very well."

"Thanks, Edgeworth." She smiled at him again, and checked her watch. "Our session's over. You can go if you want. The nurse should be outside."

Edgeworth didn't have to be told twice. He got up and went for the door, then turned back. "Were you aware that there's a copy of Dianetics in your activity room library?"

Dr. Fey's head snapped up from her notebook. "What? Really?"

He nodded.

"Wow, that should not be there. Thanks, Edgeworth, I appreciate that." She grinned at him.

He nodded again, curtly. Then he left.

--

Edgeworth grudgingly agreed to eat his dinner in the activity room that night. He did not ask for extra dessert, and he did not stay to watch TV or read a book. After much grumbling, he did take a long, hot shower, first checking with Mimi that Hotti would be distracted for the next hour.

It was nice. It had been days, after all. And damn her, but Dr. Fey's little exercises were working. When guilt about Kay-- did she know he was there? How devastated would she be?-- started to well up, he brought his thoughts to the shower, to the water on his skin, the tiles on the walls.

It was another contradictory thought that he tried to stuff down, that the exercises were working and he could continue to use them, but he didn't want to because a strong person shouldn't have to. And then, underneath, maybe this is exactly what strong people do?

With clean hair and nails, and wearing the other pair of pyjamas from his paper bag, Edgeworth asked Mimi if he could have a mild sedative for bed. He was worried all these different drugs at different times was going to do some long-lasting damage, but tried to trust that the professionals knew what they were doing. He was just so tired, especially after all that exercise.

Edgeworth dug around in the paper bag until he found his photographs. He vaguely remembered Bikini taking the picture frames away and saying they were in his locker, and bringing him the photos back in a soft plastic sheet. They were back to back with each other, Pess on one side, himself and Franziska on the other.

He sat on his bed and looked at the photos for a long time, trying not to scratch at his itching scars. Soon, however, the sleeping pill was kicking in, and he laid the photos down on his bedside table, the one furthest away from Hotti.

Edgeworth slept well, and couldn't remember his dreams, but he did not feel refreshed when he awoke.

--

Edgeworth decided to get up when Hotti did, and took a little walk around the ward. He thought maybe this is why the other man liked to do "rounds," to prevent getting cabin fever in one room. He circled around the activity room, looked out the different windows, and then went back.

Bikini was huffing away, stripping the sheets off his bed.

"What's going on?" he asked.

The old nurse grinned up at him. "Good news for you, Mr. Edgeworth! A private room has become available."

"Oh," he said. "Well… don't trouble yourself. I'm sure someone else needs a quiet room more than I do."

"Don't quote me on this," said Bikini, "but I'm pretty sure you're the only patient at the moment whose insurance covers it." She winked at him. "The housekeepers don't come in until later, and I'd rather have everything neat and tidy myself."

"Oh," he said again. "In that case, at least let me help you."

As they worked, she told him a convoluted story about her infant granddaughter that he couldn't quite follow, and quite a few jokes that ranged from innocuous to off-colour.

"Wa, ha, ha!" she chortled. Her laughter wasn't infectious, but her smile almost was. In any case, when he was speaking to her, or more specifically when he was helping her, he was quite far out of the tangle.

They bundled up his old sheets into a laundry cart. Then he put on his bathrobe, gathered his paper bag and his photos, and followed Bikini down the hall.

"Here you are, sir," she said cheerily, gesturing around the room like an air hostess. It was smaller than the other room, and just as plain, with a single bed. The main difference is that there was a small table with two chairs, and a short couch for visitors.

The window looked out onto a different street, and got a partial view of a dog park.

Edgeworth drifted towards the window. "I've never noticed that park," he said. They weren't terribly far from the Hall of Justice, but he rarely ventured to this side of the river.

"A parkette, really," said Bikini. "I walk past there on my way home, just to see all the good boys and girls, yes they are!"

There were several dogs out now, bounding around in the early morning sun. "Hmm," said Edgeworth.

"Well, that's your new room. I'll bring your breakfast in a moment. Oh! And you have a visitor who would like to come see you today."

Edgeworth tensed. "I see," he said.

"She called to ask if it was alright. I said I'd call her back. You can say no."

"Who was it?" he asked, though he already knew.

Bikini frowned at something scrawled in pen on her hand. "Franchesca van Korken!" She grinned up at him.

He sighed. "Yes, tell her she can come. She'll get what she wants, anyway. When can I expect her?"

"Visiting hours start after lunch, and she sounds like a very punctual person," said Bikini.

"Very well." He laid out the photos again. "Oh, Bikini. Make sure you clarify that you're speaking to Ms. Franchesca van Korken when she answers the phone. She's very big on formality."

Bikini gaped at him. "I got her name wrong, didn't I?"

"Yes."

"She'll hate it, won't she?"

"Yes."

Bikini cackled as she left the room, and Edgeworth found himself smiling.

--

It was nice to eat breakfast by himself at the little table by the window. He could almost fool himself into thinking he was on holiday.

Dr. Fey surprised him by arriving at his room, dragging a small plastic box on wheels behind her. She was wearing a businesslike grey dress that wouldn't be out of place in court.

"We can still go to my office if you're more comfortable there," she said. "But I was wondering. Do you like tea?" She held out a box labelled 'Cherry Blossom White Tea' from a chain he did not recognize.

He looked at it a long time. "Yes, I do," he said. "We can meet in here, I don't mind."

Dr. Fey grinned at him, and breezed into the room. Bikini came shortly with a stack of small styrofoam cups, and a large pump-action hot water dispenser. Ah. Warm tea in a styrofoam cup. That would be… fine, he supposed.

Edgeworth was slightly frightened that their morning session would involve another soul-wrenching exercise of talking, but to his surprise, it was far more academic.

"This morning is going to be about education," said Dr. Fey, fiddling with her plastic case. "I get the feeling you do well in a classroom setting."

"Hrm," he said.

"Well, I've made some visual aids." She slid a thick folder of paper towards him.

He stared at it.

"Don't get overwhelmed," she said. "This isn't all for today, or even the time you're here. You can take it with you. We'll just get through what catches your fancy."

Edgeworth grumbled, but it's not like he had anything else to do. And, he noticed with a sigh, work would take his mind off fretting about how Franziska's visit would go.

Dr. Fey set their tea to steep, in a manner of speaking, and Edgeworth leafed through the papers. He automatically passed by anything very dense with words, and eventually his attention was caught by a sheet with an outline of a person, and a simple sketch of all the guts inside. It reminded him of an autopsy report.

"Ah, fight or flight," said Dr. Fey, sitting across from him. "That's a good place to start."

That wasn't why it had caught his attention, but whatever. He found his resolve was weakening around the psychiatrist, whether from the drugs or all the talking or just being shut up in the loony bin for going on three days.

Dr. Fey discussed with him-- or, really, lectured to him-- about the fight or flight response, the physiological response to danger exhibited by every animal. She elaborated that there were actually two more Fs in the system: freeze or fawn.

"Some people say freeze or fuck," she said, startling him. "And you can see the pattern of some people with trauma acting out sexually. But I think that's related to fawning. There's also feed, so it's potentially a system of five Fs, though that's more of a long-term coping response to stress than an immediate one. But it's all tied up in our basic, primal needs, so someone who is persistently in that fear response might comfort themselves with food."

"Caveman brains," he said drily.

"Exactly." She smiled.

Edgeworth frowned. "Wouldn't fawning or… acting out with… wouldn't those also be long-term coping mechanisms?"

"Yes!" she said brightly, like an elementary school teacher praising her pupil. "But a person can absolutely use fawning as a survival mechanism in the moment. For instance, with an animal predator, playing dead would be a freeze mechanism, but avoiding eye contact would be fawning."

"It still seems like your first instincts would be fight or flight," argued Edgeworth. "Wouldn't fawning require some conscious thought? Not much of a caveman response, as it were."

"That's a good question," she said. "The remarkable thing about humans is how fast we can adapt. When someone is aroused-- that is to say, in a state of fear-- and the first three Fs aren't available to them, they'll adapt to fawning pretty fast. Your brain will go over your options before you've even thought about them, and pick the right one.

"A bystander in a bank robbery, for instance, will likely know instinctively that they can't fight back or run away, so they'll freeze. And they'll obey the robbers. They might even cry, or beg, and a lot of times they'll avoid eye contact. And sometimes, if they're in that state long enough, they'll get Stockholm Syndrome-- which is really just a fancy way to say they're using the completely natural survival tool of fawning in the long-term."

"Hrm," said Edgeworth.

Fey regarded him a while. "Someone in an abusive relationship who can't fight back, who can't run away, and who can't freeze up without consequences… they'll also learn to capitulate to their aggressor the best they can. Sometimes they'll even defend their abuser, or deny it's happening." She paused. "Children are especially good at learning how to placate their abusers."

Edgeworth wasn't looking at her. He removed his tea bag from his styrofoam cup and took a sip. "This tea would be vastly improved by proper china," he said.

"Keep the box," said Dr. Fey. "You can try it again later."

They discussed, with the help of the worksheet, the various physiological symptoms of fear. He was instructed to use the diagram to pinpoint where in his body certain feelings arose when he was in, as they were calling it, the tangle.

Edgeworth was given crayons and told to colour in the different organs and body parts to identify physical symptoms. They filled out one for the panic attack he'd experienced the previous evening when talking about Kay, and one for the attack he'd had the previous morning, when thinking about having PTSD.

The lesson Dr. Fey seemed to be getting at was that the times he experienced those symptoms-- his racing heart, his clenching stomach, his narrowing vision-- he wasn't actually in danger. His caveman brain simply thought he was.

She prodded him a few times throughout this exercise to talk, but he bristled back. The tea might be good, but he wasn't going to admit he'd had trauma. It still seemed ludicrous to him.

Dr. Fey showed him another little breathing exercise, this time a body scan, to identify if he was showing any signs of fight or flight at any particular moment. He followed her instructions, and mentally scanned down his body, skipping over the little lockboxes that he was never going to tell her about.

The psychiatrist was under the impression he had enjoyed colouring, so she had him put aside the handouts, and produced a colouring book of mandalas. Edgeworth scoffed at the sight of it, but when she tore a page out of the book, he grudgingly took it.

She took one for herself, and they both got to colouring. Edgeworth did have to admit, after a while, that it was relaxing. It was uncomfortable with his scar, but he pulled his sleeve over the wrist, and mostly moved his arm from the elbow. He found the exercise just distracting enough to keep his thoughts safe, as long as he was also talking to Dr. Fey, but not stimulating enough on its own to be tiring.

"So, have you made any friends here?" she asked casually.

Edgeworth thought of Bikini, and Nurse Wright, then pushed them away. "No," he said. "I haven't really spent time with the other patients."

"Well, that's fine," she said. "When you leave here, Mr. Edgeworth, you might get advice from someone that you should be trying to be social, or filling your time being around other people. I do think you need a good support network and you can't be isolated, but I don't want you to think you need to be socializing a lot. It can be dangerous to push an introvert to be too social."

He almost scoffed I'm not an introvert, since von Karma had strongly discouraged anything he saw as anti-social.

He didn't exactly push Franziska or Edgeworth to be social butterflies per se, but being out in the legal world, networking and auditing trials and being visible was important to him. There was no quiet, solitary free time in the von Karma household, there was only the study of law.

But whom, exactly, was Edgeworth kidding? Of course he was an introvert.

"It's… dangerous?" he settled on asking.

Fey nodded. "Your coping mechanisms need to work for you. You're here to rest, and for you, rest involves having time alone. Some people come here and spend all their time socializing with other patients, because that's restful for them."

"I see."

"Rest is important," she went on. "You can't relax from work with more work, right?"

"I understand. But… I mean…" he sighed. "I'm not here because I was an introvert who didn't get enough alone time, am I?"

"No," she agreed. "But you have a need, and it's important to recognize that. People don't understand introverts. You have a very public job, and our society demands a lot of interpersonal socializing. I just want you to remember that it's okay to step back to take care of yourself."

He coloured for a while. "Very well," he finally said. "I'll keep it in mind."

After some time in silence, Dr. Fey sipped her tea and regarded him. "So, have you had any more thoughts about the idea of trauma?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, not looking up from his colouring.

She folded her hands on the table. "You said you've never had a traumatizing event, and we talked about how people define trauma differently. I was wondering if you have anything more you want to say about that?"

"So you can finalize my PTSD diagnosis," he said.

"Well, yes," she nodded. "Or rule it out."

Edgeworth was using quite a lot of blue in this part of the mandala. He supplemented with some magenta. "My sister is coming to visit," he said.

"Is that a traumatic event?" she asked, which actually startled a laugh out of him.

"No," he said.

"Sorry, I shouldn't joke. Family can be upsetting. I'm glad it's not traumatic for you. "

"Hmm," said Edgeworth. He coloured a little bit more. "She's my adopted sister," he said, testing the waters.

"Oh," said Dr. Fey. "She's adopted, or you're adopted?"

Edgeworth looked up at her, and then away. Let her puzzle it all out on her own.

"When's she coming?"

"After lunch."

"Do you want me to talk to her before she comes in?"

Edgeworth looked up. "Why?"

Dr. Fey shrugged. "Sometimes it helps to brief people. I don't have to, if you don't want me to. But some people like it. Family… can be hard."

"Hrm," said Edgeworth, going back to his colouring.

"You'd think in LA… like, everyone's crazy here," Fey went on. "You'd think more people would be understanding. But they come to visit and they just… don't get it."

"Well, she certainly will not get it," Edgeworth said with confidence. "If you would like to brief her, I would not object to it. I don't know what good it will do."

Dr. Fey regarded him. "You don't have to see her if you don't want to, you know."

"I know." He shrugged. "I don't mind. I'll have to deal with her eventually anyway."

--

As expected, Franziska arrived the minute he returned from lunch in the activity room. She breezed in like the ward was a boutique hotel she personally owned, dragging a small suitcase behind her.

"I have been instructed by some foolish lady doctor that I am not to inform you of how outrageously furious you have made me," was the first thing she said.

Edgeworth didn't answer. He was staring at the large, garish bouquet of flowers she was holding. It was so big she had to hold it under her arm. A white plastic bag was hanging from her elbow. Her whip was not at her belt-- they must have removed it from her when she tried to gain entry.

"Fool!" she cried. "Answer me when I speak to you!"

"Franziska, I--"

She could not crack her whip, so she stomped her foot instead. "Shut your foolish mouth! I am not finished! That woman dared to instruct me that I am not to demand an apology for your actions. Doing so could be detrimental to your recovery, she says. So you had better not apologize to me, or I will look a fool!"

Bikini was standing in the doorway, hands on her hips, jaw dropped.

Edgeworth waved her away. It’s fine, he mouthed.

Bikini narrowed her eyes, and drifted away, but did not close the door. He imagined she was hovering right outside, well within earshot.

"I was in a trial. I received no less than three voice mail messages from that scruffy detective of yours. He sounded as if someone had shot his mother. He's waiting in the parking lot right now. Little brother, he looks worse than you do."

Edgeworth's stomach started to clench. He hugged himself. "Franziska--"

"So I book the first flight to Los Angeles and rush all the way here, only to be told that you were being held in some dank emergency room and you were not taking visitors!?" Franziska positively shook with rage. Her face was turning red. The flowers under her arm were trembling.

Edgeworth stood, and slowly approached her.

"I thought you were-- we thought you-- I was beside myself!" Franziska sputtered. A tear fell down her cheek, and she must not have noticed, because she would usually never allow him to see her like this.

Edgeworth put his arms around her. She buried her face in the thin bathrobe on his shoulder.

He hugged her gently, mindful not to crush the flowers. She hadn't let go of her suitcase. He stroked her back.

"I'm sorry I frightened you," he said gently.

"Don't you dare, little brother," she glared up at him. "The doctor ordered that you are not to apologize!"

"Alright," he said.

She sniffled angrily. "Why didn't you tell me you were feeling this way?" But she seemed to know the answer, because she could barely finish that sentence before her breath caught in her chest.

"Oh, Franziska," he muttered. He wiped her tears with the sleeve of his robe.

"I wish you could have told me," she said quietly.

"I do, too," he said. He held her gently and kissed her forehead.

Franziska calmed after a while, and then thrust the bouquet of flowers at him. "These are from your foolish assistants," she said.

Assistants, plural. Shit. "It's a very large bouquet," he said, putting it down on the side table near the couch. It was a mix of roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums. "I don't think they could afford it on their own."

Franziska glared at him murderously. "These are from me," she said, shoving the white plastic bag at him.

He took out a large box of luxurious Swiss chocolates. Given the size of the box, they must have cost close to $200.

"Teuscher!" he said. "My favourite. Franziska, this is too much."

"Keep your hair on. I got them here. I didn't exactly have time to find a gift from home whilst rushing to board a plane." She delicately wiped her face and smoothed her clothing. "I had your detective drive me to Beverly Hills yesterday."

"I see," he smiled, and felt something curious and warm in his chest. "Well, come and sit. I have some nice white tea here, though it might not be good enough to pair with these."

"Hold on, little brother," Franziska scowled at him. She looked around the room and then dragged the suitcase over to the closet. "I've brought you more clothes. I was told I couldn't bring you a belt or shoes with laces, but we picked out a few suitable outfits for you." She turned back to him. "You should change. You'll feel better. More like yourself."

Well. It was certainly true when Nurse Wright said it. But he wasn't sure he was ready to dress like himself yet. He looked down at the box of chocolates in his hands, then back at Franziska.

Something changed on her face. "Forgive me, little brother. I only meant… you just look… so small like that." She hastily wiped at her eyes. "I didn't mean to make a demand for my own comfort."

They both looked away from each other.

"Come sit," Edgeworth said after a long while.

Franziska sat and avoided his gaze, looking out the window.

"Thank you for visiting," he said weakly.

"It was overdue anyway," she said.

"Did… does your father know?"

Franziska looked at him sharply. She shook her head. "No, of course not. Little brother, no, we can never tell him about this."

Edgeworth filled their little styrofoam cups with the warm water from the dispenser. He sat across from Franziska, and looked down at his hands on the table. He pulled his sleeves further over his wrists.

"I told Papa I was going to visit you-- I couldn't speak to him on the phone, I was too upset, so I emailed him. He sent me back this… list of demands. Things to check up on with you. It made me so…" she tightened a fist on the table, and scowled.

"I'm sorry, Franziska."

She turned on him again. "The doctor said--!"

"I am sympathetic that you had to lie to your father," Edgeworth amended.

Franziska narrowed her eyes. "Well, fine. I didn't enjoy it, but I did not see another option." She looked out the window again, and then around the room. "It's rather bleak in here, isn't it? It's very Bell Jar."

"It's not that bad," Edgeworth said.

"There was a grown man lying on the floor and weeping near the elevators when I came in," she countered.

"Well…" Edgeworth was at a loss. "It's better than the emergency room was."

Franziska snorted. She turned towards him. "So what do they say? How long will you stay here?"

"Friday at least. Maybe longer." He fiddled nervously with his tea.

"And after that?"

"I don't think I'll be able to go back to work right away," he said. "I haven't asked about it."

"Not that, little brother," said Franziska. "What will your treatment be?"

Edgeworth sighed. "I'll have to see a psychiatrist. They've put me on medication, so I suppose I'll continue with that."

"What medication?" She pulled out her phone.

He narrowed his eyes at her. "Why do you want to know?"

"I wish to educate myself, Miles Edgeworth. The health care system in this country is abysmal. If there is a better medicine available in Europe, I do not see why you should not be on it."

"It would be the same medication. And I'm not moving back to Germany," he grumbled.

"I'm not saying that," Franziska said. "But there are such thing as border runs, aren't there? Now, tell me." She looked at him expectantly.

"I'm taking Prozac," he said after a hesitation. "And sedatives, sometimes."

She typed on her phone. "And what's the diagnosis?"

He was quiet a long while. "Depression. And Dr. Fey thinks I have PTSD."

Franziska nodded, typing more. "Very well. I'll have Scruffy take me to a bookstore after I leave here. I'll start studying tonight."

Edgeworth blinked at her. "So you… you think she's right?"

Franziska blinked right back. "Well, I'm not the expert, but it certainly seems to fit."

"How would you know??"

Franziska crossed her arms. "Little brother, I will have you know that I prosecuted no less than three cases last year that involved PTSD in some way. When I first read a brief about the subject, I thought to myself, Jesus, that sounds like Miles Edgeworth."

Edgeworth was aghast. "It doesn't sound like me," he said.

"Yes, it does."

Edgeworth sighed. Arguing with Franziska about anything was wholly pointless.

"If I did not know your story, perhaps I would not think so," she went on. "But you never talk about your father."

Edgeworth crossed his arms and gripped his biceps. He scowled.

Franziska watched him. She removed her tea bag. She unwrapped the box of chocolates.

Edgeworth was still tense, and scowling, and gritting his teeth.

"You're doing it right now," said Franziska. "You're thinking about your father, and not talking about it. You've done this our entire lives."

Edgeworth shook his head. "There's nothing to talk about."

"Miles Edgeworth," Franziska said softly. "Your father was shot to death in front of you. And the murderer gets off on a technicality?" she shook her head. "Anyone would be a wreck after that. And Papa… well, he didn't really let you mourn, did he? I don't think he knew how to. So we all just… ignored it."

Edgeworth was starting to tremble. A tangle of thoughts was gathering on the horizon of his mind. "If you thought all this time that I had PTSD, why didn't you say anything?"

Franziska looked at him like he'd grown two heads. "I imagine it was for the same reason you didn't tell me you were about to do this." She gestured at him.

Edgeworth scoffed and hunched over himself. He remembered the sheet he had coloured of human guts. He searched for a distraction. "I've never read the Bell Jar," he said. "What's it about?"

"Pardon?" Franziska looked confused.

Edgeworth took a shaky breath. "Please tell me what the Bell Jar is about."

Her brow was furrowed, but she seemed to understand that he was trying to control something. "It's about a very brilliant but aimless young woman. She's ambitious, but lives in a foolish society that rewards the status quo and punishes the extraordinary." She sniffed. "The poor thing goes quite mad."

"I see," Edgeworth said. "Well, fuck. That's pretty apt, after all."

Franziska blinked at his uncharacteristic, simple crudeness. "Miles…" She reached across the table.

Edgeworth was startled by her use of his name. He gently put his hand on hers.

She was quiet a long time. "Should I have been a better sister?" she asked.

"What?" He gaped at her.

She looked very young, and more frightened than he'd ever seen her. "Could I have done more?"

"What on earth are you talking about?"

"Miles, he used to…" tears were gathering in her eyes again, and Edgeworth felt sick about it. "He used to hit you because of me."

"Hardly," he said.

"Not hardly," she spat. "I would talk back, or disobey, and you would come between us."

"That only happened three or four times," Edgeworth muttered.

Franziska looked baffled. "Miles, it happened at least nine times that I remember with clarity. I wrote about them in my diary. Even as a child, my record keeping was impeccable."

"Nine?" Edgeworth shook his head. His head felt curiously fuzzy. "No."

"There were probably more, from before I started my diary. Those are the times I'm certain about. I've been so… I wish we had talked about this earlier," she wiped at her eyes again. "You would take his abuse for me."

"He wasn't abusive," Edgeworth said weakly.

Franziska rolled her eyes. "Little brother, please."

"I just don't remember this happening, Franziska. I'm sorry. I don't believe it." Edgeworth sat up straight, and ignored the little lockbox that was rattling around in his ribcage. He swallowed hard.

"Believe whatever you wish," she said. "But if I have any credibility to you, then you'll believe me when I tell you he quite successfully hit me when you weren't around."

"What!?"

Franziska shakily nodded. She clenched her fists on the table. "Not as often. But he did."

Edgeworth slammed his hands down on the table. "Fuck," he spat, and covered his face.

"Why is this so upsetting to you?" Franziska seemed genuinely confused. "It was just a few slaps. It wasn't nearly as bad as what he did to you."

"Because-- Franziska-- nngh!"

Why were people so obtuse about this? It wasn't right that Kay should be exposed to gruesome crime scenes. It wasn't okay that patients could punch Nurse Wright with impunity.

"It's not acceptable that he did that to you!" he shouted.

"It's not acceptable that he did it to you, either!" she shouted back.

He bit his lip, and crossed his arms, and scowled.

Franziska sighed. "We should have talked about this before. I should have made you talk about it."

"This is not your fault, Franziska."

"Of course not," she scoffed. "It's Papa's. Look what he's done to you. He has you denying it even happened." She shook her head. "You have to hand it to him, he's brilliant. Perfect, even. I admire him so much. But he's a terrible fucking father."

“That’s rather a contradiction,” said Edgeworth. “He’s perfect, but a terrible father?”

Franziska shrugged. “I see no flaws in my logic.”

Goodness, thought Edgeworth. Dr. Fey would have a field day with this one.

Franziska sipped at her tea. "This is positively noxious," she said.

"I thought it was quite nice," Edgeworth mumbled.

"This tremendously tacky city has corrupted your palate." She rose from her seat. "I have to use the ladies' room."

Edgeworth pointed out the bathroom to her, and then paced around the small bedroom. Bikini appeared again in the doorway, a questioning look on her face, and he again waved her away with a weak smile.

Franziska came out some time later. They stood awkwardly in front of each other.

"I didn't come for a shouting match," she said. "I'm sorry."

Edgeworth sighed. "It's fine."

She stepped forwardly slightly. "If you… if you find that it would be beneficial to you that we attend some kind of… family therapy…" This was obviously difficult for her.

"You don't have to, Franziska."

She scowled. "I would, though. If it would be helpful. I could stay here for some time, take a few cases. It’s no hardship."

Edgeworth nodded. "That might be useful. Franziska, there is something I would like to talk to you about." He swallowed hard against a lump in his throat. "Later. Maybe. So… yes, I would like that. Thank you."

Franziska nodded curtly.

"I'm sorry I shouted, too," Edgeworth shifted uncomfortably.

Franziska shook her head, and made a dismissive hand gesture. Then she stood up even straighter. "We will beat this, Miles Edgeworth," she declared.

"Yes," he said quietly.

She stepped close to him. "I love you," she whispered.

They hugged for a long time.

--

After Franziska left, Bikini came in and fussed at him for a while, making him drink a full glass of water while she watched. She took away the plastic bag, and brought him an ice pack for his aching, itchy wrist wounds. He dozed for a bit, but found himself too worked up about Franziska's revelation to get any rest.

He debated whether he should go to the activity room or not, and scolded himself because he knew he would need to find a distraction, or he'd work himself into a dangerous state soon. He was pacing around the room pointedly when a distraction presented itself.

"Heyyyy! You got the good room!" Nurse Wright appeared in the doorway. He was carrying a small plastic tub. Unusually, he was wearing his long sleeves pulled all the way down to the wrist.

He also had a bruise starting to form over his left eye, inexpertly half-covered in what appeared to be cheap makeup. The bruise itself was reddish-black. Sustained sometime last night, Edgeworth surmised.

Edgeworth tried not to pounce on it immediately. "Wh-- what are you doing here?" he asked.

"Mimi called in sick!" Wright chirped. "So they asked me in. I'm only doing a half shift, though, then I have to go down to the ED because someone called in sick there, too!"

Edgeworth felt a small smile play at his lips. "But you're wearing your children's scrubs," he said.

Wright raised his arms in a flourish. "I wore them for you! Because you liked them so much. This is a clean set." He looked down at himself. "Aww, I forgot my daisies."

Edgeworth tried to keep his voice soft. He couldn't make idle small chat anymore. "What happened to your face?" he asked.

Wright looked up at him. "This? Wow, you're observant. Just some patient, no biggie."

"But you didn't go back to the ER yesterday," said Edgeworth.

"What?" Wright blinked at him.

"You were up here, in the psych ward, all yesterday."

"Yeah," said Wright. "But I don't know if you've noticed, Edgeworth, some of these people are crazy."

Edgeworth smiled wryly. "I didn't hear any commotion," he said idly.

Wright pulled at his sleeves. "I think you were in therapy," he said hurriedly, looking away from Edgeworth. "Now, come on. It's time for someone to get his stitches cleaned!"

"Ah. Your favourite." Edgeworth went over to sit on the bed. Wright brought his little tub with him.

"Yes indeed!" Wright said cheerfully. He pulled a chair over from the table. He sat and rolled up Edgeworth's sleeves. He put on plastic gloves, and started cleaning the wound with a saline solution and cotton balls. "So how's it going up here? Dr. Fey's great, right?"

"She is very insightful," Edgeworth grumbled, not really willing to admit more than that. "Bikini is quite pleasant."

"Oh yeah, Bikini's awesome," Wright said absently. He was focused intently on his work, and was making a very adorable face as a result. An adorable face marred by the bruising on his left eye. "These are healing really well!"

Indeed, the swelling was going down, and the scars didn't appear quite so red and angry, through they were still somewhat pronounced, and the black of the sutures stood out sharply against Edgeworth's skin. The stitches actually appeared a little loose now, no longer working hard to keep Edgeworth together. Healing all on his own. It looked so easy.

Nurse Wright usually wore his long sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and he was obviously the most comfortable with them there. As he cleaned Edgeworth's stitches, he seemed to be distracted by his cuffs, and absently pushed them up his forearms.

Edgeworth looked closely, and caught the end of a bruise peeking out from under the sleeve. He kept watching, breathless, as the sleeve rode slightly more and slightly more, until he could quite clearly see the outline of a finger on Wright's pale skin.

"How did you get that other bruise?" he asked, trying to keep his voice casual.

"What?"

"On your arm."

"I told you, it was a patient."

"You know, it's a good thing you didn't become a defence attorney, Wright. You're a terrible liar."

"Hey!" Wright stood. "What-- why would you say that?"

"If it was really a patient, you wouldn't have anything to hide," said Edgeworth. "Your story would be straightforward."

"It is straightforward."

"Oh? Then tell me it."

Wright frowned at him. He put the chair back and tossed his little tub on the table. He petulantly pulled his gloves off. Then he crossed his arms and stared at the floor. "A confused patient hit me. It happens all the time."

"How'd he do it?"

"Huh?"

Edgeworth pointed at Wright's arm. "He grabbed you. How'd he do it?"

"Like you said. He grabbed me and he hit me."

Edgeworth sighed. "Where was he, Wright? Was he standing in front of you?"

Wright looked like he was grinding his teeth. "He was in bed," he finally said.

Edgeworth swung up his legs to lie in bed. "Like this?"

"Yes."

"And where were you? Which side?"

"His…" Nurse Wright seemed to think. "His left side."

"Alright. Come over here."

Nurse Wright stubbornly walked over and glared down at Edgeworth.

"Roll up your sleeve," said Edgeworth.

"Why?"

"I presume it was rolled up when this happened. They're always rolled up."

Nurse Wright sighed, and slowly rolled up his sleeve.

There was a clear outline of a hand, a man's from the size of it. It was mostly reddish but turning black in parts, which put it at sometime the previous night, same as the eye. The hand was pointing down, the thumb on the outside of Wright's arm.

"So," said Edgeworth, trying to keep his voice steady. "He's lying here. You're standing there, doing whatever it was you were doing."

"Yes."

"What were you doing?"

Nurse Wright frowned even harder, if that was possible, and it wasn't as sweet a look on him as everything else. "I was checking his medication," he muttered.

"And that would put you…"

"I was here." Wright turned to the bedside table, and seemed to realize his mistake, for he tilted his head back and sighed.

"So you're there. And he's confused. So he… reaches over you like this?" Edgeworth gently reached across Wright, bypassing his left arm, and put his hand gently on the right, crossing over the bruise.

Wright was trembling underneath him.

"You see how this doesn't work, right?" Edgeworth asked triumphantly.

"Yes," the nurse grit out.

Edgeworth looked at the bruise again. "The only way for that to work is if he was standing directly to your right, which doesn't make sense. Or he…" Edgeworth raised his own right arm in front of his face defensively. "It's a defensive wound. Your arms were up in a block." He put his left hand over his right forearm. "He grabbed you and pulled it away. Struck you with his right hand."

Wright was standing stock still, a scowl on his face, staring at the bedside table.

Edgeworth sat up. "If it was a patient, you would have just told the story the way it happened. Who was it?" There was a long beat. Edgeworth was feeling spiteful. "A boyfriend?" he spat.

Wright looked at him, and Edgeworth realized what he had done. He'd ruined everything, once again.

"Congratulations, Edgeworth," Wright said softly. "You solved it. Guess that's why they call you the Demon Prosecutor."

Edgeworth felt like his heart had fallen out of him. "Wright, I'm sorry."

"It's fine." Wright hastily picked up his little tub and strode away.

"Please, Wright. Please, I-- I was out of line. I'm sorry!"

"I have to do rounds," said Wright. He was looking away, and his voice was tight. "Just use the, uh, the thing, if you need help." He gestured vaguely at the remote by Edgeworth's bed.

"Wright, please--"

But Wright was gone, and he was alone. Again.

--

Needless to say, Edgeworth had much to talk about with Dr. Fey at that night's session. Needless to say, he was entirely not in the mood to talk to anyone ever again. He was missing the days when he first arrived here, and didn't talk to anybody. There wasn't any chance of fucking things up then.

Dr. Fey sat across from him in her office, smiling gently and waiting expectantly.

"How did your sister's visit go?" she finally asked.

Edgeworth heaved a sigh. "As well as I could have expected, I suppose," he said. "She was very upset."

Fey nodded, and waited.

"She was upset because she loves me," he grumbled.

Fey smiled. "Well, that's nice. Sometimes people aren't so good at communicating, but it's helpful to remember if they're coming from a place of love."

Edgeworth just shrugged.

"Nurse Bikini put in her report that, um… things got kind of combative?" the psychiatrist asked.

Edgeworth sighed. "I'm sure it looked bad, but that's-- we're really-- we're not a very tender, loving family," he said.

"Ah."

"She… my sister agrees with you about the PTSD," he muttered.

"She does?" Dr. Fey looked surprised, and pleased.

"Yes. She's… supportive, in her own way." He shifted. "She thinks I was abused as a child. By her father. And she told me that he… abused her, as well."

Fey was giving him such a sympathetic look he had to turn away. "How did that make you feel?"

"It made me fucking furious!" he cried. "Then we shouted at each other. It was terrible."

"That sounds really difficult," said Fey. "It's hard to see someone you love be in pain."

Edgeworth heaved a sigh. "Then, afterwards, I ended up shouting at one of your nurses. I think I offended him quite badly. And now I don't know how to fix it."

"What happened?"

"He…" Edgeworth gripped his bicep, and stared at the floor, and crossed and uncrossed his ankles. "He had bruises. He said they were from a patient, but I knew that wasn't the case, that they were more likely from a partner. And I… sort of bullied him about it until he admitted I was right."

Dr. Fey was frowning. "Are you talking about Nurse Wright?"

Edgeworth hunched over himself. He nodded, staring down at his cheap slippers.

He heard Dr. Fey's pen hitting her notebook. "Shit," she said.

Edgeworth looked up sharply. "I'm sorry," he said. "I don't think I should be involving myself in the private affairs of the staff, and then telling you about it."

Fey shook her head. "We're a very small community here. It happens." She took a deep breath. "I have good boundaries," she said very deliberately. "And everything you say to me is confidential. So… let's just… put that aside. Right now we're focusing on you."

He watched her struggle to calm herself, and felt like a total heel. "It's just… it's so much work. I can't seem to do anything right."

"It's early days, Mr. Edgeworth. Some days are going to be harder than others. We can't expect to be perfect."

"Ugh." Edgeworth rested his head on his knees.

He heard Fey chuckle. "Maybe a short session tonight, then?"

"Yes, please."

She was smiling, he could tell from her voice. "Do you remember yesterday, I asked you to think about your friend Kay?"

He sat up and stared at her. "God, please, not that again."

"No, not that." Fey smiled warmly at him. "I'd like you think about a childhood friend you had. A best friend, maybe?"

Edgeworth shivered. There was no way for her to know, he was pretty certain, who his childhood best friend was. He could resist all he wanted, but there it was in his mind, a crystal clear image of nine-year-old Phoenix Wright.

"Close your eyes," she said.

He did, and the image got stronger.

"Can you see them?" Fey prompted. "Picture their face, and hair, and clothes. Picture them in as great detail as you can."

"Yes," he said softly.

"What's their name?" she asked.

Edgeworth tensed. His shoulders rose to his ears.

"Okay, you don't have to tell me their name," she said. "Are they a boy?"

"Yes."

"How old is he?"

"Nine."

"What's he like?"

Edgeworth sighed, a painful kind of warmth rising in his chest. "He was very… sensitive. Naive. He was gentle and soft."

There were so many memories surfacing now, memories he hadn't thought about in years and years. Memories he had, on some level, thought were gone. Phoenix's bright smile. Standing on the playground at recess. Huddled under sleeping bags at a sleepover. Phoenix gently holding his hand; Phoenix shyly kissing his cheek; Phoenix running away, laughing.

"Keep going," prompted Dr. Fey.

Edgeworth sniffled. "He was so kind, and friendly. He wasn't popular, but he was so… nice to everyone. He was nice to me."

"He liked you?"

"Yes. We were best friends."

He heard her leaning forward in her seat. "Can you try to imagine being him now? Can you imagine what he saw when he looked at you? Were you nine, too?"

Edgeworth nodded. He was prepared for another disaster. But this time it was so much easier-- too easy, really. He saw his nine-year-old self in stunning clarity, an earnest little boy in short pants, clever and eager and always trying to do the right thing.

"Yes, I can see me." He couldn't keep his eyes closed. He looked at Fey and sniffled miserably. "But it doesn't seem like me. It's a little boy. I've changed."

"Don't think about that right now. Just imagine that little boy the way your friend saw him," she said, gently. "Can you think of what your friend liked about you?"

Tears ran down Edgeworth's face, but he wasn't gasping and sobbing. "He looked up to me. He said… he said I was his hero."

"His hero?" Fey looked awed.

Edgeworth took a shaky breath. "I protected him from-- from bullies. He loved me." He whispered the last part.

Dr. Fey let him blubber for a while. "What's going on, Mr. Edgeworth?" she eventually asked. "Are you in the tangle?"

"No," he said. And he wasn't. Everything was so clear. "I'm just sad."

"What are you sad about?"

He was beyond feeling foolish or embarrassed now. He just felt what he felt with no barriers, and it was freeing and frightening at the same time. "I was such a good boy," he cried. "I had so much potential."

"You're still that good boy," said Dr. Fey.

"No," he said, with confidence. "I'm not."

"Why not? What happened?"

Edgeworth put his head in his hands and cried. For the first time in his life, he mourned for his childhood. There was no tangle, and he was not in fight or flight. That little lockbox did not rattle or strain. It was just sitting there, waiting for him to open it.

He wiped his face and looked up at Dr. Fey. "Not today," he said. "Soon. Not today."

Chapter Text

On Friday morning, Edgeworth felt utterly wrecked. The previous night’s session had sapped him, and he had eaten his dinner and taken a shower with a quiet head that felt as if it was full of wet cotton, heavy and soft.

He slept long and hard. It didn’t make a dent in his sleep debt, however, and he woke feeling more tired than ever.

Nurse Bikini noticed his mood as she tended to him that morning, and her smiling and laughter was a little gentler than usual. He sat listlessly as she checked his wounds.

“The swelling’s already gone,” she said. “How do they feel?”

“Fine. Better.” Edgeworth shrugged.

“Still itchy?”

Edgeworth looked down at the jagged lines. “Yes.”

Bikini nodded in approval. “That’s how it feels when it’s healing. It can be uncomfortable. I’ll bring you more ice.”

He looked at his wrists a long time after she left him. They were persistently itchy, deep inside, and still ached a little. But the swelling was all but gone, not even a week after they’d been injured.

The cut itself was completely scabbed over, and he was beginning to see how Dr. Armando indeed did very nice sutures— the skin had been lined up flush with itself, so there was little room for a scar to hideously build up. Time would tell, he supposed.

Every now and then it felt as if a tiny octopus was sitting upon one wrist or the other, and it would squeeze very hard, pulling his skin tight for ten seconds or so. It was a sharp, surprising pain, and it would end just as suddenly as it began.

Another strange sensation was that he would sometimes feel an itch not on the scar itself, but somewhere on either side of the scar. When he went to scratch, he’d find that he’d have to scratch somewhere else, sometimes entire inches away from where he felt the itch. Additionally, he’d feel a strange phantom sensation of the scratch on the opposite side of the scar.

It was though his body was getting things crossed as it sorted out which nerves were supposed to line up with which. His flesh was clumsily knitting itself back together, and it wasn’t afraid to make mistakes and fix them later. The work was constant, and his body did it with little complaint despite his neglect of it.

If only his mind would do the same.

He felt numb and tired when Dr. Fey visited him, once again having him go through his stack of worksheets.

It was Friday. He was supposed to be released on Friday. She made no mention of it.

“We’ve talked a lot about panic attacks,” said Dr. Fey. “We’re going to talk about some other emotional management tools today. We’re going to start with core beliefs.”

Edgeworth sneered as she brought out some worksheets and more crayons. “Core beliefs,” he repeated drily.

“Yep! Think of them as, hmm, primary guiding values. Or operating principles. Whatever you like.” She smiled affably as she found the worksheet she wanted. “It’s human nature to want to label ourselves, and to find an identity, but that can also be limiting. Like, imagine a teacher tells a little kid she’s bad at math. Eventually that kid will believe it, and she’ll stop trying. But what if she was never bad at math? What if the teacher was just using the wrong method for her, or it wasn’t the right time? That kid could be missing out on a lot. So challenging a core belief of I am bad at math is important.”

Edgeworth looked out the window.

“Am I losing you?” Dr. Fey asked. “I can ramble on, I know. I’m sorry. I just mean that… a core belief is the thing we tell ourselves about ourselves. I’m a good person, I’m a bad person. I’m a Republican, I’m a Democrat. I’m happy, I’m unhappy. None of those things are true.” She smiled coyly at him. “The only thing we are is human. We’re all just humans having experiences, humans feeling feelings.”

Edgeworth heaved a sigh.

“Not buying it?”

“No,” he scoffed.

“Why not? Because you’re a rational man?”

He glared at her.

“You’re human, Mr. Edgeworth,” Dr. Fey said gently. “Humans aren’t rational. You have core beliefs, and some of them aren’t working for you.”

Edgeworth sighed again, and shrugged. “Fine. What do you want me to do?”

“This is a cognitive behavioural exercise,” she explained. “It’s about identifying what is sometimes called a hot thought, or a triggering thought, and creating distance from it. We’re going to talk about some of your core beliefs. The ones you beat yourself up with.”

Fey had printed him a little diagram of a courtroom. Edgeworth was told to put the hot thought on trial, and present evidence for both the defence, in support of the thought, and the prosecution, against it.

“Usually the prosecution makes the case first,” he muttered. He appreciated her attempt to make the little exercise more relevant to him, but he was so worn out and tired, he really couldn’t feel bothered.

“Well, it’s not a perfect metaphor,” Fey admitted. “But you don’t have to go in order. You can list evidence as you think of it for either side. So what’s on your mind right now, Mr. Edgeworth?”

He ended up scribbling out a list of thoughts that regularly plagued him on the back of one of the sheets, because he didn’t want to share any of them with her. Eventually he settled on one that had been bothering him the most in the last few hours.

Dr. Fey looked at him expectantly, her face soft and undemanding, until he sighed and finally spat it out. “I destroy all my relationships,” he said.

“That’s something you believe about yourself right now?”

“Yes.”

She looked at him sympathetically. “On a scale of one to ten, how much do you identify with it?”

Edgeworth shrugged. “A hundred percent.”

Fey pursed her lips. “Okay, then, let’s put it on trial. What’s the defence’s evidence?”

He barrelled in full force. “I hurt everyone close to me,” he said. “I’m a terrible person. I—”

“Mr. Edgeworth!” Dr. Fey put up a hand. “That’s not evidence. Those are all thoughts we could put on trial themselves. Give me a piece of concrete, objective evidence that supports the statement I destroy all my relationships.

Edgeworth glared at her. He was so sick of this. Finally, he relented. “I upset my sister yesterday. I frightened her and we yelled at each other.”

“Okay,” said Dr. Fey. “That is a real thing that actually happened, so it can be evidence. Go ahead, put it down.”

Grumbling, he wrote made F worry on the defence bench side of the page, though writing in crayon was a bit difficult. “I offended Nurse Wright. He left in a huff and I doubt I’ll ever see him again.”

Fey looked like she was deciding whether or not to say something that might cross a boundary. “Yes,” she finally said. “That happened. Put it down.”

He wrote offended W, and then scowled at the worksheet for a long time, because he couldn’t think of anything else that was concrete, objective evidence.

Well, except one thing, and that lock box was still sitting heavy in his chest under a pile of chains, and he still was not ready to open it.

“What about the other side?” asked Dr. Fey. “Is the prosecution ready?”

Edgeworth sighed heavily and tried not to slump over in his seat. “No.”

“Well,” said Dr. Fey. “Didn’t you say your sister was only upset because she loved you?”

Edgeworth closed his eyes. “Yes. Fine.”

“So present the evidence, Prosecutor Edgeworth.”

With effort, he focused back on the worksheet. F said she loves me he wrote. He sighed, and fidgeted, and felt immensely foolish. F wants family therapy, he begrudgingly wrote. F said we will beat this.

Dr. Fey was smiling that infuriating smile. “Looks like you’re off to a great start.”

He glared at her. “There’s nothing else.”

“Oh?” She looked around breezily. “Where’d these flowers come from?”

Edgeworth grumbled, and wrote G and K sent flowers, and, after more grumbling, G called 911 and G brought me clothes.

Fey was trying to peer at his page, and he covered it with his hands.

“Fair enough,” she said, smiling. “It looks like you’ve got a pretty full docket there.”

“That’s not what a docket is,” he muttered. “And it’s really not a lot.”

“It doesn’t have to be a lot,” said Dr. Fey. “It just has to be better evidence than the other side. Is it?”

Edgeworth looked down at his stupid crayon-scribbled worksheet and sighed. “Yes.”

“So pass judgment. What’s the, uh…” she furrowed her brow. “…the agreed statement of facts, your honour? What’s your verdict on the statement, I ruin every relationship?

He fidgeted the worksheet in his hands. “It’s false,” he grit out.

“Is it a helpful thought?”

“No.”

“Can I ask how much you identify with it now? On a scale of one to ten… or percentages, I guess?”

Edgeworth thought. He did feel a little lighter. A little. “Maybe 35%,” he said. “I’m not great at relationships, but I don’t destroy every one.”

“You know what? I’ll take it!” Dr. Fey smiled at him. “I know this is difficult for you, Mr. Edgeworth. I know you’re tired. I really appreciate the hard work you’re putting in this morning.”

“Am I going to have to do this for every single fucking thought I have?” Edgeworth was embarrassed to realize he was almost whining.

Fey looked at him softly. “It gets easier,” she said. “It’s a skill. And it’s like bowling. You knock down one thought, it takes down the nearest ones to it.”

“You’re not letting me out today, are you?” Edgeworth suddenly blurted.

Fey regarded him. “If I did,” she said, “would you hurt yourself?”

“I don’t know,” Edgeworth said truthfully. “I don’t think so. I don’t want to.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” said Dr. Fey. “Let’s talk about your safety plan.”

“Jesus.” Edgeworth buried his face in his arms as she got out yet another fucking worksheet.

She let him sulk for a moment. “What’s going on, Mr. Edgeworth? Are you near the tangle?”

“No,” he grumbled. “I just…” he lifted his head. “I know that another night or two would help. I am very tired.” He felt so exposed around this woman, and it was strange how much easier it got to tell her things the more he went on. “But I just… I want to…”

She smiled at him. “You want to get on with your life?”

Edgeworth sat up straight. He hadn’t thought of it in so many words, but… “Yes.”

She beamed. “I’m very glad to hear that. Let’s get this plan in place so you can do just that.”

The first thing she had to do was identify his needs on the safety plan. First was breath. Second was water. The third would depend on the moment— it could be a walk outside, or a good night’s sleep, a hot meal, or quiet time alone. Maybe, he admitted, talking to someone he could trust would be appropriate sometimes.

When asked to list three people he could contact, he put Franziska, and then struggled. Gumshoe, he grudgingly added, in case it was more of a simple emergency, but not necessarily as someone to talk to. He didn’t want to include Kay in this part of his life, at least for the time being.

Edgeworth walked gently around just asking if Dr. Fey could be his third person to contact if he needed, but before he could spit it out she said that the psychiatrist she was referring him to would be able to take his calls on a regular basis. He frowned, but accepted it.

His safety plan called for him to list specific triggers, which was easy. For him it was elevators and earthquakes, and to Dr. Fey’s credit, she didn’t ask him why that was. He was told he could try exposure therapy in the future, if he wished, with his new psychiatrist.

There were other triggers, though, he knew now, and he didn’t yet know exactly what they were. That was work he was not looking forward to.

There was also room on his safety plan for safe thoughts. Dogs were first on the list, but he was still at a loss of what else to cling to. Noticing was a technique he now knew he could use, but besides that, he couldn’t think of a favourite song or fabric or smell that made him feel safe.

“It’ll take a while, Mr. Edgeworth,” said Dr. Fey. “You don’t have to figure this all out yet.”

“It’s so much work,” he said. “Being a human shouldn’t be this hard.”

Dr. Fey looked like he’d just declared the Earth was flat. “Being a human is very fucking hard,” she said, startling him. “It’s hard for everyone, Mr. Edgeworth. Maybe not hard in the way it is for you, but everyone has their own shit to deal with.”

“As if,” he mumbled. He was pointedly looking out the window, at a billboard for some insipid reality TV show about a wealthy, idiotic family.

“Well, maybe some people have a charmed life, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy,” said Dr. Fey. “Happiness is a skill, and we don’t teach it. A lot of people never learn it. You’re undertaking a lot of work, yes, but everyone has to do some kind of work.” She leaned in to regard him. “You’re not weak, Mr. Edgeworth. You’re not… worth less than anyone else because you happen to be struggling right now. You’re a good person going through a tough time.”

He crossed his arms and stared out the window miserably. He certainly didn’t feel like a good person right now.

“Did you know every human was born premature?” asked Dr. Fey. “When we were apes, we walked on our hands. As our brains got bigger, we were also starting to stand up straighter, which meant our pelvises got smaller. So the compromise between a big brain and standing straight was that babies had to be born earlier. Other animals can walk the same day they’re born. They can find the breast themselves. Humans are completely helpless for years. We come out of the womb half-baked. That’s why we’re all so fragile and screwed up.

“Being a human is awful,” she went on. “We learn from our past but we can also regret it. We don’t fear death just in the moment, we’re aware of it years before the fact, and it makes us want to give meaning to our lives and make it count somehow. Other animals don’t have to deal with this. Our intelligence has given us agriculture and medicine and great things, but it’s also given us so much unhappiness and fear. That’s the human condition, Mr. Edgeworth. It’s not a weakness, it’s just life. Why hold yourself to a higher standard than literally every human on earth?”

“I have to be held to a higher standard because—” he cut himself off, and clenched a fist.

“Because what?” Dr. Fey asked, and she sounded genuinely concerned.

He shook his head.

“You’re not alone, Mr. Edgeworth,” Fey said. “In more ways than one. I think you know that. And yes, it will be very hard work. And there’s going to be really hard times. But there’s also going to be great times. I promise. Everything is temporary, even your suffering.”

Edgeworth huffed. “So I’m spending the weekend here,” he said.

Dr. Fey nodded. “I think you just need some rest, Mr. Edgeworth,” she said. “I’ll phone in on Sunday and we’ll go from there. I’ve really enjoyed our time together.”

Edgeworth sniffled. “Pardon? We’re… you’ll phone on Sunday?”

Dr. Fey looked startled. “I have Friday afternoons off. If you were released today, this would have been our last session. I’m making a treatment plan with your prescriptions and your new psychiatrist, you’ll get it when you leave.”

Edgeworth shot up straight. “What? You’re off?”

“I’m sorry, I must have miscommunicated something,” Dr. Fey said gently. “I have Friday afternoons off, that’s how I’m able to be on call on Sundays.”

“Because you have good boundaries,” Edgeworth said bitterly.

“Well, yes,” said Fey.

The lockbox was glowing hot under his chest now, and Edgeworth felt that tangle of too-fast-to-think thoughts on the horizon of his mind, his breathing getting short, his heart pounding hard.

“Breathe with me, Mr. Edgeworth,” said Dr. Fey. She walked him through the panic attack. It was relatively small, and left him panting in his chair.

He drank a cup of water and stared out the window, embarrassed.

“What’s going on?” she asked gently. “I didn’t think you were that fond of me. I’m really sorry I didn’t make it clear.”

“No,” Edgeworth grit out. “You’re right. You said I could be released Friday afternoon, which would have made this our last session. You weren’t misleading. I just…”

There was a lump in his throat, and a deep, hard feeling near that lockbox under his chest. Dr. Fey sat and waited.

“I need to tell you something,” he finally spat.

“Okay,” she said.

“But I… I can’t…” he shook his head, helpless.

“Well you don’t have to do it all at once, remember? You can tell your new psychiatrist whenever you’re ready.”

“No,” he said. “I have to say it this weekend or I’ll never say it.”

“Oh,” said Dr. Fey. “Well, I’m on call on Sunday. Or… you could tell me now…?”

Edgeworth tried to swallow past the lump, and keep his breathing slow. He noticed the hot water thermos, and the chocolates from yesterday, and the breeze coming in from the window, and the green grass in the dog park in the distance.

Finally, he looked at her. “What— how far does doctor-patient confidentiality go?”

She looked startled. “It’s absolute,” she said.

“No, but— you are a mandated reporter, correct? For certain things?”

She nodded. “I see. Basically, I have to report it if I think you’re a threat to yourself— but that ship has sailed. Or if I think you pose a threat to others.”

“What about something in the past?”

Dr. Fey pursed her lips. “It’s honestly a little bit of a grey area. I can tell you that I have had some patients tell me some troubling things they’ve done, and I did not report them, because they weren’t currently a threat to others.”

Edgeworth scowled. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that policy, but now wasn’t the time. His mind was fuzzy, and his commitment to justice and the law was warring with his self-preservation, which was in turn warring with his self-hatred. He tried to use his senses to stay in the present moment, and took another slow breath.

“What if the thing was in the past, but there’s a chance somebody is still being hurt?”

Dr. Fey furrowed her brow. “This is hard to parse without specifics,” she said. “Are you talking about a situation where you might know about an ongoing crime? And somebody is at risk?”

“No. I…” Edgeworth shook his head. He honestly didn’t know. Had that bailiff been sent to a psych prison after his insanity plea? He was under the impression he’d gotten off scot-free, but what if he ended up in a place like this, or worse? Did he believe himself to be the culprit? Why would he have made that plea otherwise? Was he driven mad by the guilt, like Edgeworth was? Guilt that Edgeworth could alleviate?

“I can see you’re really troubled, Mr. Edgeworth,” said Dr. Fey. “Whatever it is… without knowing more, I can’t guarantee anything, but I do know that without sharing it, it’s a lot harder to heal. I also know that you can’t force it. If you’re not ready to say it today, you can say it on Sunday. Or next week. Or some other time.”

Edgeworth nodded, and he knew she was right. But he also felt the need to get this out soon, afraid he’d never have the nerve to do it again.

“What about nurses?” he suddenly asked. “Are they held to the same standard?”

“Basically,” said Dr. Fey. “But they have to report to the doctor providing care. If you wanted to share this with Bikini or… whoever… they would have to report it to me, and I would still have to act if I thought you were a threat.”

“But I could talk to… Bikini?”

“Yes,” Dr. Fey smiled. “Bikini’s been working here a lot longer than I have. She’s great to talk to.”

Edgeworth stared down at the table. Maybe he would end up talking to Bikini, but he was pretty sure neither of them were talking about the jolly old nurse. There was only one person he could trust with this. Someone who had known him when he was still good. Someone who probably hated him now, and rightfully so.

The rest of the day was fuzzy and sad and a bit of a wash. Edgeworth had been thrown for a loop by not having another session with Dr. Fey. But he realized he hadn’t really expected to be released that day. He’d even told Franziska there was a chance he’d stay the weekend. At least some part of him knew he still needed a dedicated few days of rest.

He ate lunch in the activity room, and ended up sitting in on the group therapy. It was lead by an extremely old lady named Dr. Young, who facilitated the group largely through her nurse granddaughter. Edgeworth didn’t say anything, but spent the hour with his mind off his own problems. Some people in the group had very complex issues going on, and some, like him, tried to defer and downplay— but it was clear that Dr. Fey was right, and everybody was struggling in their own way.

Edgeworth took a long nap, and after dinner, without a soul-wrenching session with Dr. Fey, he found himself pacing and agitated with nowhere to direct that energy. Nowhere to direct this thing that was almost ready to come out of him.

He ended up going through more of the worksheets on his own, and sketching out a to-do list for when he got out of here and was able to get on with his life.

He would have to take another week off work, at least. His new psychiatrist appointments would already be booked for him so he’d have to make himself available for that. Edgeworth wasn’t even sure how to broach the subject of returning to work after leaving all his cases untended like that, but he listed that second after squaring away his new psychiatrist. His work would suffer even more if he had another episode like this, he’d come to realize.

Other items on the list were to take Franziska out to dinner and hash things out with her, as it were. He decided he didn’t wish to tolerate her whippings anymore, but it was obviously a security blanket for her, especially in light of what she’d told him. So they’d have to figure it out. He was hoping her willingness to go to therapy meant she was also willing to examine her habits like that, otherwise this would be a very unpleasant conversation.

Edgeworth would have to also take Kay out and explain his absence to her. And make it up to Gumshoe… somehow.

He put “dog time” on the to-do list though he wasn’t sure what that looked like yet. Maybe just walking in his nearby dog park during the day, or looking into walking dogs at a shelter. He knew he wasn’t ready to adopt again yet, but he wanted to have them in his life.

Edgeworth looked at the to-do list and suddenly went cold. Why was he making plans, as if he wasn’t about to reveal his last secret and destroy everything? Better to let go of this all, surely.

He shoved the to-do list under the pile of work sheets, and went to ask Mimi for a sedative.

On Saturday morning, he dug his nails into his palms as Bikini brought his breakfast. She did her normal amount of fussing over him, and must have taken his stony silence for more than his usual moodiness, as she didn’t try to coax any response out of him.

The lockbox felt heavy in his chest. He grit his teeth as his jaw stayed stubbornly closed, until the old nurse was almost out the door. He forced himself to speak, and call her back.

“Yes, Mr. Edgeworth?” she asked expectantly

He frowned, suddenly at a loss. Oh, right. Unburdening yourself requires speaking more than one word.

“Did…” he cleared his throat. “Did Dr. Fey say anything to you, or maybe in my chart, about me wanting to talk to a nurse about something?”

She smiled warmly. “She may have mentioned it, yes. I’m here to help!”

Edgeworth coughed pathetically. “I was actually wondering if you could find out if someone else is available.”

“Well! Should I be offended? Have I lost your affections to another? She can’t do what I can do, believe me!”

“No, no, I only…”

The jolly old nurse laughed. “Of course I’m not offended, sweetheart. Who is it you’d be more comfortable talking to?”

Dr. Fey must have given special instructions about this, he thought. She was so eager to know his darkest, hidden parts. For a moment he was spiteful again, and didn’t want to cooperate anymore.

“Never mind,” he grumbled. “Don’t trouble yourself.”

“Now, now, Mr. Edgeworth,” Bikini scolded. “If you need help, you should ask for it.”

Edgeworth looked away.

“Don’t feel as though you’re bothering us,” she went on. “You’re really a model patient. Now who’s this nurse you like so much better than old Bikini?”

Edgeworth sighed and fiddled with the hem of his sleeves. “I was wondering if it would be possible to speak with Nurse Wright.”

“Ah!” The old nurse’s face lit up, and she had a glint in her eye that made him uncomfortable. “Well, I can find out, but he’s not usually a psych nurse.”

“I know,” Edgeworth said hurriedly. “And I believe he works nights. I’m sure he’ll be busy, and he won’t want to see me anyway, so—”

“I’ll find out,” Bikini cut off his retreat with a gentle sort of firmness. “You just try to enjoy your Saturday, Mr. Edgeworth.” She winked at him, and hustled out of the room.

Edgeworth looked out at the dog park. He hadn’t enjoyed a Saturday in— well, at least since Pess died, and even then. He couldn’t count the number of quiet days off he’d had that were interrupted by work.

He wondered what Franziska was doing. Probably hip deep in a case, he’d wager.

He decided to make more of the cherry blossom white tea and take another crack at The Fires of Heaven, sitting by his bright window. When he allowed himself to step away from all his worries, he was actually able to enjoy the book, a little.

He saw Bikini again after lunch.

“Your favourite nurse is, in fact, on the night shift tonight,” she said. “But I think Dr. Fey might have psychic powers, because she said you’ll be allowed to stay up until 11:00 tonight. You’ll just have to be quiet, whatever you’re doing.” She winked again.

To his utter horror, Edgeworth felt himself blush. “So… he’ll see me?”

“Oh, he doesn’t start until dinnertime,” she said. “I don’t know how to do the texting, and he’s probably asleep, anyway. But I left him a message downstairs, so you’ll have to wait and see.”

“Ah.” Edgeworth tried not to sink too deep into disappointment.

“I’m glad you want to talk to someone, Mr. Edgeworth,” said the old nurse. “Even if it isn’t me.”

The rest of that Saturday was difficult. Edgeworth walked aimlessly around the ward, avoiding other patients, especially the talkative or distressed ones. He looked over his worksheets, and his to-do list, and his wretched safety plan, and felt the enormity of the work ahead of him grow heavier on his shoulders.

He did not expect Wright to come and see him. He might not be a total lost cause, but what he’d said to Wright felt unforgivable. The poor man wasn’t on the witness stand. And Edgeworth knew from countless cases that victims of domestic violence did not respond well to the truth of their situation being thrown in their face. Or used against them like a weapon.

They would get defensive. They would deny it. They would double down on the relationship.

Just like you did with von Karma, he thought in a voice that sounded a little like Franziska’s. He wiped at his eyes angrily, and pushed the thought out of his head. He was tired of thinking about that. He wanted to get out of here and think about something else for a while.

But Dr. Fey, it seemed, would let him go only if he shared the contents of that last locked box. And if he did, things would change.

He stood to lose everything— his career, his colleagues’ respect. The hot thought would be proven true. Everybody who knew him believed he was an innocent victim, and that his guiding principle was one of justice. He would ruin every relationship he had, because they were all based on a lie.

But the foundation was already cracking. Things couldn’t stay the same, not after what he’d done. It was eating away at him now, exposed by drugs and fucking therapy. If he wasn’t brought to justice the usual way, he’d have to try what he’d done again, better this time. He’d have to succeed.

The worst part, however, was that Edgeworth didn’t want to anymore. He wasn’t entirely sure yet if he wanted to live, but he knew he did not want to die. He wanted to want, at least, to live.

One day, perhaps Edgeworth might realize that Nurse Wright did not play by his rules. He might learn to stop presuming the minds of Wright, or Gumshoe, or even Franziska. He might learn that he and Nurse Wright had different operating principles.

That day, however, he sulked on the couch in his room after dinner, trying to read his book, and was shocked out of his seat when Wright appeared.

“Hey,” the nurse said quietly from the doorway.

Edgeworth stood up, back rigid. “W… Wright. You came…!”

“You wanted to see me?” Wright was polite, but not smiling.

“Yes. I… thank you. Would it be alright if we talked?”

Wright shrugged. He stepped into the room, and to Edgeworth’s surprise, shut the door behind him. Did that mean he trusted Edgeworth? But the blinds on the interior window were all the way open, leaving them completely exposed.

Nurse Wright crossed his arms and looked at the floor. He was back in his dark blue scrubs, white sleeves pulled down to his wrists. The bruise on his eye was still obvious, but starting to fade.

“Thank you for seeing me, Wright.”

“You said that,” Wright shrugged again. “Anyway, it’s for Chief.” At the mention of Dr. Fey, Nurse Wright seemed to straighten, become more professional. “Sorry I didn’t come earlier. I was arguing with somebody’s insurance.”

“They… didn’t want to pay?”

“They never want to pay,” Nurse Wright scoffed. “You have to get on the phone and make a whole court case out of it. Argue for the patient’s limbs, basically.”

The nurse looked angrier than Edgeworth thought possible. If he was this upset, in addition to what Edgeworth had done… Maybe I shouldn’t burden him further.

“Well, I’m glad you were on the patient’s side,” he said quietly. “They’re lucky to have you.”

“No they aren’t,” Wright spat. His voice was shaky and his eyes were wet. “Dr. Armando is going to have to amputate two of this guy’s fingers like a medieval barber, because his insurance won’t cover the surgery to save them. They said it’s not vital to life, and not his dominant hand, but he’s a machine worker, so wouldn’t you think both hands are vital to his life?”

The nurse took a step back, and breathed, and seemed to remember where he was.

“Shit, Edgeworth. I should’ve taken a break before I came up here. I was just on autopilot. Sorry.”

“Please,” said Edgeworth, unsure how to comfort his old friend, or if he even should. “I’m bored to tears up here. It’s interesting, at least.”

Wright sniffled.

“If it helps to talk,” Edgeworth said slowly. “…it helps me to listen, believe it or not.” And it was true, because the fear about opening that lockbox was back, and the tangles were gathering on the horizon, and Edgeworth needed Wright to keep talking.

Nurse Wright’s head was lowered. “I spent two hours arguing this guy’s case,” he said miserably. “The surgeon was on her way. But there was a tight time frame because of the way his hand went into the machine…” he was staring at his own hands. “Dr. Armando just wanted to prep him and start surgery, but we’d get in so much trouble if we did that before insurance approval. So I kept trying but then… time ran out. The tendons can’t be saved.”

“I’m sorry,” said Edgeworth.

“Diego was so angry,” Wright sniffled. “He said he wasn’t mad at me, and I know that. But I still…” He shook his head. “It’s just hard to see the doctors have to give bad care for bullshit reasons.”

It’s hard for you to separate your colleagues’ feelings from your own, thought Edgeworth. You silly man.

“It’s not your fault,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate fact of life.”

Wright shook his head. “If you got the right person on the phone, you can change their mind. If April was here today, she would have done it. If it was a man taking the call. She can make men do anything.” He was interlocking his fingers together idly. “I’m not manipulative enough.”

“I think it’s nice that you’re not manipulative.”

Wright looked Edgeworth in the eye for the first time that evening.

Edgeworth was struck by another vivid memory, dredged up in those embarrassing therapy sessions, a memory long unremembered. Phoenix, the child, crying, looking up at him in awe.

He was struck by how those eyes were exactly the same.

Edgeworth cleared his throat, which suddenly had a lump. “Would, um… how much would this man’s surgery cost?”

Nurse Wright stared at him shrewdly, like he was figuring out a puzzle. “I don’t think it would be good for your recovery to do a huge gesture like that, just because you feel bad about me. Anyway, it’s too late.” He crossed his arms. “Even if you had 40k lying around,” he mumbled.

Edgeworth shifted uncomfortably. “Well… would a hug help?” He felt useless.

Wright glanced out the interior window. Nobody was watching them. “I’m still a little mad at you,” he said quietly. “And I don’t know if it’s appropriate.”

“If anyone says anything, you can say I was an out of control psych patient,” Edgeworth said wryly. “If… if you do, in fact, want a hug.”

Nurse Wright looked at the floor. His shoulders started to rise. “Yes, please,” he said softly.

Edgeworth was stepping forward without thought, and gently put his arms around his old friend. How he’d missed this, without even knowing he’d missed it.

“You were correct, Wright,” he said. “I feel terrible about what I did to you. And you have every cause to be angry—”

“Shut up for a second,” said Wright. His face was resting against the thin robe on Edgeworth’s shoulder. Edgeworth felt Wright’s arms go up and around him in a loose return hug.

After a moment, Wright sighed, and relaxed, and hugged tighter.

Edgeworth tried not to think too hard, to stay in the moment. He noticed that he was in his hospital room. He was hugging his old friend, Nurse Wright. Wright smelled of hand sanitizer and a little bit of body odour. Edgeworth took a slow, deep breath.

He resisted the urge to run a hand through the nurse’s hair. He noticed how it felt under his cheek instead.

Eventually, regrettably soon, Wright withdrew from the hug. He stepped back and straightened his clothes. “Why did you want to see me?”

“I wanted to apologize.”

“That’s all?” Wright cocked an eyebrow. “Dr. Fey is letting you stay up an extra two hours because you were rude to a nurse on Thursday?”

Edgeworth scowled. “Well, no, but I would like to apologize if you’d let me.”

“It’s fine, Edgeworth,” the nurse sighed.

“No, it isn’t,” Edgeworth insisted. “It was unacceptably rude. And I know it’s not helpful to speak to a victim that way.”

“Or a friend,” Wright muttered.

Edgeworth let it hang a moment, too afraid to ask are we friends?

“Fine,” Nurse Wright finally sighed, rolling his eyes. “Yes, it was shitty. And yes, I’m kind of mad at you. But honestly, it was mostly just embarrassing.”

Now Edgeworth furrowed a brow. “Embarrassing?”

“Yes! God, Edgeworth, I didn’t want you to know about that! I don’t want anyone to know!”

Edgeworth stood awkwardly, waiting for Wright to find his words.

“I’m not stupid,” Wright finally said. “I know it’s not a good relationship. But I love him. And I know how that sounds!” He raised his hands as Edgeworth opened his mouth. “I know exactly how it sounds. I know how stupid it is. But I do love him! It’s confusing!”

The nurse started pacing. Edgeworth kept his hands fisted in the pockets of his robe rather than hug himself defensively, lest that come across as anger, and tried to not say anything.

“He’s charming, and interesting, and he’s so smart,” Wright was saying, which made it hard for Edgeworth to stay quiet. “Usually he’s nice to me, and when he’s nice to me, it’s great! And he gives me all his attention. And I love him. And I thought…

“I thought if nobody noticed, then it wasn’t real. I get hurt enough at work that I could just pass it off, and forget about it. Other people only saw the great, charming parts, so I could just… pretend that was the whole relationship. And it was easy. Nobody noticed.” Wright sighed. “Except you.”

Nobody noticed?” Edgeworth was aghast.

Nurse Wright was frowning, and his eyes were far away. “I think Chief suspects. But she probably doesn’t want to scare me off.” He barked a cynical little laugh. “You know, when I was dating Dahlia, the one who framed me for murder?”

“As if I could forget,” Edgeworth muttered.

“People noticed then,” Wright sniffed. “Larry, of all people. Remember Larry? He tried to intervene. He took me out for a drink and tried to tell me how bad she was for me. But I loved her, and I wanted it to be real so badly. I defended her. I told Larry he wasn’t my friend anymore.” Wright hugged himself, looking forlorn. “I lost so many friends that year. Which I realize, now, was part of her routine. To isolate me. Which Kristoph doesn’t do, by the way!”

Edgeworth bit his tongue.

“And then Doug tried to warn me…” Wright got very quiet. “No wonder everyone thought I killed him.”

Edgeworth scoffed. “The idea of you killing anyone is absurd. If I had been assigned that case I’d have asked the judge to throw it out.”

“You would, huh?” Wright smiled ruefully at him, and sniffled. “Yeah, you would have realized what was going on. Like you realized now. So I guess I should be thanking you, actually. You’re the fire alarm I can’t ignore anymore.”

Edgeworth bristled a little, uncomfortable, and turned away.

“Ugh,” Wright sighed. “I guess Chief knows for sure, then, huh?”

“That’s another thing I should apologize for. I shouldn’t have been spreading your private—”

“Jesus, Edgeworth, stop it.” Wright sniffled again and wiped at his face. “You were telling her about your day. You’re supposed to tell her those things. It’s my fault for staying friends with my therapist, and taking a job in the same building as her.”

Edgeworth grudgingly nodded. “That does seem a little… enweaved.”

Wright laughed an adorable laugh, an unexpected ray of sunshine. “Well, she should know better, too, but she’s not perfect, either. It’s just… hard to say goodbye.”

Edgeworth felt his heavy lockbox rattle in his chest. He sighed, and was surprised at how strained his voice became. “Was it… difficult for you when I left abruptly? When we were children?”

Wright looked surprised. “Yeah, I guess,” he said. “But I wasn’t mad or anything. Why?”

Edgeworth turned away. “Why don’t you sit down, Wright? Do you want any tea? Or water?”

“I can get that,” said Wright.

“Please sit,” Edgeworth said brusquely, hands shaking as he poured two styrofoam cups of water from the pump-action thermos of now-cold water. His tone worked, apparently, because when he turned back, Nurse Wright was perched on the short couch attentively.

Edgeworth sat on the couch as well, with as much distance between them as he could leave, which wasn’t much. He handed Wright the cup of water.

“Thanks. Uh… is this what you wanted to talk about?”

Edgeworth nodded.

“Okay. What is it?”

Edgeworth took a shaky breath. He counted the tiles on the floor as a tangle grew larger on the horizon of his mind.

“You know,” Wright said quietly. “Sometimes with PTSD, when you talk about the thing, you re-traumatize yourself. We have to be careful.” He gently put his hand on Edgeworth’s. “Is this okay?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” The nurse smiled gently. “So, um, take a deep breath, and look at me, and, um…” he bit his lip. “I’m only a nurse, Edgeworth. Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this with Dr. Fey?”

“Yes,” said Edgeworth. “I— I don’t want to talk to anybody except you.”

“Okay,” Wright said nervously. “Just… take all the time you need, okay? Remember that you’re here, and you’re safe, and you’re not there.” He squeezed Edgeworth’s hand. “It’s like pulling off a scab. It hurts, but it’s not the thing that hurt you, right? That’s over.”

“It’s over,” Edgeworth said shakily. A scab on a wound. The first chain around that lockbox. “My father died that Christmas, when we were children. The last time I saw you.”

Wright nodded. “I know. That sucks.”

“You knew?”

“My mom told me later. Nobody tells kids anything.” Wright squeezed his hand again, encouragingly. “And you moved away, right?”

“Yes.” Edgeworth swallowed, and looked down at the floor.

“Hey,” Wright said jovially, catching Edgeworth’s attention again. “Did you ever get my letters?”

“Letters?”

“That guy, uh… Mr. Shields? He gave me an address in Germany and I wrote you all these letters, but I never heard back.”

“No.” Edgeworth felt gutted. “Oh, no. Wright, I’m sorry. I never received them.”

“That’s okay,” Wright shrugged. “I figured.”

Edgeworth frowned. He suspected he knew exactly what happened to those letters. “You probably had the correct address. I was just never given them.”

“So you were in Germany?” Wright tilted his head. “Is that where… things happened?”

“No. Well, yes, things happened in Germany,” Edgeworth muttered. “But not… this. This happened when my father died.”

“Okay.”

Edgeworth took another shaky breath. “How much did your mother tell you about my father’s death? Or… did you find out later?”

“She just said he died. I heard some details later, but I never, like, dug up an old newspaper or anything,” he said. “It was the bailiff at the courthouse, I think?”

“Yes,” said Edgeworth. “The three of us were trapped in an elevator when the earthquake happened.”

“Oh my god,” said Nurse Wright. “You were there?”

Edgeworth nodded. “The bailiff started to panic, and he attacked my father. I— I think I panicked, too. I passed out. I didn’t see it happen.”

Wright looked devastated. “Shit, Edgeworth. That’s—”

“That’s not the thing,” Edgeworth said hurriedly.

“Huh?”

“I mean… that’s part of it,” Edgeworth stalled. “I can see now, quite clearly, how much of a fucking mess I am. My guardian took me overseas and I never… dealt with this.”

“That’s not your fault,” said Wright.

“Well.” Edgeworth pulled his hand away from Wright’s, and stood. He opened the last little lockbox he’d kept closed for years, and it just came out. “I think I was the one who killed my father.”

There it was. His life was over now, but at least he’d face justice. Maybe he’d find peace.

There was a long stretch of silence.

“What?” said Wright.

Edgeworth turned to goggle at him. “Are you going to make me say that again?”

“No. What the hell are you talking about?” Wright looked baffled. “The bailiff did it. Didn’t they go to trial?”

“He pled insanity,” Edgeworth snarled.

“So… he confessed?”

“He was found not guilty due to his diminished capacity,” Edgeworth spat as he stomped away from the couch. All that fear from earlier was transformed into a hot rage now. Of all the things he’d expected from this conversation, for some reason, being disbelieved was not one of them.

He honestly couldn’t tell if this disorienting anger that made him literally tremble was better or worse than a panic attack. Fight or flight he’d reason if he was in a rational enough state to do so. Two sides of the same coin.

“Okay,” Wright said. “That still means he did it, though, right?”

“I have spent the last fifteen years hating that bailiff,” Edgeworth grumbled. “I’ve felt almost nothing but hate and anger that he got off so easily, because his attorney had him plead insanity and take the easy route. That’s why I’m not a defence attorney,” he threw over his shoulder.

Wright was looking at him with sympathy. “Oh,” he said.

“My life has been about trying to fix this, trying to get justice because I’ll never get justice for my father. But look were I am! Look how I’ve turned out!”

Nurse Wright was frowning, and he certainly wasn’t a psychiatrist, but he struggled to find the right words. “Wh— why do you think that is? Why isn’t it working for you?”

Edgeworth’s shoulders trembled, and his breath was shaky. He was overwhelmed with both anger and sadness and he grit his teeth, and knew that the only way through this was through it. “Because I’ve always had a little doubt, a little uncertainty. And I’ve always secretly suspected that it was me.”

Nurse Wright stood slowly, his eyes shining. “Edgeworth, this is what you’ve been carrying around since we were kids? This is what’s been torturing you?”

Edgeworth nodded, scowling.

“Jesus, Edgeworth.” Wright looked the way Edgeworth felt, angry and sad in equal measure. “Obviously you didn’t kill your dad!”

“I don’t want comfort,” Edgeworth spat. “I’ve said what I’ve had to say. Go report it to Dr. Fey so we can all get on with our lives. I just want peace.”

“What? No, Edgeworth, I’m not going to leave you like this. Can you at least explain to me why you think this?”

Edgeworth hugged himself tightly, digging nails into his bicep. “I’m not going to walk you through an entire case, Wright.”

“No. No. Stop that.” Wright looked suddenly fierce, a stronger version of the mean nurse he’d showed Edgeworth a week before. “I had to go through your whole bullshit role-play routine for my junk. Tell me.” He crossed his arms and almost pouted.

Edgeworth glared at him, but the nurse didn’t budge. “It doesn’t make sense that the bailiff shot the gun. He attacked my father with his bare hands. His gun fell out of his holster. He didn’t even seem to notice it. And having… experienced panic attacks… I don’t think he remembered he had it.”

“Okay,” said Wright. “So what does that have to do with you?”

Edgeworth glowered. “There couldn’t have been anyone else, Wright! I hope you’re not this obtuse with your patients.”

“I’m just trying to understand,” Wright said, but it wasn’t in the condescendingly compassionate tone Dr. Fey would use. Wright sounded genuinely baffled, and suspicious. “The bailiff drops the gun, so you pick it up and… shoot your dad?”

“I threw it, Wright,” Edgeworth sneered. “I threw it at the bailiff so he’d stop his attack. And I heard a gunshot and…” he shrugged.

There was another long quiet pause, and Edgeworth seethed, staring at the floor. When he looked up, Wright was staring at him like he was the most pitiable person on earth.

“Edgeworth…” said the nurse. “It was an accident.”

“Tell that to the prosecutor’s office,” snarled Edgeworth. “There are plenty of my colleagues who would be able to spin this into a murder, and be quite happy to charge a nine-year-old as an adult.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Wright. “I know the justice system is messed up, but I work in the emergency department. Do you know how many parents I see who were accidentally shot by their kids? I know this sucks, but it’s an accident, they happen all the time.”

Edgeworth’s breath was catching in his chest, and his thoughts were crashing upon him like the ocean. “Those children are not Miles Edgeworth,” he said. “There’s politics in the prosecutor’s office, and people who would be happy to be rid of me.”

“Well…” Nurse Wright seemed at a loss as Edgeworth slumped on his bed. “We’d get experts. Like you said, right? Consultants? If the bailiff was panicking, why wouldn’t you be? So, accident.”

“Why are you…” Edgeworth trailed off. “You’d still want to help me? Your opinion of me hasn’t changed?”

Wright looked confused again. “No. Why…? I mean, maybe I feel even worse for you.”

Edgeworth winced, and looked at the ground. “I could’ve said something all this time. I could’ve said something when they went to trial.”

“You were nine,” Wright said.

“I spent my life thinking that man got off easy,” Edgeworth mumbled. “But he would have ended up in a place like this, wouldn’t he?”

“Uh…”

“Worse than this,” Edgeworth deduced from Wright’s hesitance. “A psych prison. And if he pled insanity, he must have thought he did it. He had to live with that.” He rubbed his face. “His life was ruined because—”

“Wait a second,” Wright abruptly cried.

Edgeworth glared. Wright’s arms were crossed, and his brow was furrowed, and he was looking into nowhere.

“What about the safety?” asked the nurse.

Edgeworth blinked. “Pardon?”

“The bailiff’s gun. Wasn’t the safety on?” Nurse Wright tilted his head. “It didn’t go off when it fell out of his holster, but it goes off when you threw it? Like, I’m not a gun expert, but was it the world’s most fragile gun?”

Edgeworth stared at the nurse. This was new. Nothing had ever challenged this story, because Edgeworth had never challenged it. He literally did not know what to do with this information or how to feel about it. He felt like a glass wall, and this new uncertainty was water sliding down it.

“I don’t think you’d pick it up, turn off the safety, and throw it,” Wright continued. “So the only thing that makes sense is if you threw it at the bailiff, and he turned the safety off and used it. But it doesn’t sound like he was in the frame of mind for that.”

Edgeworth slumped on the bed. He felt numb. He didn’t want to think about this anymore. He counted until ten, and then counted again, and felt terribly confused and sad.

Nurse Wright was quiet for a long time. He came and sat next to Edgeworth on the bed, and stroked his back.

“You know that, uh, insurance story I told you?” the nurse said after a while. “That’s… we’re not required to do that stuff. We’re just supposed to either get insurance approval or not. But sometimes you just want to… go the extra mile, I suppose.

“Today, I knew it was a lost cause before I called them. I knew it was going to upset me, and I’d end up hurting myself and not helping anyone. But I did it because… when I come home with sad stories, Kristoph is nicer to me.”

Edgeworth tensed.

“When I’m confident, he gets mean. Like… when I came home after getting you to talk so much.”

Edgeworth snaked his own arm around Wright’s waist.

Wright leaned into the touch. He was quiet again, and then sighed a shaky sigh. “I’m scared of being alone,” he finally said. “And I was scared of being alone before, which is… how I ended up with Kristoph. But Chief said… wh… it’s like, you can believe that bad things will happen. You can catastrophize and tell yourself that things will be awful. But you can’t know. You can’t be certain. You can predict, and you can even be 99% accurate. But there’s always that 1% that everything’s going to be okay. And sometimes you really have to cling to that 1% chance, because you have to do the scary thing.”

Edgeworth sighed.

Wright leaned his head on Edgeworth’s shoulder. “I believe you about the bailiff,” he said. “But I don’t believe you about you. Isn’t there a non-zero chance that something else happened?”

Edgeworth shook his head. “The safety could have been defective,” he muttered.

“I know,” Wright said. “But it still seems like there’s a lot of details you don’t have.”

“There are,” Edgeworth agreed.

“When we were kids… you wouldn’t have accepted that. You would have wanted to know all the details.”

Edgeworth stared at the flowers beside the couch. “That’s true,” he admitted after a long pause. “I would have. And… there is, I suppose, a non-zero chance that there’s another explanation.”

He sensed more than felt Wright smiling, the nurse’s head still resting on his shoulder. He worked hard to stay in the moment, to feel this affection and touch. It was easier, because he was so wrung out from everything he’d been feeling before, and his barriers were down.

“So… what can you do?” Nurse Wright asked.

Edgeworth sighed. “I could re-open the case, I suppose.”

“Does it have to be you? Is there, like, a detective or someone you can put on it?”

Edgeworth considered. “There’s lots of options.”

Nurse Wright drew back. “Will you do it?”

Edgeworth looked at him.

“When you leave here,” Wright went on. “After you get some rest, and speak to your new therapist. Will you re-open the case?”

Edgeworth pursed his lips unhappily. “I don’t know,” he said.

Wright took his hand. “What if… I promised to leave Kristoph? Would you promise me you’d re-open the case?”

Edgeworth raised an eyebrow. “Are you getting meshed with me?”

Wright laughed, and Edgeworth’s spirits lifted a tiny bit. “You almost got it right,” said the nurse. “I don’t think so. I’ve wanted to pay you back for fourth grade. And I know I need to leave him, anyway.”

“You have to be very careful,” Edgeworth said.

“I know.” Wright smiled weakly, and squeezed Edgeworth’s hand.

They sat for a while longer, just staring at each other. Edgeworth felt a lightness now that horrible little lockbox was gone. There was still anxiety lurking beneath, the little future-looking part of him that would always be fretting. He was at the foot of a bitterly cold, hostile mountain, and he was expected to climb to the summit.

But first, he would set up base camp, and rest.

Eventually, Wright pulled away with a regretful smile. “I have to get back to work,” he said. “Thanks for talking to me, Edgeworth.”

“Thank you for listening,” Edgeworth replied tiredly. He watched the nurse go, and when he was out of sight, realized that neither of them had actually made a promise.

This is how Edgeworth’s last session with Dr. Fey ended, on Friday morning, the day before Edgeworth had his big confessional with Nurse Wright.

Dr. Fey reached across the table. “Would it be okay if I touched you?”

He nodded.

She gently took his hand. “I am really proud of you, Mr. Edgeworth. I know you’re facing something hard right now, but you have come so far to get here. I believe in you.”

He stared at their hands.

“Can I leave you with one last exercise?”

He shrugged.

Dr. Fey smiled. “Do you remember how we’ve been talking about your friend Kay?”

“Yes,” he mumbled.

“I want you to imagine her as a baby.”

“A baby?” he furrowed his brow.

“Yep. Imagine her as a brand-new, tiny, half-baked, not-yet-ready, totally helpless baby human.” She paused. “I guess I’m just asking you to picture any baby and imagine it’s Kay.”

He looked down, and smiled despite himself.

She pulled her hand away. “Imagine holding her,” she said. “Taking care of her. Do you see her?”

“Yes.” He hugged himself without meaning to.

“I want to think of a wish you’d have for baby Kay. Just one. You can talk through your decision, if you want.”

Edgeworth thought. “I’d want her to be happy, obviously. Safe. Healthy. I know she’ll be strong and clever.” He was quiet for a while. “Peace. That’s my wish for her.”

“That’s lovely,” said Dr. Fey. “Can you guess what I’m going to ask you to do next?”

Edgeworth closed his eyes against a stubborn hot tear. “You’re going to ask me to imagine I’m the baby,” he muttered.

“Yes,” she said, and there was amusement in her voice. “Can you do it? Imagine you’re holding yourself as a baby?”

He hugged his arms tighter, and scowled. “Yes,” he finally said, and his voice was broken.

“I know yesterday you said that you weren’t the good little boy you used to be,” Dr. Fey said slowly. “But I think you are, Mr. Edgeworth. I think you’re still fragile, and growing, and learning. I think you’re full of potential. And I think everything good that was in that little baby is still in you now.”

Edgeworth gripped his bicep tight, and kept his eyes screwed shut.

“Do you think you could wish peace for that baby?” asked Dr. Fey. “Do you think you could wish peace for yourself?”

Edgeworth took a shaky breath, and opened his eyes. He looked at her. “I could try,” he said, and to his surprise, he meant it.

Chapter Text

Sunday morning came, and Edgeworth lay in bed, watching the curtains on the exterior window grow increasingly bright. He’d laid awake most of the night, and slept a little, and he felt bizarrely alert now, like on the morning of an early flight. Not well rested, but ready to go.

He knew he wanted to get out of here, but he was more confused than ever. It was all well and good, he thought, to challenge one’s core beliefs, but once that core is shaken, how does one rebuild?

Edgeworth had dreamt of his father again, but as the room got brighter, the memory of the dream faded, until he couldn’t even recall if he had recalled it to begin with. He knew it wasn’t a nightmare, like he expected after sharing his last secret. He got the sense that it was a warm and peaceful dream, like the one he’d had in the ER.

He wondered if he had spoken to his father in the dream. The ER dream was the closest he’d ever gotten. Kay had said she spoke with her parents in her dreams a handful of times. He’d never say it, of course, but he was envious.

“Good morning, Mr. Edgeworth!” Bikini breezed into his room. She was carrying a large, plastic bag labelled patient belongings. His clothes were inside. “Sounds like someone had a productive chat with Nurse Wright last night!”

Edgeworth sat up. “Is that— am I—?”

Bikini laughed as settled the bag next to his brown paper one. “Dr. Fey called in, and we went over your chart. You’re free to go as soon as Dr. Armando gets those stitches off.”

He didn’t want to wait another minute. “Can’t I go to my primary care doctor?”

Bikini gently snagged his wrist and looked at the sutures. “Hmm. They should really come out today, less chance of scarring. And one less hassle. Besides, we have to go over your treatment plan. Dr. Fey is still finalizing it.”

Edgeworth’s heart sank. He was beginning to feel fidgety. “I see.”

“So you just relax. I’ll bring your breakfast. Did you want me to call anyone? Do you know how you’re getting home?”

“I’ll take a cab. No need to bother anyone.”

Bikini tilted her head. “That Ms van Korken insisted I call her as soon as your release was scheduled. I told her it would be up to you, which she did not take well. I had to hang up on her!”

Edgeworth stifled a laugh.

“Well, it is up to you,” Bikini repeated. “But you’re just letting her know. If she offers a ride, you can always decline.”

Edgeworth sighed. “Fine. Please call her. And if she wishes to, she can pick me up.” He was also realizing he didn’t have his house keys, and most likely didn’t have his wallet, either.

Bikini soon returned with his breakfast tray, informed him that Dr. Armando would be up around 10:00 to take out his stitches, and his “friends” would pick him up at 11:00. The vagueness of “friends” made him queasy.

Edgeworth sat by his window and ate his breakfast slowly. Two hours until his stitches would come out. Exactly one week and half a day after he’d torn himself apart, and he’d be back to having nothing to keep himself together.

He looked at his chocolates, and flowers, and bags of belongings, and wondered what the hell he was supposed to do with himself now.

Before long, he’d worked himself into a state. His thoughts were hammering him hard and fast, and on top of the usual self-hating mantras was a current of now what? and what actually happened? and an entirely different kind of fear and uncertainty.

As far as panic attacks went, he’d had worse. He gripped the windowsill and lowered his head to his knees, and counted slowly to rein in his breathing. He noticed the fuzz on his slippers, and the baseboard on the floor.

When he was breathing steadier, he peered out the window, and counted the dogs in the dog park. Then he counted them again. He was a human who was alive, who was sitting in a room, who was looking at dogs. He didn’t have to be anything else right now.

This is what you will do this morning, he thought. Just this morning. Just be.

It was a difficult discipline, to spend all morning just staying in the present, guiding his thoughts back when they tried to dart away to something worrisome or dreadful. It was tiring, daunting work, but he did it.

Edgeworth took a long shower and washed his hair. He noticed every detail about the bathroom as he dried himself off. His thoughts went to Nurse Wright as often as they went to anything else, and he dragged them back each time, some times more successfully than others.

Soon it was time to dress. He put the suitcase Franziska had brought him on the bed, and stared for a long time.

Dress like yourself, he thought. He still struggled to see himself in his mind. He still mostly saw a colour-swapped version of von Karma, with a scribble for a face. When that face was uncovered, how should it dress?

Franziska, evidently, had a better time seeing him. She’d packed him one of his wine red suits, of course, but she’d also given him options. It was summer, and he wouldn’t be going back to work right away. Maybe she had deduced that he would want some leisure time, as it were, and packed accordingly.

She must have searched through his entire closet, tossing out outfits with a derisive scoff while Gumshoe haplessly tried to keep up, until she found something in the very back. She’d packed him some Thom Browne clothes he vaguely remembering buying a few months before his courtroom debut, when he was going through what Franziska called his “New England trust funder phase.”

There was a pair of grey tweed shorts, and a pastel pink, short-sleeved oxford shirt embroidered with white whales. There was also a contrasting dark blue cardigan with white stripes around the left bicep, and while it was too warm for it, he put it on to hide his scars.

Edgeworth thought he’d only worn this outfit once, and been ridiculed so much by von Karma that he never wore it again. He wondered why he’d kept it. He must have forgotten about it.

It all still fit. He looked… fine. It’s not like he was going to work.

There was a bowtie in the suitcase, too, but he didn’t put it on.

Edgeworth frowned at the “patient belongings” bag. He only vaguely remembered the night he’d arrived here, but there were some embarrassing snatches. He sniffed cautiously at the bag, and to his relief, his clothes smelled musty and damp, but that was all. Someone— Nurse Wright, he imagined— must have given them a quick rinse off before bagging them up. He wondered if that was standard operating procedure, or the extra mile.

It was nice to have his own shoes on again, and be able to tie his laces himself. Bikini was always nearby. He highly doubted a patient would try to steal the laces out of his shoes while he was still wearing them, but he supposed one could never be too careful.

“Okay,” Bikini said, settling down at his table with a few sheets of papers. “Your treatment plan is all finalized. Here is your new therapist’s contact information, and you have three appointments set for next week. Here is a note for your employer for three weeks off, including this past week. And here is three days’ worth of your fluoxetine.” She gave him a small set of blister-packed pills. “Now, you’re not married to it. You can try something new with your therapist. But here is a prescription for a month’s worth in the meantime.”

Bikini had him sign numerous forms, including something to fax off to his insurance. Then a female patient in another room started shouting, and the old nurse went off to tend to her.

Edgeworth shoved his patient belongings bag into his suitcase, along with the chocolates and the blister pack of Prozac. He carefully slid his photos into a side pocket so they wouldn’t crinkle. He put the forms and the folder of Dr. Fey’s worksheets in there, too.

“Don’t you clean up nice,” a male voice drawled as Edgeworth was trying to figure out how he’d carry his flowers out as well as his suitcase. (Maybe he could donate the flowers to the ward?)

Dr. Armando was leaning against the doorway. He was again dressed impeccably under his white lab coat, but had slight bags under his eyes. He leered at Edgeworth. “You remember who I am?”

“Yes,” Edgeworth said tersely.

“Oh, ho, he talks!” Armando barked a laugh. “Well, come on. Time to get your stitches out.”

“I could’ve gone downstairs to you,” said Edgeworth.

Armando smirked a very arrogant smirk. “Don’t take it personally, but I don’t really like having crazies wandering around my ED. We get enough of that as it is. Anyways, it’s nice to come up here and remind myself how good I have it.”

He nodded his head to indicate poor old Hotti, who was lingering around the nurse’s station, having an emphatic argument with the wall.

“Yes, you don’t strike me as a particularly patient person,” Edgeworth grumbled as he closed his room door behind him.

Armando rolled his eyes. “I’m plenty patient and plenty compassionate. I just happen to know where my skill set lies, and it’s strictly in the body.”

He winked at Edgeworth, who scowled. What the hell? Does the man flirt with everyone?

They got to a small treatment room, and Dr. Armando frowned when he couldn’t open the door. “I always forget everything is locked up here.” He sighed dramatically and leaned against the wall, closing his eyes.

Edgeworth crossed his arms, and almost opened his mouth to say something, when he remembered that Armando had to amputate some poor soul’s fingers within the last half a day, and likely hadn’t been home since.

They heard a familiar jingle of keys, and Armando wolf whistled. “Nurse Bikini! A sight for sore eyes!”

The usually jolly old nurse was huffing and frowning. “You should have waited for me at Mr. Edgeworth’s room, doctor. I had to lock up.” She had her keys attached to her wrist with a short elastic-- nothing retractable that could be used as a weapon-- and was searching through them.

“Sorry, mama cat,” Armando drawled, not looking sorry at all. “Didn’t have my head screwed on straight. Of course, I’d wait for you anywhere-- though it is nice to see you come running to me for a change.”

“Oh!” Bikini rolled her eyes as she opened the door. “That’s not going to work on me, doctor!” Her flirtatious tone indicated that, actually, it would work quite well.

“Now,” Armando said authoritatively after he’d washed his hands. “Let’s see those cuts.”

Nurse Bikini locked them into the treatment room, and got some equipment out of also-locked cupboards as Edgeworth pushed up his sleeves, and Dr. Armando examined his wrists.

“Looking good,” the doctor said approvingly. “How’s the pain?”

How’s the pain? What a question. Edgeworth shifted. “Erm… negligible. A little distracting sometimes, but it’s fading.”

“Nothing a little Tylenol wouldn’t help, huh?” Armando put on gloves, and started sterilizing the cut on Edgeworth’s left wrist.

“Um... is it really necessary to remove them now? Doesn’t it need more time?” Edgeworth finally asked.

“Nah, they look ready. Training wheels gotta come off sometime.”

The doctor started removing the sutures with tweezers and a small pair of scissors. Like receiving the stitches, it felt... strange. A small pull and an itch when they were pulled out, and then... nothing. Fine. Normal.

“Did a great job keeping them clean, Bikini,” Armando drawled, making the old nurse beam.

“Well, I can hardly take all the credit. Nurse Wright was up here more often than not.” She winked at Edgeworth, who stared down at his wrists.

“I let Trite take a nap in my office this morning,” Armando said conversationally, his attention focused on his work. “He had to have himself a little cry.”

“Oh, poor thing!” Bikini pouted. “What happened?”

Edgeworth closed his eyes and tried not to clench his fists too hard as the doctor worked.

“Ah, we just had a rough night. You know how it goes. Sometimes you just need a cry and a nap.” With his eyes closed, Edgeworth focused on the sensation of the sutures being gently pulled out. “Kind of annoying when it happens in my office, though.”

“You did buy that couch so nurses could sleep on it, if I remember correctly,” Bikini teased.

“Yeah, but I didn’t mean him. Alright Mr. Edgeworth, you’re all set.”

Edgeworth blinked his eyes open.

“Keep an eye on them,” Dr. Armando said. “Don’t pick at the scabs. If they start to swell again, or bleed, or if they get streaky, go to your doctor or come back to my ED.”

Edgeworth frowned. “Are you sure they won’t re-open?”

“Skip arm day at the gym for a week or two and you’ll be fine,” Armando shrugged. “I can put steri-strips on them if it makes you feel better. But healing is constant, Mr. Edgeworth. Skin wants to be whole, a body wants to be alive. That’s why it exists.”

Bikini got out some kind of tape, and Armando applied it to the wounds, looking similar to the butterfly bandages the EMTs had originally placed. “It’s okay to shower with them, but they’ll get gunky. Let them fall off on their own, like a band-aid.”

“Like a band-aid?”

Armando glanced up at him while taking off his gloves. “Let me guess. In your family, they made you pull the band-aids off? That explains a lot.”

The doctor signed something on a clipboard that Bikini handed him. “Healing is constant, but it does take time. You just have to let it happen. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’ve been here 16 hours and I’m desperate for my bed.” He winked at Bikini again before he left, and Edgeworth desperately hoped he’d never see him again.

--

In the end he offered the flowers to Bikini, but she demurred, saying they were meant as a gift for him, and he should keep them. She carried them out for him while he dragged his suitcase. She was almost entirely obscured by the huge bouquet in the elevator, which was a rough ride.

Edgeworth had been taken into the elevator on a gurney when he was half-sedated and not entirely on this planet. Now, he cringed, and counted his breaths, and managed to make the four-floor journey without a panic attack. In a way, he would reflect later, it was a good thing he'd never think to ask the old nurse to go down four flights of steps with him. He wouldn't have forced himself to use an elevator without her, and it really wasn't as bad as he feared.

Bikini left him on a bench near the non-emergency entrance lobby. “Do you want me to stay with you until your friends get here?”

“No, thank you,” he said. “Please, you’ve done more than enough for me. I’ll be fine.”

She smiled warmly at him again, and for a moment he thought she was going to try to hug him, but perhaps she felt that was inappropriate. “Take care of yourself, Mr. Edgeworth,” she said. “Nobody else will do it.”

It was too sunny outside. It was always too sunny in this town. He squinted out at the parking lot until a familiar van pulled in.

“Sir!”

There was a loading zone between the lot and the entrance, but Gumshoe had apparently gotten excited and forgotten what to do. He parked haphazardly, got out of the van, left the door open, and ran across the loading zone until he skidded to a halt directly in front of Edgeworth.

“Sir! I--!” Gumshoe reached out, then stopped himself.

The men stared at each other.

Finally, Edgeworth cleared his throat. “Gumshoe,” he said. He awkwardly held his arms loosely behind himself.

Gumshoe blinked. He’d probably never seen Edgeworth dressed so casually, on top of everything else. “Yes! Hello, sir! Uh, let me get your bag!” He grabbed Edgeworth’s suitcase, while Edgeworth awkwardly picked up the flowers. “Oh, you got them! I’m glad. Kay and I picked those out. Oh, dang, the door.”

Gumshoe hurried across the loading zone to get to his van, which was beeping angrily. He tossed Edgeworth’s suitcase in the back seat, and then hurried around to open the passenger door for Edgeworth.

“Sorry about the van, sir! I know it’s not your style. I didn’t think you’d want me driving your car, and Prosecutor von Karma took a case. Well, I’m helping her, but--”

“It’s fine, Detective,” Edgeworth said softly. He let the man take the flowers and place them in the backseat as well, and allowed him to help him up into the high van seat.

Edgeworth felt awkward and exposed, sitting up in the van as Gumshoe slid the door shut and came around to the driver's side. The van was stuffy and hot inside, and smelled faintly of dog, which was oddly comforting.

Gumshoe pulled himself up into the driver's side and started the car. The air conditioner was weak and loud and just blowing hot air around.

“I appreciate you coming to get me,” said Edgeworth.

Gumshoe blinked up at him in surprise. “Of course, sir!” he finally said. “Of course I’d come take you home. Or wherever else you want to go. Whatever you want!”

"Well..." Edgeworth still felt empty and unsure, completely at a loss as to what to do now. "Home, I suppose."

Gumshoe pulled out of the hospital parking lot. The detective was uncharacteristically silent for a while, quite literally biting his tongue, and sneaking sidelong glances at Edgeworth every now and then.

Edgeworth cleared his throat. "How's Kay?" he finally asked.

"Oh! She's fine. Yeah. She, um, wanted to set up a little surprise party at your place, but Prosecutor von Karma thought you wouldn't like that. So, uh, she's helping on the case, too. But there's nobody at your place. Prosecutor von Karma said she'll see you tonight for dinner, though."

"I see," said Edgeworth. "So Kay is handling things alright?”

"Yeah, she... I mean, she was upset. I didn't tell her right away. She went to see you at work and you weren't there and she got snoopy, so... sorry, sir." Gumshoe shrugged glumly.

"Don't trouble yourself," Edgeworth muttered. "Detective... I..." he swallowed a hard lump in his throat and stubbornly looked out the passenger side window. "Thank you for calling 911," he mumbled.

Gumshoe straightened up, and Edgeworth knew the man was beaming. "Of course, sir! It's no more than you would've done for me!"

"Quite," Edgeworth coughed. "If you don't mind me asking, how did you... know? I don't entirely remember it all but I'm sure I did not actually tell you anything."

They came to a stop in a long line of traffic. Gumshoe scratched the back of his neck. "You texted that you didn't think you were going to be at work on Monday," he said. "And then you said sorry."

Edgeworth raised a brow.

Gumshoe sighed. "For one thing, it was sorry, not I am terribly sorry, detective or anything like that. You didn't even put a period at the end. And that's on top of... well, sir, you've never apologized to me for anything as long as I've known you."

Edgeworth startled. "Is that... true?"

Gumshoe shrugged. "Not that I can remember. It stood out, anyway. And..." he sighed again. "Maybe it stood out for me because it was... basically exactly how an ex-girlfriend did it."

Edgeworth turned to Gumshoe, stricken. "Detective, I... I had no idea."

The big man grinned at him sidelong. "Well, I don't exactly talk about it, sir! Don't worry, she's fine now. Sort of. She's married. We're still Facebook friends."

Edgeworth took a shaky breath and looked out at the long line of traffic in front of them. A week ago he was absolutely certain that Gumshoe wouldn't care if he killed himself. Now it seemed he had dredged up all sorts of terrible memories. He felt like a heel.

"Detective, I'm..."

"Please don't, sir," Gumshoe said, but his voice had an unusual edge. "I know it wasn't about me. I mean..." he inched the car forward when they were given some space. "I knew deep down that it wasn't about me, but... yeah. It did hurt, I guess.“

Edgeworth put an elbow on the armrest and rested his chin in his hand.

The detective heaved another great sigh. "She was my first girlfriend," he said, after a long stretch of silence. "High school sweethearts. She has bipolar disorder, but we didn't know that until she was, like, 22.” Gumshoe chuckled. "We were... obsessed with each other. But it was a lot to manage. And we were young. Everything was so important and dramatic, and we thought that was love.”

"Hmm," Edgeworth said, to indicate he was listening.

"She tried it twice. First when we were in high school, and she called me, and I rushed over. That time she cut herself. Then later, just before she was diagnosed properly, she texted me. Just, sorry. That time it was pills." Gumshoe squinted into the light reflected off the sea of cars as traffic eased forward slightly. “And people would say to me, you know, she’s doing it to manipulate you, she’s faking it. And I don’t know if that’s true… I don’t feel like it is. I think when she was feeling that way, it was real in the moment, at least. I was just the only person who stuck with her through it.”

They were quiet for another stretch, and Edgeworth realized that when all this was happening, Gumshoe was younger than Edgeworth was now. Gumshoe had been carrying this about as long as Edgeworth had been carrying his own mess of grief.

“Anyway, she got diagnosed, and started treatment, and things were better,” Gumshoe said. “A little better. It was hard to know what was her, and what was her disorder, but at a certain point… there wasn’t any difference? Something about me would set her off sometimes. I represented…” the detective looked confused. “Ah, I forget what the therapist said. We brought out the worst in each other. I… uh… resolved her of her responsibility to grow, because I had protected her since we were, like, fourteen. I wanted to protect her. That was our entire relationship.”

“And you became a police officer to protect people,” Edgeworth guessed.

“Yep!” Gumshoe beamed brightly at him. “But you know, sir. You can’t protect people from themselves.” He shrugged. “And as much as we loved each other— which was a lot— we weren’t safe for each other. Love isn’t enough if you’re dangerous to someone. We’re better off apart.” He was quiet again. “I do miss her sometimes, though.”

Edgeworth looked out the window, and noticed how damnably bright and sunny it was, and how hot the air in the car was, and how it pricked at his skin. “Detective… you were correct, what I did had nothing to do with you. But it sounds like what I did hurt you, and for that, I am sorry.”

Gumshoe wiped at his face surreptitiously, and smiled at Edgeworth. “Sir,” he said. “You know, you kind of have a reputation for being hard to work with.”

“I know,” Edgeworth grumbled.

“But I choose to work with you. I could be assigned to someone else.” Gumshoe shrugged affably. “I know you. I knew losing Pess was hard on you. Missile’s been depressed, too. I wish you could have talked to me before it… got to this point. But I also knew you wouldn’t, and if I pushed you, it wouldn’t work. I know you, and I still choose to work with you. And be your friend.” He rushed the last words out quickly, as if he didn’t want Edgeworth to dwell on them too long.

“I appreciate it,” Edgeworth mumbled after a long pause. “And… I will try… to ask for help in the future. If I need it.”

Traffic started to clear, and Gumshoe grinned as he got the van up to speed on the freeway. “All you can do is your best, sir!”

“How did the paramedics get into my condo, anyway?” Edgeworth asked as they approached his building. “You weren’t there to let them in.” Gumshoe had a spare key, but if he had been present, he wouldn’t have had to drive around town looking for the right hospital.

“After I called 911, I called the concierge in your building to let him know.” Gumshoe pulled up to Edgeworth’s luxury condo complex. “He saw you first, and stayed with you.”

Edgeworth frowned. Another person with whom to make things right.

He was on the third floor, and Gumshoe carried his suitcase for him as they took the stairs. Edgeworth was still half-expecting there to be some sort of dreadful surprise party, especially since the detective had to open the door for him. But inside there was nothing-- just a tidy apartment almost exactly the way he left it, with only the pictures missing from the mantle. The spot where he’d fallen in the kitchen had been cleaned with post-crime scene thoroughness, and the air was stale. It was noticeably quiet, no little dog claws skittering on the hardwood to come greet him.

Edgeworth suppressed a sigh as he came in and set his flowers down on the kitchen island next to a short, neat stack of mail. Franziska must have been staying at a hotel, he supposed. Maybe when he saw her that night, he would ask her to stay with him. He felt a little regretful that she hadn’t presumed she was welcome.

Gumshoe hauled in his suitcase and gently shut the door behind him. “Do you, uh, need me to stay, sir? Or would you like me to leave?”

Edgeworth looked around the empty apartment. His phone was on the other end of the kitchen island, charging. “I should probably catch up on things,” he said. “And I’d like to rest before I see Franziska this evening.”

“Okay,” Gumshoe said. He was trying to sound affable, but was clearly morose.

“Thank you for the ride home, detective.”

“Anytime, sir! I’ll just, uh, leave you to it, then, I guess.” Gumshoe turned to go.

“Detective, wait.”

Gumshoe turned back hopefully. Edgeworth couldn’t help but fidget, and finally opened his arms for a hug.

Gumshoe beamed, and heaved a relieved sigh, and positively charged across the room to sweep Edgeworth up in a bear hug. He almost swung the prosecutor off his feet. “I’m so glad you’re feeling better now, sir!” he cried.

“Yes. Quite. Thank you.” Edgeworth stammered. He found he did not want to disengage from the hug. Maybe this was something he could get used to.

--

Edgeworth took two weeks off before returning to work. He was surprised at how little his superiors pried into his time off, and how easily his cases were dealt with— for a given value of “easy.” There were some minor headaches in untangling some terrible blunders his fellow prosecutors had made, but overall it was not the career-ending disaster he was expecting.

He didn’t even hear from von Karma. Apparently his absence wasn’t so damaging that his old mentor caught wind of it.

In his time off, he had several sessions with his new therapist, an older gay man who had actually worked as a lawyer in a previous life. Edgeworth surprised himself with how long he got along with his therapist after grudgingly letting his guard down.

He slept a lot in those two weeks off, and went for a lot of jogs, and took his time walking back from those jogs through his local dog park. He read fiction, and did a few of Dr. Fey’s worksheets. He had dinners with Franziska, and they even spent an entire evening on his couch watching movies, something neither of them would ever admit to anyone else.

He returned to work, and work was sometimes aggravating and sometimes stressful and sometimes very rewarding. After about six weeks of being on Prozac, he changed medications with his therapist, and started on Paxil, which seemed to feel a bit cleaner for him. He was also given a prescription for Valium, and had filled it, but had only taken it once, on a particularly bad day.

Around this time, Edgeworth finally got up the nerve to reach out to Kay. He took her out for a meal and explained what had happened, and let himself be amazed by her resilience and affection.

He started to find small, joyful things in his life, and started to feel less foolish about them. He kept a few bags of fragrant Earl Grey tea, his father’s drink, in his desk and in his briefcase, and found the scent of them calming sometimes when he got worked up. He kept up noticing his thoughts, and doing his grounding exercises, and trying new ones.

Sometimes he still had days where nothing would work, and it was harder to accept those as a fact of life.

But his life went on anyway.

--

Two months after his release, Franziska had to return to Germany. She left with a promise to return in the spring, and a plan with his therapist to start sessions together.

Edgeworth tried not to think about Nurse Wright too much, though their last conversation gnawed at him. It had been two months, and he had not taken any steps towards the promise he had made to his oldest friend. Whenever he thought about Wright, his gut would clench and part of him would feel cold. We never actually promised anything, he reminded himself, if only to assuage the guilt, the horrible, irrational thought that if he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain, Nurse Wright would never leave his partner.

He set up a Google alert for both Phoenix Wright and Kristoph Gavin, recognizing that this was perhaps a little paranoid and insane. It certainly didn’t help, because there was never anything about Wright, but there was plenty about Gavin’s latest successes and triumphs.

Edgeworth told his therapist about the Google alert, and about his worries that he was putting all his eggs in Wright’s basket, and how he didn’t want to be a burden to his old friend. His therapist helped him understand that he was waiting for some kind of closure-- which isn’t necessarily a thing anybody ever gets. He had left the lines of communication open, not least with his invitation to Wright to contact him about becoming a consultant, so he needed to close them himself if he wished to move on.

So, after some deliberating and deferring and internet research about proper etiquette, he decided a thank you note was in order. It was routine, but not expected, he learned, for people to send notes or gifts to hospital staff, so he wouldn’t be overstepping, though it did seem rather late. He was a little embarrassed that it took him so long-- waiting two months to send a thank you note is terribly ill mannered.

Though he imagined Nurse Wright saying with a flippant grin, You were going through something.

He didn’t want to single out Nurse Wright, but he also wanted to. He ended up sending a general card of thanks to both the emergency room and the psych ward, along with a box of gourmet cookies and a container of gourmet coffee. He had one sent early afternoon, and another after midnight for the night shift people, not wishing to leave anyone out.

With the night shift delivery, he also sent a rather modest bouquet of daisies for Wright, hoping they would arrive on the right day. In the card he simply put “Thank you,” his name, and his personal phone number. If Wright ever wished to reach out to him, he could, and if not, then that was that, and Edgeworth could move on with his life.

It was another month before Edgeworth worked up the courage to confide in his therapist about all the things he’d told Wright. At that point they were only meeting once a week, and had even skipped one or two sessions due to Edgeworth’s work. But it was mid-October now, and a certain statute of limitations was fast approaching.

At this point, he was less surprised when his therapist listened to him with openness and understanding and not immediate judgment. As a former lawyer, he helped Edgeworth work out the best way to approach things.

Finally, Edgeworth officially put in the work to re-open DL-6 for investigation. He did all the paperwork, and made all the arguments he had to make, and finally had a moment of rest in his office, chin in hand, looking out over the darkening city.

His personal phone rang. It was a number he didn’t recognize.

“Miles Edgeworth,” he answered in a clipped tone, still very much in work mode.

“H— hey!” A familiar, jovial voice rang through. “How— how are you? Sorry, I was kind of prepared to get voicemail!”

Edgeworth sat up straight. “Wright?”

“Yes! Hello!” Edgeworth could hear the din of voices in the background, and something muffled, like Wright was ducking away to find a quiet space. “Um, I wanted to call and say thank you for the daisies!”

Edgeworth blinked. “You’re welcome,” he said weakly.

“God, sorry it took so long to get back to you. I wasn’t— anyways.” The background noise faded away, and Wright’s voice got softer. “How are you?”

“I’m… good,” Edgeworth said weakly, still bewildered. “I didn’t expect to hear from you.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Wright sighed. “I got your flowers my first day back and I kind of freaked out. But I really liked them, thank you.”

Edgeworth noticed a prickle on his skin, and a tightness in his chest. But this wasn’t fear, necessarily. It was a vaguely nervous sort of anticipation. With a startle, he realized: this is what a crush feels like.

“They weren’t meant as anything other than a token of appreciation,” he said hurriedly. “From when you took care of me.”

“No, I know,” Wright huffed a little laugh on the phone. Edgeworth couldn’t help but imagine him in those rumpled blue scrubs— or the sweet Signal Samurai ones— leaning against the wall in some cramped supply closet, a warm smile on that ridiculous face. “They freaked me out because of Kristoph.”

Edgeworth stiffened. “What did he do?”

“Nothing,” said Wright. “Well, nothing... unusual. It’s over now, though. I told Chief what was happening. She helped me. Thank you for, uh... you know. Giving me a nudge, I guess.”

Edgeworth reminded himself to breathe. “And you’re… you’re being careful?”

“Yeah! Uh… Chief really put the fear of God into me about that, heh. Ended up taking all my vacation days and sick days, and I just left. Took all my stuff one day while he was out. Changed my number and got a new phone and everything.”

Edgeworth, besides being relieved, was impressed. “That’s thorough,” he said. “It must have been challenging.”

“It was weird,” Wright said. “I mostly felt sad, like… like it was a normal breakup. But then it was pointed out to me that I’ve never had a normal breakup, so… anyway, Chief’s family has this place in the mountains that’s kind of a pain to get to. They barely have cell reception. I moved out there and just… kind of detoxed, I guess. That’s when the fear started to sink in. When I got some distance and could… see him better.”

The nurse sighed heavily on the line, and Edgeworth felt helpless and weak and a million miles away. “But you’re back at work now? Are you being careful?”

“Yeah, I— I think I’m doing everything right. I’m staying with Chief and Diego for now, and I’m never alone. I’m on all the same shifts as Diego so we go in together which is— well, a pain in the ass, but what are you going to do? I didn’t want to change hospitals. I don’t really think he’d do anything at this point, though.”

“Wright,” Edgeworth warned.

“I know,” Wright sighed. “They always say that. And he’s so well-connected. I don’t know. Guess I’m still sorting stuff out.” Edgeworth imagined him smiling wryly. “I wish I was one of those people who could hold a grudge. Just hate him from the first time he hurt me and never look back.”

Edgeworth felt his brows furrow. His hand was gripping the phone tightly, and he had to consciously loosen his grip. “Living like that is lonely,” he said. “And you’re well-connected now, too. You have a friend in the prosecutor’s office.”

“Do I?” Nurse Wright’s tone was cheerful, and Edgeworth could hear the smile.

“Of course.”

Edgeworth heard Wright’s quiet breathing. He imagined Wright blushing and hanging his head. “Thanks, Edgeworth,” the nurse finally said. “I’m sorry again about taking so long to call you. It was my first day back and I thought the flowers must be from Kristoph, so I freaked. But then I realized they were daisies. And they’re the best flowers I’ve ever gotten. And then I was just embarrassed, so I put off calling.”

Edgeworth felt warmth spreading from his belly outward, and he cleared his throat awkwardly. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about.”

“Well I’m embarrassed all the time anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” Nurse Wright said. “So, um… you’re doing well? Am I interrupting work or anything? I thought this was an office phone and it was after hours…”

“No, no,” Edgeworth. “I’m happy to hear from you. I’m— I’m very happy to hear all of this, Wright.”

“Great!”

Edgeworth took a breath. “I re-opened my father’s case.”

“You did!”

Edgeworth nodded, even though nobody could see him. “It took me a while to get to, but, yes.”

“So how does it work?” asked Nurse Wright.

“Well, these things move slowly,” said Edgeworth. “I’ll have access to the evidence as soon as the paperwork goes through. I’ll have to put an independent detective on it to review everything. If it’s found that evidence is missing or mishandled, there might be an inquiry into several related cases.”

“Wow,” said the nurse. “So it’s a whole thing.”

“Yes, it will be an undertaking. And the holidays are coming up, so that will slow things down. But it’s open now, which is the important thing, since the statue was about to run out. I’ll have all the time I need now.”

“What about you, though? How are you taking it all?”

“I’m doing well, Wright. Truly. I like my therapist and things are… better.”

“Good!” Wright’s voice was warm and the nurse was most definitely beaming. “So we’re both doing great.”

“It appears so.”

“And you know, it occurred to me the other day that we’ve both seen each other at our lowest,” said the nurse.

“Did it?”

“So it’s all uphill from here, right?”

Edgeworth found himself rolling his eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”

“But I am Wright.”

Edgeworth sputtered, and the nurse laughed.

“So how about it?” Wright asked. “Do you want to go for coffee or something?”

Edgeworth noticed the creaking leather of his chair, and the feeling of his breath in his lungs, and the sensation of a faint blush on his cheeks. He looked out the window at the twinkling city, and noticed how pretty it was. He considered Wright’s question.

He smiled.

THE END.

Chapter Text

This got a bit long to stick in the notes underneath!

- “Begone Dull Care” is taken from the Junior Boys album of the same name.

- Chapter titles from 1-4 are from the Casiotone for the Painfully Alone song “Toby Take a Bow.” The chapter 5 title “Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues” is from the Eels song.

- The ink circle “breathe” painting in Mia’s office is a Thich Nhat Hanh print.

- I binge watched all of Nurse Jackie for “inspiration” and the only thing I used is the bad back joke from the first episode. :-/ And the hand surgery thing I guess, but that didnt go as well for poor Phoenix.

- This took me ten months to write??? I am the literal worst.

- Yes, in this universe Edgeworth met Kay a lot earlier than he did in canon. I don’t know how that came to be. The handwaving fun of AUs!

- I think Phoenix met Kristoph when a disgruntled client or witness took a stab at Kristoph and he had to go get stitches. He recognized Phoenix as vulnerable prey and charmed him accordingly. I think he wanted to keep Phoenix around for some sort of Plan, but it wasn’t as clearly defined as it is in the games. Maybe just having someone with medical knowledge and access to drugs and equipment?

- I’m not going to write how this Edgeworth figures out DL-6, but with Phoenix’s help, he will. And then he’s going to watch Kristoph like a hawk and bring justice down on him so hard!!!

I made a playlist for this fic.
 
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