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Of Fake Fairytales and Faux Amour

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The stuffy office Miles was sitting in was slowly taking its toll on his patience. Not only had he been waiting for nearly half an hour, but the clashing red and green colours of the walls were starting to give him a migraine. How his fellow prosecutor could stand sitting in such a mismatched office for most of the day completely went over his head.

To add insult to injury, he was currently sitting on a chair that persistently rocked from one side to the other, as if someone had taken the time to remove some height from one of the legs. The sound of each tap on the cheap laminate flooring made him wonder why he was still there.

I thought she said this appointment was urgent…

The door suddenly creaked open and a petite, dark-haired woman appeared in the doorway, seemingly pretty out of breath. She was wearing a pinstriped pencil skirt and a plain white shirt, with her straight, mid-length hair falling neatly onto her shoulders. It would have looked like a normal outfit if it weren’t for the weird, green velvet jacket she decided to wear with it. She bustled over to her desk and dropped a pile of documents down onto its surface, before turning around to face the cold glare Miles was giving her.

She snickered nervously, biting her lip. “Looks like I’m a bit late, whoops.”

All she received for an answer was a frown.

She laughed again and walked around the desk to take a seat in her swivel chair. “Geez, Miles, lighten up! As much as I love that handsome face of yours, you’ll get premature wrinkles.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “I’ve been waiting here for over twenty minutes, Everett,” he replied hotly, ignoring the amusement on her face. “Your careless manner and lack of apology show that you don’t care that I have an appointment with someone in five minutes.”

She waved her hand as if to swat away what Miles had just stated. “You liar! I know for a fact that you have the next hour completely free.” She kicked off her shoes and began stuffing random files in her desk drawers. “And how many times do I have to tell you that it’s Kath, not Everett.” She seemed to pull a disgusted face at the last name reference, though it could have been at an old document with a big coffee ring stain on the front.

Miles sighed as he watched her cram so many files into one drawer that it wouldn’t close. “The point is, I could have had an appointment, and your ‘extremely important’ meeting with me should really have been top priority, considering you’ve spent the whole week trying to get it.”

“You do have a point there,” Kath responded, smiling. “I’m sorry for being late, Miles.” She pushed back from her desk, still on her chair, and came around to sit directly next to Miles. “Can you forgive me?” she asked in a childish voice, resting her chin on her hand.

Miles nodded in acceptance of the late apology. There was a short silence before he decided to interrupt her staring. “Well…?”

“Ah, right, yes!” She quickly dropped her dozy look, apparently falling out of a daydream.

It suddenly became clear to Miles what this meeting was about. He’d seen that look before and he knew exactly what she was going to ask him.

“Look, Kath.” Miles cringed at having to use her first name. “I appreciate this whole effort, but--”

“Please, let me speak,” Kath interrupted. “I’ve been trying to get you to come to my office all week now, and I really do need to discuss something important with you.” She started to blush slightly.

Miles went to respond, but quickly decided against it. That blush was a signal to leave as quickly as possible. He calmly got up from his chair and started walking towards the door to escape the nauseating situation that he knew was coming.

“Huh?” Kath quickly got up from her seat. “W-wait, what are you doing?”

Miles shook his head as he exited the room and continued down the corridor towards his own office.

“Miles, wait!” Kath called from behind him. “Hey! Come back!”

Please don’t follow me…

He reached the door to his office and felt a grip on his shoulder. He turned around to give Kath a blank look and proceeded to open the door. As he entered his office, he glanced around at his neatly stacked shelves and took in a breath of nice, book-scented air, before walking over to his desk to sit down.

Kath stood at the entrance, mouth hanging slightly open.

“Geez, Miles, all I wanted to do was ask you one little question,” she said, before closing the door and walking over to his desk.

Miles ignored her and started stacking folders that had already been sorted. Perhaps she would get the message.

“Come on, Miles,” Kath insisted, putting her hand on top of the pile of documents. “Hear me out, at least! You don’t even know what I was going to say!”

Miles sighed.

Yes, I do.

He slammed his hand down on the desk, making her jump. “Everett. I’m really not interested in your questions at this moment in time.”

She was the third woman this month who had attempted to ‘ask him one little question’. No matter how many times he said no, it only seemed to add to the amount of attention he got from the female masses. Was it so hard to understand that he wasn’t interested in relationships? He’d seen enough over the years to know that they never amounted to anything good and were a complete waste of time.

“Listen,” Kath said, leaning over the desk with one arm. “Since you’re being difficult – and I now see how you got that hard-to-get reputation – I’ll cut straight to the chase.” She leaned in slightly further, making Miles lean back into his chair. “I like you. Your attitude, your looks… everything! I was wondering…” The same blush from before crept up onto her cheeks. “Do you want to go on a date?”

Miles sighed again.

So much for getting rid of the awkward excuse moment.

He paused for a second, before answering in a flat voice, “Look, I’m flattered, but… I’m really sorry, but I can’t. You see, I’m…”

A father to six children? A workaholic? Asexual? Secretly a woman in men’s clothing? HIV positive? Gynophobic? Going to die of cancer in six months? About to kill you? On probation? A rapist? A pimp? Moving to the Himalayas and never coming back?

“…taken. Sorry, Everett. I’m already taken.”

Kath simply laughed at Miles’ answer, before winking and whispering into his ear, “Come on, we both know that’s not true.”

Miles shook his head and pushed himself up from his seat, before walking around his desk to stand next to her.

This is going to require a lot of good bluffing.

“Everett, I really am taken,” Miles insisted. “It’s the only reason I can’t go on a date with you. I respect you and you’re a great person, but I already have someone.”

Miles hated lying, but he didn’t really have a choice. Every time he told women that he wasn’t interested, they either started crying or refused to believe him.

“Miles, you’re such a joker!” Kath replied, punching him playfully on the arm.

Maybe those more radical excuses were better options, after all…

“No, I’m being serious,” he replied weakly, rubbing his arm in a protective way. He took a step back from Kath and leaned against the bookcase.

She rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “Come off it already! I’ve heard all the gossip; you’ve never been in a relationship and you aren’t planning on being in one either.”

Miles frowned.

If she knows I’m not interested in relationships, then what the hell is she doing here!?

He decided to keep up the act. “I don’t know what you mean. We’re very happy together and I think it’s going to last a very long time.”

Or until you decide to leave me alone.

“Miles, just stop it with the whole ‘I’ve got a girlfriend’ crap,” Kath snapped, walking over to the couch to sit down. “I’d be your perfect option at the moment, seeing as I’m leaving for Italy in exactly a month. I’m sure you could use some fun to yank that stick from up your ass.”

Miles blinked, then crossed his arms. “You’re lucky I get that enough from my acquaintances that I don’t take any offence from it.”

“Acquaintances? Don’t you mean friends?”

Miles sighed wearily and leaned his head back against the bookcase. “Just… just go, Everett.”

“No, Miles,” she insisted, her voice suddenly serious. “You see, this is exactly what I’m talking about. You’re constantly pushing people away and you’re really not helping with the whole Demon Prosecutor reputation you used to have.”

Miles gave her a cold glare. “I have all the people I need in my life already.”

Kath scoffed. “If you mean yourself, that doesn’t count, you know.”

Why is the notion of me having a social life so inconceivable?

Images of Wright and Larry, along with a glimpse of Detective Gumshoe, came flooding into his mind. These were soon followed by his sister, and even Maya Fey, whom he’d helped recently for the sake of Wright.

Miles felt a smile form on his lips as he replied in a calm voice, “You’re wrong, Everett. I’m not lonely and I haven’t been in a long time.”

A small knock was suddenly heard at the door. “Edgeworth? Are you there?”

Speak of the devil…

“Yes, come in.”

Phoenix entered the room and quickly closed the door behind him. A smirk appeared on his face as he walked over to Miles.

“Hey, honey, I’m home!”

Miles frowned.

Home? I’m not in my office that much…

Wait… Did he just call me ‘honey’!?

Miles’ mouth fell open as he realised how Everett could have interpreted what Wright had just said. He desperately tried to form words to explain the situation, but all that came out was, “You… he… wha… nngh!?”

Phoenix rolled his eyes, obviously not registering the fact that there was another person in the room. He crossed his arms and leaned against the bookcase next to Miles.

“Oh, come on, Edgeworth. It wasn’t that bad.” Phoenix chuckled. “You look like I just called you ‘pumpkin’ or something.”

“Wright! Shut up!” Miles hissed, clenching his fists at his sides. He gave Phoenix a glare and tipped his head towards Kath.

“…Huh?” Phoenix looked at Miles blankly, before turning to look where Miles was indicating.

Kath was still sitting on the couch, staring straight at Phoenix. Her eyes were open so wide, it looked as if they were about to fall out of their sockets.

Oh, please say she knows it was just a joke…

I did refer to my pretend partner as a girlfriend, didn’t I?

Didn’t I!?

“Everett, it really isn’t what you thi--”

“Oh, hey! Didn’t see you there,” Phoenix interrupted. He stepped over to where Kath was sitting and held out a hand. “I’m Phoenix Wright, defence attorney. Nice to meet you…?”

Kath stared at him with a dazed expression for a few seconds, before taking his hand and letting out a croaked and quiet, “Kath Everett… prosecutor.”

“Nice to meet you, Miss Everett.” He smiled at her and dropped her hand, before turning back around to Miles. “Hey, when did you start being social with your colleagues?”

Miles gave Phoenix a piercing look in an attempt to send his desperate thoughts telepathically. Unfortunately, it looked as though that wasn’t going to work.

“She was merely asking if I would like to join her for a meal,” he explained.

“Oh, I see how it is,” Phoenix replied, crossing his arms. “And I thought I was the only one for you!”

Miles looked at him in disgust.

Is he doing this on purpose?

He glanced over at Kath, who still had a shocked expression on her face, then turned back to Phoenix and sighed. “Will you shut up for a second and let me explain the situation?”

“Mr. Wright, Miles really wasn’t doing anything of the sort,” Kath spoke up, waving her hands defensively.

“Phew, that’s a relief,” Phoenix said, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand.

“I’m sorry! I really am!” Kath exclaimed. “I should have realised that he doesn’t like women. I was the one who came on to him and… and…” Kath got up from her seat and bolted for the door. She wrenched it open and turned to look at Miles. “I-I’ll see you around… I’m sorry for hitting on you even though you’re already t-taken,” she stuttered, before disappearing behind the door.

Phoenix laughed. “I didn’t know you weren’t interested in women.”

“You don’t understand what you’ve just done, do you?” Miles said through his teeth.

Phoenix blinked a few times, then finally seemed to realise what had just happened. “Wait… She thinks that you and I…?” He gestured between Miles and himself and raised an eyebrow. “What the hell have you been telling her!?”

“What have I been telling her!? You’re the one who walked in here making gay jokes and now she thinks I’m--”

Wait…

I hadn’t even thought of sexual orientation as an excuse, but if she thinks I’m gay…

I’d be free from her clutches.

But… Wright, of all people…?

Well, he’s not bad-looking…

Ugh… what am I saying? Good-looking or not, Wright is my closest friend. I’m not going to jeopardise our friendship because of some woman who decided to hit on me.

And I don’t really want her to tell people that I’m gay…

But would it really matter? It’s not as if I’ve ever been interested in women…

But I’ve never been interested in men, either.

…Does that make me asexual?

No, no, no! Shut up! I can be attracted to people!

I obviously just don’t do relationships.

…Or am I in denial?

Damn it! Get a grip! I am not gay, and I’m definitely not going to make her think I am. How did that stupid idea even get into my head in the first place?

Miles rubbed his temples. The headache he could feel coming on reminded him why he’d always avoided thinking about those things.

“Edgeworth? Hey!” Phoenix waved his hand in front of Miles’ face.

Miles sighed. “Sorry, I was just…”

“Why was she here, anyways?” Phoenix asked, looking confused.

“Well, to cut a long story short; she hit on me, I told her I was taken, then you came in and made all those jokes, and now she thinks we’re together.” Miles looked Phoenix in the eye and scowled. “It’s entirely your fault. Now, if I tell her she’s right, she’s going to go and tell everyone, but if I tell her she’s wrong, she’ll just hit on me again.” He leaned his head back against the bookcase. “I’m so fed up with women.”

“Oh…” Phoenix said simply.

They stood there in silence for a while. Phoenix was staring out of the window, seemingly lost in thought.

“Edgeworth… I think I have a solution to your problem.”

Miles gave Phoenix a sceptical look. “A solution to this mess, just like that?” He scoffed. “Sure you do.”

“Hey, you don’t believe me?”

Miles shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. She’ll eventually get disinterested like all the others if I just ignore her for a while and--”

“It’s alright, I’ll do it.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “You’ll do what, now?”

Phoenix smirked. “Pretend to date you, sugar.”

Miles cringed. “Wright! Will you stop that!?”

Phoenix laughed. “Okay, okay, but at least think about this. If you pretend you’re with me, you can just tell her to keep it a secret and she’ll be off your back.” He shrugged and sat down on the desk, before adding with a raised finger, “Plus, I make a good boyfriend.”

Miles gave him a blank look. “There’s no way I’m going through with this,” he said, walking over to his desk. He sat down and went to pick up the receiver, only to be stopped by Phoenix’s hand.

“Hey, don’t turn me down so easily here, my love,” Phoenix said in an amused voice.

“Wright, you are pushing your luck. Start taking this mess seriously! I’m this close,” he gestured with his hand just how close, “to killing you right now.”

“Nah, you wouldn’t. Not since I got you out of jail with my amazing skills,” Phoenix said cockily, letting go of the phone, before starting to inspect his nails in feigned disinterest.

Miles rolled his eyes and looked away from him, hiding an amused smile.

You’re impossible, Wright…

He dialled the number to Everett’s office and put the receiver to his ear, ready to tell her that she’d got the wrong idea and that he wasn’t really going out with Wright.

But… he was offering to help?

This could make things easier…

He frowned.

Maybe pretending to be gay for a while would be bearable.

Hello?

Miles shook his head as he dismissed that train of thought. “Hello, Everett, it’s Edgeworth. I just wanted to say…”

What did I want to say? That I’m not really gay and I’m simply rejecting her?

Oh, Miles, I’m really sorry about before. I can’t believe how stupid I’ve been. I should have seen the signs that you don’t like women, you know, with your hard-to-get attitude and all.

Miles gritted his teeth. The fact that he wasn’t interested in relationships didn’t automatically make him gay.

“No, Everett, that’s not it. I just wanted to explain…”

Explain what?

He looked over at Phoenix, who was currently inspecting his chessboard. He looked deep in thought over the position of the pieces for some reason.

Miles then realised he was staring, while Everett was rambling away to no one on the other end of the line.

…And I can’t believe all those times you said you were taken and I just took it as a lie. I really thought I was good at seeing through lies as well! Please forgive me!

Miles closed his eyes. He needed to make a decision.

“You can just tell her to keep it a secret and she’ll be off your back. Plus, I make a good boyfriend.”

Oh, screw it!

“It’s fine, there’s really no need to apologise, Everett.”

Kath.

“Right, Kath. I need you to… keep this whole thing quiet. Wright and I have decided to keep our relationship as private as possible so our… err… sexuality… jobs… err… It would be bad if people found out.”

Very smooth, Miles.

Sure! I can do that! Oh, thank you, Miles, for entrusting me with your secret! I hope that weird guy can help you get rid of that stick up your ass… Or maybe you like it there now?” She giggled at her joke.

…Hilarious.

“Thank you, I really appreciate it. Have a nice day,” Miles said, relieved, before hanging up the phone. He leaned back in his chair and let out a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding.

“Um… Edgeworth…” Phoenix said hesitantly. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all…”

Miles sat back up and frowned. “What?”

“I don’t…” Phoenix paused. “I don’t really want to pretend I’m gay. What if someone finds out? Forget what I said; I won’t do it.”

Miles leaned forward and slammed his hand down on the desk. “What the hell!? I’ve just told her that I’m in a bloody relationship with you and now you’re saying you want to back out!?”

Phoenix took a few steps backwards, holding his hands out defensively. “I… err… well…”

“What the hell did you even come here for!? If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have had to pretend to be fucking gay!”

“Listen,” Phoenix spoke up. “I’ve had quite a bit to drink…”

Oh… so now he tells me.

I knew something wasn’t right…

“I came over to see if we could… talk. I need to get some things off my chest because I’m so confused and--”

“Get out.”

Phoenix blinked. “But… I…”

“Damn it, Wright! Just leave.”

“But I really need your help, Edgew--”

“I said. Get. Out.” Miles glared at him and pointed to the exit. “I’ll sort this mess out with you tomorrow when I’m in a better mood and you’re not drunk.”

Phoenix sighed resignedly and quickly left the room, leaving Miles to stew over his words and actions.

I can’t believe this just happened…

Miles leaned forward and placed his head into his hands. Wright was the worst person he could be pretending to date. They worked on opposite sides of the courtroom – if word ever did get out about their ‘relationship’, the media would have a field day.

Why had he listened to Wright? Why couldn’t he have had a normal reason to turn Everett down? Why were things always so damned difficult for him? He’d never been in a relationship before, let alone had relationship problems, and now he’d gotten caught up in this stupid situation with Wright? God seriously liked messing with his head, that was for sure.

Miles groaned miserably into his hands and had to resist the urge to punch something. It was just like that day when he’d lost in court and poured coffee all over himself from scrunching up a paper cup in anger.

Yet again, thanks to Wright.

But there was that one little thought in the back of his mind – the one thought that stopped him from breaking down right then and there:

At least this means I have the chance to kill that damned drunkard tomorrow.

Chapter Text

-Bring bring, bring bring-

Phoenix let one of his eyes flutter open to witness… darkness. Confused, he turned onto his back, but the onslaught of sunlight that was streaming through the window caught him off guard, making him snap his eyelid shut again. Why hadn’t he drawn those curtains last night?

-Bring bring, bring bring-

And what the hell was that noise? It felt like a thousand knives were stabbing at his eardrums.

-Bring bring, bring bring-

“Agh… Go away… I like my ears how they are…” Phoenix mumbled incoherently, holding his head and rolling from side to side.

-Bring bring, bring bring-

He suddenly fell on something he could have sworn was an extremely floor-like surface. He let out a long groan of discomfort and surrendered, waiting for the next assault of painful noise.

But it never came.

Phoenix lay there for a moment, then suddenly felt the need to stretch his arms. A jolt of pain flashed in his right hand as it collided with something that was way too low to have been a bedside table. He hissed and opened his eyes, only to realise that he was in his living room and that the object he had hit must have been the coffee table.

Coffee table – one, Phoenix Wright – nil.

He slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position and looked around the room. He figured that the noise that woke him up must have been his phone.

Yawning, he got up and walked over to the mirror hanging on the wall near the door. His reflection scared him a bit – his eyes were bloodshot and had dark circles underneath, his hair was a complete mess and his suit was horribly wrinkled.

What the hell happened last night?

Phoenix sighed and turned his attention back to the phone that was sitting on the coffee table. He started walking over to it, only to trip over something and fall face first onto the couch.

“Ugh… What the…” Phoenix looked over his shoulder to see that he had stumbled over one of his shoes that was lying around.

Great. Is everything in this apartment trying to kill me?

Groaning, he managed to push himself back up onto his feet. He reached over to pick up the handset and was surprised to see that he had twenty missed calls. Blinking profusely to make sure his eyesight wasn’t impaired, he dialled the number to check his voicemail.

You have three new messages.

Message one, received Friday May 18 at 1:34 P.M.

Nick, where are you!? I’ve been calling your cellphone all morn--

Phoenix panicked at the sound of Maya’s voice and quickly pressed the third button on the keypad.

Message deleted.

He already felt guilty enough for not going to work yesterday; he really didn’t need to be reminded right now.

Message two, received Friday May 18 at 8:51 P.M.

Yo, Nick! Just calling to remind you that… uh… Wait, what was I supposed to remind you again?” Larry paused. “Wait! Hold on, I know what to do! I wrote it all down somewhere…” The sound of rustling paper was heard in the background. “Aha! Here it is! It says to remind you that I’m coming over for lunch tomorrow. So, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then, Nicky-boy. Wait… hang on… Crap! I don’t have any beer to bring or anything, and I’m so totally broke, dude! Please say you’ll buy everything? I don’t want to blow you off, man; we haven’t met up in ages. I spent all my money on Coralie last week, and then she broke up with me on Wednesday.” Larry sighed. “Coralie and her beautiful hair extensions, long model legs, great cooking skills, kinky fluffy handcuffs… Why me? I’m so pathetic! How was I supposed to know that when she said we were on a break, it actually meant she could go and date other guys? I thought she was talking about my work shift at the salon, so I took the rest of the day off… Wait… salon… work… Damn! I’m in so much sh--

-Beep-

Phoenix laughed. It looked like Larry had forgotten to go to work again.

And then he wonders why he can’t keep a job…

Message three, received Saturday May 19 at 12:15 P.M.

Hello, Wright. I’m calling to remind you that we need to talk about what happened yesterday. I’ve been trying to reach you all morning but you still won’t pick up, so I’ve decided that I’m inviting myself over for a talk. And no, I don’t care if you have plans. If you wanted time to recover from your well-deserved hangover, you should have thought of that before you decided to make us look gay in front of Everett. Expect me in thirty minutes. Goodbye.

-Beep-

End of new messages.

Phoenix frowned.

I made us… look gay?

He tried his hardest to remember what he had done, but to no avail. All he could recall was having a few drinks at the bar, and then… nothing.

I guess I had more than just a few drinks…

Phoenix groaned and dropped the handset back onto the base. He scanned the room for anything that could help him remember the rest of his day, until his eyes fell on a pile of letters on the floor. Perhaps a simple activity like sorting junk mail could stir his brain from its slumber?

He went over to pick up the letters and looked at each one in turn.

Advertisement for a random window cleaner… Bills… Reminder about some building construction next door…

They must have remembered I’m a lawyer that could sue their asses off…

Bank account statement… Free coupon for some garden center… More unpayable bills…

How exciting.

Wow, look at the prices for that new restaurant! Eww… Who on Earth would want to eat honey-glazed frog legs? There’s one place I definitely won’t be going to…

“She was merely asking if I would like to join her for a meal.”

Oh! I remember!

Phoenix had gone to Edgeworth’s office to ask him for some advice, but there was a woman there who’d apparently been hitting on him. It was all slowly coming back to him now.

He turned his attention back to the restaurant flyer in his hand. Shaking his head, he checked the next letter, only to realise he’d already seen it.

I guess that’s it.

Phoenix dropped the bills on the coffee table and made his way to the kitchen to throw out the rest of the mail. After opening the garbage can, he started discarding the letters one by one, making sure he hadn’t missed anything important. When only the restaurant flyer was left in his hand, he went to throw it out with the rest but stopped himself. He read it again and frowned. Why was the word ‘honey’ ringing such a huge bell?

…Oh God.

He swallowed nervously as every little detail came flooding back to him.

Shit… No wonder Edgeworth wants to kill me…

Sighing, Phoenix dropped the flyer in the trash and turned around to look at the time on the stove. It read 12:24. That left him around twenty minutes.

Twenty minutes to take a shower, shave, find something to wear, grab some late breakfast, brush his teeth, comb his hair, swallow some aspirin, put some beer in the fridge that he knew only Larry would touch and hide all the newspapers and coffee cups that had stacked themselves up from late nights.

Phoenix sighed again.

I’ll start with the aspirin…

Eighteen minutes later, Phoenix mentally patted himself on the back. He had managed to ignore his stomach, take a rushed shower, not cut himself while having a quick shave, fix his hair, brush his teeth, put some beer in the fridge and pick up most of the junk that was lying around. But he had yet to find a clean shirt to wear.

I really need to start doing the laundry more often.

Just as he’d given up on finding something suitable in his closet, Phoenix heard his doorbell ring. He slammed the closet door shut and quickly opened the top drawer of his dresser. Grabbing the first shirt that came to hand, he pulled it over his head and ran to the living room to open the door.

Peering out sheepishly, he laid eyes on Edgeworth, who was wearing a maroon dress shirt and dark blue jeans, with his long, black trench coat on top. Phoenix rarely saw him outside of work, so it was always a bit strange to see him in normal clothes.

“Hey, Edgeworth… I, um, got your message…” Phoenix did his best to avoid eye contact. “I’m sorry I never picked up the phone. I, uh… kind of had a rough night.”

Miles scoffed. “And here I was, thinking you were just ignoring this mess you’ve got me into.”

Phoenix stepped aside. “Uh… I guess you should come in.”

Miles quickly walked past him, then stopped to look around the room. “I swear this place keeps getting messier every time I see it.”

“Hey, I didn’t exactly have much time to clean up since you kindly decided to invite yourself over!” Phoenix bit back, closing the door. “And what do you mean it keeps getting messier!? You’ve only been here once before and it was just to drop off that stupid poster Maya wanted.”

Miles scowled. “It was a deluxe Steel Samurai limited edition poster, which is the only one to depict him with his right glove torn off by the Evil Magistrate in episode eleven, I’ll have you know.”

Phoenix couldn’t help but smile.

And then he tries to pretend he’s not a fan.

“Yeah, whatever,” he replied, trying to hide his amusement. “So, I guess we have some things to talk about…”

Miles opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again and blinked a few times. He pointed his index finger at Phoenix’s chest. “What the hell is this!?”

Phoenix frowned. “What?” He looked down at himself.

Don’t tell me this is…

He spun around to face the mirror and saw that he was indeed dressed in the old, light pink t-shirt Maya always wore to sleep when she visited his apartment.

Damn it! I thought it was white from the lighting in the room…

Phoenix felt the heat rise to his face; he looked like an idiot. The sleeves of the shirt were way too short, clinging tightly to his upper arms, and the neckline was all stretched out of shape from Maya’s weird habit of stuffing her knees under the shirt when she watched TV. To top it all off, the words ‘Baby Girl’ were written in bright purple glitter on the chest area.

I’m surprised the mirror hasn’t cracked yet from my appearances today…

Miles brought his hand to his face. “Please tell me this isn’t another one of your gay jokes.”

Phoenix laughed nervously, his eyes darting between Miles and his own reflection in the mirror. “You say ‘gay’ like it’s a bad thing.”

Okay, that definitely wasn’t the smartest thing to say.

Miles dropped his hand and shook his head in disbelief. “I came here to discuss things with you and then you go and pull a stunt like this?”

Phoenix waved his hands defensively. “No, this wasn’t intentional! I was in a rush and grabbed the first thing I could get my hands on!”

“And why, dare I ask, was the first thing you could get your hands on a woman’s shirt?”

“Err… long story,” Phoenix replied, pulling at the shirt. “Look, I’ll just take this off and go get something more suitable. Forget about it, okay?”

He took off the shirt and looked at it for a moment, before turning his attention back to Miles, who was staring at him rather oddly. Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Miles quickly snapped his head back up, his eyes widening. “N-nothing… I wasn’t--”

-Ding-Dong-

Relief seemed to wash over Miles’ face at the sound of the doorbell, and he swiftly went to open the door before Phoenix could so much as flinch.

”Edgey, my man! I didn’t know you were coming as well!” Larry exclaimed as he entered the apartment. “What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you in ages!”

“I came over to discuss something with Wright, but I suppose it’ll have to wait until later,” Miles replied, an annoyed tone to his voice.

“Hey there, Nick!” Larry shouted, turning to look at Phoenix. He seemed to do a double take at his appearance. “Are you not wearing a shirt?”

Phoenix sighed. “No, I was just about to go grab one when you rang the doorb--”

“Wait…” Larry looked at Miles, then back at Phoenix. “Don’t tell me you two were just--”

“Shut it, Larry!” Phoenix interrupted before he could jump to stupid conclusions. “I’m shirtless because I was wearing a woman’s shirt and--”

“A woman’s shirt?” Larry smirked. “Damn, Nick, you really are kinky!”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “No, Larry… It’s Maya’s old t-shirt,” he replied, lifting his hand holding the shirt. “I grabbed it by accident ‘cause I was in a rush, then I took it off when I realised I was wearing it. I was just about to go get changed.”

Larry laughed. “Alright, you go do that while Edgey and I make ourselves comfortable.”

You’re welcome.

Shaking his head, Phoenix made his way into his bedroom. He threw the shirt on the bed and looked in the top drawer of his dresser again. Taking out a dark blue t-shirt, he quickly put it on and went back to the living room.

“Sorry about that,” he said as he walked in. “Either of you want a drink or something?”

Larry looked up from his seated position on the couch. He mimed downing a beer, before giving Phoenix a thumbs up.

Of course.

“And you, Edgeworth?” Phoenix turned to see him standing awkwardly by the door, his coat folded over his arm. “Hey, you can have a seat, you know. Here, let me take your coa--”

He tripped over the same shoe from before and fell forward, grabbing Miles’ arm to regain his balance.

“S-sorry…” he said sheepishly, pushing himself back up.

Larry burst out laughing. “Nick, dude, that was priceless!”

“If you wanted to take my coat that badly, you should have just asked,” Miles said with a smirk, holding out his coat.

Sighing, Phoenix took it and hung it on one of the hooks near the door. “You never answered my question. Want anything to drink?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Miles replied, walking over to the armchair in the corner to sit down.

Phoenix nodded. “I’ll be right back.” He made his way into the kitchen and opened the fridge. He reached into the back and grabbed one of the beers he’d put in earlier for Larry.

Not very cold, but it’ll do.

He closed the fridge and poured himself a glass of water, before going back to the living room to hand Larry the beer.

“Thanks, Nick!” he exclaimed, opening the bottle. “You’re not having one?”

Phoenix shook his head and took a sip of his water.

I think it’ll be a while before I drink one of those again…

He sat down next to Larry and looked over at Edgeworth, who was staring off into space, arms crossed.

He obviously didn’t expect Larry to show up…

“Hey, Edgeworth.”

Miles’ eyes flickered to him, but he gave no other sign of acknowledgement.

“It’s okay, we can talk later,” Phoenix said, twisting the glass in his hand. “I could meet you at your office if you--” He cut himself off and frowned. “Wait, it’s Saturday…”

There was a pause.

“…I do have some paperwork left from my last case,” Miles replied hesitantly.

Phoenix smiled. “So that’s sorted, then.”

“What’s sorted?” Larry cut in, glancing at both of them.

“By the way,” Phoenix continued, ignoring Larry’s question, “if it makes you feel any better, I guess I don’t mind preten--well, you know… I never see that woman, anyways.”

“What woman? What’re you guys talking about?”

“It’s none of your business, Larry,” Miles said dryly.

“Oh, come on! Why am I always the one who gets left out!?” Larry put his beer down on the coffee table and crossed his arms. “I thought we were friends.”

Phoenix sighed.

It’s like dealing with a five-year-old…

“There’s this woman who was hitting on Edgeworth.” He paused to glance at Miles, then took the lack of reaction as permission to continue. “He wasn’t interested so I told him to pretend that he’s dating me.”

Larry blinked a few times, then started laughing. “Dudes, I always knew there was a reason you two never get chicks.”

“We’re not gay, Larry,” Phoenix snapped. “He just needed a way to get rid of her.”

“I know, I know,” Larry replied through chuckles, picking up his beer again. “So how ugly is she?”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Well, she’s not ugly, but--”

What!?” Larry spluttered. “Oh my God, Edgey, you’re an idiot! Never blow off a hot chick, dude!”

Miles scoffed. “Of course, if a woman’s attractive, I automatically have to be interested in her.”

“Well, yes,” Larry said, as if that was the only possible answer.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Well, he isn’t.”

Larry turned to him and shrugged. “His loss.” He took a gulp of his beer and seemed to ponder for a moment. “So… how long are you planning on keeping up the act?”

That was a good question. “Err, I haven’t actually thou--”

“One month,” Miles stated.

Phoenix turned to look at him. “Why one month?”

“She told me that she’s leaving for Italy in a month.”

“Really? For how long?”

Miles shook his head. “I didn’t ask.”

“Ah,” Phoenix replied simply, looking down at his glass.

Well, that should make things easier.

“I remember when I was in that situation,” Larry commented. “Good times.”

Phoenix looked up at him and blinked. “What? You never told me you had to pretend to be gay before!”

“That’s because I didn’t,” Larry explained. “My friend was a girl, unlike silly Edgey over here.”

Oh… Of course.

“Actually,” Larry continued, “I think I have a way of making this work out for you.”

Phoenix frowned. “You do?”

Miles let out a sigh, before apparently deciding to humour him. “Do elaborate.”

At Larry’s confused look, Phoenix chuckled. “He’s asking you to explain.”

“Oh, right, yeah.” Larry rolled his eyes. “I knew that.”

Sure you did.

“So here’s the plan: ‘I’m Gay and You’re Not Having Me’!” Larry clapped his hands together and grinned widely.

Phoenix and Miles looked at each other.

What have we got ourselves into?

“It’s simple,” Larry added. “You just need to look like a couple of dudes in love and she’ll eventually accept the fact that Edgey’s gay and that she can’t have him. Then, when you get tired of pretending, you can stage a breakup and she won’t even bother looking at him again.” He smiled brightly and took a deep breath. “Any problems?”

“Yes,” Miles replied quickly. “I’ve spotted one massive flaw in your plan right from the start.”

“No way!” Larry protested. “It’s foolproof!”

Miles gave him an unimpressed look. “You’re suggesting that we spend time with her and act as though we’re together.”

“Mm-hmm,” Larry mumbled as he took a sip of his beer.

“How exactly are we supposed to make it believable? Shouldn’t telling her that I’m dating a man be enough?”

“Of course not!” Larry retorted. “She needs to see the love, Edgey!”

Phoenix shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much, Edgeworth. It’s not like we’re going to see her together that often.”

Miles turned to him. “Wright, I don’t do relationships, and I definitely can’t pretend I’m in one.”

“Well, then, Edgey, looks like I’m just gonna have to give you a master class in how to be couple-ish!” Larry said happily.

An image of Edgeworth in a tailcoat with a rose in his mouth appeared in Phoenix’s mind, making him laugh to himself.

Miles sent him a glare. “It’s not funny, Wright.”

It’s a little funny…

“Come on, Larry, I’m sure he knows at least the basics of a relationship.” Phoenix nodded over at Miles. “Right, Edgeworth?”

Miles merely turned away.

I guess that’s a no, then…

Larry laughed, before leaning over to whisper into Phoenix’s ear, “You do know he’s probably had zero experience with women, right? Man, I bet he’s had even less than you!”

Phoenix frowned. “What the hell, Larry!?”

“Hey, it’s true!” Larry argued, before bursting into more laughter.

Phoenix shook his head and turned to Miles. “Look, Edgeworth, there’s no need to worry. We won’t do anything we wouldn’t normally do.”

Miles sighed. “I suppose that’s acceptable.”

“Great! Let’s get started!” Larry shouted excitedly, punching a fist in the air.

“Not now,” Miles replied, getting up from his seat.

“But, dude--”

“I have work to do.” He walked over to the door and retrieved his coat, before turning to Phoenix. “Meet me at my office at seven and we can sort things out.”

Larry gave him a thumbs up. “Gotcha, Edgey!”

“Not you, Larry,” Miles said with a scowl, putting on his coat.

Phoenix laughed. “Yeah, Larry. We can’t have you intruding on our first date.”

The look on Edgeworth’s face was priceless.

If I’m going through with this, I might as well make it enjoyable.

Chapter Text

See, here’s the thing

We have to take our clothes off
We have to party all night
And we have to take our clothes off
To have a good time…

-FZZT-

…she’s touching his chest
Now, he takes off her dress
Now, let me go…

-FZZT-

…just can’t wait to see us naked (us naked, yeah)

Now somethin’ ‘bout that sexy skin you in
Your clothes don’t do you justice so come out of them
So baby take that off so I--

“Oh, for Christ’s sake…” Miles quickly slammed the power button on the radio and put his head in his hands.

So much for forgetting about this afternoon…

It seemed that every time he finally managed to stop thinking about the incident, something would come up to remind him of it. But it wasn’t the incident itself that bothered him the most – it was the fact that he couldn’t understand why it even bothered him in the first place.

Stupid Wright and his brilliant idea to take his shirt off in front of me.

He felt a small blush rise to his cheeks as the scene played out in his mind for what seemed like the millionth time today.

Damn it! Not again!

He quickly lifted and shook his head. Grabbing a pile of documents from across the desk, he opened a file, hoping that it would prove a better distraction than the radio.

Case file # WR161-17

The defendant, Ms. Amber Esmund, 25, was accused of shooting her boyfriend with a 7mm pistol after strangling him with a shirt. The evidence was conclusive. An analysis of the shirt revealed some strands of her short black hair, and the murder weapon bore the fingerprints from her wright hand.

Miles blinked a few times, then reread the last part.

…the fingerprints from her right hand.

Christ, now I’m even imagining his name.

He sighed wearily and slammed his hand down on his desk, hoping it would make him feel a little better. Of course, it didn’t.

Why can’t I stop thinking about Wright? What’s wrong with me?

He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair.

Who would have thought that he was… toned… underneath that cheap blue suit of his? I already knew he was not bad-looking, but…

I hope he didn’t notice that I was… staring.

Miles sighed.

I need to calm down. I can’t think straight.

Wait… what?

He shook his head and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

What’s happening to me? I’ve never been this confused about something so insignificant.

This is all his fault.

He picked up a pen and tapped it thoughtfully on the side of his cheek. The reason he had gone to Wright’s apartment earlier was to get an explanation for his behaviour, but Larry’s appearance had made it impossible for them to discuss anything.

I suppose it doesn’t really matter. At least Wright has the decency to actually carry out his stupid idea.

But was it really necessary to include Larry? Everett sounded pretty convinced on the phone yesterday…

A loud knock was suddenly heard at the door. Miles glanced at his watch and was surprised to see that Wright was early.

“Come in.”

The door was thrown open to reveal a cheerful-looking Everett.

“Hey, Miles!”

Miles inwardly groaned.

What the hell is she doing here?

“Good evening, Everett,” he greeted in a bored voice.

She approached the desk and seemed to do a double take at his appearance, probably surprised that he was in casual attire. “I just came to get some stuff from my office and I heard some noise so I thought there was some kind of burglar in here or something. But I suppose I should have guessed you’d be here, even though it’s Saturday.”

Miles stared at her in disbelief.

Why on Earth would there be a burglar on the twelfth floor of the Prosecutor’s Office? Doesn’t she have anything better to do than make up ridiculous excuses to talk to me?

He looked down at his documents and started putting them away. He waved a hand towards the couch and Kath apparently managed to take the hint as she rushed over to take a seat.

“If you merely wanted to talk, Everett, you should have just asked.” He took a quick glance up from his documents, only to notice that she was blushing. “But not now. I have an appointment with Wright in a fe--”

“Appointment?”

“We have things to plan.”

“You make it sound like a business meeting.”

Miles looked up again and saw the confused look on her face.

Damn. Why am I so bad at this?

As much as I hate to admit it, maybe I do need Larry’s help after all…

He quickly racked his brains for an excuse for his slight slip of the tongue. “I’m at work, Everett. Therefore, I need to make it sound as professional as possible. It also doesn’t help that this is not a public relationship. You’re going to have to excuse me on that one.”

She gave him a sceptical look, but seemed to go along with it anyway. “So, how are you? How’s everything going?”

Miles frowned. “I’m fine, thank you, and my day has been… interesting… although I haven’t managed to get half as much work done as I would have liked.”

Kath chuckled. “Oh, Miles, you’re so funny, working on a weekend! But you do know what I was really referring to, right?”

I wonder.

“I don’t see what you’re trying to imply,” he lied.

She rolled her eyes. “I’m asking how it’s going between you and Mr. ‘Wright’, of course.”

Very clever.

“It’s going fine,” he replied simply.

Kath burst out laughing so hard that she apparently had trouble breathing.

Miles just raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms as he waited for her to finish. He hadn’t made a joke, and he definitely hadn’t said anything to get this kind of reaction.

She eventually stopped laughing and had to struggle to get her breath back. She then cleared her throat and opened her mouth as if to say something, only to burst into more laughter.

What the hell’s so funny, for Christ’s sake!?

She coughed a little, still gasping for air. “Oh, Miles, you totally crack me up! You’d just be so funny to date!” she exclaimed as she wiped a tear from the corner of her eye.

Miles looked on, still confused. “And what, dare I ask, did I say to get such a reaction?”

Kath wrinkled her nose and scrunched her hands up into little balls. “It was so cute, you calling your relationship ‘fine’! Normally, people brag about how well it’s going, or complain about things their partner does that they can’t stand. But no, you replied with a simple little ‘fine’.” She sighed dreamily. “I totally understand why so many women want you.”

Miles frowned.

How does that even make sense!?

Kath smiled. “But if it’s just ‘fine’… Does that mean I still have a chance?”

…Please tell me she’s just baiting me to talk more about Wright and that she doesn’t still think she has a chance.

He quickly shook his head. “No, Everett. I’m… gay and I’m in a relationship with someone I truly like, and it’s going really well. How much clearer do I have to make it for you to understand?”

“Oh well, it was worth a try.” She giggled. “But it’s not a total loss! I finally got you to open up a bit!” She beamed at him and leaned forward on the couch. “Aww, it’s so cute! You’re in your first proper relationship and it’s all romantically secret and forbidden and completely cute!” She wrinkled her nose up slightly again. “When did you realize you were gay? How did you and that defence attorney hook up? What made you confess your love for each other?”

Miles blinked a few times.

Why does she keep brandishing the word ‘cute’ about? And why does she seem to think that it’s an appropriate word to describe two grown men dating each other!?

I swear women have some kind or secret language I’ll never understand.

“Everett…”

“Kath.”

“Right, Kath…” Miles looked away from her for a second and noticed that the door was still open. “What makes you think I’ll give out such personal information about my very secret relationship?” He frowned and gestured towards the door.

Kath looked where Miles was indicating and raised a hand to her mouth. “Oops! Sorry, forgot about that,” she whispered – even though whispering had kind of lost its point by now – before rushing over to the door to close it in an overly gentle manner.

Miles shook his head and leaned it against his hand. This was definitely not looking good if she had already forgotten that it was meant to be a secret relationship.

“So, I was thinking…” Kath started as she made her way back to the couch. “Since you’ve entrusted me with your secret, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind telling me some of the finer details?” She giggled a bit and sat back down. “So, is he a romantic kind of guy?”

Of course he is… Unless ‘honey’ and ‘sugar’ aren’t romantic enough for you?

“Let me guess… He’s really thoughtful and caring and phones you every night to see how you’re doing?” She squeaked a bit at that and gave him an expectant look.

I’d like to see him try.

“No? It’s not a personality attraction? I never knew you were so shallow, Miles.”

Nice try, but I’m not falling for it this time.

Kath grinned and leaned forward slightly. “I bet he’s an amazing kisser.”

Miles flinched.

What!?

“Hmm, he’s also pretty good-looking,” she continued, smiling at the fact that she had finally gotten a reaction. “I wonder if he has a nice body underneath that suit of his.”

Miles sat back up as all those unwanted images snuck back into his mind.

“I don’t think that’s any of your business, Everett,” he replied coldly, deeply annoyed that she had brought up the incident.

She smiled widely at him. “Aww, how cute! You’re getting all possessive and protective over him!”

Miles cringed at the dreaded ‘c’ word being thrown at him again.

Kath leaned in slightly closer and tipped her head to the side. “Is that a blush I see on that handsome face of yours, Miles?”

“No,” he replied, slightly too quickly, looking away to the side.

I am not blushing. I can’t blush! It’s physically impossible for me to blush!

“That is so cute! You totally are blushing! I can’t believe I doubted your closeness in this relationship of yours.”

If she mentions that word again, so help me…

Wait… What did she just say?

Miles risked a glance in Kath’s direction, only to realize that she was staring, still waiting for an answer.

He sighed. “There is no reason whatsoever for me to give you any such details of my relationship, Everett. I didn’t entrust you with our secret; you merely stumbled upon it when Wright had lowered defences.”

Kath shrugged. “I suppose that’s true. But you do kind of owe me anyways, seeing as though you rejected my kind offer.” She gave him an innocent smile, but Miles could undeniably see a hint of blackmail in it. She obviously had the upper hand on the whole situation.

Looks like I don’t really have a choice… I’ll have to make up some facts.

“I suppose it could be reasonable to share a few details,” Miles responded, immediately damning himself for giving in. “But you should know by now that I’m far from being an open book.”

She clapped her hands together in excitement. “Great! I’m glad we’ve acknowledged my position in this whole thing.”

As if you didn’t already know the power you have over me.

Kath made herself comfortable on the couch as if she was going to be read a bedtime story. “I’d love to hear how you two got together, then.”

Alright, I can do this. I’ll just think about any romantic movie I’ve seen and…

Miles opened his mouth, but closed it again as the words didn’t seem to form.

Hmm… I’ve never really watched any, have I?

Then… how about a fairytale from when I was a child?

He frowned.

Right… von Karma kept telling me those were a waste of time and I don’t really remember any from before that…

Oh well… I’ll just recite something brought up in court about how a couple had met. There’s bound to be something that was slightly romantic…

…But testimonies are usually about accusing people of murder or theft…

This may not have been as easy as Miles first thought.

After much mental debate, he decided it would be easier to simply stick to the facts as closely as possible.

“We’ve known each other since grade school,” he began tentatively, looking down at his desk. “We were close friends back then, but--”

“Aww, a childhood romance, that’s so cu--”

“But,” Miles cut across Kath’s response, “we’d only known each other for a small amount of time when I had to… change schools. After that, we didn’t see each other for fifteen years.” He paused. “When Wright found out about my reputation as a prosecutor, he desperately tried to get in contact with me. He became a defence attorney so he could meet me on the opposite side of the courtroom. He’d come to… rescue me, if you will…”

Why do I feel so guilty right now? Bringing up my past really isn’t good for me…

He decided to omit the part about Wright defending him in court and, of course, the part about his suicide note. After all, he didn’t have to tell her everything – just enough to make it plausible.

“These past two months, we got to know each other better and we soon came to realise that we had… feelings for one another.”

“That’s beautiful, Miles,” Kath replied, resting her chin on her hand. “So, who was the brave one?”

Miles gave her a blank look. “The brave one?”

Kath chuckled a bit and rolled her eyes. “The one brave enough to confess his feelings first.” She smiled.

His feelings…?

“Wright did,” Miles blurted out, letting his defensive side take over. The situation was already irritating enough as it was – he certainly wasn’t about to admit to doing any such thing.

“Aww… And here was I thinking I could win you over by simply inviting you to my office and asking you out! Mr. Wright has gone all out and chosen his career because of you. He’s based his entire life around you! That’s so…”

If she says ‘cute’ now, I swear I’ll…

“…ridiculously romantic!”

Miles blinked. He had told the truth – for the most part, anyway – and she still found it romantic?

It makes Wright sound obsessed more than anything…

“Well… Does that satisfy your thirst for unconventional knowledge, Everett?” he asked, getting up from his chair as if he’d already gotten the answer.

Kath nodded. “It was a great little piece. Does that mean you haven’t been dating for long?”

Miles shook his head. “Not at all. We only got together recently.”

“How long are you expecting it to last?”

“A very long time.”

“Does anyone else know about your relationship?”

“Apart from you? Only our friend Larry.”

Kath nodded. “How often do you get to see each other?”

Miles raised an eyebrow at the sheer number of questions and sat back down. He didn’t like giving her the satisfaction of continuing with this endless grilling, but he needed to get rid of her.

“He visits a few times a week.”

“Not too clingy, huh?” She sighed dreamily and rested her head on her hand again. It didn’t look as though she was planning to leave anytime soon. “How do you treat each other at work?”

Miles sighed. “Professionally.”

“Do you love each other?”

What is this? The Spanish Inquisition?

“We’re extremely close,” he replied flatly, trying to hide his annoyance.

“It must be so nice having someone to love and love you back…” Kath looked sad for a moment, but soon seemed to cheer up. A small blush appeared on her cheeks. “Is he a satisfying partner… physically?”

“…What!?” Miles spluttered, caught off guard by the intrusive question.

Kath’s face turned an even deeper shade of red. “You know… How good is he at…” She gestured at Miles’ body. “You know…”

“I really don’t think that’s any of your business,” Miles replied quickly, trying to get off the question.

What the hell am I supposed to say to something like that? I don’t know anything about this!

“Aww, come on, Miles! Dish the dirt!”

Miles frowned. “Everett, it’s extremely rude of you to be delving into my personal life with such vulgar questions.”

“He’s that bad, huh?” Kath said, raising an eyebrow.

“He’s not bad--”

Damn it, don’t state the fact that he’s good at it when you have no idea!

Kath smirked. “So, he keeps you… satisfied?”

Alright, that does it…

Miles stood up and planted his hands on the desk. “Of course he does! Wright can do fantastic things with his tongue.”

There was silence for a moment until Miles realized they weren’t quite alone anymore.

“Hello to you too, Edgeworth.”

Oh, dear God, no…

Turning his head, Miles saw Phoenix standing in the doorway, a grin plastered across his face.

It’s official. The man in the sky hates me.

In a panic, he checked his watch and saw that Wright was over twenty minutes late.

Damn it, Wright! I had to tell her my life story because of your atrocious punctuality!

“You’re late.”

Phoenix couldn’t keep a straight face. “Erm… yeah… surprised?” He closed the door behind him and walked over to the desk, before giving Miles a questioning look.

Miles looked at Kath and noticed that she was blushing.

She’s probably imagining the scene with that dirty mind of hers…

“Everett here has been asking some questions about our relationship, Wright,” Miles said, as breezily as possible.

“Has she, now?” Phoenix chuckled. “What could be so interesting about us?”

“I don’t know, but seeing as she is kindly keeping everything about us a secret, I thought she was entitled to some selected information.”

Phoenix grinned. “And me being good with my tongue is one of them?”

Miles glared at him.

Don’t you dare, Wright!

“It was an added bonus,” he replied indignantly, crossing his arms. “I’ll take it back if you so wish.”

Kath giggled. “You two make such a cute couple.”

Phoenix gave her a puzzled look then turned to Miles with a raised eyebrow.

Miles shrugged.

I know. She has issues.

Phoenix smiled and walked around the desk, looking down at Kath as he passed her. She seemed to feel slightly intimidated and quickly jumped off the couch, as if trying to look taller.

An idea suddenly struck Miles and he felt a smirk form on his lips. “Why don’t you help answer some of the questions, Wright? After all, you are the other half of me.”

“Erm… sure,” Phoenix replied, before casually throwing his arm around Miles’ shoulders.

Miles twitched at the physical contact and looked down at Phoenix’s hand.

How do people stand this!?

“So, what else did you want to ask about us, Miss Everett?”

“I was just asking Miles if you were physically pleasing.”

Phoenix laughed, sending slight vibrations through his arm.

Damn it! I’ve never felt so awkward in my entire life and I can’t do anything about it!

“That explains it,” he said with a smile. “It’s not like Edgeworth to randomly talk about our private life.”

Please, Wright. Let go of me before I go mad!

“Miles was telling me how great your relationship is. Do you really love him as much as he needs to be loved?” Kath asked, a challenging tone to her voice.

Phoenix looked at Miles and finally seemed to realise how uncomfortable he was. He cupped his free hand around his ear and whispered, “Calm down.”

A shiver ran down Miles’ spine from the sudden feeling of warm breath against his skin. He snapped out of his panic and frowned at Phoenix.

How can he be so calm about this?

…Or do I have some kind of mental disease that won’t let me get close to anyone?

No, that’s ridiculous…

Christ. I can’t let Wright beat me at something as puny as pretending to be comfortable with this situation.

But still… Physical contact? Is it really needed!?

“I honestly don’t know, Miss Everett,” Phoenix answered. “But I can sincerely say that I love him as much as I can.”

“I don’t think you’re my kind of person, Mr. Wright,” Kath said bluntly, jealousy evident in her stare.

Phoenix let go of Miles’ shoulders and crossed his arms.

Finally…

“Now, Everett, you haven’t given him a fair chance,” Miles muttered, shifting his shoulders uncomfortably.

Phoenix smiled sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah… sorry about yesterday. Edgeworth was pretty mad about it and--”

“How can you be close to him!?” Kath cut in angrily. “You keep calling him by his last name!”

So much for saving me from her clutches, Wright…

“Miss Everett, you obviously don’t understand my situation here,” Phoenix began, a serious tone to his voice. “I’m sorry if I seem rude, but I can’t risk our relationship being found out. If I have to sound cold towards him to keep the great thing we have going, then I’ll do that for him.” He paused to glance at Miles. “I’d do anything for him.”

Kath’s eyes widened and she suddenly looked shocked with herself. “I-I’m sorry! I don’t know what came o-over me…” She looked at the floor. “I can’t imagine how hard it is for you.”

…How the hell did he do that?

I guess he really is master of the turnabout…

“So, Everett,” Miles spoke up, finally finding the opportunity to get rid of her. “As I said earlier, Wright and I have some things to discuss. So if you don’t mind…”

“Oh! Sure!” Kath replied, nodding, before taking a few steps towards the door. “Sorry about my outburst… I still think you two make the cutest couple. That story about how you got together was just so magically romantic…” She sighed. “Forbidden love and a career based on raw emotion… It’s enough to make the heart melt.”

“Isn’t it just…” Miles mumbled darkly.

“Hey, do you two want to meet up for dinner sometime?”

Miles was tempted to stick his finger into his ear to clear it of whatever was making him hear impossible things. “…I beg your pardon?”

Kath smiled excitedly. “We could all meet up for something to eat tomorrow!”

Miles blinked.

Looks like I heard right, after all…

“Wright’s going to be busy tomorrow.”

“Oh…” Kath looked down at the floor and frowned. “Can’t be Monday either ‘cause I have my Italian class, so… what about Tuesday?”

“Busy again,” Miles quickly answered.

“Wednesday?”

“Busy.”

“Thursday?”

“…Busy?”

She frowned even harder. “Any day next week? Any day at all?”

“No, sor--”

“Sure, we’re free Tuesday,” Phoenix interrupted.

“Great!” Kath exclaimed, before pulling the door open. “See you Tuesday, then.” She disappeared behind the door, only to open it back up and poke her head around it, a grin on her face. “Don’t be too noisy with your little… ‘discussion’.”

What!?” Phoenix and Miles both spluttered, staring at her in shock as she finally closed the door.

They looked at each other in disbelief, only to promptly turn away in embarrassment.

Great. More awkwardness. Just what I needed.

Miles sighed.

Might as well get used to it…

He turned to glare at Phoenix. “What the hell do you think you’re doing!? Now we have to go to a bloody dinner date!” He paused and took a quick glance at the door to make sure no one was listening. “And why were you so late!? Can’t you catch the bus on time for a change? I was stuck answering her damned questions for nearly half an hour and it’s all your fault!”

Phoenix scowled. “My fault? You’re the one who agreed to answer her questions. I just got rid of her for you for the second time and I even got her to think better of me! I’m the one who should be complaining here! I’m doing all this for you and you haven’t even made a single effort to convince her that you’re not cold towards me twenty-four-seven!”

Miles sighed again. “I wouldn’t have had to answer her questions if you’d been on time.” He leaned against the desk and buried his face in one of his hands.

There were a few seconds of silence.

“So, I’m good with my tongue? Where did you get that from?”

Miles looked up at him. “Your stupidly loud mouth in court that manages to save all your clients,” he replied, a smirk on his lips.

“Heh… Well, thanks anyways.” Phoenix ran a hand through his hair and turned to look out the window. Something seemed to be bothering him; he never appeared that deep in thought.

“What’s wrong, Wright?”

Phoenix sighed. “Since Larry made any kind of serious conversation impossible this afternoon, I guess I should take this opportunity to get everything off my chest…” He turned back around to face Miles. “I really need your help.”

He must be really desperate if he’s coming to me for help…

Miles nodded.

“I… I don’t know who else to talk to,” Phoenix mumbled. “Yesterday, after a few drinks, I don’t think I realized what I was doing coming to you for advice, but… well… I guess you might be able to help.” He paused. “This is going to sound real stupid, but…” He looked away. “I think I like someone.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “You’re right. It sounds bloody ridiculous that you’re telling me, of all people.”

Phoenix chuckled. “Well… It’s that last case we had together. You know, the one with Engarde. I’ve just been so confused ever since…” He took a deep, shaky breath, before bringing his eyes back to Miles. “See, I… I mean, we… um… we’ve known each other for quite a while now, and I can’t stop thinking about how devastated I felt when I was left on my own, and… I mean, everything’s fine now, but… I’ve been wondering about my… my feelings.”

Miles blinked.

What is he… Left on his own…?

Hang on… He couldn’t possibly mean…

Miles instinctively flinched and felt his mouth dry up. He coughed into his hand. “I do hope this isn’t your extremely weird way of confessing to me.”

Phoenix stared at him for a few seconds, a puzzled look on his face. Then his eyes widened as he seemed to realize the implications of what he had just said. “Ah… N-n-no! What the hell!? No! Edgeworth! I was talking about Maya! Maya!” Phoenix shook his head and laughed nervously. “Oh God, I’m sorry… I didn’t realize how weird that sounded.”

Miles sighed with relief. “Try not to speak like a complete idiot next time. It might help get your point across without risking giving me a heart attack.” He crossed his arms. “But if you like the Fey girl, then I don’t see what’s stopping you.”

Phoenix’s faint smile dropped and he looked down at the floor. “I don’t know, Edgeworth… I think I might just be confused because of that whole incident. And I don’t want to make a stupid mistake and regret it later. I value her friendship.”

Miles was at a loss.

What am I supposed to say about this?

He pushed himself up from the desk and raised a hesitant hand to gently place it on Phoenix’s shoulder in what he hoped was a sympathetic and comforting gesture.

“You’ve chosen the wrong person to come to about relationship problems,” he answered sincerely, before quickly drawing back his burning hand.

I’m sorry. I wish I could be more helpful.

Miles turned around and sat down at his desk. His legs suddenly felt weak for some reason. He leaned forward and rested his head against his left hand, closing his eyes in an attempt to fight off an imminent headache.

“Thanks, Edgeworth.”

Huh?

“What are you talking about, Wright? I didn’t even say anything.”

“You didn’t have to.”

…I didn’t?

Miles turned to glance at Phoenix. His smile was back. It wasn’t all that obvious, but Miles could tell by the look in his eyes that he was feeling better.

Then the smile was replaced by a smirk. “I suppose I shouldn’t get too greedy, seeing as though I already have you, right, Edgeworth?”

Miles turned his head back to look down at his desk, hiding the thin smile that now tugged at his own lips. “Shut up, Wright.”

Phoenix chuckled softly and walked over to the couch to sit down. “So, shall we have that ‘discussion’?”

Oh, for Christ’s sake…

Miles glared at him.

Phoenix’s grin grew even wider. He shook his head and reached for the radio on the edge of the desk.

Miles’ eyes widened in horror.

Shit! No! It’ll be even worse with him in here!

“No! Not the radio!”

Frédéric Chopin’s ‘Cello Sonata in G Minor’ rang throughout the room.

“Huh?” Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “I just thought I’d put on some of that classical stuff you love so much.”

…The classical channel. Why didn’t I think of that?

Miles sighed. “So, how are we going to do this?”

“We have to meet up with Larry tomorrow morning for the details,” Phoenix replied, leaning back on the couch. “He wants us to bring a list of things we absolutely won’t do.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “That’s not a good sign.”

Phoenix chuckled. “It’s Larry. What were you expecting?”

“Good point.” Miles pulled out a blank piece of paper and proceeded to write ‘Conditions’ at the top of the page. He skipped a line and wrote ‘1.’ before looking back up at Phoenix. “Any ideas?”

Phoenix frowned. “Why are you asking me?”

Miles sighed.

Why couldn’t he ask for a list of things I will do? It would be a lot shorter.

Chapter Text

Conditions

                                        1. No physical contact of any kind
                                        2. No pet names or nicknames
                                        3. No wasting of valuable work time on romantic activities
                                        4. No personal or sexual jokes
                                        5. No more amount of time together than necessary
                                        6. No disrupting phone calls for useless reasons
                                        7. No inefficient clothing (including nakedness)
                                        8. This is a private relationship and is not to be discussed with other people

---

Larry pouted and then frowned at the piece of paper that was currently in his right hand. “Man, you two are such spoilsports! You’ve given me nothing to work with here!”

“Hey, don’t blame me!” Phoenix picked up his coffee from the table they were sitting at and took a sip. “Just count yourself lucky I managed to convince him that we could actually talk through this whole thing, never mind do anything romantic.” He sent a scowl Miles’ way.

How does he expect me to help if he refuses to cooperate?

I know he never actually asked for my help, but still…

“How can you drink coffee with so much milk?” Miles asked, frowning. “Ghastly.”

Says the man who would add dishwashing soap just to make the coffee extra bitter if it was possible.

Determined to prove Miles wrong, Phoenix reached for the jug to pour even more cream into his cup.

“I’ll ‘ghastly’ your face in a minute, Edgey,” Larry moaned. “Why’d you have to put all these restrictions on my artistic talents?” He waved the piece of paper in front of Miles’ face.

“‘Talented’ is not quite the word I would use to describe you, Larry,” Miles said coolly, before smirking at the fact that Phoenix had drastically overpoured the cream, leaving him with slightly coffee-flavoured milk.

Phoenix frowned down at his drink.

Damn it! Why do I let him get to me?

He stared at the cup, before turning his attention back to Miles.

The jerk’s smirking at me. I’m not going to let him win over something as silly as this.

He casually proceeded to drink the unknown substance that could no longer be called coffee. It was disgusting, but Edgeworth didn’t need to know that. Bluffing a content face, he placed the mug back down and smirked.

Ha, take that!

Miles merely gave him an uninterested look and turned back to Larry.

Would it kill him to at least pretend I proved a point here?

Phoenix sighed and glanced around the café.

It was a nice place, but a bit upper class – which wasn’t surprising, seeing as Edgeworth had chosen the venue. The tasteful-looking tables were perfect for talking in private, as the heavy wood absorbed the sounds, and the soft classical music in the background blocked out other conversations, all the while enabling people to hear their own. The colour scheme was full of dark browns and creams and each table had a blue vase filled with some sort of flower – Phoenix could only identify tulips and sunflowers, but he was proud to notice that this flower was neither of those – with matching blue napkins and plush chair backings. Phoenix might not have been much of a colour-coordinated person, but even he could appreciate this nice little touch.

Not only was everything presented well, the café also met a good standard of food and drink. The cheery couple who owned the place certainly knew their stuff as the coffee tasted great.

Unless you pour vast amounts of cream into it, of course…

But there was always a catch when finding a gem of a place like this, and in this case, it was the hefty prices. Sure, Phoenix could afford a measly cup of coffee, but that was about it.

He sighed again and shook his head.

Tomorrow’s Monday, which means I have to stop acting like an idiot and figure out what’s going on with Maya. It’s not like I can avoid her forever…

She must be wondering why I didn’t come into work on Friday. I hope she’s not too worried…

God, what was I thinking?

Well, apparently, I simply wasn’t…

He frowned.

…And to think I managed to make it sound like I was confessing to Edgeworth. Real smooth.

But at least I was finally able to get it off my chest. I knew I should have talked to Edgeworth sooner… What was I afraid of, anyway?

Smiling, he unconsciously took another sip from his mug and had to stop himself from gagging at the taste.

“…So I think it’s a good idea! What about you, Nick?”

Phoenix struggled to right himself after subtly bending over to the side to hide his ungraceful splutter. “Come again?” he asked innocently, trying to inconspicuously wipe the wet droplets that had coated his lips from his drinking mistake. But of course, Miles had noticed his undignified action.

Eyes flickered onto Phoenix’s hand, which was miserably failing to get rid of the white liquid from his mouth. He braced himself for the jibe about his uselessness and inwardly groaned at the bad luck he seemed to be having lately.

Surprisingly enough, not a single mocking comment was made, and Miles merely blinked at the sight before looking away. If Phoenix wasn’t mistaken, he was pretty sure there was a slight blush on his face.

That’s new… Edgeworth’s never any colour other than a pale white.

“Nick, pay attention for a second, will ya?”

Phoenix dropped his confused gaze and turned to Larry, who was looking at him expectantly.

“I was just telling Edgey that I need to give you both lessons together. I will make you two the perfect couple to get that chick off Edgey’s cold, untouched back, and maybe even onto my tanned, warm one!”

Miles frowned. “You make it sound as if I’m some kind of reptile.”

I was thinking more along the lines of a corpse, but I suppose either is pretty fitting.

Phoenix chuckled at his own thought, but quickly shut up when he received a weird glance from both of his friends.

“Yeah, well, maybe you are a reptile,” Larry replied, frowning down at the paper.

That’s it, Larry! You show that paper who’s boss!

“Just forget the cold-blooded man, Larry. It’s not your fault he doesn’t understand the hardships we’re willing to go through for him,” Phoenix said breezily, as if Miles wasn’t in the room.

“Oh, please…” Miles rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. “Wright, stop the dramatics. I’m doing us both a favour by stopping this idiotic idea from affecting our lives.”

I don’t think my life will be affected all that much; it’s just a bit of harmless acting.

Larry sent one last scowl in the paper’s direction and snapped his head back up. He looked at Phoenix and smiled widely.

“Nick, you wouldn’t happen to have a pen handy, would you?”

Phoenix gave him a puzzled look. He dug into his coat’s pocket and pulled out a ballpoint pen.

“If you’re planning on rewriting anything on there, then I assure you I’ll find a law to use against you,” Miles said coldly.

Larry waved his hand. “I don’t need to rewrite anything,” he said, sticking his nose in the air. “Just give me two lines to do my job. You promise to let me do these two lines and we’ll all follow the conditions to the letter, deal?”

Miles paused. He leaned back in his chair and smirked slightly.

Phoenix could tell Miles was underestimating how good of a prankster Larry was.

Perhaps I should warn him…?

“Fine. Two lines.”

Oh well, too late. What a pity.

Larry smirked back, then bent his head down to look at the paper. He stuck his tongue out and slowly drew two long lines, before picking the paper back up. Smiling deviously at his work, he turned it around to show Miles.

“Ta-da!”

The relaxed smirk was instantly wiped off Miles’ face.

“What? What’s he done?” Phoenix butted in, trying to get a good look at the paper.

Larry laid it down on the table and crossed his arms in smug victory.

There was a big ‘X’ drawn through all of the ‘No’s on the left side of the paper.

It now read:

Conditions

                                        1. Physical contact of any kind
                                        2. Pet names or nicknames
                                        3. Wasting of valuable work time on romantic activities
                                        4. Personal or sexual jokes
                                        5. More amount of time together than necessary
                                        6. Disrupting phone calls for useless reasons
                                        7. Inefficient clothing (including nakedness)
                                        8. This is a private relationship and is not to be discussed with other people

Phoenix’s eyes widened. He slowly raised his gaze to witness a quietly fuming Edgeworth and had to hold back a laugh.

“If you think I’m following that list of nonsense, then you are sorely mistaken,” Miles stated, glaring across at Larry.

Larry leaned back in his seat and Phoenix noticed a drop of sweat standing out on his forehead.

I can’t really blame him… That was one incredibly brave move he made there.

…Or perhaps it was just sheer stupidity.

“Edgey, dude, you were the one who wrote it.”

Phoenix subtly scooted away from him so as not to get caught in the imminent crossfire.

“I think you’ll find that this doesn’t even remotely resemble what I wrote down,” Miles hissed, his stare more and more threatening.

“But… it’s in your handwriting. I just made it easier to understand,” Larry replied.

Phoenix kept his mouth shut, but mentally screamed at Larry to shut up before Edgeworth lost it completely.

“Easier to understand? Easier to understand!?” Miles pointed over at Larry. “You just eliminated the whole concept of me being able to control this inanity!”

Uh-oh… He’s gone into Thesaurus mode…

“Geez, Edgeworth, keep it down, will you?” Phoenix interrupted before Larry could make the situation worse.

Miles turned to glare at him, before noticing that some people were staring at them. He sighed and closed his eyes, crossing his arms again.

What’s wrong with him today? Can’t he just admit that he lost?

It is Larry he’d be admitting defeat to, but still…

“Look, it’s fair play to Larry here, Edgeworth,” Phoenix continued. “You did say he could have his two lines; I think you’ve lost fair and square.” He shrugged and pointlessly stirred his drink.

Miles gave him a blank look and seemed to drift off into thought.

Phoenix stared at his expression for a moment, tilting his head to the side.

No witty comeback?

Is he actually going to let us help him now?

“At least I know what to work on with you now, Edgey!” Larry said enthusiastically.

Miles snapped out of his thoughts and turned to him. “Are you planning on giving me lessons on gay stereotyping in addition to your ‘romance master class’?”

“Nah, man, you don’t need to work on that,” Larry said, not quite getting the fact that Miles was being sarcastic. “We just have to make sure you do everything you didn’t want to do on this list.” He held up the piece of paper in one hand and gave a thumbs up with the other.

Phoenix let out a snicker of amusement and immediately felt a pair of grey eyes pierce him. He faked a small cough and looked away. “Err… yeah, great idea there, Larry.”

“You can’t be serious, Wright.”

Oh, believe me, this is for your own good.

Plus I wouldn’t miss your embarrassment for the world, Edgeworth.

Larry planted his hands on the table and quickly pushed up from his seat. “Great! Let’s get started right away!” He smiled widely and grabbed Phoenix by the arm, dragging him towards the door.

“Wait, Larry…” Phoenix protested to no avail, trying to detach his friend from his coat sleeve. “I need to pay for my drink!”

Larry huffed and dropped his hold. “Oh, yeah. Almost forgot about that.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out some change. “But hurry up, Nick! We need to show Edgey what he’s missing out on!”

Shaking his head, Phoenix pulled out his wallet and started counting the correct dollars and cents out.

“I’ll get it,” a voice called from behind, making him jump.

He turned to see Miles standing in front of the cash register. “Christ… you scared the shit out of me, Edgeworth!”

Miles scoffed. “Is that the thanks I get for offering to pay for you?”

Phoenix frowned. “I hope you don’t think I can’t pay for a cup of coffee myself.”

Edgeworth quirked an eyebrow. “I couldn’t care less if you can afford it or not. It was my fault that you ruined a perfectly good drink. Call it justice.” He smirked.

Phoenix’s eyes widened.

Damn. He noticed.

“Okay… I suppose I can let you pay for me if it makes you feel better.” He grinned back at Miles and put his wallet away.

A free drink is a free drink, after all.

“Hey, Edgey, pay for mine as well, would ya?” Larry shouted over to them.

“No. Get your own,” Miles replied haughtily, handing over the money to the barista and nodding in a gesture of thanks.

“Aww, come on, man! I’m one of your oldest buddies!”

“I said no, Larry.”

“That’s so not fair! You’re paying for Nick!”

“Wright is a different case.”

Larry crossed his arms. “Just because I’m not your friggin’ boyfriend doesn’t mean I have fewer rights!”

Phoenix froze and stiffly looked around at the other people’s reactions.

So much for secret relationship…

He could tell that pretty much everyone in the café was watching the events unfold, some probably being judgmental, and others possibly whispering about how it’s always the good ones that are gay.

He smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of his neck, before turning back around to Miles for the undoubtedly angry reaction. However, he was shocked to see that Miles was merely smirking.

“Oh, but it does, Larry. If you wanted boyfriend rights, you should have got there first.” He waved his hand in dismissal of the argument and walked right out of the café.

Phoenix and Larry looked at each other wordlessly and both hurried out the door after him.

“So, Edgeworth… What other boyfriend rights do I get?”

Miles stopped and turned around, rolling his eyes at Phoenix. “I’m not going to dignify such a question with an answer.”

Phoenix smirked and started looking around at the shops and office buildings they were walking past.

“Man, if I knew you’d pay for my coffee, I’d so have volunteered to date you!” Larry whined from behind.

We’re not really dating, Larry…

“I didn’t pay for his coffee because of our arrangement,” Miles replied.

“Whatever, dude.”

They walked in silence for a moment, until Phoenix noticed he had a plastic bag stuck to his shoe. He stopped to pick it off.

Larry ignored him and walked past. He then turned around, suddenly looking incredibly interested in something behind Phoenix.

“Hey, look at that woman’s legs over there!” He let out a low whistle. “Boy, would I do her!”

“What?” Phoenix spun around to see where Larry was looking.

-THWACK-

A blinding pain flashed in the back of Phoenix’s head, making him see spots. He clutched his skull and blinked rapidly, trying to digest what had just happened.

“Ow!” He quickly whirled back around to face an unimpressed Larry. “What the hell’s your problem!?”

“Tut, tut,” Larry cut in. He shook his head in a patronizing way. “You’re a gay man now, Nick! No more leering at the wonderful curves of women’s legs for you!” He gestured over at Miles. “Now, Edgey over here is giving a perfect example of a homosexual reaction. He simply ignored my comment.” Larry slapped Miles on the back and received a glare.

Poor Edgeworth. I think I might actually feel sorry for him. Larry could at least cut him some slack.

But still, watching him squirm is way too funny for some reason.

God, I’m a terrible person.

Phoenix chuckled to himself, only to realize that it made his head hurt even more.

“So, that’s lesson one: ‘No ogling of the opposite sex’,” Larry said with a smile. “Besides, I’ll be able to do enough of that for all three of us while you two are gaying it up.”

“Larry, it’s not me who needs to know what this is all about,” Phoenix replied sulkily, still massaging the back of his head. “Stop messing around!”

Larry pouted and started walking again, muttering something about how his brilliant help was never appreciated. Phoenix and Miles followed on behind him at a slower pace.

“I swear that man is unreal,” Phoenix said in disbelief, watching Larry strut off. “What does he think he’s playing at? I’m not some… pervert like him! ‘Ogling of the opposite sex’ my ass… He’s the one who should get whacked on the head for being such an idiotic… idiot! Trying to catch me out like that after I’ve stuck up for him all these years…”

“Interesting.”

“…Huh? What?” Phoenix looked across at Miles, who was pointedly avoiding his eyes.

“Nothing. Just thinking out loud,” Miles responded, glancing at the front window of the bookstore Larry had just disappeared into.

Is it my imagination, or are the edges of Edgeworth’s mouth turned up… in a passable smile?

“No, seriously, what’s interesting?”

“I was just observing…” Miles squinted at the window. “…‘Tickle His Pickle’…”

He then flinched dramatically and Phoenix doubled over laughing.

“Edg… Edgeworth, that’s…” He burst out laughing again at Miles’ extremely deep blush. “I didn’t know you were into sex books!” He bit his lip to try and stop the giggles.

“…Sex book!?” Miles crossed his arms and looked away from the front cover that showed a woman licking a pickle. “I mean… well… it’s interesting to see what people come up with…”

“Oh yes, I can clearly see that woman is happy enough with that pickle,” Phoenix said through his ongoing chuckles.

Edgeworth glanced over at him and smiled again despite his embarrassment. “Don’t be so immature,” he said indignantly, which only set Phoenix off once more.

“Seriously, how stubborn can you get?” Phoenix exclaimed, wiping a tear that had appeared through his laughing fit.

“Stubborn?”

Phoenix gave him an unimpressed look.

Miles sighed and seemed to hesitate a moment. “Fine. I was talking about you, Wright.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “You think I’m interesting?”

“Yes,” Miles replied tentatively. “Take it as a compliment.”

Phoenix smiled. “I think you need to come up with better ways of complimenting people, Edgeworth. It’s annoying to have to decode every comment of yours.”

He pushed up his sleeve to glance at his watch, starting to wonder what was taking Larry so long. He then heard a strange noise and looked back up at Miles, who, to his astonishment, was chuckling in genuine amusement.

How long has it been since he last laughed like that?

“What’s so funny, Edgeworth?”

Miles shook his head slightly and looked off to the side. “Nothing.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Right.”

There were a few seconds of silence as Phoenix turned his attention back to his watch.

“I highly doubt talking to yourself will do much good if you don’t intend on responding.”

Phoenix snapped his gaze back up to a still smiling Edgeworth. He blinked a few times. “Did you just… make a joke?”

Miles merely kept smiling.

Phoenix grinned. “It was terrible.”

I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but he really needs to smile like that more. It’s miles away from his usual smirk.

“Dudes, look at what I just bought!” Larry suddenly called, running up to them. He waved his left hand, in which he held a magazine, and quickly pushed it in front of Miles’ face. “What do you think?”

Miles seemed to pale as he glanced at the page Larry had flipped open, and promptly slapped the magazine away. “I do not want to see your indecent atrocities, thank you very much.”

“That’s right, you deny yourself that porn, Edgey! Remember, you’re a gay man now!” Larry chirped, making good use of his new favourite motto.

Did he just say porn? Did he just show Edgeworth a porn magazine?

Wow. I think I should actually congratulate him on reaching new heights of idiocy that I didn’t think possible for mere human beings.

“Stop getting a kick out of the whole ‘gay’ thing,” Phoenix scolded.

“Come on, even you can admit that was funny, Nick!” Larry replied in a cheery voice. “Speaking of gay things, I have some super romantic knowledge for your date on Tuesday!”

Miles scowled. “It had better not be anything stupid.”

Larry shook his head. “I’m done making fun of you now,” he said with a smirk. “Now, gather around, my children. I’m going to teach you some valuable information!”

Phoenix leaned against the window and sighed.

Here we go…

“I’ve been taking notes on your actions together, and I think you both need a drastic change if you want to look like a proper couple!”

No shit.

Larry punched his fist into his hand and started pacing. “For a start, there’s that really irritating use of your last names that you both have. It really gets on my nerves, dudes! It’s as if you’re not even pals or something, or both incredibly posh and last-name-usey.”

Yes, because calling everyone ‘dude’ is a lot better.

Miles furrowed his eyebrows. “I refer to all my colleagues by their surnames; it’s common courtesy. Something you wouldn’t have the foggiest idea about.”

Larry stopped walking and stood in front of Miles. “But that’s not the point, Edgey! You’re lovers now, right?”

Secret ‘lovers’, Larry,” Phoenix corrected, showing the quotation marks with his fingers. “We can’t act too differently towards each other, because that would totally ruin the secrecy part.”

“I’m not telling you to use it every day; I’m talking about Tuesday night.” Larry turned slightly and gave Phoenix a withering look. “I thought you were supposed to be the clever one here, Nick.”

Miles sighed. “Tuesday night doesn’t have to be any diff--”

“Wrong, Edgey! This is your big chance to get rid of her for good by showing her that you’re both for real!”

Phoenix pondered.

I guess he’s right for once. If we manage to convince her that we’re serious, the next couple of weeks should be an easy feat to pull off…

“Actually, he does have a point there, Edgew--”

“Nick, you’re doing it again!” Larry rolled his eyes. “It’s not ‘Edgeworth’, it’s ‘Edgey-baby’…”

“…What!?” Phoenix snorted. “There’s no way in hell I’m saying that, Larry.”

“Well, you can’t call him ‘Edgeworth’ anymore. That’s just poncy.”

“It’s his name.”

“But going around saying ‘my Edgeworth’, that’s lame. ‘My Edgey-baby’ sounds so much better!” Larry protested, pouting at Phoenix’s lack of enthusiasm.

It sounds way too gay for my lik--

Oh, wait…

“There’s no way on Earth I am being called such a ridiculous name,” Miles interrupted, explaining what Phoenix had failed to. “And I am no one’s property.”

“You mean to say you don’t like ‘Edgey-baby’? But it’s so cute!”

Miles didn’t even bother answering that one. He just glared at Larry, making him recoil.

“Well, thanks for the advice, Larry,” Phoenix said. “We’ll try to sound more informal on the night, if you think it’ll help.”

Larry smiled widely and gave a thumbs up. “Not a problemo, mon ami!”

He does realize that’s three different languages he’s mixed up there, right?

Larry’s gaze suddenly fell on his watch and his eyes widened. “Nick, dude, where was I supposed to be at twelve o’clock?”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “It wouldn’t be work by any chance?”

“Aww, man! I’m late! I’m late!” Larry flung his arms in the air and started to panic, repeating the two words over and over.

“Shame. I was really looking forward to your advice on romance,” Miles commented dryly, crossing his arms as he watched Larry dart back and forth like a mad man.

“I’ve gotta go, otherwise Chelsea will be mad, and that woman is so not cute when she’s mad,” Larry said, hopping from one foot to the other. “Here, take this.” He shoved a crumpled piece of paper into Phoenix’s hand and winked. “Treat it like you’d treat a pile of gold!” And with that, he waved a frantic hand at both of them and disappeared down the street.

Phoenix looked at the wrinkled piece of paper in his hand and recognized the handwriting as Edgeworth’s. Curious as to why Larry had given him back the list of conditions, he smoothed out the paper and noticed that he’d added some notes in his scruffy handwriting:

                                                                                Conditions  and Ways of a Couple
                                                                                                   by Mr. Larry Butz
                                        1. Physical contact of any kind
Every little brush of the shoulder should be magnified for all to see! Hold hands; be proud of your partner, show them off to the world! Oh, and don’t forget those cheeky possessive kisses when you know someone is watching.
                                        2. Pet names or nicknames
FIRST NAMES A MUST! But cute nicknames are even better! They bring your relationship to a whole new level and give you those private moments when you feel like you and your love are in your own special world, severed from reality and lost in each other’s voice.
                                        3. Wasting of valuable work time on romantic activities
Wanting to be alone with your partner is just natural instinct. Is there a better way of showing them your dedication? Living on the edge and risking your livelihood all for love: extremely romantic and a totally valid reason for failing college, I feel, even if they do break up with you the next day.
                                        4. Personal or sexual jokes
It gives you something to talk about, something to connect with. A good partnership needs its own amusing moments or it’ll fall apart because of the stuffiness. Sex jokes make people around you feel uncomfortable, but it also shows them that you are totally serious with one another! Try things such as ‘That’s not what you were saying in bed last night’, or when someone drinks out of the same straw as you, pleasantly remind them where your mouth was last night.
                                        5. More amount of time together than necessary
After a while, you start learning each other’s strange habits, things you like and things unique to them, reminding you why you’re dating them in the first place. It develops the bond between the two of you, and you know it’s a perfect partnership if you can stand to be around one another for such a long time.
                                        6. Disrupting phone calls for useless reasons
Aww, man! These are just great! Knowing someone actually wants to hear about you and your day (heck, that they actually want to talk to you) totally makes dating worthwhile. Try a simple ‘Hey, love, how are you doing today?’ or even a ‘What are you wearing?’ and you can be assured their day will have been made.
                                        7. Inefficient clothing (including nakedness)
Hey, it’s a valid perk! Use it while you can! You ‘accidentally’ walk in on your partner getting changed and whoops! Next thing you know, you’re late for work or your next appointment! Honestly, your colleagues will understand the first couple of times, but I don’t recommend using it as an excuse every day.
                                        8. This is a private relationship and is not to be discussed with other people
I do not want to hear such an insult to romance! Love is to be displayed in front of people, to be shared and be rubbed in other people’s faces!

Follow all my advice and your relationship will be a perfect display of affection and love with plenty of romance to liven things up. However, BEWARE! Too much of the above tends to make  my  your partner want to split up with you for unknown reasons.

Phoenix looked up just as Miles finished reading and they blinked at each other.

Miles sighed. “I think I can safely say that Larry is a complete and utter idiot.”

“Not that that’s new,” Phoenix replied, pocketing the piece of paper. “He wants us to go that far to prove that we’re a couple when we’re… well, not?”

“I can’t believe him. He has ruined any hope of me being able to control the situation,” Miles said, sounding deeply annoyed.

“And I can’t believe how much of a stubborn jerk you can be sometimes, Edgeworth,” Phoenix countered. “Why couldn’t you just admit that your conditions were stupid?”

“They weren’t stupid. They were all entirely valid points, considering we’re not really a couple.”

Phoenix sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “You’re impossible, you know that?”

Miles shook his head. “How was I supposed to know that my conditions were the opposite of romance?”

You knew perfectly well that’s what they were!

…But you probably should have phrased them differently.

I still can’t believe how pathetic that was. Outwitted by the Butz.

Phoenix laughed at that thought.

“Don’t laugh at my lack of romantic knowledge, Wright,” Miles snapped.

“Oh… no, I wasn’t laughing at that,” Phoenix replied defensively. “It’s just…”

Okay, somehow I really doubt he’d like the real reason better…

This calls for some quick bluffing.

“I was laughing because… I was surprised to see how much Larry really knows about romance.”

Miles crossed his arms. “Honestly, Wright. Even I can tell how bloody ridiculous the advice on that paper is.”

Phoenix scratched the back of his neck and looked down at his feet to hide his sheepish grin.

A sudden burst of noise came from his jeans’ pocket and he jumped slightly before recognizing the familiar Steel Samurai ringtone.

It’s a miracle I’ve made it this far today without getting a heart attack. First Edgeworth, then Larry, now my very own cellphone… They’re all against me!

He wearily plucked the phone out of his pocket and checked the caller ID. It read ‘Maya’. He quickly cut the line and repocketed the phone.

“Nice ringtone.”

“Shut up, Edgeworth,” Phoenix mumbled back, damning his conspicuousness.

“That was a compliment, Wright.”

I suppose… If you’re into children’s shows.

“Why didn’t you answer it?”

Phoenix sighed and shifted his coat out of nervosity. “One of those insurance companies,” he muttered without much conviction.

“I thought you were supposed to be a lawyer, Wright.” Miles smirked. “That lie was atrocious.”

Phoenix smiled down at the sidewalk.

Yeah, your little ‘literature appreciation’ cover-up earlier was a lot better.

“You’re right. I meant to say it was my obsessive fan club,” he said cheekily, looking up at Miles. “What can I say, they love me too much.”

“A simple ‘It was Maya Fey’ would have sufficed.”

Phoenix’s eyes widened. “Can you read minds or something?”

“No,” Miles replied. “But I can read phone screens, no matter how far back in the dark ages you believe me to be from.”

Blushing, Phoenix chuckled and rubbed the back of his head. “Next time, just put me out of my misery, Edgeworth. I get enough of your manipulating in the courtroom.”

Miles shrugged. “It’s a lot more interesting to have the upper hand,” he said, picking a bit of invisible lint off his trench coat. “Now, if you don’t mind, it’s getting quite chilly and I think we’re finished here, so…”

Phoenix nodded and started walking back the way they had come.

“Where are you going, Wright? The bus stop is that way.”

Turning around, Phoenix saw Miles standing in the same spot, pointing in the opposite direction.

“Well, yeah, but you parked near the café.” At Miles’ blank look, he rolled his eyes. “Geez, I’m just walking back with you to keep you company! Is that such an alien thing to you?”

“Fine. Whatever takes your fancy.”

Miles walked up to him and they both set off towards the café.

Phoenix slid his hands in his pockets and realised that he still had the crumpled piece of paper.

What am I still doing with this piece of junk?

He took it out of his pocket and grinned before handing it over to Miles. “Here, take this. You need it more than me.”

Miles’ expression turned blank. “Very amusing, Wright,” he said, his tone the exact opposite of amused. He looked around for a moment as they walked – presumably for a trash can – but finally gave up and pocketed it. “I’ll make sure it finds its way into my waste paper bin later.”

“Aww, you sure you don’t want to follow the brilliant advice?”

“Pet names, sex jokes, wasting work time, holding hands, kissing…” Edgeworth recited, checking off each point on his fingers. “Need I say more?”

Phoenix laughed and stuffed his hands back inside his pockets. “Okay, okay, you’ve made your point.”

Miles let out a sigh. “I hate being the one who can’t understand any of this rubbish… It’s like learning your multiplication tables and having your teacher mock you because you forget seven times eight.”

“Yeah, you do kind of suck at the whole personal thing,” Phoenix commented lightly. “Though I doubt you ever forgot your times tables. I bet you were born with them engraved on your brain.”

“You weren’t supposed to hear my confession about failing to understand something.”

“It was interesting.” Phoenix shrugged. “You really are human, after all.”

Miles rolled his eyes, then turned his gaze towards the surrounding buildings. “Full marks for that intelligent observation, Wright.”

Phoenix smiled. “Lighten up, will you? Imagine what you could learn in these three weeks.”

“I don’t think I want to know what three weeks spent in a fake relationship with you will do to me,” Miles replied.

Christ, he says it as if dating me would be some kind of torture. I’m not that bad!

“Fine. Deny it all you want, Edgeworth. I know I’m right.”

They finally reached the parking lot next to the café and stopped. Miles took out his keychain and pressed the button to unlock the doors of his red sports car.

Show-off. You could have done that after I’d left.

There was a pause as they both stood there in silence.

“Well, I’ll be seeing you, then,” Miles finally said, walking over to his car.

“Wait,” Phoenix called out, causing Miles to turn on his heel and stare at him. He grinned cheekily. “You never said what time you were picking me up on Tuesday for our date.”

Miles gave him a scathing look. “Find your own transport. And it’s not a date, Wright. It’s an informal and seemingly romantic meeting.”

Dates are informal romantic meetings, Edgeworth.

Phoenix shook his head. “Well, whatever. See you, then, Edgey-baby.”

Miles glared at him.

Phoenix chuckled at how easy it was to rile him up.

“Don’t even think of calling me that,” Miles snapped.

“That’s not what you were saying in bed last night.”

Okay, I might have gone a bit too far there…

Phoenix quickly took off before Edgeworth could react and made a mental note to himself:

I’m a gay man now. That means I’m allowed to be a bitch.

Chapter Text

“Ouch!”

Miles quickly brought his bleeding finger to his mouth in an attempt to soothe the stinging pain. “Blasted paper cuts…”

Glaring down at the bundle of documents, he picked it up and stuffed it in the top drawer of his desk, taking extra care not to brashly slide his fingers against the sides in his uncommon haste to finish up at the office.

He mentally scolded himself for the undignified rush, but decided he had a good reason. It wasn’t as if he had really been working anyway. He hadn’t been able to focus all day, no matter how much he tried to push his thoughts aside. And come to think of it, he hadn’t accomplished much more the previous day either.

Miles sighed loudly and buried his face in his hands.

I’ve already been over this…

Trying to convince himself that what was happening that evening was nothing worth thinking about seemed rather absurd at this point.

I’m just going to have to face it.

I don’t know whether I should dread what’s happening tonight, or look forward to getting rid of Everett.

Glancing at a crumpled piece of paper on the farthest right-hand corner of his desk, Miles decided he already knew the answer.

Now, which floor would be the best to jump from without surviving?

He groaned and grabbed the paper that read ‘Conditions’. He stared at it for a few seconds before getting up and walking over to his waste paper bin, determined to get rid of the list once and for all. Pausing with his hand over the rim, he looked at the fistful of paper once more and sighed.

Well, I never managed to do it yesterday. What makes today any different?

Miles walked back to his desk and sat down. He laid the list down and smoothed it out, before resting his head against his hand. He started skimming through it for what was probably the hundredth time since Sunday and let out another sigh, rubbing the bridge of his nose.

He’d drafted up those conditions for a reason. They were there to stop everything from spiralling out of control, to help him ease away from anything… influential.

And Wright seems to think this is so funny…

How can he be so calm about this when his reputation could be in jeopardy?

Everett is not exactly what I would call trustworthy…

Not to mention there’s about a ninety-nine percent chance we’ll screw everything up tonight.

Miles directed his attention back to the paper and frowned.

“…‘when someone drinks out of the same straw as you, pleasantly remind them where your mouth was last night’…” He rolled his eyes. “What kind of brainless idiot would do something like that? Well… Larry, of course.”

…Why am I talking to myself?

He went back to reading the rest of the paper, but for some reason, his eyes kept drifting back to that particular line.

Why the hell can’t I stop reading this stupid thing? It’s not like I’m tempted to try it or anything. Ridiculous…

…‘when someone drinks out of th--

Oh, dear God…

His eyes widened in horror as he remembered a certain incident from two days ago.

Damn it, Wright! How useless are you? You can’t even drink correctly, for Christ’s sake!

And why the hell does that even bother me? He’s the one who made a fool out of himself by almost choking on his disgustingly milky coffee and getting it all over his lips and…

“Come again?”

Ugh! I did not get such… inappropriate thoughts…

Miles shook his head. This was getting even scarier than the shirt incident.

I have to get a grip and focus. This is getting ridiculous.

Ever since that Saturday, he had been subjected to extremely annoying thoughts and questions. They were his own creations, and yet he couldn’t, for the life of him, think of any answers.

The biggest question of all was most definitely why he kept thinking about all this. Why did Wright suddenly seem so interesting? Why was he having so much trouble focusing on his work? Why was pretending to date Wright suddenly bringing up all these damned questions?

Miles needed answers, but he had no idea where to start to find them.

Perhaps I should try being rational.

He glanced at the clock on the wall and decided that work hours were indeed over. Especially if ‘work’ meant daydreaming about Wright. He picked up a fountain pen off the desk and took a blank piece of paper from the same drawer he had put his paperwork away in earlier.

Quadratics was his first attempt at finding the logical answer.

It was just about the easiest solution to everything in maths when ‘x’ and all the complicated numbers equalled zero, and right at this moment, ‘x’ certainly was coming up with zero answers for Miles.

He wrote out the formula at the top of his paper and substituted ‘a’, ‘b’ and ‘c’ with his versions of integers.

The negative reason for my annoying thoughts, plus the root of those thoughts squared, minus four times the realisation that Wright is good-looking, times the fact I reacted to Wright being good-looking, but divided by two times the fact that Wright is a half-brained genius who has stuck by me all these years.

Every time he tried to substitute ‘a’, Miles tried his hardest to think up a good insult to divide everything by, but it seemed as though maths wasn’t on his side. Then, when he was meant to come out with two possible answers, he was always stuck with a bloody surd that basically asked for the root of his uncanny thoughts… still asking him for that damned why!

Oh Christ, who am I kidding? Even quadratics isn’t going to solve this massive problem.

It’s no good.

He swept the paper off the desk and threw it into the waste paper bin with great accuracy.

I’m just going to have to think of another solution.

…Google.

That’s right, Google was a fountain of knowledge. It would undoubtedly come up with some conclusion as to ‘what finding your best friend and rival – who you happen to be pretending to date – stupidly fascinating and funny means’. However, when Miles typed this into the search box, it came back with the same zero results as that ‘x’.

He racked his brains for a shorter list of keywords and tried a simple ‘what happens when pretending to date friend’.

That didn’t come up with any interesting results, either.

The first hit was some religious website about what happens to unbelievers and sinners who pretend to date, the next one was an obscure website about pretending to use a bed as a raft, and the next was about some nut job who wanted someone to pretend to date their friend.

There really are some weirdoes on the Internet.

Annoyed, Miles closed off the browser and shut the unhelpful piece of junk down.

If mathematical formulas and technology weren’t cut out for the job, then there had to be something in literature to help Miles figure out this strange habit of always thinking about Wright, and why it had only recently posed a problem.

However, Miles wasn’t very fond of novels.

Understatement of the century.

To him, they were always full of nonsensical idealistic notions about the world; fantasy and science fiction being overly unbelievable, romance lacking any sort of point whatsoever, and humour not being even remotely amusing as the authors try too hard to be funny. Furthermore, depressing real-life stories and horror books were not needed by someone of his past.

I don’t think I’ll even go there.

He carefully scanned his wall of case files for anything that could help. It seemed a safe enough prospect; at least this wasn’t some made-up nonsense. But he soon had to come to the realisation that the case files were completely useless in this predicament.

Scowling at the wooden shelves as if it was their fault he was so messed up in the head, Miles scolded himself for not being able to work it all out. It should have been so simple, and yet nothing was clicking within his mind as to what all these things meant.

Sure, Wright was his sometime rival, sometime friend, whom he deeply respected for his determination and sense of justice, not to mention the trust he always put in other people – the trust he had put in him all those years – but the fact still remained that Wright was, well, Wright. Even after Miles’ disappearing act, nothing had really changed between them, except for the fact that it seemed to have brought them a bit closer for some reason. But still, he’d never had trouble focusing on his work before, and these past two months had been no exception. So why now? What was so different now that rendered him completely neglectful and confused? Nothing had changed. Nothing… apart from the fact that he was now pretending to date Wright, but why should that have influenced his behaviour in the slightest, let alone so dramatically? And why was it that he now seemed to think differently of him? Had it been a different person, would he still be thinking the same damned things?

Dating…

Miles’ head snapped up as he remembered that now really wasn’t the time to be brooding. He looked at the clock.

Only an hour and a half until I get sucked into hell.

“I wonder what Wright’s doing right now,” he muttered to himself, picturing him tapping his desk with a pen and looking bored, or whatever that man did at work. Then he remembered what time it was and figured that he had probably been home for a while. “He must be watching TV or something.”

Miles blinked. He did a double take at his unintentional speech and shook his head.

This is ridiculous. It looks like the only way I’m going to get rid of this idiot from my mind is by having him there so I don’t keep visualising his stupid smile and his handso--

…and his face.

Slamming a hand down onto the desk, decision made, Miles grabbed his coat and forced himself off the chair. He strode out of the office and hurried down the dozen sets of stairs, not even stopping to regain his breath when he reached the ground floor, just in case he’d want to go back on his decision. He swiftly walked across the lobby and past the reception desk.

“Um… Mr. Edgeworth, sir?”

Miles sharply turned around to lock eyes with a confused-looking receptionist. Her bright red hair, tied back tightly in a ponytail, flopped to the right as she tilted her head.

“Yes, Miss Spencer?”

“I was wondering if your office clock was still working.”

Miles raised an eyebrow, wondering if the question was just another one of those excuses women always came up with to have a chat.

Females really are weird creatures. They’d do anything to get me into a conversation… even act worried about my clock.

I mean, really…

“I think you’ll find it’s in perfect working order. And even if it were broken, I could make do with my watch.” He bowed slightly and turned to set off again. “Thank you for your concern.”

“But it’s only six o’clock! I was about to leave, but I can still call up the caretaker to go and fix it now if you want?”

Miles spun back around and frowned.

“Is there any reason why my leaving at six o’clock should be a problem?” He crossed his arms and tapped his index finger impatiently against his sleeve. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have somewhere that I need to be.”

He would have left right that second and ignored any further conversation if the receptionist hadn’t looked so genuinely shocked.

“But… but, Mr. Edgeworth, sir… You’ve never… ever left before I finished my shift since… since I first started working here!” she stuttered, eyes wide. “And from what I’ve heard, you often spend all evening working.”

Miles stared at her in disbelief.

Christ, is it really that shocking?

“I do have a social life, Miss Spencer, no matter what the rumours say,” he retaliated, a little too harshly.

She flinched a bit at that. “Right… erm… okay…”

Ignoring the incredulous mumbling of ‘Nah… he couldn’t have a date, could he?’, Miles continued through to the underground parking lot, hurriedly getting his keys out and pressing the unlock button on the keychain. He got into his car and turned on the ignition, before letting out a sigh and taking a look at himself in the rear-view mirror.

I really need to sort this out… Wright, what the hell are you doing to me?

---

-Ding-Dong-

After a bit of scuffling from the inside, the door was pulled open to reveal a clearly surprised Phoenix. “Edgeworth…?” He blinked a couple of times and started chuckling.

“What is it, Wright?” Miles asked, slightly put out by Phoenix’s reaction.

Well, what was I expecting?

“Oh… nothing. Just got a massive déjà vu,” Phoenix said, grinning. “You’ve got that exact same expression on your face and everything.” He glanced down at himself, probably making sure he was really wearing a simple white shirt this time, before looking back up at Miles. “Okay, so maybe not that big of a déjà vu.”

…What does he mean by ‘the same expression’?

…Oh God, I’m staring again.

Miles quickly snapped his head back up and gestured for Phoenix to let him in. He obediently stepped aside, and Miles walked in without risking another glance at him.

Christ. If this keeps up, he’s going to think I’m weird.

It was then that something seemed to register with Phoenix. “Hang on… What are you doing here?”

“You need a lift,” Miles stated simply, already prepared in advance for that question.

“It’s only twenty past six, and you told me that you wouldn’t be picking me up even if a hurricane cropped up.”

Ouch. Am I that much of a hypocrite?

“I changed my mind,” Miles replied, refusing to look directly at Phoenix. “I’m feeling in a generous mood and I got bored at work. Besides, I suppose it would look suspicious if we arrived at different times.”

“That was my argument all along!” Phoenix complained. “…Wait, you got bored at work? Are you feeling okay?”

Miles turned to look at him and saw the concerned look on his face.

Is he worried about me?

…Huh?

He suddenly realized his pulse was racing.

Damned stairs… I knew I shouldn’t have hurried that much.

Phoenix walked over to the sofa and crashed down onto it, still looking thoroughly confused.

Miles furrowed his eyebrows. “Wright, do you have no sense of planning at all? I’m here to pick you up and you’re not even ready.”

“Okay, let me get this straight…” Phoenix raised a hand and rubbed his temple with the other. “You came to pick me up early for a date that you’ve been dreading, even after swearing down that you wouldn’t help me with transport no matter what because the whole thing was my fault, and now you’re expecting me to magically know about your change of heart and be ready for your surprise appearance?” He crossed his arms and frowned. “I think I’m missing something here.”

“That still doesn’t change the fact that you’re not ready,” Miles stated, standing awkwardly by the sofa.

Phoenix leaned back and placed his hands behind his head. “Neither are you. You’re still in your frilly work clothes.”

“At least my work clothes are presentable for where we’re going,” Miles retorted, straightening his cravat.

Actually, he has a point. I haven’t had any time to change.

Well… more like I really didn’t think about it.

I’m so bad at this.

Miles sighed. “Just… go and get ready. You’ve wasted enough time complaining about my generosity, and if you don’t hurry, we’re going to be late.” He turned away and pretended to look at the painting on the wall. It wasn’t so much of a painting as it was a bunch of soup cans arranged in a mosaic, but at least it saved him from having to look at Wright.

“Yes, Master,” Phoenix mumbled back, before sliding off the couch and disappearing in the hallway.

As soon as he heard the bedroom door close, Miles let out a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding. Seeing Wright had managed to stop the ongoing thoughts, but this meant he now had to socialise with him.

He leaned back against the wall and shook his head.

This is going to be such a long night…

---

The car journey was largely uneventful, Phoenix attempting to start up a conversation many times at first, but eventually giving up when all Miles gave him were one-word answers without even bothering to glance back at him.

After parking the car, they walked to the restaurant that Kath had chosen for them the day before. Phoenix leaned against some railings in front of the building and seemed to do a double take at the opulence of the exterior, probably wondering if there had been some kind of mistake. Miles just stood there, arms crossed, and there was silence for several minutes.

Well, this is cosy…

Miles checked his watch.

Five minutes to seven… and Everett’s not supposed to show up until seven thirty.

I should have known that rushing wouldn’t get me out of this any faster.

What was I thinking? Now I’m stuck here with Wright for half an hour…

“Are you trying to mentally speed up the second hand or something?”

Miles turned to look at Phoenix, who was frowning at him. He rolled his eyes and directed his attention back to his watch.

Phoenix sighed. “Is this your way of storing all your social abilities up for later? Good idea, I suppose. I know you’re in short supply.”

You have no idea…

“Shut up, Wright,” Miles grumbled.

Phoenix sighed again. “You’re not going to be like this all night, are you?”

“Why? How else should I be?”

“Pleasant.”

“I’m always pleasant,” Miles said dryly, looking up again to see an amused smile on Phoenix’s face. He immediately regretted it as his stomach suddenly felt incredibly light.

This man is bad for my health.

“You’re always pleasant to the eyes, you mean,” Phoenix replied, smirking evilly.

Oh, hell no…

“Wright, please tell me you’re not planning on making stupid jokes all night.”

Phoenix chuckled. “Well, if you don’t want me to, you better stop ignoring me.”

“I don’t like to discuss irrelevant things,” Miles bit back.

“Hmm… No irrelevant talking… No physical contact without you freaking out… No discussing anything personal…”

Miles noticed Phoenix rub his neck and bite his lip, and he had to blink a couple of times before he could snap out of his staring.

Traitors, he mentally scolded his eyes.

After a few seconds, Phoenix dropped his arm, and Miles noted the bead of sweat that ran from his forehead. “We’re screwed.”

Miles looked at him blankly. “…What? What are you talking about?”

“The date, Edgeworth.” Phoenix rolled his eyes. “What’s wrong with you today?”

Trust me, I’d like to know as well…

Phoenix shook his head. “Do you even realize that you’re going to ruin everything if you don’t at least try to follow the conditions? If you want to keep being stubborn, then I don’t know why I even bother.” Phoenix shrugged. “Oh well… At least, by the end of tonight, it’ll be fairly obvious that we’re not dating and this whole charade can end.”

It’ll end before it’s even begun…

Miles sighed.

Fine. You win, Wright.

“Alright, I’ll try. If you think it’ll work, I suppose it can’t be worse than having Everett constantly harass me. Besides, I’m not a complete unsociable wreck.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow.

Miles scowled. “At the very least, I have business meetings.”

“I still think ‘unsociable wreck’ describes you pretty well.”

“You watch. I’ll make it work, if not just to spite you,” Miles replied indignantly.

“Hah. This will be interesting,” Phoenix said, smirking. “I wonder if we can pull it off.”

“Pull what off?”

Miles and Phoenix both jumped at the interruption from the all-too-recognizable voice behind them.

Kath stood there with her arms crossed and a confused look on her face, before her expression suddenly turned into one of embarrassment. “…Or do I not want to know?”

Oh Christ.

“How long have you been listening in?” Phoenix asked quickly, looking at her with wide eyes.

“I-I’m sorry! I didn’t… didn’t mean to interrupt your private conversation. I only heard your last comment, I swear!”

Miles shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

That… was too close.

Wait… What is she doing here already?

He glanced at his watch.

“You’re early, Everett. Our date is not for another thirty minutes.”

Kath frowned. “What…? Didn’t we say seven o’clock?”

Miles shook his head.

Thank God for the scatterbrained woman… Now we can get this over with.

“No matter. It’s lovely to see you, Everett,” Miles said silkily, bowing. “May I compliment you on your fine choice of restaurant?”

“Please, Miles, call me Kath. And I’m glad you like the restaurant. I spent a long time choosing the perfect place! Not that I made a fuss over it or anything…” Kath’s face flushed slightly and she looked at the floor in embarrassment.

Phoenix chuckled. “Aww, such a charmer with the ladies, aren’t you? You never complimented me on my suit and I ironed it specially for you.”

What do you think you’re doing, Wright?

“Could have fooled me. It looks like the same old crumpled suit I see you in every day,” Miles bit back.

“Hey! We can’t all afford to buy disposable suits, you know!”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Of course not. But I’m pretty sure anyone can afford at least some kind of taste.”

Phoenix shook his head and slapped his palm against his forehead. Miles could practically see ‘We’re doomed’ written all over his face.

Well, damn you, Wright! You were the one who started it!

“Oh, dear… Have I walked in on a domestic?” Kath asked, sounding suspiciously hopeful.

Phoenix laughed nervously. “Nothing of the sort, honest. Personal joke, you see…” He scratched the back of his neck. “Well, shall we go in, then?” He gestured for her to walk in front of them.

“Sure, let’s go, I’m starving!” Kath replied enthusiastically, setting off towards the entrance.

“What the hell happened to all that talk about spiting me?” Phoenix whispered harshly into Miles’ ear as they followed Kath through the doors. “You totally blew me off!”

Miles ignored him, and instead turned his attention to Kath.

“Reservation for three under Everett, please,” she said as they reached the reception desk.

The headwaiter checked his book, before looking back up at them. He took out a handkerchief and coughed into it, before repocketing it. “We would appreciate it if you could please keep your grammar in check, Madame. That would be a reservation for three what? Three potatoes? Three pickles?”

Miles blinked.

What? No… I must have imagined it.

The chuckle from Phoenix told him otherwise.

I’m never going to live that down, am I?

“Oh, I’m sorry. I was supposed to say ‘reservation for three people’,” Kath amended, sounding annoyed.

Phoenix leaned in to whisper in his ear again. “What’s with the stiff?”

Miles turned to him and shrugged. “He must think he’s special because he works at such a highly ranked restaurant.”

“Well, damn, being posh doesn’t automatically make you rude.” Phoenix shook his head, before giving Miles an exaggerated look. “Actually, scratch that…”

“What happened to being pleasant, Wright? I’m sure it’s a two-way thing.”

The headwaiter eyed the three of them again, before drawing his handkerchief back out.

“You were meant to say, you mean. Not ‘supposed’,” he scoffed.

I’m sure either is fine. He’s just being a nuisance now.

“Sorry. I meant to say ‘reservation for three people’,” Kath repeated, her eye twitching.

“It’s ‘reservation under the name of Everett for three people’, if you want to be fully correct.”

Kath bared her teeth and rose onto her tiptoes to look down at the old man. “Now, you listen here, you pedantic bast--”

“Excuse me,” Miles cut in, stepping in front of Kath. “Is this how you treat all your customers? I’m amazed this place still gets business. Now, you either show us to our table immediately or I’m asking for the manager. And believe me, if you value your job, you don’t want me to do that.”

The headwaiter gave him an unimpressed look. “Please, sir. Keep it down. You’re bothering the other diners. Don’t you have any manners?”

What!?

“I’m the one with no manners!? What do you think you’ve been doing since we got here? I really don’t think Everett deserved any of that.”

The headwaiter coughed. “A gentleman would never refer to a lady by her surname alone.”

That’s it, I’ve had enough…

“Look, here. I--”

“Please excuse my partner for his rudeness,” Phoenix interrupted. “I think he’s had a long day. What he meant to say is that his partner invited us here to have a good time, not to argue over etiquette.”

The headwaiter raised an eyebrow. “Your partner? His partner? I think you’ll find that makes them both your partners, sir. Either learn to use proper grammar, or you can take your little business meeting elsewhere.”

Phoenix smirked. “You’re wrong, I’m afraid. I meant the former as ‘my lover’. Therefore, my statement makes perfect sense.”

Miles hid behind his hand in shame and pretended not to see what was going on in front of him.

Great. Just lovely. Why not announce our relationship to the world while you’re at it?

The old man gave Phoenix a cold glare before guiding them over to their table. He dropped the menus onto it in an offhand manner, avoiding eye contact. He then returned to his post without any further words, probably eager to move on to his next victim.

“Good evening to you too, jerk,” Phoenix muttered under his breath.

This was the first time Miles could manage to get a good look at the room, which was split into two sections; a bar area on one side and the busy restaurant on the other. Many tables were already occupied by couples, giving the impression that the restaurant was a hot spot for people on dates. There were a few booths fitted for four people, like the one they had been assigned, but these didn’t seem as popular as the tables with separate seats. The people closest to them were a family of four three tables down. It was a nicely secluded area, at least.

Phoenix seemed impressed with his surroundings as his eyes darted about, taking in the portraits and plants on the walls. He shuffled into the booth and looked staggered by the fact that he had three forks, three knives and two spoons.

“You know, Miles, I could have handled that perfectly fine by myself,” Kath said, still angry. “He really wasn’t worth your time.” She eyed the headwaiter disapprovingly before sliding into the seat opposite Phoenix.

Miles made a move to sit next to her, but stopped when he saw the look on Phoenix’s face.

That’s right. He’s my date. How could I forget?

He sighed and went to sit on the other side instead. He scooted along the seat, only to have his knee brush against Phoenix’s. A slight prickling of his skin when it did made him yelp and flinch, causing him to ram his knee up into the table.

“Ow, ow!” He clutched his leg as pain flooded through it. “Wright! What do you think you’re doing!?”

Phoenix blinked. “But… huh? I didn’t do any--”

Kath coughed and glared over at Phoenix. “Mr. Wright, would you please keep your hands to yourself? This is a highly respected restaurant! I’m sure you can save that… sort of thing for later.”

…What? She can’t seriously be insinuating…

Phoenix’s face flushed a brilliant red and his hands suddenly appeared in full view onto the table.

I knew it. This whole thing is going to be the death of me.

“Evere… Kath, Wright wasn’t--ouch!” More pain flashed through Miles’ already table-abused leg as he realised that Phoenix had just kicked him.

“Something wrong, Miles?” Phoenix asked innocently.

Miles twitched. “Just caught my knee on the table. Nothing to worry about, Ph… Phoenix.”

He sent Phoenix a glare that read ‘Ask to rub it better, I dare you’ and picked up his menu to hide him from view.

Kath eyed Phoenix, apparently peeved that he had the better seat and that he was toying with Miles right in front of her eyes. She then shook her head and picked up her menu.

“I wonder if they have those lovely crab dishes still. It’s been ages since I last came to eat here.”

There was a long pause. Kath shuffled about a bit, visibly feeling the tension build up.

She finally broke the silence with a small giggle. “That reminds me of a funny story, actually! See, it was me and my friend Jen and her half sister… No, wait, was that her stepsister? Maybe it was her cousin… No, I’m pretty sure it was her half sister…”

What was that just then? That strange feeling in my knee…

Am I allergic to his washing powder or something?

…Yes. You keep telling yourself that.

God, I’m so hopeless…

It’s as if I can’t even act normally around Wright anymore.

Wait… Who says it has anything to do with Wright?

I’ve never been too keen on physical contact, so obviously, my reflexes just reacted strangely at the sudden proximity…

Not to mention I’m feeling so damned light-headed right now… That couldn’t have helped.

“…Miles? What’s so interesting?”

Kath’s voice instantly made him lose his train of thought and he dropped his menu in surprise.

Ah, I need to stop doing that!

The menu fell right on the fork that had been laid out for appetisers, sending it flying off the table and onto the floor, where it landed with a clatter.

Miles jerked slightly at the noise, still not fully conscious, before looking down dumbly at the piece of silverware at his feet. He bent down to pick it up, but Phoenix was faster, causing Miles to hit his forehead against the back of Phoenix’s head.

“Damn it,” Miles hissed, clutching his forehead. “I can pick a simple piece of cutlery off the floor by myself!”

Phoenix defensively waved the hand holding the fork, rubbing his head with the other. “You looked totally out of it. I was just trying to help.”

“Are you both alright?” Kath asked, a worried tone to her voice. “Oh, I’m sorry for scaring you like that, Miles! I just thought you’d found an interesting dish or something, and I was wondering if I should order the same thing.”

“It’s fine, Everett,” Miles replied, sighing. “You caught me unawares, is all.”

Why is it that every time Wright helps, it turns into a disaster?

Suddenly, a fork appeared right in front of Miles’ face, making him jerk backwards into his seat. He turned his head to the left, only to come face to face with a young woman wearing glasses who was clearly a waitress.

“I saw you drop your fork, sir, so I thought I should bring you a clean one!” She beamed down happily at Miles and placed the fork onto the table, before freezing up and clasping a hand over her mouth. “Oh! It’s not like I was staring at you or anything! I just happened to notice out of the corner of my eye, and all…”

Corner of your eye? You’re wearing glasses. Happened to notice? This part of the restaurant is empty.

There’s so many contradictions in that statement, I don’t know where to begin.

“Ah, yes, thank you,” Miles replied politely, not missing the possessive glare Kath was sending in the waitress’ direction.

“No problem! Anytime, sir. Are you ready to order?”

Of course, if we say yes, then we’re stuck with you the whole night.

“We’ll ask for service when we’re ready, thank you,” Kath piped up from across the table.

“Oh…” The waitress looked away from Miles and glanced at Kath, before looking back at him. “Oh! I wondered why your voice sounded so feminine. It was someone else! Sorry! I’ll be back when you need me.” She gave a small wave, and slowly walked away to go and serve someone else.

Looks like we’ll be stuck with her no matter what…

“I swear the staff here are picked on a basis of how much they can tick me off,” Kath said darkly. “Now I remember why I stopped coming to this place.”

Miles heard a snort of laughter come from Phoenix, who had apparently been observing everything.

“I think that waitress likes you,” he said, before hiding behind his menu, obviously trying to contain more laughter.

Kath scowled at him. “Don’t laugh at other people’s misfortune! I’m sure Miles doesn’t send off gay vibes to everyone, so it’s to be expected that women will be interested.” She sighed and picked her menu back up.

Phoenix put his down and turned to Miles, resting his chin on his hand. “Mmm, I see what you mean.”

“You see what, now?” Miles asked, not liking the look Phoenix was giving him.

“I just can’t help but agree with them.” Phoenix quickly bit his lip, trying to keep a straight face. “Any woman would love to have a man like you. I guess I’m pretty lucky to have you to myself.”

Miles’ pulse suddenly skyrocketed.

You’re enjoying humiliating me, aren’t you?

“Don’t be so feminine,” Miles scolded, putting down his menu after giving up on trying to read it, his head feeling way too light.

Phoenix shook his head. “No, seriously, Miles, I don’t know what you see in me half the time.” He sighed. “I’m clearly not in your league.”

Christ, stop the dramatics.

“You’re being too harsh on yourself,” Miles replied through his teeth.

Phoenix grinned evilly. “I was only messing around. Why would I want all that attention, anyway? After all, I already have yo--”

“Everyone ready to order yet?” Miles quickly interrupted.

Kath nodded, and Miles was about to raise his hand to call the waitress when she suddenly appeared.

“Are you ready to order now, sir?” she asked gleefully. Her eyes seemed to sparkle unnaturally brightly, though whether it was just the reflection in her glasses or something else, Miles wasn’t sure.

Phoenix suddenly burst into a fit of silent laughter and turned away.

Miles tried to ignore him and looked up at the waitress in a bit of a daze. “Err… yes, we’re ready.”

Actually… I’m really not. I haven’t even read the menu once. And I don’t even know what type of food they serve, so I can’t just make something up…

He gestured over at Phoenix. “…I’ll have whatever he’s having.”

That seemed to shut Phoenix up as he turned to give Miles a blank look.

“…What I’m having?” he repeated dumbly.

“Yes, Phoenix. I simply can’t choose from all the great dishes. I trust your judgement,” Miles said, urging Phoenix to hurry up and name something so the overly eager woman would leave.

Blankness spread over Phoenix’s face.

Don’t tell me… he’s been too busy making fun of me to actually read the menu?

“Oh… right, erm… I was thinking about ordering… err…” Phoenix looked around for inspiration, apparently too thick to simply pick up the menu, until his eyes landed on Kath. “Crab. The what-do-you-call-it one… The erm…”

Miles gestured towards the menu and Phoenix quickly picked it up.

“Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms,” he said hastily. “No, wait… You don’t like mushrooms, do you? We’ll have the Crab Melt Canapés, then.”

The waitress nodded and looked away to take Kath’s order.

Phoenix slumped back into his seat and blinked a couple of times.

Yes, I’m surprised too. How did you remember that I hate mushrooms?

“What the hell are ‘Canapés’?” Phoenix whispered as Kath read out her dish of seafood.

Oh. I should have seen that coming.

“They’re small appetisers served with drinks. They often have them at parties…” It then dawned on Miles just what Phoenix had done. “Wait a minute… You were reading from the hors d’oeuvre menu, weren’t you?”

“I was?” Phoenix looked down at the menu in his hand and chuckled. “What do you know, I was as well.”

“Wright, you do know that lengthens our ‘date’ by at least half an hour, right?” Miles hissed.

“There goes my genius plan of deliberately making us suffer longer,” Phoenix replied sarcastically. At Miles’ unimpressed look, he raised his hands in defence. “Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll reorder!”

“Is that all for now?” the waitress asked, spinning back around to face Miles.

“Actually, we’ve changed our minds,” Phoenix replied. “Never mind the crabby starter; we’ll just have a main course.”

The waitress ignored him and continued staring at Miles.

Phoenix coughed and turned the page to the main courses. “Right, I think we’ll have the Pan-Fried Scallops with Chillies, Tomatoes and Tequila.”

What kind of hellish dish is that?

Miles was too busy leaning back from the waitress’ stare to argue, though. He turned to Phoenix and gave him a desperate look, nodding over at the waitress.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow as if to say ‘What do you want me to do about it?’.

“Erm, excuse me, Miss,” Kath growled, making the waitress jump slightly. “After you’ve added a bottle of your finest white on the list, I think we’re done ordering.”

“Oh, of course. Your meal will be here shortly.” The waitress smiled sweetly and made a beeline for the kitchen.

Kath tutted under her breath. “I really don’t understand those kinds of women, you know. Getting all infatuated over men when it’s obvious they aren’t interested.”

I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that from you, Everett.

“Wri--Phoenix, what the hell did you go and order that for?” Miles finally asked.

Phoenix blinked. “Huh? Oh, that. I thought the chillies and tequila would manly you up a bit.” He smiled and patted Miles on the shoulder. “Not that you’re not manly enough for me already or anything.” At Miles’ glare, he added, smirking, “Hey, it was either that or the Lobster and Pickles.”

Miles scowled. “I merely thought the Honey-Crusted Prawns would be more to your tastes, along with a nice glass of milk.”

“I don’t get it…” Kath said weakly. “Oh, unless you mean something else when you say ‘pickle’ and ‘milk’…” She blushed crimson. “A-anyway… Now that we’ve ordered, how are you two faring?”

“Fine. Just… fine.”

Minus the fact that I have a slight Wright problem.

“I heard you managed to convict--”

“Err, Miles,” Phoenix cut in, “I don’t think work is the best subject to be getting onto. Miss Everett invited us out to relax, not to frazzle our brains on criminal affairs.”

“Exactly! And we can’t have a defence attorney listening in on prosecutor business, either… Oh! I almost forgot!” Kath chuckled. “It appears Georgie Spencer is onto you, Miles,” she said slyly, resting her chin in her hands. “She called me at around six. She couldn’t believe that you’d left before she finished working, and she asked me if it was possible that you had a date and if I knew anything about it. She sounded pretty jealous.”

Miles felt the colour drain from his face. “And what did you say?” he asked hesitantly.

“I told her you had to take your dog to the vet.”

“What dog?” He blinked. “Oh. You covered for us?”

“Of course I covered for you!” Kath exclaimed, seemingly taking offence at Miles’ disbelief. “Did I not promise to keep your relationship a secret?”

“He can get a little Edgey at times,” Phoenix cut in with a grin. “Believe me, he’s not the trusting type.”

Why does he always have to smile like that?

Can’t he just… look normal for once in his life?

That would stop all this nonsense.

Blasted spiky-haired idiot with his stupid, optimistic face and his bloody tasteless sarcasm…

Miles turned away from Phoenix, who had apparently decided to retell the tale of how they met again after fifteen years. He sighed and took to staring into space.

Stupid Wright…

If he’s not there, I visualise him.

If he is there, then I can’t look at him.

What the hell is this?

“Two Pan-Fried Scallops, a plate of Garlic Prawns and a bottle of white wine.” The waitress placed the plates in front of them, uncorked the bottle, and poured a glass for each of them. “I hope you enjoy your meal! If you would like anything else, feel free to ask for me,” she said sweetly, never taking her eyes off Miles.

This is really getting quite irritating. Isn’t there anyone else in this whole restaurant she can go and annoy?

Miles sighed and was about to speak up when he felt something warm on his right hand, which was resting on the table. He glanced down. There, right in front of the waitress’ eyes, Phoenix had grabbed his hand and was caressing it lightly.

Skin prickling and burning with the oddest sensations, any words Miles had been trying to form instantly died on his lips. He stared down blankly at his hand, completely at a loss with the situation, until a sharp pain shot through his index finger.

Ouch! The damned paper cut!

Miles winced as Phoenix stroked the same spot again.

Oblivious to Miles’ physical pain, he leaned over and whispered into his ear, “Don’t freak. I’m just helping… and following the conditions.”

Wright and his bloody help… Look where it’s landed me.

“We’ll be sure to ask if we need anything,” Phoenix said all too innocently, making sure the waitress could see the joined hands clearly. “Thank you very much.”

The waitress turned to look at him and her cheeks flushed a bright red. “N-no problem.” She pushed her glasses up and leaned forward to give him a proper look. “You’re a man?”

“Yes, I am very much a man,” Phoenix replied.

“And he’s a man too?”

“Yes, he’s a man too.”

Congratulations.

“…Right.”

“Yes, my name is Wright.”

The waitress blinked a few times and wandered off in a daze, muttering to herself.

Phoenix chuckled and dropped his hold on Miles’ hand.

Finally…

The prickling from being allergic to Wright’s soap might have been bearable, but an open paper cut being rubbed really hurt.

Miles sighed.

I’m such a wimp.

Kath beamed over at Phoenix, her expression full of newfound respect. “That was fantastic! You totally got rid of the pest!” she exclaimed, reaching out to shake hands with him.

“What can I say, I didn’t want her getting her hands on my Miles.”

Kath’s face suddenly turned sour. “I thought your relationship was meant to be a secret?” she said indignantly, crossing her arms.

I wonder if he annoyed her on purpose or if it was just a hit in my direction that ended up ricocheting towards her.

His Miles? Ridiculous.

And now my bloody pulse is acting up again.

Can he get any more annoying?

Phoenix laughed. “Yeah, it is, but I really felt like I had to do something. Miles was obviously getting uncomfortable from all her staring. It’s only natural that I would help him, right?” He smiled and looked down at his food. “Wow, this looks delicious! You’ve chosen the restaurant well, Miss Everett.”

The compliment seemed to lighten Kath back up significantly.

“Don’t think you can get back on my good side with just that, Mr. Wright,” she said, smiling, before picking up her knife and fork.

Miles shook his head.

Women.

He followed her actions as they all started cutting away at their food. It was well prepared, and the scallops weren’t too dry, but the spicy chillies weren’t so good.

Manly food my ass.

He picked out some of the chillies.

I don’t need to eat unnaturally hot substances to prove myself. I wear a cravat, for Christ’s sake.

“You don’t like the spices, Miles?” Phoenix asked between sips of wine, glancing at Miles’ plate.

“I wasn’t the one who chose such a ridiculous dish,” Miles said defensively.

“I wasn’t the one trusting my judgement.”

Miles scowled. “I only did that because I never had a chance to read the menu.”

“You never read the menu?” Kath chipped in, eyes wide. “Oh my God, you totally had me fooled!”

Miles turned to Phoenix and smirked at the shocked expression on his face.

“Aww, I really can’t get over how cute you two look together,” Kath commented, resting her chin on her hand.

Miles’ hand twitched slightly, but he managed to pass it off as a half-hearted attempt at prodding a chilli. “That’s… nice.”

“Isn’t it?” She sighed. “All night, it’s as though you two have been in your own personal little world and I really don’t fit in there with you.”

“P-personal little world?” Miles said weakly, a strange feeling settling in the pit of his stomach.

“Yeah, with all your personal jokes and little brushes and spats…”

She really hasn’t noticed that we’re not a couple…?

But I didn’t do anything different!

Perhaps the secret really is in the first name usage…

“It’s so great to see two people so in love--”

“How’s your food, Miss Everett? I’m a big fan of prawns myself,” Phoenix cut in, apparently noticing that Miles was less than comfortable with the route the conversation had taken.

“It’s fantastic!” Kath took her fork to gather two prawns and offered it to Phoenix. “Here, why don’t you have a try?”

Phoenix took the fork from her hand. “Don’t mind if I do.”

Kath chuckled and turned to look at Miles. “Aww, I think Miles feels left out, what with me taking you all to myself, Mr. Wright.”

Take away as much of him as you like, Everett. The more, the better.

“Aren’t you going to feed him some?”

Any semblance of hope Miles had left about being able to unwind quickly went up in a puff of smoke.

Is she serious?

Phoenix snickered. “You want to try some, Miles? It’s delicious.” To emphasize his point, he felt the need to lick his top lip. Slowly. Seductively.

I swear I am going to kill him.

At his lack of response, Phoenix urged him some more by waving the prawn in his direction. His evil grin read ‘Go on, I dare you’. Miles just couldn’t turn down that bet.

Fine. I’ll play your stupid little game.

Miles reached out a hand to grab the fork, but Phoenix drew it back and took the food off the end, before moving his fingers towards Miles’ mouth.

“What are you--”

“Shh, just taste it.”

His heart started hammering in his chest at unbelievable speed as Phoenix gently popped the prawn into his mouth and smiled at him. Why his hand had to linger, Miles didn’t know, but it only wound him up more. And seeing Kath beaming at their interaction just made it all the worse.

Miles pulled away and quickly swallowed down the food, trying his hardest not to choke. “E-excuse me, I need to… excuse myself to… the bathroom.”

Before anyone had a chance to argue, he stood up, nearly knocking his glass off the table, and made his getaway to the men’s room across the lobby, ignoring the evil look from the old man at the reception desk.

He pushed the door open and hastily made his way over to the sink. Despite his shaking hands, he managed to turn on the tap. He cupped the cold water in his palms, soaked his face and pulled a hand through his hair. Gripping the sides of the sink, he stared at his face in the mirror, forcing himself to calm down.

He was painfully aware that he had just made a fool of himself. He was also aware that Wright probably had no idea what his pleasantries had been doing to him all night. What he didn’t know was why he had reacted like this, why he kept feeling so damned light-headed, why he couldn’t understand any of this.

What is he going to think about me now? Surely he’ll realize I’ve got issues here.

He frowned at his reflection.

“I order you to stop acting like a fool!” he shouted, pointing at the mirror.

Miles sighed and lowered his head.

It’s useless. I’m useless…

He looked back up and followed a bead of water as it made its way down his nose, then dripped off.

He sighed again.

This isn’t helping.

I can still see him.

I’ll never be able to calm down…

He took a deep, shaky breath.

What the fuck is happening to me?

I swear I’m going to go insane…

He closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the mirror. The cool touch seemed to ease his breathing. He stayed like that for a while, his mind simultaneously stirring with endless questions and drawing a complete blank.

How long had it been since he left the table? He didn’t know. He couldn’t go back now, though. Not after the way he had reacted. Not after getting such conclusive evidence that he simply couldn’t deal with the whole situation.

The door to the washroom suddenly creaked open. Miles opened his eyes and saw Wright appear in the mirror.

“Ah, so you haven’t drowned yourself in the toilet, then, Edgeworth.”

Silence. Miles’ gaze didn’t flicker.

“We were worried about you,” Phoenix added, only to be met by more silence.

Just leave me alone, Wright…

“Okay, so Kath was worried about you slightly more than I was.”

Please…

“Okay, okay, you’ve got me. Kath was worried a hell of a lot and I had to stop her from entering the men’s room, which meant sacrificing my precious time to check on you.”

Miles sighed.

Phoenix finally seemed to realise that Miles wasn’t going to respond anytime soon. He made his way over to lean against the counter next to Miles. “Hey… Are you feeling okay?”

Oh, please, Wright. Don’t go getting all concerned.

You need to stay detached.

For my own sanity.

“Tonight was a disaster,” Miles began quietly. “And yet, she still thinks we’re a couple.” He pushed away from the mirror and leaned against the counter. “I’ve been on edge all night. I can’t stand all this pretending… It’s so invasive.”

“Funny, I was quite enjoying myself,” Phoenix said with a chuckle.

“You would,” Miles commented dryly, before lapsing back into silence, staring off into space.

They stood there for a while in glorious quietness, the only sound coming from the tap that Miles hadn’t closed off correctly in his haste.

-Drip-

Phoenix shuffled a bit. Miles glanced at him and noticed that his cheeks were starting to glow a faint red.

-Drip-

Miles ran a hand through his hair.

-Drip-

It was strangely calming, just leaning there – just being there – with Wright.

-Drip-

“It’s friggin’ hot in here,” Phoenix finally interrupted, reaching back to tighten the tap. “Did they set the heater to ‘hellfire’ or something?” He loosened his tie and started fanning himself with his hand.

Miles rolled his eyes.

Every bloody time… He just can’t resist ruining the mood, can he?

“Are you sure it’s not just your brain burning up from having to think?”

“Ha-ha, real funny, Edgeworth.” Phoenix gave up aimlessly fanning himself and started unbuttoning his jacket. He paused after undoing the first button. “This reminds me of that time at the office when our fan broke down.” He laughed. “Maya really should have known that sticking bits of paper into it wasn’t such a good idea.”

“I wouldn’t go talking about potential girlfriends when out on a date with someone else if I were you,” Miles said with a smirk, brushing his wet bangs out of his face.

“She’s not a potential girlfriend,” Phoenix replied, taking off his jacket.

Miles blinked.

That’s news to me.

“I thought you said you had feelings for her.”

Phoenix shook his head. “I think the whole incident just threw me a bit. That and Pearls constantly thinking that we’re together. I guess it just made me wonder if… well… if I was in denial or something.” He puffed out his cheeks slightly and let out a long breath, apparently still having trouble standing the heat. “I mean, I love her and all, but I don’t think I could ever get into a relationship with her. I tried being rational yesterday and… well… I never felt it. So I guess I was just being an idiot.” He laughed softly.

“You… what? You’ve lost me,” Miles said, confused.

“You know, the chemistry.”

Miles gave him a blank look.

“I guess you don’t.”

I’m assuming this has nothing to do with atoms and elements.

Phoenix pondered for a few seconds, his face serene under the dim light. “I guess it’s that little fluttery feeling you get when you’re around them, those little things you notice and stuff.” He nodded as if to agree with himself.

Sorry I asked.

“I think you need to stop talking to Larry so often.”

Phoenix laughed. “You’re too right. What the hell am I saying?”

“Not to mention your dedication in following the conditions,” Miles added, frowning at the mere thought of them.

“Oh, that…” Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry about the whole holding hands thing earlier. It seemed like a funny idea at the time.”

He thinks I winced because he touched me.

“I had a paper cut.”

…Why did I feel the need to clear that up? I certainly didn’t have to.

“Oh?” Phoenix said, a confused look on his face, before breaking into a smile. “Oh, I see. I’m sorry. I hope you taught that evil paper a lesson.”

Miles smiled back. “Shut up, Wright.”

Phoenix stretched and pulled a hand through his hair. “Well, seeing as though you’re still alive and calm, fancy coming back through to civilisation?”

Miles sighed. “Might as well. These toilets are really pleasing to the eye, though.”

“Yeah, and the aroma is just beautiful,” Phoenix added, scrunching up his nose.

How long have we been in here anyway?

Miles checked his watch and was amazed to see that at least forty minutes had passed since he left the table.

“Alright, I’ll come back through.”

“Great! You won’t screw up, though, right?”

Miles frowned. “Screw what up?”

“You know, being all cold and stuff.”

“…I screwed this up?”

“Yeah, you really suck at this whole dating thing, you know,” Phoenix said with a smirk.

Oh, he did not just say that.

I’m the one who ‘sucks’ at dating, am I?” Miles repeated, raising his voice. “Who’s the one kicking their ‘beloved’ and aiming cheap shots to provoke a reaction?”

“Hey, don’t blame me!” It was Phoenix’s turn to raise his tone. “I’ve been trying my hardest all night to make this stupid relationship believable, only to have you snap at me every time that I, God forbid, say something pleasant.”

“How’s that, Wright?” Miles replied, feeling his eye twitch. “You used me as an excuse to get up that headwaiter’s nose!”

“The jerk deserved that,” Phoenix bit back.

Miles scowled. “And, of course, you thought that would amuse me to no end?”

“Well, no, but--”

“But you thought it would be funny, right?” Miles shook his head. “You should get over your damned self and try thinking of others sometimes.”

Phoenix snorted. “I’m sorry, what? Who’s being a stubborn jerk because Mister thinks the conditions are too stupid for him to follow? And may I remind you that the reason we’re here right now is because I’m helping you!?”

“I wouldn’t call this ‘helping’,” Miles retorted. “Besides, I wouldn’t have needed your stupid help in the first place if you hadn’t created this whole mess.”

“Oh, come on…” Phoenix crossed his arms and looked away to the side. He seemed to ponder for a moment, before letting out a sigh and turning back to Miles, a concerned look on his face. “What is it with you today, anyway? You look really out of it.”

What an understatement…

“It’s all your fault, Wright,” Miles muttered.

“What? Edgew… ugh…” Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Will you stop bringing that up?”

“I’m not.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “What’s this about, then? What do you mean it’s my fault?”

Because you won’t get out of my head and it’s driving me insane.

“Nothing.”

“…That’s it? How do you expect me to do something about it if you won’t even tell me what’s wrong?”

Miles sighed. “You can’t. Let it go.”

“Come on, Edg--”

“I said let it go, Wright.”

Phoenix shook his head. “I’m sorry, but no. I’m worried about you, Edgeworth.”

“Sure you are. That’s why you had so much fun making a fool out of me out there with all your stupid sap!”

Phoenix scowled. “Last time I checked, sap wasn’t there to make a fool out of people, but to make them look like a couple!” He took a deep breath and stroked his chin. “Unless you’re talking about the tree stuff, of course…”

Ugh! I can’t even have a proper argument with this man!

Miles shook his head and stormed out of the men’s room, thoroughly annoyed.

“Edgeworth! Hey, Edgeworth!” Phoenix came jogging after him and reached for his shoulder, missing and grabbing his hand instead. “You can’t just walk away from me when I’m trying to…”

Miles turned sharply and wrenched his hand from Phoenix’s grip. “I can’t take you seriously, Wright.”

Phoenix frowned. “I thought you were pretty tense back there, so I just thought I should--”

“Well, don’t think, then,” Miles said coldly, heading back over to their table. “I intended to be tense; it creates an atmosphere.”

“Fine,” Phoenix replied. “Be tense for all I care, but you can’t just walk away from this!”

“Watch me.”

“You’re such a pain in the ass! Get back in there and finish what you started, you jerk!”

Miles froze as the noise in the whole restaurant suddenly dropped. He scanned the room, taking in all the horrified faces, and heard Kath clear her throat. Her face was crimson.

It must have been quite a sight, after all. Miles’ hair was still wet and extremely messed up, and Phoenix had removed his jacket and loosened his tie. And the fact that they were both perspiring was just the icing on the cake.

Phoenix blinked a few times, then suddenly looked shocked as he seemed to slowly but surely figure out the implications of what he had said.

“Well, fuck me.”

Miles facepalmed.

Way to go, Wright. If there was any doubt about your sexuality before, I’m sure it’s been effectively cleared up now. I suppose that’s your just desserts.

Chapter Text

Phoenix bit his lip as he stared at the blank computer screen in front of him. Computers and technology had never been his forte, to say the least, but turning the damned thing on shouldn’t have been rocket science.

So why wasn’t the magic silver button working?

He pouted at his reflection in the monitor, before trying the power button again.

It’s mocking me…

Sighing, he bent down and inspected the back of the computer to see if any wires had come loose. Everything seemed to be in the right place.

He sat back up and flicked the glass.

When that surprisingly didn’t work, he then proceeded to press the button repeatedly. It appeared that no matter how hard he pushed its buttons, the stubborn thing just wouldn’t react.

Kinda reminds me of someone I know all too well…

Phoenix grinned.

Hah. I’m comparing Edgeworth to a computer.

He frowned.

I wonder if he’s still mad at me…

Hell, why was he even mad at me in the first place? I didn’t do anything.

“Oh, for… I give up.” Phoenix slumped back into his chair and put his hands behind his head, lifting his feet up to rest on the desk.

I bet Edgeworth never has this problem, since he’s so much more ‘perfect’ than me and all.

…Perfect? Pssh.

There I am, putting my dignity on the line for him, and he doesn’t even try to make an effort!

“I had a paper cut.”

Paper cut my ass… It was just another one of his stupid excuses.

And to think I was worried about him, too…

I was just trying to be a good friend, and then he goes and gets mad at me for no reason.

Phoenix nudged the folder holding the documents he was planning to type up with his foot. It closed alright, before starting to teeter on the edge. Phoenix tried to push it back up onto the desk, but wasn’t quick enough, so it fell on the floor, scattering its contents everywhere.

He flinched and peered down at the mess, before shrugging and leaning his head back to stare at the ceiling.

I can’t even tell a joke without him being an ass about it.

It was a good thing that Kath didn’t seem to realize there was something wrong with the two of them, and that she apparently still believed they were a couple. Maybe they wouldn’t even have to keep this going after the one disastrous date? Hopefully, all Phoenix would have to do from now on was keep a low profile and force a smile at Edgeworth if they ever had the misfortune of being near Kath again.

But he’s still pissed at me even though it looks like all this is finished…

“It’s all your fault, Wright.”

If he wasn’t referring to me starting this whole mess, then what was he referring to?

That was one thing that was really starting to annoy him. He knew that the fake relationship was his fault – there was no denying it – but now, Edgeworth was apparently blaming him for something else. Phoenix already felt bad enough about the whole thing – he wasn’t sure he could stand wondering if he’d done something else to hurt Edgeworth without knowing.

He was probably talking about the dish I ordered that he couldn’t stomach and was too proud to admit it. No wonder he spent all that time in the bathroom.

Phoenix snorted.

That’s right, Edgeworth. Just blame me for anything that goes wrong and everything will work out fine for you.

If he’d explained himself instead of being a stubborn jerk, I wouldn’t have ended up humiliating myself in front of the whole restaurant.

His eye twitched at the memory of all the horrified faces.

I swear I have to do something about that ‘talking-when-not-appropriate’ syndrome I have…

But seeing Edgeworth’s face…

Phoenix chuckled.

…Totally priceless! That was worth my embarrassment any day.

Phoenix’s laughter was cut short as pain shot through the back of his head.

“Nick! Pay attention!”

Phoenix blinked, holding his head, before swinging around in his chair.

Maya stood there, glaring at him, her cheeks puffed out.

For a second there, I thought all this thinking was starting to hurt my brain…

“Maya? When did you…?” He trailed off. If Maya’s expression was anything to go by, he must have been deeper in thought than he realized. “How long was I out?” he asked tentatively.

“Five minutes. Five minutes I’ve been standing here talking to you and you just totally ignored me!” Maya stomped her foot and crossed her arms. “What do you have to say in your defence?”

Phoenix bit his lip. “Five minutes?”

God, five minutes of thinking about Edgeworth…? What’s wrong with me?

Smiling sheepishly, Phoenix blurted out the first excuse that popped into his mind.

“Sorry, Maya, just thinking about a client and their case. You know, off in attorney land.” He waved his free hand to stress his point.

My convincing bluffing skills blow even my own mind.

“You’re being all weird lately,” Maya said, a sceptical tone to her voice. “You still haven’t explained last Friday.”

“I have told you,” Phoenix replied. “I was off to see a client in another part of the city and forgot to charge my cell.”

“Whatever, Nick. You were away all through the weekend. Yesterday night, too. Since when have you ever been social?”

She’s saying it like I’m some kind of social reject…

“Err… well… my client had a few other friends that needed my services…”

Okay, that didn’t sound as lame or as full of innuendo in my head.

Maya glared even harder than before. “I know you’re hiding something,” she said ominously, before her face suddenly lit up again. “But hey, if you don’t want to tell me, that’s cool. It’s not like I’m your best and most faithful assistant or anything…”

Phoenix sighed and dropped the hand that was still holding his head. “You’re my only assistant, Maya.”

She shook her head in defeat, muttering something about stupid defence attorneys and their contradictions.

“Hey, did you have a fight with your documents or something?” Maya asked, hinting at the mess on the floor. “I know you hate filing, Nick, but there’s no need to take it out on the poor paper.”

Phoenix looked down blankly at the scattered documents and sighed again. He slid off his chair and started collecting them. “Never mind all this. What was it you were trying to tell me?”

Maya leaned against the desk, obviously not even considering lending him a hand. “Oh, that. I was just saying that Pearly’s going to be visiting for two weeks. She called me last night. She sounded really excited.”

You spent five minutes talking about that?

…Well, to be fair, I was thinking about that bastard for a whole five minutes.

Phoenix paused from picking up the papers and frowned.

Why the hell is he so mad at me?

It’s not my fault he’s too weak to handle a little spicy food. He should have told me before I ordered instead of yelling at me.

…He did seem out of it all night, though… I mean, him getting bored at work? When did that happen? I hope he’s alright…

Ugh! What am I getting all concerned for? What happened last night was all his fault! I can’t believe that after all I’ve done to help him, he gets all wound up for no reason and does nothing but be cold to me all night and…

I’m sure I’ve been over this already.

“…Hey, you still here?”

Phoenix shook his head and blinked at the hand being waved in front of his face. Maya was crouching next to him, all the paper collected up in her other hand.

Whoa, twice in a row? I’m going to get serious brain damage.

Maya rolled her eyes and stood up, holding out a hand to pull Phoenix up with her. She thrust the paper into his chest. “You know what? I’m not even going to bother asking for your lame excuses.”

Phoenix opened his mouth to retaliate but quickly closed it again. What was the point in arguing with the truth?

-Bang bang bang bang-

A sudden frantic knocking from the main door made both of them jump and stand there in shock for a few seconds, until Maya had the sense to go through to the front of the office and answer it.

After a shocked squeak from Maya, a mass of orange flew into the office and nearly knocked Phoenix down.

“Oh my God, Nick, you’re alive! Thank Christ!”

Phoenix grabbed the hands that were shaking him violently and tried to still the man in front of him.

“…Larry? What are you--”

“First, I went to your apartment and you weren’t there, then I rang your cellphone but it kept redirecting me to your voicemail, so I decided to try your office, but your phone must be broken or something, man!” Larry brought his fists up as his eyes began to tear up. “I thought you’d died of boredom from having to spend a whole night with Edg--”

“Maya!” Phoenix shouted across the room, noticing that she was now standing in the doorway of his office.

“Maya? As in the cute assistant chick?” Larry’s face perked up. “Where? Where’s my beautiful flower?”

Phoenix dropped the pile of documents on his desk. He pushed past Larry and gently shoved Maya out the door. “Could you excuse us for a couple of minutes?”

Ignoring her signs of protest, Phoenix smiled and waved as he shut the door in her face.

Phew, that was a close one…

Phoenix turned back to Larry and sighed.

Great, now I’m left on my own with the genius who thought visiting my apartment on a weekday would be the best way to get ahold of me.

“Why couldn’t you just call me?” Phoenix asked, leaning against the door.

“Dude, I told you! Your office phone isn’t working!”

Phoenix rubbed his temples.

Please stop yelling. I’ve lost enough brain cells today already.

“Larry, my phone is working just fine. And why are you here? Shouldn’t you be working?”

A.k.a. ogling women in the salon.

Larry grinned. “Oh, no reason,” he said silkily, inspecting his nails. “I just thought I should check up on how it went with your boyfriend last night.”

Shhh!” Phoenix put a finger over his lips and walked up to Larry. “Don’t go around screaming it!” He took a glance at the door.

“Aww, don’t be ashamed of your dearest partner, Nicky-boy! I’m sure Edgey wouldn’t want you to be so cold.”

Do you not understand what the word ‘secret’ means? Or are you just trying to be a pain in the ass?

“Uh-huh. Try telling him that,” Phoenix grumbled, going over to sit in his chair as Larry leaned against the desk.

“Oh, no. Don’t tell me he was himself last night?”

Phoenix nodded. “Even more than usual.”

“He turned up, though, right?” Larry asked, eyes wide.

Phoenix thought back to when Edgeworth showed up at his apartment, asking him if he needed a lift.

No, more like he ordered me to get in the car.

“Yeah, he did. He turned up.” Phoenix sighed.

Larry gave him a scathing look. “Out with it. What did you do to wreck it all?”

“Well, what happened was…” Phoenix paused. “Wait a second. Why did you just assume it was me who screwed it over?”

Larry laughed. “I don’t know, you just seem like the type to mess everything up.”

Great. Just great. Is that everyone’s opinion of me?

“Well, for your information, it was actually Edgeworth who messed everything up,” Phoenix said haughtily. “There I was, being all nice to him, but it was like he didn’t even want to look at me or talk to me. Let alone act friendly.”

Larry crossed his arms. “So what does the chick think about it all?”

“You mean Kath? I think she still thinks we’re dating. I have no clue why.”

Unless you count what happened right at the end…

Like I’d tell Larry about that.

“Then you’ve got nothing to be annoyed about, do you?” Larry asked, raising an eyebrow.

“…I suppose not.”

I did kind of want Edgeworth to be warm to me for once. Since he came back, two months ago, we’d finally started to rekindle our friendship, but last night was a massive step back…

“And I bet it was funny as hell to see Edgey’s face all night,” Larry added with a grin.

Phoenix chuckled slightly. “Yeah…”

“Now, how about you tell me all the little details?” Larry leaned forward and cupped his ear with his hand.

Phoenix frowned. “How about I tell you nothing because it’s none of your business?”

Larry flew back in shock and put a hand on his heart. “Nick! You can’t do this to me, dude! You know that I live for romance and seeing Edgey squirm!”

All the more reason not to tell you, Larry.

“Nice try, but you’re not getting anything out of me.”

Larry pouted. “Fine. I’ll call Edgey. He’ll tell me.”

Oh yes, I’m sure he will. He’s totally the gossipy type.

Larry fished out his phone, before frowning at the blank screen. “Damn. I’m out of charge. Nick, phone Edgey, will ya?”

Phoenix gave him a blank look. “Why the hell would I want to call Edgeworth?”

“To ask him how he is and if he enjoyed last night, of course!” Larry winked. “Be a good boyfriend to him!”

“Somehow, I doubt that’s your real motive.” Phoenix shook his head. “Anyway, wasn’t it you who said my office phone was broken?”

-Click-

The office door slowly creaked open. Phoenix and Larry turned around and saw Maya creeping in, trying to look inconspicuous by flattening herself against the wall.

She looked at the two of them and blinked.

Larry beamed at her. “Maya! How are you this fine day?”

She quickly pushed herself off the wall and put her hands behind her back.

“Err… I’m great, thanks, Larry. I was just wondering if you wanted anything to drink… and, erm… I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop or anything…”

Of course not.

“How cute! Thanks for the offer, Maya, but Nick and I have some important things to discuss.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes.

I wouldn’t call arguing about whether to call Edgeworth important.

Maya dejectedly turned to leave, before Larry addressed her again.

“Actually, Maya, you could do something for us. Nick really needs to call someone, but his phone isn’t working. Got any ideas?”

“What…?” Maya frowned. “But it was working just fine earlier this morning. Nick got a call from this client and… oh…” She walked up to the desk and leaned over the phone. She was silent for a few seconds, before snapping her head back up, a grin on her face. “Nick, you idiot! You left it off the hook!”

Phoenix blinked. “I… what?”

Maya rolled her eyes. “You’re so useless! Didn’t you hear it beep?”

“Err… I, uh…” Phoenix looked down at the phone.

-…Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep…-

She’s right… How the hell did I not notice that?

“And you still insist that there’s nothing weird going on?” Maya snorted. “Yeah, right.”

Phoenix picked up the receiver and hung it up properly, before looking back up at his assistant.

“This has nothing to do with it, Maya. I was too busy to notice, is all.”

Maya crossed her arms. “Too busy? What have you been doing all morning, anyway? I thought you said you were gonna get all this paperwork typed up.” She glanced down at the pile of documents on the desk. “But I suppose playing pick-up with it seemed more interesting.” She sent Phoenix a glare. “I already told you I’m not doing it for you again, Nick!”

Phoenix sighed. “No, Maya, that’s not it. I was planning to do it, but the stupid computer won’t turn on.”

Maya raised an eyebrow. “It won’t?” She walked around the desk and bent down to press the power button. She frowned when nothing happened. “Are you sure you didn’t forget to turn the mains back on again?”

“Hey! Of course I didn’t forget to turn the mains on. I’m not that stupid! And what do you mean ‘again’?”

Why does everyone always pick on me?

Larry ignored Phoenix’s protests and went over to the wall socket. “Maya, my sweet, you’re a genius!” He flicked the switch to the mains and Phoenix cursed under his breath.

Maya grinned. “Does that mean I can stay and listen?”

“No,” Phoenix replied quickly.

“But, Nick!”

“Maya, it’s nothing big, and it doesn’t concern you. I’ll be able to deal with it quicker this way.”

Maya muttered under her breath and walked out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Larry opened his mouth to speak again, but Phoenix signalled for him to shut up. He got up from his chair and walked over to the door, before pulling it open sharply.

“Waaah!” Maya screamed as she lost her balance and fell forward into the office.

Phoenix sighed and shook his head. He took out his wallet and grabbed a few notes. “Here. Go get us something to eat. I’m sorry if you feel a bit left out, but I swear it’s nothing you’d find interesting.”

Maya got up and pouted at him. “Don’t think this sympathy meal is going to stop me from finding out what’s going on, Nick.” She grabbed the money and disappeared behind the door.

Oh well. There’s nothing even going on. She’ll be fine.

“Before you ask again, Larry, I am not calling Edgeworth.” Phoenix walked back to his chair and sat down. “I don’t even see why I should. You just want to get the details out of him, which you know perfectly well isn’t going to happen.”

“Well, I don’t see why not,” Larry replied, crossing his arms.

Phoenix sighed. “He won’t want to talk to me after last night.”

“I knew it!” Larry exclaimed, happily bouncing on the spot. “I knew something had happened from the way you were acting all secretive!”

Ouch, my eardrums.

Larry suddenly stopped jumping and pulled a thoughtful face. “But hey, isn’t that even more of a reason to call him?”

Phoenix scowled. “What? To make up with that jerk?”

Actually, yes. It is a reason to call him…

“He might be a jerk, but he’s your jerk, Nick. You need to look after him!”

“Shut it, Larry,” Phoenix scolded. “I seriously doubt calling him now would do any good. It would just give him even more of a reason to be a gloomy son of a…” Phoenix trailed off.

I really am badmouthing him today, huh?

“But, dude, think of the laughs we’ll have at his expense if we call him now!”

Phoenix smirked.

Fine. You win.

He picked up the receiver and dialled the number to Edgeworth’s office, drumming his fingers against the desk as the ringing went on for over a minute.

Miles Edgeworth.

“Hey, Edgeworth, it’s--”

I’m busy, Wright. If you’ve got nothing better to do, then I recommend you go and make a fool out of someone else instead of bothering me. Goodbye.

Ouch. That stung.

“Wait!” Phoenix replied. “Stop it with the accusations! Just to set the record straight, here, I wasn’t the one who wanted to call you. I do have other things I could be doing right now, and I’ve never tried to make a fool out of you.”

Phoenix frowned as the silence on the other end grew. He glanced at Larry, who raised an eyebrow at him.

The sound of a drawer opening and closing was suddenly heard and Phoenix guessed that Edgeworth had put him on speakerphone.

…If you weren’t the one who wanted to call me, then who was it? The voice in your head that tells you to do bad things?

He sounds so mad…

“Ah, well, no… It wasn’t--”

Larry slammed the speakerphone button down, interrupting him.

“Hey, Edgey! How’s things?”

There was a groan on the other end. “Just what I needed…

“What’s that supposed to mea--”

“Larry has been bugging me about the details of last night,” Phoenix cut in. “I told him to mind his own business, but he wouldn’t listen. And, uh… I kind of figured you wouldn’t want to talk to me, but… here we are, so…”

Edgeworth had categorically refused to speak to him or even look at him since that humiliating incident. After standing under all the stares in awkward silence for what were probably the longest seconds Phoenix had ever lived, Edgeworth had stormed out of the restaurant, not even taking a glance back. And he probably would have left Phoenix behind if it hadn’t meant messing the whole thing up. But after the long, silent, uncomfortable car ride back, Phoenix had almost wished he did.

“So, Edgey, what happened last night that’s got you and Nick so bitchy?” Larry asked, leaning on the desk.

Bitchy? We’re not women, Larry. Wright was right to tell you to mind your own business.

Phoenix snickered. “Told you.”

“But, Edgey!” Larry whined. “After all I’ve done for you, you won’t even tell me one little thing!?”

I still haven’t forgotten that it’s thanks to you that my conditions were changed for the worse,” Edgeworth replied coldly. “Also, if you couldn’t get anything out of Wright, what made you think I’d tell you anything?

“But, Edgey, dude, meaningless phone calls are one of the best parts of a relationship!”

Phoenix had to smother his laughter with his hand as he imagined Edgeworth’s expression after that comment.

…I swear to God…

“Yeah, yeah, we both know you’re secretly dying to tell me all about what happened last night,” Larry replied brightly, obviously drawing confidence from the fact that Edgeworth couldn’t see him.

Be careful, Larry. He knows where you live.

I don’t have anything to tell you, Lar--

Miles! I thought you’d be here. How are you doing today? Have you recovered from last night’s brilliance yet?

Phoenix’s eyes widened.

I could recognize that woman’s voice anywhere…

…Everett?” Edgeworth sounded just as surprised as Phoenix felt. “When did you…? Why didn’t you knock!?

Kath. It’s ‘Kath’, Miles.

Evere… Kath, I’m quite busy right now…

Nonsense! I’m sure you could spare me a couple of minutes to talk about how well you and Mr. Wright were getting along last night!

“Aha! I knew it!” Larry exclaimed. “I knew from the start that you two had been getting along well!”

A liar is ten times worse than a thief. Didn’t your parents ever tell you that?

Huh? You’re on the phone?” There was a pause. “Oh, Miles. You should have told me!

“Go on, then, Edgey. Introduce me to this cute chick, will ya?”

You can’t even see her, Larry…

A sigh was heard over the line. “I knew I should have hung up as soon as I heard your voice.

“Now, Miles,” Phoenix smirked as soon as the name left his mouth, “I’m sure Larry’s interest in Miss Everett is harmless. You know he wouldn’t dream of stealing your girl.” He glanced over at Larry, who burst out laughing.

Wri… Phoe…” Miles sighed in exasperation. “Phoenix. Don’t make such ridiculous jokes.

Which one are you referring to, Edgeworth? You being interested in women, or Larry being harmless?

Mr. Wright? Is that you?” Kath giggled and Larry swooned at the high-pitched noise. “Oh, do stop. We all know he wouldn’t ditch you for anyone.

“I’m glad you think so,” Phoenix replied. “But I would never let my Miles ditch me for anyone, anyways. You just watch him try.”

…Should I be worried that possessive boyfriend is such a fun and easy role for me to fall into?

“Nice! Does that mean this beautiful woman is single, then?” Larry asked, grinning.

Phoenix rolled his eyes.

Larry, this is Kath Everett, the woman we went out with last night. Kath, that loud-mouthed flirt is Larry Butz, the only other person who knows about Phoenix and I.

“Aww, Edgey, you flatter me,” Larry cooed. “But, Kath, my darling, may I compliment you on your exquisite sapphire eyes?”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow, an amused smile tugging at his lips.

I’m pretty sure her eyes are green, not blue. Are you seriously trying to hit on someone you’ve never even seen? Over the phone, no less?

Kath giggled again. “That’s very sweet of you, Mr. Butz.

…The fact that she didn’t even correct him scares me.

“So, Kathy… You don’t mind if I call you Kathy, do you?”

Not at all, Mr. Butz.

“Kathy, is it just me, or are Nick and Edgey the cutest couple ever?” Larry looked over at Phoenix and winked.

Phoenix pulled a face that read ‘What the hell are you doing?’.

Larry, what do you think you’re doing?” Miles asked.

Whoa, either he read my mind, or I should start looking for hidden cameras.

“Nothing, Edgey. Just wondering if Kathy feels the same way I do about the two of you.”

Oh, I totally agree!” Kath responded. “Why, just last night, I witnessed that special bond the two of them have.

Two romance-obsessed nutcases chatting away to each other?

Phoenix swallowed to keep his mouth from going dry.

This can’t be good.

“What did they do this time?” Larry asked, smirking at Phoenix.

This time!?

This time?” Miles questioned.

Okay, this is getting scary…

Kath sighed loudly. “It was so cute! Mr. Wright got all protective over Miles and managed to get rid of a pesky waitress who kept bothering him.

“Cute! But not as cute as you and me, baby!”

Phoenix shook his head.

Oh, and they really couldn’t keep their hands off each other,” Kath continued. “I told Mr. Wright to behave, but he kept… you know… under the table.

What!?

“Whoa, Nick, I never knew Edgey made you so horny!” Larry exclaimed, grinning.

“Shut it, Larry.”

He really was! And in a restaurant, no less!

Larry nodded along, even though Kath couldn’t see him. “Tell me about it. They’re horny over each other, like, all the time!”

Phoenix heard a desk being hit on the other end of the line.

Larry, that is completely…” Miles trailed off. “Everett… What are you…?

Oh! Ah, I didn’t… I mean… Sorry, just… checking…” Kath stuttered.

Phoenix couldn’t see her, but he was pretty sure she was blushing. He could practically feel it radiating over the line.

I doubt she was checking if Edgeworth forgot to iron a crease in his pants…

Say, Larry, have they ever slipped away to go to the bathroom together, only to come out… you know… looking slightly worse for wear?

Larry burst out laughing as Phoenix hid his face in his hands.

“Err… Miss Everett… It wasn’t like tha--”

“Oh my God, they didn’t! Tell me they didn’t!” Larry managed to say through his laughter.

You could at least sound a little more disbelieving…

“Dude, I have to see this!” Larry wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. “Kathy, babes, how do you fancy meeting up on Saturday for a date?”

Well, I don’t know, Larry… We’ve only just met…

“It’d be a double date, right, guys?” Larry gave Phoenix a hopeful look.

Phoenix shook his head vigorously.

I’m busy,” came Miles’ inevitable response.

We totally should go on a double date! It’d be so fun!” Kath squealed, ignoring Miles’ comment.

Well, that was a quick change of tune…

Everett--

Kath.

Kath, I’m busy on Saturday. Wri--Phoenix and I can’t make it.

Aww, but, Miles!

“Hey, Nick. Get your boyfriend to agree, dude,” Larry cut in, pointing at the phone.

Phoenix turned the speakerphone off and covered the receiver with his hand. “What? No way, Larry! We’re not going on a double date just so you can make fun of us, you hear me? What makes you think I can go, anyway?”

Larry raised an eyebrow. “You’re never busy, Nick! But if you don’t wanna come, fine. You never know what kind of gossip might start floating around, though.” He smirked.

When did you get so damned manipulative?

Phoenix sighed. “Fine.” He took his hand off the receiver and turned the speakerphone back on.

“I think we should go. It could be fun.” He looked at Larry, who motioned for him to carry on. “Erm… We could do with more time together.” Larry nodded for him to continue again. “I’d really appreciate it if you would do this for me, Miles.”

…I’m busy on Saturday,” Miles replied.

Phoenix noted the slight hesitation.

“I know what a busy person you are, Miles, but please, just this once? For me?”

Oh yeah, I’m good! He is so going to have to accept after that if he wants this relationship to look real!

Miles sighed, then seemed to ponder for a moment.

Phoenix… I…” He sighed again. “Fine.

Great! So that’s sorted, then,” Kath exclaimed. “Damn, it’s already twelve? I really shouldn’t have stayed chatting for so long. I must be off! When you fix the arrangements, Larry, call me. The number’s 555-1312.

“555-3421, got it. See you, then, babes!”

I really do worry sometimes…

Phoenix shook his head as he heard the door open and close on the other end. He grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the actual number for Larry.

Wright, I hate you,” Edgeworth said dryly.

“Aww, don’t say that, Edgey,” Larry replied, pocketing the piece of paper. “This is going to be too funny.”

“Edgeworth, if I’m going down, you’re going down with me,” Phoenix grumbled.

“What happened to the friendliness?” Larry whined. “This room feels like it’s just dropped a couple of degrees, dudes!”

You expect me to act friendly to that idiot!?

“How can you expect me to be warm to a block of ice!?”

Larry waved his hands defensively and backed away from Phoenix. “Come on, it was sweet the way you called each other by your first names. Why not go back to that, hmm?”

Phoenix looked at him in disbelief. “Sweet? Do you even understand what that word means?”

Larry, you’re dead. You hear me? Dead.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Chill, dudes!” Larry replied. “Don’t take out all your sexual frustration on me! Now, I reckon we need to meet up to sort out what’s happening on Saturday, yeah? How about tonight at that café we went to last time? We could meet there at around eight?”

If you think I’m going, then you’re sorely mista--

Phoenix hung up on Edgeworth’s protests and turned to Larry. “Did you seriously think he’d say yes?”

Larry shrugged. “It was worth a try.”

-Bring bring, bring bring-

Phoenix looked down at the phone and let it ring a few times, debating whether or not to pick it up. He eventually decided against it, and instead waited for it to stop ringing to nudge the receiver off the hook.

You’re going to the café, Edgeworth. I am not going to be left alone with this idiot.

---

“Doesn’t look like he’s coming, Nick.”

Phoenix checked his watch again. 8:25. “No, I’m sure he’ll turn up eventually.”

Not that I want to see the bastard or anything.

Larry stretched back in his seat and placed his hands behind his head. “Ah, well, I could at least give you my talk on what to do on Saturday.”

Phoenix took a sip of his coffee. “About that, you still haven’t told me where you’re planning on taking us.”

“That, my friend, is a secret,” Larry replied, tapping his nose, before replacing his hand behind his head.

“Exhibit A of why I am not going to join you.”

Phoenix turned to where the voice had come from and saw Edgeworth standing next to their table, arms crossed.

“Long time no see, Edgey!” Larry exclaimed, getting up from his seat to punch him lightly on the shoulder.

“Not long enough, obviously,” Edgeworth replied, rubbing his arm.

Larry grinned. “Dude, I didn’t think you’d turn up.”

“I had no other way of informing you that I won’t be able to go on Saturday, and I hate to stand people up.”

“So, why the lateness, Edgeworth?” Phoenix asked. “Can’t be bothered to try and get here on time?”

Edgeworth looked away. “I wish you wouldn’t speculate that the amount of effort I put in is minimal, Wright. It has nothing to do with how much I try in this situation. I just needed to… gather my thoughts.”

…What?

Okay, he’s lost me.

“Whatever,” Phoenix replied. “It’d be better if you could at least go along with people when they’re helping you, though. I’m putting my neck on the line as well. It’s not just you.”

Edgeworth checked his watch, before looking back up at Phoenix. “Look, Wright, I’m not here to have a discussion about what you’re doing or not doing for me. I simply came to tell you that I’m not going to waste any more time on this situation. Saturday can go to hell as far as I care. I do not want a repeat of last night.”

Well, there’s appreciation for you.

“But, Edgey!” Larry whined. “What about the conditions? What about finally uncovering your romantic side in all its glory? What about my date with my dearest Kathy!?” His eyes started to tear up. “You’ve got to go, dude! She’ll be so convinced that you’re taken and she’ll totally fall for me instead! Plus I get a bunch of laughs watching you two act gay all night. Think of the chick and the laughs, man!”

Edgeworth raised an eyebrow. “Well, if that’s all, then I’ll be taking my leave. It’s already late and I have court tomorrow.” He nodded at the two of them and set off towards the door.

Larry glared down at Phoenix. “Nick, I don’t care what you did last night, or what he did last night, or what either of you are going to do in the future.” He pointed in Edgeworth’s direction. “Fucking go apologize to him right now, or I’ll be without my dearest Kathy!”

Phoenix slammed his hand down on the table. “Go to hell! Why me? He’s the one who--”

“Argh! Stop complaining! All you have to do is get him to go on Saturday. Simple as that, okay? I’m through with you two and your bitchiness.” Larry turned on his heel and walked off.

Edgeworth had apparently stopped in his tracks when they started yelling. Larry pushed past him and stormed out of the café.

Phoenix stared at the door for a moment, mulling over what Larry had just said. He blinked a few times and met Edgeworth’s eyes, before promptly turning away.

After a minute of uncomfortable silence, Edgeworth walked back over to the table. “Wright, as much as I hate to admit it, Larry has a point.”

Phoenix looked up at him and raised an eyebrow. “What? That we’re getting in the way of him and his latest victim?”

Edgeworth scowled. “You know what I meant.”

Still not in the mood for jokes, I see.

Phoenix sighed.

And here was I thinking we were finally getting somewhere after Sunday.

“Yeah, I guess we do need to get over it,” Phoenix admitted. “But, Edgeworth, how do you expect me to apologize when I don’t even know what I’m apologizing for?”

Edgeworth crossed his arms. “Oh, so the fact that you told me to ‘fuck you’ in the middle of a restaurant doesn’t count, then?”

Phoenix smiled sheepishly.

Damn. He’s such a smug jerk.

“That wouldn’t have happened if you’d just told me what I’d done in the first place.”

Edgeworth sighed. “I wouldn’t have had to try and explain what was wrong if you hadn’t started acting all worried for no reason.”

“Well, I wouldn’t have worried about you if you hadn’t gone and disappeared into the bathroom for half an hour,” Phoenix replied.

Edgeworth sighed again. “I wouldn’t have disappeared into the bathroom if you hadn’t been so… clingy.”

“I wouldn’t have been so… Wait, what?” Phoenix blinked. “What do you mean ‘clingy’? All I did all night was try to make this relationship look real while you did nothing but sit there and snap at me. If someone’s to blame, it’s you, not me.”

Edgeworth opened his mouth to retort, but closed it again when nothing came out. He seemed to ponder for a moment.

“Actually, Wright, you’re righ--correct. I’m sorry.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “So you’re sorry that you were being a bastard all night?”

“Yes.”

“Oh…” Phoenix was surprised, to say the least. “Thanks, I guess.”

There was silence as Phoenix finished off the rest of his coffee.

Well, that’s shitty. Now I feel stupid for not apologizing, even though I did nothing wrong…

“I’m sorry, too.”

Edgeworth looked at him from the corner of his eye and a faint smile appeared on his lips. Phoenix smiled back.

I have no idea what I just apologized for, but… Oh well… What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.

“Good. So you should be, Wright.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. He got up, took his jacket from the back of the chair, and walked over to the register.

“That’ll be $5.75, sir.”

Phoenix took out his wallet and started counting the correct money to hand over to the barista.

“So you’re paying, today, sir?”

Phoenix looked up at her and raised an eyebrow. “…Huh? Aren’t people supposed to pay for things they buy?”

Don’t tell me I’ve been living a lie all this time…

“Well, yes,” she replied with a chuckle, “but I thought your boyfriend would be paying for you again.”

…Say what, now?

Phoenix froze with the money held out in his hand.

Did she just say what I think she just said?

Handing over the money, he decided to make sure his mind wasn’t playing tricks on him. “Sorry, did you just refer to that guy over there as my boyfriend?”

“You mean to say he isn’t?” The barista looked slightly taken aback. “Oh my, I’m sorry. It’s just… I saw you the other day and I thought…”

“Oh.” Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “So you saw that on Sunday, then, huh?”

The barista nodded.

Well, that’s a relief.

I thought she’d paired the two of us together just now, like we’d sent out some kind of gay vibe or something.

Phoenix chuckled nervously. “Yeah, well, it’s a long story…”

The barista gave him a sceptical look, then smiled. “I see… Well, thank you, sir! Have a good night!”

Phoenix nodded and set off for the door, motioning for Edgeworth to follow him. They left the café and walked side by side in silence for a moment.

“What was that all about, Wright?” Miles finally asked.

“Ah, nothing. The barista was just commenting on what a fine couple we make.” Phoenix laughed and stuck his hands in his pockets. “She looked pretty shocked when she realised we weren’t really going out.”

He turned to look at Edgeworth, but did a double take when he realised that no one was there. He looked behind him and saw that Edgeworth had stopped walking, a shocked expression on his face.

“Erm… Edgeworth?” When there was no response, Phoenix frowned and walked up to him. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

Miles shook his head slightly. “It’s nothing, Wright. I just remembered something about tomorrow’s case.”

Heh. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’ve just used the same lame excuse I used on Maya this morning.

Phoenix smiled and started to set off again, before noticing something out of the corner of his eye.

“Oh my God, Edgeworth, look! It’s a Pac-Man arcade game!” He rushed over to the arcade and peeked through the window.

Wow, I haven’t seen one of those in ages…

He turned back around to see Miles giving him a sceptical look.

“How… interesting,” Miles said flatly.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Seriously, Edgeworth, this is so nostalgic. You could at least sound a little more excited.”

Miles shrugged. “At least I don’t sound like a fifty-year-old man.”

Look who’s talking.

“Don’t say you can’t remember that time when we were kids?”

Miles crossed his arms. “I try not to.”

“Oh, you’ve got to remember!” Phoenix insisted. “It was fall, and Pac-Man was, like, the most ancient game in the arcade, and you’d set your sights on trying to get a perfect score before anyone else. You used to get Larry and me to help you reach level two, but you only did that because it was a single-player game and you didn’t like to leave us out. You were always the best at it.”

Miles frowned. “And you remember this why?”

Phoenix ignored him and continued with his story. “Then, there was one day where it was just the two of us, and we were on that thing for over an hour, and we’d got so far, but my hand started to cramp…”

“…And so I deliberately killed Pac-Man so you wouldn’t have to hurt your hand anymore.”

“Yeah, that’s…” Phoenix blinked. “Wait, so you do remember, after all!”

Miles nodded. “I remember. Some guy had already got the perfect score years before me, so it wasn’t really a significant sacrifice.”

Phoenix laughed. “Ah, yes. But it was fun, still. You and me battling the evil jellies from hell.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “They were ghosts, Wright.”

Phoenix chuckled. “Whatever. They always looked like jellies to me.”

Miles smiled slightly, before looking away and shaking his head.

“So, are you up for a game?” Phoenix asked.

Miles looked back at him. “Excuse me?”

Phoenix grinned. “Come on, it’ll be fun.”

“It’s late, Wright.”

“Come on, Edgeworth!” Phoenix whined. “One game. Please?”

Miles looked away again. “Look, I’ve got to get back to the office to prepare for court tomorrow…”

Phoenix sighed and took a look back at the arcade.

I must look really pathetic…

But why can’t Edgeworth just loosen up every so often?

“…Fine. One game.”

Phoenix turned back to Edgeworth and smiled. “Now, that’s what I like to hear!” He caught hold of his wrist and pulled him inside the arcade. Walking up to the Pac-Man machine, he motioned for Edgeworth to stand next to him. “Here, Miles, you can help me with my joystick.”

Aha! Good one, Phoenix!

“What did you just say?” Miles asked quickly.

Whoops. Caught out.

“Hey, I didn’t mean any sexual pun by it!” Phoenix replied defensively.

“No, it wasn’t…” Miles trailed off. “Never mind. Just hurry up. I don’t have all night.”

Phoenix laughed and inserted some coins in the machine.

He was pleasantly surprised to find Edgeworth participating in the game just as much as he did. He was even more surprised when Edgeworth let out a small cheer when they reached level two. Just as things started to get harder, Phoenix found his and Miles’ hand would brush together when they fought over the controls, resulting in a small flinch from both of them. By level four, when it got even harder, the flinch was gone, and if anything, Phoenix took malicious pleasure in taking the control stick from Edgeworth and telling him he was doing it wrong, even though he knew that Edgeworth was a lot better at the game than he was.

They made it to level five, only to get killed by the pink ghost that Phoenix politely dubbed ‘Ghostie Edgeworth’.

“That son of a bitch! We only had five little dots to go!” Phoenix scowled at the screen and stuck his hands in his pockets.

Miles chuckled slightly and shook his head. “You haven’t changed at all.” He checked his watch and sighed. “Well, as fun as this was, Wright, I really need to get going.”

Is it just me or was that not sarcastic?

Wait, this is Edgeworth. Of course it was. Hell would freeze over before that guy had a laugh.

Phoenix nodded. They left the arcade and set off again. It was then that he remembered the whole reason they were there in the first place.

“Edgeworth, you’ve got to go on Saturday.”

Miles stopped and gave him an unimpressed look.

“Hear me out, here,” Phoenix continued. “It really can’t get much worse than last night, and truth is, I really don’t want to upset Larry any more than he already is, or I’ll never hear the end of it.” He gave Miles a pleading look. “Please? I swear I won’t be… ‘clingy’, or whatever.”

Phoenix vaguely wondered why he wanted Edgeworth to go so badly. It wasn’t as if he would be very good company.

Except… he would.

Hah. I enjoy spending time with Edgeworth? When did that happen?

Sighing, Phoenix looked away and started walking again. “Ah, forget it.”

“Are you sure?”

Phoenix nodded slowly. “Yeah. It was funny seeing your face, but I suppose enough is enough.”

They walked in silence for a few minutes. Phoenix noticed that Edgeworth appeared to be lost in thought again.

“How about we make a deal,” Miles said suddenly. “I’ll come on Saturday as long as you stop being invasive.”

Phoenix stopped and gave Miles an ‘Are you serious?’ look.

Miles looked as serious as ever.

Phoenix smiled. “It’s a deal.”

Looks like we’ve overcome the technical glitch on the Edgeworth motherboard.

“But, Edgeworth, I really don’t want to know about when you’re coming. That’s just disgusting.”

Mature? Me?

Phoenix snickered at the annoyed look on Edgeworth’s face.

Ruining the moment be damned. Edgeworth’s reaction never gets old.

Chapter Text

Miles placed his head in his hand as he flicked through his documents for the tenth time that morning. It was only a few minutes until the start of his second day in court and he had zero leads.

All this rubbish about the victim being hard of hearing and having to wear glasses to drive… How the hell is that ever going to help!?

And, of course, having high blood pressure is really what led him to get run over by a damned car.

It’s times like these I envy Wright and his lack of evidence.

He paused at the picture of the crime scene, scanning it once more to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. But no matter how hard he looked, all he could see were the exact same things he’d noticed right away when he’d seen the photo for the first time. The massive tractor in the middle of the field with the victim’s body stuck underneath, the old car parked nearby, and the pitchfork stuck in the soil.

Why are these bloody things always in black and white? Twenty-first century and they can’t even be bothered to change the crime scene cameras from the fifties…

Miles sighed.

Open and shut case my ass.

---

“It’s an open and shut case, sir,” Gumshoe had said, smiling at the pacing Miles who was scanning through the thick file in his hand. “The defendant is so guilty that not even Mr. Wright could get him off the hook!”

“Indeed, it would seem that way,” Miles said, frowning, as he read the case summary. He stopped pacing and turned to Gumshoe. “I was wondering if you could explain something for me, Detective. How is it that a simple farm worker has managed to pay for Marvin Grossberg, one of the most expensive defence attorneys in this city?”

“That’s an easy one, sir,” Gumshoe replied happily. “He sells pitchforks!”

Miles gave him a blank look. “…Pitchforks.”

“Yeah, pitchforks! Some say Mr. Hildum’s pitchforks are the best in the country. Makes a lot of money out of ‘em.”

“Oh, I’m sure he does,” Miles mumbled, flipping to the autopsy report. He read it through carefully to make sure he hadn’t missed any details, before the bailiff finally called them into the courtroom.

---

Settling behind his desk, Miles glanced over at the overweight man standing across from him. Grossberg kept rustling his moustache every few seconds and appeared to be deep in thought. Well, at least, Miles presumed he was. His expression might as well have been that of a person suffering from constipation.

Miles shook his head and started arranging his documents.

A few minutes later, the Judge banged his gavel to get everyone’s attention and began the usual proceedings. “The court is now in session for the trial of Mr. Ike Hildum.”

“The prosecution is ready, Your Honour.”

Grossberg let out a small cough. “The defence is ready, Your Honour.”

The Judge nodded in acceptance. “Mr. Edgeworth, your opening statement, please.”

“Thank you, Your Honour,” Miles replied, taking a small bow. “The defendant, Mr. Hildum, was at the scene of the murder. There is strong evidence against him, and a decisive witness who saw him commit this heinous crime. Under the circumstances, there is no other possible explanation for Mr. Hover’s death. The prosecution sees no reason to doubt these facts and will present evidence to prove this point.”

The Judge nodded again. “Very well. The prosecution may call its first witness.”

“I would like to call the officer in charge of this case, Detective Gumshoe, to the stand.”

There was a shuffling about the courtroom as Gumshoe took the stand with the most serious expression on his face Miles had seen that morning.

“Detective, if you would outline the details of this case to the court?” Miles asked.

“Yes, sir!” Gumshoe shouted. Miles half expected a salute to match the detective’s rigid stance. “Like it says in the autopsy report, Mr. Ron Hover was run ov--” He stopped suddenly to clear his throat. “Sorry. The victim, Ron Hover, was run over…” He stopped again and let out a small chuckle, his shoulders beginning to shake.

Miles crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. “Something amusing, Detective?”

Gumshoe wiped his eye. “Ron Hover was run over… It gets me every time, sir.”

“Would the witness please refrain from laughing at the victim’s misfortune?” the Judge scolded, glaring at a now solemn Gumshoe. “After all, it’s not his fault that his parents named him to bring about this fateful demise.”

“Your Honour,” Miles spoke up, tapping the side of his arm with his finger. “Need I remind you, it is not the parents on trial for this man’s murder.”

“Ah, quite right, Mr. Edgeworth. Witness, please continue with your testimony.”

“Yes, Your Honour,” Gumshoe answered, his head low. “It’s all in the picture, Your Honour.”

Gumshoe handed the black and white photo to the bailiff.

“Mr. Hover’s body was found under the tractor in that field! But the guys down at forensics found green paint chippings on the corpse. They came off the front of that car nearby! The car belongs to the defendant, Mr. Ike Hildum!”

Ah-HHHHEM, hold it, there, Detective.”

Miles turned to look at the defence bench. Grossberg was twirling his moustache with his fingers, one hand behind his back, and a haughty look on his face.

“You have just stated now that this car in the photo was the one that brought the victim to his death, did you not?”

Gumshoe quirked his eyebrows. “Um… yeah, I did, pal.”

“How is it that you know that this was the car that killed the victim?”

Gumshoe blinked. “Well, the green paint chippings, pal.”

“Aha! But this picture does not show the colour of the car in question,” Grossberg stated, putting his other hand behind his back. “It reminds me of the days of my youth, like the scent of fresh lemons, you see… A black and white photo cannot show one’s true colours or beauty.”

“Why, Mr. Grossberg, you are quite right!” the Judge exclaimed, wide-eyed. “Back in the old days, any picture would make me look quite washed out and weary, eradicating my rosy complexion and sharp features.”

Objection!” Miles hit his desk. “The questionable quality of the crime scene cameras has nothing to do with this case.”

Ah-HHHHEM, Objection!” Grossberg retorted. “I was merely getting to my point, you see… Is there any proof that the car in this picture belongs to my client?”

Objection!” Miles shrugged and shook his head. “Your Honour, this matter is easily cleared up. If you would please take a look at the license plate in the photo?”

“Hmm, yes, I can clearly see the number on the plate,” the Judge said, squinting at the picture. “Hmmm… I’m sexy.”

The courtroom fell silent as the Judge blinked rapidly, looking alarmed at himself.

“…Your Honour, I think you’ll find it reads ‘1M5 EX1’,” Miles corrected.

“Oh…! Oh, my! How misleading! Why, any poor, innocent, slightly near-sighted person could get caught out with such a crude license. This is very suspicious!”

“Indeed, Your Honour.” Miles picked up the document containing the defendant’s details from his desk. “However, ignoring the immaturity of the man’s chosen license, I have here Mr. Hildum’s registered plate number, which is the exact same as the one in this photo. Therefore, this green, slightly chipped car is, without a doubt, his.” Miles smirked. “Mr. Grossberg, I would advise you look into your own client’s details next time instead of embarrassing yourself.”

Grossberg’s face fell. “Ouch… my buttocks…”

“Well, that’s that small matter cleared up,” the Judge commented. “I think we can safely resume with the witness’ testimony now.”

“Ah, yes, Your Honour. The green car.” Gumshoe nodded. “Like I said, the car was the murder weapon, not the tractor!”

“Indeed, the tractor was merely a diversion,” Miles added. “The body was dragged under it by the perpetrator, in order to hide what they had done.” He looked over at Gumshoe. “Please continue, Detective.”

“Yes, sir!” Gumshoe exclaimed. “We didn’t find any fingerprints on the tractor’s steering wheel apart from the victim’s! The ignition didn’t even have any! So it had to be the car!”

“Are you sure that’s all you found at the crime scene?” Grossberg pressed.

“No, pal,” Gumshoe answered, his face lighting up again, obviously happy that he was being helpful to the case. “We found a pitchfork stuck in the soil next to the tractor! There weren’t any fingerprints on it. Also, the victim was wearing gardening gloves, and he was holding a packet of tomato seeds! Finally, we searched the car and didn’t find anything, except a small knife that has nothing to do with the case, pal!”

Ah-HHHHEM, hold it, Detective. How do you know this knife is irrelevant to the case?”

Objection!” Miles retaliated almost instantly. “Are you that desperate for evidence, Mr. Grossberg?” He tapped his temple with his index finger and smirked. “If you’d read the autopsy report, I’m sure you would know that the victim died from being run over. Not once was there anything mentioned about a stab wound or any knife-induced injuries. Ergo, the knife is entirely irrelevant to the case.”

Grossberg’s shoulders slumped. “Oh… ouch… I think my hemorrhoids are acting up again…”

“Yes, that does seem to be true.” The Judge nodded thoughtfully. “The knife is irrelevant in this instance. Hmm. Thank you, Detective. I think we have a good grasp of the case ourselves now. With the facts that have been presented, it seems pretty clear what happened.”

“Your Honour, I would like to call my next witness to prove that the person who ran over Mr. Hover was, in fact, Mr. Hildum.” Miles paused. “…She’s the defendant’s wife, Ms. Emma Orr.” He flinched at simply mentioning the name, memories from their short debriefing suddenly resurfacing.

The Judge nodded. “Very well. Let the witness, Ms. Orr, take the stand.”

Gumshoe stepped down, giving Miles a small thumbs up before disappearing into the crowd.

Emma Orr was brought in and came up to the stand. Her hair was bottle blonde and tied at the side in a ponytail that just covered her shoulder. However, it looked as though it had been a while since she’d had her roots touched up, as they were growing through a dark brown colour. She was dressed in short overalls that left most of her legs bare, a blue vest top underneath, and a pair of blue high-heeled rubber boots on her feet. With her straight, boyish figure, she could have easily got away with wearing so little, if it weren’t for her extremely evident ‘au naturel’ look. Miles briefly wondered if she’d ever heard of a razor and felt quite self-conscious about the lack of hair on his own legs.

“Witness, your name and occupation, please,” Miles asked.

“Oh, I could give ya a lot more than that, sugar,” Emma said silkily, her words slightly interrupted by the slapping of the gum she was chewing.

Miles flinched. “…Witness. Name and occupation. Please.”

“How ‘bout we save those kinds of messy details until after I’ve had my way with y--”

Miles slammed a hand down on his desk and made her jump slightly. “Name! Now!”

“Okay, okay! Gods, are ya impatient! I don’t think I’d get much fun from teasin’ ya, it’d be over far too quickly.” She blew a large bubble until it popped and stuffed her hands in her pockets. “The name’s Emma Orr. I suppose my occupation is helpin’ that lazy ass husband of mine around the farm and doin’ all the damned accountin’ crap for his pitchfork business.”

“Witness, may I remind you that you are in a Courthouse?” Miles said, crossing his arms. “Your crude language is hardly appropriate.”

“Hmph, I ain’t gettin’ paid for this, am I? So I’m gonna talk however the hell I want, sugar.” She rolled her eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re one of them kinky types who gets his thrills off women actin’ like you’re at work in bed. I don’t do specialties. Unless--”

Miles hit his desk again. “Objection! The prosecution demands that the witness desist with the sexual suggestions!”

“Objection sustained.” The Judge raised his eyebrows. “Though… Mr. Edgeworth, you aren’t really one of those types, are you?”

“Your Honour!” Miles clenched his fist that was resting on the desk. “Not only is that an incorrect assumption, but it has nothing to do with the case at hand!”

“Quite right, Mr. Edgeworth. But that would have been a very degrading characteristic for you.” The Judge looked back over at Emma. “You will continue without any unnecessary interaction with the prosecution.”

“Humph. Y’all should be glad I even came to give my testimony.” Emma pulled a face and tapped her foot on the floor.

Miles crossed his arms. “We all understand that your husband being on trial for murder is a delicate matter and that you’d be emotionally affected, but--”

“Hah! I saw with my own eyes what that murderin’ bastard did to my poor pet Dove!” She leaned forward on the podium and pouted patronisingly. “He’s goin’ down for what he did, sugar.”

“Your… dove?” The Judge blinked. “The man killed your dove? My, that is very vicious. Doves are animals of peace!”

She leaned back and put her hands back in her pockets, before blowing another bubble. “He ain’t murdered no animal, that’d be murderin’ somethin’ of his own kind. He’s gone and killed our boss, Mr. Ron Hover, my old pet Dove!”

There were murmurings in the audience at this statement and the Judge had to bang his gavel to get silence.

Order! I will have order! My, after such a strong accusation… you may begin your testimony about what you saw, witness.”

Emma started twirling her gum around her finger. “Sure, honey.”

“On that day, me and Ike had a big old row in the mornin’. I needed to get off the farm and away from him, so I went out to get some groceries for us all at the nearest grocery store at about eleven. When I came back at one thirty in the afternoon, I saw it. I saw Ike kill Mr. Hover with his own hands!”

The Judge nodded. “Very well. Mr. Grossberg, you may begin your cross-examination.”

Grossberg rustled his moustache in acceptance.

Miles frowned. That testimony was full of holes – holes that didn’t even need a veteran defence attorney to reveal. Why was it that none of his witnesses could follow his very simple instructions? He sighed and got ready for the inevitable battle of objections.

Ah-HHHHEM, witness, when you say the victim was killed by Mr. Hildum’s own hands…” Grossberg peered over the top of his glasses. “Are you stating that my client’s hands were the murder weapon?”

“His hands?” Emma raised an eyebrow. “How could that wimp use his lazy ass hands to kill someone?”

Objection! Your Honour, that was merely a figure of speech by the witness,” Miles said flatly, bored of stating the obvious.

“Indeed, I believe it was,” the Judge agreed. “Mr. Grossberg, are you not familiar with this kind of phrase?”

Grossberg stood back up straight. “I am, Your Honour, but this is a very hazy description. I feel the witness should elaborate on how the victim was killed in her testimony.”

The Judge nodded. “Very well. Ms. Orr, please revise your testimony to tell us exactly how the victim was killed.”

“Sure, that’s an easy one.” Emma chewed thoughtfully. “How should I put it… Well, ya see, he was flattened, run over by Ike.”

Miles smirked. That was exactly what was written in the autopsy report. Grossberg would struggle to find something wrong with that.

Grossberg frowned and fiddled with his moustache. “Mrs. Orr, when you say you left to get the groceries at eleven and didn’t come back until one thirty…”

“It’s ‘Ms.’ Orr, got that, sugar?” She chewed a bit more on her gum and smiled at him.

Grossberg blinked. “Well… I was… it was… Ahem, that’s to say, what is it that took you so long?”

Objection!” Miles pointed his finger over at the defence bench. “Mr. Grossberg, what exactly does this have to do with what the witness saw? How long it takes her to pick out fruit and cereal is completely irrelevant.”

“Oh, believe me, honey, it didn’t take long for me to find the biggest, most finest bananas, and the handsomest bag of nuts in the shop.” Emma blew another bubble, her chin resting on her hand as she looked over at Miles. “Ya could call it a certain skill of mine. I always pick the best types after the first glance.”

Miles held back a shiver of fear and suddenly felt very thankful for the desk in front of him, but he hoped her ‘skills’ didn’t involve x-ray vision.

“If what you say is true, Ms. Orr, then why did it take you so long to get there and back?” Grossberg asked.

Emma shrugged. “Well, you’d take that long too if y’all had to go five miles down a windin’ road.”

The Judge looked impressed. “My! You managed to get there and back in two and a half hours by walking ten miles?”

“What? Why would I walk that far?” She laughed. “I took the car, of course.”

“You took the car?” Grossberg put his hands behind his back. “This car… it wouldn’t happen to be green, by any chance?”

“Yeah, that’s the one! Ike got us a special plate number and everythin’.”

Miles flinched and leaned onto his desk.

The courtroom burst out in a loud chatter and the Judge had to bang his gavel a couple of times.

Order! Order in the court! Mr. Edgeworth, could you please shed some light on what is going on here!?”

Miles clenched his fist, before relaxing back into a standing position again. “This is the first time the prosecution has heard of this, Your Honour.” He made a mental note to start pressing witnesses for more information during debriefings. These surprises happened too often for his liking. He still hadn’t learned his lesson.

“Ms. Orr, what is the meaning of this?” the Judge asked harshly. “You’re confessing to driving the murder weapon after having stated you witnessed the victim getting killed with it!”

“Murder weapon?” Emma stopped chewing and leaned forward. “Honey, I think ya need some glasses or somethin’. Our tractor is a rusty orange, not green.” She laughed. “I wouldn’t get very far on that big old thing.”

Miles blinked. He hoped he’d simply heard wrong. “Wait, witness, what did you just say?”

“I said I wouldn’t have taken that murderin’ tractor, duh.” Emma rolled her eyes at him. “Gosh, for a posh an’ pretty prosecutor, ya sure are dumb.”

“I don’t believe this… Why didn’t you tell me that the tractor was what you saw Mr. Hover get run over with!?” Miles exclaimed, trying to keep his composure.

Emma gave him a blank look. “What, ya mean the cops thought it was the car?”

Miles clenched his fist again.

Ah-HHHHEM, Your Honour, the defence calls for a testimony on this apparent change in murder weapon.”

“Yes, I, too, would like to know what is going on here with these two vehicles,” the Judge replied, nodding. “Ms. Orr, could you please testify again? This time, we’d like to hear about the murder weapon that killed Mr. Hover.”

“Sure, if it’ll give the murderer what he deserves!” Emma itched her kneecap, making Miles involuntarily glance down at her legs again, only to look back up as his eyes started to burn.

“Well, I was drivin’ on up to the fields where I knew Ike and my old Dove were workin’ with some food in the back for ‘em. Next thing I see ahead of me is our tractor rollin’ on what appears to be its own, an’ it’s headin’ for Mr. Hover. ‘Look out!’ I say, even though I know he can’t hear me. He never noticed in time and was flattened before I could do nothin’. I push the pedal to the floor, and as I get closer, I see Ike jumpin’ down from the driver’s seat an’ runnin’ away. I stopped the car nearby and got out, but he was too far away for me to get ‘im and give ‘im what’s deserved, so I went back to the farmhouse and called the cops and an ambulance right away. Poor Mr. Hover… He went and died before the medics even got there.”

The Judge seemed to ponder for a moment. “Very well. Mr. Grossberg, you may begin your cross-examination.”

“Thank you, Your Honour,” Grossberg said, already starting to flick through his documents. “Ah-HHHHEM, Ms. Orr, do you insist that the tractor was the murder weapon?”

Emma nodded. “That I do, honey.”

“And you were in the car when you witnessed the apparent murder, meaning that the defendant couldn’t have used it, even though the evidence so far points to it being the murder weapon.”

Emma gave him a suspicious look. “I hope y’all don’t think just cause I was in the car that it was me who killed my old Dove. It was the tractor that went an’ killed ‘im.”

Grossberg put his hands behind his back. “No, no, Ms. Orr. I am simply setting up the scene for the court.” He leaned forward to peer over his glasses. “When you went to call for the emergency services, did you return straight to the scene of the crime?”

“Yeah, after quickly changin’ into my boots and overalls, I went straight back out to look after Mr. Hover.”

Grossberg coughed a little. “So, Ms. Orr, it would be safe to say there was no time for the defendant to drag the body under the tractor, assuming that the car was the murder weapon?”

Objection!” Miles slammed his hand down on the desk. “Hold it, there, Mr. Grossberg. What the witness has described could not possibly have happened, theoretically or otherwise, no matter how much you try to convince the court.”

“Well, that’s what I saw with my own eyes, sugar. Y’all can’t change what I saw!” Emma put her hands in her pockets and looked away.

Miles sighed. “I’m sorry, Ms. Orr, but it is physically impossible for you to have seen Mr. Ron Hover get run over by the tractor.”

Ah-HHHHEM, Objection!” Grossberg half coughed, half shouted. “Mr. Edgeworth, what evidence do you have that rules out being run over by the tractor as a possible scenario?”

“I’m sure I don’t need to explain this to you, Mr. Grossberg,” Miles replied haughtily. “The tractor is decisive proof in itself. The victim’s fingerprints were the only ones found on the steering wheel. Ergo, the defendant couldn’t have driven it.”

“Why, you…” Emma scowled and blew a bubble so big that it sent the sticky substance flying onto her face when it popped. “Y’all meant to be convictin’ that murderer!”

“My poor, poor buttocks…” Grossberg took a moment to think, before coughing into his hand. “He… he could have worn gloves.”

Objection!” Miles shook his head. “If he had been wearing gloves, then how do you explain how the victim’s fingerprints weren’t wiped off?”

“They would have to be some very ingenious gloves, indeed!” the Judge exclaimed.

Grossberg seemed at a loss. He took a moment to recollect himself, before apparently coming up with an idea. “Excuse me, Mr. Edgeworth, but isn’t this your witness on the stand?” He gave Miles a patronising look over his glasses. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d be trying to prove your witness a liar to the court.”

Miles didn’t miss a thing. He smirked over at Grossberg and turned to address the Judge. “Your Honour, the witness is clearly covering for the defendant. He is her beloved husband. He can do nothing wrong in her eyes, so her troubled and confused mind invented this story subconsciously, twisting what she actually saw to confuse the court and clear his name. At such an emotional time in her life, the innocent Ms. Orr is simply not in her right mind.”

The room fell silent.

The Judge and Grossberg gave him equally blank looks, as did everyone in the audience.

Miles blinked, wondering what was so stupid or illogical about what he had said. It made perfect sense to him, a wife wanting to protect her husband in court.

“Honey, you need to get yerself a girlfriend an’ learn somethin’ ‘bout how critters treat a partner.” Emma had managed to peel off all the gum from her face and was leisurely chewing away again. “Ain’t my teasin’ ringin’ any bells? Or do ya just want me too bad to notice?” She grinned widely and winked.

Miles couldn’t repress a dramatic flinch.

“Witness! That is quite enough harassment of the prosecution,” the Judge said, looking alarmed. “It is plainly obvious that Mr. Edgeworth hasn’t realized what you’ve been suggesting throughout the entire proceedings.”

“Then he won’t mind if I mention a few positions we could try ou--”

Miles hit his desk, making her jump.

Emma started coughing and thumped her chest, apparently having swallowed her gum. “Sweet Mary, mother of Jesus… You’re a feisty one!”

“Ms. Orr, please, tell the truth!” Miles entreated. “What did you witness the day Ron Hover was run over?”

“I’ve already told y’all, sugar.” Emma took out her packet of gum and replaced the one she swallowed. “I saw what I saw. Ain’t nothin’ gonna change that, no matter what your fancy-pants evidence says.”

“F… fancy-pants?”

The Judge banged his gavel. “That’s quite enough. This is getting us nowhere.” He shook his head. “Mr. Edgeworth, if you cannot come up with a suitable explanation for this difference in facts, then I’ll have to question this witness’ reliability.”

Miles clenched his fist. “…I understand, Your Honour.”

The Judge sighed. “If the witness is unreliable, then there is no solid evidence against the defendant, apart from the car being his. It is also no longer clear who was driving the murder weapon, or, for that matter, what the murder weapon was, as Ms. Orr has testified to being in the car when she witnessed the murderer use the tractor. The court cannot possibly deliver a verdict with such an amount of uncertainty. I expect the defence and the prosecution to investigate further into what has happened, is that clear?”

Grossberg put his hands behind his back and stood up as straight as his squat figure would allow. “Yes, Your Honour. This is indeed a wise choice of action.”

Miles remained silent, merely nodding instead. The unreliability of his witness had rendered all his arguments useless, Grossberg lapping it up easily and making the most out of Miles’ mistake. He was now clenching his fist hard enough to turn his knuckles white.

The simple case had been turned into a complete mess.

“That is all for today on the trial of Mr. Ike Hildum.” The Judge banged his gavel. “Court is adjourned.”

---

Miles glanced up from his documents as he heard someone enter the prosecution lobby. He looked back down. “What were the results of the tests on the knife, Detective?”

It had better be something good. I have much more interesting things to do than go into court for a whole day simply proving the obvious…

My bluffing is getting as bad as Wright’s.

Miles paused for a second.

He pressed his fingers against his wrist to check his pulse.

…Good.

He let go.

Nothing strange happened. No heightened pulse, no stupid visions, no unnecessary observations… It’s just a name again.

It was then that he realized the detective hadn’t answered his question. He looked up again to see Gumshoe staring off to the side, deliberately avoiding his prying eyes.

“Detective, I don’t want to have to ask you again…”

“Ah, the knife results… Well, there’s good news and bad news, sir,” Gumshoe said, scratching the back of his head. “Good news is it looks like Ms. Orr was telling the truth, after all!”

Miles sat up straight on the sofa. “Detective, what were the test results on the knife?”

Gumshoe pulled a face. “We found traces of green paint on the blade, sir.”

Miles closed his eyes and fell backwards into his seat.

Back to square one again… How could I have missed something so obvious!? Of course, paint chippings this noticeable would have been removed from the body, had the murderer wanted to make it look like it was the tractor. I can’t believe I would do something as stupid as relying on such flimsy evidence.

Orr may have been telling the truth, but what evidence do I have of that? I have no proof to back her up. It’ll be her word against the defendant’s.

And honestly, I really don’t want to call her back up to the stand…

Miles subconsciously rubbed his leg.

It would have been useful to know this yesterday. What a waste of time…

He turned to Gumshoe. “Detective, would you call this knife a crucial piece of evidence?”

Gumshoe quirked his eyebrows. “Erm…”

Miles leaned further back in his seat and rubbed his forehead. “It wouldn’t happen to have some significant relevance to the case, by any chance, would it?”

“Well… That is… You see…”

Miles glared at him. “You’d convince me that this wasn’t a massive overlooking of vital evidence if you value your salary, Detective.”

Gumshoe lowered his head. “I can’t lie to you, sir.”

Miles leaned forward to rest his chin on his hand, the sudden movement making Gumshoe flinch.

“I presume the police have leads on who put the paint there and why?” he asked.

Gumshoe inched towards the door. “No… no, we don’t, sir. The handle didn’t have any fingerprints on it.”

I guessed as much…

If it was the defendant, then he would be incriminating himself. The car does belong to him, after all.

The other obvious option would be his wife, but why on Earth would she testify it was the tractor after putting paint on the victim?

Miles sighed.

Perfect. I just love being so damned well prepared for court.

He got up and ran a hand through his hair, before turning to Gumshoe, who had managed to get within a meter of the door and was eagerly eyeing it.

“Thank you for your… belated help. It has at least shed some light on this strange situation.”

“Yes! No problem, Mr. Edgeworth, sir!” Gumshoe boomed, a relieved look on his face.

Miles raised his eyebrows.

You wouldn’t be looking so relieved if you knew what your next paycheck is going to be, Detective.

---

“The court is now in session for the trial of Mr. Ike Hildum.”

“The prosecution is ready, Your Honour.”

Liar.

Grossberg coughed. “The defence is ready, Your Honour.”

“Very well.” The Judge nodded. “Mr. Edgeworth, the prosecution’s opening statement, if you please.”

“Thank you, Your Honour.”

Here goes nothing…

“Yesterday, an unexpected hindrance to the trial occurred. The witness, Ms. Orr, made it clear that she had been driving the car, which was thought to be the murder weapon. Instead, she testified that the tractor was not simply a red herring, but that it was, in fact, the real murder weapon. The prosecution has looked into this matter, and new evidence has come into focus that will help clear up this strange situation.” Miles drew in a sharp breath. “The knife found in the car, proved irrelevant yesterday, was sent for tests. It was revealed to have traces of green paint present on the blade, and no fingerprints were found on the hilt. Therefore, the paint chippings on the victim were not from the impact of the car, but were, in fact, placed there on purpose.” As the murmurings in the audience grew, Miles had to raise his voice. “The car was not the murder weapon, and just as Ms. Orr testified yesterday, the tractor was the vehicle that brought Mr. Hover’s unfortunate demise.”

The noise in the room rose even more and the Judge had to bang his gavel to get silence.

Order! Order in the court!” he shouted, before nodding when the audience finally quieted down. “Very well. The court accepts the knife into evidence.” The Judge sighed and shook his head. “Mr. Edgeworth, if this is the case, then where does the prosecution stand?”

“Today, I will prove that the change in murder weapon is irrelevant, and that the defendant was driving the tractor that killed Mr. Hover.”

Good luck with that.

Ah-HHHHEM, Mr. Edgeworth, surely you haven’t forgotten your argument from yesterday?” Grossberg bristled. “You proved that no one could have driven the tractor.” He stood up straight. “In your own words, it ‘could not possibly have happened, theoretically or otherwise’ because the only prints found on the steering wheel were the victim’s.”

Miles crossed his arms. “I understand that these prints are a mystery, but I cannot see any other explanation for what has happened. The only people present at the scene were Mr. Hildum and Ms. Orr, the latter being cleared because she was in the car at the time and couldn’t have driven the tractor.”

“Mr. Edgeworth, I don’t think you quite understand my argument.” Grossberg looked at him over his glasses. “If the tractor was the murder weapon, then there was, in fact, no murder!”

…What the hell!?

The Judge blinked. “Mr. Grossberg… You can’t seriously be suggesting…”

“I am, indeed, Your Honour. The defence claims that the victim committed suicide with his tractor!”

A chattering rippled through the audience, until Miles interrupted it by hitting his desk. “Objection! Your Honour, this is a baseless and impossible assumption! It’s absurd to think someone would kill themselves with a tractor!”

“But is it really that absurd?” Grossberg questioned.

Yes, it really is.

Wouldn’t he want to go in a more sophisticated way than death by tractor?

Miles pointed at him. “How would you explain the green paint chippings? If they were on the body, someone would have had to put them there.”

Grossberg shrugged. “Naturally, but the person who put the paint chippings there has not committed a serious crime. Their sentence would be for tampering with evidence and wasting police time, but would not involve a murder charge. It is a totally different case.”

You say it as if you’re the one who’s going to have to waste a whole night filling out the damned ‘lesser charge’ forms.

Miles crossed his arms and frowned.

I don’t believe this.

He started tapping his finger against his sleeve. “It’s physically impossible, Mr. Grossberg. The defendant couldn’t be driving the tractor and getting run over by it at the same time.”

Ah-HHHHEM, Objection!” Grossberg put his hands behind his back. “It reminds me of my younger days, like the scent of fresh lemons, you see.” Grossberg looked wistful.

Here we go…

“My grandfather taught me how to drive a tractor when I was in my twenties, and it was then that the invention of cruise control greatly improved driving. This wonderful invention shows that Mr. Hover could have simply put the tractor on cruise control and then stood in front of it.” He sighed. “Oh, my good, old grandfather. He really didn’t respect the law and kept trying to dissuade me from my chosen caree--”

Miles hit his desk in the middle of Grossberg’s ramblings. “Th-this is preposterous! Your Honour, the court can’t seriously be contemplating that the victim committed suicide via tractor!?”

“Hmm…” The Judge closed his eyes for a moment, before opening them again. “If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Edgeworth, there was a similar case with a man using his tractor to commit suicide quite a few years ago…” He blinked, looking surprised with himself. “Actually, I think Mr. Grossberg’s reasoning is truly logical.”

Miles flinched. “W-what!?”

The rest of the courtroom suddenly burst into a loud chatter.

Order! Order! I will have order!” The Judge tried to quell the loud chattering with his gavel, but to no avail. He shook his head exasperatedly. “The court will take a recess for the defence and the prosecution to look into this allegation of suicide. We will reconvene in ten minutes. Court is adjourned!”

---

Miles stared down at the picture of the crime scene and narrowed his eyes. It was pretty obvious that this nonsense about it being suicide was simply just that.

A load of drivel and another complete waste of my time.

He turned to Gumshoe, who was currently shining his detective’s badge and looking at himself in the reflection.

“Detective…” Miles frowned as Gumshoe started smoothing over his eyebrows.

Oh, come on, you’re getting as bad as Wright. He must spend hours on those eyebrows of his.

Detective!” Miles repeated loudly.

Gumshoe jumped and dropped his badge. “Wha…? Huh?”

Miles gave him an unamused look. “What exactly are you doing?”

“Oh… n-nothing, sir.” Gumshoe bent down to pick up his badge, breathing on it before rubbing it on his trench coat.

“Nothing?” Miles said disbelievingly.

“Ah, well, Mag--some policewomen at the precinct have been talking about that actor who’s been in some movie recently, so I went to watch it to see what that guy’s got that I haven’t.” He frowned and lowered his head. “His eyebrows are really something, sir! They’re all spiky, like lightning bolts, and yet he pulls it off!” He rubbed his neck. “No wonder Magg--no wonder they’re all over him.”

Why did I even bother?

Miles sighed. “Detective, I need to ask you something about the case.”

“Ask away, sir!” Gumshoe replied brightly.

“When the police arrived at the scene, was the tractor still running?”

“No, sir, I don’t remember having to turn it off.” Gumshoe quirked his eyebrows. “It was pretty silent and scary in the field, apart from that woman getting all angry, telling me I ‘wasn’t doin’ ma job right’.”

Miles smirked.

I’m really not that surprised.

“That’s all I needed to know. Thank you, Detective.”

---

“The court will now reconvene for the trial of Mr. Ike Hildum.” The Judge banged his gavel. “Mr. Edgeworth, will you present the prosecution’s thoughts on this matter of suicide?”

“It’s an impossible situation, Your Honour,” Miles replied. “I have proof that Mr. Hover could not possibly have committed suicide.”

“Well, then, Mr. Edgeworth, please elaborate for the court.”

“Certainly, Your Honour.” Miles took a small bow. “I spoke to Detective Gumshoe during the recess, and he stated that the tractor wasn’t running when the police arrived at the scene.” He shrugged and shook his head. “I think this makes it clear that it couldn’t have been suicide. How could the victim have turned off the ignition after killing himself?”

The Judge closed his eyes. “Hmm… I believe you’re right, Mr. Edgeworth…”

Ah-HHHHEM, Objection!” Grossberg twirled his moustache with his finger. “Mr. Edgeworth, it would have been easy for one of the two other people at the scene to turn off the ignition when they came to see the tractor still running. It was even as your witness said; there were no fingerprints on the ignition key, the victim’s were wiped off.”

The Judge blinked. “Why, you’re right, Mr. Grossberg. Suicide could still be possible in this instance.”

Objection!” Miles pointed at the defence bench. “Mr. Grossberg, please don’t jump in prematurely. I wasn’t finished.”

Grossberg’s face dropped. “…There’s more?”

Of course there’s more. Did you seriously think I’d rely solely on something Gumshoe said?

“Your Honour, if you would please take a look at the crime scene photo?” Miles picked up the picture from his desk. “As you can see, Mr. Hover is on his stomach, meaning that he would either have been running away from the tractor, or didn’t even see it coming when--”

Ah-HHHHEM, Objection! Perhaps he didn’t want to look at the tract--”

Miles slammed his hand down on his desk. “Mr. Grossberg, if you would please stop interrupting me, then my explanation would go a lot smoother.”

There must be something in defence attorneys’ genetics that makes them all so damned annoying.

The Judge looked slightly shocked. “Objection overruled. You may continue, Mr. Edgeworth.”

“Thank you, Your Honour,” Miles replied, crossing his arms. “Now, what else was found on the victim? Can you remember, Mr. Grossberg?”

Grossberg looked perplexed. “He had a packet of tomato seeds in his hand, but I don’t see--”

“Precisely.” Miles tapped his temple. “Why would a man who was about to commit suicide be planting tomatoes?”

“Ahem, that is merely circumstantial evidence…”

“Circumstantial?” Miles shook his head. “There is one last piece of evidence that ties all the rest together so that none of this could have simply been coincidental.” He glanced at the picture quickly again. “Mr. Grossberg, may I remind you that the victim was wearing gardening gloves? Now, tell me… If he had been wearing these, then how is it that his fingerprints still remained on the steering wheel? Unless you’re suggesting that he put the gloves on while waiting for the tractor to run him over?”

Miles smirked at Grossberg’s blank expression.

I’ll never tire of that look. Except it’s a lot more gratifying when it’s Wright.

The Judge nodded. “Mr. Edgeworth has a point. All of this seems simply too much to have been a mere coincidence. I’m afraid suicide is out of the question, after all.”

Grossberg coughed into his hand. “Your Honour, if suicide is not how Ron Hover died, then I challenge the prosecution to come up with a different explanation.” He gave Miles a patronising look. “After all, it has already been proven that murder wasn’t possible if the tractor was the murder weapon.”

But that’s the only logical conclusion… I just need to prove it.

Miles shook his head. “As the new evidence has demonstrated, Ms. Orr had been telling the truth from the beginning about the tractor. Therefore, I see no reason to doubt the rest of her testimony. The prosecution stands by its accusation and would like to call the defendant, Mr. Ike Hildum, to the stand to testify about what he was doing at the time of Mr. Hover’s death.”

“Very well,” the Judge replied. “Let the defendant, Mr. Hildum, take the stand.”

Ike Hildum was a scrawny man with an extraordinarily straight posture for his very tall height. He had chosen to wear a tattered brown suit with suspenders under which he kept tucking his thumbs. It looked old and moth-eaten; the kind of suit a very old-fashioned grandfather would wear. He had a mass of sandy-coloured hair that stuck out at all angles and a red handkerchief was tied around his neck.

But what stood out the most for Miles was the fact that he was clean-shaven, which would require a razor to be in the house.

God knows what that means for his wife.

“Witness, your name and occupation, please.”

Ike puffed his chest out and pulled on his suspenders. “Ike Hildum, pitchfork maker and dealer for ma company, Fork’em Over, which has been runnin’ smoothly for the past seven years and makin’ a steady profit. Of course, all that dough goes to my savings, so I help out at Ron Hover’s farm on an average day. Just don’t go mistakin’ me for a simple farm worker, cause I ain’t.”

He’s almost as bad as Wright when he starts showing off his badge.

Miles frowned.

I can already tell this is going to be fun.

“Do you seriously own Fork’em Over?” the Judge asked with wide eyes.

Ike nodded proudly. “Sure do.”

“Hmmm…” The Judge closed his eyes, apparently thinking something over, before looking back at Ike. “Can I get your autograph?”

…You’ve got to be kidding me.

The Judge is starstruck by a pitchfork dealer.

“Your Honour, surely this can wait until after the proceedings?” Miles said.

“But, Mr. Edgeworth, by then, he could be a criminal!” The Judge shook his head. “No, better now than never.” He passed a paper and pen over to the bailiff, who handed them to Ike.

Ike gladly started scribbling down his signature. “Who’s this for, then?” he asked as he straightened up from leaning on the podium.

“If you’d address it to ‘Your Honour’?”

Miles drummed his fingers against the desk. “Your Honour, if we could please proceed with the testimony?”

“Be patient, Mr. Edgeworth,” the Judge replied.

Miles sighed and crossed his arms as he watched Ike finish writing his autograph.

Take your time. It’s not as if we’ve already wasted an entire day or anything.

“Very well.” The Judge said a small thank you to the bailiff, before pocketing his newly acquired signature. “Mr. Hildum, could you please testify about your alibi for the murder of Mr. Ron Hover?”

“Sure thing, Your Honour,” Ike replied, stretching his suspenders again. “I was in the barn behind that field, stackin’ some hay with my personal pitchfork – that be the new deluxe model comin’ out in autumn, by the way – when I hear a scream from the field and a car revvin’. I pause, thinkin’ it was some critter doin’ some funny business, but then it all goes silent. I drop my pitchfork and run to the scene, only to find Mr. Hover underneath the tractor. I panic an’ bolt back into the barn, cause, darn, I don’t wanna be found out there on my own! I come back out when the police arrive. Mr. Hover was dead when they got there, and seein’ as the wife rang ‘em before me, I got arrested on the spot.”

“Thank you, Mr. Hildum. The defence may begin the cross-examination.”

“Thank you, Your Honour.” Grossberg put his hands behind his back. “Ah-HHHHEM, first things first, Mr. Hildum…” He paused to peer over his glasses at Ike. “What is this I hear about a new deluxe pitchfork? Is it the one announced with that new grip on the handle for comfortable handling? The C0M3 1-14RD model?”

“Yeah, that’s the one,” Ike replied. “We have a new desi--”

Miles hit his desk. “Objection! Your Honour, can we please stop wasting the court’s time?”

The Judge nodded. “Objection sustained. Mr. Grossberg, please save these formalities for after court.”

You’re hardly one to talk.

Grossberg cleared his throat. “I apologise, Your Honour.”

The Judge nodded again. “Please continue with the cross-examination.”

Ah-HHHHEM, Mr. Hildum, when you said you dropped the pitchfork and left the barn, did you head directly for the scene?”

“Yeah, yeah, I did,” Ike replied, pulling at his suspenders. “That baby’s got chip-resistant paint an’ everythin’, so I wasn’t worried about gettin’ it ruined on the barn floor.”

“Chip-resistant…?” Grossberg seemed to hold back getting caught in the moment and cleared his throat. “I was merely asking because there was a pitchfork found at the crime scene.”

“Well, it’s a farm, there’s gonna be lots o’ pitchforks lyin’ around.” Ike patted his chest. “I’m jus’ glad I never stepped on one in my rush.”

God… I don’t believe it’s come down to this, but…

Objection!”

Miles paused, closing his eyes.

…I’ve just got to say it.

“Mr. Hildum, you said the pitchfork you were using was the… C0M3 1-14RD model.” Miles leaned over his desk. “Now, if it’s still a prototype, I assume it’s one of a kind?”

“Course,” Ike replied proudly.

Who in their right mind would be proud of a pitchfork named C0M3 1-14RD!?

Miles shook his head. “Mr. Hildum, it was that specific model of pitchfork that was found at the scene of the crime, not just any old pitchfork. You must have taken it with you to the field.”

“Oh, ya must be right. I’m sorry. I’m just so confused, y’know?” He rubbed his chin. “My mind’s just blockin’ out that terrible event.”

“Mr. Hildum, that is a change from what you previously said,” the Judge scolded. “Could you please rectify your testimony?”

“Sure.” Ike stuck his thumbs back in his suspenders and puffed his chest out. “When I got to the scene, the tractor was still runnin’, so I stuck my pitchfork in the ground and turned off the ignition.”

Grossberg stood up straight and shot Miles a haughty look. “See, Mr. Edgeworth? It’s exactly as I explained before.”

Or he’s just repeating what you said to save his own ass.

“I don’t see what that changes, anyways,” Ike said, stretching his suspenders again. “Mr. Hover wasn’t killed by a pitchfork or anythin’, was he?”

Miles clenched his fist and stayed silent.

The Judge frowned. “Well, if Mr. Edgeworth is quite finished with his small talk, then you can continue with the cross-examination, Mr. Grossberg.”

Okay, I get the point already. My objection was a complete waste of time and I’m a hypocrite. Can we please get on with it?

Grossberg stuck his hands out on his desk. “Ah-HHHHEM, when you ‘bolted’ for the barn after turning off the ignition, was this when your wife saw you running off?”

Ike nodded. “Yeah, that’d be it.”

Miles slammed his hand down. “Objection!”

Let’s make this one count this time.

“Mr. Grossberg, I have already proven that suicide was impossible.” He crossed his arms. “Seeing as though Mr. Hildum has just admitted to being in the field, and that his wife saw him jump off the tractor and flee the scene, should I consider that a confession to driving the tractor?”

“Now, look, here, Mr. Lawyer guy,” Ike said defensively, pointing straight at Miles. “My fingerprints ain’t nowhere on that old thing. There’s no way I could have driven it.”

He’s got to have driven it one way or another…

Miles frowned and closed his eyes.

Think about it logically.

There were no fingerprints on the ignition. So, if he didn’t leave any prints on the steering wheel, and didn’t wipe off any either, that could only mean one thing…

He picked up the crime scene photo and looked at it again. It appeared the tractor had been sitting in the field for a long time before the incident, because the tracks – the straight tracks – that led to the body started in the middle of the field.

Of course… Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

I think I’m finally beginning to understand this case.

About time, too.

Miles looked back up at Ike and shrugged. “You could have merely worn gloves.” He smirked at Ike’s scathing look.

Ah-HHHHEM, Objection!” Grossberg cut in. “Mr. Edgeworth, I’m sorry, but I think you made it quite clear yesterday that wearing gloves would have made no difference. They would have wiped the fingerprints from the steering wheel.”

Miles crossed his arms. “Mr. Grossberg, please don’t interrupt me while I’m talking to the witness.” He turned his attention back to Ike. “Mr. Hildum. You claim that you couldn’t have driven the tractor because your fingerprints weren’t found anywhere on it. Are you saying that you were not wearing gloves, then?”

Ike gave him a suspicious look while pulling on his suspenders. “Of course I wasn’t wearin’ gloves.”

Miles tapped his temple and tutted. “Mr. Hildum, I would have expected better from the owner of Fork’em Over.” He smirked. “Why, if you weren’t wearing gloves, then how is it that your precious pitchfork didn’t have any of your fingerprints on it?”

“Well… um… err… I forget.”

You’re making a bad name for pitchfork dealers everywhere, Hildum.

Ah-HHHHEM, Objection! What are you getting at, Mr. Edgeworth? It changes nothing if he was wearing gloves or not. He couldn’t have driven the tractor either way.”

“You’re wrong, I’m afraid,” Miles replied, still smirking.

That set off whispers in the audience.

“He’s wrong?” The Judge blinked. “Please explain yourself, Mr. Edgeworth.”

“Certainly.” Miles took the picture from his desk again. “Take another look at the crime scene photo. Now, if you would look at the tracks behind the tractor…?”

Grossberg pushed up his glasses and squinted at the photo. “Yes, I see the tracks.”

“They are in a straight line, are they not?”

Grossberg stood up straight again. “Indeed, they are.”

“Now, since these tracks are the only ones present, we can assume that they were left on the day of the murder. Meaning, Your Honour, that Mr. Hildum wouldn’t have had to touch the steering wheel at all to run over Mr. Hover.” Miles tapped his temple. “Ergo, all he had to do was turn on the ignition, wiping any fingerprints off of it, but leaving the ones on the steering wheel intact.” He finished off with a small bow.

There was a small snap as Ike pulled his suspenders so far that he had to let go of the elastics, and the room suddenly burst into chatter.

Ouch, that’s going to hurt when he wakes up in his cell tomorrow.

Order! Order!” The Judge banged his gavel a few times until the room fell silent again.

Ah-HHHHEM, Objection! Your Honour, Mr. Edgeworth’s deduction makes no sense! The victim would have heard the tractor approaching and gotten out of the way.”

Objection!” Miles flipped through his documents. “Your Honour, I have here Mr. Hover’s medical records. If you would please look at his latest checkup, you will see that the victim was particularly hard of hearing. There is no way he could have heard the tractor coming until it was too late, not to mention while he was focused on the task of planting tomato seeds.”

Grossberg blinked at him. “Ouch… I think I’m going to need a week of checkups on my buttocks after this case…”

Miles smirked and turned to face Ike. “Well, Mr. Hildum?”

“I’ve done nothin’ wrong!” Ike snapped, stretching his suspenders past any suitable limit. “I’m innocent! It was Emma, I’m tellin’ ya! T’was that cheatin’ whore that did it!” He pulled the elastics out to the sides. “The paint chippin’s, see!? They were on the body! She went and ran him over with that car I bought for us!” He leaned forward and glared at Miles. “I got no motive for wantin’ me boss dead, ya hear me? None!”

Cheating…?

Miles blinked.

Cheating whore?

He blinked again.

“Mr. Hildum… Did you just call Ms. Emma Orr a ‘cheating whore’?”

-Snap-

Ike’s suspenders were pulled so far that the elastics on them tore, sending his pants free to fall down.

“Yes, that’s right! That cheatin’ whore and that old son of a bitch! They was gettin’ it on behind ma back the whole time! After a row in the mornin’, I just knew I had t’do somethin’ about the two of them. His death certainly brought her down a peg or two, didn’t it?” He laughed hysterically as the rest of the room looked on in silence. “If only I hadn’t left the dumb old knife in the car, I could ‘ave gotten away with the paint chippin’s and she’d be the one cryin’ on the stand! She’d pay for what she done!”

The court burst out in a loud chatter and the Judge banged his gavel repeatedly.

O-order! Order, I say!” The Judge frowned. “Mr. Hildum, are you confessing to the murder of Mr. Ron Hover?”

Ike crossed his arms. “Yeah, I killed him. That’s all that old bastard deserved! Ain’t no critter gonna mess with me, I’ll tell ya what!”

Miles pointed at him. “Mr. Hildum… Perhaps you’d want to pull your pants up before saying something like that?”

Ike glanced down. He gave Miles a glare, before hastily pulling up his trousers, holding them up with one hand now that his suspenders were busted.

The Judge cleared his throat. “Now, if there’s no further objections, I think I’m ready to pronounce my verdict.” He looked over at the defence bench.

Grossberg looked rather uncomfortable. “No, Your Honour.” He paused to shuffle around on the spot. “I would appreciate if the verdict was given as quickly as possible.”

The Judge nodded. “Mr. Edgeworth, well done on such a fine display of prosecution.”

“…Thank you, Your Honour.”

I fail to see what was so great about it.

Even after all those clues yesterday, I still didn’t manage to figure out that their relationship was anything but good.

…I can’t be that bad… I just can’t…

Miles nearly missed the Judge’s last line as it shot through his stream of thoughts.

“Very well. The court finds the defendant, Mr. Ike Hildum, guilty on the count of murder.” He banged his gavel. “That is all. Court is adjourned.”

---

Sitting in the prosecution lobby, Miles straightened his cravat. He sighed to himself and set about tidying up his briefcase, which was stuffed to the brim with files needing to be sorted.

That case hadn’t gone as smoothly as he had hoped.

But as much as recent events had been affecting him outside the courtroom, he seriously doubted that they’d had anything to do with his performance. Nothing could confuse his logic or make him lose his head when he walked through those heavy wooden doors. Nothing could get in the way of a court case. So how could he have missed something so painfully obvious?

It seems this fake relationship might be a good opportunity to learn a thing or two, after all…

Miles couldn’t wait to get back to the office and finish up his paperwork as soon as possible. He was actually looking forward to finally getting home and relaxing with a nice cup of tea while reading the newspaper.

“Such a poor performance…” he muttered to himself, closing his briefcase and standing up to straighten out his jacket and make sure his cuffs weren’t crumpled. After he was satisfied with his appearance, he went to retrieve his umbrella from the coat rack in the corner and quickly left the lobby.

As he walked past the usual rabble of people exiting the courtroom, he spotted Gumshoe moving through the crowd, waving wildly at him. He stopped to wait for him at the side, crossing his arms.

“Good performance today, sir!” Gumshoe boomed as he finally reached where Miles was standing. “You were magnificent, as usual! Well done on proving such a sneaky critter guilty.”

Miles flinched at the word ‘critter’.

I don’t think I’ll be able to listen to this dialect for a while without wanting to throw up.

“Thank you, Detective.”

“You always get that guilty verdict, sir,” Gumshoe continued, smiling widely at him. “Who knew it would come down to that woman cheating on the pitchfork guy?” He chuckled to himself.

“I see no reason for such praise when the verdict didn’t come sooner because of a simple mistake, Detective,” Miles replied loftily, looking off to the side. “Also, if it weren’t for my complete failure to understand the intricacies of romance, I would have quickly realized that something was off between the two of them.”

“You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself, sir.”

“No, I’ve seen how bad a relationship can be today… The breakdown causing people to commit such horrible crimes in the name of ‘love’… How my insensitivity would undeniably ruin everything…”

I’m not that bad…

Am I?

Gumshoe gave him a puzzled look and scratched the back of his head. “Your insensitivity would do what?”

Miles’ eyes widened slightly.

Shit. Did I say that out loud?

“It has nothing to do with me, Detective,” Miles replied, a little too quickly. “I was simply philosophising about how much hard work relationships are. Why did people who were so wrong for each other, who didn’t have any chemistry, even contemplate getting married in the first place?”

Gumshoe gave him a blank look. “…Are you feeling okay, sir?”

“I feel perfectly fine!” Miles snapped. He shook his head. “I don’t see why I can’t bring up that subject without you looking at me as if I’ve lost my mind. Do I really come across as someone with no emotions? Is it really that hard for you to imagine me being romantic?”

Gumshoe opened his mouth, but seemed to decide it was better not to say anything, and simply gaped at him instead.

Miles narrowed his eyes. “I’d advise you to at least humour me, Detective.”

Do the words ‘salary’ and ‘drop’ ring a bell?

“No, sir… I mean… Yes, sir… Well, no, it’s not hard to imagine, and yes, I’m sure you’d make a great partner, sir,” Gumshoe stuttered, looking shocked.

Miles blinked.

God. This case has seriously affected me for the worse… Now I’m asking my subordinate about how romantic I am.

Miles nodded in acceptance and started to set off for the exit again, not wanting to get caught up in the moment.

“Goodbye, Detective.”

“Um… See you around, Mr. Edgeworth,” Gumshoe called out from behind him, still sounding very confused.

Miles rubbed his temple as he walked along the corridor.

What a ridiculous time to get a case like that…

He sighed and dropped his hand.

I wonder what Wright would say about the two of them?

He’d probably make a joke about her marrying him for his amazing pitchfork and smile smugly because he’d have managed to annoy me with yet another stupid comment.

Miles took a left, ignoring anyone that might have been trying to get his attention, too focused on the scene acting out in his mind.

Then he’d talk about people suiting each other. About professions and other ‘attributes’ having nothing to do with relationships.

I’d call him a hopeless idiot and he would rub his neck and laugh at his own stupidity, before biting his lip while he looks for a way to rephrase it.

Miles smiled to himself, until he spotted something that he was really starting to dread laying eyes upon. A woman wearing a bright green jacket stood out in the crowd loitering near the exit.

He was tempted to actually turn around and make idle conversation with Gumshoe about relationships again, but he settled for lowering his head and pretending to stroke down the hair that fell in his face so that he could hide behind his hand.

Don’t see me. Please don’t see me…

“Hey, Miles!” Kath shouted across the hallway, waving brightly at him from behind a man she’d been talking to.

Miles inwardly cringed.

Perhaps now’s the time I should invest in a new wardrobe. Burgundy never really suited me, anyway. It’s simply too noticeable.

“Hey, Miles, over here!”

I’m thinking a whole new look. Perhaps I should dye my hair blonde and adopt a German accent? I should definitely change my name, too.

He walked on as if he hadn’t seen her.

Selim H. Trowegde.

It sounds catchy.

There was a tug on his right shoulder and he froze in place, his muscles tensing. Admitting defeat, he sighed to himself and turned to face Kath.

“Oh, hello, Everett. I didn’t see you there,” he said flatly.

“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Kath, Miles?” she replied, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “What do you say we have lunch together?”

Miles frowned.

I knew this meant bad news.

“I’m working, Kath.”

Kath giggled. “Oh, Miles, you’re so funny!” She punched him lightly on the shoulder. “How can you not have a lunch break?”

Miles checked his watch. 12:17. He looked back up at Kath.

“I don’t take lunch breaks,” he replied in a monotone.

Kath raised an eyebrow. “You aren’t fooling anyone, Miles,” she said, a hand on her hip.

Actually, for once, that’s the real truth…

“I bet you’re just being nice while really trying to get rid of me.” She suddenly jumped a bit as if she’d just realized something, and a smirk appeared on her face. “Oh, I get it. You’re going to meet up with your boyfriend for a romantic lunch, aren’t you?”

Miles blinked, slowly digesting the statement, until it finally clicked.

“Everett, not so loud with the ‘boyfriend’ thing.” He looked around to make sure no one was listening.

“Aww, that is so cute!” Kath exclaimed, beaming at him.

Miles closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose, damning himself for making such a rookie mistake. He should have corrected her straight away.

It’s just one of those days… I bring it all on myself, really.

He sighed.

Do I correct her now, or do I feed her romantic fantasies?

Wright would agree straight off the mark…

Before all this, I would have objected right away without question.

…The ‘before’ me being the man who didn’t have the slightest idea about relationships.

He dropped his hand and opened his eyes.

“You found me out, Everett. I can’t join you for lunch because Phoenix and I are otherwise enga--we’re going out for lunch, and I couldn’t possibly stand him up… I don’t want to stand him up. I enjoy our lunches together.”

Hmm. I’m quite impressed with that, and yet, at the same time, slightly disturbed.

I think ‘I enjoy our lunches’ constitutes as romantic…

Or does it just sound clingy?

This bloody romance thing is a whole lot more complicated than I thought.

Kath giggled again. “Invite him along, then. I don’t know what your plans were, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind a change in location to meet up with us close to here.”

Miles felt his eye twitch. “…Excuse me?”

She smirked. “Come on, it’ll be fun to all go to lunch together. That way, you can keep both your promises.”

When did I promise I’d go to lunch with you!?

“I doubt Phoenix would want my attention to be divided, Everett,” Miles replied quickly.

That’s right, make Wright the bad guy and it will all work out fine…

“Then don’t tell him I’m joining you,” Kath said, a sneaky smile on her face.

Miles stared at her.

Excuse. There’s got to be an excuse somewhere…

“Are you sure you want to spend your whole lunch break with the two of us?” he asked, trying to sound concerned.

She raised an eyebrow. “Why wouldn’t I?”

I don’t believe this woman.

“We’ll only be talking about private things,” Miles added.

Kath kept on smiling. “Now, now, Miles. I’m sure your hot make-out session can be put on hold for one lunch time with a friend.”

…Hot make-out session?

Friend?

“What the…?”

“Well, it was you who bragged about how good with his tongue your boyfriend is,” Kath replied.

Miles frowned. “You can’t possibly… You think that’s the only thing we ever do together?”

Kath’s eyes widened. She glanced over her shoulder, before leaning in towards Miles. “Well, I’d hope you wouldn’t do the ‘other thing’ in public again.” She paused to look over her other shoulder. “Especially not after last time…”

“Everett! How many times… We were not having sex in the bathroom of the restaurant!”

Miles regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. He looked around, realising his voice was loud enough to have been heard in Hong Kong, before turning back to a snickering Kath.

“Oh, Miles, how you make me laugh!”

Miles grimaced.

Oh, Everett, how you make me want to kill myself…

Not wanting to start yet another one-sided argument – since Kath would obviously dismiss all his explanations of what had actually happened – Miles decided to quit while he was ahead. He put his briefcase and umbrella down, pulled out his cellphone from his jacket pocket, and scanned through his contact list for Wright’s cell number. He hit the call button and put the phone to his ear, before looking back at Kath…

Who was still looking straight back at him.

“Everett, would you mind?” Miles gestured with his free hand.

Kath tilted her head, a confused expression on her face. “Oh, don’t let me disturb you. I’ll be as quiet as a mouse,” she whispered.

She wants to listen in!?

Miles opened his mouth to retort and get rid of her, but was cut off by the voice on the other end of the line.

…Edgeworth?

“Wri… err…”

What the hell? It really is you!” Phoenix exclaimed. “That’s the first time you’ve called my cell. I had to do about ten double takes when I saw the caller ID.

“Yes, Phoenix, it really is me. I just got out of court. It’s pleasant to hear your voice.”

He’d better get those hints, or so help me, God…

Phoenix…?” There was a pause on the other end. “Edgeworth, are you feeling okay? Did the culprit bash you on the head or something? If they did, I totally understand where you’re coming from.

…This simply confirms my ‘Wright is a lost cause’ theory.

Miles turned away from Kath, only to be followed by her expectantly. He swallowed hard.

How the hell am I supposed to do this, now?

“I’m calling about our lunch meeting,” Miles said, deciding it best to ignore Wright’s comment about his weird experiences in court.

Huh? Since when have we planned that?

Miles took a glance at Kath. She didn’t let off any signs that she had heard Wright’s reply, so he presumed she could only hear his side of the conversation.

“I’m looking forward to it, too.”

The noise on the other end indicated that Phoenix was stretching out in his chair. “Damn, Edgeworth, you miss me already?

Oh, for… What an idiot!

“Well, about that…” Miles replied, fiddling with the hem of his jacket.

There’s no need to deny it. I already know you find me interesting, and no doubt handsome,” Phoenix said cockily.

You have no idea how much trouble that’s caused me…

Miles coughed into his hand lightly to get rid of whatever was stuck in his throat. “Well, I was wondering if we could… well…”

Christ… think properly before you speak, Miles!

I feel like we’re having two completely different conversations here,” Phoenix said, a confused tone to his voice. “Oh well, of course I’ll go on a lunch date with you.

Date?

Miles raised an eyebrow.

“I’m just calling to ask if we can change the location. A place near the Courthouse would be easier for me to make on time.”

Sure, I don’t mind,” Phoenix answered cheerfully. “As long as they have private toilet stalls.

Miles frowned. “Toilet stalls?”

Oh Christ.

“Don’t be stupid, Phoenix.” He looked back at Kath again. She was staring at him with raised eyebrows.

Curse you, Wright.

Hey, is this for some relationship practice? I’ve always wanted to show you how good I really am with my tongue.

“What!?” Miles felt his face flush slightly. “That’s not funny.”

Phoenix chuckled. “It’s not supposed to be funny. It’s supposed to turn you on.

“Stop making stupid jokes.”

Oh, I wasn’t joking, Edgeworth,” Phoenix replied silkily.

“Wri--Phoenix, stop,” Miles said firmly, trying to contain his embarrassment. “Can’t you at least wait until I’m out of the Courthouse?”

Kath gasped a little and blushed. Miles felt another bit of himself die inside.

That stupid dirty mind of hers…

And what on Earth is Wright playing at?

Did I go too far?” Phoenix laughed. “My bad. I suppose I could settle for holding hands now that your paper cut has healed.

“You’ll ‘settle for’…? What the hell!?” Miles blurted out, feeling his face get even hotter.

Kath gave him a curious look, making him flinch.

Damn, did I repeat that out loud?

We’ve been dating a whole week, after all. And a week without affection is kind of pushing it.” Phoenix paused. “And no, suggesting a sex book doesn’t count.

Miles sighed. “Just… just get to the Courthouse as soon as possible,” he replied quickly, before Wright could embarrass him any further.

Okay, bye, Edgeworth! Say hello to Kath for me.” Phoenix snickered before hanging up.

Miles stood there dumbly for a few seconds, the phone tightly gripped in his hand.

That bastard! He knew all along!

“Wow, Larry was right,” Kath said, rubbing her chin thoughtfully. “You two really are horny over each other all the time.”

Miles rolled his eyes and picked up his briefcase and umbrella.

Have you ever heard of ‘tact’, Everett? I recommend you look it up sometime.

---

“Mr. Wright sure is taking a long time to get here,” Kath said, taking a glance at her watch. She turned away from the window she was standing next to and shot Miles a concerned look. “Does he work far from here? I hope he didn’t get into an accident or anything. It’s pouring pretty hard out there.”

Miles raised an eyebrow.

That’s right. She doesn’t know Wright doesn’t drive.

He shook his head. “Don’t worry, he’ll be here soon.” He turned his attention back to the open briefcase on his lap, in which he was still trying to organize the mess of files from this morning.

“Are you sure?”

Miles looked up at her again. “Yes, Everett, I’m sure. In fact, I’d be more worried if he did get here on time.” He looked back down at the files and smirked.

He missed the bus again.

“What’re you smiling about?”

Miles sighed, realising it would be impossible to finish sorting his documents with Everett around. “Nothing.” He closed his briefcase and set it on the floor next to him, before crossing his arms and looking back up for the millionth time.

Kath giggled. “Oh, that is so cute!”

Miles gave her a blank look. “Excuse me?”

She beamed at him. “You’re so in love with Mr. Wright, you’ve grown to like his flaws as well!”

…What?

Miles frowned. “His flaws? What are you talking about, Everett?”

She giggled again. “Oh, I’m sorry! Of course Mr. Wright is perfect! What am I saying?” She laughed some more and turned to look out the window again.

Miles sighed.

I swear to God…

“After all…” Kath glanced at him over her shoulder. “Why would you see his tardiness as something negative?” She grinned. “The more he makes you wait, the better it is, right?”

Miles closed his eyes and rubbed his temples.

Christ. Is this all she ever thinks about?

“Everett…”

“Kath.”

“Kath, what did I tell you about making tasteless jokes about our private life?” He sent her a glare and crossed his arms again.

“Aww, but, Miles!” She turned back around and walked up to the bench Miles was sitting on. “You should see your face when I tease you about it. You’re so cute when you’re embarrassed, I just can’t help myself.” She bent down and looked Miles in the eye, a grin on her face. “Besides… you shouldn’t blame me. I’m not the one doing ‘private’ things in public.”

Miles brought his hand to his face. “For Christ’s sake, Everett…”

Kath burst out laughing and flopped down on the bench next to him. “See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about!”

Someone kill me now…

The door at the end of the hallway suddenly creaked open and Phoenix appeared from behind it. He ran a hand through his wet hair – he apparently still hadn’t discovered what umbrellas were for – and walked up to them. “Sorry I’m late.” He grinned sheepishly and scratched the back of his neck.

Here comes the excuse.

“I kind of… missed the bus.”

Miles looked away to hide a smile but couldn’t suppress a chuckle.

What a surprise…

“What’s so funny, Edgeworth?”

Miles looked back at Phoenix and saw him trying to fix his hair by looking at his reflection in the window.

“You’re a mess, Wright,” he commented with a smirk.

“Well, it’s not my fault you decided to change plans and were too lazy to come pick me up.”

Miles frowned.

What the hell do you think you’re doing?

“But, Mr. Wright,” Kath cut in. “Couldn’t you just take your car?” She paused and glanced out the window. “Or is it that you don’t drive in the rain?”

Phoenix turned to look at her. He looked slightly embarrassed. “Well…”

“Wright doesn’t even have his driver’s license, Everett,” Miles explained, ignoring Phoenix’s glare.

“Oh…” Kath seemed confused for a moment, probably wondering how it was possible for a twenty-five-year-old man not to have his license yet. But her frown quickly disappeared to give place to a smile that definitely screamed bad news. “How cute!” She giggled and clapped her hands together. “Now I know who the man in this relationship is!”

Miles blinked. “…What?”

“I should have known you liked being in charge, Miles!” She laughed again. “I mean, with you being a perfectionist and all!”

…Perfectionist?

“And honestly, who in their right mind would want to get their license when they can get rides in a car like yours!” She winked suggestively. “I’m sure that back seat has seen a lot of act--”

“Miss Everett, I don’t think that’s any of your business,” Phoenix interrupted.

“Aww, you’re no fun!” Kath whined. “I nearly had Miles blushing, too!”

Phoenix crossed his arms. “Well, I don’t like when people embarrass him.”

Says the one who spent a whole night doing it on purpose…

Kath grinned. “You’re really protective over him, aren’t you, Mr. Wright?”

Phoenix shrugged. “What can I say, I love him too much.” He turned back around to face the window and started fixing his hair again.

Why did he come to my defence like that after I brought up the license thing to make fun of him?

…Who am I kidding? He probably just cut her off because he was getting embarrassed himself.

What a hypocrite.

Phoenix pouted at his reflection as he tried to brush a strand of wet hair out of his forehead, only to have it fall back down into place.

Miles smiled to himself.

He’s such a child…

And what’s this obsession he has with his hair? It’s not as if there’s a way to make these stupid spikes look anything but messy.

“What’s up, Miles?” Kath asked suddenly. “You’re being awfully quiet.”

Miles blinked as he lost his train of thought. He glanced at her briefly in a daze, before bringing his attention back to Wright.

“Oh… nothing… I was just… thinking.”

Phoenix chuckled. “What a surprise.”

Miles scowled. “What’s that supposed to mean, Wright?”

“You think too much, Edgeworth.”

“Now, now, you two,” Kath interrupted. “Stop it with the surnames, will you?”

Damn. Forgot about that.

“Everett, we’re still in the Courthouse. I thought I was clear on this point.”

Kath rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on! There’s no one even around.”

“Yeah, Miles. Stop being so cold.” Phoenix was still staring at the window, but Miles could see his grin in the reflection.

Nice try, but I’m pretty sure she wasn’t referring to me twice when she said ‘you two’.

“Amusing as ever, Phoenix,” Miles commented dryly.

Phoenix shrugged. “I try.” He took one last glance at his hair and turned around. “So, where are we going?”

“Actually…” Miles paused and glanced over at Kath. “I hope you don’t mind if Everett joins us. I told her we were having lunch together, but she insisted on tagging along.”

“Aww, Miles,” Kath pouted. “You make it sound like I’m some kind of stalker.”

Because you aren’t?

Phoenix chuckled. “It’s okay, I don’t mind.” He paused and rubbed his chin, an amused smile appearing on his lips.

Oh Christ. Don’t you dare, Wright!

“I was looking forward to some alone time together, but I guess it’ll have to wait till tonight.”

Kath giggled and Miles didn’t have to look at her to know that she was blushing and that her face read something along the lines of ‘I knew it’.

Why is it that everyone always seems to be conspiring against me?

Miles sighed. “Ph… Phoenix… I thought we had a deal.”

Phoenix gave him a blank look.

Oh, please don’t do this to me. You know what I’m talking about.

“Aww, Miles, don’t get mad at Mr. Wright. It’s my fault you won’t be able to carry out that little… ‘deal’ of yours.” She grinned. “But, you know, you could alw--”

“Everett. Just… just stop.” Miles shook his head. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“Oh, right!” Kath raised a finger and tapped it thoughtfully on her chin. “Well, there’s this great fast food joint I know just around the corner. I was thinking we could go there.”

Fast food? Great? I didn’t think it was possible to put those words in the same sentence.

“Evere--”

“I’m afraid Miles isn’t very fond of fast food, Miss Everett.”

Miles blinked, then turned to look at Phoenix.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Wright’s actually being helpful today.

“What a shame,” Kath replied, frowning. “Their burgers are really something.”

I’m sure they are. Except we don’t know what that ‘something’ is.

Kath got up from the bench and stretched, before fixing her jacket and flattening her skirt with her hands. “Well, then… I suppose we could just eat at the canteen. The weather is awful, anyways.”

…The canteen? So Everett can let everyone here know what a ‘cute’ couple Wright and I make?

No way in hell that’s happening.

Miles shook his head. “The canteen is out of the question, Everett.”

Kath raised an eyebrow. “Oh…? Oh, right.” She glanced over at Phoenix and smiled. “What, with Mr. Wright and his roving hands. I suppose it would be bad if someone noticed.”

Phoenix quickly looked away to hide an obvious blush, which caused Kath to burst into laughter.

Miles smirked.

At least I’m not the one being mistaken for a pervert.

“Well, you guys decide on a place, then,” Kath said, coughing a little as she tried to regain her breath. “I’ll be right back. I’m gonna go grab a coffee. I was up all night partying and I didn’t get any sleep. Don’t run away, you two!” She turned on her heel and took a few steps down the hallway, before stopping and glancing over her shoulder. “And no groping while I’m gone, Mr. Wright. I’m keeping an eye on you.” She giggled and set off again, before disappearing around the corner.

Phoenix sighed. “That’s a nice opinion of me she’s got, there.”

Miles crossed his arms. “Well, I guess you deserved it. That’ll teach you to be so clingy.”

“Hey! That’s got nothing to do with it!” Phoenix replied defensively. “It’s not my fault she misinterprets everything I say and do.”

Miles chuckled. “I know.”

Phoenix smiled and shook his head, before taking another glance at himself in the window.

Miles rolled his eyes. “Your hair is fine, Wright.”

“Huh…?” Phoenix snapped his head back around and blinked. “No, I wasn’t looking at my hair. I was looking at--”

“The rain?” Miles raised an eyebrow.

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “…Yeah. You know, raindrops are fascinating.”

Miles smirked. “Your bluffing skills are as bad as ever.”

“Hey! I’m really good at bluffing!” Phoenix retorted, failing miserably at sounding offended. “Except… it never works with you.” He smiled sheepishly.

Miles snorted. “Of course it doesn’t.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes, that stupid smile never leaving his lips, and walked up to the bench to sit down next to Miles.

Miles instinctively looked down to check how much space was left between them, before realizing it really didn’t bother him that much.

No unexplained dizziness…

My pulse’s still not acting up…

I don’t know what was wrong with me the other night, but I obviously wasn’t feeling well.

Perhaps I just panicked at the idea of screwing everything up…?

But then… why did I keep thinking about Wright? This doesn’t make any sense…

Miles frowned and rubbed his temples.

Wright’s right. I really do think too much.

“Something wrong, Edgeworth?”

Miles shook his head. “I think Everett was starting to give me a headache.”

“I don’t blame you,” Phoenix replied. “She’s kind of… loud.”

Miles turned to him. “Kind of? Sometimes I wonder if she’s worse than Larry.”

Phoenix laughed. “No, I think that’s impossible. One thing’s for sure, though, we better pack up on painkillers for tomorrow night. I mean, the two of them teaming up?”

Miles sighed. “Don’t remind me.”

There was silence for a moment.

“I’m sorry about before,” Phoenix said suddenly.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “About what?”

“You know… the phone call.” He paused. “It’s just… I th--”

“You thought it would be funny. I know.”

So predictable.

Phoenix blinked. “Yeah… well… I just figured I should apologise. I promised I wou--”

“It’s fine, Wright.”

“Are you sure?” Phoenix asked hesitantly.

“Yes. Don’t worry about it.”

Phoenix looked at him for a few seconds, as if trying to read his expression, before smiling and turning his gaze towards the window.

Is it so hard to believe that I’m not mad at him?

Miles observed Phoenix quietly, expecting him to pick the conversation up again at any second. A moment went by, the only sound coming from the way the raindrops fell at an angle against the window. Phoenix was still smiling, and Miles vaguely wondered what he was thinking about. He quickly dismissed the question, however, realising he could tell the other man didn’t have anything on his mind. Wright always had this habit of slightly furrowing his eyebrows when he thought about something. But, right now, he just looked at peace, content to simply sit there and listen to the rain fall. Miles had to admit it was strangely soothing.

Especially after having to listen to Everett for nearly an hour.

Phoenix finally turned back to him, and Miles instinctively looked away. He didn’t want Wright to get the wrong idea and think he’d been staring at him. Because he wasn’t.

“Say, Edgeworth…”

“Hmm?” Miles looked at him again.

“What’s Kath doing here, anyway?”

“I don’t know.” Miles shrugged. “I guess she had court this morning as well.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “And she was partying all night?”

Miles shook his head. “It’s Everett we’re talking about. Don’t try to understand.”

“Yeah…” Phoenix chuckled. “You’re right.”

Miles smirked.

I really shouldn’t, but…

“Isn’t it usually the other way around?”

“…What?” Phoenix stared at him blankly for a few seconds, until realisation seemed to hit him. “Oh…” He smiled. “Yeah, of course, I’m Wright.”

It really doesn’t take much to make him smile, does it?

Always the same stupid joke, and it still amuses him.

Phoenix glanced down at the briefcase on the floor between them, before looking back up at Miles. “How did the trial go?”

Miles suppressed a shudder at the memory of the defendant and his wife – and pretty much everything about that case, to be honest – and shook his head slightly. “I’d rather not think about it.”

Phoenix frowned. “What happened?”

“Nothing.” Miles sighed. “It just took a lot longer than it should have. All because of a ridiculous mistake that should have been avoided.” He paused. “But people like wasting my time, apparently.”

Phoenix looked amused for some reason. “Gumshoe?”

Miles rolled his eyes. That seemed to be a good enough answer for Phoenix, as he looked away briefly and chuckled.

Thank you for not laughing at my misfortune, Wright.

“So…” Phoenix started again, taking another quick glance at the briefcase. “Tons of paperwork, I presume?”

Miles let out another sigh. “What do you think?”

“I think this paperwork’s gonna take a lot longer than it should,” Phoenix replied.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

Phoenix grinned. “Well, you know, since you have to waste your time going out to lunch with me.”

Don’t start, Wright.

“It’s not as if I really have a choice,” Miles grumbled.

Phoenix suddenly looked serious. “You don’t?”

Miles gave him a blank look.

Phoenix stood up and took a couple of steps towards the door, before turning back around to look down at Miles. “Come on.”

Miles frowned. “What are you…?”

“Let’s get out of here before she comes back,” Phoenix urged, glancing up briefly to make sure Everett was nowhere in sight.

Miles blinked a few times, wondering if Wright was actually considering this. “…You can’t be serious.”

“Why not?” Phoenix asked.

Miles crossed his arms. “Wright. She told us to wait. It would be rude to--”

“Oh, come on.” Phoenix rolled his eyes. “As if that would be worse than the comments she keeps making about us.”

“…I suppose you have a point,” Miles admitted. “But still, I’d rather not give her any ideas.” He winced slightly at the thought of how she might interpret their disappearance. “Not to mention we’ll never hear the end of it tomorrow.”

“It’s alright, I’ll take the blame.” Phoenix smiled. “She already thinks I’m a pervert, anyway.”

Miles stared at him. “You’re an idiot.”

Phoenix laughed softly. “Maybe, but I know the last thing you want right now is to waste your time on a stupid lunch date. So, come on.” He nodded towards the door. “Besides, I have work to do, too.”

Liar.

Miles shook his head in defeat and got up from the bench. He picked up his briefcase and umbrella, before catching up to Phoenix, who’d already set off for the exit.

“I can’t believe this…” Miles muttered, sighing, as they pushed open the doors.

Phoenix laughed again. “Don’t be like that. You want this paperwork over with or not?”

Miles set down his briefcase and started opening his umbrella. “Yes, but this is so… childish.” The umbrella clicked and Miles lifted it above his head. “Though I can’t say I’m surprised, coming from you.” He gave Phoenix a glare, which didn’t seem to affect him in the slightest.

Why am I even going along with this?

Ridiculous.

He picked up his briefcase again and set off towards the parking lot. He didn’t get far, however, stopping abruptly when he reached the end of the overhang and the first raindrops hit the umbrella. It was raining a lot harder than he thought. He glanced over his shoulder at Wright, who was reaching out from under the roof with his hand, apparently trying to determine the best moment to make a run for it.

Why do I feel so bad? It’s not my fault he’s a helpless idiot.

And I certainly don’t owe him anything.

“Come on, Wright.”

“…Huh?” Phoenix looked at him blankly.

Miles rolled his eyes. “Fine. Stay there, then.” He started walking again.

“Wait.”

Miles turned around to see Phoenix catch up to him, a smile on his face.

“Thanks, Edgeworth.”

Miles shook his head. “Bring your own next time.”

He glanced at Phoenix’s suit as they walked, which was still wet from earlier. “Really, Wright, you could have at least worn a coat.”

Phoenix shrugged. “It was warm this morning, so I didn’t think I’d need one.” He stepped around a puddle Miles had walked next to on purpose. “How was I supposed to know it would start pouring like this?”

“There’s this thing called a weather forecast that normal people look at before going out,” Miles said, smirking. “Learn to think ahead. Improvising will only get you so far.”

Phoenix smirked back. “Far enough to beat you three times in a row, apparently.”

“Shut up, Wright.”

Phoenix chuckled.

They walked in silence for a while, their shoulders occasionally brushing together as they tried to fit under the umbrella that was definitely too small for both of them. Phoenix kept looking at his feet. He’d apparently noticed that Miles was walking suspiciously close to all the water puddles.

They eventually reached Miles’ car and stopped. They stood in front of each other without saying anything for a moment.

“So, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” Phoenix said, finally, taking a glance at the bus stop around the corner.

Miles put his briefcase down and took his keys out of his pocket. “You’d better be ready when I come to pick you up this time,” he replied, unlocking his door.

Phoenix rolled his eyes, before turning his attention back to the bus stop.

Miles looked down at the puddle of water next to his feet and noted the way his reflection was made into indistinct shapes by the torrent of raindrops. He looked back up at Wright.

“…Here,” he said tentatively, holding out the umbrella.

Phoenix turned back to him and blinked.

Miles smirked. “Wouldn’t want your precious hair to get all ruined again.”

If you’re not careful, you’ll need a pitchfork to straighten it out.

Chapter Text

-Ding-Dong-

Phoenix moved to open the door, before pausing and quickly dashing over to the mirror. He ran a hand over his hair to flatten the small bits that had gone astray and sorted out his collar. His white shirt and black jacket with ‘stylishly’ frayed jeans looked pretty good, if he did say so himself.

Not to say that he didn’t normally look presentable, but it would have been bad to get shown up by Edgeworth and his expensive tastes.

Besides, my suit is still wet from yesterday.

-Ding-Dong-

He took one last glance at his reflection and went over to the coffee table to grab his cell. “Alright, alright, I’m coming!” He looked around to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything and rushed over to open the door.

“Hey there, Edgeworth!”

Miles stared at him blankly for a moment and raised an eyebrow. “You’re ready?”

No need to sound so disbelieving…

“Yeah, pretty much, I think.” Phoenix patted his jeans’ pockets to find his keys, inconspicuously glancing down to see what Edgeworth was wearing. It just happened to be an expensive-looking black shirt, complete with black and silver tie and snug, designer jeans.

Make that very snug designer jeans.

Phoenix pouted.

So much for looking better than him…

He looked back up at Miles and frowned. “Damn it, Edgeworth, would it kill you to wear something that doesn’t cost my whole wardrobe?” He finally managed to pull out his keys with a small jingle. “You need to stop showing me up.”

Miles crossed his arms. “I could turn up in a cardboard box and I’d still be wearing more expense than your entire wardrobe, Wright.”

Phoenix winced.

Ouch.

“But I don’t see why you’re complaining,” Miles added, taking a small glance at Phoenix’s clothes. “What you’re wearing looks mildly more presentable than normal.”

“Thanks, Edgeworth. That’s really kind of you not to look down on us lowly mortals,” Phoenix muttered, stepping out of his apartment and turning around to lock the door.

“Don’t start, Wright. I’m already in a bad mood.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow and pocketed his keys. “Oh, really? I wouldn’t have guessed.”

Miles rolled his eyes and set off for the stairs at the end of the hall. Phoenix followed, deciding it best to keep his mouth shut for now. Larry and Kath were more than enough to deal with all night, he didn’t need an angry Edgeworth to boot.

“Wright, would you do me a favour?” Miles asked as he reached the end of the hall, waiting for Phoenix to catch up.

“Sure, what is it?”

Miles sighed. “Make sure you leave time to plan my funeral next week.”

Well, at least he’s warned me about his death this time.

Phoenix chuckled as he pushed open the door to the staircase. “How can you say that? We haven’t even got there yet.”

“Believe me, if the car journey here was any indication, I’ll be dead within the hour.”

“Do I want to know?” Phoenix asked, grabbing onto the railing as he made his way down the stairs.

Miles shook his head. “Let’s just say that Tuesday was nothing compared to what we have to deal with tonight.”

“Ah, yeah.” Phoenix frowned. “I dread to think what’s gonna happen with two romantic freaks trying to encourage our ‘relationship’.”

One was bad enough, thank you very much.

Miles glanced at Phoenix, before looking back down at the stairs. “Need I remind you whose fault it is that I’m coming?”

Well, I’d hope it isn’t mine. That’d be disturbing.

Phoenix looked away to hide his grin, deciding it best not to voice that out loud. He didn’t have that much of a death wish.

“Oh, come on, you make it sound like some kind of torture,” he replied instead, turning back to Miles with a smirk in place. “Aren’t you glad we get to spend some quality time together?”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Shut up, Wri--”

“Hey, Nick! How’re you doing?”

Phoenix froze on the spot.

Larry was leaning against the doorframe, an idiotic grin on his face. He was wearing an incredibly tacky bright red shirt, and Phoenix vaguely wondered how he hadn’t noticed him sooner.

“Oh… Hey.” Phoenix sent a curious look Miles’ way, who simply shook his head in a ‘Just don’t ask’ manner.

And here was I thinking I’d get to keep my ears intact at least a little longer.

“I didn’t know you were getting a lift with us, Larry.”

“Didn’t want to miss out on all the action now, did I?” Larry said, beaming from ear to ear.

Miles’ eye twitched a bit at that. “He thinks he’d ‘miss out on the gayness’ if he didn’t join us in the car.”

Well, that explains the bad mood.

Phoenix frowned and turned to Larry. “You do know we’re not going to do anything gay unless we have to, right?”

Larry laughed. “Dude, you’re dating a guy. If that’s not gay, I don’t know what is.”

Phoenix sighed and rubbed his forehead. “We’re not dating; we’re pretending to date. Under your advice, even!” He sent Larry a disbelieving look. “You do know what that word means, right?”

“Pretending, dating; tomato, tomato.” Larry flicked his hand. “They’re the same; you still have to practice all the actions.”

I don’t think you’re supposed to pronounce ‘tomato’ the same way each time, Larry…

Wait…

“P-practice!?” Phoenix spluttered.

Larry straightened up, wide-eyed. “What, you mean you don’t practice!?” He punched a fist into his other hand. “Dudes, you’re never going to look like the real thing with this attitude! You should be practicing day and night!”

“Whoa, hold it, there.” Phoenix held up a hand and Larry looked at it cross-eyed. “What the hell is there to ‘practice’, anyway?”

Larry stopped staring at Phoenix’s hand and his eyes started to tear up. “I can’t believe you, Nick! All these years of knowing me, and not even one bit of my genius with romance has rubbed off on you!”

That can only be a good thing.

“Y’know, after that first date that went wrong, I would’ve thought that you two would be doing your best to make it look good! I mean, for a start, I heard from Kathy that you didn’t talk about anything personal, your sex jokes were lax, and that she had to practically force you to share food. Not to mention, it took Nick, like, half an hour to realise why Edgey had left to go to the bathroo--”

“I’ve told you, that wasn’t intended,” Miles interrupted sharply, looking back up from his watch.

I’m just scared that he can get all this information out of her…

“That’s my point!” Larry retorted. “You should be practicing to do those kinds of things on purpose!”

“Larry, I don’t think you get it,” Phoenix cut in. “You don’t practice… that stuff with a friend.”

“Well, I practiced with my friend,” Larry said, pouting, before rubbing his chin. “Damn, she was real good at kissing, and hot, too…”

Phoenix could feel a headache approaching. “She was a girl. Edgeworth is a guy. And neither of us is gay.”

Larry’s expression went blank. “Oh. But I thought you were being gay so I could get Kathy?”

Phoenix brought a hand to his face.

There’s no hope for him.

“If you’re quite finished, I’d like to get this night over with,” Miles said quickly, gesturing to the exit.

“But I was just getting started on the good bit!” Larry whined, before retreating from the glare Miles shot him.

“Just shut up and give me the address,” Miles scolded, following Larry out the door.

“Ah, right, the address.” Larry stuck his tongue out as he stared off in the distance. “It’s a club called Bar Six--” Larry suddenly stopped and slapped a hand over his mouth, his eyes widening dramatically.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Bar Six?”

Does that even exist?

“I’ve never heard of it,” Miles said, confirming Phoenix’s thoughts.

“Shit, Edgey! Don’t coax me into giving away the secret like that!” Larry cried after letting go of his mouth in favour of waving his arms about.

Phoenix chuckled and shook his head. “We’re going to have to find out sooner or later.”

“But, dudes, if I tell you now, you’ll never go!”

Miles sighed. “Perhaps the genius knows a way of telling us where we’re going without giving away his brilliant secret?” He crossed his arms. “Go by yourself if you aren’t going to tell us. After all, you’re the one with a date tonight.”

“What happened to our date, Edgeworth?” Phoenix asked with a smirk.

Larry frowned and rubbed his chin. “Edgey, dude, it’s no wonder you can’t get a woman if you forget all your dates.”

I wasn’t being serious, Larry…

Miles scowled. “Date or no date, there’s no way of getting there without the address.”

“Okay, okay, I give in.” Larry let out a long sigh and held out a hand in front of him. “If you wanted me to drive, you could’ve just asked me.”

Phoenix snorted at Miles’ expression.

“There is no way in hell I am letting you drive my car,” Miles retorted, slapping away Larry’s hand. “I’d actually feel safer with Wright behind the wheel.”

Larry laughed, seemingly unaffected by the jibe, and patted Miles on the back. “Dude, Nick doesn’t even have his license.”

That might just be the point.

Miles rubbed his temples. “Larry, give me the damned address now or you can forget about your date.”

Larry jumped away from Miles as if he had been electrocuted. “Uh, okay, I’ll… I suppose I could just give you the directions,” he mumbled, scratching his head.

Phoenix sent Miles an amused look and received a weary sigh in response. Sticking his hands in his pockets, he smiled as he followed Miles and Larry to the car.

Getting Larry to cooperate with one simple sentence?

I’ve got to hand it to him; that was pure genius.

---

Phoenix rested his chin on his hand as he watched the streetlights fly by the car window. His thoughts drifted around everything that had happened in the past week. As weird and unexpected as pretending to date Edgeworth had been, Phoenix found he was rather enjoying it. Not the dating itself, of course, but the fact that he finally got to really spend some time with his friend. And no matter how much Edgeworth complained about it, it was still obvious to Phoenix that he really didn’t find it as unbearable as he let on. Perhaps he was finally starting to value friendship after all those years?

One thing was for sure, though; they wouldn’t be where they were now, were it not for the fake relationship. The fact that Edgeworth had to try and make their friendship work again had made the whole thing so much easier. And being forced to see each other as much as possible wasn’t exactly a bad thing. It was something for Phoenix to look forward to.

Pretty ironic that being so confused about one relationship and getting drunk over it led me to rekindle my friendship with Edgeworth.

Phoenix smiled to himself.

Although, if I had my time again, I think ‘honey’ would be the last thing I’d say to greet him…

“Hey, Nick, can we swap places? I think I’ve got pins and needles in my left leg but it’s gone all numb so I can’t tell anymore.”

Phoenix sighed and turned around in his seat, not missing the eye roll from Miles next to him.

“Larry, you were the one who wanted to sit in the back. I told you it would be uncomfortable, but did you listen?”

“But, dude, I didn’t want to interfere with you and Edgey getting some last-minute practice in!” Larry whined, stretching his leg so that it pushed into the back of Phoenix’s seat. “Plus I thought it’d be cool to see what it’s like in the back of a sports car.”

Only you could contemplate being made into human paste as being cool.

They came to a set of traffic lights and the car ground to a halt.

“Which way, Larry?” Miles asked, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel.

“Uh… I can’t see from here. Let me get a closer look.” Larry pushed forward from his position and leaned heavily on the back of Phoenix’s seat, much to his joy. “It’s a right here, and then you go straight on till you see this strip club on your left.”

Miles raised an eyebrow, but didn’t question the directions.

There’s no point in trying to figure the Butz out, after all.

“So, swapsies, Nick?”

“Stuff it, Larry. I’m comfortable where I am, thanks.”

“But I don’t want to crumple my babe magnet!”

As they set off again, Phoenix glanced at Miles, who had turned his attention back to the road.

I guess I’m the one who’ll have to keep him entertained, then.

He turned around and raised an eyebrow at Larry through the very small gap between the front seats. “Babe magnet?”

Larry wiggled around a bit more, kicking the back of Phoenix’s seat several times in the process.

“There’s always a reason for my bright colours like this red, y’know,” Larry said with an air of haughtiness that really didn’t suit him. “The ladies are attracted to them. I stand out from the crowd and show them that I can give them what they’re after.”

Phoenix rubbed his chin.

If that’s how he gets all those model girlfriends, I’m borrowing Edgeworth’s suit.

“Wright, remind me never to buy a red shirt.”

Phoenix chuckled.

Well, that’s not ironic at all.

“You’re just jealous because you’re not wearing your frills and won’t be able to attract all the ladies,” Phoenix answered with a grin.

Miles snorted. “Straight on?” he asked Larry, clearly ignoring Phoenix’s comment.

“Yeah, then it’s, like, the tenth left. It’s really easy to spot ‘cause there’s a hobo who sits on the corner. Funny dude, he is. He once shoved a coin up his nose and got it stuck there for months.”

I’m not gonna ask.

They fell into a long silence, the only sounds being Larry’s shuffling and Miles counting the turnoffs under his breath.

Larry sighed loudly and tapped his foot, before stretching his hand out between the seats to fiddle with the buttons on the dashboard.

Phoenix looked down at the hand and frowned. “Larry, what’re you doing?”

“Looking for the cigarette lighter…” He leaned forward even more and pressed a random button.

The radio started to blare out of the speakers at full blast, making Phoenix jump in his seat.

Miles slapped the wandering hand away and turned off the radio. “Don’t touch. I’d like to return home tonight with my car in one piece.”

“Dude, you’re acting like my mom,” Larry complained.

Phoenix turned to him. “Why the hell do you want the cigarette lighter, anyway?”

“Just wanted something to mess with.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Larry,” Phoenix replied hastily.

“But I’m so bored, man!”

Phoenix turned to Miles. “Do you have anything to keep him occupied?”

Miles sighed. “If it’ll stop him from setting my car on fire, you can look if there’s anything in the glove compartment.”

Right… glove compartment… glove compartment…

“Where next?”

“Not far now,” Larry answered. “Just look for this tree that looks like a naked chick. It should be on the left somewhere.”

That’s us lost, then.

Phoenix laughed slightly, before going back to searching for the glove compartment. He looked above him and saw nothing. He then checked both sides of the seat and under it, only to come up with the same result.

“Dashboard, Wright.”

Phoenix felt his cheeks flush slightly. “Oh, yeah, the dashboard…” He chuckled sheepishly.

“Under the windshield.”

Yeah, I knew that.

He spotted the small handle in front of him and pulled it.

Well, if I didn’t look like an idiot before, I certainly do now.

Phoenix noticed Miles glancing at him as he started looking through the glove compartment.

“It’s an easy mistake, Wright,” Miles told him, after glancing at him a couple more times. “Don’t worry about it.”

Phoenix paused a moment. “Mistake?” he questioned, rubbing the back of his neck. “It’s just me being stupid.”

A red and white plastic box caught his attention and he picked it up to look at it.

Steel Samurai Mints. Don’t let your breath get as foul as the Evil Magistrate.

What the…?

Phoenix chuckled. “Edgeworth, what’s this?”

“Mints, Wright,” Miles replied dryly.

That’s not what I meant and you know it.

“Oh! Mints!” Larry ripped the box from Phoenix’s hand. “Thanks, Edgey! I can use these to freshen up my breath for the ladies.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes.

He’s like a ten-year-old.

…Minus the ‘ladies’ thing.

He smiled to himself.

But I guess Larry’s not the only one who never fully grew up.

Though, in Edgeworth’s case, it’s not exactly a bad thing.

“There’s the parking lot, right on the left!” Larry yelled suddenly.

The car slowed down a bit. “Is that on the right, or on the left?” Miles asked.

“I told ya, right on the left… right… there!” Larry flung a hand between the seats and pointed to the left, nearly hitting Phoenix in the face with his elbow. “Damn, you missed it.”

Miles sighed and shook his head. “I wouldn’t have missed it if you weren’t an idiot unable to give proper directions.”

“But, dude! I told you to look for the naked chick!” Larry whined.

“My point exactly.”

Phoenix chuckled.

And to think it can only get worse from here…

---

Phoenix looked around as he and Miles followed Larry to wherever they were headed. For a parking lot that was supposedly close to the bar, it seemed to him they’d been walking for an awfully long time.

“We’re nearly there, hurry up already!”

I lost count of how many times he’s said that now.

I’m starting to doubt he even knows what it means.

“Where exactly is ‘nearly there’?” Miles questioned, glancing around at the buildings before turning to Phoenix with a raised eyebrow.

Phoenix shrugged and sent a worried look Larry’s way.

Wow, Edgeworth’s actually going to look at me tonight!

He grinned.

And I don’t feel like I’m about to be frozen by his aura anymore, either.

Perhaps he’s actually going to make an effort?

“Dudes, it’s just around that corner, come on already!” Larry called from his position up front, before darting around the corner.

“Five dollars on it being a strip club,” Phoenix said, making Miles wince.

“Don’t you dare jinx it, Wright.”

Phoenix laughed and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Well, Larry doesn’t keep secrets for nothing, you know.”

Miles sighed as they finally caught up to Larry, who was looking pretty pleased with himself as he measured up the building in front of them.

“There you go, the perfect place for our double date, if I do say so myself.”

Phoenix looked up to read the name of the place.

You have got to be kidding me.

He stared at the neon lights, but nothing changed. He closed his eyes and opened them again, but still no luck.

Bar Six-T-Nine.

I don’t believe it. Larry’s taken us to Bar Six-T-fucking-Nine.

“Oh my God… Just… Oh my God.” Phoenix backed off a bit. “This is a joke, a really bad one, right?” He turned to Miles with wide eyes.

Miles frowned up at the bar and his jaw seemed to tighten. “I’m currently trying to convince myself, Wright.”

Larry laughed and put his arms around the two of them. “See? I told you I’d found the perfect place!”

‘Perfect’ is not quite the word I’m looking for…

Though I should have expected it.

It is Larry, after all.

Phoenix sighed and rubbed his forehead.

Any normal night, I’d just laugh and make a joke out of it, but tonight, I’m with Edgeworth!

Trying to be friends with him again, while acting like his partner without freaking him out in there?

It’s going to be damned impossible.

“Larry… why? Why a gay bar?” Phoenix asked weakly.

“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad,” Larry replied, patting him on the back and failing to sound reassuring.

Miles glared at him. “Why would you ever have considered this a good idea?”

Larry crossed his arms and tilted his head to the side. “Isn’t it obvious? There won’t be any straight guys to hit on Kathy, and you two will fit right in!”

Fit right in?

“We’re not really dating, or gay,” Phoenix replied, annoyed. “And, Larry, thinking no one will hit on Kath is wrong. There will be women in there, too.”

Larry clapped his hands together. “Hell yeah! More ladies for the Butz to charm.”

Phoenix blinked. “Larry, they’re lesbians.”

Larry grabbed Phoenix by the shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. “Dude, did you just say lesbians?”

“Yes, lesbians,” Phoenix repeated slowly.

Larry’s eyes glinted in the dim light. “Nick, I do think this may just be the best night ever.”

Phoenix frowned. “But they won’t be interested in y--”

“Think of all the hot lesbians, Nick!” Larry exclaimed, shaking Phoenix harshly by the shoulders. “I get the laughs from you two, I get the romance from my dearest Kathy, and then, there’s the hotness, right there!”

Phoenix pushed Larry’s hands off of him. “You’re telling me Kath seriously agreed to this?”

“Huh? Why wouldn’t she?” Larry asked, a confused look on his face. “She was all for it when I told her you two were regulars.”

There really is no point, is there?

“I feel a migraine coming on…” Miles muttered.

“Miles! Mr. Wright!”

Phoenix turned around to see Kath standing right next to them, smiling.

“I could recognise that voice anywhere!” Larry shouted from behind. He rammed Phoenix out of the way to take her hand. “Kathy, my sweet, it’s lovely to see you.”

Kath giggled as he kissed her hand. “You must be Larry Butz.”

“The one and only, baby!” Larry pulled out a weird-looking flower from his back pocket and handed it to her. “A beautiful rose for a beautiful lady, its life symbolising my love for you.” He bowed dramatically.

Kath took it from his hand and inspected it. “But, Larry, it’s plastic.”

“It is?” Larry’s eyes widened in mock shock. “Why, that can only mean my love for you will last forever!”

Phoenix looked at Miles and tilted his head towards Larry, rolling his eyes.

“That’s… very nice of you,” Kath said uncertainly. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you at last, Larry!” She took her hand away and turned to Miles. “I’m so glad you could all make it tonight.”

“The pleasure is all ours,” Miles replied dryly with a small bow.

“Yeah, Bar Six-T-Nine, huh?” Phoenix said as Kath looked just about ready to die and go to heaven from actually being spoken to by Miles. He grinned cheekily. “I didn’t know you were into this scene, Miss Everett.”

Who said I couldn’t pick the perfect icebreaker?

“You’re a hot lesbian as well!?” Larry yelled, his eyes shining.

Kath looked slightly startled. “Oh! Oh, no, Mr. Wright, don’t get me wrong! I’m as straight as any woman can be!” She glanced over at Miles.

“Aww, so you’re not a lesbian?” Larry pouted.

“No, no. I merely thought you’d both feel more comfortable being together in a less judging and more relaxing environment. It was really quite sweet of you to agree, Larry.”

More like you thought there’d be a better chance of seeing us do… stuff when we’re not in a restaurant or the Courthouse.

Larry laughed. “Only the best for my bestest gay pals!”

“Relaxing environment? You clearly haven’t been here before, Miss Everett,” Phoenix cut in, smile still in place.

“Oh my, is it really that busy?” she asked, wide-eyed.

Larry wrapped an arm around Kath’s waist and pulled her close. “Sweet, you won’t notice anyone else is there when you look into my caramel eyes and get lost in the world of love.”

Okay, Edgeworth really can’t complain about me if he’s witnessing this right now.

Phoenix looked over at Miles to see him shaking his head.

“But, Larry, what if we lose Miles and Mr. Wright in the crowd?” Kath asked.

Larry grinned. “I’m sure they have other things they can get busy with, if you know what I mean.”

Kath blinked up at Larry before turning to Miles. “By the sounds of it, you’re going to have to keep a tight hold on Mr. Wright, Miles. Although…” She removed Larry’s arm, much to his dismay, and blushed slightly. “I’m always free if you don’t want to.”

Phoenix saw Miles’ fist clench and his teeth grit slightly together, both so subtly that it went unnoticed by the other two.

“Everett…”

“It’s Kath, Miles.”

“Right, Kath. I thought you were here to keep Larry company? You shouldn’t worry about us… or me.”

Larry flung his arm over her shoulders as he yawned. “Sorry, babes, just had to stretch, there…”

Kath pouted at Miles, ignoring Larry’s advance. “Damn. But haven’t you two fallen out?”

“What made you think that?” Phoenix asked, trying to mask the nervous feeling in his stomach.

“Well, I just assumed… You’re not being very… touchy.”

No, really? I personally thought that Edgeworth was all over me and not standing next to me looking like a robot.

Kath waved a hand. “No matter, I was just saying, you know, being the good friend I am.”

Phoenix sighed. It wasn’t a good sign if she was denying their relationship already; the night had only just started.

But… the deal. I can’t do anything…

As Kath and Larry started to converse, Phoenix glanced down at Miles’ hand, and then back up at his face, trying to catch his eye. When he did, Miles gave him a look that seemed to suggest he understood. Phoenix gestured at his hand and shrugged.

Miles looked away, but Phoenix noticed his fist unclench, albeit cautiously…

“So, Kathy, you come here often?”

Ignoring Larry’s stupidity, Phoenix bit his lip as he weighed up his options, staring down at Miles’ hand.

I don’t know… Does it really mean he doesn’t mind?

What if I’ve got it wrong and his hand was simply hurting from being clenched for too long?

Well, I don’t think it’s far enough to make him flip out on me…

Phoenix slowly and uncertainly reached for Miles’ hand. There was a fleeting feeling of warmth as their fingers brushed together but didn’t fully connect. He held his breath as he anticipated the dramatic flinch.

But it didn’t happen.

Phoenix chewed on his lip a bit, blocking out Larry’s chat-up lines. He realised that Edgeworth must have been expecting more, as he stood perfectly still, his eyes unfocused as he stared forward at the other two.

Finally plucking up the courage, Phoenix quickly slipped his hand into Miles’ and tightened the grip. He bit down on his lip harder as he waited for the inevitable.

…No reaction.

He breathed a sigh of relief.

I think I’m in the clear.

Edgeworth did, however, look incredibly uncomfortable.

“Don’t worry, Edgeworth, I’ve had my vaccinations,” Phoenix whispered.

He saw Miles roll his eyes at that, but could still feel the tension dissipate a bit.

“Hey, are you two ready to go in too?” Larry butted in, taking his arm off Kath and finally looking back at Phoenix and Miles. He glanced down at their hands and blinked, before looking back up at them with a smirk. He winked and gave them a thumbs up, which he smoothly turned into a quick sweep through his hair as Kath turned back to them.

“It’s starting to get a bit crowded around the entrance now, so we should prob--” Kath cut herself off as she clapped her hands together. “Oh my God! That is so cute!”

Phoenix nearly jumped out of his skin.

Even though he knew it was inevitable, it didn’t make Kath’s voice any less intrusive. He spotted Miles’ grimace and pulled him over to the entrance of the club, not bothering to look back at Kath, who could very well have just turned into a huge pile of mush.

“I swear she catches me out every time,” Phoenix muttered.

“No matter how many times she does it, I’m never going to get used to it,” Miles agreed quietly.

Phoenix smiled as he pushed through a couple of loiterers in the doorway and walked into the bar, Miles trailing behind him.

“Well, it’s not that bad, Edgeworth. I think we’ll live.”

The upbeat music in the small bar was pretty loud, giving it a cheery atmosphere, and the décor was fairly modern, if looking a bit worse for wear. Phoenix chuckled at the many glowing pink ‘69’s lining the wall behind the bar and pointed them out to Miles, who looked slightly less amused. There was an empty area, which Phoenix presumed to be the dance floor, with the bar and a few tables at the other end. It was pretty sparse with people at the moment, but he was sure it would liven up as the night went on.

Only one thing threw the whole scene off: the segregation between females and males.

Ah, well, I suppose I can get used to that…

“Wright, you can let go now.”

Phoenix turned to Miles and blinked. “Let go--oh!” He quickly dropped his grip on Edgeworth’s hand. “Sorry, Edgeworth. I got distracted and all that and… yeah.” He laughed nervously and bit his lip.

Miles flexed his hand and raised an eyebrow at him. “At least it isn’t a strip club.”

“Huh…?”

It was then that Phoenix realized Miles had that look on his face, the one that told him he was being a complete idiot.

“Oh! Strip clubs! Yeah… that would have been bad…”

Nice one, Phoenix.

He just tried to save you the embarrassment by changing the subject and you screw it up.

Phoenix felt someone hit him on the back and turned to see Larry standing there.

“Did someone just say strip clubs?”

“No,” Miles replied. “It’s your wishful thinking again, Larry.”

Larry rubbed his chin. “You could be right! I can’t remember what I was thinking about, but it sounds plausible…”

Kath pushed into the social circle they were standing in. “This is so exciting! We’re all here together for a night out with no one to pressure us, or to judge our lives!” She punched Miles on the arm. “Why didn’t you suggest this place for Tuesday, Miles?”

Miles displayed a mixture of confusion and annoyance on his face. “I didn’t have much say on the matter of our… date on Tuesday.”

“Not to mention it’s not the friendliest of places for a straight woman,” Phoenix commented.

“Yeah, they’re right, Kathy,” Larry agreed. “So, what is it you desire to drink?” he asked silkily, taking Kath’s hand in his and making her giggle.

Phoenix coughed loudly.

“Oh, yeah, and if you two want anything…” Larry added.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “You’re volunteering to get the round?”

Larry merely laughed. “I always get the drinks for us, Nick.” He winked and tilted his head towards Kath.

I suppose he needs all the help he can get.

Phoenix sighed. “Of course, how stupid of me.”

“I’ll have a sparkling water or something soft,” Miles said, playing along as well.

“Edgey, I meant a proper drink. Y’know, one that you drink and actually like?”

“In case you’ve already forgotten, I’m driving, Larry.”

Phoenix ignored Larry’s mutter of ‘Never stopped me before’. “I’ll just have a beer, thanks,” he said, before looking around the room for a place to sit.

He caught the weird look Miles was sending him out the corner of his eye and turned to him. “What is it?”

Miles frowned. “Nothing. Let’s just go and find a table.”

Phoenix shrugged and followed Miles through the crowd as Larry and Kath went off to the bar.

As they got to a table, Miles suddenly turned to Phoenix, stopping him in his tracks. Phoenix had to hold himself back from falling forward into Miles and nearly fell the other way. Miles looked him straight in the eye, making Phoenix hold his breath.

“Wright, are you sure it’s wise for you to be drinking?”

“Huh? Well, I guess… I mean…” Phoenix tore his eyes away from Miles and ran a hand quickly over his hair.

Why was I caught so off-guard there? It’s a simple question!

He turned back to face Miles. “It’s perfectly legal for me to have a drink, Edgeworth.”

“I’m talking about the whole reason this mess started, Wright.”

“You mean last Friday?” Phoenix scoffed. “Don’t worry. I’ve definitely learned my lesson.”

Miles frowned.

“Look, Edgeworth, it’s not as if I’m going to go around the whole bar calling every guy I come across ‘honey’ because of one beer.” He smirked and patted Miles on the shoulder. “Besides, I’m all yours tonight.”

Miles crossed his arms and looked away. “So much for you not being clingy.”

Phoenix grinned and slipped around Miles to sit at the table. “You really don’t like me doing that, do you?”

“It’s not the brightest part of my day,” Miles replied, sitting down next to him.

Phoenix laughed. “Says the man whose highlight of the night would be sitting on the couch reading the newspaper.”

“Don’t forget the cup of tea,” Miles added, resting his face on his hand with a smirk.

Phoenix smiled and shook his head, before taking to glancing around the bar.

It’s so weird, but I think Edgeworth is taking this… well?

Nah. He’s just dealing with it easier.

He smirked at his own thoughts.

It looked like something was bothering him on Tuesday, but, tonight, it seems like a massive weight is off his shoulders.

He took an inconspicuous look at Miles.

Whatever was bugging him certainly isn’t anymore…

Phoenix suddenly spotted a guy in a green shirt who was openly staring at Miles from the bar. He laughed and had to look away from Miles’ questioning glance.

“What’s so amusing, Wright?”

Phoenix shrugged and tried hard not to look back at the bar. “Nothing.”

Okay, now I look like an idiot for laughing at nothing.

“Well, I just didn’t think this place would ever seem so--”

“You say ‘normal’ now, and I’m having you referred to a psychiatrist immediately.”

Phoenix bit back another laugh and flung his arms behind his head.

“I don’t know, Edgeworth, it all seems the same to me. You seem just as popular with the… frothing masses.” Phoenix nodded towards the bar.

Miles frowned and followed Phoenix’s line of sight. The man in green winked at him. Miles quickly snapped his head back towards Phoenix, who was dying to laugh.

“That did not just happen.”

Phoenix snorted.

That’s right, it was all in your yearning imagination.

He felt a little mean when Miles shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“Don’t worry. He’ll get bored sooner or later.” Phoenix smiled at him and stretched a bit. “You know, I appreciate that you came tonight,” he added, deciding that a change in subject would be easier to deal with.

Miles looked at him for a moment before replying, “I would say it’s no problem, like you can so easily, but…” He looked away and frowned.

“Heads up, I’ve got your drinks!” Larry slammed two bottles on the table.

Damn. Just when I was finally getting somewhere.

Phoenix turned to Larry and saw another three drinks in his hand. “Who are the other three beers for?”

“Who else would they be for but me?” Larry answered with a grin. He took a gulp out of one and looked back over at the bar. Something seemed to register with him and he bent down and whispered not-so-quietly to Miles, “Dude, you’re so in there.”

Miles sighed and pushed Larry’s face away. “Larry, go away. Make new friends.”

Larry stood up straight and saluted him. “If that’s an order, Edgey, I’ll gladly accept.”

Phoenix laughed as Larry sauntered off towards the nearest group of women.

He picked up his beer and swirled it around a bit. “You really shouldn’t encourage him like that.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Encourage him? You should be thankful I distracted him.”

Phoenix smiled and brought the bottle to his lips, but paused when he saw the look on Miles’ face. He put it back down on the table and sighed.

“Edgeworth, it’s one drink.”

Miles looked away. “I didn’t say anything.”

“You didn’t have to. Seriously, that sour look spoke volumes about how worried you are.”

Miles frowned. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s not you I’m worried about, Wright. I just feel sorry for the unfortunate people around you.”

Geez, thanks.

Phoenix bit his lip and glanced around.

Even if he doesn’t like the fact that I’m going to drink, it doesn’t give him the right to put me off all night.

“Oh, look! The green guy’s looking over again!”

As soon as Miles went to look, Phoenix quickly took a swig of his beer, but ended up spluttering it out when he noticed that Miles hadn’t actually turned around.

“Pathetic.” Miles shook his head, but there was a hint of amusement in his expression.

Not any more pathetic than… you when you’re… pathetic.

God, I really am pathetic, aren’t I?

“Excuse me?”

Phoenix and Miles both turned to the new voice.

The woman had a small apron tied over her short skirt, and she was holding out a tray with some kind of cocktail on it.

“This is from the guy in green at the bar for the man in the tie,” she said with a smile. She put the glass down on the table and lowered the tray, raising an eyebrow at Miles.

Miles looked down at the drink blankly for a while. Phoenix ended up having to nudge him to provoke an answer as the barmaid looked on expectantly.

Miles seemed at a loss as he glanced at Phoenix and then back at the barmaid. “That’s… Well, I’m driving tonight.” He picked up the glass and handed it back to her. “I can’t accept it.”

Smooth, Edgeworth.

The woman tutted under her breath and shook her head. “He’ll be disappointed.” She took the glass and walked off through the crowd, back towards the bar.

“Wow, Edgeworth… I didn’t know this ‘I-attract-people-even-though-I’m-not-attracted-to-anyone’ thing was this bad.”

Miles looked at him. “Believe me, it is,” he said with a sigh. “And me not being attracted to anyone is pushing it a bit.” He took a sip of water and frowned.

“So… you are attracted to people? To actual human beings, other than yourself?”

Miles rolled his eyes. “I don’t see why you’re so shocked, Wright.”

Shocking doesn’t even come close to describing it. It’s a close feeling to that of your first sex ed lesson, when you learn that your parents were lying about the crane that drops you off from above.

Okay, so not that surprising…

“I guess I’ve just never really thought about it.” Phoenix chuckled to himself. “I bet you’re into those models with the big breasts and long, blonde hair,” he added, taking another gulp of his beer.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Oh, nothing.” Phoenix smirked. “I just thought it was a funny image that you’d find attractiveness attractive.”

Miles sighed and shook his head. “That’s got to be one of the most idiotic things you’ve ever said.”

Phoenix laughed. “Alright, so I worded it a bit wrong, but it’s true. You wouldn’t be looking at one of Larry’s adult magazines if given the choice.”

“I meant the fact that you think attraction can only be found in a plastic-looking model with the most feminine measurements and fairest hair,” Miles said. “Christ, some people might even find you attractive, Wright.”

“Hey! Just because you have a load of women after you doesn’t mean that I’m completely without admirers,” Phoenix stated in his defence.

Miles smirked. “My point exactly.”

You sound about as convincing as a door-to-door salesman.

Phoenix pouted down at the table and took a sip of his beer, trying to ignore Miles’ amused look.

“Sorry to interrupt again, but I’ve got another present.”

Phoenix looked up to see the barmaid from before place a bottle of sparkling water on the table.

God, I can’t take him anywhere.

“Persistent,” Phoenix commented, putting down his beer.

Miles glanced at him, and then back at the water. “Hmm.”

I’ll take that as an agreement, shall I?

Miles picked up the bottle of water, paused, and then handed it back to the barmaid. “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not interested.”

“Hard to get, aren’t you?” the barmaid commented, taking the bottle back from him.

“He’ll get the message this time,” Miles said.

She smirked, before going back to the bar for the second time.

There was silence for a moment.

“I think you’re right about that attraction thing, Edgeworth,” Phoenix eventually said, finishing off his beer.

Miles raised an eyebrow at him.

“I mean, blondes have never really done it for me,” he added, before starting to spin the empty bottle on the table.

Miles sighed. “Wright, just… don’t talk. It saves my brain cells.”

Phoenix laughed and turned to grin at Miles. “I’ll do my best.”

The corners of Miles’ mouth twitched upwards, but he looked away. “Do you know how annoying that smile of yours is?” he asked, sounding anything but annoyed.

Phoenix dropped the grin and rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah, sorry…”

Annoying?

I don’t get it.

He shrugged.

Oh well. I never understand Edgeworth one hundred percent, anyway. Why should tonight be any different?

“Hey there, girlfriends! Mind if I take a seat?” The strange man that seemed to appear out of nowhere didn’t wait for an answer and quickly pulled up a chair opposite them.

Phoenix blinked at him, before looking over at Miles, who looked just as perplexed.

He looked back at the man and realised it was the guy in the green who had been staring at Miles and sending the drinks over. He had blonde hair that was gelled so it was spiky all over and his shirt had some embroidery stitched into it.

“Yes, we mind,” Miles said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Ooh, you’re European! That’s so chic!” The man grabbed Miles’ hand and shook it. “I’m Eddie, but my friends call me Ed, or Good Ed, ‘cause I’m such a nice guy.”

Somehow I doubt that’s the reason…

Eddie didn’t let go of Miles’ hand and leaned forward. “What’s your name?”

Miles blinked, then quickly ripped his hand from Eddie’s. “My name is none of your business,” he replied coldly. “And I’m American.”

Phoenix opened his mouth.

Then closed it.

Words fail me.

Eddie pouted his lips out and put a hand on his chest. “Ooh, get you! I suppose I’ll just have to give you a name, then.” He raised a finger to his lips thoughtfully. “How about ‘Enrique’?” He eyed Miles. “No, no, you’re too pale for that and not as much Spanish as you are French. Hmm… I’m thinking ‘Lawrence’?”

Phoenix jumped as his cellphone suddenly started to vibrate and blare out the Steel Samurai theme in his pocket.

“Ah, excuse me…”

“No problem,” Eddie said with a smile. “You take that call while Lawrence and I get acquainted.”

“My name is not Lawrence.”

Eddie looked surprised. “It isn’t?”

Phoenix blinked, before shaking his head. He took out his cell and inspected the caller ID. He considered cutting the line, but decided to press the accept button. He put the phone to his ear, blocking his other ear with his hand, and sent Miles an apologetic look.

What a time to get a phone call…

“Hello?”

Hey, Nick!” Maya answered cheerfully. “How are you?

“Well, I’m busy at the moment.” He glanced over at Eddie, who was still reeling off names. “Can’t you call back later?”

Aww, but I haven’t had a good chat with you in ages!” Maya whined.

Phoenix sighed and took another look at the situation.

“How about… ‘Richard’?” Eddie asked, obviously not noticing how annoyed Miles looked. “Oh, dear Lord, no. That’s far too boyish. I would say ‘Gary’, but it seems a bit butch for such an elegant and sophisticated man--”

“It’s Miles Edgeworth,” Miles cut in, rubbing his temple.

“Ooh, Miles! That is so luxurious! It really suits your British accent,” Eddie commented, waving his hands around as if he was pretending to be a bird.

“That’s Edgeworth to you,” Miles snapped. “And I’m American.”

Nick? You still there?

“Ah…! Yeah, still here.” Phoenix turned away again. “Look, this is kind of urgent…”

What could be so urgent that you can’t make time to talk with your favourite assistant?” Maya paused as the music in the bar got louder. “What the hell? Where are you?

Would she actually take me seriously if I said ‘Bar Six-T-Nine’?

“At… home,” he said cautiously.

Why on Earth is your music so loud? Won’t the neighbours kill you?

“Larry put it on,” Phoenix answered quickly.

Larry’s there?

“Yeah.”

Maya sighed. “Damn, you two are so useless. I must have rung your home phone a zillion times, and neither of you picked up.

“We… uh… couldn’t hear it.” Phoenix glanced back at Miles and bit his lip.

How did you hear your cell, then?” Maya asked suspiciously.

“Well, it was on vibrate.”

“Hear that, Miles?” Eddie said, leaning closer to Edgeworth. “He needs toys to keep himself satisfied.”

Phoenix’s eyes widened. He saw Eddie grin at Miles, making him shift uneasily back into his seat as far away as possible.

“I’m sure that’s none of your damned business,” Miles commented in a harsh tone.

“I bet you don’t even own any, do you, Miles? You’re certainly handsome enough to do without.”

Miles frowned. “I can’t say I do, but that hasn’t got anything to do with anything.”

“Oh, so you agree vibrators are so overrated?” Eddie probed. “I mean, really, I can do a much better job. And I’m cheaper too.” Eddie placed his elbow on the table and rested his head on his hand. “Free, in fact.”

Who was that!?” Maya asked.

God help me.

“The… err… TV. It’s on very loud.” Phoenix looked at Miles in his uncomfortable position. “Erm, Maya, I kinda have to go…”

Wow, it sounds so real.

“Look, Maya, I really have to go. Now.

Okay, okay, I heard you. I’ll just come over so we can have a proper chat and--

No!” Phoenix shouted. “I mean… err… Larry’s brought over his magazines and he’s trying really badly to get over his latest girl, you know…”

No, I don’t, and I really don’t want to,” Maya replied in a disgusted voice. “I guess I’ll just have to see you tomorrow, then. Bye, Nick!

“Yeah, bye.” Phoenix quickly ended the call and slipped the phone back in his pocket, before turning to Eddie and Miles.

“Look, Eddie,” Miles said, getting up from his seat and leaning over the table. “Let me get one thing straight, here. I am not interested in any of your advances.”

“Ooh, Miles, you’re a feisty one.” Eddie raised a seductive eyebrow. “You seriously want to get right to it?”

Miles flinched. “What!?”

“Come now, don’t act the innocent. We may only have just learned each other’s names, but you can taste the chemistry between us.”

Miles glared down at Eddie and gritted his teeth together.

Looks like it’s time to play the hero again.

Damn, it’s such a tough job being so kind and helpful…

“Eddie, I think my partner has made it perfectly clear that he’s not interested,” Phoenix cut in, also standing up from his seat.

“Aww, has your man been giving you so little action that you need to get your satisfaction from me?” Eddie messed up his hair a bit. “You’re lucky I don’t see commitment as a hurdle I can’t get my leg over.”

Does this man have some kind of alternate world he lives in within his mind!?

Phoenix hit the table. “Weren’t you listening!? He’s not interested!”

Eddie raised his eyebrows patronisingly at Phoenix, before turning back to Miles. “Ooh, you can do so much better than him, Miles.”

Oh, no, you di-in’t, girlfriend!

Phoenix went to retaliate, but stopped when he felt someone grab his hand tightly. He turned to see Miles glaring down at Eddie, pointing his finger with his other hand.

The hand that wasn’t currently in Phoenix’s grasp.

“I don’t have to put up with this,” Miles said coldly, tightening his grip so he was more or less strangling Phoenix’s hand. “As my partner already said, I am not interested, I will never be interested, and I am perfectly happy with the man I’m with. If you keep this up, you can be sure that I’ll sue your ass for sexual harassment.” Miles flexed his other hand before leaning onto the table. “Do I make myself clear?”

To Phoenix’s – and undoubtedly Miles’ – shock, Eddie merely laughed and put his hand on top of Miles’.

“You can ‘sue’ my ass any day you want, Miles.” He winked.

He’s crazy!

Miles pulled his hand away, almost rivalling the speed of light.

“Wright, get us out of this,” he said darkly. His hand tightened around Phoenix’s again, making him wince.

Your wish is my command, Your Majesty.

Phoenix looked around and spotted some free stools around the bar.

“Okay, don’t look now, but there are two bar stools free with no room for him to sit next to us,” he whispered. “Here’s the plan. We run for the stools, and somehow manage to lose him along the way as he fails to dodge the obstacles of humans, drinks and tables, and then we sit down and look like nothing has happened. Any man that falls behind is left behind, okay?” Phoenix did his best to keep a straight face, but couldn’t contain a snort of laughter.

Miles raised an eyebrow at him. “I actually thought you were being serious for a second, there.”

“Well, it’s a serious matter!” Phoenix replied, smirking. “Right, on three…”

Miles rolled his eyes and turned to Eddie. “We’re going. If you follow, I really will press charges.” He turned sharply and dragged Phoenix to the bar, leaving a confused-looking Eddie behind them.

Well, yeah, the law could work…

That was my Plan B.

Miles took a glance over his shoulder, before sighing and taking a seat. “He’s a psychopath.”

Phoenix chuckled, sitting down as well. “You’re telling me.” He shook his head, before looking down at his hand that was still in Miles’ grasp, expecting him to realise any second and drop it quickly.

It was a good half minute into the silent wait, and still nothing had happened.

“Hey, Edgeworth, you can let go of my hand now, you know.” Phoenix smirked and brought their joined hands up to eye level.

Miles looked at the hands, before looking back at Phoenix. “Do you seriously think I’m enough of an idiot to forget that I grabbed your hand?”

“Well, I… hey!”

“There is no way in hell I am letting go, Wright.” He glanced around the bar. “It’s your fault I’m here, and therefore your job to keep people like him away.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes and smiled.

That’s a change of tune if ever I heard one.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were relieved that I intervened, Edgeworth.”

“Don’t be absur--” Miles cut himself off as he seemed to spot something in the crowd. “Oh, for Christ’s sake.”

“What is it?” Phoenix asked, trying to see what Miles was looking at.

“I think bad karma is paying us a visit,” Miles muttered.

Kath suddenly appeared out of the crowd. “Hey, guys!” she shouted, leaning onto the bar. Her cheeks looked flushed and she was a bit out of breath. She downed the remnants of whatever the blue substance in her glass was and grinned at them.

Wow. I totally forgot she was here.

“Everett.” Miles nodded at her.

“Hey, Miss Everett. Having a nice time?” Phoenix asked, eyeing the empty cocktail glass.

“I’m having an amazing time! That dance floor is so alive!” Kath frowned down at Miles and leaned forward a bit so she was at eye level with him. “Have you two been here all night? You’re both so boring!” She grabbed Miles’ free hand. “Let’s go dance!”

Miles snatched his hand away. “No, thanks.”

Kath pouted at him. “Aww, but you can spend all the time you want with Mr. Wright any other day of the week!” She took his hand again and tried to do a twirl under his arm. It was a failure, however, as Miles didn’t participate from his seated position. “You can dance, right?”

If Edgeworth can dance, then there’s no hope left for the male population. He’s already got everything else.

“The time Phoenix and I get together is very limited. We need to savour it,” Miles answered, shaking her hand off again.

Phoenix nodded in agreement.

Fair enough. Edgeworth is close to actually telling the truth, there.

“Yeah. No offence, Miss Everett, but this is kind of a private conversation…”

“‘Conversation’, eh?” Kath smiled cheekily and nudged Miles in the arm with her elbow. “I’m betting your tongues were put to more valuable practice than just ‘conversation’.” She attempted a wink, but it sent her off balance into Miles, making him drop Phoenix’s hand as he defended himself. “Whoops! Sorry, Miles. It’s hard to see what you’re doing with one eye, isn’t it?”

Miles begrudgingly helped her back up and stood up with her. “How much have you had exactly?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing. Orange juice and water with a bit of lemonade and tomato juice… Everything that doesn’t have alcohol in it.” She cleared her throat. “So, private conversations! I really don’t mind watching if you two want some privacy, you know. I still haven’t seen you two, you know, get to it. The more, the merrier, as they always say!”

Because that makes sense.

Kath smiled and stumbled a bit more, grabbing onto Miles before being promptly pushed off, yet again. Miles turned to Phoenix and gestured at Kath, to which Phoenix shook his head.

I’m alright here, thanks. You can deal with this one, Edgeworth.

Miles grimaced, before turning back to Kath. Her eyes shot back up from something she had been inspecting lower down.

“Everett, don’t expect us to show such public--”

Phoenix coughed something that sounded vaguely like ‘sixty-nine’, making Miles sigh in frustration.

Phoenix grinned to himself.

I bet he feels stupid not remembering that one.

“Aren’t you supposed to be with Larry?” Miles asked, changing the subject.

“Oh, yeah, Larry. I don’t know where he went. I think he said something about lesbians?” Kath frowned. “Or was it librarians…?”

“Why not go and look for him? I’m sure he’ll be missing you.” Miles paused. “He’s missing you so very much that you really need to find him. Right now.”

“He is?” Kath asked, confusion on her face. “Oh, but I’d rather stay here. You two are funnier, Miles.” She giggled. “I mean, you’re both so in love when you shouldn’t be that it’s funny!” She made a little heart shape with her fingers, trying to get both of them in her vision. Phoenix looked on amused as Kath laughed to herself. “It’s hilarious. Mr. Wright’s all relaxed, and Miles, you’re all… all… tight-assed…”

She suddenly dropped the heart shape and slapped Miles on the ass, making Phoenix leap out of his seat.

What the…?

Everett! What the hell!?” Miles exclaimed.

“Sorry, sorry, my bad!” Kath held up a hand, giggling slightly. “I know you’re all gay and taken and everything, but your ass looks too damned nice in those jeans.”

“My… Nice!?” Miles rubbed his forehead. “Everett…”

“Kath,” she reminded him cheerily. But instead of letting Miles talk, she continued on. “Seeing as though we’re all up, we can go and dance together!” She pulled Miles by the arm to the dance floor, but was quickly dismissed. However, she didn’t seem to mind too much, and merely went to dance with a random group of people.

Talk about taking advantage of the situation.

Still, the look on Edgeworth’s face…

Phoenix walked up to Miles. “Hey, Edgeworth--”

“Ask me to dance and you’re finding your own way home,” Miles said sharply, not even bothering to look at him.

“I wasn’t even going to suggest that!”

Damn. How did he know?

“I was just going to ask if you wanted to go to the bathroom with me,” Phoenix said offhandedly.

“With you?” Miled looked at Phoenix out of the corner of his eye, before turning back to look at the dance floor. “Sorry, I have standards.”

“I thought I was the one setting your standards for you?” Phoenix replied with a smile.

Miles rolled his eyes. “I swear to God… you’re as bad as Larry sometimes.”

Phoenix laughed. “I’d be offended if I didn’t know there’s no such thing as being worse than Larry.”

“Very true.” Miles sighed. “On that subject, I suggest we leave him and Everett to whatever they’re doing. It could resolve in a painless night.”

“Yeah, I agree,” Phoenix said with a nod. “Shall we go back to the bar to spend the rest of the night out of harm’s way?”

“That has got to be the most intelligent thing you’ve said all night,” Miles replied.

A simple ‘Yes, let’s do that’ would have done…

They turned around to go back to the bar, only to find that their stools had been taken by two women. The rest of the bar was full, as were the small amount of tables.

“The bathroom is still on offer…”

“Shut up, Wright.”

Phoenix looked around and spotted a pillar in a quiet corner. He gestured to it and they both made their way over.

“Sitting down is overrated, anyway,” Phoenix commented as they stood near the pillar. “We can still avoid Kath and Larry from here, and we can even hear the music better.”

Miles frowned. “Pardon?”

“I said we can still avoid your admirers and even hear the music better,” Phoenix repeated a bit louder.

“That’s very optimistic of you. Any deaf person would agree, I’m sure.” Miles took a look around, before leaning in a bit closer to Phoenix. “And you were wrong, Wright.”

“But I can’t be wrong if I’m right, Edgeworth,” Phoenix said cheekily.

Miles rolled his eyes at the joke. “He’s looking over again,” he added, tilting his head towards the other half of the room.

“…What?” Phoenix looked over where Miles had indicated, noticing Eddie once again staring at Miles. He quickly snapped his eyes back to Miles, who was looking away in a different direction. “He still doesn’t get that you’re taken!?”

Miles looked back at him. “I’m not surprised. We’re not actually dating, Wright. It’s going to be obvious to someone quite so… persistent.”

Clearly, Kath Everett is simply the exception to the rule…

Phoenix noticed another guy obviously looking over at Miles in the opposite corner, and another throwing glances in Miles’ direction as he walked past with a drink in his hand. Phoenix blinked a bit, before turning back to Miles, eyes wide.

“What is it?” Miles asked.

“My God, Edgeworth… I knew you had a couple of admirers, but damn!”

Miles stood up straight. “What are you talking about?”

Phoenix grinned.

Of course Edgeworth wouldn’t notice a bunch of guys checking him out every other second.

“Y’know, this may be everyday stuff for you, but I’m feeling a bit neglected, here. You’re taking all the attention away from me!”

Miles glared at him. “Drop the sarcasm, Wright. What are you talking about?”

“I mean all the guys that keep looking at you, along with Eddie. They are totally checking you out.” Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “You really didn’t realise?”

“You’re lying,” Miles said, probably just trying to reassure himself. “I swear to God, Wright, if you’re pulling my leg…” He glanced around the room, his eyes widening at each person he found looking at him.

“Why would I lie, Edgeworth?”

“How many?” Miles asked quickly, still glancing around.

Phoenix shrugged. “I don’t know, I haven’t kept count.” He looked Miles in the eye. “Are you alright?”

“No, Wright, I’m not ‘alright’,” Miles hissed. “This is exactly the reason I’ve always stayed away from clubs! Everyone is there to find someone for the night, and for some reason, they think that someone is me.” He ran a hand through his hair. “One admirer, I can slightly cope with, but, Christ, a club full of them?” He buried his face in his hands. “I can’t deal with this.”

“Not all is lost, there’s plenty you could do about it,” Phoenix said, trying to sound reassuring. “You could wear a paper bag! Or… change your jeans?”

“There’s nothing wrong with my jeans,” Miles snapped. “Just my idiotic, fake partner.”

Fake partner it is, then.

Phoenix looked around, his eyes pausing on the pillar behind them. He bit his lip.

I could do that.

But he’d kill me if I did that…

Phoenix took a breath in.

Just do it.

He quickly grabbed both of Miles’ wrists and pushed him back into the pillar they were standing next to, making sure it wasn’t hard enough to crack Miles’ head open, but using just enough force to catch him by surprise and pin his back to it.

“What the hell, Wright!?”

“Do you want them to stop staring or not?” Phoenix asked sternly, trying not to let his voice give away the fact that his heart was hammering inside his chest.

I don’t know why I’m so worried. It’s nothing big. I’m just doing him a favour, is all.

“I think I might opt for the staring if this is your solution.”

Phoenix raised his eyebrows. “Well, you’re getting the solution.” He let go of Miles’ wrists, but didn’t move his body, so that Miles was still trapped there. He then let out a breath and rested his left hand next to Miles’ head, leaning over his opposite shoulder. “I hope you don’t mind me resting my arm here.”

“I actually find it incredibly distracting…” Miles turned his head towards Phoenix and realised he was leaning over his shoulder. “Christ, Wright! What on Earth are you doing!?”

Phoenix shuffled a bit closer, before leaning back and looking Miles in the eye.

“A genius once told me this: ‘Pretending and dating are the same difference’. If you want us to be believed, Edgeworth, then we both have to act the part.” He paused, trying to decipher the look on Miles’ face. If it hadn’t been for that hint of amusement in Miles’ expression, Phoenix would have quit while he was ahead. “Hey, even the best couples act sometimes to get more attention.”

Miles’ eyes studied every aspect of Phoenix’s face. “You couldn’t bullshit any better if you tried.”

“I’m being serious!” Phoenix protested, the smile on his face making him seem anything but. “Fine, whatever. I’ll just carry on as I was, then.” He paused. “Although, it would help if you played along. Just… try to be convincing, okay?”

“Convincing is my middle name,” Miles said with a smirk. “The only thing I’m worried about is what you’re going to do.”

Phoenix leaned forward, his nose close to Miles’. “Nothing that you wouldn’t do.”

Miles’ smirk was wiped away.

Okay, so my reassuring comment might have been neutralised by the fact that I’m invading his personal space.

“Look, Edgeworth, there’s no need to be worried. I’ve been acting all this time, already. That’s all I’ll do.”

“Oh, is that all?” Miles replied dryly.

Phoenix chuckled and placed his head over Miles’ shoulder again. “Pretend I’m one of those gorgeous girls and it’ll help you act the part,” he whispered.

“You and ‘gorgeous girl’ don’t belong in the same sentence, Wright.”

Yeah, I guess I’m just too manly to be associated with a gorgeous girl…

…Wait.

“Hey, that was low. I’m trying to help you, here,” Phoenix said, resisting the urge to pout.

“I’m sure you could think up something more inventive and less invasive,” Miles commented.

“Either this, or another prawn down your throat.”

Miles sighed, but didn’t protest. After a silent wait, he finally asked the question that must have been weighing on his mind. “What are you doing?”

“I’m simply whispering random shit in your ear, but the point is that no one will know unless you give it away.”

“…You want me to act comfortable with you this close?”

“It’s not that much of a big deal,” Phoenix muttered, kind of offended by Miles’ disgusted tone of voice.

“You try being in my position,” Miles replied. “I don’t see how you can get such a kick out of it.”

“I don’t get a kick out of it!” Phoenix snapped, accidentally letting his breath catch Miles’ neck. He quickly turned to face the pillar again. “I might sometimes make a joke about our situation, but if I didn’t, it would just make it weirder…” He sighed. “Sorry. I don’t mean to act like I’m making fun of you.”

There was a pause before Miles spoke again. “You cannot possibly imagine how annoying you are being right now,” he said, not enough resentment in his voice to actually mean it.

Phoenix chuckled, making sure to keep it as soft as he could. “I don’t mean to be annoying, either.”

Miles took a breath in, and there was silence until he let it out again.

“I know.”

Silence then overcame the two of them as Phoenix waited for Miles to tell him it was a ridiculous idea and that he should stop being so clingy. After a moment, Phoenix tilted his head so he had a side view of Miles’ face, expecting a glare or some sort of disapproval. It was a pleasant surprise to see neither.

A small but noticeable smile graced Miles’ lips and didn’t fade, and his eyes were staring off but still full of thoughtfulness. Any signs of creases in his brow were gone, his skin illuminated by the flashing colours of the lights above. Phoenix couldn’t help but look on, not sure when he would be able to see Miles this unguarded again – if ever.

I don’t get why he hides this smile all the time.

Maybe ‘cause it gives away too much of his hidden emotion.

Then again, he’s always been like that – acting like he’s in control of his feelings or simply pushing them to the side.

“Wright, why are you taking this so seriously all of a sudden?” Miles asked, still staring off in the distance.

Since when have I been taking this seriously?

“What do you mean?”

Miles looked at him, eyebrow raised. “You’re telling me that you’re taking everything the same way as before? Acting the same, too?”

“Err… I don’t see what I’m doing differently… I mean, I take helping you seriously, but I haven’t changed the way I help you. Pretend dating is not something anyone can take seriously, Edgeworth.”

Miles went back to staring in the distance. “I see.”

Phoenix frowned. “What made you ask that?”

Miles looked Phoenix in the eye for a moment, before turning away. “It doesn’t matter. Forget I said anything.”

There he goes, hiding his feelings again.

“It was obviously something, Edgewo--”

“Fuck him already, Nick! He needs someone to loosen him up a bit!” a voice called loudly from behind.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Let me guess…”

Perfect time to interrupt, Larry.

Shh!” he heard Kath hiss. “Larry, you’re going to give away our position! You’d be a shit spy.”

Miles peered over Phoenix’s shoulder. “It looks as though Everett is the only thing keeping him upright.”

Phoenix sighed and looked down at the floor. “What should we do?”

“Leave them to it,” Miles replied. He paused. “Actually… we should probably go and look after them.”

Your change of heart wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with being uncomfortable with our conversation, would it?

Phoenix chuckled and went to drop his hand from its resting position on the pillar, before noticing that both his hands were on either side of Miles’ head and that he was standing a lot closer to Miles than he realised.

He blinked and quickly brought both his hands back down, stuffing them in his jeans’ pockets. He stepped back from Miles and turned to see what was happening.

“I’m so pathetic! I can’t do anything! I’m miserable and without love!” Larry brought his hands to his face, tears collecting up in his eyes. “I’ve been rejected by every single girl tonight, and they were all damned hot lesbians! I’m doomed to go without the loving touch of a woman for the rest of my life! My life is over!”

Kath sighed and patted Larry on the back. “I know what that feels like.”

Phoenix snorted.

I’d actually feel sorry for Kath if I didn’t know her so well.

“They both look out of it,” Miles commented, seemingly unfazed by the fact that Larry had started to sob into Kath’s shoulder.

Phoenix turned to him and smirked. “Looks like that’s our cue to leave this place.”

“And not a moment too soon,” Miles muttered.

They walked over to Larry and Kath without either of them noticing and stood beside them.

“The Butz Charm didn’t even faze them, Kathy,” Larry sniffled. “The women have become immune!”

“They’d have to be susceptible to it in the first place to develop immunity, Larry,” Miles said dryly, making both Larry and Kath jump and turn to face him.

Larry looked at him with a puzzled expression, still sniffling a bit. “Dude, how’d you get here? Weren’t you over there getting it on with Nick, like, two seconds ago?”

“Larry!” Kath exclaimed, hitting him on the arm before turning back to Phoenix and Miles. “We weren’t even watching you like that. We were simply checking up on you, but then you looked so cute and--”

“And Kathy thought it’d be hot if you two started making out,” Larry cut in, only to get hit by Kath again. He looked at her with a pout on his lips. “You just crushed my arm like those beautiful chicks crushed my heart!”

“But I never even suggested that!” Kath argued, before addressing Phoenix and Miles again. “I suggested we leave you alone and just… keep watch. Just in case, you know, something went wrong, like a mug stole your wallet without you realising because you were too busy staring cutely into each other’s eyes.”

Phoenix sighed.

Whose idea was it to come over again?

“Phoenix and I are heading on home now, and Larry is getting a lift with us,” Miles said, ignoring Kath’s comment. “I trust you have transport, Everett?”

“Oh, yes, I got a taxi here, didn’t I?” She frowned. “Aww, we’re going? But I was having fun with you four guys!”

Is there really any point in correcting her?

“I understand you’re having fun, Miss Everett, but Miles and I really need to leave now.”

“But… I haven’t even seen you two kiss yet,” Kath said, disappointment in her voice. “I know! Why don’t you have a quick one now? One for the road.”

Not fucking likely!

“Everett, our relationship is very secret. We can’t go around doing that kind of thing,” Miles quickly explained.

“Come now, Miles, you’re in a gay bar. Surely those sorts of rules don’t apply here?”

Larry started to laugh, before a glare from Miles shut him up.

“I’ve had a beer,” Phoenix said, taking the first thing that came to mind. “Miles is driving. He wouldn’t want to… err… catch the alcohol off me.”

Miles looked at him with a raised eyebrow.

It sounded so much better in my head…

“Catch the… alcohol off you?” Kath frowned. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry, Mr. Wright. Catching one beer is still below the limit.”

Phoenix blinked. “Ah, of course, silly me.” He bit his lip. “Still, if I did kiss him, think of all the jealous people in here who’d want my head.”

Kath laughed. “Mr. Wright, you are so funny! We all know you wouldn’t care about that.”

Phoenix looked at her blankly. “Right… Of course not… I, err, well…”

“Phoenix has a cold,” Miles said, cutting across his ramblings.

“Oh! You should have said!” Kath rolled her eyes. “I’m not surprised after your little escapade yesterday when you both made a run for it to get it on in the rain.”

“That wasn’t… we didn’t…” Phoenix stuttered.

“Dudes, you did it in the rain!?” Larry exclaimed. “I’ve always wanted to try that! Is it good? Or does the rain have the same effect as a cold shower?”

Phoenix looked at Larry disbelievingly.

The sad thing is, he’s not that much different when he’s sober…

“We really need to go now,” Miles said. “Right, Phoenix?”

Phoenix nodded at Miles and they set off for the exit, Larry and Kath in tow.

“I bet that’s the same reason they want to leave early tonight,” Kath whispered not-so-quietly behind them.

“Ah, but Nick has a cold,” Larry said. “Someone’s not getting any tonight!”

Phoenix shook his head as they made their way through the crowd. They finally made it outside and Kath went somewhere quieter to call her cab, Larry following her diligently. Phoenix let out a sigh of relief and rubbed his forehead, before turning to Miles.

“We should have stayed by the pillar,” he said.

Miles smirked and took a glance back at Larry and Kath. “We should have stayed at home.”

Phoenix laughed and put his hand in his pocket, feeling for a small box at the bottom of it, below his phone. He took it out and turned back to Miles.

Oh, that reminds me…

Smiling to himself, he grabbed his wallet and took out a note.

“Hey, Edgeworth, take this.” He took one of Miles’ hands in his own and stuffed the two things into it.

Miles glanced down at his hand, and then back up at Phoenix, eyebrow raised. “What’s this supposed to be, Wright?”

“The five dollars I owe you.” Phoenix smirked and put his hands in his pockets. “And the painkillers I promised.”

Miles looked down at his hand again and smiled slightly. He looked back up at Phoenix. “I’m not sure which is worse; having to accept the money after going to a gay bar, or the possibility that I may have had to pay you in a strip club.”

Phoenix laughed. “I’d pick the gay bar any day; a strip club would be too close to cheating on you, Edgeworth.”

Miles snorted.

Phoenix grinned at him.

Plus you’d probably get a heart attack in a strip club. At least Good Ed had his clothes on.

Chapter Text

Miles tapped the countertop as he waited for the kettle to boil, glancing back into the living room to check if the commercials were still on. He looked up at the clock on the wall, and then down at his watch.

Damn it. What genius designed commercial breaks to be too long to sit down and watch, but not long enough to make a simple cup of tea?

The switch clicked and Miles hurriedly poured the water into the cup he had prepared, stirring it with a spoon and then taking the tea bag out a bit too early. He made his way back through to the living room and set the cup down on a coaster. It seemed he was just in time, as the announcer had just started to introduce the program.

Next up, for all the young fans out there, we have a repeat showing of The Steel Samurai: Episode 6! After a nail-biting cliffhanger, can our hero escape unscathed from the Evil Magistrate and thwart the plan to overthrow the town of Neo Olde Tokyo? Stay tuned to find out!

Miles checked that his blinds were shut and made sure the volume on the TV wasn’t too high, before double-checking there wasn’t anyone behind him. He finally relaxed back onto the couch as the title screen appeared and the theme started to play.

I’ll just watch half an hour before I get all those documents sorted for tomorrow…

He reached blindly for his tea, accidentally knocking something off the table in the process. He looked down and picked up the small box that had fallen.

Painkillers…

He turned the box in his hand.

I’m surprised I didn’t need any after last night…

I must be getting used to it.

He frowned.

That can’t be a good thing, no matter how you look at it.

Miles shook his head and placed the box back on the table. He picked up his tea, turning his attention back to the screen. He took a sip and pulled a face at how weak it was.

I can’t believe I just ruined my tea for a TV show rerun.

He sighed.

And Wright’s the one who’s childish?

He put his cup down and leaned back on the couch, crossing his arms behind his head. He tried to focus on the TV, but his thoughts kept drifting back to the events of last night.

What was Wright thinking? He promises to stop being invasive, and then…

Miles fought back a shiver and shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

Why did he feel the need to go this far? It really wasn’t necessary.

…Although, I have to admit, it was slightly better than being stared at by the whole bar.

Miles smiled to himself.

He was just trying to help, is all…

But still…

Miles got off the couch and picked up his tea. He made his way to the kitchen to dump it into the sink. There was no way he was drinking this filth. He wasn’t even thirsty anyway, and all this thinking had managed to wake him up.

He leaned against the counter and stared out of the window at nothing in particular.

Wright might be an idiot, but it sure seemed to me that he was actually helping for once, instead of having fun at my expense.

…Or was I just imagining things?

Miles frowned.

He said he wasn’t taking this any more seriously than before, but…

Is it possible that he simply didn’t realise?

He sighed.

This makes no sense…

I’m probably just reading too much into it, as usual.

Miles shook his head and went back into the living room to sit on the couch. The commercials were on again. It was an advertisement for some children’s show called ‘Eddie the Dinosaur’.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake…”

Miles picked up the remote and shut the TV off.

I really didn’t need that mental image.

He got up again and started pacing around the room, trying to clear his mind of anything distracting. He looked at his watch. 10:47.

I might as well get started on that paperwork instead of wasting my time.

Miles walked into his office and closed the door behind him. He sat at his desk and looked at the pile of documents. He frowned.

I thought I got more than that done on Friday.

What the hell was I doing?

He sighed and picked up a file. He flipped it open and started reading the first page, only to realise a few paragraphs in that he didn’t have a clue what he had just read about. He put the file down and rubbed his forehead.

Not this again…

He leaned his head on his hand and stared down at the page.

What’s wrong this time? I don’t have any date to worry about, I’m in no rush, and I’m definitely not thinking about Wright.

It’s already Sunday and I’ve barely gotten anything done. I have to snap out of it before Wright decides to bother me again.

Miles shook his head and stretched a bit, before opening the top drawer to take out a blank sheet of paper.

If I can’t read, I can at least get started on that report…

He picked up a pen and started writing the case file number at the top of the page.

-Bring bring, bring bring-

Miles sighed exasperatedly.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

He dropped the pen and took his cellphone out of his pocket to check the caller ID.

He rolled his eyes.

What a surprise…

“Yes, Wright?”

Wrong, Edgey!

Miles frowned. “…Larry?”

That’s the one!” Larry answered cheerily.

For God’s sake…

Miles rested his head on his free hand. “I’m busy, Larry. Why the hell are you calling me on a Sunday morning?”

Dude, there’s no need to sound so annoyed. Can’t an old childhood chum call you once in a while?” Larry tutted on the other end. “I’m also kind of offended that you brought up your boyfriend’s name before mine. It’s supposed to be bros before hoes, Edgey!

Miles rubbed his temple. “We’re not dating. And you’re using Wright’s cell, Larry.”

Well, excuse me for leaving my cell at home.

Miles rolled his eyes.

Can’t there be a day where I don’t have to explain the obvious to this man?

“What do you expect me to do? Ignore the caller ID because I can magically see that his phone is in someone else’s hand, miles away from where I am?”

There was a pause on the other end. “Oh… well, I guess that’d be kinda hard, even for someone like you--” Larry suddenly cut himself off. “What? Speakerphone? Can’t wait to hear your boyfriend’s voice again, huh? Hah, that’s what he said. Yeah, well, without the cursing.

Miles pulled the phone away and inspected it, raising an eyebrow, before putting it back to his ear. “Larry, what nonsense are you babbling about?”

Oh, yeah, sorry! Wait there two secs, Edgey…

What the…?

There were a few beeps on the other end of the phone before another voice cut through.

…It’s the green button! The big one right underneath the screen!” Phoenix shouted.

Alright, alright, calm down! I just pressed that!

Yeah, only after you pressed every other damned button,” Phoenix muttered.

Sounds like Wright’s already had an eventful start to the day.

Miles smirked and sat back in his chair. “Good morning, Wright.”

Oh…! Hey, Edgeworth!

Larry sighed. “Dudes, how many times do I have to tell you? This is really not how a couple should act!

What…? We’ve barely said five words to each other, Larry!

It’s not the amount of words, Nick, it’s the quality of them,” Larry replied seriously.

The… quality?” Phoenix sighed exasperatedly. “I dread to ask, but… what do you mean?

Rookie mistake, Wright.

Well, I don’t know where to start, Nick. You were both too friendly in your tone of voice, ‘good morning’ is too posh, and ‘hey’ just doesn’t cut it. Not to mention, you’re still using each other’s last names! No, it should go more like this…” Larry cleared his throat. “Wonderful morning, Phoenix, my love,” he said in a deep, seductive voice. “Oh, hello, Miles, how you turn me on,” he finished off in a higher tone.

There was a pause.

T-turn me on!?” Phoenix spluttered. “Of all the things you could have said… Turn me on!?

Miles sighed. “Just ignore him, Wright.”

Hey! Don’t slag me off when I’m right here!” Larry protested. “Man, this is why I hate it when your friends date each other! I feel so unwanted!

“I fail to see how that makes a difference in your case,” Miles muttered.

Maybe if you stopped making fun of us and insisting that we’re dating, we’d treat you normally,” Phoenix said.

But, Nick! That takes all the fun out of it!

Phoenix chuckled. “Yeah, I didn’t expect that to work…

Miles rolled his eyes. “As enjoyable as this little catch up is, I still don’t know what you’re calling me for. There are plenty of other things I could be doing right now that don’t include having the way I speak ridiculed.”

The other end of the line went silent.

I feel strangely uncomfortable.

“…Wright?”

It was all Larry’s idea,” Phoenix mumbled.

That’s right, blame the third wheel!

Phoenix snorted. “Well, it’s never going to be my idea to organise a lesson in romance.

Miles narrowed his eyes. “Pardon?”

Nick! You promised to let me handle him!” Larry shouted.

“I could have sworn you mentioned ‘romance’ and ‘lesson’ there, Wright,” Miles continued sharply, ignoring Larry’s outburst.

Phoenix chuckled. “Oh, so he hasn’t told you, Edgeworth?

Dude, I was about to tell him, before you had to interrupt cause you wanted to hear your beloved--

Shut it, Larry.

See, this is what we need to improve on!” Larry exclaimed, far too brightly for Miles’ taste. “Iron out the wrinkles in this crumpled relationship, have a few laughs, and pick up some chicks on the way.

“There is no relationship, Larry,” Miles replied. “There is nothing to smooth over because the thing you want us to work at doesn’t even exist.”

I told you he’d say that,” Phoenix muttered.

Man, you do both know that playing hard to get is so last season, right?” Larry whined. “And you were the one who wanted me to call Edgey, Nick.

Well, yeah, I wanted to call him…

Miles sighed. “Isn’t there anything you could be doing instead of bothering me, Wright? Or do you seriously have nothing else going on in your life?”

Wait, it wasn’t like I wanted to spend time with you or anything!” Phoenix retorted. “I just wanted to make sure you hadn’t died on the way home.

How touching.

Err, which you haven’t… which is good…” Phoenix continued. “…And you sound well, too, so… that’s good, too… Not that I was expecting you to be ill, or anything…

Miles raised an eyebrow.

It’s just… when Larry asked to phone you, I thought it was a good excuse to make sure you were alright after last night. I mean, it’s not like you’d ever agree to meet up with us anyway when you’re so busy all the time…” Phoenix paused. “Larry, why the hell are you winking at me!? I don’t know what else to say!

Nick, you’re useless!” Larry shouted. “You’re supposed to say: ‘Oh, Miles, I’ve missed you so much! I know it’s only been one night, but I can’t wait to see you again! We have to meet again soon because this distance is tearing me apart!’

“Stop doing that awful impression,” Miles scolded.

Larry laughed. “You just don’t want me to upstage your boyfriend’s sex voice.

“That’s it. I’m hanging up…”

Wait, Edgey! We haven’t arranged a meeting time!” Larry called out desperately.

Miles was about to pull the phone from his ear, before he heard Phoenix sigh resignedly.

Face it, Larry; he’s not going to go. Everything is always going to be second-best to his work.

Miles frowned.

Second-best to my work…?

He sat up to look down at the empty page in front of him.

He has no right to say that after how much strain this situation has put me under.

His eyes narrowed.

How can he think he’s so low in my estimation after I’ve spent so much time with him instead of working?

Not that I exactly had a choice, but still…

“Did I say I wasn’t going, Wright?” Miles snapped, tearing his eyes away from the paper.

Well… err… no…?

“Then don’t put words in my mouth.”

Oh, don’t worry, Edgey, he’s saving your mouth for a more exciting activ--wait, you didn’t say no?” Larry gasped. “Quick, Nick, call the doctor! Edgey’s caught your fever, and I think it might be fatal! What have I told you two about doing it in the freezing cold rain?

Miles rolled his eyes. “Larry, you’re an idiot.”

You’ll actually go?” Phoenix asked cautiously, ignoring Larry.

…He does have a point. Why did I just agree to that?

He sighed.

Wright has a bad effect on me.

Alright, Edgey! I wasn’t going to bother if you didn’t agree, but now we can all meet up at my work at twelve.

Larry, aren’t you supposed to be working then?” Phoenix said sceptically.

Dude, the chicks love me. They’ll totally cover for me, so don’t worry!

Miles frowned. “Wait, hold that thought a second. If I didn’t agree, then Wright wouldn’t have had to go?”

Nope!” Larry answered brightly.

“I take it back, then.”

No take backs, Edgey! Now we know you’re free, so if you aren’t there, then we’ll just come to you.

Miles closed his eyes and sat back in his chair.

How the hell do I always manage to get tricked into this?

“I’m not going, Larry. The only reason I agreed in the first place was so Wright wouldn’t have to suffer alone.”

Aww, Edgeworth, you were going to go to that torture all for my sake?

“Don’t flatter yourself, I wasn’t doing this for you. It was simply repayment on a guilty conscience for you helping me all week.”

If you can call annoying me with your presence ‘helping’, that is.

Phoenix laughed. “That’s so cute of you! Kath would be proud.

Miles rolled his eyes. “I’ll take that as an invitation for me to hang up for real.”

Phoenix chuckled. “Later, Edgeworth.

See ya at twelve, Edgey!” Larry chimed in.

“I said I wasn’t go--”

-Click-

Miles pulled the phone away from his ear and blinked at it a few times.

They hung up.

Sighing, he turned the phone off and put it down on the desk. He reached for the pile of documents and placed his thumb on the corner, flicking through the stack.

I can’t be wasting time like this. There’s no reason for me to go and see Wright, never mind having to deal with Larry at the same time.

He picked up the pen from the desk and went to write, pausing before the tip reached the paper. He rolled it between his fingers, before laying it back down.

Now that I’m traumatised by the thought of Larry turning up on my doorstep, there’s really no point in trying to get this done.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed again, before making up his mind. He opened a couple of drawers, shifting some folders around, and eventually found the phone book.

They could have at least given me the address of the salon, just in case.

Miles smiled to himself and shook his head.

I really am hopeless…

---

Miles looked at the building in front of him, double-checking that the address matched what he had written down on the scrap of paper. He ran a hand over his hair, before grabbing the handle and opening the door. The soft jingle of the bell made the young woman sitting at the desk look up from her computer.

“Hello, sir,” she said, glancing back at her screen. “I’m guessing you’re not Sarah, my twelve o’clock?” She started to laugh slightly, but turned it into a cough when Miles didn’t react.

“I’m here to see Larry Butz,” Miles stated, failing to spot him in the small room.

I should have known he wouldn’t be too busy working.

The woman’s eyebrows rose. “Larry? Really?”

“Not for an appointment,” Miles explained.

I value my life too much for that.

“Well, I would fetch him for you, but he’s on his… extended break at the moment.” The woman frowned.

“He asked me to meet him here at twelve.”

“Oh, that’s right, he did tell me to look out for a man with a scowl on his face!” She pointed to the back of the salon. “He’s through there in the staff area, second on the right. Feel free to go straight on through.”

Is that seriously an accurate enough description for her to recognise me?

Miles nodded and headed to the back. He went past the wall partition into a small corridor and walked over to the second door where some voices could be heard.

What!? Oh my God, Larry! There’s no way in hell I’m doing that!”

“Aww, come on, Nick! It’d be funny to see his face!”

Miles paused, hand poised on the handle. Initiative told him that he should be thankful he didn’t hear the beginning of this conversation, and that he should quickly enter the room to stop whatever nonsense was going on. His curiosity, however, said otherwise.

He stood there, trying to convince himself that what he was doing wasn’t eavesdropping and that he was simply looking out for his well-being.

“Hah. I wouldn’t even be alive to witness his reaction,” Phoenix replied.

Larry tutted. “Dude, how many times!? You’re his lov--”

“I’m not his lover!”

“Alright, fine; his other half, his partner, his bed buddy, his pillow warmer… Whatever you call it these days, he wouldn’t harm you.”

Phoenix sighed. “I don’t think you get what I mean, Larry. Besides, not even Edgeworth’s real girlfriend could get away with kissing him in public.”

“Boyfriend.”

“What?”

“You meant his real boyfriend, Nick.”

Miles rolled his eyes when Phoenix chuckled in response.

Thank you, Wright. It’s always nice to know I have someone loyal on my side.

“Anyways, it’ll never happen, Larry,” Phoenix stated.

“Dude, why not?” Larry whined.

Phoenix sighed. “Do you even have to ask?”

You should be used to it by now, Wright.

“You’re so useless, Nick! You had the perfect opportunity last night and you didn’t even take it!” Larry paused. “Man, I knew I should have gotten you some extra strong stuff instead of a beer, then you wou--”

“Larry, that wouldn’t have changed anything.” Phoenix sighed again. “Fine. Tell you what, I’ll go and time travel back right now and fix it for you.”

Miles shook his head and got ready to open the door, realising it really wasn’t worth his time to stand and listen to such idiocy.

“Give me one good reason why not, Nick,” Larry said sternly, making Miles stop once again. “Kathy needs to see it. Otherwise, it’s dead suspicious. It’s not like I want to see two guys getting it on, but you’re supposed to be helping him get rid of Kathy so I can have her!”

That’s simply confirmed Larry’s true motive.

“One reason? Well, for a start, I’m not gay, Larry. And I value our friendship too much to ruin it with stupid things like that. I didn’t wait fifteen years to meet him again, only to make him hate me because I’ve pushed him too far.”

Miles’ hand loosened on the door handle.

So it seems even Wright has his limits, after all.

“Besides, have you ever tried getting it on with a guy?” Phoenix continued.

“Eh? No!”

Phoenix laughed. “Exactly.”

“Gay men manage it,” Larry replied stubbornly. “Seeing as though you are one at the moment, it’ll be fine!”

“‘At the moment’ being the key phrase,” Phoenix retorted. “Speaking of which, didn’t we say twelve? It’s already five past…”

“What?” Larry paused. “Huh, so it is. Perhaps our watches are wrong?”

“Or perhaps he’s not going to come, after all.”

“Well, he needs your help for that, Nick.”

Miles raised an eyebrow.

Why would I need his help to…?

…Oh, for Christ’s sake!

When both of them started to laugh, Miles grabbed the handle and pulled the door open. Phoenix and Larry were sitting at the table in the middle of the room.

“Ah, speak of the devil.” Phoenix turned to grin at Miles.

Miles rolled his eyes and went to take the seat closest to the door, next to Larry. “I won’t ask.”

“Where the hell have you been?” Larry cut in, getting up from his seat to lean on the table. “You’re late for an appointment with your boyfriend, Edgey!”

Miles raised an eyebrow, before checking his watch. “Normally, I wouldn’t think five minutes constitutes as late.”

“Shame you’re not normal, then,” Phoenix commented.

“Shut up, Wright.”

Larry pouted, before narrowing his eyes at Miles. “Dude, what do you think you’re doing here?”

Miles frowned. “You’re the one who forced me to come, Larry.”

“I didn’t mean here, here,” Larry said. He gestured between himself and Miles. “I meant this side of the table!”

“And what exactly is wrong with this side of the table?”

Larry pointed at Phoenix. “Nick’s over there.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Larry…”

“Dude, it’s part of the lesson!” Larry insisted.

Miles sent Larry an unamused look, before getting up and walking around to sit on the chair next to Phoenix. “Satisfied? Now, let’s get this over with.”

Larry grinned at him. “That’s the spirit, Edgey! It’s a much better attitude than yesterday.”

“You know, I’ve been wondering why you wanted to arrange this, Larry,” Phoenix commented, resting his head in his hand. “We managed just fine yesterday.”

He has a point. I think the fact that we aren’t at each other’s throats like last time is proof enough.

Larry shook his head. “Don’t think ‘fine’ will cut it this time, Nick. I’ll admit that the two of you were better than I thought you’d be, but that’s not saying much.” He rubbed his chin. “I think Nick would get about a… five and a bit out of ten. But, Edgey, it’s like a two for you, and that’s me being generous.”

“Is that so?” Miles crossed his arms. “And what was it that I did so differently?”

“You broke all the conditions, dude!” Larry replied, waving a finger at him.

He’s still going on about those ridiculous things?

“Huh? The conditions?” Phoenix blinked and looked at Miles. “Did I follow those?”

Larry cleared his throat and stood up straight. “Pay attention over there in the back and stop staring lovingly into each other’s eyes! The teacher’s talking.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow and sent a glance Miles’ way, before turning back to Larry. “Teacher? Are you serious?”

“First of all, there was condition two,” Larry continued, ignoring Phoenix. “This was of the most importance, and yet Edgey managed to screw it up totally.”

Miles and Phoenix both looked at Larry blankly.

“Condition two?” Phoenix asked.

Larry sighed and buried his face in his hands. “Don’t tell me you didn’t learn the conditions,” he said through his fingers. He dropped his hands and shook his head. “That was important homework!”

He’s getting far too involved in this role.

“Refresh our memories,” Miles said dryly, sitting back in his chair.

“Condition two: Pet names or nicknames.” Larry punched a fist into his other hand. “Dude, you didn’t use any!”

Miles rolled his eyes. “I used his first name and it provided the desired effect.”

“No, it didn’t, Edgey,” Larry retorted. “Nick’s first name just isn’t good enough!”

“Hey, what’s wrong with my name?” Phoenix cut in, sitting up straight.

“It’s way too long. How could anybody call you ‘Phoenix’?” Larry frowned. “Man, it sounds fucking weird.”

Are we seriously discussing this?

Miles uncrossed his arms and sat forward in his seat. “Fine, if ‘Phoenix’ is too long, then I’ll just use his last name, as I always do.”

“Ugh, Edgey, you know that’s not going to work. You’ve got to give him a nickname, dude!” Larry’s eyes lit up. “I know! I’ll give you one to use!”

“Larry, I don’t think that’s such a good idea…” Phoenix said, biting his lip.

“I’ve got it!” Larry exclaimed, smiling widely. “‘Nicky-Sugar-Dear’!”

Phoenix cringed and rubbed the back of his neck. “That’s… original…”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Larry,” Miles scolded. “It’s more than twice as long, and more than ten times as idiotic.”

Larry leaned across the table. “Nicknames are never too long, Edgey! The longer, the better!” He stood back up and put his chin in his hand. “My personal favourite was ‘My Sexy Princess Daisy, Ruler of all Things Cute and Sweet’!”

Dear Lord…

Phoenix blinked. “Right… um… thanks, Larry.”

Larry gave a thumbs up. “No problem!” He smiled smugly. “Now that you know that, you should also know that Edgey completely messed up condition four: Personal or sexual jokes.”

Miles rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I’m not a clown, Larry, and I am not about to perform a comedy act for Everett.”

Phoenix chuckled. “It’s a little too late for that, Edgeworth.”

Miles glanced at him and smirked. “You’re hardly one to talk with your awful jokes, Wright.”

“Hey, watch it. My jokes would be funny for someone with a sense of humour,” Phoenix replied with a grin.

Miles raised his eyebrows. “If by having a sense of humour, you mean being brain dead, then I’d have to agree.”

Larry slammed a hand down on the table, making Phoenix and Miles flinch and turn to face him. “Dudes, stop flirting already! I’m trying to tell you some important information, here!”

Flirting?

“Face it, Larry; the day Edgeworth makes a joke is the day the world ends.”

That’s a bit much, surely.

Larry rubbed his chin. “I guess you’re right, Nick. It’s kinda hard to teach someone a sense of humour.”

My ego must have at least halved in the time I’ve been here…

“You could at least use the examples I gave you on that piece of paper,” Larry added. “It’s better than nothing, Edgey.”

Miles sighed. “Fine.”

Phoenix sent him a curious look as if to say ‘You still have that thing?’. Miles shook his head in response, making him grin.

He really doesn’t need to know that this stupid thing is still sitting on my desk.

“Alright, now it’s time to correct your dress sense, Edgey!”

Miles frowned. “Correct my dress sense?” He looked down at his jeans and button-down shirt. “There’s nothing wrong with my clothes, Larry.” He glanced over at Phoenix, who was wearing a dark purple t-shirt and a grey hooded jacket. “If there’s anyone you should be talking to about that, he’s sitting right next to me.”

“Hey!”

“No, dude! I was talking about what you wore last night.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “What was wrong with it?”

Larry shook his head. “Wearing a shirt and a tie violates the seventh condition: Inefficient clothing; including nakedness.”

Miles rubbed his temples. “You’ve got to be kidding me…”

“Come on, Edgey, it’s widely known that a tie takes way too long to take off in the bedroom! No person in their right mind would wear that if they knew they were getting some. It sends off all the wrong vibes, dude!”

I’d be willing to bet that Larry’s version of ‘widely known’ isn’t the same as everyone else’s.

Phoenix rubbed his neck. “Heh, if all these conditions are true, then I guess I’ve been doing something right, at least.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “I’d like to hear how I’ve managed to break the others if all the reasons are as idiotic.”

Larry scratched the back of his head. “The others? Nah, you were fine with them, dude.”

Phoenix frowned. “But that’s less than half of them, Larry. I thought you said he broke them all.”

Larry waved his hand. “More than enough to work on.”

Miles sighed. “I don’t believe you sometimes. You brought me here, away from doing something worthwhile, and then took time off work, just to say that?”

Not that it’s exactly surprising…

“Hey! It was an important lesson, Edgey,” Larry said, before nodding to himself.

“But, wait, how can you even remember what did and didn’t happen last night?” Phoenix asked sceptically. “You were pretty much out of it.”

Larry laughed. “Don’t be silly. I’m not going to forget how Kathy completely fell for my affections and was digging me all night, or when she totally ignored Edgey. Plus, all the ladies were playing hard to get, which was a total turn-on!”

Phoenix and Miles glanced at each other.

“Err… Larry, that wasn’t quite how it was…” Phoenix said weakly.

Larry blinked. “Huh? It wasn’t?”

Miles sighed. “I’m not surprised you’ve made up a whole new version. You drank so much that Wright and I had to walk you to the door of your apartment and unlock it for you.”

Larry blinked again. “You did?” He rubbed his chin. “I mean, of course I remember. It was only, like, twelve hours ago. I was just a bit weak from all the dancing, that’s all.”

Phoenix chuckled. “So you were perfectly sober when you told us both how much you loved us?”

“And the attempt to lean across from the backseat of the car to grab the steering wheel was perfectly normal?” Miles added.

“Well, I do love you guys!” Larry protested. “And you know it’s always been my dream to drive Edgey’s sports car!”

Phoenix laughed again. “Ah, so when you cried about how you’re a complete failure, it was just the way the light was catching your face?”

Miles turned to Phoenix and smirked. “Which means he also knows that he attempted to kiss Everett and it turned out to be a lamppost.”

Phoenix smirked back. “And when he asked if we would sell him photos of us ‘getting it on’ in the rain so he could give them to Kath?”

Larry stared at the two of them with a horrified look on his face. “I… um… well…”

Miles crossed his arms. “Hmm. If that’s so, then he must remember getting lucky with one of the men at the club.”

What!?” Larry screamed, jumping back in shock. “Are you fucking serious!?”

Phoenix burst out laughing. “Classic!”

Miles smirked and glanced out the window.

No chariots in the sky; we’re safe.

“Don’t worry, Larry,” Miles said. “I think you’re safe from that ever happening.”

Larry grabbed his chest and breathed a sigh of relief. “Fucking hell, Edgey, that wasn’t funny! I swear I was about to have a heart attack!”

The door to the staff room clicked open and all three of them turned to see a woman leaning in the doorway. She had long, curly hair that had been dyed some kind of purple colour, and was wearing a low-cut top that read ‘Cosmopolitan’ with a picture of a cityscape.

“Hey, Larry, the boss says to get your ass back in there right now or she’ll fire you, and I think she means it.” She glanced over at Phoenix and Miles and paused, before breaking into a smile. “Ooh, who are your friends?”

Oh God, no.

Larry took a step forward, before gesturing towards the other two. “This is Edgey, and--”

“It’s Edgeworth, actually. Miles Edgeworth. Nice to meet you.” He bowed his head slightly.

Christ, how hard can it be to properly introduce someone?

“Err… right…” Larry turned to Phoenix. “And this is Ni--”

“Phoenix. Phoenix Wright.” He got up from his seat and sent a smirk Larry’s way, before walking towards the woman, holding out a hand. “Nice to meet you, Miss…?”

She walked up to Phoenix and shook his hand. “May. May Jellis.” She chuckled. “My, what a peculiar name you have.”

Phoenix laughed slightly and broke the handshake. “I guess I’ll take that as a compliment?”

“Of course! It’s a really nice name.” She smiled. “So what does a mysterious man like you do for a living?”

Miles frowned.

Mysterious? What the…?

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “Well… I’m a defence attorney.”

May’s eyes widened. “Wow! And what about your friend?” She tilted her head towards Miles.

Phoenix looked over at him. “Well… um…”

“I’m a prosecutor,” Miles said simply.

May turned to Larry. “Damn, you never told me you had such accomplished friends!”

Phoenix beamed at that comment and Miles felt his frown deepen.

Accomplished? Wright barely manages to pay his bills.

“Maysie, calling them accomplished is a bit much,” Larry said with a chuckle. “Edgey just looks important cause he frowns a lot, and Nick’s even poorer than me!”

Phoenix laughed nervously. “Well, not poor, per se. More like I’m just on a tight budget at the moment.”

May smiled at him. “We all have our ups and downs. I’m sure you’re a fine lawyer.”

Miles’ frown deepened even more.

As if you can judge when you’ve never even seen him in the courtroom.

Phoenix took a glance at Miles. “Ah, well, I guess I have my good days…”

May tilted her head and crossed her arms. “There’s no need to be modest. I wouldn’t like to see what would happen if you let me loose with a client’s life on the line.” She shrugged. “I’m hopeless at keeping steady in that kind of situation.”

Miles felt his eye twitch. “That’s not a very good characteristic for a hairdresser. Or is it that your clients like crooked haircuts?”

May seemed slightly taken aback by Miles’ interruption. “Oh, well, having a steady hand and a steady mentality are two very different things,” she replied.

Miles saw Phoenix look at him curiously out of the corner of his eye. He turned away. “I see.”

May smiled and turned to Phoenix again. “You know, when you’re in the hair business, it’s always nice when you meet someone with such unique hair,” she commented. “How do you style it like that?” She tilted her head again. “It doesn’t look like you use any gel at all.”

“It’s natural,” Phoenix replied with a sheepish grin.

You’re kidding me. She likes that stupid hair of his?

“I have interesting hair, too!” Larry cut in. “You can even feel mine if you want!”

“Natural? I don’t believe you,” May stated, ignoring Larry. She held out a hand. “Do you mind if I see if you’re telling the truth?”

Miles’ eyes narrowed as Phoenix’s eyebrows rose in surprise.

Of course he minds! Why would he want some stranger touching his hair?

He frowned at that thought.

…Why am I so annoyed? I’m not the one having to deal with this, for once…

I should be relieved.

Phoenix glanced back at Miles again and shrugged. “Sure, go ahead.”

May ran a hand softly over Phoenix’s hair, before taking it back. “Wow, you’re right, it is natural!”

Miles gritted his teeth together.

Relieved. I should be relieved

Phoenix chuckled. “I’m betting that isn’t your natural hair colour, though.”

Larry gasped. “Nick! That’s not any way to speak to a beautiful woman!”

May grabbed a bit of her hair and looked down at it. “No, he’s right. I’d be worried if my natural hair colour was purple, to be honest.”

“It’s a bit of a shame when people have to hide their natural colour with something fake, don’t you think?” Miles commented dryly, crossing his arms.

May shrugged. “I like to think it gives me something original. And I also happen to like the colour purple.” She turned to Phoenix again. “You know, if you need a haircut, I’m sure I could fit you in for an appointment.”

Miles’ jaw tightened.

Why would he need a haircut? His hair is perfectly fine!

He closed his eyes and sighed.

That’s really not something I should be commenting on, is it?

“Would you give me a haircut too? For free, even?” Larry asked brightly. “Cause we are good buddies, aren’t we, Maysie?”

May raised an eyebrow. “Larry, you work here. I’m sure you could get any of us to give you a haircut for free.”

Phoenix smiled. “That’s kind of you to offer. I’ll consider it next time I need one.”

May looked at him and grinned. “Hey, you know, you have a really nice smile.”

Phoenix blinked and glanced at Miles, looking a bit at a loss. His cheeks reddened slightly. “I do?”

Nice? It’s an annoying smile, if anything.

May laughed. “God, you’re so modest about your good looks! And a total gentleman with it!”

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “You’re too kind.”

“No, I’m serious!” She put a finger to her lips. “You know, that’s such a rare combination, along with being a lawyer.” She frowned. “Ah, I see. Which is it? Gay or married?”

Phoenix chuckled. “Neither. Straight and single, I’m afraid.”

Miles blinked, his eyes snapping to Phoenix, before it struck him.

…Why do I feel as if I was expecting him to say otherwise? He isn’t really dating anyone, and it’s not as if he’s really gay.

He shook his head.

This is getting stupid…

“Hey, May!” a voice called through from the corridor. “Get your ass back in here! We’ve got people waiting for appointments!”

May rolled her eyes. “Alright, I’m coming!” she shouted back, before turning to Phoenix and pulling a card out of her pocket. “Here’s my contact details if you ever want to meet up or get that appointment.” She winked and put it in his hand. “See ya! And you’d better come soon, too, Larry.”

May rushed out of the room and shut the door behind her.

“Nick, I can’t believe you didn’t tell her that you’re gay!” Larry exclaimed loudly. “You’re stealing one of my chicks, dude!”

“Hey, don’t be angry with me, she was the one who was doing the talking,” Phoenix replied, before looking down at the card in his hand.

Miles got up from his seat and walked up behind Phoenix to read the card.

May Q. Jellis
Hair Stylist
Landline: 555-7599
Mobile: 555-5844
Sunday-Wednesday Working Hours

“See, you’re even plotting when to call her for your next little date!” Larry shouted. “How do you think this makes Edgey feel, huh? You’re meant to be dating him, not Maysie!”

Phoenix rolled his eyes and pocketed the card. “I’m sure he’ll live.”

Larry glared at Phoenix and looked as if he was about to retort, before a voice called through again.

“Butz, what exactly am I paying you for? Don’t make me come in there!”

“Yes, Chelsea, my dear!” Larry replied, before turning back to Miles and Phoenix. “Our lesson ends here for today, pupils, so I hope you’ll finish off your practice at home.” He pointed at Phoenix. “And you, Mr. Romeo Wannabe, I’m keeping an eye on you. I’ll see you to the door so you can’t sneak off with the innocent princess.”

I’d hardly call her innocent. Or compare her to royalty, for that matter.

Larry went over to open the door and Phoenix took his chance to send Miles an amused look. Miles chose to pretend he didn’t see it and followed Larry out the door, back into the salon.

They walked through to the front desk, where Larry took a second to say hi to the receptionist and get ignored. He then opened the door and leaned over to Phoenix. “Hey, Nick, you know that card Maysie gave you?” he said in a low voice.

Phoenix grinned. “You want it, don’t you?”

“Well, I just think it’d be safer in my hands, you know, for safekeeping…”

Phoenix shook his head and walked out the door, Miles following.

“Aww, man! Don’t think that I’m letting this go, Nick!” Larry called after them, making Phoenix chuckle.

After a few paces of walking down the street, Miles glanced at Phoenix. “Where are you going now, Wright?”

Phoenix shrugged and stuck his hands in his pockets. “Bus stop, I guess.”

“Ah.” Miles paused. “Do you… want a lift home?”

Phoenix turned to him with wide eyes. “A lift?” He blinked. “That’d be great, thanks!” He smiled.

Miles nodded in reply and looked away.

He didn’t have to be so surprised…

They walked in silence for a while, before Miles spoke again.

“Are you actually going to call her?” he asked, careful not to sound like he cared too much.

Phoenix turned to him and blinked. “What?”

“The hairdresser woman.”

“Oh… No, she’s not really my type.”

Miles scoffed. “It sure seemed as though she was a moment ago.”

“Well, can’t a guy enjoy getting attention once in a while? Not everyone’s as lucky as you, you know.”

Miles scowled. “I wouldn’t exactly call that ‘lucky’.”

Phoenix grinned. “Don’t worry, Edgeworth, I would never cheat on you. There’s no need to be jealous.”

Miles stopped and looked down at the sidewalk. “I am not jealous, Wright.”

“So you wouldn’t mind if I was going to call her?” Phoenix asked cheekily.

Miles looked up at him again. “Why should I mind? It’s not my problem if you want to get involved with a woman like her.”

Phoenix raised his eyebrows. “Oh, you didn’t like her?”

Miles rolled his eyes and set off again. “Shut up, Wright.”

“Come on, there’s no need to get moody about it. I wasn’t being serious.”

“Don’t say such stupid things, then,” Miles snapped, leading the way into the parking lot.

“Geez, learn to take a joke, Edgeworth…”

“I’ll take a joke when you learn to tell one.”

Phoenix fell quiet as they reached the car and got in.

Miles turned on the ignition and fastened his seatbelt, before glancing at Phoenix.

He sighed.

Well, that was smart. This car ride isn’t going to be awkward at all.

---

“So, Edgeworth, what did you learn in today’s lesson?” Phoenix asked after a long silence.

You’ve had all that time to think of something, and this is what you ask me?

Miles rolled his eyes. “That Larry is an idiot.”

Phoenix laughed. “I meant something you didn’t already know.”

“Don’t be stupid, Wright.”

“Oh, so you know everything?” Phoenix replied cheekily.

“That’s not…” Miles sighed. “Shut up, Wright.”

There was silence as they halted at the traffic lights. Miles leaned his arm on the door and stared on ahead, ignoring the look Phoenix was sending him.

“What’s got you all snappy?”

“I’m not being snappy,” Miles replied. “I’m just thinking about how much work I have to do, and how much time I’ve wasted.”

Phoenix chuckled. “It wasn’t all bad.”

Maybe not for you and your new girlfriend.

Miles glanced at him out of the corner of his eye, before releasing the handbrake as the light turned green. “I don’t see what I’ve gained from the experience.”

Phoenix grinned. “Well, now you know that not all women are after your perfect being.”

“Some females simply have no taste,” Miles commented with a smirk.

“And yet, all gay men do, apparently.”

Miles sighed. “Please don’t remind me.”

Phoenix laughed. “Yeah, sorry. But I guess you’re an exception, seeing as you only had eyes for me all night.”

Miles shot him a glare. “Considering you spent the whole evening in front of me, it was hard for me not to.”

“Oh, I bet I’m making it hard for you, Edgeworth,” Phoenix replied, stretching a bit and resting his elbow on the door.

“Wright, there’s a line, and you’ve just crossed it.”

“You’re right, we shouldn’t do that in the car. It gives Everett ideas.”

You really like annoying me, don’t you?

Miles sighed and changed gears as the traffic started to slow down. “If you wanted to annoy someone this badly, why didn’t you do so with your girlfriend earlier instead of me?”

“Because making my boyfriend squirm is so much more interesting.”

“Wright, I swear to God…”

Phoenix laughed and crossed his arms. “Alright, alright; the line. I’ve got it. Just trying to get it into your head that I’m really not interested in May.”

Calling it by its first name now?

I can hear the wedding bells already.

“Not interested my ass,” Miles mumbled to himself, pulling the handbrake roughly as the traffic came to a halt.

“What do you even have against her?” Phoenix asked, a confused expression on his face. “It’s not like she’s committed a crime by liking me.”

…Good question. What do I have against her?

“Well, it was just… She was all over you when we were trying to have a conversation. It was annoying.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Alright, whatever you say, Edgeworth.” He sighed and shook his head.

There was a brief silence.

“Hey… Now that Larry’s not in the way,” Phoenix began again slowly, “what did you mean last night?”

Miles frowned. “What do you mean?”

“You know, the whole ‘me taking our fake relationship seriously’ thing.”

I guess it was too much to hope he’d forget about it…

Miles pretended he was focusing on the road and not on what Phoenix had just said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Wright.”

“Oh, come on, don’t take me for an idiot,” Phoenix chided. “You know very well what I’m talking about.”

“There may be a slight recollection of the incident in the back of my mind…” Miles turned to Phoenix to see an unimpressed look on his face. He sighed. “Alright, I do remember, but I think it’s obvious that it really doesn’t matter.”

“Well, it matters to me.”

Why does he have to be so damned stubborn?

“Wright, if you haven’t figured it out yourself, then there’s no point in me telling you.”

Phoenix scowled. “Fine. Be that way. I don’t care.”

Miles sighed again. “It’s just that the whole thing didn’t seem quite as funny to you all of a sudden, that’s all.”

“How many times do I have to tell you!?” Phoenix snapped. “I’ve never tried to make fun of you!”

Miles snorted. “Sorry, I must have been wrong when I classified force-feeding as having fun at my expense, then.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “We’ve been over this already…”

If you don’t like the answer, then don’t press the question so many bloody times!

“Look, Wright, just drop it. It’s not worth discussing. You helped me last night, and you made it more bearable for me by taking it seriously, instead of messing around like on Tuesday night. I just wondered what had changed to make you do that and that’s all I meant by it.” Miles spotted the turnoff to Phoenix’s street and put his flasher on.

Phoenix’s eyes widened. “You’re… not mad that I did that?” He blinked. “I was… err… I was expecting more of a telling-off than a weird thank you, to be honest.” He rubbed the back of his neck and looked out of the window.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Don’t get me wrong, there’s a difference between what you did and how you did it. Just because you made it more bearable than before doesn’t mean I approve of you pushing me against a pillar and getting so unnecessarily close.”

Phoenix chuckled. “I see.” He turned back around and smirked at Miles. “You mean you didn’t enjoy my seductive breath on your neck?”

Miles rolled his eyes. “I take back my previous praise.”

Phoenix laughed again. “Glad everything’s back to normal.”

Miles smirked and shook his head.

Our friendship is far from normal, Wright…

He pulled into a space in the parking lot in front of Phoenix’s apartment building and put the handbrake on.

There was an awkward silence as Miles stared at the steering wheel, waiting for Phoenix to get out of the car.

Finally, after what seemed like hours of wasting even more valuable work time, Phoenix undid his seatbelt and shuffled a bit in his seat.

“So, um…” He paused. “I guess I’ll see you around.”

Miles turned to him and sighed. “What is it?”

Phoenix blinked. “…What?”

“I said what is it?”

Phoenix looked down at his hands on his lap. “Nothing. It’s just… nothing.”

Miles sighed again and turned off the ignition. “Look, Wright. If you have something to say, then just say it. I don’t have all day.”

Phoenix smiled sheepishly, before looking back up at Miles. “It’s just… well… I just realised that we spent more time together this past week than we did these past two months, and, well…” He scratched the back of his neck. “This is gonna sound weird, but… I’m kind of looking forward to our next date.”

Oh, for Christ’s sake…

Miles rubbed his forehead. “Wright…”

“No, I’m serious!” Phoenix protested. “I mean, I know it wasn’t under the best circumstances, but still, I’ve been enjoying all this time spent with you.”

Miles raised an eyebrow.

What is he…?

Phoenix looked away. “Sorry. That probably sounded really stupid.”

Miles shook his head. “No… it’s fine. I suppose I should take it as a compliment that someone thinks I’m good company.”

Phoenix turned to him again and smiled. “Well, I wouldn’t exactly go that far, but let’s say you’re not completely obnoxious.”

Miles rolled his eyes, but couldn’t suppress a smile of his own. “Get out.”

Phoenix chuckled and opened his door. “Alright, so I’ll see you.” He got out of the car and started walking towards the apartment building, before turning on his heel and running back towards the car.

Miles rolled down his window. “Yes?”

“I almost forgot…” Phoenix took a folded piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to him. “Here. Larry told me to give you this.”

Miles stared at the paper in his hand, before looking back up at Phoenix. “What is it?”

Phoenix shrugged. “No idea. I didn’t look at it. But he said it was important.”

Miles frowned. “If it’s that important, why didn’t he give it to me himself?”

“Well…” Phoenix laughed. “If it’s anything to do with his ‘lessons’, I suppose he must have been scared of your reaction.”

I think I’m the one who should be scared…

Miles shook his head and pocketed the piece of paper. “I’ll look at it later.”

“Alright.” Phoenix nodded and took a few steps away from the car. He grinned. “Have fun.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Goodbye, Wright.” He rolled up his window and watched as Phoenix ran back to the apartment building, turning around to wave goodbye before disappearing into it.

Miles looked at the time on the radio. 1:08.

Can I finally get back to work now?

He stared at the front door of the building for a few seconds to make sure Wright wasn’t coming back out to bother him again. After deciding he was in the clear, he glanced at the wing mirror and reached for the ignition. He stopped.

I might as well take a look at that stupid thing now so I don’t have to worry about it once I get home.

He took the paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. It looked like some kind of list that had been printed out with Larry’s handwritten message at the top.

Yo Edgey!

After how bad you messed up last night, I was going to lecture you about how useless you are, but then I thought… he’s never had a woman before, so how can he possibly know anything about love? So, being the good friend and genius that I am, I went on the Internet and printed out this list for you. It’s from this awesome website I use as reference for anything love-related. It’s the real thing, dude! Believe me, after you read this list, you’ll understand what love is all about and it’ll be a million times easier to fake it!

Miles sighed.

I knew I shouldn’t even have bothered…

He shook his head and went back to reading the paper.

Ten Ways to Know You’re in Love

                                                       You know you’re in love when…

                                                       1. You don’t notice other members of the opposite sex.
                                                       2. You can’t take your eyes off them.
                                                       3. You can’t stop thinking about them.
                                                       4. You can’t help but smile when you’re around them.
                                                       5. Your heart starts pounding every time you see them.
                                                       6. You can’t refuse them anything.
                                                       7. You notice the little things that make them unique.
                                                       8. You feel safe in their presence.
                                                       9. You can’t bear the thought of them with someone else.
                                                       10. You just want to hear their voice.       

Miles stared at the paper for a moment, as if doing so would change what it said.

This is…

This was ridiculous. Just another one of Larry’s stupid notions. It didn’t mean anything. And the fact that everything on that list rang a bell was definitely just a coincidence.

Miles slowly brought his hand back down and tightened his grip on the paper, before letting it fall to the floor.

…Who am I kidding?

He paused for a moment, trying to wrap his mind around what all of this meant. Not that he didn’t know, but part of him still wasn’t sure if he could accept it. He wasn’t even sure how he felt about the whole thing. This was way too confusing.

Miles blinked, realising he’d been staring off into the distance. He turned on the ignition and removed the handbrake, then reached for the gearstick to put the car in reverse, before stopping to look at himself in the rear-view mirror.

What am I supposed to do now?

He closed his eyes and sighed.

Perfect. Just perfect.

He gripped the steering wheel with both hands and leaned his forehead against it.

All this time… I’m such an idiot… There’s no going back now, is there?

Chapter Text

Phoenix unlocked the front door to the office and paused, before opening it a few inches to peer into the room. Noticing it was empty, he sighed with relief and walked in, taking off his jacket to hang on the coat stand. He checked his watch. 9:32.

He grinned.

Hah, only half an hour late. Take that!

He made his way over to the reception desk and checked the appointment book, which was empty.

That suits me just fine.

I’ll go type up some documents and look busy until Maya gets in…

Phoenix looked around the desk for the old cases and client details, lifting up piles of paper doodles and magazines in the process.

Huh, guess we don’t have any left over.

He went to check the desk in his office, opening a few drawers, before going over to check the bookshelf and the filing cabinet. They all seemed pretty in order to him.

This is what I get for working too hard on a Friday…

Shrugging, he went to make himself coffee. He had to look around for some milk that didn’t smell off and boil the kettle twice, as the water that had been left in it the first time only half filled the cup. After all his hard work, he eventually got his coffee and went back through to his office to sit down in front of his computer.

-BANG-

Phoenix jumped at the noise of the front door being slammed shut and nearly spilled his drink. Maya suddenly came storming into his office, her eyes narrowed.

“Hey, Maya,” he said cautiously.

Maya walked up to the desk and slammed a hand down on the surface. “Alright, you!” She pointed at him. “What’s the deal?”

Phoenix frowned. “Huh…? What do you mean?”

Maya put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “Where were you yesterday?”

Phoenix blinked. “At home.”

Liar!” Maya shouted, making Phoenix jump out of his chair. “I went to your place and you weren’t there!”

“But I was at home!” Phoenix protested, his hands raised above his head as if he was being threatened with a gun. “I barely did anything all day!”

Because that doesn’t make me sound pathetic…

Maya scowled. “You definitely weren’t there when I turned up for us to go to lunch together at twelve.”

I’m guessing that by ‘go to lunch together’, she means me buying her as many burgers as my wallet allows.

“Well…” Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “I went out for a bit to buy groceries and… y’know… stuff…” He trailed off. “Why didn’t you call me before showing up?”

Maya scoffed. “So you could make up more excuses to avoid me?” She crossed her arms. “I don’t think so.”

“Excuses…?” Phoenix pulled a face. “What the hell are you talking about? Why would I be avoiding you?”

“I don’t know, Nick. You tell me.”

Phoenix sighed. “I, honest to God, don’t have a clue what you’re saying, Maya.”

“Oh, really?” Maya held up a finger. “First off, you take a Friday off and make up stupid reasons why you didn’t come in. Secondly,” she held up another finger, “you don’t return my calls, and when I finally do get through, you act all weird! Thirdly,” a third finger went up, “the only time I’ve seen you this past week and a bit was at work, and even then, you seem like you’re somewhere else!” She dropped her hand. “And, if that’s not enough, you bring a posh umbrella to the office after coming back from a break!”

…Of course, the most suspicious thing here is the umbrella, not the fact that I was gone for almost two hours!

Phoenix shook his head. “You’ve got it all wrong, Maya. I’ve just… been a bit busier than usual recently. I really didn’t mean to make it seem like I’m avoiding you.”

“But that’s the point, Nick,” Maya retorted. “You’re never ‘busier than usual’. You’re barely ever busy, even at work!”

“Hey, I resent that!”

“If you’re not avoiding me, then why can’t you just tell me what’s going on?” Maya asked sternly.

Sure, why not? She’ll completely understand that it all happened because I have to go off and be a good boyfriend to Edgeworth whenever I’m needed.

Phoenix sighed and rubbed his forehead. “There’s nothing going on, Maya. Some old friends from school have got back in contact, so I’ve been meeting up with them lately.”

“Nick, I’m not stupid! I know you’re hiding something!” Maya snapped. “The fact that you won’t tell me what it is makes me think that--”

-Bring bring, bring bring-

Phoenix and Maya both jumped.

-Bring bring, bring bring-

Phoenix looked over at Maya.

-Bring bring, bring bring-

She glared back at him.

I guess I’ll take that as an ‘It’s okay’ glare.

He quickly picked up the receiver and sat down in his chair. “Wright and Co. Law Offices.”

He gestured for Maya to leave the room. She rolled her eyes and stormed out, slamming the door behind her.

Phoenix flinched and bit his lip.

Why has she got so worked up? I can’t have been acting that much different…

He was jolted out of his thoughts when the person on the other end started talking.

Hey, lawyer guy. You’re good at getting criminals out of jail, aren’t you?

Phoenix frowned. “It’s more to do with stopping people from going there in the first place because they’re innocent.”

Oh, well, that’s even better,” the man replied. “You see, I’m planning on killing my ex-wife’s new boyfriend.

Phoenix blinked. “…What?”

Well, I’d have done it already, but I think I’d get put in jail for it, so I need you to prove I’m innocent.

Phoenix rubbed the bridge of his nose. “So… you want me to defend you for a crime you haven’t committed yet?”

I will be committing it soon. It’d be a bit stupid to get you to defend me when I haven’t done anything.

Oh, silly me.

“Uh-huh, I see…” Phoenix sighed. “I recommend you don’t kill your ex-wife’s new boyfriend.”

You do?” There was a pause. “Well, what do I do about it, then?

“You want her back?”

No, not really,” the man answered. “I just don’t want him touching all the stuff I’d bought and paid for with my own money.

Phoenix sat back in his chair. “Perhaps you should try to get these items back so he can’t use them?”

There was a long silence. “…So, like, robbery?

…That’s it, Phoenix! You go and give him ideas!

“I suggest you stick to legal methods of sorting this problem.”

Blackmail?

“I was thinking more along the lines of legal repossession,” Phoenix said weakly.

Legal repossession, huh?” the man replied thoughtfully. “That means I won’t get put in jail?

“Pretty much.”

Hey, you’re good!” he exclaimed. “I’ll go and do that. Thanks for the advice, lawyer guy!

Phoenix rubbed his neck. “No problem.”

The line went dead.

He put the receiver down and stared at it for a moment.

I should totally charge for that service…

Looking for the right thing to do? Call ‘Wright’s Nutcase Hotline’!

He chuckled to himself.

Sounds kinda catchy.

Phoenix got up and walked over to the door. He wrenched it open and looked at Maya, who was reading a comic on the couch. “Hey, Maya, could you do me a favour?”

Maya looked up at him. “What is it?”

“Could you take my calls for the rest of the day? That last one killed me.”

Maya rolled her eyes. “You’re useless, Nick.” She sighed, before looking back down at her comic. “Fine.”

Phoenix grinned. “Thanks! I owe you one.”

“Lunch is on you!” Maya called out to him as he closed the door.

Phoenix winced.

At least she’s apparently forgotten about being annoyed with me.

He sighed and walked back over to sit down at his desk.

I guess I didn’t really think about how Maya would react to this thing with Edgeworth.

He frowned.

It’s not as if anything has changed because of it…

Apart from the fact that I get to see him more.

Phoenix shook his head and took a sip of his coffee.

Oh well. She’ll forget about it soon. I’d just be wasting time thinking about it when I have work to do…

Actually, what was there for him to do?

He really couldn’t be bothered typing up more of those stupid case files, and sorting the hard copies was so damned tedious. It would be too much work to try and find some, anyway. There were also no appointments, and he’d already double-checked the finances and accounts – it had been a pretty easy job, seeing as though he’d only needed to glance at them to see the bold, red numbers. Hell, he didn’t even have to answer the phone anymore. Until a potential client showed up, there was literally nothing to keep Phoenix busy.

He tapped his fingers on the desk, glancing around the room to see if anything caught his attention.

“There’s got to be something to do,” he muttered to himself.

Since when is it possible to run out of work at work?

Phoenix paused.

…What the hell am I saying?

He grinned and sat back in his chair, putting his hands behind his head.

Complaining about not having any work to do? Am I turning into Edgeworth?

There was a long silence as Phoenix simply sat there, doing nothing. Not even his thoughts seemed to want to keep him occupied.

Well, this is entertaining…

Sitting up to look at the clock, he noticed that time had gone incredibly slowly. He watched the second hand move for a bit.

“Okay, I give!”

Phoenix quickly reached for a pen and grabbed an old envelope. He started off drawing little swirls on the corners, moving on to draw a flower in the middle of the page. He stopped to inspect his artwork, wondering how he could make it slightly more manly. He connected the petals so they looked like rings circling around a planet – which had previously been the center of the flower – before labelling it ‘Justice’. Satisfied, he went on to draw a little spaceship with a stick alien inside. He gave the alien a cravat and labelled it ‘Prosecutor’.

After adding a dozen or so stars to complete the masterpiece, Phoenix held it up in front of himself and chuckled.

And here we have Exhibit A in the case of the missing maturity of Phoenix Wright.

He took a moment to study it, before scrunching it up into a ball and chucking it at the waste paper bin.

To his dismay, he missed.

That was a fluke…

He opened a drawer and pulled out some scrap paper he’d used to note down a client’s details on. He scrunched it up into a ball and took his time aiming, only to miss again by about a foot.

Phoenix pouted, taking out another piece of paper, scrunching it up tighter this time, and throwing it directly at the trash can. It bounced off the rim.

“Damn it,” Phoenix mumbled under his breath, going over to pick the balls of paper off the floor. He walked over to the shredder and turned it on, before feeding all three pieces of paper through it and smiling down proudly at the remains.

Hah, take that!

He looked around and spotted an old file that was marked ‘Private and Confidential’, with a post-it on top that said ‘To be sorted’. Inside it was a load of paper, along with a good supply of paperclips. He pondered for a moment, then shrugged and removed the clips, before starting to shred the paper in clumps.

It was a strangely addicting task. By the time Phoenix had finished with the folder, he found himself looking for other things to stick in and gathered every bit of scrap paper and all the old envelopes he could find.

In the end, he was left with an overflowing container, full to the brim with bits of paper.

A noble sacrifice.

But now I have to clean all this up…

Phoenix picked the container up, removing the shredding mechanism, and looked around the office for a place to hide the evidence. For some reason, his brain told him that the top shelf of the bookcase would be completely suitable.

He wheeled his chair over to stand on it, and was just able to reach up and inch the container on. It was almost secure when, suddenly, the chair decided to have a mind of its own and jerked in the opposite direction. Phoenix quickly got off the chair, letting the container tip over, half the contents falling down. He looked at the paper as it fluttered around his head, and then up at the teetering container, before shrugging and pulling his chair back over to his desk to sit down.

I’ll clean it up later.

Maybe I can trick Maya into helping me if I tell her it’s indoor snow…

He glanced down at his desk to see the pile of paperclips and picked one up, only to find it had been joined onto another.

Inspiration struck. Phoenix threaded each paperclip onto the last one to make a long line of them. He then sat back in his chair, holding the chain up in front of him to grin at it.

If that isn’t productive work, I don’t know what is.

Phoenix rested his head on his hand, his free hand twirling the paperclip chain around his fingers. He quickly became frustrated with his creation, however, as the edges of the clips kept catching his skin. It didn’t take very long until he had enough, and he jammed it down onto his desk, where an eraser happened to be innocently sitting.

The eraser snapped into two with the force, making Phoenix frown.

I created a cannibalistic monster.

He laid the paperclip chain down on the desk and quickly withdrew his hand.

This needs bringing to justice!

Phoenix chucked the eraser and chain into his pen pot, before taking out a sharpener, a ruler and a pen. He selected the ruler to voice first.

“Wright, even if I am the prosecution on this case, don’t expect any special treatment.”

He rubbed his chin.

Something isn’t right…

A ruler’s too blunt to be associated with Edgeworth.

Phoenix stared at it for a moment, before breaking into a smirk.

And way too straight.

He put the ruler to one side and picked up the sharpener.

“That wasn’t amusing, Wright,” Phoenix mimicked in the best Edgeworth impression he could achieve. “Especially seeing as you’re on trial on the murder of your beloved eraser.”

Phoenix chuckled and picked up the ruler again, deciding it represented him a lot better than it did Edgeworth. “Okay, witness, explain how I’m the killer. From the evidence, I can see that the paperclips were wholly responsible for the eraser’s unfortunate demise.”

“Ah, but, sir,” the pen replied, “I spotted you from just over there threading the paperclips together into a dreadful weapon.”

“Now, this is true.” Phoenix picked up his coffee and twisted a bit in his chair. “However, it is not my actions that led to the eraser splitting in two.”

He took a sip and leaned back in his chair, picking up the pencil sharpener. “Objection! According to witness accounts, you provoked the paperclip chain, Wright.”

Phoenix snorted and had to bite his lip from fear of laughing at his own joke. He sat up straight again and put the pencil sharpener back down.

“Overruled on the basis that this is really stupid.”

He chucked the stationery back into the pot and, in the process, noticed that most of the pencils were blunt. He sighed.

I need a secretary.

Phoenix grabbed the electric sharpener and started off going through each of his pencils. It was an incredibly boring task and, after the fifth pencil, he really needed to do something to keep himself occupied.

He hit the power button on the computer. Thankfully, it worked, and Phoenix managed to multitask sharpening his next pencil with his left hand while opening the Games tab in the Start menu. He heard the noise that signalled the pencil was sharp and grabbed the next one without looking, too busy choosing which game to play.

There’s no way in hell I’ll ever complete that FreeCell thing, and I don’t think I’ll be able to beat 356 seconds on Minesweeper anytime soon…

I really shouldn’t be so well versed on this.

He started on his next pencil and clicked on Hearts, smirking as he entered the name ‘Ace Attorney’. The names of the other players were so boring, and winning or losing against some random person called Pauline meant nothing. Phoenix decided to jazz them up a little, moving onto his next pencil as he opened the options menu to enter ‘Edgeworth’ as the first player.

Oh, you’re so going down, Edgeworth.

He snickered and entered ‘Maya’ and ‘Larry’ in the other places, reaching to stick another pencil in the sharpener.

This time, however, there was a strange crunching noise. Phoenix turned to look at it.

Ink exploded everywhere.

“Shit…!”

Phoenix flinched and closed his eyes, withdrawing what he had thought was a pencil.

He waited a few seconds and slowly opened one eye to inspect the damage. The ink had covered his desk and keyboard, along with coating his post-its and some stray folders. A smattering of it was dripping off the sharpener.

I’ve always wondered what would happen if I did that…

Phoenix put the broken pen down and checked over his suit. Miraculously, he’d escaped getting any ink on himself. He quickly went to get some tissues, mopping up as much of it as possible.

I really need a secretary.

He sighed and went over to drop the tissues in the trash, before going back to his computer to look at which cards he could give away. He got rid of some hearts and the rest of his clubs, before sitting down and picking up his cup of coffee. It was starting to get cold, so Phoenix downed the lot. He placed the cup down and a post-it on the desk caught his eye. Next to a blob of ink was a little scribble that Phoenix deciphered as ‘4 ft’.

Four feet? Is that all?

He turned back to his game of Hearts and played a couple of rounds.

I’m sure Maya said she managed six the other day…

Surely six feet is impossible.

His eyes darted back to the inscription on the post-it, and then over to where his stapler was sitting. He reached for the stapler and pulled it so it was flat.

It’s my duty as a defence attorney to reveal the truth, after all.

Phoenix pressed down on the stapler and watched the staple fly across the room. He leaned over his desk to see where it had landed, but couldn’t spot anything on the floor. He shot a couple more, hoping that a small pile of them would be more noticeable. However, when he checked again, they were still invisible on the grey carpet.

He frowned and got up, walking around his desk to get down on his hands and knees, his nose nearly touching the floor. He scanned the carpet and eventually found one of the escapee staples. Glancing back, he figured it to be about four feet away from his desk.

“I knew it! Six is impossible!”

Phoenix dropped the staple and got up to dust his suit down. Just to make sure, he walked back to his desk, keeping his eyes on the spot where he had found the staple, and walked back towards it.

“One… two… three… four…” Phoenix mumbled under his breath.

He frowned and looked down at the floor.

The staple was nowhere to be seen.

He sighed.

This is stupid. For all I know, that could have been a staple from ages ago, anyway.

As if Maya could tell if she got six feet…

Phoenix paused.

Do I really have nothing better to do than see how far I can get a staple to fly across the room?

He shook his head and went back to sit down at his desk, pinging a few more staples for the hell of it.

I guess I had such a busy weekend that it’s not surprising I feel like I’ve got nothing to do.

Phoenix smiled to himself and put down the stapler.

I bet compared to Edgeworth’s normal standard of busy, last weekend would have been relaxing.

He snickered as he imagined a stressed out Edgeworth sitting in the middle of piles of paper as tall as skyscrapers.

He brings the massive workload on himself, really. A good prosecutor is a rare find so they’re bound to work him into the ground…

I wonder what he’s up to right now…

Phoenix paused on that thought. He searched his desk for his address book and flicked through to ‘E’, then dragged his finger down the page until he reached ‘Edgeworth Work’.

He wouldn’t mind if I called him, would he?

Phoenix tapped the page and glanced over at the phone a couple of times.

He’s probably just doing a pile of unimportant paperwork, anyways.

He dialled the number to Edgeworth’s office and leaned back in his chair as the phone rang one, two, three times.

Maybe he’s not in…

Miles Edgeworth.

Phoenix sat back up. “Hey… it’s me.”

…Wright?” There was a pause on the other end. “What the hell are you calling me at work for? I’m busy.

I should have seen that one coming.

“Sorry. I just…” Phoenix trailed off.

…Why did I call him again?

“I just wanted to ask…” He bit his lip. Why couldn’t he remember why he’d wanted to call Edgeworth in the first place? There was certainly a reason. He couldn’t have been that bored.

I guess I’ll just have to bluff my way through this one until I remember.

Phoenix cleared his throat. “Does a guy really need a reason to want to hear his boyfriend’s voice?”

Silence.

“…Edgeworth?”

Which part of ‘I’m busy’ do you not understand, Wright?” Miles snapped.

Still in a bad mood, I see.

“You’re always busy, Edgeworth.”

And yet, you keep calling me,” Miles replied dryly.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Well, it’s true, though. Even if I call you at home, you say the same damned thing.”

My point exactly.

Phoenix sighed, before bringing his attention back to the computer screen. He clicked on the eight of diamonds – the last card he had left – and smiled to himself when he saw that he was still in the lead, with a perfect score, no less. He stretched a bit in his chair and brought the receiver to his other ear to hold it with his shoulder.

“What are you working on, anyways? Still that paperwork?” he asked, trying to decide which card to play next.

Some rustling of paper could be heard on the other end.

What do you think?” Miles muttered, his attention clearly elsewhere.

I think I better leave it at that if I don’t want to hear all about how it’s apparently my fault.

“Speaking of papers,” Phoenix continued, “what brilliant advice did Larry have for you this time?” He chuckled a bit and sat back in his chair.

The line went silent again.

Phoenix frowned.

Second time in two minutes. Looks like I really chose the wrong day to be bored out of my mind.

“Hey, you still there?”

Miles sighed. “Look, Wright, I have work to do…

“You didn’t answer my question,” Phoenix complained.

There was a pause.

…Nothing worth mentioning.

Phoenix grinned. “So you actually looked at it? What did it say?”

Wright…

“I’m pretty sure it didn’t say my name, Edgeworth,” Phoenix cut in. “Larry doesn’t love me that much.”

…I’m hanging up,” Miles said weakly.

“Oh, come on, Edgeworth,” Phoenix whined. “I promise I’ll let you work after.”

Miles sighed in frustration. “Why does it matter so much what that stupid thing said?

Phoenix shrugged. “Because it’s funny,” he replied simply.

To you, maybe.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Look, you’re just wasting time, here. I’m not hanging up until you tell me.” He cracked his knuckles and took the receiver in his hand to switch ears again. “Besides, I don’t see why you’re making such a big deal out of it. It’s just a ‘stupid thing’ as you so eloquently put it.”

I’m not making a big deal out of anything, Wright,” Miles replied sharply. “I just don’t have any time to waste discussing pointless things with you.

Not a big deal my ass. You’re avoiding the question like I do burger stalls when I’m with Maya.

“But you have time to argue with me, apparently.”

Fine.” Miles paused. “He was mocking my lack of romantic knowledge. Satisfied?

Phoenix laughed. “That’s it? Why so secretive, then?”

You said you’d let me work if I answered your stupid question,” Miles muttered.

“Well, yeah, but…” Phoenix frowned. “Why would Larry make fun of you on paper when he can do it in person? Sounds like too much effort for him. Plus he said it was important when he gave it to me.”

Wright, it’s Larry we’re talking about. Nothing he does ever makes sense.

Phoenix chuckled. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

There’s no point in insisting, I suppose.

There was a noise on the other end of the line which Phoenix guessed was of a drawer being slammed shut.

Is that all you called for?

“Well…” Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “To be honest, I can’t even remember why I called you.” He took a look around the office, his eyes falling on the bits of shredded paper on the floor, then on the mess of ink on the desk that still needed proper cleaning up. “I guess I was bored.”

Make that so bored I would have made Larry look civilised in comparison.

Don’t you have work to do?” Miles asked sceptically.

If by work you mean giving advice to psychos, then no.

“Yeah, but I was… taking a break,” Phoenix replied cautiously.

Miles snorted. “Sure you were.

“Hey! Why do you always assume I do nothing all day?” Phoenix protested, failing to sound offended.

I’m not assuming anything, Wright. I’m just stating the truth.

Phoenix shook his head, but couldn’t fight down a smile.

Well, at least he seems in a better mood now.

He rolled his chair back a bit and put his feet up on the desk, sprawling further back in his seat.

Now, where was I?

He spotted a roll of masking tape on the corner of the desk and nudged it with his foot. Stretching a bit so he could reach behind it, he brought it closer to himself and pushed it up around the end of his shoe with his other foot.

I wonder if I can still do this.

Lifting his foot up, he took a few test swings, before throwing the roll in the air towards himself. He tried to catch it, but to his dismay, he took it right between the eyes and ended up dropping the receiver instead.

“Ouch! Damn it!”

Phoenix rubbed his forehead and winced, damning his stupidity, before bending down to retrieve the receiver on the floor.

“Sorry about that,” he said sheepishly.

…Do I want to know?

I don’t know, but I certainly don’t want you to.

Phoenix laughed nervously. “Err… I just sorta got a cramp in my hand from, err…” He paused.

Good job, Phoenix, that sounded so much better!

He cleared his throat. “Yeah, you know what, just forget it.”

The door suddenly opened and Maya appeared from behind it.

“Nick! I’m hungry!” she shouted, before stopping to look around the office, her eyes widening. “What the hell happened in here?”

“Maya, can’t you see I’m on the phone?” Phoenix scolded, hastily taking his feet off the desk.

Maya frowned. “You’re on the phone…? But I thought you asked me to take the calls.” She paused. “Wait… it didn’t even ring.”

Oops, busted.

“Well, err… it’s a funny story, actually.” Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “I thought there might be a problem with the phone, so I picked it up to see if it was working right, and just happened to answer a call by accident.” He chuckled nervously. “Yeah.”

Maya raised an eyebrow. “Whatever, Nick.” She shook her head and pointed to the clock. “It’s already past eleven and I’m starving!” She held out a hand and looked at him expectantly.

Phoenix sighed. “Maya…”

Maya didn’t move.

I guess it can’t be helped…

He took out a few notes and handed them to her. “There. Now, will you please leave me alone? I’m busy.”

Maya rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah.” She started walking towards the exit, before turning around to look at him. “Have fun talking to your girlfriend.”

Phoenix froze. “…What?”

Maya grinned. “Bye, Nick!”

“W-wait!” Phoenix went to get up from his chair, but stopped when Maya slammed the door behind her. “That’s not…” He trailed off.

Why would she think something like that?

So, not even taking your phone calls, now? You’re breaking records, Wright.

“Shut up, Edgeworth.” Phoenix sighed and brought his attention back to his computer, realising he still hadn’t finished his game of Hearts.

One more round, and it’s a perfect win!

He smiled to himself as he gave away the cards he didn’t need. It left him with a nearly perfect hand – no cards over ten, and only two suits.

This is gonna be so easy.

He played the first few turns, getting rid of his highest cards. He ended up getting all the cards on the fifth turn or so – he didn’t really keep count – but none of them were worth any points, so no problem there. Now, all that was left was to choose the right card to start the next turn. He decided on the five of clubs.

Wright, there’s something I--

“Fuck off, Edgeworth! I don’t want your fucking heart!”

The line went silent for a moment. “…Excuse me?

Phoenix blinked, realising what he’d just said. He chuckled. “Oops, sorry… It’s just, I was playing Hearts and you’ve just cost me a perfect game. Well, the ‘you’ in the game, that is.”

There was another pause. “I see…

Phoenix cleared his throat. “So, yeah, uh… What were you saying?”

…I forget. It probably wasn’t important.

Phoenix shrugged. “If you say so.” He stretched a bit in his chair and looked up at the clock on the wall. Almost eleven thirty. He realized he was getting hungry.

I should have asked Maya to bring me back something…

He sighed.

What is it?

“I’m starving.”

There was a pause.

And you’re telling me… why?” Miles replied dryly.

“Hey, you just asked me!” Phoenix retorted.

Miles sighed. “My bad. But what am I supposed to do about it? It’s not my fault you can’t afford breakfast.

“H-hey! I did eat breakfast this morning, I’ll have you know,” Phoenix replied defensively.

Okay, I didn’t, but he doesn’t need to know that.

He turned his attention back to the computer screen and pouted at it, before closing the game that had just been ruined for him.

You owe me for this, Edgeworth.

Phoenix blinked.

Wait…

“Actually,” he started again, “you could do something about it.”

…I dread to ask.

“I mean, you do owe me for ruining my perfect game, and--”

Wright.

Phoenix snickered. “I knew you’d agree.”

Miles snorted. “Very amusing. But you do realise I don’t actually owe you anything, right?

“Well, you did ruin my game!” Phoenix complained, trying to sound as serious as possible.

I hardly think I should be held responsible for you thinking characters in a computer game are real.

Phoenix laughed. “Well, even so, I wouldn’t have lost if you hadn’t been distracting me! How do you expect me to focus on my game if you keep talking to me on the phone? You know guys can’t multitask!”

First of all, Wright, you’re the one who called me. Second of all, speak for yourself. I can multitask just fine.

Phoenix grinned. “Oh, really? That’s not what you said last night.”

Miles sighed. “For Christ’s sake…

Oh, you’re so easy, Edgeworth.

“Okay, let’s put it this way.” Phoenix cleared his throat. “I’m willing to forget about last night if you’ll buy me lunch. You wouldn’t want your boyfriend starving to death, would you?”

Starve all you want, I have work to do,” Miles replied sharply.

Oh well, it was worth a try.

“And what’s your excuse for after your work’s done?” Phoenix asked.

I’m afraid you’ll have died of starvation by then.

Phoenix smiled. “I’ll survive. But I meant we could go out for a drink instead or something.”

There was silence on the other end until Miles let out a sigh. “Where?

Phoenix blinked. “Is that a yes?”

Don’t wait for me to change my mind.

“Alright, alright…” Phoenix paused. “How about… The Cue?”

Fine,” Miles replied promptly, obviously not in the mood to argue. “I’ll meet you there at nine thirty.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “You’ll be working that late?”

I told you I’m busy, Wright.

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised…

“Alright then, I’ll see you tonight.”

Phoenix hung up and sat back in his chair. He smiled to himself. Convincing Edgeworth was getting way too easy. It was as if he knew exactly what to say, and how Edgeworth would react. Perhaps he was really starting to know him better?

I can’t believe I just talked him into going out for drinks.

Phoenix stretched and cracked his knuckles, before looking down at the desk in front of him.

Oh, right… I still have to clean this up…

He glanced up at the container on top of the bookshelf, then back down at the bits of paper on the floor.

Well, this is gonna be a fun afternoon…

---

Phoenix stopped jogging down the sidewalk and checked his watch.

“Two minutes!?”

I’m never going to make it in two minutes!

He groaned and tapped his watch, before putting his hands on his knees and taking deep breaths.

Stupid buses that only go once a stupid hour…

I knew I should have taken a cab!

He sighed and straightened up again, setting off in a run down the street. To think, if he hadn’t bothered ironing the shirt and jeans he’d decided to wear, and just stuck with his t-shirt and slacks, he could have easily caught the bus and wouldn’t currently be fighting to breathe.

Me and my stupid pride… I’m starting to think I should just show Edgeworth up and get on with it.

He turned a corner and immediately stopped running when he spotted the bar he had chosen to meet at. Breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth a few times, and ignoring the stitch in his side, Phoenix walked calmly over to a bunch of people loitering outside. He spotted Edgeworth already there, standing off to one side with his arms crossed and looking a little uptight.

What a predictable guy.

Phoenix broke into a smile and attempted a casual jog, before wincing and deciding to just walk up to Edgeworth instead.

“Hey, Edgeworth!” He smiled and waved when Miles turned to look at him.

Miles shifted his arms a little to glance down at his watch, before crossing them again. “Wright. Good to see you here, at last.”

Phoenix smiled nervously and stuffed his hands in his pockets when he finally reached Miles’ side. “Ah, you, err… been here long?”

“Ages,” Miles answered with a demeaning smirk.

Phoenix looked down at the floor and shifted his feet a little.

Jerk. I bet he can tell I’m out of breath, too.

He looked back up at Miles and smiled. “Well, I hope you’re happy. I had to run to get here so you didn’t think I’d stood you up, you know.”

“What a surprise,” Miles replied, the smirk still in place.

Phoenix laughed a little, nudging Miles’ shoulder with his own. “Hey, I can be very organised when I put my mind to it, I’ll have you know.”

“Of course. Times when your client’s life is on the line in court, especially.”

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “Heh, I see your point.”

I’m starting to wonder if this was such a good idea, after all…

He turned back to Miles and pointed at the bar. “So… err… fancy going in?”

“I was beginning to think you’d invited me out here to simply stand in the street,” Miles commented, uncrossing his arms.

Phoenix chuckled. “You really thought I’d be that unromantic when choosing a place for our date?” he joked, a sly smile on his face.

Miles frowned. “This is not a date, Wright.”

…I momentarily forgot he had no sense of humour.

Phoenix put a hand on his chest. “You really know how to get to your boyfriend’s heart.”

Miles’ frown deepened but he didn’t comment any further, much to Phoenix’s surprise. He sighed and walked over to the entrance of the bar, waiting for Phoenix to catch up, before opening the door for him.

Phoenix grabbed hold of the door behind Miles and gestured for him to go in. At the other man’s curious look, he stated, “It’s always ladies first, Edgeworth.”

Miles let go of the door and sent an amused glance over his shoulder. “How is it that you manage to make simply entering a building seem like a task in itself?”

“I’m just that amazing,” Phoenix replied.

Miles rolled his eyes in response, making Phoenix grin.

Too easy, Edgeworth, too easy.

Miles pushed Phoenix’s shoulder to usher him through the doorway first and they both made their way over to the bar.

The room was dimly lit, the only source of lighting coming from a line of bulbs behind the bar, some small LED lights at the bottom of the bar and a few low-hanging light fittings. There was a large TV in the corner of the room that was attracting a small crowd of people, and a few slot machines were spread across the wall adjacent to it. A red-clothed pool table took up the center area, with chairs, tables and couches filling in the rest of the space around it. The décor and furnishings were dark and fairly contemporary, making it seem small but cosy.

It didn’t take long until a barman came over to them to ask for their order.

Phoenix rubbed his chin before crossing his arms to lean forward onto the bar. “Budweiser for me and a martini for this guy.” He stuck a thumb over his right shoulder.

“A martini?” Miles asked monotonously from behind.

Phoenix glanced over his shoulder. “I just thought it would be appropriate, since James Bond drinks that all the time.”

“…What?”

Phoenix turned to face him, an amused smile on his lips. “Seeing as you have the same accent and all, I think it makes perfect sense.”

Miles shook his head. “Don’t go there,” he said, an edge to his voice.

“Does this mean you don’t want to accept your boyfriend’s generous offer?

“I am mature enough to get my own drink, Wright,” Miles answered, seemingly ignoring Phoenix’s teasing comment.

“Oh, come on, Edgeworth,” Phoenix replied, leaning backwards on the bar. “There’s really no point in complaining; it’s my turn to pay.”

“What do you mean it’s your turn?” Miles retorted. “We’ve never gone out before.”

I wonder why that is…

“Oh, really?” Phoenix smirked. “Then what have we been doing this past week?”

Miles sent him a frustrated look. “You know what I meant.”

Phoenix shrugged and turned around to pay the barman and pick up their drinks. “Well, I was talking about the time you paid for my coffee.”

“That was a whole week ago,” Miles muttered, frowning as he took the cocktail off Phoenix.

Phoenix sighed and took a sip of his beer. “Edgeworth, look, it’s a drink. I’ll live to pay my bills another day, and, seriously, I wanted to buy you it, okay?”

Miles looked back at him blankly. His gaze slowly pulled away and he took a hesitant drink. “Not quite James Bond. It’s been stirred.”

I’ll take that as a thank you.

Phoenix laughed. “Exactly how I feel when I’m around you, Edgeworth,” he said with a grin.

Miles sighed. “We should go and sit down.”

He knows it’s funny, really.

Phoenix chuckled. “Sure.”

Miles nodded and walked over to a table for four. He put his drink down opposite the chair furthest away and held onto his tie as he sat down. Without thinking, Phoenix took the chair next to him. Miles turned to face him and raised an eyebrow.

There was a pause.

“Whoops!” Phoenix scrambled up and hurriedly pulled out the chair opposite instead. “I-I guess I’ve just got too used to us being with Kath and… stuff.” He laughed nervously.

What an idiot! No wonder Edgeworth thinks I’m a moron…

“You’re used to Everett?” Miles snorted. “I thought the impossible couldn’t happen.”

Phoenix chuckled, relieved that Miles wasn’t going to press the matter. “You’re right.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry, anyway…”

“You’ve not committed a crime by simply sitting next to me, Wright,” Miles replied, looking down at his drink rather than at Phoenix.

“I dunno. Following something Larry decided would be a good idea sounds like an unwritten crime to me.” He sighed.

“We should bring that one up with the Judge,” Miles agreed.

Phoenix laughed. “Speaking of Larry and his ideas, are you sure wearing a tie isn’t sending me the wrong signals, Edgeworth?”

Miles gave him a withering look. “I swear to God, that man will be the death of me,” he mumbled in response, fixing his thin, blue tie.

Phoenix grinned. “You mean you’re not worried that your compulsive tie wearing will affect our sex life?”

Miles pulled a face. “Please, I’m trying to drink here,” he said with mock disgust.

Phoenix propped up his cheek on his hand, the grin never leaving his face. “Are you embarrassed about our beautiful relationship?”

Miles uncomfortably shuffled a bit in his chair and picked up his drink. “How could anyone be embarrassed about you and your astounding sense of tact, Wright?” he muttered sarcastically.

Ah, looks like I pushed him a bit too far there.

“Yes, well…” Phoenix sat up straight and cleared his throat. “How’s your day been, then?”

Good rescue, Phoenix!

“Busy. Yours?”

“Oh, extremely busy. Been rushed off my feet the whole time,” Phoenix lied.

“You wouldn’t know busy even if it came up to you and slapped you across the face,” Miles retorted with a smirk.

Phoenix opened his mouth to argue, but decided it was kind of pointless and pouted instead. “Playing Hearts is a very tiring job, I’ll have you know.”

Miles grimaced and shook his head. “Remind me to never phone you during work hours.”

Phoenix laughed. “Ah, I wouldn’t worry about that. I could never reject you for real,” he said matter-of-factly, reaching across to pat Miles on the arm.

“That makes me feel so much better, Wright,” Miles replied, slapping away Phoenix’s hand.

“I mean it, Edgeworth. You’re the only one for me.”

Crap, done it again…!

“How’s the martini?” Phoenix added quickly before Miles could react.

Miles glanced at him, before picking up his glass again and inspecting it. “Hendrick’s,” he stated, taking another sip. “Could be worse.”

Phoenix smiled.

Trust Edgeworth to be able to tell what brand of gin it is. He could probably tell me the year and the size of the barrel it was distilled in, as well.

At least he’s useful for something.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “What is it, Wright?”

Phoenix snapped out of his stupor and sat up straight, grabbing his drink. “Ah… erm… Nothing.”

“You could have just asked if you wanted a taste,” Miles commented, pushing his cocktail glass over to him, before leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms.

Not what I was actually thinking… But, hey, it’ll do.

“Thanks.” Phoenix picked an olive out of the liquid and popped it in his mouth.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “I meant the drink.”

Phoenix sat back in his chair. “Yeah, well, the olive is my favourite part.”

“Mine too,” Miles said in all seriousness.

Phoenix smirked. “You’ll have to come and get it if you want it back.”

Miles stared back at him, a slight bit of alarm evident on his face, as Phoenix stuck his tongue out with the olive balancing on top.

“Just taste the damned drink,” Miles eventually snapped, looking away at something on the other side of the room.

Phoenix laughed. He leaned forward to pick up the glass, trying to find a way to hold it properly, before taking a drink.

“Verdict?”

Phoenix pulled a face and put the martini down. “I think I’ll stick with beer.”

Miles smirked and pulled it back towards him. “How did I know you’d say that?”

Phoenix took a big swig of his beer, trying to wash the taste from his mouth. “Lover’s intuition,” he said with a wink.

“Evidently,” Miles replied dryly. “It obviously has nothing to do with my knowledge of your lack of taste.”

Phoenix pouted. “I have a perfectly fine taste.”

In everything but my choice of friends, that is.

Miles shot him a disbelieving look over his glass, before taking a drink.

Phoenix felt a smile edge his way onto his face.

Oh, I don’t think I can resist this opportunity…

He bit back a premature laugh and leaned forward to rest his chin on his hand. “See, I taste delicious.”

Miles frowned and put his cocktail down. “What?”

Phoenix leaned in closer. “I taste delicious,” he repeated.

“How exactly can I see that?” Miles asked with a smirk, mirroring Phoenix’s stance with his head in his hand.

“Through our first kiss.”

There was a small pause as the comment was digested.

Miles’ eyes widened before his elbow suddenly slipped out of place and he sat back up straight. “O-our first what now?”

“Indirect, of course,” Phoenix continued. He pointed at the martini.

Miles blinked. “You… Indirect kiss…?” It suddenly seemed to click as his gaze turned scrutinizing, rather than shocked. He rubbed his forehead and took in a deep breath. “How old are you, Wright?”

Phoenix burst out laughing. “Tw-twenty-five,” he answered the rhetorical question through chuckles.

“Then what the hell made you think that such an immature joke could possibly be funny?” Miles asked sternly, only making Phoenix snort and start laughing again twice as loud.

“Sorry! Sorry, I really am sor--” He coughed. “Sorry…”

Okay, I’m really not.

He looked up to see Miles shake his head, a small smile on his lips. He was trying to look anywhere but at Phoenix. “Next time you want to try my drink, I’m getting you a straw.”

You were the one who made me drink it…

…Wait.

Phoenix sat up straight. “Next time?”

Miles looked down at his drink, moving the glass around slightly. “Oh, well, I just assumed--”

“No, I didn’t mean it like that,” Phoenix cut in. “I’m… I guess I’m just glad you want there to be a next time.” He smiled. “Even after my ‘immature’ joke.”

Miles smirked. “I shock even myself with that one.”

Phoenix laughed softly and started passing the beer bottle between his hands. “This is nice,” he began, looking back up at Miles to send him a small smile. “The two of us, finally on proper talking terms again.”

Miles looked down at the table. “Glad you think so.” He paused, seeming to think intently over what he was going to say next. Phoenix didn’t interrupt. Instead, he looked over at the pool table to watch the match that was currently being played.

One man seemed at the top of his game and was potting the coloured balls on most of his turns. The other guy looked like he couldn’t care less and was randomly hitting the cue ball all over the table, hoping it would hit the right colour. However, he was actually doing quite well with it. Perhaps it was just his style? If not, it must have been extremely good beginner’s luck…

“Wright…”

The first guy potted his last ball and got ready to cue the black.

I hope he doesn’t get it.

The unpredictable guy’s way of playing is so much more interesting.

“Wright.”

Phoenix turned to half face Miles. “Hm?”

“Earlier, on the phone…” Miles stopped, probably to see if Phoenix was really listening.

The man missed and Phoenix mentally cheered as his opponent took his cue in hand. “Yeah?”

“I’ve got a lot of things on my mind at the moment, and I regret not saying them then,” Miles said slowly, seeming to carefully choose each word.

The black went rolling into the corner pocket and Phoenix grinned to himself. “You always have a lot of things on your mind, Edgeworth,” he replied. “Perhaps you just need a break from work or something.” He turned back to Miles and was half surprised to see him still staring uncomfortably at the table, just as he had been before.

“No, it’s not the amount of content.” Miles sighed. “It’s just… Wright, I--”

Scoooore!

A loud roar from the people in front of the TV made Phoenix nearly jump off his chair.

“Suck on that, you fucking Ducks!”

Ducks…? That’s an inventive insult…

“How does it feel to get owned in your own arena!?”

“Go Kings!”

Phoenix turned around to see a couple of the people jumping up and down while they chanted. He turned back with a sigh to rest his forehead on his hand.

“Geez, I’ll never understand why people get so excited over a stupid game,” Phoenix grumbled, trying to hide the fact that he was still recovering from the initial shock.

Miles cleared his throat. “Each to their own, I suppose.” He looked away from the cheering crowd to meet Phoenix’s gaze. “I don’t see how people can become complacent about their work and slack off, but it’s not my place to complain.”

I wasn’t slacking off! I just didn’t have anything to do!

…Something tells me I shouldn’t tell him that, though.

“Ha-ha, funny.” Phoenix sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “But you have a point. I could never understand someone’s unhealthy obsession with a kids’ TV show, and yet I never mention it. Guess I don’t want to embarrass him.”

Miles stopped smirking.

“Hypothetically speaking, of course,” Phoenix continued. “I doubt I’d know anyone as unsophisticated as that.” It was pleasing to find he had indeed hit a nerve when Miles’ eyes snapped up to meet his own.

Phoenix smiled and took a drink.

I won’t ever get tired of that defensive look of his.

Miles seemed to be thinking of a comeback, before he apparently gave up and slumped back in his chair instead. “Sometimes you make yourself hard to like, Wright.”

Phoenix chuckled, swirling the remnants that were left in the bottle. “You love me, really.”

Miles scowled down at the table. “There’s a fine line between love and hate,” he mumbled.

“Is that meant to be some kind of confession, Edgeworth?” Phoenix teased.

He noticed Miles’ jaw tighten a bit at his remark. “I was merely pointing out that our friendship has its limits.”

“Ah.”

I knew that.

There was silence as Miles proceeded to focus on the table, refusing to meet Phoenix’s eyes or start up another conversation.

Better just leave him to it. If there’s anything I’ve learned this past week, it’s that trying to understand Edgeworth is as fruitful as trying to explain to Maya the difference between a ladder and a stepladder.

I mean, what the hell does he mean by limits?

There were limits, yes, but surely the fake dating had bridged some sort of a gap? Surely Edgeworth felt at least a little bit more comfortable around him by now?

He realised he actually didn’t know what Edgeworth’s views were on this fake relationship, or its influences on their friendship – he’d never bothered asking. It felt like dangerous water to tread, for some reason.

Probably something to do with the fact that he freaked out on our first ‘date’.

I wonder if he does enjoy the time we spend together. For all I know, he simply puts up with me for appearance’s sake…

Why the hell did I never ask him that before?

Phoenix swirled his bottle again, taking a couple of nervous glances at Miles.

Well, he acted like he enjoyed the time we spent together, didn’t he? Why would he bother agreeing to meet up if he didn’t? I’m pretty sure he feels the same way.

“I-I think this last week has helped with making us limit those, err, limits,” Phoenix commented. “I mean… we’ve become better friends over it, don’t you think?” he added in a rush.

Oh God, I bet I’ve just put my foot in it and he actually thinks I’m just annoying…

What if he thinks I’m worse than Larry!?

He frowned.

Okay, now I know I’m being paranoid…

Miles looked up and studied him for a moment. “Maybe.”

Phoenix blinked. “…Maybe?”

Miles leaned back in his chair, a thoughtful expression on his face. “I like to think we were already good friends.” He crossed his arms and looked off to the side. “Maybe we needed to be shown – to remind us.”

Relief flooded over Phoenix and he flopped back in his chair, a smile on his face.

I knew there was nothing to be worried about.

“Yeah.” He grinned. “It’s also easier to make fun of you now that you’re my boyfriend.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “I don’t think I want to know what you think a good friendship involves.”

Phoenix chuckled. “Not a good friendship, Edgeworth, just our friendship.”

Miles stared at him weirdly for a moment.

Phoenix raised a questioning eyebrow.

Did I say something wrong…?

Miles quickly looked away and finished off the last dregs of his glass. “Same again?”

Phoenix nodded and they simultaneously got up from their chairs. He let out a small laugh as he tucked his in to stand behind it. “It’s okay, I’ll get them.”

“No, it’s fine.” Miles copied his action. “You already paid for these.”

Phoenix shrugged and tapped his fingers on the back of the chair. “Well, yeah, but I’m the one who dragged you out here…”

“I assure you, I arrived here by my own free will,” Miles replied.

“Still, it’s my treat, Edgeworth.”

Miles smirked. “I would hate to owe you a favour.”

Phoenix checked Miles’ face for any sign of hesitance, then raised his hands in surrender. “Okay, you win.” He smiled and pointed over at the bathroom. “I need a piss, anyway.”

“Thank you for that detail, Wright. I don’t know how I could have lived without it,” Miles mumbled, walking towards the bar.

“Anytime!” Phoenix called after him, before heading over to the bathroom.

He pushed open the door and scrunched up his nose at the dingy room, not enjoying the fragrance one bit. After finishing up as quickly as possible, he went over to the sole sink in the room and squinted a little at his reflection in the wonky mirror that was hanging above it.

Not too bad, he mused. I was half expecting to look dead after my monthly exercise the best part of an hour ago…

Wow, who knew time with Edgeworth could go by so fast?

Phoenix smirked and turned on the hot tap, but paused a second.

It’s been quite a weird night, though.

It wasn’t as though Edgeworth had been off with him at all, unlike last Tuesday at the restaurant. His smarmy comments, that annoying smirk and his frustrating way of thinking constantly were all still there. He’d also looked the same as always – formal and perfectly pristine, of course. If Phoenix hadn’t been paying enough attention, he was sure he wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

It feels that something’s… not right?

No, just… different.

He bit his lip, trying to place just what it was that had felt strange about the night so far.

“Not a good friendship, Edgeworth, just our friendship.”

The way he reacted… what’s with that?

He pushed up his sleeves and shook his head.

It’s probably just me being stupid…

“Ow, shit!” In a flash, Phoenix pulled his hands away from the scalding water and shook them.

He glanced at the yellow sign above the sink that read ‘Warning: Extremely Hot Water’ and scowled at it.

“Oh, so now you tell me,” Phoenix muttered, turning off the hot tap and reaching for the cold one. He flicked his fingers to get rid of some of the droplets and scanned the room for a dryer or some paper towels. There weren’t any in sight, so he went over to check the two stalls for toilet paper. There wasn’t any of that left, either.

What kind of torture chamber is this place!?

He looked around the room helplessly, not really wanting to dry his hands on his jeans if he could help it.

If Edgeworth could see me now…

Phoenix paused. He looked down at his hands and felt a smile creep onto his face. Before he could think twice about his idea, he walked out of the bathroom and spotted Miles leaning on the bar. He made his way over and put his hands on Miles’ shoulders, rubbing them up and down on his shirt.

Miles simmediately stood up straight and whirled around to face Phoenix with a startled look. He tried to form some words, but failed.

God, I’m good.

Phoenix smiled to himself and dropped his left hand, leaning against the bar to the left of Miles but continuing to dry off his right hand.

“Got the drinks?” he asked innocently, searching the bar for the order. When Miles didn’t reply, Phoenix turned to face him with a raised eyebrow.

Miles mirrored Phoenix’s expression. “Do I want to know?”

Phoenix grinned. “You looked a little tense, so I thought you could use a massage.”

Miles narrowed his eyes and pushed Phoenix’s hand off his shoulder. He frowned and rubbed his fingers together. “You’re wet,” he concluded.

Phoenix crossed his arms and leaned forward on the bar. “Sorry, can’t help it. It’s what you do to me, Edgeworth.”

Miles rolled his eyes and dried his hand on Phoenix’s shirt, looking up the bar for the barman. “I’m not a towel, Wright.”

Phoenix glanced down at Miles’ hand.

And I am?

“What’s taking him so long…?” Miles muttered to himself, taking his hand to lean forward so he could see around Phoenix and the people down the bar.

Phoenix spotted the bartender talking to an attractive blonde lady at the other end and pointed him out to Miles. “Looks like he’s going to be a while.”

Miles sighed in frustration. “How unprofessional.”

Phoenix glanced at Miles, who was leaning on the bar with his arms crossed. “Heh, I doubt he cares about that right now.” He turned back to see how the bartender was doing. “Hey, look at that! She just handed him a napkin with something written on it!”

“A napkin? How lucky,” Miles said, his voice oozing with sarcasm. “She may as well have proposed right there and then.”

Phoenix laughed and nudged Miles’ arm with his elbow. “Don’t put the man down; he’s done us ordinary men proud.”

Miles snorted. “I’d have been even prouder if he’d simply served me our drinks.”

He may complain, but only because he can’t see how much of a catch that woman is for that guy.

He took a look back at her and cocked his head to the side.

The more he looked, however, the more he started to doubt that observation. Sure, she looked quite pretty and sophisticated, but behind the designer clothes and well-preened hair, she seemed plain. Almost lifeless.

How could someone so beautiful seem so… boring?

I must be going mad.

He shook his head.

I’ve been spending too much time with Edgeworth, obviously. I knew his stupid ideas would rub off on me…

“You’re just jealous it isn’t you getting the attention,” Phoenix mocked, casting aside his weird thoughts.

“Jealous?” Miles started to tap his fingers impatiently on the top of the bar. “I came here to get drinks, not to watch some across-the-local-bar courtship, as touching as it is.”

Phoenix laughed. “See, completely jealous.” He raised his hands in the air. “It’s fine with me. Just give me the word, and I’ll leave you to it.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean by that?”

“Ah, well, with me gone, people will think you’re single,” Phoenix stated with a grin. “They’ll start hitting on you again.”

Miles narrowed his eyes for a second, before a thought seemed to hit him rapidly.

He’s going to do himself an injury with all that thinking someday.

Phoenix rotated on the spot to lean backwards onto the bar. “Don’t worry, I’ll still know that you aren’t really single, and that’s all that--”

“Wait, back up…” Miles held up his hand. “Did you just insinuate that the only reason no one has come up to me tonight is because you’re here with me?”

“That was kinda the joke, Edgeworth,” Phoenix said patronisingly.

And it’s not like it isn’t true. No one has even so much as looked at him tonight…

Phoenix paused.

Wait, no one? …Seriously?

He bit his lip.

I actually meant it as a joke, but…

Nah. Can’t be. Could it really be because of the way we act together? We can’t seem like a proper couple. That’s just stupid.

I guess it could make sense, though…

“It was a bit assuming of you, Wright,” Miles snapped back. “There are lots of other things that could stop them from wanting to flirt with me.”

Ah, of course. It must be because your magical lady-magnetic cologne ran out.

He snickered to himself as his mind wandered to what type of perfume Miles would use.

‘Justice For Men: Testimony that women will be guilty of indulgence when tantalised by the authoritative smell of the courtroom!’

“It’s not funny,” Miles said indignantly. “There’s no unwritten law that says someone out there has to flirt with me on an hourly basis.”

If only you could hear my thoughts, Edgeworth. Even you’d be laughing at that…

Phoenix raised his eyebrows. “If you want me to stay so you don’t get hit on, you could just say so, you know.”

Miles frowned and turned to face Phoenix, before the voice of the barman made him turn straight back around.

“Here’s your drinks, sir.”

“Oh. Right…” Miles seemed to have been caught slightly off guard by the barman’s abrupt interruption. He quickly took the drinks from his hands. “Thank you.”

“Sorry about the delay, sir,” the barman replied sheepishly as Phoenix took his drink off Miles. “It’s been very busy t’night, you see, and--”

“It’s quite alright,” Miles cut across the man’s excuses, handing over the correct amount of change.

Phoenix noticed the small amount of agitation on his face that went unnoticed to the barman and had to bite down a laugh. He nodded to the barman and he and Phoenix turned around, only to find they had lost their table to three random guys.

They both stared blankly at the table for a bit, until Miles seemed to spot a free one nearer the entrance and started making his way over to it. Phoenix broke out of his stare to follow, only to notice that the pool table was now free.

“Hey, Edgeworth…”

Miles glanced over his shoulder as he squeezed between two tables. “What is it?”

Phoenix dodged around a chair to make sure he was in hearing range. “Fancy a game of pool?”

Miles shook his head. “You should know I’m not much of a sportsman.”

“You’re just scared you’ll lose to me,” Phoenix said with a grin, before leaning to whisper in his ear, “again.”

Miles stopped walking. “Again, Wright?”

“If we’re counting court, and your virtual Hearts self, then yes, again.

“Fine,” Miles replied, sighing. He turned around and smirked. “Just don’t complain when I’m the first to pot that black.”

Phoenix grinned and patted him on the back. “Knew you couldn’t say no to me.”

Especially when it involves plenty of balls and sticks.

Chapter Text

Miles rubbed his forehead and leaned back to cross his arms. A sudden blast of whirring and pinging noises from the machine behind him made him jump right back up, almost getting him shoved off balance by the crowd of people passing by. He mumbled an apology and was, as anticipated, ignored.

Why am I here?

He stepped back out of the way and busied himself with picking at a loose thread on his jacket.

More to the point, why could I not think up a suitable excuse not to be here?

Miles closed his eyes as a swarm of images of the past week sprung from nowhere almost instantly.

…Ah, that’s right. It appears my mind is otherwise occupied.

It would have been all well and good if the constant noise surrounding him was enough to distract him from his thoughts. But no, that would have been too kind. Everything just mingled and multiplied together, increasing both his annoyance and ever imminent headache.

He turned around to spot Gumshoe crouched underneath a slot machine, glancing up the coin chute.

As if I needed another depressing sight to add to my ever-growing list…

“Detective, what on Earth are you doing?” Miles asked wearily.

“Looking for the… mmph… looking for the evidence, sir!” Gumshoe called in a muffled reply.

For goodness’ sake… I only left him alone for twenty minutes.

He sighed and considered going over to help with whatever Gumshoe was doing, but immediately decided against it when he saw him move on to the next machine with a befuddled look on his face and his hair sticking out at all angles. He glanced over at the card tables next to the aisle of slot machines he was standing by, pretending to be blissfully unaware of Gumshoe’s troubles.

That area of the casino seemed a lot less noisy. Why couldn’t the murder have happened over there?

Then again, if it was up to Miles, the whole casino would have been empty and completely sealed off. The owner had agreed to let them search the place and do the forensics on the first day of the investigation, but he’d insisted on reopening after that. Complaining he’d be losing ‘valuable wealth’ and threatening to get a court order, he’d wasted no time in making sure the casino was back in business before the investigation team could even blink.

A sudden loud buzzing sound made Miles jump as someone struck lucky on a slot machine nearby. It was then added to by the loud shout of someone proclaiming, “I got the eight ball!”

Christ, does the world enjoy torturing me by reminding me of Monday night every other hour? Because that can’t be a bloody coincidence.

The only thing he’d been able to focus on for the past thirty-six hours was the time he’d spent at that bar with Wright. The images wouldn’t leave him alone; it was as if they were engraved onto his brain.

From what I remember, he turned up late, made mindless jokes and acted like a complete idiot.

…And yet, I’d be lying to myself if I said I didn’t enjoy being there with him.

Miles shifted on the spot and clutched his left arm. He needed to concentrate on something else. That was the last train of thought that he wanted to follow.

A group of casino employees ambled past him, presumably going for their break. Their obnoxious chattering and giggling made any kind of thinking impossible, but he found himself surprisingly thankful for it.

“…But that’s not all!” one man exclaimed through his chuckles. “After the third rejection, he then went on to ask her if she’d like to go to The Cue after work to watch the hockey game!”

Miles clenched his fist as the crowd surrounding the guy burst out laughing. Perhaps he’d spoken too soon.

“Oh my God, what was he thinking?” a woman replied, holding onto her stomach in an attempt to stop her constant laughing.

She’s right. What was I thinking!? That if I went, I’d somehow be able to make sense out of everything and realise that my previous revelation was nothing but misinterpretation?

Well, that backfired, to say the least.

Not that telling Wright about all this would have been much better…

He rolled his shoulders uncomfortably. Why was it that the last thing he wanted to think of was always the first to pop into his mind? There was no use in pondering the thought of telling Wright. None whatsoever.

…But I need to tell him. I can stop everything from getting out of hand that way, even though I know it’d be impossible for him to understand that I… the fact that I…

He shook his head.

I shouldn’t have to put up with this. It’s not like I want to be in… well, be like this.

“Hey, man.” Miles turned around to see a small, unshaven man standing there with an empty money cup in his hand. “You look like a nice kind of guy,” he commented, apparently missing the scowl that was marring Miles’ features. “Do a brother a favour and lend us a quarter?”

Miles’ eyes widened a bit.

He has a point. Wright’s supposed to be doing me a favour here, so I shouldn’t be held responsible for the effect his so-called help has had on me.

…Who am I kidding? It’s not Wright’s fault if I’m too useless to control my own feelings.

“Yo, man?”

Miles blinked. “I don’t carry change around in my work clothes,” he said, looking down at the floor as he realised he’d been staring off into space like an idiot.

“Ridiculous… Not even the posh pricks can lend a lousy quarter,” the man mumbled as he stalked off to the card tables.

It is ridiculous, all of it. The idea of Wright and I together is so completely idiotic that it’s not even worth thinking about.

“Get out of my fucking head, already!” Miles cursed under his breath, earning a couple of weird looks from the people passing by.

Speaking of idiotic…

Peering around the side of the slot machine, his eyes focused on the third one from the bottom of the aisle. “Are you finished yet, Detective?” he asked, irritation clear in his voice.

There was a small ‘Oof’ as Gumshoe fell backwards from his position. He pulled himself up slowly, only to hit his head on the lever. “I swear it was in here, sir,” he said, wincing.

Miles rubbed his temple. “You’ve looked at just about every machine in the aisle.” He watched as Gumshoe scratched at the plaster on his cheek, muttering to himself and looking around aimlessly. From the confused look on his face, it seemed as though he was actually thinking about something. “Are you sure you found something, Detective? Or do you actually enjoy wasting my time?”

“The evidence was right here, sir. I saw it with my own eyes!” Gumshoe replied, sounding as puzzled as he looked. “Someone must have moved it!”

Miles sighed. Pulling up the yellow crime scene tape that barricaded the aisle, he ducked under it and walked towards the bloodstained, marked shape of where the body had been. He did his best not to flinch at the sight.

It’s never any easier to look at, no matter how many of them I see…

He stopped by the machine to the right of the body, where the victim’s legs would have been, and turned to face Gumshoe. “If this is where he was standing, I presume this was the first one you checked when you came back to the scene?”

Gumshoe raised an eyebrow, before it seemed to click. “Oh! You’re right, sir!” he exclaimed, his eyes widening. “That’s the one I was told to dust for fingerprints yesterday!” He looked at the machine next to it, then down at the chalk outline on the floor. “I must have got confused cause of that, so when I got here today, I checked the one near the hands instead.” He chuckled.

Miles rubbed the bridge of his nose.

I really do wonder how his mind works sometimes…

Miles crossed his arms and tilted his head towards the slot machine he was standing by. When Gumshoe didn’t move, he frowned. “As much as I enjoy watching you ferret about in slot machines, Detective, I’ve got better things I could be doing right now.”

Because daydreaming in the office is a much better use of my time than daydreaming in a casino…

“Oh, right! Got ya, sir!” Miles stepped backwards to let Gumshoe in front of him. He ducked down to the chute’s level and stuck out his tongue as he looked up it. “Aha!” Gumshoe put his hand into the jaws of the machine and pulled at something. His arm came flying backwards, nearly hitting Miles square in the face.

“I’m beginning to think you’re not valuing your current salary as much as you ought to, Detective,” Miles commented as he took a step backwards and straightened his cravat.

“Sorry ‘bout that, sir…”

Gumshoe always had such a pitiful look on his face whenever his pride took a hit. Sometimes, it was simply too heartless to torture him further – even for Miles.

He’s lucky my head is such a mess at the moment…

“What’s that in your hand?” Miles asked, changing the subject.

“It’s the evidence I found!” Gumshoe stated, filled with pride. He’d apparently forgotten about the salary threat already.

In his hand was a playing card – the ace of spades.

Miles stared at it. “Is it me, Detective, or is that a perfectly normal playing card? I don’t think this will get us any closer to finding the murder weapon.”

Gumshoe raised an eyebrow. “But, this is the murder weapon, sir,” he insisted. “Look!” He pointed at the top right corner of the card.

It had been easy to miss from where Miles was standing, but on the corner was a small smear of red which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be dried blood.

I feel a migraine approaching.

“Where are you going with this?” Miles questioned, knowing he’d soon think better of it.

“Someone obviously hijacked the slot machine, sir!”

“Hijacked the slot machine?” Miles repeated.

“Yes, sir!” Gumshoe beamed.

Miles glanced at the body outline on the floor, then back at the card. “I’m not following you, Detective.”

“Well, the murderer must have turned the slot machine into a trap! They added a whole bunch of deadly weapons to it.” He tapped the playing card. “This, sir, is one of the cards that flew out of the machine and sliced the victim!”

There was a short silence as Miles simply stared at Gumshoe, his smile beginning to fade as each second went past.

“I’m going to go and ask some questions about this misplaced card.” Miles walked over to the crime scene tape and turned back around. “If you want to keep your current paycheck, I advise you don’t follow me.”

I suppose I need all the leads I can get, after all…

He pointed at the slot machine. “Check it for more cards.” At Gumshoe’s nod, he slipped under the tape and strode over to the nearest card table.

Three people were sitting at the table in question. An old woman with a large carpet bag and oversized glasses that concealed highly wrinkled eyes sat to the left of the dealer, directly in front of Miles. Next to her was a business-suited, middle-aged man who had very wide shoulders and thinning hair on the top of his head. One seat along from him was another woman dressed in a tight, shiny yellow dress. Her makeup and hairstyle were what would normally be associated with a woman in her twenties, but it was quite obvious that those years were far behind her.

Miles saw the dealer deal the cards for the Texas Hold ‘em round they were playing and decided to step in.

“Excuse me,” he cut in sharply, not sounding as polite as his words suggested. “I have a few questions for the three of you concerning an investigation that is being conducted.”

The man set his cards down on the table carefully and took a sip of what Miles presumed to be brandy. “Couldn’t have picked a better time, my man,” he commented with a grimace, placing the glass back down on the table. “The cards are doing the old losing routine on me at the moment.”

“I doubt that’d be the cards’ fault so much as your ancient eyesight’s, Al,” the woman dressed in yellow scoffed while still glancing over her cards.

Al’s eye twitched. “Seems to get me into a lot of trouble, that eyesight of mine,” he replied, taking a gulp of brandy. “Perhaps if I’d worn my glasses when walking down the aisle, I wouldn’t have ended up having to see that face of yours every morning in my bed, Diana.”

Diana raised her chin, still staring at her cards. “Your eyes seemed to be working perfectly well when you were shagging that young eye candy of yours in our bed last month.”

The old woman hid her face with a piece of textile work she had picked out of her bag to stitch and let out a few stifled laughs.

“Shut it, Maureen,” Al shot coldly at the old woman.

Miles felt the blood drain from his head.

Great. Really great. I can see this will be a smooth ride…

He cleared his throat. “Can we please get back to the situation at hand?”

“Can’t you see we’re in the middle of something here?” Diana snapped.

Miles frowned. “I think you’ll find a murder enquiry is more important than a domestic quarrel, Mrs.…?”

Ms. Force,” Diana corrected, turning to face Miles for the first time. She studied every aspect of his face, before taking a sweeping glance down his body, then back up. A slow, sly smile formed on her lips. “You can call me Di.”

Certainly. Please do.

Al laughed and sat back in his chair. “Careful there, my man. Her bite’s even worse than her bark.”

“I’m surprised you can remember what my bite’s lik--”

“My, my, I must wonder why people like us would be suspected of being involved in such a lowly sin as murder,” Maureen interrupted, pausing at a stitch in her textile work. “What did you want to ask us, young man?”

They all turned to stare at Miles.

Thank God… I thought my will to live had almost completely disintegrated.

“As you seem to already know, there was a suspicious death in this casino late Monday night. The police have reason to believe that it was, in fact, murder.” He eyed each of them, trying to see if their reactions gave anything away. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you a few questions. Any information you have could prove very useful to our investigation.”

“Pardon me if I seem rude, darling,” Diana said silkily, “but who exactly are you to come storming up here and accuse us of keeping information?” She twisted in her seat, her plastic dress squeaking against the leather chair.

“I’m Miles Edgeworth, the prosecutor for this case. I’m looking fo--”

“He’s a damned lawyer!” Al exclaimed, taking another rather large gulp of his drink, before letting out a small laugh. “Your taste in men has decreased drastically, Diana.”

Miles scowled.

Damned lawyer!? He should be grateful that there are people like Wright and I to help society…

“As I was saying, I’m looking for witnesses who were here on Monday night.”

“We were here,” Al replied in a clipped manner. “That doesn’t mean we know anything about this business that went on, though.”

Miles crossed his arms. “I have reason to believe that one of you may have had access to the slot machine the victim was playing shortly before he died.”

Maureen put down her textile work and rummaged around in her bag for a moment. “How silly!” She took out a spool and zipped her bag back up. “Young man, you really think that we’d be the kind of people to fritter our money away on those contraptions?”

“You wouldn’t know anything about gambling at all, would you, mother?” Diana quipped. “We all know father’s inheritance didn’t spend itself.”

Maureen upturned her nose and went back to threading her needle, clearly choosing to ignore the comment.

Why do I end up having to deal with the television soap family?

“Mr. Edgeworth…” Miles turned around to face a deflated-looking Gumshoe. “There weren’t any cards left in the machine, sir.”

Miles waved a hand. “No matter.”

“Cards in machines, did you say?” Maureen asked, sounding interested in the conversation for the first time.

Miles turned back to the table. “It appears someone has hidden one of their cards inside a slot machine.”

Diana gasped. “You can’t possibly be saying that someone at our table has been cheating, Miles!”

I really should stop giving away my first name so recklessly…

“You’re right, I’m not,” Miles agreed. “I’m merely making enquiries, Ms. Force. However, I’d take an educated guess, seeing as your table is the closest one to the slot machine in question.”

“For fuck’s sake!” Al downed the rest of his drink and slammed the empty glass back on the table. “Here we are, having a nice, civilised game of cards, and next thing you know, we have the police up our asses when we’ve done nothing wrong!” He shook his head and snapped his fingers in the air a few times. “Can’t I get any service around here!?”

“Hey, pal, don’t speak to Mr. Edgeworth like that!” Gumshoe cut in sharply, pointing at him.

Al got up from his seat and glared darkly at Gumshoe. “Is that a threat?” It just so happened that Al was at least four inches taller than him, and his shoulders looked even wider when he was standing.

Gumshoe withdrew his hand and cleared his throat. “Yeah, well, that’s… Don’t do it again…” He cleared his throat a second time and called a barmaid over for Al.

Miles sighed. “Sit down, Mr. Force.”

“It’s Collic. Al Collic.”

“Sit down, Mr. Collic,” Miles repeated with an edge to his voice that revealed his lack of patience. His hand itched to hit the table and restore some authority – he had to keep reminding himself he wasn’t in court and that the action would only make people think he had anger issues.

Al sat down and ordered another brandy from the barmaid.

Miles crossed his arms. “Now, does anyone have any suspicions about cheating between you?”

The three of them looked at each other.

“It was my mother! She cheats all the time!” Diana blurted out.

What!? That family-ruining man there is world-renowned for making cards appear out of thin air!” Maureen shouted in response, pointing at Al.

“Hah, you wish! I remember my darling wife openly admitting to cheating on me.”

“You complete cock! That’s got nothing to do with cards!”

Miles felt his hand twitch.

How I wish I could object to all this nonsense…

At least it’s managed to distract me from all those annoying thoughts… Those two are so bad they’re making my situation with Wright look normal…

…Damn it! So much for not thinking about him…

“Liar!” Maureen shouted, making Miles jump. “You’re no daughter of mine! Why, I bet you even worship Satan!”

“Worship Satan!? What kind of mad woman are you, you fucking gold-digging bitch!”

Al burst out laughing. “I agree with that old bat for once, Diana. You’re Satan’s spawn.”

Gumshoe had to physically hold Diana back, and then held out a hand to stop Al from moving forward. “Now, calm down, pals!”

“I may be a gold digger, but at least my children didn’t get thrown out of their first elementary school!” Maureen screeched, getting up from her seat.

“Oh, no, they did much worse than that, mother,” Diana spat. “Isn’t my sister still in rehab and my brother in jail thanks to our wonderful family environment?”

“Wow, pal, that’s nasty…”

Is there anything this family hasn’t been involved in?

“What a cultured background you have, Diana,” Al commented snidely. “It explains a lot.”

“Like why I married you, you mean?” Diana retaliated. “I’ve always been used to having cheating scumbags in my life, wasn’t I, mother?”

“Hah, speak for yourself! I’m not the one who had an ace of spades up my sleeve!”

I swear this argument is simply going around in circles…

…Wait. What did she just say?

“Quiet,” he spoke up sternly, only to be ignored. “I said quiet down!” he repeated louder.

It was to no avail; the family had passed breaking point.

Miles slammed his hand down on the table. “Objec--I mean, quiet!”

The three of them stopped yelling and turned to face Miles.

“I knew you had bad taste in men,” Al muttered as they all sat back down.

You don’t know the half of it…

Miles rested his hands on the table. “Maure--”

“It’s Mrs. Force to you, ponce,” Maureen interrupted, glaring at him.

Every bloody time… Can’t I get the name right just once, or is that too much to ask?

“Mrs. Force,” Miles began again, “I’m afraid you’ve slipped up.”

Maureen narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean? What have I slipped on?”

Miles walked over to Gumshoe. “Detective, may I have the card you found in the machine?”

“Of course, sir!” Gumshoe replied happily. He took out the playing card and handed it to him.

Miles turned to face Maureen, a smirk already in place. “Mrs. Force, I’m sure there will be no need to do a DNA test if you’re ready to confess.”

Maureen scowled and snatched her carpet bag off the table to start stuffing the textile work back in. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Your blood. It’s on the card. You must have cut yourself when you hid it in the machine. We can easily prove that it’s yours with a DNA test.”

“Wha…!? How did you come to that ridiculous conclusion?”

Miles turned to the other two at the table and held the card in front of himself so they could only see the back. “Mr. Collic, Ms. Force, do either of you know what card I am currently holding?”

“What is this? Are you putting on a magic show for us, Miles?” Diana teased.

I wish… Making people disappear into thin air sounds like a good trick to perfect at the moment.

Al crossed his arms. “How the fuck would we know?”

Miles dropped his hand and smirked. “Indeed, there’s no way you could know, and yet Mrs. Force just accused your wife of having this very card up her sleeve.”

“But… you told us it was the ace of spades!” Maureen clutched her bag. “You must have!”

Miles shook his head. “I think you’ll find that makes you our cheater, Mrs. Force.”

A guilty look from Maureen to the other two at the table confirmed Miles’ deductions.

“I knew getting a paper cut was a sign of the devil…”

For once, I agree. I’d rather not think about the last time I got one…

Miles rubbed his forehead. “On the night of the murder,” he almost shouted to override his thoughts, “you had to hide the card you were going to cheat with, correct?”

“Yes, yes.” Maureen had a sulky look on her face. “I saw a security guard walk by our table a couple of times and I began to fear that I might be in trouble, so I decided to take a trip to the bathroom. On my way there, I ditched the card in one of those confounded contraptions.”

So much for a valuable lead…

Miles sighed. “Detective, please take Mrs. Force down to the station so she can make a statement.”

“Sure thing, sir!” Gumshoe went to leave, before a thought seemed to hit him. “Oh, those security records you wanted have been sent to your office, sir.”

Great. More paperwork on top of my zero leads. Just what I wanted.

“Thank you, Detective. I’ll take a look when I get back.”

“No problem! Just doing my job, sir!” Gumshoe grinned all the way as he directed Maureen over to the exit.

“What a scheming old hag,” Al remarked after she’d disappeared from view, before downing the rest of his brandy.

The dealer looked down at the empty glass and decided that collecting it up and going over to the bar was a good idea.

“I assume we’re free to go then, Miles?” Diana asked, all malice gone from her voice so she almost, almost, sounded like a regular, caring citizen.

Miles nodded and turned to leave. However, before he could even take one step, Diana grabbed his shoulder. He spun around, caught by surprise, and saw her pull down her plastic dress a bit.

Here it is, the inevitable. I hope Wright doesn’t mind being my excuse again.

“How about I give you my number, Miles? We can meet up somewhere more appropriate, you know, to discuss the case?” Diana leaned forward slightly and pushed her breasts together. “Or we could enter into more exciting activ--”

“I’m gay.”

Miles’ response shocked both Diana and himself. They stood there, staring at each other, wide-eyed, for numerous seconds, until a delayed laugh from Al in the background stirred a response from Diana.

“You’re… gay?”

Miles blinked a couple of times before his brain reengaged. “That was… well, I mean, I’m not really gay. I’m taken.” There was a pause, enough of one for Miles’ thoughts to reorder themselves. “It was a rather rash statement. I just assumed my being gay would be a better excuse not to meet up, seeing as you seem to take commitment so lightly, Ms. Force.”

Shit. That isn’t true. I was just about to say I was taken, but I didn’t.

I blame Wright. I immediately thought of him as my excuse and look what I came up with…

Miles almost slapped himself. Missing Diana’s reply due to being lost in his thoughts again, he took her relieved look as one of belief for his story. He did, however, manage to catch Al grumbling under his breath something that sounded suspiciously like ‘That’s what they all say’.

“Give me a call if you change your mind,” Diana said with a wink as she tucked a folded napkin into his pocket.

Miles turned to each of them to thank them for their help. He found it strange that Al didn’t seem to care that his wife had just given some stranger her number, but didn’t dwell on the thought as they shook hands and finally said goodbye.

He took a small bow and left, hoping they didn’t notice his small jog to hurry out of the casino, or when he scrunched the napkin up in his hand and dropped it into the nearest trash can.

---

Stacks of paper greeted Miles in his office. Unfazed by the size of the piles, he closed the door behind him and began looking through the newest wad of records. There was a label in Gumshoe’s scruffy handwriting on top that read ‘Surveillance tapes unavailable at the moment. Hope these are useful for now!’.

The paper records were notes made by the security guards at the casino every hour on the hour. After locating the day of the murder, he proceeded to search every hour in detail for anything suspicious. Other than a note about how the victim had been found bleeding to death on the floor without any prior warning, there didn’t seem to be anything. He double-checked that day to be sure and, after finding a successful nothing, went on to look at the previous day’s records. There was nothing of interest in those either, but when he got halfway through the day before that, he found something rather intriguing.

On the day in question, not only were all the records from noon to midnight exactly the same, but they were also in the same handwriting. Miles happened to know that the security shifts changed every six hours, so the fact that the same person had written the updates across these hours was really quite strange.

Miles leaned back in his chair and stretched his legs out underneath him.

Finally, I’m getting somewhere with this case.

He picked up the phone and speed-dialled the Criminal Affairs Department. It seemed to ring forever until the answering machine came on.

Hey, pal! This is Detective Gumshoe speaking, but I’m not actually here right now so I won’t be speaking for long.” He chuckled. “Leave a message after the tone, pal!” There was the sound of a few buttons being pressed. “…Is this thing off? Chief, how do I turn the answering machine o--

-Beeeeep-

He still hasn’t changed that thing?

Miles shook his head. “Detective, it’s Edgeworth. I’ve checked the records and found something suspicious two days before the murder. Call me when you ge--”

-BANG-

“Larry, forget it! That is not going to happen! I will not do that to Edgeworth.”

“Nick, dude, you’re acting as if I’d told you to rape him!” Larry stopped walking and scratched his chin. “Hey, maybe that’d wor--”

Larry!” Phoenix shouted, turning to glare at him.

For God’s sake…

Miles quickly slammed the receiver down before any more damage could be done. “Why the hell are you two here? Haven’t you ever heard of knocking!?”

“Hey, Edgey! How’s things?” Larry asked brightly, as though he hadn’t just burst into the room uninvited.

“Edgeworth, tell him, he’s not listening to me!” Phoenix butted in, stepping in front of Larry.

Larry grabbed Phoenix by the shoulder and shoved his finger in his face. “Man, I don’t listen to whiny people, especially when I know what’s best.”

“And yet we have to listen to you all the time…” Miles intoned dryly.

Phoenix slapped Larry’s finger away and frowned. “You’re an idiot. I can’t believe you want me to do this…”

“It’s not that big a deal.”

“You don’t understand. We didn’t sign up for this!”

Larry huffed. “Boo, I disagree. You both knew you’d have to do something to make Kathy believe it’s real.”

It’s like watching two imbeciles chatter on in their own jargon.

“But… but I just know nothing good can come from this!” Phoenix complained.

“You’re not going to die, Nick! You won’t get a fatal disease.” Larry smirked and checked his fingernails, presumably trying to look intimidating. “Your mom was lying to you about that, man.”

“Wait, are you calling my mom a liar?” Phoenix pouted. “That’s low!”

“Not as low as you get with Edgey at ni--”

“Lower your voices, the bloody door’s open!” Miles interrupted with a hiss.

Phoenix and Larry both looked at him dumbly.

“Oh, right, yeah…” Phoenix chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ll, err, go shut that.” He walked over to the door and clicked it shut while Larry parked himself on the couch, looking extremely smug.

Miles put a finger to his temple. “Now, I repeat for the sake of my sanity, what are you two doing here?”

Phoenix pointed at Larry. “This idiot here wants us to kiss.”

There was a sudden lurch in Miles’ chest, his pulse going awry for the smallest of seconds.

Well, that’s great… One silly word and I have a bloody heart attack over it.

He took in a breath and stilled himself.

“Yeah, right here, right now,” Larry chipped in with a grin. “Get some practice in for the real thing!”

Miles narrowed his eyes. “Real thing? What do you mean by that?”

Phoenix walked back over to the desk. “He’s only gone and got us invited to Kath’s family party tomorrow.”

“Hey, that wasn’t my fault! She wanted you two lovebirds there for some reason.” Larry gave them a thumbs up. “It provides the perfect opportunity, dudes!”

Phoenix sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Think about it, Larry. You want us to spend a whole night with her and her family?” He shook his head. “I’d rather stay sane, thanks.”

Stay sane? That’s debatable.

“Look, I don’t see the problem here. It’s one little kiss in front of a woman who already thinks you’re shirtlifters.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Ever heard of political correctness, Larry?”

Larry stared at him blankly.

“Never mind…” Phoenix mumbled.

Miles stared down at his desk.

One little kiss…

I wish it were that simple…

He looked back up and sighed. “It’s not going to happen, Larry.”

What!?” Larry sprung off the couch. “Edgey!”

“Thank you!” Phoenix threw his arms in the air, before leaning over the desk. “That’s what I’ve been telling him all morning, but he wouldn’t listen to a word I said!”

“But, dudes!” Larry whined. “You both know Kathy needs to see it! Come on, you know you want to!”

Miles snorted. “Don’t make me laugh, Larry. Not even a woman would be desperate enough to kiss Wright.”

Phoenix frowned. “…What?”

“Edgey, dude, that’s really harsh. You can’t say that to your boyfriend!” Larry grabbed a stunned-looking Phoenix by the hand and dragged him around the desk. “Kiss and make up with him, now!”

Miles pretended not to notice the look Phoenix was giving him. “It’s embarrassing enough to have to pretend to date him. I’m not about to stoop as low as to actually kiss him.”

Phoenix shook off Larry’s hand. “What’s that supposed to mean, Edgeworth!?”

There was a sudden knock at the door and they all stopped talking. That’s when Miles realized how loud they were being. He couldn’t help but fear the person at the door might have heard something.

“Come in,” he said cautiously.

The door was thrown open to reveal the only person who could possibly possess such a perfect sense of timing.

“Hey, Miles!” Kath exclaimed as she walked up to his desk, before seeming to do a double take at the other two people in the room. “Oh…” She paused. “I was coming to talk to you about my party tomorrow night, but I’m guessing Larry already did.” She giggled.

Well, at least I suppose that means she didn’t hear anything.

Miles cleared his throat. “Yes, he did, but I’m afraid we--”

“We really can’t wait,” Phoenix cut in. “That’s so nice of you to invite us, Miss Everett.”

Miles turned to look at him, only to realise that he was pointedly avoiding his gaze.

What is he…?

Kath clapped her hands together excitedly. “Oh, that’s so great!” She giggled a bit more. “I bet you’re already thinking about what you’re gonna wear and everything! Parties are so exciting, aren’t they?”

Miles sighed. “Evere--”

“Kathy, my dear,” Larry took a step towards her, “you’ll never know the true meaning of a party until you spend a whole night with Mr. Larry Butz.” He took her hand and leaned forward slightly to place a kiss on it. “There’s a reason they call me ‘The Dashing and Very Sensual Lady Killer’. More than one, in fact.” He winked. “One night just won’t be enough to show you all of them.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “No one calls you that, Larry.”

“Sure they do!” Larry whined, letting go of Kath’s hand to face him. “How would you know, Edgey? You never hang out with my straight friends, being gay and all.”

“Now, now, Larry,” Kath cut in. “I’m sure you’re telling the truth. There’s no need to bring up Miles’… preferences.”

Oh, because you never do?

Phoenix chuckled. “Don’t be such a homophobe, Larry. Especially since both your friends are gay.” He glanced at Miles and smirked. “But I guess it could be worse.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “What are you getting at?”

“Oh, nothing,” Phoenix replied innocently. “I was just thinking that two friends isn’t such a bad average. I mean, some people could only have one. Or none. Hypothetically, of course.”

“Of course…” Miles muttered, looking away.

I shouldn’t have asked…

“Don’t worry, Larry,” Kath said, seemingly trying to make him feel better. “I would kill to have two gay friends!”

“But you already do, Miss Everett,” Phoenix said, looking at Miles then back at her.

“Oh, but that’s not the same!” she retorted, waving her hands as if to stress her point. “You guys are like the two gay brothers I never had!”

Miles raised an eyebrow.

Wouldn’t that be incest?

She laughed. “Why else would I invite you to a family party?”

“What about Larry?” Miles asked promptly. “Am I to understand that Larry is the third brother you never had?”

“Exactly!” Kath exclaimed, smiling. “I never had a younger brother and I feel like I’ve missed out on so much!”

“I’m afraid Larry is older than you, Everett,” Miles replied, smirking.

Her eyes widened. “Oh…! Of course, I knew that! I just… I meant…” She turned to Larry. “I meant it as a compliment, of course. I mean, isn’t it so great to look young?”

Nice try, but no one’s buying it.

“Hell yeah!” Larry yelled, punching his fist into his other hand. He then turned to Phoenix and Miles, a serious look on his face, and held up a finger. “Life lesson number 369: ‘To women, guys are like food. They like them fresh, and they hate fruits.’” He nodded as if to agree with what he had just said.

Phoenix burst out laughing.

Miles rubbed his forehead. “That has got to be the worst analogy I’ve ever heard in my entire life.”

“But, dude, it’s true!” Larry insisted. “What kind of chick would want to date you? You look like an old prune, dude!”

“Shut it, Larry,” Phoenix intervened, coughing a little as he forced himself to stop laughing. “I think you’ve just about reached your quota of stupidity for the day.”

“But, Nick! I’m just--”

“Besides,” Phoenix continued, “it’s not like it matters what women think of his appearance.” He walked behind Miles and put his hands on his shoulders. “He’s already taken.”

Miles stiffened. For a second, he lost track of what was being said. He was pretty sure he heard Everett use the ‘c’ word but he just couldn’t bring himself to care. All he could focus on at the moment was the feeling of Wright’s fingers moving against the fabric of his jacket. He soon realized what was happening, though, and quickly snapped out of it.

Focus. I need to focus.

He took in a deep breath and turned his attention back to the conversation at hand. It took him a few seconds to realize that Kath was staring at him, apparently awaiting an answer to a question he hadn’t heard.

He stared back. He’d probably look like an idiot, but it wasn’t as if it was going to make any difference at this point.

“Well…?” Kath prompted, a smile on her lips.

Might as well take the easy way out…

“I don’t know,” he replied simply.

Kath raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean you don’t know? I asked you if it’s hard or not. It shouldn’t be that difficult to reply with a simple ‘yes’.” She paused. “Or a ‘no’,” she added quickly. “Not that I want it to be or anything…”

Miles’ eyes widened. “…What!?” He took a hesitant glance down, before looking back up at her.

She can’t possibly be asking…

“Everett, what kind of questio--”

“Don’t worry, Miss Everett,” Phoenix interrupted. “I’m sure you’re not making it too hard for him, considering he only has eyes for me.”

Kath shook her head. “That’s my whole point, though! It must be hard to have all these women he’s not interested in hit on him all the ti--wait, did you just insinuate that I’m one of them?”

“I might have,” Phoenix replied innocently.

Kath pulled a face. “That’s not very nice, Mr. Wright. You do know I would never try to steal Miles away from you, right?”

Phoenix chuckled. “Of course I do. I was only joking, Miss Everett.”

No, you weren’t.

And I can’t believe I thought she meant…

“Alright then,” Kath replied, smiling. She looked up at the clock on the wall. “I should probably get going. I have court in less than an hour. I was on my way to my office and decided to drop by. I didn’t think we’d be talking for this long.”

Of course not.

“Aww, you’re leaving, Kathy? I was gonna invite you out for lunch,” Larry said, pouting.

“Erm… Larry…” Phoenix let go of Miles’ shoulders and went to sit on the corner of the desk. “Don’t you have work today? Like, real soon?”

Larry’s eyes widened. “Oh, you’re right, dude! Totally forgot about that!” He proceeded to push up both his sleeves, before realising that he wasn’t wearing a watch. “What time is it, anyway?”

Miles rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Larry… there’s a clock on the wall right in front of you.”

I really have to wonder why I even bother sometimes…

“Eh?” Larry looked up at the clock and suddenly turned a very pale shade of white. “It’s already a quarter to twelve!? Oh my God, this is not good! I’m gonna be so fucking late, dudes! Chelsea’s gonna kill me!”

Phoenix laughed. “You say that every time, Larry.”

“It’s not funny, Nick! This time, she’s really gonna kill me!”

Miles rolled his eyes. “If that’s the case, don’t you think it would be in your best interest to shut up and get out of my office instead of wasting even more time?”

“Come on, Larry, let’s go.” Kath grabbed him by the arm and dragged him towards the exit. She opened the door and pushed Larry out of the room, before turning around to face Phoenix and Miles again. “So I’ll see you two tomorrow night, then! Don’t be late!”

“We won’t!” Phoenix replied, sounding a bit too enthusiastic for Miles’ liking.

Kath chuckled slightly, before finally disappearing behind the door.

Miles let out a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding.

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being around her. It’s as if her mere presence is making it impossible for me to be at ease.

…And now, thanks to Wright, I have to spend the whole evening with her tomorrow.

He turned to Phoenix. “I can’t believe you just did that.”

Phoenix looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “Did what?”

“You know perfectly well what I mean, Wright,” Miles replied through his teeth.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Maybe if you at least put some kind of effort into trying to make this look real, I wouldn’t have to force you to accept all of Kath’s stupid invitations.” Phoenix got off the desk and went to lean against the bookcase. He stayed silent for a moment, arms crossed, before letting out a sigh. “You know, I would think that after almost two weeks, you’d finally start to understand that. But you really don’t care, do you?”

Miles winced. If only it was still possible for him not to care, it would make this whole thing so much easier.

He looked down at his desk. “Why should I? It’s not as if you do.”

Phoenix snorted. “Oh, of course not. It’s not like I’ve been doing all of this to help you or anything. But I obviously don’t care, so we might as well just tell her the truth and let her hit on you now, right?”

Miles looked at him again.

I’m starting to wonder if that wouldn’t actually be easier for me, the way things have turned out…

“Do whatever you want,” he muttered.

Phoenix sighed in frustration. “You’re missing the point, Edgeworth!” He pushed himself off the bookcase and took a few steps towards the desk. “You think it’s that simple? That we can just tell her everything and forget all about it?” He laughed. “Yeah, cause I really want her to go tell everyone that I’m some crazy guy who likes to spend all his free time going out of his way to make people believe he’s gay when he’s really not.”

So I was right. You really don’t care. This is all about you.

“You know what, Wright? Maybe you do enjoy it. Because you’re doing a pretty damned good job of it, even when Everett’s not there to see it.”

Phoenix frowned. “…What? What’s that supposed to mean?”

He can’t possibly not have noticed the way he’s been acting recently…

Miles sighed. “Just… just forget it.”

“No, Edgeworth! I hate when you do that,” Phoenix replied, going to sit at the end of the couch nearest Miles. “Why do you always have to…” He sighed. “Whatever. I’m just wasting my time, as usual.” Shaking his head, he looked down at the floor for a moment and took in several deep breaths, as if trying to collect himself. “Anyways, my point is, if she learns the truth now, who knows who she’ll go mouthing off to about how messed up she thinks we are. But as long as she thinks we’re dating, we don’t have to worry about her ruining our reputations.”

I hate to admit it, but…

“I suppose you’re right.”

Phoenix smiled. “I’m always Wright, Edgeworth.”

Miles rolled his eyes.

I should really avoid using this word in his presence…

“So can you please make some kind of effort?” Phoenix asked calmly, looking Miles in the eye. “Because, to be honest, I’m really not sure just how convinced she really is, and I’d rather not take any chances. And it’s really frustrating to feel like I’m the only one trying to make this work.”

…Make this work?

Miles studied Phoenix’s face for a moment.

What am I thinking? Of course that’s not what he meant. He’s just an idiot with awful communication skills…

And I’m an idiot who takes everything way too seriously…

Wright is right. This is all my fault…

This should never have been any more difficult than simple bluffing…

“…Edgeworth?”

Miles blinked. He realised he was staring and quickly looked away. “Sorry… I was just…”

“Thinking?”

Miles turned to Phoenix again. A grin was plastered across his face.

“I really do think too much, don’t I?”

Phoenix laughed. “Very much so. And you still haven’t answered my question.”

Miles crossed his arms. “It depends what your idea of making an effort is. If you think that I am going to kiss you at the party tomorrow, then you are sorely mistaken. Consider yourself lucky I’m even going after what you did.”

“Lucky?” Phoenix snorted. “It’s not like I want to go or anything.”

“You seemed pretty enthusiastic to me when you told Everett how nice of her it was to invite us,” Miles replied in a cool tone.

Phoenix pulled a face. “You, of all people, would know that I wasn’t being serious.”

“Still, the fact remains that, because of you, we both have to go to a stupid party neither of us wants to attend. Even worse, her whole family’s going to be there!” Miles shook his head. “I still can’t believe you did that. I’m sure there would have been better ways to ‘show her how serious we are’.”

“That’s the thing, though!” Phoenix retorted. “There’s been plenty of occasions in the past week and a half, but you didn’t do anything! Give me one good reason to believe that was going to change.”

Miles sighed.

He has a point. I wasn’t exactly planning on doing anything different.

Especially now that I…

He shook his head. Now wasn’t the time to get on that train of thought.

“You’re right,” he admitted. “But what am I supposed to do exactly?”

Phoenix shrugged. “I dunno. Stuff.”

Miles scowled. “Do you want me to try or not?”

“Well, what do you want me to say? That there’s all these things I want you to do to me?” A nasty grin suddenly appeared on Phoenix’s face. He got up from his seat and leaned over the desk. “Oh, Edgey-baby, I want you to run your hands all over my bod--”

-BANG-

“Everything alright in here, sir!?”

Phoenix immediately flopped back down onto the couch, his eyes widening.

Miles smirked.

Serves you right.

He turned to Gumshoe, who was looking rather alarmed. “Yes… Everything is fine, Detective.” He cleared his throat. “May I ask what you’re doing here?”

“Well, err…” Gumshoe scratched the back of his neck. “I got your message, you see… and I could hear people yelling in the background, and I was pretty sure I heard something about someone wanting to do something to you, and then the message was cut off, so I thought that you might be in trouble, sir… But I guess I must have heard wrong.” He chuckled.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “I appreciate your concern, Detective, but that doesn’t mean you can just barge into my office without knocking.” He paused and stared at Gumshoe for a second, before adding in a serious voice, “I know how much you value your salary.”

Gumshoe’s expression turned somber. “I’m sorry, sir. It won’t happen again.”

I’ll never get tired of this.

“In any case…” Miles got up from his chair and planted his hands on his desk. “Wright here was just leaving. Weren’t you, Wright?” He turned to give Phoenix a glare.

“Oh… y-yeah…” Phoenix mumbled unintelligibly. “I almost forgot I’m supposed to be somewhere.” He glowered back at Miles, before proceeding to get up from his seat. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.” He nodded and started walking towards the open door.

Gumshoe seemed to understand that it would be in his best interest to do the same as he rushed over to the door, pausing only to bow his head slightly, before closing it behind Phoenix and himself.

Upon hearing the door click, Miles sat back down and put his head in his hands. He took in a deep breath, before letting it back out slowly in an attempt to calm himself down. What had he gotten himself into?

Wright was right – if he valued his reputation, he would have to do something to convince Everett of the authenticity of their relationship. But, right now, the question was much more along the lines of whether or not he valued his sanity. And he already felt on the verge of losing it completely. That party tomorrow was definitely not looking good.

He leaned back in his chair and sighed.

A whole night with a swarm of Everetts watching my every move… It’s no use lying to myself; there’s no way out of this.

Chapter Text

Phoenix sat back in his seat and fought down a grin that was threatening to appear. Miles was driving with such a doomed and resigned expression on his face. It was the funniest thing he’d seen in ages, and funnier still when he thought about how he was the cause of it all.

“Cheer up, Edgeworth,” Phoenix said, breaking the silence that had settled in since the beginning of the car journey. “You look like you’re about to drive us both off a cliff.”

“Why would I do that?” Miles replied dryly, not even sparing Phoenix a glance. “That’s just the roundabout route of getting to hell. We may as well take the fast lane.”

Phoenix laughed. “You say that as if we had a choice in going to this party.”

Miles snorted. “It’s not as if you had a gun to your head when you accepted the invitation, Wright.”

“You know it’s for the best, really,” Phoenix stated, resting his elbow next to the window. “Not a single bit of doubt about us being together will be in her mind by the end of tonight.”

And this little outing serves you right for being a bastard yesterday.

“Where have I heard that one before?” Miles muttered as he slowed the car down for a set of traffic lights. He seemed to think for a moment, a scowl slowly appearing on his face. “Christ, why do you find it so fun to provoke such dread in me?”

Phoenix laughed again.

Revenge is always satisfying, Edgeworth.

“It’ll be fine. You never know, you might even enjoy yourself! There’s no better way to spend a Thursday night than at one of Kath’s parties.”

Miles rolled his eyes and put on the handbrake.

Guess there’s no fooling him then, huh?

“When’s the next turn?” Miles asked, presumably wanting to change their current topic of conversation.

“Err…” Phoenix looked around his seat for the map, but couldn’t see anything in the darkness of the car. “Right, well…” He felt around his feet and behind his back. “Can I get back to you on that one?”

Miles turned to look at Phoenix with a raised eyebrow. “You’ve already lost the map?”

Hey, what do you mean by ‘already’!?

Phoenix sent Miles a sheepish look, checking down the sides of his seat and then his pockets. “It depends how you’d define ‘lost’…”

Miles sighed, setting the car off again when the lights turned green. “I’d define it as not knowing where something is. For instance, your brain seems pretty lost from where I’m sitting.”

“Yeah, well, why don’t you just buy a GPS?” Phoenix bit back. “Or have they not been invented in the time period you live in?”

“So you can misplace that as well? I think not.”

Scowling, Phoenix shifted away from Miles as much as he could in the small space and decided to look out of the window instead.

Stupid Edgeworth…

I had a comeback. I just… decided not to use it.

“I suppose that means you’re saved,” Phoenix said, not really paying attention to what was outside but still looking out the window on principle. “We can’t go to the party if we don’t know how to get there.”

“You don’t say,” Miles commented, sarcasm oozing out of every syllable. “I guess we’ll just have to improvise from what we remember of the road names.”

What? Improvise…?

Phoenix turned to face Miles in a scrutinising way. “Who are you? What did you do with Edgeworth?”

Miles sent him an unimpressed look. “If we don’t show up, I won’t hear the last of it from Everett.”

Phoenix smirked. “Oh, of course.”

I suppose that’s the closest I’ll get to him admitting that I was right about him not trying.

As they approached a junction, Phoenix quickly looked around for signs. It appeared there weren’t any. Obviously, the road was designed to spite him for losing the map.

“Which way, Wright?”

“Err… well…” Phoenix finally spotted the street sign when they got to about twenty metres from the crossroads. “Yes.”

Miles frowned. “What?”

Phoenix pointed to the sign. “Next right!”

Miles slammed the brakes on hard to make the turn, jolting Phoenix forward in his seat. He shook his head. “Prior warning next time, please, Wright!”

I’ll ‘prior warning’ you in a minute! That damned hurt!

“I told you in plenty of time,” Phoenix mumbled, rubbing his neck.

“I prefer directions that I don’t have to decode.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “I’ll be sure to remember that, Your Majesty.”

“Good.” Miles wrenched the gear stick down. “And you can stop with the sarcastic remarks as well.”

“Fine. Do you want me to shine your shoes while I’m at it?”

“I’m not letting you anywhere near my shoes,” Miles replied. “You’d simply lose them.”

Phoenix shifted in his seat. “Geez, Edgeworth. Bitter, much?”

Seemingly ignoring Phoenix’s comment, Miles lapsed back into silence, before putting on the right flasher as they approached the next junction.

“It’s a left here, by the way.”

Miles glanced at the road sign. He sent Phoenix an annoyed look, before obliging and flicking his left signal on instead. “I knew that.”

Sure you did.

Trying to mask his triumphant grin, Phoenix took to looking out the side window again. Correcting Miles almost felt as good as embarrassing him.

Embarrassing him is getting too easy, though. It’s almost as if my simple presence is enough now…

Phoenix rested his head on his hand and turned his attention back to the road, deciding the side view was too hard to focus on with the streetlights constantly smudging and distorting his vision.

“Well, we’ve miraculously made it to the correct road,” Miles said. “It’s down to us to find the street now.”

“That’s easy; fifth on the right.” Phoenix sat up and crossed his arms. “No need to thank me and my brilliant directions, Edgeworth.”

“Of course there isn’t. I’m no liar, Wright.” Miles frowned as they passed the next street, and then checked the right wing mirror repeatedly.

“What is it?” Phoenix asked, sitting forward to block Miles’ view of the mirror.

Miles met his eye briefly. “I think that was the street.”

Phoenix turned to look over his shoulder, craning his neck to get a better view. “I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure it’s the fifth turn.”

“Wright, I am ninety percent sure that I saw ‘Soul Street’ written on that sign.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “And I’m ninety-nine percent sure that it couldn’t have been.”

Miles threw him a look, before shrugging it off. “If you say so.”

That makes me feel so trusted…

“Yep, I’m sure,” Phoenix insisted. “In fact, I’m surer than sure.”

“I wasn’t questioning you; I agreed.”

“But you didn’t sound like you believed me…”

…Why, hello, my old friend Mr. Pathetic!

“I apologise,” Miles said with a smirk. “I’ll be sure to keep my tone in check from now on.”

Phoenix looked away and rubbed the back of his neck. “You’ll see at the next right.”

The car approached the fifth turn and both of them looked to the street sign at the same time.

Surprisingly, Phoenix had never heard of the road name.

“How sure did you say you were, Wright?”

Me and my big mouth…

Phoenix bit his lip. “It’ll be down here, somewhere.”

When Miles dutifully carried on, Phoenix suspected he was trying to prove his point.

They came to a dead end.

“I’m sure that wasn’t on the map before…” Phoenix mumbled, slumping in his seat.

“Is that right?” Miles shook his head and parked on the side of the road.

“I don’t think this is it, Edgew--” Phoenix cut himself off as Miles took his keys out of the ignition, undid his seatbelt and went to open the door. “Hey, where’re you going?”

Miles turned back to face him. “I’ve had enough of your directions.”

Phoenix blinked. “Huh…?”

“I’d rather walk in the direction I know is right than waste more fuel thanks to your useless guidance.”

“Oh…”

I thought he was going to bail and leave me stranded for a second there.

Miles got out of the car and gestured for Phoenix to follow. “We’re already late, Wright.”

“Alright, alright, give me a chance.” Phoenix opened the door and stepped out, smoothing down his shirt before slamming the door closed – a bit harder than necessary – for Miles to lock.

After a small suspicious look from Miles, they started walking back down the dead end together. Phoenix stuffed his hands in his jeans’ pockets. The night air was fresh and the wind was gentle, but there was still a chill that kept making a shiver run down his spine every now and again. He took to squeezing his arms tightly to his sides and started walking a bit faster.

“Did we really need to get out of the car?” Phoenix mumbled, kicking a stone. It didn’t go very far, but he told himself that it had been a big stone.

“Stop complaining. Being in there was giving me a headache.”

So his measly headache is worth freezing me to death?

…Okay, slight exaggeration, but still. Pure selfishness!

“You’re gonna have to get used to me being in close proximity someday,” Phoenix commented with a cheeky grin.

Miles looked at him blankly. “I sincerely hope not.”

Phoenix laughed. “Speaking of which, I’ve been thinking about what you could do to make us look like a couple.”

Miles glanced over at him. “I dread to ask…”

“For a start, you can continuously call me handsome,” Phoenix said, running a hand over his hair for effect. “And I’m sure a few compliments about how amazing I am at my job would definitely help.”

“I see.” Miles smirked. “I’ll be sure not to leave out how enthralled I am by your adventurous stories and quick wit.”

Phoenix grinned. “I think you’re getting the hang of this.”

Miles shrugged. “It appears that all acting as a couple involves is blatant lying through the teeth.”

“Hey, don’t you go getting any ideas like that!” Phoenix exclaimed. “It’s not all about lies. You can tell the truth too, you know.”

Miles looked down at the sidewalk, turning his head away from Phoenix. “I don’t think the truth would be a good idea in our case.”

“Ah, true,” Phoenix agreed. “Our case is a very special one, though. That’s the only reason for all the lies, Edgeworth.”

“Special is one word for it,” Miles replied dryly.

“Yeah.” Phoenix chuckled. “Perhaps ‘fake’ would have been more suitable.”

“I was thinking more along the lines of ‘idiotic’.”

Phoenix frowned.

Idiotic? That’s a bit harsh. I wouldn’t say our relationship is that bad…

…Should I really be taking offence at that?

“I take offence at that,” Phoenix blurted out in all seriousness.

Miles looked at him, a confused expression on his face. “What?”

Phoenix took to staring at the ground. “Well, I don’t think it’s idiotic for us to, you know, spend more time together, and all that…”

There was silence for a moment, making Phoenix feel like an idiot.

“I… agree,” Miles replied, his tone stiff. “I was referring more to the idiotic nature of the situation. We are going to Everett’s family party, after all.”

Phoenix laughed and looked back up at Miles. “That’s if we ever get there.”

Miles smirked. “We are currently walking along Soul Street and heading straight to our doom.”

“Oh, I didn’t notice!” Phoenix turned his head to take a glance down the street. “I think I was expecting a more… spooky road.”

“Not all prosecutors are evil demons, Wright.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Have you ever met Kath?”

Miles chuckled, but then suddenly went quiet, before asking, “Which house number is it again?”

“455 Soul Street,” Phoenix recited, turning to look at Miles, who had stopped walking. “Even I could remember that one, Edgeworth.”

“I knew it.” Miles pointed to the house he’d been inspecting. “She’s too predictable…”

Turning on the spot, Phoenix saw what Miles was going on about.

Under the light of the streetlamps, the house seemed to radiate colour. The mailbox was painted a bright pink, the pole holding it up was dark red, the garage was green and the front door was pastel blue. There was a flower bed in the front garden that was stuffed full with dead or dying plants, and a massive, untamed bush sat in the middle, looking slightly out of place.

Thanks to the sound of loud music and the amount of cars parked in the driveway, it was then of no surprise to Phoenix that the gold-plated plaque read ‘455’.

“Well, then,” Phoenix turned to face the way they came, “I’ve had my daily exercise now. Fancy taking me back home?”

Miles grabbed his arm. “Don’t you dare, Wright.” He steered him towards the house. “This was your idea, remember?”

He should know by now that my ideas are never good…

They reached the front door and Miles let go of Phoenix’s arm to press the doorbell. A rendition of the Westminster Chimes rang out on top of the music on the inside.

Typical. Loud, annoying and it hangs around way too long.

Phoenix swallowed. “Before I die, Edgeworth, I’d like to take the time to say that you’re the best boyfriend I’ve ever had.”

“And I can gladly say that you’re the worst boyfriend I’ve ever had, Wright.”

Love you too, Edgey-baby.

The door flew open to reveal a beaming Kath, wine glass in hand. “You both made it!” She looked at the two of them, her gaze suddenly turning sullen. “Really, now, I would’ve expected more from the two of you. You’re both adults, you know!”

Phoenix turned to Miles, confused.

“What do you mean, Everett?” Miles asked, looking slightly put out.

“It’s Kath, Miles. Kath,” she reminded him. “What I mean is that you’re nearly an hour late to my party and you’re both looking very flustered!”

“Ah, yeah…” Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “We kinda… got lost.”

Miles snorted and crossed his arms. “I wonder whose fault that was?”

Phoenix shot a glare across at him.

“Oh, I’m betting it was Mr. Wright’s,” Kath commented, a hand on her hip. “Couldn’t you have at least waited until after the party to get it on with Miles? I’m so disappointed in you!”

…Oh. Now I get it.

“I’m sorry, Miss Everett,” Phoenix said solemnly. He then reached out to place an arm around Miles’ hips, much to the other’s obvious disdain. “I just couldn’t resist him in these tight pants, you know?”

Kath blinked, a blush appearing on her cheeks. “T-tight…?” She took a big gulp of wine, before exclaiming, “Please, both of you, come right in!”

Miles sent Phoenix a pointed look, forcibly removing his arm, to which Phoenix replied with a grin.

And the night has just begun, my friend.

They followed Kath through the short hallway and into the living room, where several people were sitting on various mismatched coloured chairs. Loud pop music filled the room and Phoenix noticed Larry talking to a pair of girls in the far corner. After taking a bottle of wine off the table next to them to quickly refill her glass, Kath ushered them over to the man and woman sitting on the couch nearest the door.

The two of them were wearing matching, bright orange suits and they both had the same creepy smile on their face. It was a great first impression, to say the least.

“Miles, Mr. Wright, I’d like to introduce you to my favourite parents!”

Both of them suddenly burst out laughing in a shrill, alike way that grated on Phoenix’s eardrums.

This explains a lot.

Kath’s parents both held out a hand, the same smile still plastered on their faces. “The name’s Robin, nice to meet you!” they said in unison, before turning to look at each other in shock.

“Oh, baby,” the female Robin cooed, taking her husband’s face in her hands. “That was so masterful; it was like we had rehearsed!”

“You’d have thought we were twins, darling!” the male Robin agreed, placing his arms around her waist.

“You both get along… well,” Phoenix said weakly.

Robin rubbed her nose against Robin’s, before pulling away and turning to face Miles and Phoenix. “If you’re ever even half as much in love as we are, I’m sure it will last till the end of eternity.”

“Naturally,” Robin added. “As soon as I heard my beautiful Robin’s name, I knew it was fate.”

They both turned to look at each other again and sighed dreamily.

The fact that Phoenix did not gag at the sight was truly a miracle.

“Mom, dad, these are the friends I was talking about before,” Kath interrupted.

“Oh, really!” female Robin exclaimed, seeming to look at Miles and Phoenix properly for the first time. “So these are the two guys madly in love?”

“That’s simply wonderful! Isn’t it, honey?” Robin commented, throwing an arm over Robin’s shoulders.

“Nice to meet you, too,” Miles said in a tone devoid of emotion.

Phoenix snorted in an attempt to stop his laughter. “Yeah, it’s a pleasure to meet people who are even more in love than us two. I didn’t know such a thing existed!” He grinned at Miles, which only earned him the millionth glare of the night.

“Oh, what a sweetie.” Robin turned to her husband. “Isn’t he cute, baby?”

Robin nodded. “Kath, dear, you’ve done well to find such lovely friends.”

Yep, this truly explains everything…

“Which is why I’m going to show them off to the rest of our crazy lot!” Kath laughed, before steering Miles and Phoenix over to the next set of people lounging near the fireplace.

The woman looked like a slightly older Kath as she had the same eyes and the same distinctive cherub face. However, her hair was longer and blonde, and the clothes she was wearing seemed a lot more casual than Phoenix had ever seen Kath wear. Next to her was a tanned man with chin-length hair and plenty of stubble. He was wearing a thin, checkered neck scarf and a wide open shirt – he must have thought he had something to be proud of.

“This is my sister, Beth,” Kath explained, running her hand in front of Beth as if she was modeling something of interest. “And this,” she pointed over at the man, “is her fiancé, Enrique.”

Enrique?

Phoenix bit his lip.

No way…

It is a small world, after all!

“Miles Edgeworth,” Miles stated with a slight clearing of the throat, indicating to Phoenix that he had also spotted the joke – for once.

“And I’m Phoenix Wright.” Phoenix turned to Enrique. “Just for completeness’ sake, may I ask what your last name is?” Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Miles’ lips twitch upwards in what resembled a smile.

Enrique held out a hand to shake, smiling, before answering, “It’s Lawrence.”

…You have got to be kidding.

Laughter burst out before Phoenix could smother it, but a cold stare from Beth quickly cut it off.

“What’s so funny, like?” she asked in a stern tone.

“Ah, sorry, I was just… You see… well… thing is…”

“We used to know someone with the same name,” Miles intervened, composed, as always.

Beth narrowed her eyes. “Don’t tell me… You’re, like, those fucking gays, aren’t you?”

Enrique sat back up in his seat. “Really? You’re homos?”

Phoenix blinked.

How the hell did she guess that one?

“We are together, in a relationship, yes,” Miles replied casually, apparently pretending not to notice the menace behind their words.

“But we prefer ‘shirt-lifting queers’, if you don’t mind,” Phoenix said as breezily as possible, trying not to sound too defensive.

Kath laughed and Enrique nearly followed suit, before a look from Beth made him turn it into a cough.

“I don’t think queens like you deserve that decision,” Beth retaliated.

Phoenix was slightly taken aback. He glanced at Miles, assuming he’d know what to do. Nothing was said. Awkwardness filled the space between them and Beth.

“Oh, don’t mind my sister. She has a flawed sense of wit,” Kath said, effectively cutting through the heavy atmosphere that had arisen.

“Don’t defend those poofs, Kath. It’s people like them who bring society down.”

“Stop being silly, Beth,” Kath commented light-heartedly. She turned to Phoenix and Miles. “See what I mean? Completely flawed.”

‘Flawed sense of wit’ my ass. I feel psychologically abused!

…And I’m not even really gay!

Speechless, Phoenix did a small, uncommitted nod.

“Man, why would you bother being gay?” Enrique spoke up. He shook his head. “I just don’t get it. What would you do without this?” He grabbed Beth’s thigh. “Or this.” He ran his other hand through her hair, making her giggle. “And I couldn’t ever do without these,” he added, reaching forward to grope Beth’s breasts.

Beth slapped his hands away. “Down, boy!” She wagged her finger in front of his face. “Save it for later.”

Ugh… Shoot me now.

Phoenix half expected Enrique to growl – or do something equally retarded – but instead, he simply laid a hand on top of hers and winked.

“We’ll leave you to it,” Kath cut in, passing the wink on to Miles and Phoenix. She didn’t seem to notice their discomfort. “There’s a couple more of the family to meet, anyway…” She directed them over to the last group of people in the room.

“Hold it, Kathy!” Larry shouted, leaning forward in his position between the two girls who were obviously twins.

Oh, joy…

“What is it, Larry?”

“Don’t bring them near me!” Larry replied, way too loudly, pointing at Miles and Phoenix. “They’re horrible people! Horrible!” Tears welled up in his eyes and he started to sway from side to side. The twins looked at each other and then at Kath, who simply shrugged before going over to talk to them.

Phoenix sighed. “What have we done now?”

“Where was my lift!? Where did you plan to fit little, old Larry into your preparations for this party, eh!?” Larry sniffled and threw his arms around the twins, who didn’t seem to care as they carried on their conversation with Kath. “I’m sick of being the third wheel, man! I need love and attention!”

Miles looked towards the ceiling, muttering something under his breath. Phoenix probably would have laughed, if it weren’t for the realisation that they now had to put up with a very drunk Larry on top of being in a house full of Everetts.

“You told us that you were making your own way here so you could be early for your ‘dearest Kathy’,” Phoenix argued, even though he knew it was completely useless.

You! You’re the worst! You’re… you’re…” Larry seemed to run out of steam after his initial outburst. He scratched his chin and tilted his head to the side. “Dudes, who am I kidding? I can’t stay mad at you! Come here!”

He lunged forward to wrap his arms around both of them, but Miles managed to escape by taking a step back.

“I love you, man,” Larry said with a hand on his chest. “Not an I’ll-go-gay-and-have-sex-with-you love, mind you,” he amended. “I’m not Edgey.”

Miles sent a glare Larry’s way.

“Right, of course not,” Phoenix muttered, detaching Larry and making sure he could stand up without falling over. “How much have you had?”

Larry looked at him blankly. “How much Edgey have I had? Wouldn’t you like to know!” He laughed and nudged Phoenix with his elbow.

“Larry!” Miles cut in sharply.

“Only joking, Edgey, only joking!” Larry put his hands up, miraculously not falling on his face as he did so. “We wouldn’t want your beloved Nicky to learn of your shady past, now, would we?”

You mean all those wild nights he spent in his room polishing his Steel Samurai spear, praying that no one would ever find out?

Phoenix chuckled, but quickly stopped himself as Miles didn’t seem amused. “I meant, how much have you had to drink? Alcohol, that is.”

Larry’s eyes lit up. “Ah, you’ve spotted my most brilliant plan, Nick!” He stood there with a massive grin on his face, looking at the two of them expectantly.

Phoenix turned to Miles, who shook his head.

After staring for a while, he finally decided to carry on. “Dudes, I drove here and I’m gonna get so drunk that I won’t be able to drive home so I’ll have to stay over!” He paused to make sure that Kath wasn’t listening, then continued in a lower voice, “Then, in the middle of the night, I’ll get up to go to the bathroom and go back into the wrong room!” He grinned. “The wrong room being her bedroom, of course…”

Phoenix pulled a weak smile, whereas Miles looked totally uninterested.

Larry threw his arms out. “See? It’s genius! I’m a genius, Nick!”

“Pure genius,” Phoenix responded, his smile getting even weaker.

Larry spun around and shouted, “I’m a genius, aren’t I, Kathy?”

“Yes, yes, of course you are, Larry.”

Looking pleased with himself, Larry sauntered off towards the drinks table.

Kath then seemed to remember about her torture session as she caught Phoenix’s eye. “Oh, you two, come meet the rest of the family!”

With pleasure…

“These two are my cousins,” Kath said, gesturing at the twins. “Yvanna and Fanny.”

Phoenix and Miles looked at each other and Phoenix could tell that Miles knew exactly what he was thinking.

To hell with it. I’m not letting him stop me.

“Yes, please!” Phoenix exclaimed, not missing the ‘I knew it’ expression on Miles’ face.

Fanny grinned and Yvanna twirled her long, black braid around her finger with a good-natured smile. Strangely, they looked less alike than Kath’s parents did. Fanny had cut her hair into a short bob and wore a patterned dress with almost no makeup, whereas Yvanna had opted for a pantsuit and gone for a striking red lipstick. But despite their different styles, they were still obviously twins.

“Excuse him,” Miles said, putting a hand on Phoenix’s shoulder. “Don’t let his appearance fool you. He has the mental age of a teenager.”

Phoenix raised his eyebrows. “Well, it’s better than having the same taste in furnishings as a grandpa.”

“I’d describe it as having refined taste.”

“Oh, sorry,” Phoenix replied sarcastically. “I didn’t realise that pink was a refined colour.”

Miles smirked. “No problem. I understand how it would be difficult for someone like you to tell the difference.”

“Oh, these two! What are they like?” Kath cut in with a giggle.

Surprised at the interruption, Phoenix turned to face her and her cousins.

Wow, I almost forgot she was there for a second…

“This is Miles, a work colleague,” Kath started, pointing at Miles. “And that’s his boyfriend,” she carried on, doing a half-hearted gesture at Phoenix, “Phoenix Wright.”

“We gathered,” Yvanna commented with a smile.

Phoenix laughed. “That obvious, huh?” He turned to Miles with a smirk.

“About as obvious as the comments we always get after introducing ourselves,” Yvanna added.

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “Always good to know how original I am,” he replied with a chuckle.

“Hey, Kath, aren’t you forgetting someone?” the man sitting nearby cut in. “What did your favourite uncle do to deserve this?”

“Oh, of course!” Kath walked over to him. “This, here, is my uncle Robert! He’s Yvanna and Fanny’s dad.”

Robert had short black hair, the exact same shade as his daughters, and wore a plain white shirt with jeans. He did a small salute to Miles and Phoenix. “Welcome to the mad house.”

Kath reached over to hit him on the arm. “Hey, I’m watching you!” She pointed two fingers at her eyes and then at Robert.

He smiled and took a drink from his beer bottle. “If they haven’t already been scared off, Kath, then I doubt I’ll make any difference in their decision.”

Is he kidding? I’m so scared that I’m too petrified to even try to run away…

“The getaway car is inconveniently parked a whole block down the road,” Phoenix joked with a pointed look at Miles. “I’m afraid you’re stuck with us.”

“Ah, I’m sure we’ll cope,” Robert said with a grin.

“As will we,” Miles added, though whether it was sarcastic or not, Phoenix couldn’t tell.

Robert laughed. “Don’t worry, my niece will soon be leaving us, so you only have to endure for a bit longer.”

“You could sound a little sadder about it.” Kath huffed. “And it’s not like I’m leaving forever. It’s just a year out.”

Phoenix laughed. “That’s right, you’re going to Italy, aren’t you?”

“Corretto!” Kath exclaimed in a poor attempt at an Italian accent.

“Italy sounds so cool.” Yvanna was staring off into space, a wistful smile on her lips. “It’s so pretty over there.”

“She’ll also be living with our brother Tonio for the first couple of weeks,” Fanny added. “He’s a good laugh. I’m pretty jealous!”

Yvanna, Tonio, Fanny…

…I have no comment.

“Oh, but that’s not the best part,” Kath spoke up, swirling the wine in her glass. “All the men have Italian accents!”

Nodding along, Yvanna joined the praise. “I’d say the Italian accent is the best European accent out there!”

As the three women started gushing about the Italian language and how it made the pasta taste better when it had an Italian name, Phoenix turned to Miles. “I disagree,” he stated with a smirk.

Miles sighed. “If you dare say that you prefer the British accent, you’re walking home.”

…Am I really that predictable?

“As if I would,” Phoenix proclaimed, sounding hurt that Miles could even suggest such a thing. “I disagree with, you know, the accent being… something… like, being something…” He trailed off, looking away from Miles’ disbelieving expression, before inspiration struck. With a pointed finger, he swirled back around to face Miles. “I disagree with it being the main reason to go to Italy!”

Nice save, Phoenix!

If only I didn’t sound so relieved at thinking of something…

Miles smiled slightly and shook his head. “You’re impossible.”

“I guess being impossible is better than being idiotic,” Phoenix replied, a sheepish smile on his face.

Miles raised an eyebrow. “No, you’re that too.”

“Hey! That’s tot--” Phoenix was cut short as he was pushed into Miles. Thankfully, he managed to steady himself, so it was little more than a fleeting contact between the two. Phoenix turned around to see Kath standing directly where he had been standing.

“Sorry, excuse me,” Kath said, pointing at her empty wine glass.

Phoenix eyed the space behind her. It was empty – far from what anyone would call a tight squeeze.

“No problem.” He glanced at Miles to see if he’d noticed the same thing, but they didn’t make eye contact as Miles seemed too busy staring at the ceiling.

Suddenly, Kath gasped and put a hand over her mouth. “Oh God, I’m such a bad host! I haven’t even asked what you two want to drink!”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Miles said, detaching his gaze from the ceiling.

Kath laughed. “You’re so funny! But really, Miles, I don’t mind getting one for you.”

Not drinking alcohol at a party must seem pretty alien to her…

“He doesn’t like to drink and drive,” Phoenix commented after taking a glance at Miles’ stressed expression.

“One won’t hurt, surely!”

“That’s the attitude that causes accidents, Everett,” Miles pointed out.

Kath put a hand to her cheek. “O-oh, of course, silly me! You’re such a good man, Miles.” She smiled, and then walked off towards the drinks table.

What about my drink…?

“That Kath has always been a bit of a scatterbrain,” Robert noted, catching Phoenix’s attention again. “Don’t get me wrong, I love her to bits! But she really is too obvious.”

“Obvious?” Phoenix quizzed.

Robert leaned forward in his chair. “Don’t tell her I told you this, but I think she has a crush on your boyfriend.”

No, really?

“You think?” Phoenix looked at Miles, mock shock on his face. “I did wonder why she kept staring at your ass.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Don’t pretend you didn’t notice.”

Wow, Edgeworth. There goes my fun…

Robert grinned. “I would warn you to be careful, as Kath usually gets what she wants, but you two look pretty solid from where I’m sitting.”

“Indeed, there’s nothing to worry about, Mr. Everett,” Miles commented.

“Please, call me Robert.”

Miles’ jaw tightened.

I don’t think his brain can process all these first names.

“As much as I appreciate the sentiment, even if Miles and I weren’t together, there’d still be that whole gay thing to sort out,” Phoenix added, making Robert laugh and Miles roll his eyes at his tact.

“Hey, could someone go and open the patio door?” Kath suddenly called from across the room. “It’s getting too hot in here!”

Phoenix looked at Miles, then at Robert, and sighed. “I suppose I should be trying to make a good impression…” he muttered, mostly to himself, before going through to the kitchen.

Edgeworth so could have done this…

After fiddling around with the lock for a bit, he managed to open the door. It led out onto a veranda that was lit by some lights on the railings. Some stairs led down onto a predictably unkempt lawn. Darkness made the state of the garden further back hard to make out, but the mass of tall, leafless trees behind was hard to miss. In the far corner of the veranda, Phoenix spotted a bin full of empty bottles.

What a surprise…

He turned to go back inside, only to come face to face with Enrique.

“Hey, I see you’re trying to get in Kath’s good books too,” Enrique joked with a gesture at the door.

“Oh, yeah…” Phoenix replied uncomfortably. “I, err, better be heading back through…” He moved to the side, but Enrique copied him, stopping him in his tracks.

“She really doesn’t think I’m good enough for her sister, you know?” Enrique said with a chuckle. “Really protective, that one.”

“Really? I should probably go…” Phoenix made another attempt at getting away, only to be stopped again.

Enrique sighed. “This is about before, isn’t it?”

Damned right it’s about before!

“No, of course it isn’t,” Phoenix lied, taking a glance into the living room.

“Look, I’m sorry about those comments, babe.” Enrique ran a hand through his hair, and then rested it on the countertop. “It’s just the part I gotta play.”

…Did he just call me babe?

Phoenix blinked. “What?”

“I actually think you and your boyfriend are hot, if you catch my drift,” Enrique explained with a wink.

“Hot?”

“Totally! You make a good impression on the eye, both of you.”

Phoenix blinked again. “What?”

“Babe, I’m tryin’ to say I’m actually bi,” Enrique pointed out, confirming Phoenix’s suspicions.

Phoenix stared at him, speechless. How could Beth’s fiancé be bi after all that grief she gave Miles and him?

“Don’t say anything, though,” Enrique added quickly. “Beth doesn’t know.”

Phoenix’s eyes widened. “You haven’t told her!?”

Well, what did I expect? Kath could never have had a normal family with normal problems.

Enrique stood up straight and held his hands out defensively. “I know, I know! It’s just not an easy thing to bring up with Beth, you know?”

Phoenix stared on in disbelief.

“Look, it’s like this, see…” Enrique messed up his hair with his hand. “She’s disgusted with anything to do with homosexuality. What am I supposed to do about that? It’s not like I love her any less because of it, so why does she have to know?”

“Well, I guess…” Phoenix paused. “Why are you telling me this?”

Enrique looked away. “I keep telling myself that it’s nothing, but I needed to let it out, you know?”

…Again, why me!?

“I see,” Phoenix said dryly.

“I mean, how would you feel if your Mr. Handsome told you he fancied girls as well as guys?”

By Mr. Handsome, I’m guessing he means Edgeworth…?

That would never happen.

Phoenix smirked at his own personal joke, before bringing his attention back to an expectant Enrique. “It’d be a shock, but I’m pretty sure I could get over it.”

Enrique looked at him sceptically. “Really?”

“Yep. It wouldn’t be enough to make me love him any less,” Phoenix reiterated. “Actually, the fact that he told me would probably strengthen our relationship.”

“I feel you, babe.” Enrique stroked his chin. “I just love her so much, you know? I don’t wanna lose her.”

“Of course you don’t,” Phoenix mumbled to himself.

“Thanks, babe,” Enrique said with a wink. “You’ve been a proper help.”

He doesn’t remember my name, does he?

“No problem.” Phoenix gave him a quick smile in the most reassuring way he could muster. He took the chance to escape with a sidestep and retreated back into the living room.

Looking around, Phoenix managed to spot Miles standing with Kath, Beth and Larry near the drinks table. Miles was looking as distant as ever, but the other three seemed to be having a rather energetic conversation. He made his way over, not being able to hear what they were saying over the music.

“I told you, it’s a romance! Of course the plot isn’t going to be the best ever. It’s the chemistry between the characters that counts!” he heard Kath insist as he got closer.

“You’re so right, Kathy,” Larry agreed, throwing his arms in the air. “It’s all to do with the sexual atmosphere, man.”

Beth scoffed. “There’s no way I could enjoy something like that. Plus I heard the actors can barely act.”

“Totally, Betty,” Larry commented, nodding to himself. “Sucky actors suck.”

More like sucky Larry should make up his mind.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow and turned to Miles.

“Don’t ask,” Miles warned.

“That bad, huh?” Phoenix chuckled. “Sorry for leaving you. I got kinda… sidetracked.”

Miles crossed his arms. “What makes you think I needed you here? If anything, it was a lot more peaceful.”

Peaceful? In this house?

“Forget it, Kath,” Beth said sharply, bringing Phoenix’s attention back to the conversation. “I am not going to watch that shitty movie with you.”

“But, Beth!”

“I’ll just fall asleep! And I can do that at home, for free.”

“Like you could with Enrique around,” Kath muttered.

“I’ll go with you, Kathy!” Larry nudged her elbow. “It’s always a satisfying night out with the Butz in charge,” he added with a wink.

Kath giggled. “That’s sweet of you, Larry, but you were just talking about how much you hate movies without good action scenes.”

“But I love the movies! I love them all!” Larry replied, his voice slurring a bit. “Morning sounds like an amazing one! I mean… Noon? Afternoon? No, wait… Night. Yes, Night is a brilliant movie!” He nodded to himself and took a gulp of beer.

“It’s called ‘Dusk’, Larry,” Kath corrected.

“What’s it about?” Phoenix questioned, glancing at Larry’s beer bottle.

I could so do with one of those…

Kath’s face lit up. “It’s based on the Dusk novel series. It’s a beautiful romance! The guy is a demon and the girl is human so it’d be too dangerous for them to ever be together, but their love is so strong that they find a way to make it work. He even saves her from the evil demons and everything!”

I thought all demons were evil…?

“She must be damned smoked hot for him to bother doing that,” Larry added with a wink.

“I think you mean ‘smoking’,” Beth corrected with a laugh.

Larry took another swig from his bottle, looking confused. “Nah, someone smoking ain’t that hot, Betty.”

Yep, definitely could use some alcohol…

“What are the reviews like?” Miles asked. It seemed he wanted to appear more social than he really was.

“Oh, they’re great! Five stars and everything. Plus, my friend Roxanne said it’s the movie of the decade, and they don’t come along that ofte--” Kath cut herself off and broke out into a massive grin. “Aww, Miles, I didn’t realise you’d be so interested! I didn’t mean to leave you out. If you wanted to come with me, you could have just said, you know.”

Miles held his hands out. “Ev--Kath, that wasn’t my inten--”

“Why, it’s no surprise, really, considering you’re a man in love!” Kath continued across Miles, paying him little attention.

“I don’t think that was what he meant, Miss Everett,” Phoenix commented as he saw Miles rub his forehead in frustration.

Kath’s smile dropped. “It wasn’t?”

“I was considering taking Phoenix out for a movie,” Miles added, sounding surprisingly breezy.

Take me out to watch some chick flick?

Phoenix bit his lip to stop his chuckles.

If that isn’t the most stereotypically gay thing he could have said, I don’t know what is.

“How cute!” Kath exclaimed, surprising no one.

“Oh, Miles, you shouldn’t have!” Phoenix wrapped an arm around his waist. “I think someone deserves a reward for being the most perfect boyfriend.”

“Well, then, we’ll all go together!” Kath balled her hands into fists and waved them around. “That way, we’ll all get to see it.”

Phoenix and Miles looked at each other.

“Actually, Miss Evere--”

“I think I may be able to fit a couple of hours into my schedule,” Miles interrupted, breaking eye contact.

Phoenix had to stare at Miles for a few seconds before the words registered. “What? Seriously?”

“There’s no need to sound so shocked, Phoenix,” Miles said, a tinge of haughtiness to his tone. “You’re the one who always complains that we don’t spend enough quality time together.”

Dumbfounded, Phoenix kept on staring at Miles, who continued to avoid looking back at him.

Did he just…?

He can’t actually want to spend time with me; it’s Edgeworth!

…Yet, he didn’t have to agree there, and I really don’t think it was cause he wants to see that movie.

Phoenix felt a smile work its way onto his face.

Oh well, why am I questioning it?

“Okay, sure,” he said, turning to face Kath. “When do you want to go?”

Kath became overly excited and clapped her hands together multiple times, bouncing on her feet. “Ooh, I don’t know! They have a deal of two for one popcorn on Saturday, I guess.”

Phoenix glanced back at Miles with a grin. “Saturday should be fine.”

“What about me!?” Larry complained, waving his now empty bottle in front of them. “I was the one who wanted to go first!”

“There’s no point, Larry,” Beth said, inspecting her nails. “Who’d want to go out with those two disgusting freaks, anyway?”

“Disgusting freaks?” Phoenix repeated.

“You heard me.” Beth smirked.

Unexplainable anger started to bubble up within Phoenix. Not only were her comments uncalled for, but she barely knew the two of them. And even though the insults lacked any truth, they still cut sharply across him.

“Phoenix…”

The look Miles sent him told him to leave it – his expression must have given a bit too much away. He took a deep breath to calm himself down and turned away from Beth. A reaction would only make the situation worse.

“Yeah, you wouldn’t want to be seen with us disgusting freaks, Larry,” Phoenix stated, taking it as lightly as possible. “I’m sure you could find someone normal and straight to go with.”

“Cool!” Larry exclaimed. “I’ll be sure to ask Maysie next time I see her at the salon!”

“Perhaps you should get Phoenix to ask her for you instead,” Miles mumbled.

“It’s a romance film, after all,” Phoenix continued, ignoring Miles. “I’m sure she would like it.”

“Oh, you have no idea, Mr. Wright!” Kath said excitedly. “It’s like the perfect love story!” She paused. “Actually, it’s so close to your own that it’s almost scary.”

Phoenix and Miles looked at each other, perplexed.

“Why, the two main characters meet in high school and have instant attraction!” Kath nodded to herself. “They just can’t stand being separated and always stare across the room at each other, hoping the other doesn’t notice…” She trailed off, a smile on her face.

That… isn’t even remotely similar to anything Edgeworth and I have experienced.

Kath sighed. “Beth, it’s so amazing what’s happened between these two.”

“Amazing isn’t a word I’d use, like,” Beth commented.

“No, seriously,” Kath insisted. “Mr. Wright must have known from the moment they met that it had to be destiny. It’s so cute! He learned of Miles becoming a lawyer and completely switched careers, just to see the guy after fifteen whole years of them being apart! Miles’ passion for the law and justice must have really touched him!”

She makes me sound like some creepy, obsessed stalker.

“You’re so right, Kathy!” Larry interjected. “They’re the cutest gays ever in the entire world!”

“Tch.” Beth looked unstirred. “I think it’s disgusting that kids that young can become like that.”

“Totally agree, Betty,” Larry said, nodding. “You’d have to be insane to want to be done in the ass!”

“It’s the principle,” Kath argued. “And, on top of that, they look totally hot together.”

Nice argument there, Kath…

“It’s a waste,” Beth replied. “Why are all the cute guys gay?”

“Sugar lump, not all the cute guys are gay!” Larry put a hand on his chest.

Beth simply looked bemused.

“Beth, you really are silly sometimes.” Kath put a hand on Miles’ shoulder, making him pull a face. “It is so not a waste. Miles even told me himself that he expected their relationship to last a very long time and that Mr. Wright is amazing in bed!”

Phoenix burst into laughter as Miles’ jaw clenched; his embarrassment was showing as clear as day.

“Don’t make things up, Everett,” Miles muttered, glaring at Phoenix as he continued to laugh.

Frowning, Kath let go of his shoulder and turned to face him. “There’s no need to be ashamed, Miles. It’s perfectly natural to think that the one you love has the best technique to make you feel like you’ve been lifted off your feet into heaven!”

I have to congratulate Everett for her amazing ability to embarrass Edgeworth so well.

“That is practically perjury,” Miles said sharply, a defensive scowl on his face.

“Aww! Edgey-baby thinks Nicky-boy is purdy!” Larry added, grinning.

“That’s so cute, Miles!” Kath clapped her hands a few times. “Even though we all know how much you adore Mr. Wright, you’re still embarrassed when people notice!”

She is definitely doing this on purpose now…

“Everett, please don’t let that idiot think I compliment him every time his back is turned,” Miles said, gesturing at Phoenix.

“Oh, I can’t lie now, can I, Miles?” Kath replied with a wink.

Beth rolled her eyes at that and walked off, leaving Phoenix wondering why she hadn’t left long before.

“Dudes, where’s Betty going?” Larry asked, a genuine look of confusion on his face.

“She’s looking for that cute straight guy you mentioned before,” Phoenix replied.

What!? Is she blind?” Larry shook his head. “Man, I think you should buy your sis some glasses, Kathy. She could walk into all your vases and everything with that bad eyesight of hers.”

I think he’s being serious…

Kath laughed. “Larry, you’re so funny! And we haven’t even started on the spirits yet.”

“Spirits?” Miles questioned, his eyes narrowing.

“Yeah! What party would be complete without a few drinking games and shots?” Kath stated matter-of-factly.

Phoenix grinned. “You’re forgetting Miles’ tea parties.”

“I’m sure my tea parties are some of the wildest nights that you’ve ever had, Phoenix,” Miles retorted with a smirk.

“Oh, I bet they were!” Kath exclaimed.

Phoenix found it hard to pity Miles as Kath winked and nudged him with her elbow – he should have known better than to make that kind of comment in front of her.

It also doesn’t help that when he flinches, I feel a form of malicious pleasure.

“Man, I feel so neglected! Why don’t I ever get invited to your tea parties, Edgey!?” Larry whined, pouting.

“I wonder,” Miles muttered.

“Well, seeing as I’ve got such stiff competition, why don’t we get this party going, eh?” Kath stepped forward, searching through the bottles of alcohol on the table. “Crap, I forgot to put the vodka out… Hey, you two wouldn’t mind going to fetch it from the kitchen for me, would you?” Kath asked, still looking through the bottles. “I’d go myself, but,” she got to a bottle of red wine and picked it up, taking out the replacement cork and pouring herself a glass, “it’d be a bit rude of me, being the hostess and all.”

“Of course we don’t mind,” Miles replied, rather quickly. “Let’s go, Phoenix.”

Phoenix looked haplessly at the beer bottles that were clustered next to the wine. “But--” He cut himself off as he turned to Miles and saw the distressed expression on his face. “Oh, alright.” He sighed as they made their way to the kitchen.

I’d rather just sit down and have a quiet beer than run around doing errands, to be honest…

“Thank God. I didn’t think I’d make it out of there alive,” Miles said as he turned around to open a cupboard above the countertop.

Phoenix laughed and crossed his arms, leaning back on the counter next to Miles. “I think she only sent us together because she figured that whenever we’re alone, we’re going to jump on top of one another.”

“I suppose so,” Miles replied, moving some stuff around in the cupboard so he could see in the back.

“You should be thankful I was there,” Phoenix said cockily. “If it weren’t for me, she probably would have sent someone else to get the vodka and you’d still be stuck with her right now.”

Miles smirked. “Well, it proves you can be of some use at times.”

“Hey! I’m always useful!”

Closing the cupboard, Miles sent him a pointed look and moved onto the next one along.

“What was that for?” Phoenix asked, frowning.

“Nothing.” Miles shut the door and bent down to look in the cupboard underneath the countertop. “I just don’t see you demonstrating your usefulness at the present time.”

…Well, he’s got me there.

“I’m here for moral support.” Phoenix grinned. “Go, Edgeworth! You can find that vodka!” he exclaimed, punching a fist in the air.

Miles snorted. “What would I do without you?”

“Oh, I dunno. Probably die a horrible, lonely death.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Of course.”

Phoenix chuckled.

He knows it’s true.

Miles closed the cupboard and opened the one above the stove. He frowned slightly.

“Not there either?” Phoenix asked.

Miles glanced at him. “Quite the opposite; it seems we’re spoiled for choice.” He reached into the cupboard and, with a clang of glass, pulled out two large bottles of spirits. “I think we’ll have to empty this to find the vodka.”

Why am I not surprised?

Miles began taking out the numerous bottles individually and reading the label on each of them before placing them down on the counter. It seemed as though he was weighing up each of the brands, as if they needed more proof of Kath’s party animal lifestyle. He pulled a weird face at one bottle in particular.

Glancing at the label, Phoenix noticed what had caused such a reaction. “Hendrick’s?” He smirked and looked back up at Miles. “She must have good taste, after all.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Very funny.” He cast the bottle aside with the rest of the unwanted collection.

I’m guessing that’s sarcasm.

Phoenix watched on as Miles concentrated on the task at hand. It looked as though Kath kept the best brands in the back, as Miles was spending more and more time inspecting the labels.

Phoenix sighed.

Looks like he’s gonna be a while…

He turned to look at what was happening in the living room. Larry was stuffing his face with dessert, beer still in hand, while taking glances at Kath and her cousins who, if their constant laughing was anything to go by, appeared to be having a rather amusing conversation. Beth and Enrique were sitting on the couch with Robert. They all seemed to be looking at something in the corner of the room, a weird expression on their faces. Phoenix followed their line of sight, only to have his eyes fall on Robin and Robin shamelessly making out for everyone to see.

He instinctively looked away.

Now there’s something that can’t be unseen…

Fighting down a shiver of disgust, he turned back to Miles, who was still going through the cupboard.

And to think that Larry wanted us to do exactly that tonight…

“Don’t make me laugh, Larry. Not even a woman would be desperate enough to kiss Wright.”

Phoenix frowned.

What the hell was that all about, anyways? Why couldn’t he just tell Larry to stop being an idiot instead of taking it out on me? I was on his side, for Christ’s sake!

He clenched his fist.

And he makes it sound like being with me is the most embarrassing thing in the world. Why does he always have to be such a jer--

An idea suddenly struck him as his eyes fell onto Miles’ cheek. It was probably the worst idea he’d ever had, but at the moment, he was too annoyed to care.

Phoenix leaned forward, but at that exact second, something seemed to startle Miles, making him spin around.

It was too fast for Phoenix to react.

In that instant, their lips met.

A moment went by, Phoenix vainly trying to understand what had just happened. His mind was drawing a blank. It seemed that the only thing he could focus on was that hazy feeling of hair brushing against his face.

That’s when his brain reengaged.

His eyes widened in shock and he pulled back with so much haste that he was lucky not to get whiplash. He raised a hand to his mouth, the tingling sensation lingering for what felt like forever.

Oh my fucking God! Please say that did not just happen!

He swallowed and dropped his hand, which was now shaking, not even daring to take a glance at Miles. “Shit, Edgeworth… Shit, I mean… Shit, I am so sorr--”

“Whoo! That’s my gay friends for ya!”

Phoenix spun around sharply, noticing that everyone in the living room was staring at them. Snapping out of his daze, he realized that apologizing to Edgeworth now would mean the end of everything he’d worked so hard for.

But I can’t let him think that I did that on purpose either!

He desperately looked around for a solution, until his eyes fell on the patio door. Before he could think twice about it, he grabbed Miles’ wrist and dragged him outside on the veranda, pausing only to slide the door shut. After making sure that no one could see them, he let go of Miles’ hand and looked down at the floor.

“Look, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to…” Phoenix bit his lip. “I was just mad about what you said yesterday, and I…”

“Wright…”

“It was an accident! I didn’t want to--”

“Wright.”

Phoenix looked up at Miles. His eyes were closed and his fingers were pressed against his temples.

“Just… calm down,” Miles said weakly. “You’re giving me a headache.” He paused for a moment, probably to make sure that Phoenix was done talking, before sighing and dropping his hands. “Now, tell me…” He opened his eyes. “What the hell was that for?”

Phoenix blinked. “What!? I just told you! It was an accident!”

Miles glared at him. “How the hell do you kiss someone by accident?”

“Well, err…”

“It obviously has nothing to do with you making up stupid excuses not to take the blame for yet another one of your brilliant ideas.”

Phoenix opened his mouth to retort, but closed it again when nothing came out.

That’s exactly what I’m doing, isn’t it?

Miles crossed his arms. “How very surprising.”

“But it’s not what you think!” Phoenix replied defensively. “Let me explain!”

“There is nothing to explain, Wright,” Miles said flatly.

Phoenix snorted. “More like you don’t want to hear the explanation in case it would prove that you’re wrong and that you have no reason to be mad at me.”

Miles raised his eyebrows. “Oh, is that so? What happened to not being invasive, Wright? Do I have to keep reminding you every other day? Because as far as I know, it still applies.”

“But you got it all wrong!” Phoenix retorted, trying his hardest not to lose his temper. “And you won’t even listen to me!”

“Fine, I’m listening,” Miles said, a challenging tone to his voice.

Yeah, because you really sound like you’re actually going to listen…

Phoenix sighed. “Look, I didn’t do it on purpose, okay? I was just thinking about what you said yesterday and I got mad, so I…”

Oh, fuck me. This isn’t helping my case at all…

“Actually, you know what?” he started again, deciding it best not to finish his previous statement. “This is just as much your fault as it is mine. If you didn’t feel the need to be such an ass yesterday, this would never have happened!”

Miles frowned. “What are you talking about, Wright?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Phoenix replied, his tone threatening to break the sarcasm-o-meter. “‘It’s so embarrassing to pretend to date you, Wright. Not even a woman would be stupid enough to kiss you.’” He scoffed. “Ring a bell?”

“I would think that you’d be used to those comments by now, Wright.”

“Oh, I’m used to your snide comments, alright,” Phoenix admitted. “But I don’t know where that came from, but it was totally unnecessary.”

Miles’ gaze seemed to falter for a moment, before focusing on Phoenix again. “I…” Miles paused. “I’m sorry that you took it that way, but I assure you that I didn’t mean anything by it.”

Phoenix frowned. “Well, how else was I supposed to take it? Was there some hidden message in there that I missed? Because it sounded like a very normal insult to me.”

Miles merely looked away.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Are you actually sorry about what you said or are you just trying to make it look like you’re apologizing?”

Miles once again chose to ignore the question and instead turned to lean on the railing.

“Fine, be that way,” Phoenix said, failing to sound indifferent. “I don’t care.” He crossed his arms and took to staring at some random spot in the distance. For a second, he considered going back inside. He’d had just about enough of Edgeworth being a jerk, he didn’t need the silent treatment on top of that. But on second thought, having to explain himself to Kath sounded even worse than being ignored.

Plus I can’t let him have his way again. I’m sick of this.

He sighed and went to lean on the railing next to Miles. “Look, Edgeworth. Either you answer me now and we go back inside as if nothing ever happened, or you keep ignoring me until I get fed up and you can trust me to make your night a living hell.”

Miles glanced at him from the corner of his eye, before going back to staring into space. “You already did,” he muttered.

Phoenix blinked. “…What?”

He didn’t just say what I think he did, did he?

Miles seemed to realise what Phoenix was thinking as he turned to him and added, “That’s not what I meant.”

“Of course that’s not what you meant,” Phoenix snapped. “You obviously meant something entirely different, but I’m too much of an idiot to understand, as usual.” He breathed deeply in an attempt to calm himself, but to no avail. “For fuck’s sake, Edgeworth. I wonder why I even bother with you. You never tell me what you’re thinking and it’s seriously starting to piss me off.”

Miles looked away again. “I’m sorry.”

Phoenix snorted. “Are you? Because it didn’t seem like you were just a moment ago when you felt the need to add to yesterday’s load of cra--”

“That’s not what I meant,” Miles repeated sharply, turning to Phoenix once again.

Phoenix stared at him. Even though it seemed obvious that he was just denying blatantly insulting him, the look in his eyes said otherwise.

He’s telling the truth…

Phoenix frowned. “What did you mean then?”

Miles studied his face for a moment, as if looking for something, before turning away with a sigh. “I can’t tell you.”

“What do you mean you can’t tell me?” Phoenix asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I mean that you wouldn’t understand,” Miles replied dryly.

“So you do think I’m too stupid to understand,” Phoenix said sardonically. “Thanks for confirming my thoughts.”

“If that’s what you want to believe, then I’m not going to stop you.” Miles sighed again. “I’m done with this conversation.”

I hate you, Edgeworth.

“You know what? Fine. You don’t have to tell me anything. I’m just gonna go back inside now and pretend everything is perfectly fine. That’s what you want, right?” At Miles’ lack of response, he added, “Next time, if you think something is so horrible, put a stop to it right away instead of blaming me.”

The confused look on Miles’ face was enough of an answer.

“Oh, sorry. I forgot you’re the only one allowed to speak in riddles. What I meant to say was,” Phoenix crossed his arms, “why the hell didn’t you pull away?”

Miles’ eyes widened for a moment, before his expression turned into a frown again. “As far as I know, I’m not the one who thought it was a good idea to kiss in the middle of Everett’s kitchen, just to prove something that doesn’t even exist in the first place.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Exactly my point! If you thought it was such a bad idea, why did you stand there like an idiot instead of pulling away!? Is there something you’re not telling me here?”

“Shut up, Wright,” Miles replied sharply. “I am not taking the blame for this. You’re the one who started it.”

“Fine, whatever.” Phoenix sighed. “It’s not like there’s any point in trying to get through to you, anyways.”

He spun around and walked up to the patio door. Taking a glance inside, he noticed Kath standing awkwardly in the kitchen. Judging from her position, it was obvious that she’d been trying to find an angle from which she could see what he and Miles were doing outside, without them being able to see her.

Phoenix sighed again. “You might want to come back in too,” he muttered, glancing at Miles from the corner of his eye. “Looks like someone’s interested in what was going on out here. You don’t want to make it look like we were fighting.” He paused. “Not like I really care at the moment, but yeah…” Trying to look as natural as possible, he slid the door open and stepped inside.

“Finally!” Kath exclaimed, making her way towards him. “It was starting to get pretty hot in here.” She fanned herself with her hand. “Well, not as hot as you two lovebirds out there, of course.”

I guess that means she didn’t see anything.

“Miles and I were only talking, Miss Everett.”

She laughed. “You’re so funny, Mr. Wright. You think I didn’t see the look on both your faces after that kiss? Of course you had to go ‘talk’ outside.”

Might as well roll with it.

“Yeah, we had a good talk,” Phoenix said simply.

Kath started laughing again, but this time, it was more of a series of creepy giggles than an actual laugh. Phoenix briefly wondered what was going through her mind, before deciding he really didn’t want to know.

I should know better than to encourage her…

She suddenly stopped laughing as she seemed to spot something behind him. “Oh, hey, Miles!”

Phoenix turned around to see Miles leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed.

“I guess it took you a bit longer than Mr. Wright to straighten out,” Kath remarked, her voice unnecessarily loud.

Miles frowned. “…Straighten out?”

Kath laughed again. “You guys are so silly! Why are you so shy about being affectionate in public? I mean, two good-looking guys like you, it’s only fair that people can get an eyeful, you know?”

“Err… I don’t think that’s quite how it works, Miss Everett,” Phoenix replied in a flat voice.

“I do have to admit though,” she continued, completely ignoring Phoenix’s comment, “that kiss really surprised me! I was starting to give up hope on ever seeing you two do anything.” She sighed. “It was so cu--”

“Kath!” a voice suddenly called from the living room.

That was a close one.

“Yes, Beth?” Kath yelled back, turning around to try and spot her sister in the crowd of people.

“Stop wasting time with those faggots and come drink with us!”

“Coming!” Kath turned to Phoenix and Miles again. “Sorry, looks like I’m wanted over there. I’ll be back in a bit. Or you guys can come join us if you want.”

Not fucking likely.

“Sure, we’ll catch up in a minute,” Phoenix lied.

Kath smiled. “Awesome! Don’t keep me waiting!” She turned back around and disappeared into the living room.

Phoenix closed his eyes and took in a deep breath.

I don’t know why I’m taking her sister’s insults so personally. It’s not like she’s the first homophobic person I’ve met…

-CLANG-

Phoenix spun around to see Larry going through the bottles that Miles had taken out of the cupboard. It looked as though he was having trouble standing up straight.

Speak of the devil…

“What are you doing, Larry?” Phoenix asked.

Larry turned to him. It seemed to take a few seconds for him to realise who was talking. “Oh, hey, Nick! When did you get here?”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “You didn’t answer my question.”

“Err…” Larry blinked a few times. “Oh, yeah!” He went back to moving the bottles around on the counter. “I’m hungry.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Larry… you do realise those are drinks, not food, right?”

Larry laughed. “Nick, I’m not stupid! I’m looking for the éclair I threw at Edgey. It should be around here somewhere…”

Phoenix frowned. “The… éclair?”

Wait a minute…

He glanced at Miles. The look on his face confirmed what he was thinking.

“You don’t mean…?” Phoenix rubbed his forehead. “Larry! It was your fault!”

Larry turned to him again. “What are you talking about, dude?”

“You know perfectly well what I mean!” Phoenix hissed, looking around to make sure no one was listening.

“No, I don’t!” Larry replied defensively. “Why do you always accuse me of everything, dude? That’s not cool! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Oh, really?” Phoenix said patronisingly, crossing his arms. “I could have sworn you just admitted to throwing that éclair at Edgeworth.”

Larry raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, so? What’s your point? I missed anyways because you guys started making out, so what’s the problem?”

“Larry, you…” Phoenix sighed. “Forget it.”

Larry shrugged and turned back to the counter.

I give him way too much credit sometimes…

“Guys!” Kath suddenly called from the living room.

Phoenix turned around to see her making her way towards them.

“I just realised you guys never brought me the vodka,” she said, glancing at the still open cupboard. “We can’t really start the drinking games without it.”

“Oh, sorry, Miss Everett,” Phoenix replied, rubbing the back of his neck. “We, uh… totally forgot.”

“Oh, no, it’s okay!” She waved her hands defensively. “I couldn’t possibly be mad at you. After all, if I had to choose between going through a cupboard and going outside to make out with Mi--to make out,” she cleared her throat, “the choice would be kinda obvious.”

Indeed, you couldn’t be more obvious if you tried.

There was a small clang of glass as Miles reached up into the cupboard. “I suggest you make a filing system for all your spirits, Everett,” he said, taking a bottle out.

“You found it?” Kath snatched the vodka from Miles’ hands just as he’d lowered it to her eye level. “Thanks, Miles; I knew I had some somewhere!”

Wait, so she sent us without even knowing if she had any?

“Well, it’s not like we were distracted the entire time you left us alone,” Phoenix commented, not forgetting to add a pointed glance at Miles.

Kath giggled. “But you were gone for a long time, Mr. Wright. Enough to make me doubt your real reason for volunteering to ge--”

“Aren’t people waiting for you in the other room, Everett?” Miles interrupted.

“Good point! Off to the games!” Kath went to go, but lingered for a second, looking over at the counter. She leaned over where Larry was searching and picked up a bottle of Peach Schnapps. “For those with a sweeter tooth,” she stated, trying to justify the extra alcohol, before finally walking back into the living room.

Phoenix looked over at Miles and leaned back on the counter. “I guess that means we should go back through.”

Miles sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Do we have to?”

Smirking, Phoenix made his way into the living room, knowing full well that Miles would follow.

The various chairs and seats in the room had been arranged in a circle, and a variety of different shot glasses now surrounded the spirits on the drinks table. Music was no longer the prominent sound as it was being drowned out by everyone’s chatting and had most likely been turned down.

Phoenix grabbed a chair next to Robert, thinking it to be the safest option. As Miles entered the room, Kath motioned at the empty seat next to her, but he seemed to not notice and pulled up a chair between Phoenix and Yvanna instead. It was more likely that he’d just ignored her, but Phoenix had to admit that Miles was pretty decent at acting oblivious.

“Whoop!”

Phoenix turned to see Larry jumping out of the kitchen.

“Everything’s okay, dudes! I found the éclair!”

“Very nice, Larry,” Kath said, still trying to catch Miles’ eye.

“More than nice, Kathy. I was about to starve!”

“I’m sure you’re exaggerating a bit…” Kath frowned slightly when Larry came bounding towards her and took the adjacent seat, munching on his already half-eaten éclair. “Right, well… Now that we’re all here, we can get started! Could someone pull the coffee table over to the centre?”

Happy to oblige, Enrique jumped up and pulled the table into the middle of the circle. Kath picked up the shot glasses and got up to hand them around.

This is quite possibly the most organised I’ve ever seen her.

She tried to pass one to Miles, who held up a hand in response.

“Aww, Miles, you’ve got to join in. It wouldn’t be the same without you!”

“I’m driving, Everett,” Miles replied dryly.

“You can get a taxi,” she insisted, waving the shot glass in front of his face.

Something tells me she’s pressing him too much on this whole drinking alcohol thing…

“It’s okay, Miss Everett. He can be on my team.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “It’s not exactly a team game, is it, Phoenix?”

“Of course.” Phoenix grinned and placed a hand on Miles’ shoulder. “But we come as one, Miles.”

Miles rolled his eyes in response.

Kath smiled brightly. “Well, if you put it that way!” She handed Phoenix a translucent shot glass that had ‘DRUNK’ written on the side with a list of pros and cons underneath.

Pros: Enormous sexual appetite for anything willing. A feeling of invincibility and confidence that you wished you had while sober.

Cons: Loss of intelligence, vision and speech. General untidiness and lack of balance and self-control. All the pros are spoiled by the cons!

Phoenix looked up at Larry, who was chatting away inanely to the two Robins next to him.

No arguments from me, there.

Robert leaned over to inspect his shot glass, then laughed. “Looks like you got let off lightly!” He showed Phoenix his own, which read ‘WASTED’. “She always forces this one on me.”

Phoenix laughed, leaning back in his chair to let Fanny pass. It seemed that Kath had enrolled her into filling the shot glasses as she came around and gestured for Phoenix and Robert to place their glasses down on the table, before pouring in a single measure of vodka.

Kath clapped her hands, getting everyone’s attention again. “So, any requests?”

“Strip poker!” Larry shouted, throwing his hands up excitedly.

Kath laughed. “Don’t be silly, Larry. My parents are here.”

…Because you would if they weren’t?

“How about a quick round of Circle of Death?” Robert suggested, a bit too much innocence forced into his tone.

“Oh, no, we’re not falling for that one again, Rob,” male Robin commented, before turning to his wife. “Can you remember what happened last time my evil brother tricked us into playing his drinking card games, sweetie?”

“I can’t remember much, and that’s the scary thing, dear!” Robin replied, taking his hand in her own. They looked at each other, smiled, and then sighed. “That was our twenty-seven years and three months anniversary, doesn’t time fly?”

Kath laughed. “More to the point, I want to be alive enough to work tomorrow. I have court, after all!”

Does she ever go to court not hungover?

“I’ve Never! It’s always a good one,” Yvanna suggested.

“Perfect!” Kath clapped her hands and sat back down in her seat. “I’m sure you all know the rules, but just to refresh: we take turns to say a statement about something we might or might not have done starting with the phrase ‘I’ve never’, and the people who have done it must take a shot.”

Phoenix and Miles looked at each other.

Please let this feeling of dread simply be paranoia…

“I’ll go first,” Kath started, clearing her throat a little. “I’ve never kissed a guy!”

…Figures.

All the women took a shot, followed by Robert, who simply shrugged afterwards. Sitting next to Beth, Enrique stared at his shot glass mournfully, not daring to even take a sip.

Phoenix sighed, before picking his shot glass up and downing the vodka, pulling a face when it reached the back of his throat. He didn’t dare look over at Miles after that, and instead reached for a bottle in the middle of the table to pour another measure into his glass.

“Larry, you’ve kissed a guy!?” Kath exclaimed.

Phoenix looked up to see Larry putting an empty shot glass down on the table.

“Hell no! I’m thirsty!” he replied, grabbing a bottle out of the middle. “Anyway, my turn! I’ve never kissed a chick!”

All the men took a shot, along with Kath and Yvanna. It took Phoenix a second to decide whether to drink or not. It wasn’t as though they could doubt his sexuality on a kiss, so he took the shot out of honesty.

Robin and Robin both had statements that were quite specific to each other – something to do with having picnics by a certain river and feeding a certain type of bird with a loved one. Unsurprisingly, they were the only two to drink.

“I’ve never completed a degree,” Fanny said, making Phoenix take another shot. She was followed by Yvanna saying she’d never eaten barbecued kangaroo.

“I’ve never…” Phoenix paused for a second, “fancied a colleague.” He looked across at Kath and deliberately took the shot when he caught her eye. She had to look away before taking her own.

Miles sent him a pointed look, to which Phoenix grinned.

You know full well she deserved that one.

“I’ve never passed out from losing at poker and downing two bottles of wine after having a couple rounds of shots.” Robert proceeded to take his shot. After refilling his glass, he glanced around and seemed surprised when he noticed that everyone was looking at him oddly. “Guess it’s just me, then…” he mumbled.

Enrique claimed to have never failed to pull a woman. When he didn’t drink, Beth giggled and shook her head. Phoenix also decided not to drink – he told himself it was because he was supposed to be gay so he shouldn’t be hitting on women anyway.

Next was Beth’s turn. She seemed to ponder for a moment, staring at her glass, before quickly looking up at Phoenix. “I’ve never made disgusting lifestyle choices,” she stated, never breaking eye contact.

Phoenix couldn’t help but stare.

I can’t believe this woman…

He sighed and turned to Miles, who seemed to have retreated into his thoughts. For once, though, he couldn’t exactly blame him.

It was then Kath’s turn once again. She looked over at Phoenix and raised her glass. “I’ve never had sex with a guy!”

Oh, for Christ’s sake.

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck while looking down at his shot glass. It felt stupid to lie about it, but Kath was watching him expectantly. He glanced at Miles.

I guess I should be used to lying by now…

He took his shot, making sure to avoid Kath’s gaze as he did so.

“Man,” Larry said with a low whistle. “In that case, I’ve never slept with a woman!”

You know, it wouldn’t hurt to be at least slightly original, Larry.

The two Robins, Fanny and Yvanna all took their own turns after that, Phoenix not having to drink for any of their statements. It was then his turn again.

“Wait a second, Mr. Wright,” Kath interrupted, sticking a hand out. “Don’t you think your teammate should have a say?”

Phoenix shrugged and looked over at Miles. “Yeah, sure, sounds good to me.”

Miles raised his head from its resting position on his hand. “Are you talking about me?”

“No, we’re talking about my other boyfriend,” Phoenix replied sarcastically. He glanced back at Kath and raised a defensive hand. “That was a joke, by the way.”

Miles shook his head. “No, thank you.”

“Aww, Miles!”

“Edgey, you’re so dull,” Larry whined, flopping back into his seat and taking another shot of some blue drink.

“I don’t agree with this invasion of privacy,” Miles stated.

Kath sighed loudly. “You don’t have to ask a private question, Miles. Besides, it’s no fun if we don’t have all of us joining in!”

Yvanna nudged Miles with her elbow. “Go on, we don’t mind that you’re not drinking with us.”

Miles edged away slightly from the physical contact. “There’s nothing I particularly want to ask,” he added.

“Isn’t he such a shy boy, honey?” Robin commented to his wife.

“It’s quite cute, isn’t it?” Robin replied, squeezing Robin’s arm.

I agree. Isn’t he just a little darling?

Phoenix smirked. “Hey, it’s no problem if you can’t think of anything, you know.”

“I never insinuated that I couldn’t think of something, Phoenix,” Miles said defensively.

“Sure, sure.” Phoenix held up a hand. “Sorry, forget I said anything.”

Miles sighed. “Fine, if that’s how you want to play it…”

“That’s the stuff, Miles!” Kath exclaimed.

Miles sat there thinking for a while, just staring at the floor.

“Wow, Edgey, we don’t have all night, y’know,” Larry commented loudly, making Miles jerk his head back up.

“Patience is a virtue, Larry,” Miles replied. He leaned forward in his chair, apparently ready to deliver his statement. “I’ve never…” He took another pause to look over at Phoenix, a weird expression on his face, before quickly looking away again. “I’ve never… hidden the truth when it mattered,” he stated in a tone as blank as his expression.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow.

Is he talking about… court? I thought he was mostly over that by now…

And what the hell was that look for?

Surprisingly, everyone but Phoenix downed their shots, Enrique being the most hesitant and the last one to do so. There was a group laugh after their mass confession and people started to talk amongst themselves, the game seemingly forgotten.

“You’re so deep, Miles,” Kath commented with a sigh as she refilled her glass. “Hey, are you sure you don’t want a drink, not even a soft one?”

“I suppose a glass of water wouldn’t go amiss,” Miles replied.

Kath went to get up, but Phoenix waved her down. “It’s fine, Miss Everett. I’ll get it.” He got up from his chair, but before he could even take a step, a sudden rush of alcohol hit him, making him wobble.

Miles sent him a look of concern, apparently noticing the slight loss of balance.

I think he has a point. I should probably take it a bit easier from now on.

“No, no, it’s fine,” Kath said. “What kind of host would I be if I made my guests do all my errands for me?”

…I won’t answer that one.

Phoenix sat back down as Kath wandered through to the kitchen. She came back with a glass of water in her hand and passed it to Miles.

“Thank you.”

“No problem!” Kath smiled, lingered for a second, and then decided to go back to her seat. “Okay, people, let’s go!”

And with that, the game started up again. Robert stated something else to do with some sort of wild drinking night, then looked shocked when no one could share his experience. Enrique bragged through stating that he’d never dated a celebrity and swiftly taking a drink after. When questioned about it by Larry, though, he seemed a little shady on the details. Beth confessed by saying that she’d never had a crush on some male celebrity and then taking her shot. Phoenix drank for the sake of it that time, just to see her expression.

Then, it was Kath’s turn again. Dread filled Phoenix, wondering what she could possibly say next.

“Well, I’ve never had sex in a public bathroom!”

…She didn’t.

Phoenix felt the heat rise to his cheeks as he looked down at his shot glass. He glanced over at Miles, who was busy tapping his temple in annoyance. Finally making up his mind, he reached over and quickly took his shot.

I can’t believe I’m letting her believe these things…

“Oh, I so knew it!” Kath clapped her hands excitedly. “You’re such a sly fox!”

“This is a bad idea, Miss Everett,” Phoenix stated, not rising to her comment. “I’m going to get drunk way too fast playing this game.”

“Come on, now, you can’t be ashamed of your experience, Mr. Wright! Most of us can’t claim to have the courage to have sex with someone in a restaurant.”

Phoenix felt his face get even hotter. He must have been bright red at this point.

Robert laughed. “Leave the poor guy alone, Kath.”

“Aww, but--”

“Kath, I would appreciate if you didn’t drag out our private life like this,” Miles interrupted. “You do understand how much our jobs rely on secrecy, don’t you?”

Oh, so now that he’s been embarrassed, he has a conscience and remembers her first name?

“O-of course, Miles,” Kath stuttered. “I won’t do it again.”

Phoenix shook his head, smiling to himself.

“Babe, we should give that a go someday,” Enrique commented, wrapping an arm around Beth.

“I think that could be arranged,” she flirted back, running a hand through his hair.

“I’m free now,” Enrique added, stroking her leg.

Beth removed his hand and pulled him up from his seat. “I think I left my agenda at home.”

“Ooh, babe, I love it when you take control.”

Phoenix looked over at Miles with raised eyebrows as the two of them started to whisper between themselves. Miles pulled a face in response.

“Erm, Kath,” Beth paused to slap away Enrique’s hand as he reached for her ass, “it’s been a lovely night, but we’re going to head off.”

“Aww, really?”

“Yeah, got an early mornin’ tomorrow.” Enrique altered his scarf and cleared his throat. “Thanks, Kath, nice hanging with you lot.” He nodded at each of them, somehow managing to sneak in a sly wink at Phoenix.

I’m guessing that’s his way of saying thanks…

There was a set of very short goodbyes before they both ran to the door, Beth giggling and pulling Enrique along. After hastily putting their shoes on, they said goodbye one last time and slammed the door shut behind them.

Kath laughed. “I don’t think it takes much to imagine why they really left.”

The Everetts and Larry all laughed along at that.

Miles gave Phoenix a weird look, obviously wondering what was so funny about Kath’s comment. A shrug was all Phoenix could come up with as an answer.

“Right, back to the game!” Kath exclaimed. “I’ll start us all off again; I’ve never groped someone under the table at a restaurant!”

Phoenix closed his eyes and hid his face behind his hand.

I hate my life…

---

After what seemed like ages, it was group consensus to stop the game before anyone got too drunk – or as wasted as Larry. Everyone helped tidy away the glasses, bottles and food, and the furniture was rearranged back to where it was before. Kath’s family left in a big group, all of them giving her repeated hugs before walking out to get into their shared taxis. In the end, the only people left were Kath, Miles, Larry and Phoenix.

Kath sighed and sat down on the arm of the couch that Phoenix and Miles were sitting on, a smile on her face. “Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had an amazing night.”

“Hell yeah!” Larry exclaimed. “You never told me you had twins for cousins, Kathy! Your family is so cool!”

Kath giggled. “Oh, Larry, you make me laugh.”

Larry beamed at that. “What can I say; I’m just a funnyful person.”

“‘Funnyful’ is not a word, Larry,” Miles said dryly.

“Whatever, dude. You’re just jealous that I’m the one who makes Kathy laugh!”

“Hey, Larry, isn’t it way past your bedtime?” Phoenix said, checking his watch.

Larry laughed. “Dude, it’s not even late.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about? It’s two in the morning.”

“Good point,” Kath commented, getting up from the couch. “Here, Larry, we’ll see you out to make sure you’re okay.”

“I think I had too much to drink, Kathy,” Larry said as they made their way towards the door. “I should probably sleep over.”

Kath frowned. “I’m sorry, Larry, but I don’t think that’s gonna be possible. The guest room is a total mess and there’s stuff all over the bed, and it’s a bit late to start cleaning up now.”

“I’ll sleep on the floor!” Larry exclaimed. “I don’t need comfort when I know you’re in the next room!”

“No, Larry,” she replied slowly, as if talking to a child. “It’s a bad idea. You’d hurt all over tomorrow. You need a good night’s sleep.”

“But, Kathy!” Larry whined. “I can’t drive my car in this condition! I’ll get in an accident and die! And I’ll never see my beautiful Kathy again!”

Kath shook her head. “You’ll be fine. I’ll call you a cab.”

There goes his genius plan…

Larry’s eyes welled up with tears. “But… but…”

“No buts!” Kath retorted, shoving her hand in front of his face. “Now, be nice while I go and make that phone call.”

“Yes, Kathy…” Larry replied weakly, lowering his head.

Kath turned around and disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Larry to sob to himself.

“It’s okay, Larry,” Phoenix said, trying to sound as reassuring as possible.

“No, Nick! It really isn’t!” Larry whined. “Can’t you see? My life is over!”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that one…

“Larry…”

“I don’t need your pity!” Larry cut in angrily. “I’m not wanted here so I’ll just go wait outside like the man that no one loves that I am.”

Phoenix frowned. “What?”

Shaking his head, Larry pushed past him and wrenched the door open.

“Larry, wai--”

-BANG-

The door slammed shut an inch from his face.

He sighed.

Oh well, just Larry being Larry…

“What was that?” Kath called from the other room.

Phoenix turned around to see her standing next to the couch, phone in hand.

“Oh, nothing,” he replied casually. “Larry decided to go wait outside.”

“I see…” She shrugged. “Oh well, his cab is gonna be here any minute, anyways.”

“Yeah…” Phoenix agreed.

There was an awkward silence for a moment as the three of them stood there, until Phoenix decided to break it.

“Okay, so, um… I think Miles and I should get going…”

“Are you sure?” Kath asked, putting the phone down on the table next to the couch. “Cause it’s totally okay if you guys wanna crash here, you know.”

“Yes, we’re sure, Everett,” Miles replied, taking out his keys as if to emphasize his point. “It’s very late and we both have work tomorrow.”

“But are you sure you’re okay to drive, Miles?” she insisted as she made her way towards them.

“Miles didn’t have anything to drink, Miss Everett,” Phoenix stated. “Besides, didn’t you say that the guest room was a mess?”

“Well, yeah, but I figured it wouldn’t matter since it’s not like you guys are actually going to sleep.”

Phoenix went to laugh, but stopped himself when he realised that she was being serious.

This is getting way too creepy…

He glanced at Miles, who glared back at him. It was obviously his way of telling him that there’d be hell to pay if he dared to accept her offer.

Phoenix inwardly laughed.

As much as I like to annoy you, Edgeworth, I would never go that far.

“Um… thanks for the offer, but I think we’re gonna go.”

“Aww… alright then,” Kath said, pouting. “It’s just so sad to find yourself in an empty house after a big party, you know?”

“I know what you mean,” Phoenix replied, reaching for the doorknob. He paused for a few seconds, waiting for a signal to open the door. When nothing happened, he decided he’d waited long enough. “Well, we’ll see you, then,” he said, proceeding to open the door.

Kath nodded. “See you, guys! Thanks for coming!”

“No problem. Thanks again for inviting us,” Phoenix added, following Miles outside.

“Bye, guys! Good night!”

“Good night, Everett,” Miles said, in what seemed like the most polite tone he could manage at the moment.

After nodding one last time, Kath closed the door. At that instant, the air suddenly felt a lot lighter. There was definitely a weird presence about her, though Phoenix wasn’t sure why. Pretending to date Edgeworth had been pretty easy up till now – funny, even – so why did he feel so awkward around her all of a sudden? He decided to dismiss the thought, figuring it was most likely a mix of the alcohol and having spent the whole night with her family.

“Wright?”

Phoenix turned to Miles, who was staring at him, looking a bit concerned. He smiled. “Sorry… I’m just a bit out of it. Let’s go.”

“Can’t say I’m surprised, considering the amount of alcohol you ingested back there,” Miles said as they started making their way towards the sidewalk.

Phoenix snorted. “Are you seriously going to lecture me about drinking a bit of vodka? I’m old enough to know what I’m doing, you know.”

“Apparently not,” Miles said dryly. “It wasn’t just vodka, Wright. You mixed a whole bunch of different spirits.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Fine. Next time, I’ll make sure I get as drunk as Larry. How’s that?”

“There you go, talking behind my back again!”

Phoenix spun around to see Larry sitting on the edge of the sidewalk, still waiting for his taxi.

“We weren’t talking behind your back, Larry.”

Larry shook his head. “It’s alright. I’m used to it.”

Phoenix sighed. “Are you okay?”

“Pff… Like you guys care,” Larry replied, turning away.

“Larry, stop being a baby,” Phoenix scolded. “I know you’re upset because your master plan failed, but that’s not a reason to take it out on us. We didn’t do anything wrong!”

Larry turned around again, wide-eyed. “Dude, you’re right! I’m sorry!” He smiled. “In fact, I’m so proud of you, dudes! I didn’t think you’d actually do it!”

Phoenix took a hesitant glance back at Miles. “We didn’t do anything, Larry. It was an accident.”

Larry frowned. “What are you talking about? You were totally making out, dudes!”

Kill me, please…

“Larry, you’re drunk,” Miles cut in. “Alcohol makes you see things that are not real.”

Larry laughed. “Come on, Edgey, I’m not stupid enough to fall for that! I know what I saw!”

Nice try, Edgeworth.

A bright light suddenly appeared from behind them and Phoenix turned around to see the taxi slowly come to a halt.

“I think that’s your cue,” Phoenix said, nodding towards the cab.

Larry went to get up, only to fall back down after moving about two inches. “A little help?”

Phoenix pulled him up and helped him make his way to the taxi, where Miles had already opened the door.

“I love you, guys,” Larry said as they helped him get inside the car. “But not in the same way that you love each other,” he added, before bursting out laughing.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Bye, Larry.” He slammed the door shut and watched as the taxi started pulling away.

“I don’t think he’s about to let that one go,” Miles commented.

Phoenix turned to him and shrugged. “You never know. Maybe he won’t remember in the morning.”

Miles shook his head. “I doubt it. That would be too convenient.”

“Yeah…” Phoenix agreed, glancing in the direction of the taxi, only to notice that it had already disappeared from view.

He sighed.

I get the feeling that Larry’s not the only one who won’t forget about this…

He turned back to Miles and saw him staring off in the distance. After hesitating a moment, he added, “About that… I hope I didn’t just screw everything up.” He looked down at the floor. “I mean--”

“Wright.”

Phoenix looked back up. Miles seemed surprisingly calm.

“Stop worrying so much.”

Look who’s talking.

“But I thought…” Phoenix trailed off as he realised that there was no point in insisting. “So we’re cool?”

“Technically speaking, yes,” Miles replied, setting off in the direction they’d come from earlier.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow and stared at him for a moment, before catching up to him. “Wait, what do you mean ‘technically’?”

Miles smirked. “That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

“Hey! That’s not fair!” Phoenix complained. “You can’t do that!”

“Sure I can,” Miles replied coolly.

Fine, I get it.

“I hate you, you know that?”

Miles simply smirked even more.

“So am I supposed to watch my back twenty-four-seven now?” Phoenix asked, doing his best to keep up with Miles, who was walking a bit too fast for him in his current state. At the lack of response, he added, “Come on! Give me something!”

“Fine,” Miles replied, an evil tone to his voice. “I wouldn’t recommend falling asleep.”

Phoenix laughed.

Looks like Kath was right, after all. Edgeworth really is going to keep me up all night.

Chapter Text

Miles looked at his reflection in the mirror and sighed.

This is no good. I’ve worn this one before.

He took off his tie and walked over to the closet to put it back on the hanger. He flicked through his collection and, after weighing up his options, finally decided on a dark red one. Miles quickly put the tie on and walked back to the mirror to make sure it didn’t clash too much with his white shirt and dark blue jeans.

He stared at himself for a moment and frowned.

Great. Now I look like Wright.

Sighing, he took the tie off and threw it on the bed. Why did this have to be so complicated?

Or maybe I’m the one who’s making a big deal over nothing.

He crossed his arms and looked at his reflection again.

Do I even need to wear a tie? We’re only going to a movie. Maybe it’s a bit much…

Besides… didn’t Larry say it was a bad idea?

Miles shook his head.

There’s something seriously wrong with me if I’m considering listening to any advice from the Butz.

He glanced over at his cellphone that was sitting on the dresser.

Maybe I should call Wright and ask him what he’s wearing?

…What the hell am I saying?

Miles closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

This is ridiculous… Why am I putting so much thought into this? Wright won’t even notice what I’m wearing because he’s not… because he doesn’t…

Miles sighed.

I need to calm down.

He walked over to his bed and sat down on the edge, before letting himself fall on his back. These past two days had been quite stressful. Yesterday’s trial had been a complete disaster and was now scheduled to reconvene on Monday, which had led to Miles spending the past twenty-four hours looking for new leads. He hadn’t slept much, if at all, and the case was seriously starting to give him a migraine. He should have been thankful for this opportunity to get away from it, if only for a few hours, but instead, all he could do was stress even more.

What the hell was I thinking?

Nothing good can come from this…

His mind kept darting back to the events of Thursday night – to one moment in particular – as if to convince him that this was a good idea and that he hadn’t just put himself into another crazy situation. He shivered slightly as he remembered again – the closeness, the warmth. It had pushed him way beyond his comfort zone, and yet, it would be a lie if he said that he didn’t like it. In fact, it was one of the best feelings he’d ever had.

Damn it, Wright…

How am I supposed to stay detached after that?

Miles sighed and brought a hand to his face. How could he have been stupid enough to fall for Wright? This should have been nothing more than an act. He’d stupidly let his feelings take over and now he was using the situation with Everett to see him.

Am I so pathetic that I can’t even ask him to spend time with me?

It’s not as if he would say no… or think anything of it… considering the reason I’m like this is because he made me spend all that time with him.

-Bring bring, bring bring-

Miles sat back up sharply as his cellphone started to ring.

Why do people always call me at the worst possible time?

He got up and made his way to his dresser to pick up his phone. He paused to clear his throat before answering.

“Miles Edgeworth.”

Is this seriously how you answer your phone all the time? Even your cellphone?

Miles blinked. “…Wright?”

No, it’s the Pope… Of course it’s me!” Phoenix snorted. “Anyways, I was just calling to say I’m ready. When are you coming to pick me up?

There it was again, that tingling sensation. If his voice alone had that much of an effect on him, he had no idea how he would manage to survive the whole night.

“Sorry, I didn’t check the caller ID. I would have answered in a more… friendly manner if I knew it was you.”

…Is your brain lagging? You’re like a whole question behind.

“Oh… sorry… I… uh…” Miles tried his hardest to remember what Phoenix had just asked him, but to no avail. “What were you saying?”

…Are you sure you’re okay?” Phoenix asked, sounding concerned.

Miles sighed. “I’m fine. I just didn’t get much sleep.”

When do you ever get any sleep?

“I’m not as sleep-deprived as you seem to think I am, Wright,” Miles replied defensively.

We both know that’s not true,” Phoenix retorted. “I worry about you sometimes.

Miles felt his pulse rise slightly at that comment. “…You do?”

Well, I mean, sometimes you look like you’re about to faint. You’re obviously not sleeping eight hours a night.

Miles frowned. “Don’t exaggerate, I’m never that bad. Besides, why do you care so much about my sleeping habits?”

I don’t! I mean… I do! I mean…” Phoenix paused. “Just don’t make yourself sick, okay?

You really do worry too much.

“I’ll be fine.”

Phoenix sighed. “You always say that… But I know there’s no point in arguing, so… when are you picking me up?

Miles looked at his watch. Eight twenty-three. The movie was starting at nine thirty and it would take about half an hour to go pick up Wright and get to the cinema.

“I’ll leave in five minutes.”

Alright, see you in a bit.

“Goodbye.”

Miles hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief. He had managed to get through that phone call without sounding too much like an idiot. Now he only had to get through the whole night with Wright sitting right next to him. This looked promising.

He shook his head and grabbed his keys and wallet from his night table. He pocketed the latter along with his phone and walked over to the mirror to take one last glance at his reflection, before leaving the room and heading for the back door.

As he stepped out, he was surprised to see that the sun had yet to set. He’d been so preoccupied that he hadn’t noticed how long the days had gotten. Not that it really mattered considering he spent most of his evenings in the office, but he’d always found short days depressing so the thought alone was kind of nice.

Miles quickly locked the door behind him and, as he started making his way down the stairs, he found that he was actually looking forward to the evening. Normally, he would have dreaded having to spend the night with Everett, but this time, it seemed that seeing Wright was the only thing that really mattered.

He finally reached his car and got in. After quickly fastening his seatbelt, he went to turn on the ignition, but paused to glance at the rear-view mirror. For some reason, he couldn’t help but smile at his reflection. Everything was going to be fine.

---

“Edgeworth, we’re doomed.”

Miles stopped trying to discreetly inspect the poster of the newest Steel Samurai movie and looked over at Phoenix. He had one of the cinema’s promotional leaflets open in his hand.

“Well done on managing to state the obvious, Wright.”

“No, seriously, we’re doomed,” Phoenix repeated. He flicked back a page and started to read out loud, “‘Dusk is an atmospheric, modern-day love story between a teenage girl, stuck in ordinary reality, and a mysterious demon from another hidden world--’”

“I think we gathered that it’s not going to have the most original plot,” Miles pointed out.

Phoenix glanced up. “Yeah, but that’s not all of it. Wait till you hear the review…” He turned the page and seemed to find the spot he was looking for. “‘The movie closely follows the roots of the best-selling teen novel and will have many teenage girls wishing they too could be in the arms of the hunky demon hero!’”

Miles frowned. “You can’t be serious.” He took the leaflet from Phoenix to scan the review section. “My God, they actually used the word ‘hunky’.”

Phoenix laughed. “I never thought I’d say this, but it looks like I’m going to have to agree with Kath’s sister. This movie looks awful!”

That’s an understatement if ever I heard one.

“You may well agree, but honestly, she’s the last person who should be calling something awful,” Miles replied dryly, placing the leaflet back on the stand nearby.

Had he been completely open, he would have used much stronger language to describe Beth’s blatant homophobia towards them. He had remained as passive as possible in Kath’s house, not wanting to rise to the bait or show any signs of weakness, but in retrospect, he kind of wished he hadn’t. After all, the woman wasn’t worth the patience it took to listen to her ignorant opinions.

“Don’t get me started.” Phoenix shook his head. “She needs to learn some fucking decency and to keep her disgusting comments to herself.”

How eloquent… I couldn’t have phrased it any better myself.

“I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the one still stuck in the dark ages on this topic,” Miles said with an air of haughtiness.

Phoenix chuckled. “Well, I guess if she really loves Enrique, she’ll have to start acting as modern-minded as you, Edgeworth.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “What are you talking about?”

“He called me ‘babe’,” Phoenix replied, smirking.

“And that automatically makes him gay?”

“No! No, I was just… He told me he was bisexual.”

Miles frowned. “Bisexual?”

If that’s the case, then why the hell did that woman treat us the way she did!?

I guess she must not know…

…Wait.

“Why exactly did he tell you that he’s bisexual?”

Phoenix blinked. “…Because he is?”

There was a pause as Miles simply looked at Phoenix, arms crossed, and Phoenix stared back, clearly confused.

“Whoa, wait, you don’t think that he…?” A grin formed on Phoenix’s face as Miles’ frown deepened. “Aww, don’t be jealous, Edgeworth. His pick-up lines had nothing on yours.”

Jealous…!?

What on Earth made him think that!? Why would I be jealous? Maybe I just thought it was strange for a man who’s engaged to be married to hit on someone’s boyfriend!

…Who am I kidding?

Shit, he doesn’t suspect anything, does he?

…God. I need to stop being so paranoid. Wright is always making stupid jokes like that.

I seriously need to get over myself.

Pushing his thoughts to the side, Miles rolled his eyes. “Don’t be such an idiot, Wright.”

Phoenix laughed. “Hey, I’m not the one jumping to conclusions! He just asked me for some advice, Edgeworth. Apparently, he loves Beth, for some reason, and doesn’t know if he should tell her his little secret.”

“Let me guess. You told him to tell her, didn’t you?” Miles said, unimpressed.

“Well, I said that if she loved him, then I don’t see how it would affect how she feels about him…”

Miles sighed. “You’re so bloody simple sometimes.”

“You think I’m wrong?”

“As beautiful as the notion of ‘love conquers all’ is, Wright, it’s simply a load of rubbish.”

Phoenix frowned. “Wow, Edgeworth, it’s pretty sad that you’ve already predetermined that.”

You really have no idea…

“I think that watching Dusk might change your mind,” Miles commented, keen on changing the subject. “It sounds so stomach-churning that it’s likely to make you sick at the simple mention of ‘happily ever after’.”

“You make a very good point,” Phoenix admitted. “Still, as awful as it is, coming to watch it is a worthy sacrifice.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “A worthy sacrifice? What on Earth could be worth witnessing this atrocity?”

I’m starting to doubt my reasons for coming if he seriously deems the movie worth watching.

“Ah… well… you know…” Phoenix trailed off, clearing his throat. “Well, it’s… err… good to get away from all that work back at home, I guess…”

Miles crossed his arms, smirking. “That could have been convincing if you were talking to someone who doesn’t know you. I doubt you even have work at the office, never mind at your house, Wright.”

“Hey! I could have loads in both of those places!” Phoenix said in weak defence. “I could have five cases on the go for all you know!” He paused. “Yeah… Well, I guess I don’t really… have any…”

God knows how he manages to pay his bills…

Phoenix sighed. “Alright, alright! Don’t take this the wrong way or anything…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I guess I believe it’s worth using our situation so I… well… so I can spend time with you – even if it means having to watch a shitty movie.”

Is he serious?

There I was, getting anxious about wanting to spend time with him, and it turns out I was just overthinking everything…

…Not that that’s anything new.

“I guess having an excuse to spend time with my idiotic friend is nearly worth the sacrifice of being mentally scarred for life,” Miles replied.

Phoenix grinned. “And here was I thinking you didn’t care, Edgey-baby.”

Before Miles could even contemplate a retort, he felt someone run behind him and suddenly went blind as hands covered his eyes.

“Guess who!” Kath’s voice greeted cheerfully.

Oh, for Christ’s sake…

“Everett, what are you doing?”

He heard Kath huff from behind him. “You’re too good, Miles!” She released him from her clutches, allowing him to see once again. “Apart from it’s Kath, not Everett.”

Miles frowned. “Kath, you’re late.”

“Oh? I thought I was early!” She checked her watch. “Didn’t we say half past?”

“Well, the movie starts at half past,” Phoenix said, pointing unhelpfully at the cinema.

Kath looked startled. “What!? Why didn’t you tell me sooner? We better get the tickets straight away!” She grabbed Miles by the arm and tugged, leading him and the trailing Phoenix into the cinema lobby.

Noticing the long queue for the ticket booth, Kath started jogging to reach the end, still pulling Miles along with her. After nearly stumbling twice, he finally managed to shake off her hold. Kath carried on at the same pace towards the back of the line and Miles saw her forcibly cut in front of two teenage girls who were just about to join.

I don’t believe her sometimes…

“Come on, guys! Stop being so slow!” she called over to Miles and Phoenix.

It was deeply embarrassing to join Kath in her acquired spot. Miles did his best to ignore the glares of the young girls behind them and glanced over at Phoenix, who was trying to hide his face by rubbing his cheek with his whole palm.

“Everett, was the rush really necessary?” Miles asked. “The trailers take up the first ten minutes of the screening and it hasn’t even started yet.”

“Don’t be silly, Miles,” Kath replied with a swish of her hand. That was apparently enough to explain her actions as she said nothing more until they reached the front of the queue.

The man behind the ticket desk smiled at them as they approached. “Hello, how can I help y--”

“Three tickets for Dusk!” Kath almost shouted at him, hopping excitedly from one foot to the other.

She’s even more immature than Larry…

Thankfully, the man looked amused by her exuberance and didn’t seem fazed by her rude interruption. “Is that the nine thir--”

“Yes, yes, the nine thirty showing. There are tickets left, right?”

Miles looked at Phoenix. He hadn’t even contemplated the fact that the tickets might be sold out. Their lives may have been spared!

“You’re in luck; there are a dozen tickets left for that showing,” the cashier answered, squashing Miles’ dream. “Two adults and a child, is it?”

Phoenix snorted with barely contained laughter.

“Oh, no, it’s three adults.” Kath was obviously too busy trying to get her wallet out of her purse to notice the small jibe from the cashier.

“Sorry, my mistake.” The cashier turned to his till monitor and pressed a few things on the screen. “That’s thirty-six dollars all together.”

I can’t believe we actually have to pay to watch this thing.

Miles sighed and pulled his wallet out of his jeans’ pocket to flick through his notes, deciding to pass twenty-five dollars over to Kath. Quicker than a flash, the money was added to her contribution and shoved in the cashier’s hand to be exchanged for the dreaded tickets.

“Off we go! We’ve got to get good seats!” Kath exclaimed, ushering them away from the ticket desk.

“W-wait, I haven’t even paid for the--” Phoenix cut himself off as he looked up from his wallet that he’d only just managed to pull out of his pocket. He stared at the tickets in Kath’s hand. “Oh.”

“That’s so cute! Miles paid for you without you even noticing, Mr. Wright!” She seemed pretty intent on getting to the movie, however, as she grabbed Miles’ arm and started pulling him towards the theatre, pausing only to hand Phoenix one of the tickets. “Miles and I will find us some seats. You can go and get us some popcorn.”

Great. I always look forward to spending some time alone with Everett.

Before either of them could even begin to protest, she’d dragged Miles most of the way to the door of theatre two. He managed to shake her off before they reached the usher, giving him a brief pause to recollect himself.

“I presume you’ve been looking forward to this, Everett?” Miles asked dryly as he handed his ticket over to get ripped in half.

Kath looked at him, a big smile on her face. “It’s going to be the best movie ever, I just know it!”

Her deep enthusiasm could have been endearing, if it weren’t for the fact that he also had to go in and watch the movie with her.

Kath rushed forward, beckoning Miles to follow, and made her way up to the middle rows in the middle column. The third seat in seemed to please her as she settled down and gestured for Miles to sit next to her.

“I thought the back seats were more conventionally thought to be the best?” Miles said after sitting down.

“Oh, no, Miles. If you go too far back, you miss some of the intricate details!” she replied with a knowing look. “However, I’m sure when you and Mr. Wright watch a movie, they’re the best by far.”

…I presume she’s insinuating something degrading there.

Miles frowned. “Right… Of course.”

Kath suddenly grabbed his arm, a look of disbelief on her face. “Miles! Don’t tell me you and Mr. Wright have had you know what in a theatre as well as all those other places!?”

Miles flinched away from her grasp. “No! Why would you… What on Earth made you think that!?”

What is it with this woman and intercourse in public places?

Seriously, in the back of a theatre? That’s just unhygienic! And exposed! And uncomfortable! And… well, it’s an idiotic idea all around, never mind the practicality.

Kath giggled. “Well, Mr. Wright seems like an adventurous kind of guy. It didn’t seem so outrageous to think you might have.”

I think you’ll find that, yes, outrageous is exactly how I’d describe that idea.

Miles rubbed his forehead in frustration. “Contrary to your beliefs, Phoenix and I have a lot more to our relationship than mindless physical interactions.”

“Oh, sure,” Kath replied, rolling her eyes. “Miles, you should know that you can’t fool me.”

Miles frowned. “Fool you?”

Kath grabbed his arm again, albeit a lot more gently than usual. “I can tell that you and Mr. Wright have very different takes on this relationship of yours, Miles. He’s dedicated his life to you and is always making efforts to keep your exciting romance alive!”

…Is that seriously what she thinks his apparent perversion represents?

“I hate to say it,” Kath continued, her expression turning sympathetic, “but he really is in love with you.”

Miles stared at her, at a complete loss for words. “I don’t… How… Why would that be a bad thing for our relationship?”

Kath sighed and patted his arm. “Oh, Miles, you don’t have to play dumb. It’s okay, I understand!” After yet another blank look from Miles, she sighed again. “People say you shouldn’t be in a relationship for sex alone, but sometimes the sex is just too good, am I right?”

Miles blinked.

“You think that I’m only with Phoenix… for sex.”

Kath nodded and smiled brightly. “There’s no need to be ashamed, Miles! We both know that your relationship can’t last forever so you may as well enjoy it before you have to break the poor guy’s heart.”

How can she say that so calmly!?

“Everett, y--”

“Don’t worry,” Kath interrupted, leaning towards him. “I won’t say anything. And if you ever feel like trying something different, I’m always here for you, Miles.”

…Great. Just great.

Of course she still thinks she has a chance with me; the whole fake gay relationship thing would only work on a sane person!

Miles pulled back and shook her hand off his arm. “Everett, you are sorely mistaken in every bit of your reasoning.”

Kath waved a hand. “Oh, come now, you can trust me to keep another one of your little secrets!”

“No, it’s not…” Miles trailed off. He turned to look at the screen, which had just started to show the trailers. Was he really prepared to admit something to her that he had barely come to terms with himself?

“Everett… I don’t know what I did to make you think that, but I’m not that kind of person.”

“Come on, Miles! Every time I ask you about your feelings for Mr. Wright, you change the subject!”

Miles turned to look at her and frowned. “…I do?”

“Oh, please!” She shook her head. “Mr. Wright keeps going on and on about how much he loves you, but the only thing you’ve ever said about him is that he’s good with his tongue.” She scoffed. “If that’s not a big, flashing red light, I don’t know what is!”

Miles opened his mouth to retort, but closed it again when nothing came out.

It’s true. All of it.

But how the hell was I supposed to know that I’d come across as some kind of heartless sex addict!?

He sighed.

I guess I have no choice.

“Look, Everett…” He paused, taking a moment to convince himself that he was ready to say it. “The truth is, I really lo--”

“Damn, looks like I missed the best part.”

Miles froze. He then slowly turned to see Phoenix standing at the end of the row, two boxes of popcorn in his hands.

Why do you always have to show up at the worst possible moment!?

Phoenix glanced back and forth between Miles and Kath, a look of unease spreading across his face. “Why are you both glaring at me like that?”

“That was very quick, Mr. Wright,” Kath commented in the flattest tone Miles had ever heard her use.

Funny, I thought it took him a lifetime…

“Err… yeah, I guess…” Phoenix hesitantly took the seat next to Miles and passed a box over to Kath. “Did I miss something?”

Miles shot him a look, warning him not to press this one.

Shrugging, Phoenix turned to watch the trailers. He grabbed a handful of popcorn, before offering Miles the box.

Miles shook his head and shifted in his seat slightly, watching Kath out of the corner of his eye. Thanks to Wright’s interruption, there was no way of knowing what she might do now.

“You alright?” Phoenix asked through a mouthful of popcorn.

“I just… feel a bit claustrophobic sitting in the middle of the row like this.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Claustrophobic?”

Miles tilted his head in Kath’s direction, hoping Phoenix would understand. When he merely took another handful of popcorn, Miles made a few more twitches, each one a bit more obvious than the last.

Come on, Wright, get the hint…

It suddenly seemed to click in his mind after the fifth gesture. “Oh! Yeah, that whole, um… claustrophobic… thing. You, err… want to switch?”

“I don’t think that’s necessary, Mr. Wr--”

“Thank you,” Miles answered quickly, standing up as soon as the words left his mouth.

It was hard to catch in the dark, but Miles saw Phoenix roll his eyes as he dropped his handful of popcorn back into the box and got up to give Miles his seat. After settling back down next to Kath, Phoenix leaned over to whisper in his ear, “You owe me big time for this, you know.”

Miles smirked. “Think of it as a repayment for dragging me to that party.”

“As if! You came willingly!” Phoenix argued.

“Willingly?” Miles scoffed. “I was emotionally blackmailed to attend.”

Phoenix frowned. “That’s unfair. You agreed that you weren’t trying very hard.”

“That still doesn’t mean I went willingly,” Miles replied, leaning back into his seat.

“You so did.”

“I did not.”

“Did.”

“Shush with the whispery flirting, guys,” Kath interrupted in a slightly quieter than normal voice. “The movie’s about to start!”

“See? I win!” Phoenix said with a triumphant grin.

Miles shook his head and smiled slightly.

If we were competing for who’s the biggest child, then yes, you did.

The opening credits started to roll on the screen, followed by the word ‘Dusk’, which appeared in big, glowing green letters, before fading out into some fog. A plane was seen approaching a landing strip, the camera then zooming in on a teenage girl sitting inside. She had long, dark brown hair and was wearing a blue hooded jacket. It was unclear where she was going, but she didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it.

The plane landed and the girl made her way into the airport, where she was met by her father and introduced as Bianca. They exchanged a few words about the bad weather, then started heading towards the car that was apparently abandoned a few blocks away because her father didn’t want to pay for parking.

After a few minutes of walking in silence, they finally reached the car. Miles wasn’t sure why the director had deemed it necessary to show them walking all the way there, but he figured that it must have been some intricate storytelling technique he didn’t understand. Bianca’s luggage was thrown into the trunk and they started driving towards what Miles presumed was her father’s house.

The following conversation proved his assumption to be true. Bianca was upset about her mother getting remarried and had decided to move to Spoons to live with her father. The discussion went on and on about which room Bianca would take, what her favorite meals were and when she would start school.

Miles sighed. Was all this information really necessary? And why did Bianca seem so apathetic towards everything? He swore her facial expression hadn’t changed once since the beginning of the movie.

How could anyone ever relate to her?

I thought movie characters were supposed to be likable…

The interminable scene finally faded back out into the fog and the camera panned down from the sky to reveal Bianca looking out of a classroom window. She was apparently oblivious to the fact that several teenage boys were staring at her.

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Phoenix mumbled. “It’s even set in a school and everything.”

“Where did you think it would be set, Wright? In court?” Miles whispered back.

“Well, it’s just so… young and… cliché and…” Phoenix gestured something stupid with his hands, before dropping them and letting out a sigh. “I feel old.”

Miles chuckled in reply. How could Wright, of all people, feel old? He had the mentality of a twelve-year-old at most.

“Look at this guy,” Phoenix commented as the boy sitting next to Bianca introduced himself as Edgar. “I don’t think he’s ever heard of this thing called the sun.”

“Some people actually have work to do and can’t afford to spend all their time outside,” Miles replied, not quite able to keep the defensive tone from his voice.

Phoenix grinned and patted Miles on the arm. “Of course, Edgeworth. I like my men pasty white, anyway.”

Miles rolled his eyes, making sure to be as dramatic as possible so Phoenix would catch the movement in the dark. Against his better judgement, he then decided to focus on the movie.

The scene played out with Edgar being the only guy not interested in Bianca. In fact, he seemed to really dislike her, to the point of making up an excuse about not feeling well to leave the classroom.

In the next scene, Bianca was shown making friends in the cafeteria. They told her that Edgar was extremely weird and that she should stay away from him. However, she did not seem to care, and as the scenes went on, she kept mentioning Edgar a lot more than was suitable after their fleeting conversation. She also seemed to be completely ungrateful to anyone who tried to help her.

“Well, I was willing to give this movie a chance,” Phoenix whispered, “but that girl’s really starting to grate on my nerves.”

“Don’t lie, Wright. Neither of us was ever going to give this movie a chance once we heard that Everett wanted to watch it.”

Phoenix laughed, probably louder than was courteous for those watching the movie. An evil look from Kath confirmed Miles’ suspicions. Phoenix turned his laugh into a cough and held his hand up in apology. With a shake of the head and a small smirk, Miles turned his attention back to the movie. He had paid for it, after all.

Bianca was now walking home from school and it was very dark and cloudy. She was looking down at her feet and didn’t seem to be paying attention to where she was going. She got to an intersection and started crossing the road when a tractor suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a dramatic collision with it and was instead saved by Edgar, who jumped up really high and landed on the tractor, turning the wheel at the last second. The tractor hit another car, which went into the side of a truck, but apparently, that was all okay because Bianca was safe. Edgar then mysteriously disappeared, leaving the wreckage for someone else to deal with.

That has got to be the worst life-saving act I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve seen a fair amount in my line of work!

-Bring bring, bring bring-

Miles glanced in the direction of the sudden noise and noticed that everyone around him was doing the same.

-Bring bring, bring bring-

The man whose phone it was, realising that everyone was staring at him, started frantically searching every pocket, even going as far as to check his hood.

-Bring bring, bring bring-

“Will you shut that fucking phone off!?” Kath screeched, making all the people around her jump. She stood up and pointed her finger in the man’s direction. “We are trying to watch the movie! How much of an inconsiderate jerk are you to take away from our viewing rights!? We paid for those tickets, you know!”

“Miss Everett, I think that’s enou--”

“You should be ashamed of yourself!” Kath continued, ignoring Phoenix’s attempt to quell her rage. “It’s common friggin’ courtesy to turn your damned phone off in a theatre!”

“You’re going to get us thrown out if you keep shouting, Everett,” Miles said, half wishing that she would manage to alert the ushers.

Kath looked down at Miles, an angry look on her face. “Some people just need telling, Miles!”

The ringing stopped. “Sorry, thought I had it on silent,” the man muttered, obviously embarrassed.

“It’s okay, no harm done,” Kath said calmly, smoothing her skirt down and sitting back in her seat.

I would not like to get on the wrong side of this insane woman…

Miles shared a quick glance with Phoenix and they both smirked. They had obviously had the same thought.

He turned back to the movie again. It seemed as though Bianca had been doing some research. According to her findings, two different tribes were believed to have been living in the town for centuries. One of them was composed of people related to cats and the other had apparently come from a dark, underground domain.

“Imagine being related to a cat,” Phoenix said, putting his empty popcorn box on the floor. “Their breath must stink.”

Miles looked down at the box, then back up at Phoenix. “Are you going to leave that there?”

“…Yes?”

“That’s littering.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “So? We’re in a theatre. It’s dark.”

“If that is the general population’s consensus, I really don’t want to be sitting on this seat,” Miles said, feeling the top of his armrests, before quickly taking his hands away when he found something sticky.

Phoenix chuckled. “You don’t know the half of it, Edgeworth.”

Don’t worry, Wright. Everett has already done an excellent job of making sure I know how dirty these places are…

Bianca was on her way home from meeting her friends when she ran into a hooded man. She gave him an evil look and tried to walk past him, but he grabbed her arm and pushed up her sleeve, revealing her watch. She struggled and tried to scream, only to have the man cover her mouth with his hand. He told her to empty her pockets, but as soon as he had spoken, Edgar appeared and wrestled him to the floor, saving Bianca again.

They decided to have coffee together and, after a lot of talking, Bianca brought up the research she had done on the history of Spoons. She asked him if he was one of those ‘dark creatures’. Edgar didn’t answer and instead took her to a cave just outside of town. As they walked deeper into the cave, he started to glow.

That doesn’t seem evolutionarily advantageous.

Miles rubbed his temples – maybe he was getting tired and his sleepy vision was causing the whole picture to glow? Unfortunately, the next scene explained that Edgar did indeed glow in the dark. He was a nice demon who, instead of doing the Devil’s work, helped keep peace in the world.

Miles sighed.

This just keeps getting better and better…

After a few more scenes, he realised that Kath had been quiet for a while. He checked his watch to see how much time had gone by. Not a word in half an hour.

That’s got to be some kind of record.

He tilted his head towards Phoenix and whispered, “We should bring her here more often.”

He expected him to add something or at least laugh, but when he did neither, Miles turned to him, only to find him asleep, his head slouched forward slightly.

Miles raised an eyebrow.

Really?

He turned back to the screen.

I’m not sure how he can sleep through the noise, but I can’t exactly blame him.

I was by no means expecting a masterpiece, but this is beyond bad.

Letting out a sigh, he brought his attention back to Phoenix.

Even asleep, Miles could make out a faint smile on his lips and he looked strangely relaxed for someone having to sit through this atrocity.

After studying his face for a moment, it suddenly occurred to Miles that this was the first time he’d seen Wright asleep since the sleepovers they had as children. He remembered they would talk for hours after going to bed and get told several times to go to sleep because no matter how quiet they thought they were being, their parents always managed to hear them. Then, at some point, the conversation would slowly die down until only a few sparse words were spoken, and they’d wake up the next day not remembering falling asleep.

Miles felt a smile tug at his lips as those memories came back to him.

The more he looked, though, the less familiar this felt. Watching Wright sleep seemed a lot more interesting now than it did back then. Especially after what happened at Everett’s party.

How much of an accident was it, really?

Miles shivered at the thought and felt a sudden urge to get closer. Before he had time to reconsider, he shifted in his seat until his shoulder was resting against Phoenix’s.

The warmth was overwhelming.

Without thinking, he shifted a bit more and rested his head on Phoenix’s shoulder.

It was a few seconds before his brain started working again. But just as he was about to mentally kick himself, Phoenix seemed to react to his actions and tilted his head sideways, resting it on top of his head.

Miles didn’t know what to think. Had he woken up? Was that just a reflex?

“Wright…?” he whispered hesitantly.

“Mmm…” Phoenix mumbled.

His response just left Miles even more confused. He decided not to pursue it, however, afraid that any more talking would cause Phoenix to move again.

As much as he usually despised physical contact, he could definitely get used to this. Never had he imagined that he would – or could – get that close to someone. And never had he expected that someone to be Wright, but he realised now that there was no point in fighting it. This felt right and that was all that really mattered.

Maybe I’ve been too pessimistic?

He did say several times that he enjoys spending time with me… And he’s constantly worried about me being mad at him… And he keeps making all these jokes…

Has he been trying to tell me something?

Miles quickly dismissed the thought.

Perhaps I’m being slightly too optimistic.

He decided it was probably better not to ponder it too much for now. Time would tell, and at the moment, all that mattered were that warm shoulder and that head resting on top of his.

A moment went by. Wright hadn’t moved an inch so Miles decided to try and make sense of what was going on in the movie. He found the whole thing rather absurd – since when did demons glow in the dark? But to be fair, he wasn’t an expert when it came to fantasy lore, and his attention at the moment was anything but undivided.

From what he understood, Bianca was getting frustrated because Edgar kept telling her that it was too dangerous for them to be together.

And now they were going to play t-ball with Edgar’s family.

…I give up.

Miles turned his attention back to Phoenix. He couldn’t see his face but he could tell from the way he was breathing that he was still sound asleep.

He closed his eyes. This was probably the closest thing to comfort he’d ever felt. It was kind of sad, he realised, considering where they were, but that thought was quickly cast aside. He felt so relaxed he started wondering if having Wright this close at night would cure his insomnia. It sure seemed like it at the moment, as he felt as though he could fall asleep at any second.

And to think that a week ago, I panicked whenever Wright got too close.

He smiled.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is--

-BOOM-

Miles jumped in his seat and looked around, alarmed, before realising that the noise had come from a thunderstorm in the movie.

He breathed a sigh of relief and rubbed his forehead.

That was unnecessarily loud…

“I guess I fell asleep?”

Miles turned to Phoenix, who was looking at him expectantly.

Shit. I hope he didn’t notice.

“Indeed, you did,” he replied cautiously.

Phoenix smiled and turned back to the screen. He squinted a bit, before rubbing vigorously at his eyes. “So what did I miss?” he asked, blinking a few times to clear his vision.

That was a good question. What had he missed? Not only did Miles not know when Phoenix had fallen asleep, but he also hadn’t really been paying attention.

“Nothing of interest,” Miles replied quickly in an attempt to avoid the question.

Phoenix chuckled. “Obviously.” He turned back to Miles. “But seriously, I want to know.”

Christ.

“Well… um…” Miles racked his brains to remember what had happened in this sorry excuse for a movie. “The girl is an idiot and the guy glows in the dark.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Yeah… I know that.” He glanced at the screen, then back at Miles. “You haven’t been watching, have you?”

“I have, but this thing makes no sense whatsoever.” Miles sighed. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

Phoenix smirked. “So you’re telling me that you can solve the most complicated cases but you can’t make sense of a chick flick?”

“You mean I can’t make sense out of something that’s completely devoid of it,” Miles retorted.

Phoenix laughed. “Fair enough. But you totally weren’t watching.”

Miles frowned. “Sure I was. The girl was trying to convince the demon that they should be together and then they went to play t-ball.”

Phoenix pointed at the screen. “You mean what they’re doing right now?”

Miles turned to see Bianca fail to hit the ball off the tee. Twice. She then started laughing at her own clumsiness, resulting in comments from all of Edgar’s family about how cute she was.

I think I’m going to be sick.

He turned back to Phoenix, who was smiling at him.

“What?”

Phoenix shook his head. “Nothing. It’s just…” He looked at Miles for a few seconds, before turning his attention back to the movie.

Well…?

“It’s just… what?” Miles insisted, realising that Phoenix wasn’t going to finish his sentence.

“It’s nothing, really. It’s just…” Phoenix turned back to him, before looking down at the floor. “I’m not sure how to say this without sounding stupid, but…” He looked back up at him and smiled sheepishly. “I thought you looked… I don’t know… happy? Well, in a ‘Why am I stuck here watching this garbage?’ sort of way, anyways.”

I looked… happy?

“Speaking of which,” Phoenix added, “look.” He leaned back in his seat and gestured towards Kath, who seemed rather absorbed in the movie.

You’re just noticing this now?

“Are you actually surprised that she likes it?”

Phoenix smirked. “No, but I figured she was enjoying it enough for all three of us.”

Miles blinked. He turned to look down at the exit, then back at Phoenix. “You don’t mean…?”

“I’ll take the blame, as usual.”

I suppose there’s no point in staying here.

Miles nodded. “Let’s go.”

He carefully got up from his seat, making sure not to block the view of the people behind him, and started heading down the steps towards the exit.

“Is she looking?” Phoenix whispered from close behind, one step away from the door to freedom.

Looking over his shoulder, Miles spotted Kath, who looked deeply engrossed. She had the strangest smile on her face. He took a glance at the screen and, lo and behold, Bianca and Edgar were kissing.

Miles rolled his eyes. “No, we’re clear.”

They reached the exit and almost simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief.

“The next time we go to the theatre, we choose the movie,” Phoenix stated with a laugh as they walked back towards the lobby.

Next time…?

Miles smiled. “I think I can promise that.”

Phoenix looked at him for a moment, then shook his head. “At least this means you can get back to the massive workload you have back at home. No slacking for you tonight!”

You don’t know what slacking is until you’ve seen me try to choose a bloody tie.

“Actually, I’m not due back in court until Monday,” Miles replied. “I think winding down with a cup of tea and a crossword will do me just fine tonight.”

Phoenix chuckled. “Only you, Edgeworth. Only you.”

Miles frowned. “What do you mean by that?”

Phoenix opened his mouth to answer, then closed it again as something behind Miles seemed to catch his eye. “Oh, boy…”

“Nick!?”

Miles spun around. There stood Maya, dressed in a Steel Samurai outfit without the mask. She was surrounded by a sea of people, most of whom were also dressed up as various characters.

“Nick!” she shouted again, waving and walking over to them. “And Mr. Edgeworth?” She stared at them for a moment, a puzzled look on her face. “What are you two doing here?”

“Well, we…” Miles looked at Phoenix, who simply stared back, eyes wide. “Well, you know…”

“Ah, yeah, err…” Phoenix gestured between the two of them. “We were just…”

“You see, it was…” Miles trailed off again.

“…Yeah,” Phoenix finished with a distinct lack of conviction.

Maya raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. “You know, considering you’re lawyers, you’re both amazingly bad at thinking up a decent lie on the spot.”

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “What, err, makes you think we’re trying to lie?”

…She has a very good point.

“Come off it! You’re so obvious even Pearly would notice!” Maya scrutinised them both. “So why are you acting so shifty?”

“We’re not acting shifty, Maya. You’re just reading into things too much…” Phoenix cleared his throat. “Why are you here, anyway?”

“Isn’t it obvious? I was queuing for the limited edition poster of the new Steel Samurai movie!” She waved the poster tube in her hand. “They’re giving them out for free to the first one hundred fans to show up. It’s coming out on June 7th! In five days!”

“Actually, it comes out on Friday June 8th,” Miles said coolly.

“Well, yeah, that’s for the general public, but the premiere… Wait, you’re a fan too, Mr. Edgeworth!?” Maya looked both shocked and ecstatic. “You’ve got to check out my signed spear pen!” She reached into her pocket and brought out a scaled-down version of the Steel Samurai’s spear, which she proceeded to thrust in front of Miles’ face.

And there goes all my dignity in one fell swoop…

“Lovely,” Miles commented. “But you have me wrong. I saw the date on that poster.” He pointed just behind Maya.

Phoenix smirked. “Oh, of course that’s how you knew the date.”

“Shut up, Wright.”

Maya turned to look where Miles was pointing, before giving them both the same piercing look as before. “Wait a minute… I know why you were both acting so shifty!”

…She worked it out from that!?

Phoenix glanced at Miles, his expression mirroring what Miles was thinking. “I-I… well…”

“You know I wouldn’t have minded if you’d told me right away, Nick! In fact, this is awesome news! Ooh!” Maya clapped her hands together, making both of them flinch. “We could trade!”

“T-trade!?” Phoenix exclaimed.

“Alright, keep your pants on. I know some people get attached to their cards, but geez, no need to bite my head off…”

Phoenix blinked. “Oh, right… cards. Obviously.”

Miles looked away, steadying his heartbeat.

Christ, what happened to my logic levels? Of course she didn’t work out why we were here just from that! I’m getting really paranoid lately…

…Damn you, Wright.

“It’s going to be so cool!” Maya continued. “You don’t need to be embarrassed about liking a kids’ show, you know! Tons of oldies come to the conventions!”

“Look, Maya, we weren’t here for the free post--Hey! What do you mean by ‘oldies’?”

“Of course you weren’t.” Maya winked. “Once a Steel Samurai fan, always a Steel Samurai fan! I’m afraid they’ve run out, though… But it’s okay, we can put mine in the office!”

Phoenix looked the opposite of thrilled at that idea.

“That’s a shame.” Miles put a hand on Phoenix’s shoulder. “You were really looking forward to your new poster.”

Maya put a hand to her mouth in sympathy. “Aww, Nick, I didn’t realise. I would have saved one for you if I knew!” She looked over her shoulder, then back at Phoenix. “I’ll go double-check for you. You never know, they could have counted wrong.”

As she wandered over to the stand, Phoenix turned to Miles with a smirk. “When did you develop a sense of humour?”

Miles shrugged. “Maybe it’s just amusing to see you uncomfortable outside of court as well as inside it.”

Phoenix scoffed. “Don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m always as cool as a cucumber.”

So that’s why you’re always drenched in sweat when you’re on the back foot…

“Keep telling yourself that, Wright.”

Maya came rushing back, looking forlorn. “Nope, not a single one.”

“That’s a shame. Edgeworth was just telling me how much he needed one to add to his collection,” Phoenix replied with feigned regret.

Miles sent him a disapproving look.

You could at least try to be original.

“Sucks,” Maya said with a frown. “But now that you’re here, we can have a burger date, Nick!”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Not burgers again…”

“Date?” Miles asked, eyebrows raised.

“Not that kind of date, Mr. Edgeworth,” Maya replied quickly. She put a hand to the side of her mouth and leaned over to whisper in his ear, “Nick has a proper girlfriend for that.”

There was a pause as Miles digested the information, trying his hardest not to overthink Maya’s comment.

Wright definitely doesn’t have a girlfriend, and he certainly hasn’t told Maya about me…

So where on Earth did she get that from!?

“Hey, Maya! You know it’s rude to whisper about someone who’s standing right in front of you.”

Maya giggled. “Whatever you say.” She winked at Miles, who didn’t really see the situation as something to wink over. “So… burgers?”

Phoenix eyed her suspiciously. “Right… Well, I don’t think Edgeworth will be up fo--”

“Nonsense,” Miles cut across. “Let’s go get something to eat. I think we deserve it after the day we’ve had.”

Phoenix laughed. “You know, I’m still not used to you being social.”

Miles ignored Phoenix’s comment and turned to Maya. “Where would you like to go? My treat.”

“Really, Mr. Edgeworth!?”

“Really.”

Maya clapped her hands together. “Awesome! I know this great burger joint down the road. Follow me!”

“Wait,” Phoenix cut in. “Are you sure you want to go to the restaurant dressed like that?”

Maya looked down at her costume then back up at Phoenix, a confused look on her face. “Your point?”

Phoenix sighed. “Never mind…”

Maya shrugged, then started jogging ahead.

When she was out of earshot, Phoenix turned to Miles. “What did she say to you? Do I have reason to be as paranoid as I am right now?”

“She said… well…” Miles turned to look at Phoenix.

I don’t think I want to know the truth right now. Just in case…

“Nothing.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Alright, fine, don’t tell me.” He sighed and remained silent for a moment, before speaking up again. “You know, I’d tell you if anyone said anything about you.”

He’s such a child…

Miles shook his head. “People can say what they like about me, Wright.”

“I’m going to make sure they spit in your burger,” Phoenix replied, trying his hand at blackmail.

“I’m fairly sure they spit in all the burgers,” Miles countered. “That’s what they mean by ‘special sauce’.”

Phoenix laughed. “Nice. That sounds about as appealing as that movie we had to sit through.”

Miles smirked.

I’m sure spit burgers would still have more taste than whoever picked the lead actress for that movie.

Chapter Text

Phoenix opened his eyes as the Steel Samurai theme started playing. Groaning, he turned over to look at his alarm clock. 9:08. Who was calling him so early on a Sunday morning?

He reached over to grab his cellphone and considered turning it off for a second, before deciding to answer it. He cleared his throat in an attempt to sound at least somewhat awake.

“…Hello?”

There was a sigh on the other end of the line. “I knew I should have called later.

Phoenix blinked. “…Edgeworth?”

I’ll let you go back to sleep.

“N-no… it’s fine,” Phoenix replied, rubbing at his eyes. “What’s going on?”

I was just… I was wondering if you could meet me somewhere.” There was something off in Edgeworth’s voice. He sounded preoccupied.

Phoenix sat up. “Did something happen?”

…Not exactly.

“What do you mean ‘not exactly’?”

Nothing bad happened if that’s what you’re asking.

Phoenix sighed with relief and flopped back down onto the bed. “Geez… don’t scare me like that.”

…I don’t recall saying anything to make you believe there was something to worry about.

“Well, no, but…” Phoenix switched the phone to his other ear. “It’s nine in the morning,” he said through a yawn. “What’s so important that you needed to wake me up?”

As I said, I can call back later.

“A bit late for that,” Phoenix replied, stretching his back. “I’m kind of awake now.”

Miles scoffed. “You don’t sound very awake.

“Yeah, I wonder whose fault that is.” Phoenix rolled his eyes. “So, are you gonna tell me why you called?”

I already told you,” Miles replied flatly.

Phoenix frowned. “Err… so you want me to meet you somewhere? But… why?”

I don’t remember you ever having a reason for calling me during work hours.

“Hey! That’s not true!” Phoenix protested. “Being bored is a perfectly valid reason, I’ll have you kn--”

Wait…

“Edgeworth… Did you just…”

There’s no way…

“Did you just call me to hang out?”

There was a pause.

…I suppose you could put it that way.

Phoenix blinked a few times, then smiled. “Wow, Edgeworth, that’s, um… wow.” He laughed.

What’s so amusing?” Miles asked, sounding slightly offended.

“Nothing. It’s just…” Phoenix laughed again. “Only you could call a friend to hang out and manage to make it sound like someone died.”

Like someone…” Miles trailed off. “What made you think that?

“I don’t know… You sounded… weird?”

…Weird?” Miles repeated.

“Well, yeah.” Phoenix sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. “I mean, I thought you sounded worried or something, but I must have imagined it.”

I’m just… tired.

“Go back to sleep, then.”

It’s nine,” Miles retorted, as if Phoenix’s suggestion was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard.

Phoenix chuckled. “Exactly.”

How can you sleep so late?

“It’s Sunday. That’s what normal people do.”

Miles scoffed.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Phoenix said, getting up from the bed. “At least it makes you more interesting.”

…How so?

Phoenix shrugged. “I don’t know. Normal people are boring and all that.”

I see.” Miles paused. “I don’t… I don’t think you’re boring.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Uh…” He laughed. “Thanks, I guess?” He walked out of the bedroom and made his way to the kitchen. “So… what did you want to do?”

I’m… not too sure.

“Well…” Phoenix opened the pantry and grabbed the jar of Nescafé from the top shelf. “We could meet somewhere first and figure it out from there.”

Hmm. I suppose you could meet me at Third Cup.

“Third Cup? Is that the café we went to the last couple times?”

Yes…” Miles replied incredulously. “Is your memory that bad?

Phoenix chuckled. “It’s not that,” he said, putting the coffee back on the shelf. “I never really paid attention to the name. You told me where it was and what it looked like and I knew which place you were talking about.”

I did tell you what it was called, Wright.

“Yeah, like, ages ago.”

You mean two weeks ago.

“Hey! There’s like a billion coffee shops with the word ‘cup’ in it! How am I supposed to remember?”

Miles snorted. “Fair enough.

Phoenix closed the pantry and walked over to the sink. “So, what time should I meet you?” He turned on the tap and put his hand under the water to make sure it was cold.

Um… Eleven?

“Okay,” Phoenix mumbled, grabbing his usual glass from the counter. “What time is it?” He turned around to glance at the stove. “Nine twelve,” he read out loud, answering his own question. “Hey, that means I can go back to sleep for a bit.”

…Are you serious?

“Well, yeah,” Phoenix replied, filling his glass with water. “Why not?”

Miles sighed. “Never mind. Just… don’t be late.

Phoenix shook his head. “Don’t worry.” He took a sip of his water. “I’ll be there at eleven.”

Alright. I’ll see you then.

“Bye.” Phoenix hung up and took another sip of water, before dumping the rest in the sink. He put the glass down and turned off the tap, then made his way back into his bedroom.

Yawning, he sat down on the bed and put his cellphone on the night table. He set his alarm for 10:25 and smiled to himself.

I still can’t believe Edgeworth called me to hang out. The world is clearly ending.

---

Familiar décor and music greeted Phoenix as he entered the café. With a quick glance around the room, Miles was easy to spot over by the far window, gazing out at the street with a newspaper on the table in front of him. There was no line at the counter so, without managing to catch Miles’ eye, Phoenix went straight over to order his drink.

It’ll only take a second, after all…

“Can I get a regular latte, please?”

The barista stopped cleaning the coffee machine and turned around – Phoenix noticed that it was the same girl who had served him the last time he’d visited. “No problem. Anything else?” she asked, pulling the filter out of the machine and adding the ground coffee.

“That’s it.” Phoenix paused a second to glance back over at Miles and saw no drink on the table. “…Actually, what kind of tea do you sell?”

Whirring noises started up from the machine as the espresso shot poured out and the barista turned her attention back to Phoenix. “What kind of base are you looking for? We have all different flavours of black, herbal, oolong and green teas.”

…Is oolong even a word?

“Erm… black?” Phoenix answered cautiously, not having a clue what a ‘base’ of a tea even was.

She smiled at him and started to prepare a tea bag. “He does look like a Lapsang Souchong sort of guy.”

Phoenix grinned sheepishly. “Alright, I’ll take your word for it.”

After topping the latte with froth and filling a small teapot, the barista set the drinks down on a tray. “Don’t worry. If he asks, I’ll say you chose it,” she added with a tap of the nose, before getting back to wiping down the milk frother.

Is she insinuating what I think she’s insinuating…?

Phoenix went to say something, but stopped himself.

There’s no point. It’s not like she listened the last time I told her we weren’t actually going out.

Shaking his head, he picked up the tray and walked over to the table. He slid the tray onto the surface and greeted Miles with a smile. “Tea, Edgeworth?”

Miles glanced up at him, then picked up the tag hanging down the side of the teapot. He quirked an eyebrow. “Lapsang Souchong?”

“It has a black base,” Phoenix stated with confidence, sitting down and taking his latte off the tray.

“I know what type of tea it is, Wright,” Miles replied, picking up the teapot. “I’m just… bemused that you thought to buy it for me.”

I’ll take that as a surprised reaction and give myself ten Edgeworth points while I’m at it.

“Well, it reminds me of you.”

That’s what the barista tells me, anyway…

Miles paused as he was about to pour the tea. “I see.” He filled the cup and took it to his nose to smell, before taking a sip.

“Do you… not like it?” Phoenix asked tentatively, taking a sip of his own drink.

“Completely the contrary.” Miles took another drink then placed the cup back down. “It’s actually one of my favourites. Thank you.”

Phoenix grinned. “Phew! I thought you were about to spit it out for a second there!” He laughed and slumped back in his chair. “They have so many different kinds! I see why you come here now.”

“They actually don’t have the most varied range I’ve come across,” Miles stated. “But I’m always impressed by the quality of the ones they do have in stock.”

I wonder how many cupboards in his kitchen are dedicated to the stuff.

“To be honest, I think tea is a bit like wine,” Phoenix mused, giving his latte a stir. “I can tell there’s a couple of distinct differences between red and white, but I honestly can’t tell the difference between a ‘Chargonay’ and a ‘Pinut Grigio’.”

Miles smiled slightly and took another drink of his tea. “It’s a ‘Chardonnay’, and the other is pronounced ‘Pinot Grigio’. But well done on knowing that they’re both white wines.”

…They are?

Phoenix waved a hand. “Yeah, well… My point is, there’s so little taste variation between all the grapes. Why not just ask for red or white wine?”

“So you also know that wine is made from grapes!” Miles smirked. “You are on fire today, Wright.”

Phoenix scowled.

He’s such a know-it-all.

“I think you’ll find there’s no end to my knowledge,” he replied. “For instance, I also know that tea is made of leaves.”

Miles chuckled. “Each leaf or grape has a different upbringing. Naturally, they contain different substances and, in turn, have different tastes and aromas.” He pointed at his teapot. “This one also happens to be produced differently; it is smoked as it dries to give it a smoky flavour.”

Phoenix picked up Miles’ cup and took a sip, then washed the tea around his mouth before swallowing it. It was as bitter as he remembered.

“Yes, of course you can taste some of my tea,” Miles said sarcastically. “Thank you for asking so politely.”

“Don’t be so grumpy,” Phoenix retorted. “I was the one who got it for you.”

Miles rolled his eyes, but didn’t press it any further. “So what’s your verdict?”

“Tastes like tea to me.”

“I guess the subtle differences aren’t everyone’s cup of tea,” Miles said, taking the cup back from him.

Phoenix laughed and shook his head. “Oh dear, that was cringeworthy!”

“But good enough to make you laugh, apparently.”

“Only out of sympathy,” Phoenix assured him. He looked down at Miles’ newspaper. It was open on the puzzle page, but nothing had been filled in. “I see you haven’t even started the crossword.”

“True.” Miles folded the paper back up. “I had it out in preparation of your late arrival, which surprisingly didn’t happen.”

Oh, come on, I’m not late for everything.

“Anything interesting?” Phoenix asked, deciding to ignore the jibe.

“Not unless you enjoy reading the government’s latest law reforms.”

Shaking his head, Phoenix reached over to take the paper and opened it up, before flicking through to the arts section. Past all the gushing praise for the latest Warhol exhibition, there was an article about a Broadway adaptation for a play’s hundredth anniversary.

“I was in a show of that,” Phoenix said happily, showing Miles the page. “Well, kind of. It ended up being a bit chaotic when this one guy kept forgetting his lines.” He paused. “And when the set fell on top of us.”

Miles chuckled. “I can believe that. It seems as though your performances are always doomed, even when it’s not in the courtroom.”

I guess we won’t be mentioning the fact that you can never get a witness to state their name and profession.

Phoenix pulled a face. “I can always move the crowd with my amazing cross-examinations.” He scanned the list of actors and frowned. “Wow, I didn’t realise how out of the scene I was; I don’t recognise any of these people! But I guess it’s been a while since I was in performing arts at Ivy.”

“I remember you mentioning that,” Miles said, pouring more tea into his cup. “I hear that theatre acting is a fast-changing career, so it’s no wonder that you don’t know any of them.”

“True.” Phoenix flicked through a couple more pages and noticed that a few popular Shakespeare and Miller plays were also currently in production, as usual. “A View from the Bridge isn’t too bad,” Phoenix thought aloud, “but Macbeth is so overdone.”

“You sound quite passionate about theatre,” Miles commented.

“I guess you could say that. I’m not going to lie; I was good at the performance side of things.”

That was modest…

“Well, people used to tell me that I was talented, anyway,” Phoenix backtracked, a sheepish smile on his face. “It was also a lot of fun!” He set the paper aside and took a drink. “It wasn’t as easy as some people had told me it would be, though.”

Miles crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “The question is, then, why did you not graduate in performing arts?”

Phoenix snorted. “Is that a serious question? You already know it was because of you, Edgeworth.”

“I still don’t understand,” Miles said, frowning. “If you loved theatre that much, surely you wouldn’t change your whole career because of one person?”

Phoenix smiled and stirred his coffee, the memories of his decision coming back to him. “Well, you see, Mia was a huge inspiration. When I met her, she made me realise that I could help the innocent as a defence attorney, just as you’d shown me all those years ago.” He picked up the mug and placed his elbows on the table. “You left quite an impression on me, defending me in that class trial. I’d also read the newspapers.” He gestured over at the paper on the table. “You wouldn’t reply to my letters, so I had to find some way to help you, didn’t I?”

Miles looked at him, his expression not quite emotionless but still unreadable to Phoenix.

Did I… say something wrong?

After a small pause, Miles leaned forward. “I see.” He picked up his cup and nudged the teapot over to place his elbows down in mimicry of Phoenix’s pose. “I suppose I should be glad that Mia Fey inspired you so.”

“You suppose?” Phoenix scoffed. “Some thanks I get for saving your ass.”

Miles chuckled, but suddenly stopped himself, his gaze moving slowly over Phoenix’s shoulder. “Hmm…”

Edgeworth drifting off into thought? What a shock.

“Hey, you,” Phoenix waved a hand in front of Miles’ face. “I’m not letting you get away with your usual five minutes of space exploration.”

Miles blinked, then turned his attention back to Phoenix. “…Space exploration?” He frowned. “I was merely pondering.”

Right. It just so happened that you were ‘pondering’ in a completely different realm from us human beings…

“Yesterday, Miss Fey mentioned something to me…” Miles trailed off again, but didn’t look away.

“Oh, yeah, that.” Phoenix jokingly glared at him. “You were both making fun of me, weren’t you?”

“Actually, she told me that you have a girlfriend,” Miles corrected, resting a finger on his temple.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “God, not that again…”

“…Again?”

How on Earth do I explain this one?

“Ah, well…” Phoenix laughed nervously. “I don’t know where Maya got it from, but she randomly brought it up one time when… err… we were on the phone.” He gestured between the two of them. “I guess she just jumped to conclusions as to why I’ve been spending less time with her… Heh.” He rubbed the back of his neck.

“I see,” Miles replied, before taking a drink. “There’s no need to restrict your time with Miss Fey on my behalf.”

Shrugging, Phoenix took a large gulp of coffee. “We get to see each other a lot, anyway. With you, though, I should probably take any excuse I can find.”

“I’ll take that compliment and store it for the next rainy day.”

Phoenix laughed and gestured outwards with his hands. “Take it, by all means. It’s free, after all!”

The brief smile on Miles’ face was something Phoenix had been getting accustomed to over the past couple of weeks, but it still gave him a warm feeling. Knowing that it was his doing also made him somewhat proud of himself.

Miles Edgeworth, simply enjoying life? Who’d have thought it?

Taking a glance at Miles’ cup, Phoenix noticed that he had run out of tea, so he downed his own last dregs to keep up. Normally, he would have used his finger to scoop out the last of the froth, but after sparing a thought about his company, he decided to use a spoon instead. Miles looked mildly amused, but didn’t comment.

“So, any ideas what you want to do this afternoon?” Phoenix asked, putting their empty drinks back onto the tray.

Miles shook his head. “I’m afraid I haven’t thought that far ahead.” He crossed his arms and glanced out the window. “But it’s a very nice day, so I am partial to anything.”

“I guess we could… go for a walk?”

…That didn’t sound lame at all.

We’re in the teeming city of L.A. and the first thing I come up with is ‘go for a walk’?

“Sounds good,” Miles replied, much to Phoenix’s surprise. “We could always think of something on the way.”

“Ah, yes, we could!” Phoenix agreed, not bothering to point out that they wouldn’t really be ‘on the way’ to anywhere. “I’ll just go pay, then.”

“Wright, I can pay fo--”

“Not this again,” Phoenix cut across with a laugh, picking up the tray. “I’m not as broke as you think I am, you know.”

Note to self: Stop lying about funds.

I might start believing that I actually have money…

Miles frowned. “That’s not what I--”

Phoenix held up a hand as he got up and made his way over to the counter, deciding he wasn’t going to let Miles convince him any other way. He had another stroke of luck with the line as the barista had just finished serving another customer when he arrived.

“Can I get you something else?” she asked politely, wiping her hands on a cloth.

“No, thank you. Just the bill.” Phoenix set the tray down on the counter as he fished out his wallet with his other hand.

“You are so bloody stubborn,” Miles commented after making his way over. “I could at least pay for my own.”

Phoenix raised an amused eyebrow. “I’m the one being stubborn?”

“That’s $9.50,” the barista cut in.

Phoenix took out a note and handed it to her. “Keep the change.”

“Thank you.” She turned to Miles. “I hope you enjoyed your tea, sir. He picked it specially for you.”

“Yes, I did. Thank you,” Miles replied, before turning to Phoenix. “I’m surprised, Wright. I thought you were bluffing when you said you’d chosen it.”

“As soon as I described the taste and body, he knew exactly what to pick,” the barista added, sending a wink Phoenix’s way.

A little overkill, but I can work it…

Phoenix shrugged. “Well, you know, it just sounded like something you’d enjoy.”

Miles looked at him for a second, before turning to set off. Phoenix took this chance to mime a small ‘thank you’ to the barista, not really caring that she’d completely got the wrong end of the stick. He caught up to Miles and they exited the café together.

After a bit of deliberation, they headed left down the street. Not for any particular reason – they simply needed a direction to start with.

“Enlighten me, Wright,” Miles said after a few minutes of walking. “Did that barista seem to… well… insinuate what I think she was insinuating?”

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck and chuckled. “So even you picked up on that.”

Miles scowled. “I do have the ability to decipher the actions of other people, even if you seem to think it’s from a telescope on Mars.”

Try Pluto, Edgeworth, and it’ll be more accurate.

…Probably shouldn’t hurt his little ego with that one, though.

“If I remember rightly,” Miles continued, “you told her we were not together last time, did you not?”

“Yeah,” Phoenix confirmed with a nod. “I don’t think she believed me, though. Probably put too much faith in Larry’s scene the week before and refused to change her mind.”

Miles’ scowl seemed to deepen at this comment. “So it’s true; when something smells, it is always the Butz.”

Phoenix laughed and nudged him with his elbow. “Hey, it’s not all bad; she helped me get your order right.”

“And her reason for that doesn’t bother you?”

“Not particularly,” Phoenix answered truthfully. “But only because you’re good-looking. I would totally object if she saw me with some ugly guy.”

Miles gave him a sideways glance, his lips curved into a noticeable smirk. “I didn’t know you were so shallow, Wright.”

“Yeah, it’s a good thing she doesn’t know your personality.”

“Your words could hurt someone if pointed in the wrong direction,” Miles replied, though he seemed unaffected by the comment.

Phoenix grinned in response. “Good thing you’re immune then, huh?”

“After observing how you treat witnesses in the courtroom, it’s hard to take anything you say seriously.”

I’d like to see Edgeworth cross-examine just one of those witnesses I get lumped with!

The parrot alone would have given him a friggin’ coronary.

“Kinda your fault,” Phoenix countered. “I’m sure you deliberately choose all the weirdest people to make me look like an idiot.”

Miles chuckled lightly. “How did you work it out? I thought my plan was foolproof.”

“I knew it! Guilty as charged!” Phoenix pointed at him dramatically. “I sentence you to nine months of sorting my paperwork!”

“Harsh words coming from the defence attorney.”

I’d be an awesome judge.

‘Phoenix Wright and his gavel of justice, hammering fear into the souls of all criminals! Let no crime go unpunished and no innocent be unavenged!’

…Ahem.

“If you’re going to commit a crime, Edgeworth, then you should be prepared for the repercussions.”

There was a small growling noise after his comment, soon followed by a louder sort of gurgle. It took Phoenix a few seconds to realise the noises were coming from his stomach.

“Hey, do you want to grab something to eat?” Phoenix’s question was followed by another stomach rumble. He clasped his abdomen and smiled sheepishly. “I think my stomach is about to eat itself.”

With a quick look at his watch, Miles nodded. “Lunch does sound good, but I don’t really know of any places that serve food around here.”

Phoenix stopped and glanced around, trying to decide which way would be best. There was a noodle place he knew on the way to the Courthouse, but it was their day off, so that probably wasn’t a wise choice. Other than Maya’s usual fast food joints – which were definitely off the cards – he could only really think of one place in the area.

“If we head down this street, there’s a small sandwich shop I think you’ll like.”

“Alright, lead the way.” Miles gestured down the street in question. “Try not to get us both lost this time.”

Cheap shot! And he thinks he’s so witty…

Phoenix pointed at him. “You’ve definitely just increased your sentence to a year with that comment.”

Miles simply smirked in response.

They set off towards the shop and, after a couple of minutes, Phoenix started double-checking that he recognised each store as they went past, just in case. Thankfully, he was just being paranoid and they finally found the place. Phoenix smiled and opened the door for Miles to go in first.

The delicatessen had a large counter on the left like in a cafeteria, with a couple of small counters and shelves opposite. Large cuts of meat were stored behind the big counter, and cheese and pastries filled up the majority of the glass case in the front. The smaller counters had jars of chutneys, relishes and crackers, with the shelves holding vinaigrettes and dressings. Fresh bread and olives were the overpowering smells, making Phoenix breathe through his nose that little bit deeper. He looked up to read the menu, which had been handwritten in chalk on the wall, taking the time to admire the little doodles that had been drawn around the board.

“Not a fryer in sight,” Miles commented, sounding somewhat relieved.

Phoenix laughed. “Oh, ye of little faith!” He rubbed his chin. “If I remember correctly, I think their Honey Roast Ham and Cheddar sandwich was one of the tastiest things I’ve ever tried.”

“That’s my decision made, then,” Miles said, giving up on the menu to look at the selection in the glass case instead. “What are you having?”

“Hmm… I guess the Ham, Brie and Relish one deserves a try.”

Miles signalled the man behind the counter and ordered their food.

“I hope you like it,” Phoenix said, reaching into his back pocket.

“Don’t be ridiculous, I am not having you pay for this as well,” Miles replied, taking out his own wallet. “I wouldn’t be able to show my face at the Prosecutor’s Office if they ever found out.”

Actually, I was just going to buy my own, but seeing as he’s offering…

“Thanks, Edgeworth!”

It didn’t take long till their sandwiches were ready and, once Miles had paid up, they exited and started walking again.

Phoenix unwrapped his food and took a hearty bite out of one half. “This is so good!” he exclaimed, his mouth still full.

Miles opted for a more sophisticated approach and his first bite was more of an exploratory nibble. He chewed a few times, swallowed and seemed to nod to himself before taking another bite.

Boom! Ten more Edgeworth points, please!

They walked in silence for a few minutes as they ate their food.

“That place didn’t seem like somewhere you’d normally frequent,” Miles commented after he’d eaten most of his sandwich. “How did you come by it?”

“Ah, well,” Phoenix swallowed his last mouthful before continuing, “I’ve only ever been there a couple of times. I used to go with Mia. Her food preferences were slightly different from her sister’s.” He chuckled. “I only really remembered it because she was brought up before in our conversation.”

Miles nodded, finishing off the last of his crust. “She had good taste. It’s very charming, especially for somewhere so central.”

“Yeah, she knows loads of great places!” Phoenix paused, realising what he’d just said. He looked down at the floor and started folding up his sandwich paper. “Well…”

…Knew.

It appeared Miles had chosen not to correct him, as he replied with a simple, “You’ll have to show me more sometime.”

Phoenix smiled at him. “Definitely.”

They walked a bit further along, until Phoenix noticed a trash can. “Here, pass me your paper.” He ditched the two wrappers as they went past and rubbed his hands together. “Ahh, I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better after that.”

“It certainly hit the spot,” Miles agreed. “Do you--” He suddenly flinched and spun around.

Phoenix glanced behind him and noticed a female living statue atop a pedestal, not moving an inch.

“That’s… You just… Mmmph!” Miles pointed a finger at the busker, who was conveniently looking off to the side. “Did you just grab my…?”

Phoenix burst out laughing. “E-Edgeworth,” he managed to get out, “you really need to start wearing baggier jeans!”

After a flurry of hand gestures, Miles started to regain his speech. “It was you, wasn’t it!?” He crossed his arms. “Well, I don’t know what you were expecting, but I’m not about to give you money.”

Phoenix snickered and took out his wallet. Pulling out some coins, he crouched down by the busker’s hat and threw them in.

“Wright!”

Phoenix looked up at him. “What? I think she deserved at least a dollar for that. It was pretty brave.”

The living statue made a small curtsey, before repositioning herself in a rather precarious one-legged pose, which she held amazingly still. Impressed, Phoenix reached to grab more coins, but was pulled away before he could.

“You should know better than to encourage that sort of behaviour,” Miles scolded, letting go of his arm.

“You’re right,” Phoenix said, a smile still plastered on his face. “How dare she go for your ass and not mine!”

Miles rolled his eyes. “I think it was just down to convenience, seeing as you were on the other side.”

“Pff. More like it was down to your fancy designer jeans.”

“What are you talking about? My jeans are perfectly--” Miles cut himself off. “I’m not going to argue about something so inane with you.”

Phoenix chuckled. “Only because you know I’m right.”

Miles didn’t rise to the bait and merely sent him a disapproving look as a reply.

They walked in silence for a moment. Phoenix then realised that they’d been walking for a lot longer than he thought. The scenery around them had changed; lines of trees and flowers demonstrated that they were now in the park area of the city. It was all very familiar.

Realising where they were, Phoenix stopped and turned to Miles. “Why did you bring us out here?”

“If by ‘here’ you mean Gourd Lake, then I can assure you that I was, in fact, following you.”

“Huh.” Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “Guess we were following each other.”

“Indeed,” Miles said, crossing his arms.

“Well… Now that we’re here, want to go chillax by the lake?”

“Good idea, seeing as the weather is so agreeable,” Miles replied, leading the way around to the entrance. “But I object to you using the word ‘chillax’ in front of me ever again.”

I totally pulled it off! I’m down with the kids, yo!

“You’re such a word snob.”

“I’d rather be a snob than resort to crudely mashing up words in an attempt to sound youthful, which just ends up producing the opposite effect.”

That… was the most articulate burn I’ve ever heard.

…Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

On the walk down to the benches near the lake, there were friends, couples and families camped around the grassy areas. Most of them were having picnics, with the odd few taking pictures or sunbathing. As it was just past midday, the sun was peaking at its highest and the temperature, even though it had been warm all day, had increased.

They were in luck as one of the benches facing the lake was free, and upon closer inspection, it was dry and didn’t have any bird crap on it.

“This brings back memories,” Phoenix commented as he sat down next to Miles.

“Yes, it does.” Miles stared out at the open water. “Whether they’re good or bad, though, I can’t decide.”

Phoenix made a small noise of agreement. It was the events here that had led to finding out the truth about Miles’ past, but getting there hadn’t been easy.

Beams of light were shining through the trees and reflecting back off the rippling lake. Phoenix couldn’t help but compare it to the time he’d visited in winter, and this picturesque view won in every respect. The weather was beautiful, and the heat of the sun made him thankful that he’d chosen to wear his polo t-shirt this morning. Miles, however, had not made the same good decision and was wearing a long-sleeved, striped, brown button-down. It looked as though the temperature was now getting to him, though, as he started to unbutton his cuffs, before rolling the sleeves up past his elbows.

Skin exposure was something Miles had obviously not had much of lately, going by the paleness of his forearms. Phoenix wasn’t exactly surprised by this revelation, though; when trying to remember the last time he’d seen Miles in short sleeves, he failed to think of any instance after fourth grade.

“Careful, you might blind someone with those arms,” Phoenix joked, shading his eyes with his hand.

Miles frowned. “Some people actually have work to do during the daytime.”

So, basically, you didn’t know how hot it would get because you’re a workaholic who never goes outside.

“You know, you really need to learn to relax.” Phoenix stretched out his arms, fingers interlocked so that they made a cracking sound.

Miles flinched. “That’s disgusting.”

“But it feels great,” Phoenix replied, rolling his shoulders. At Miles’ sceptical look, he added, “How do you know if you haven’t tried it?”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “It’s a stupid idea. Doesn’t it give you arthritis?”

“Actually, no. I looked that up,” Phoenix countered, not mentioning that when he did, it was because he was bored at the office and had run out of funny cat pictures. “Apparently, some guy cracked all his fingers every day and didn’t develop anything.”

“It looks painful,” Miles reiterated, glancing at Phoenix’s hands, possibly looking for signs of bruising.

Phoenix rolled his eyes. “Alright, I’m not going to make you crack your fingers, Edgeworth. I’m just saying that you need to learn how to relax.”

“We’re sitting by a lake on a beautiful sunny day; I don’t think I need any lectures, Wright.”

Is he kidding? He’s more wound up than a yo-yo.

“Didn’t we just establish that you never do this?” Phoenix said with a grin.

Miles sighed and crossed his arms. “I’m not particularly interested in the stupid things you do in order to dodge work.”

“Hey! Hearts is a logical, mind-strengthening game I use when I’m thinking.”

“I wasn’t even referring to that, but thank you for proving my point.” Miles smirked. “And a game of cards is hardly comparable to a game of skill such as chess.”

“There’s nothing wrong with turning your brain off once in a while,” Phoenix said defensively.

Their discussion was suddenly cut short as Miles’ cellphone started to ring.

Miles took his phone out of his pocket and looked at the caller ID. “Excuse me, I have to take this.” At Phoenix’s nod, he turned away slightly and placed the phone to his ear. “Detective. You found it? No, it’s fine. I’ll be right there.”

Work calling just as we were talking about relaxing… How ironic!

“I apologise.” Miles put his phone away and turned back to Phoenix. “I need to go and check on some evidence for my latest case.”

Phoenix waved a hand. “Don’t worry about it. How long do you think it’ll take?”

“I’m unsure. It depends on the contents.”

“I could hang around,” Phoenix suggested. “All I’ve got waiting for me at home is laundry, anyway.”

Miles seemed to ponder for a moment, looking off to the side, before turning back to him. “If you’re sure, then I have no objections.”

“Let’s go, then!” Phoenix grinned. “I can finally see those elite investigating skills of yours.”

Miles smirked. “You do need some help in that department, if your preparation in court is anything to go by.”

…Don’t make me regret spending more time with you, Edgeworth.

---

It didn’t take them very long to get to the Criminal Affairs Department with Miles leading the way. When they entered, Phoenix found the smiles aimed in their direction quite nice, though he figured they were probably due to Edgeworth’s presence and not to his own popularity increasing.

Gumshoe was sitting at his usual desk on the other side of the room. He turned around to wave them over. “Hey, sir!”

“Good afternoon, Detec--” Miles cut himself off, his facial expression turning sour. “What is that horrendous smell?”

Phoenix took a deep breath through his nose and almost gagged, resorting to pinching his nose. “Ugh! That’s foul!”

The happy expression on Gumshoe’s face fell. “Oh, yeah… That would be me.”

Glancing around the surrounding desks, Phoenix noticed that most of the detectives had moved away, and that some had clothespins on their noses.

“Has your landlord cut off your water supply again?” Miles asked, somehow retaining his composure without holding a hand to his nose – though his eyes did seem a bit twitchy.

“No, sir. In fact, I’ve had all my utility bills up to date for the last three months!” Gumshoe demonstrated a flash of undeserved pride at this, before his expression turned gloomy again. “It’s actually because I’ve been at the landfill site all morning – specifically in the landfill, sir.”

“In the landfill!?” Phoenix exclaimed.

Is this some kind of new detective hobby I don’t know about?

“Well, pal, the casino had its trash taken away just after the murder and the actual container they used for the casino was impossible to find.” Gumshoe punched a fist into his other hand. “But that wasn’t going to stop me! No, sirree! I went to the site and rummaged through every garbage truck from the area and found the crucial evidence!”

I’ve got to hand it to him; he makes trash can diving sound a lot more noble than I ever thought possible.

“Indeed,” Miles commented dryly, probably still struggling with the stench surrounding them. “I’m eager to see the results of your labour. Please play the footage.”

“Yes, sir!” Gumshoe boomed, turning around to pick up a small disc. “As you can see, sir, this is a top-notch, high-definition disc! Anything on this baby is gonna be conclusive!” He smiled broadly and went to slot the disc into his desktop, before stopping himself. “Wait…” He turned around in his chair and pointed at Phoenix. “Why are you here, pal? You spying on the opposition? Trying to scam our evidence?”

“Wha--no! N-no, of course not!” Phoenix stammered, holding out his hands in defence.

Gumshoe narrowed his eyes. “That sure sounded suspicious to me, pal.”

“Don’t worry, Detective, he’s here with me,” Miles intervened. “The defendant is not his client.”

Wondering how he’d managed to get scared by Gumshoe, of all people, Phoenix felt his heartbeat go back down to a normal level. “Yeah, I don’t even know what’s going on!”

“Alright, sir, if you say so. I can always get security on him if he’s bothering you.”

Geez, why does he always think I’m up to no good?

“I’ll bear that in mind, Detective.”

Gumshoe popped the disc in the computer and the footage started automatically. The picture seemed to be from a casino security camera which rotated slowly between two different positions. On the right side, Phoenix could make out a few rows of slot machines, and when it switched over to the left, there was a floor of poker tables. Gumshoe sped up the footage so it was running at 4x speed. After a moment, the camera suddenly stopped rotating, focusing on just the poker tables.

Miles reached over and fast-forwarded the footage even more, but the camera didn’t budge. “What is going on here? We’ve lost the crime scene!”

Gumshoe scratched his cheek, a solemn look on his face. “It looks like the security camera jammed, sir.”

Massaging his temple, Miles glared down at the computer screen. “I should have known this wouldn’t be the end of it…” He sighed. “We shall have to make do with what we have.”

The disc continued to play at high speed for another ten minutes or so, until Miles suddenly reached over to pause the footage, making Phoenix jump in the process. “There!” He straightened back up and crossed his arms. “So that’s how she did it…”

Phoenix stared at the screen for a moment. “I don’t see it,” he said, scanning the picture for any signs of a dead body.

“Neither do I, sir,” Gumshoe concurred. “I’m pretty sure he was killed next to the slot machines.”

“Do keep up. We have already established that we don’t have the footage of the murder. But we can spot any difference in the periphery.” Miles pointed at the lone security guard standing next to the closest poker table. “This guard looks like she’s been here the whole time. However, if I rewind slightly…” He shifted back a minute or so. “Can you see it?”

Phoenix scrutinised the picture. Gumshoe was right; the video quality was pretty good. Not quite good enough to make out the guard’s face, but something about her seemed different…

“There’s two different guards!” Phoenix exclaimed. “The other one was wearing gloves.”

“Correct.”

Phoenix grabbed the mouse and fast-forwarded to where Miles had first paused the footage. “And this new one has a file in her pocket as well.” He got closer to the screen to read the top line of the document. “‘HDCriminals’. Huh.”

Gumshoe suddenly looked thoughtful. “That sounds familiar, pal.”

“Detective, I need a request for a search warrant as soon as possible!” Miles stated, obviously still two steps ahead of both Phoenix and Gumshoe.

I can’t believe I’m basically on the same wavelength as Gumshoe. God help me.

“I’ll get one drawn up straight away, sir!” Gumshoe almost shouted, the excitement of having a lead seeming to kick-start him. “I can also drop it off at the Courthouse for you as soon as it’s printed.”

Miles wrinkled his nose slightly. “I strongly advise you take your lunch hour to head home for a shower and a change of clothes. Don’t worry, I’ll drop off the warrant request and have it approved. We can meet at HDCriminals when I have it.”

Gumshoe gave him a sheepish look. “Y-yes, sir.” He turned his attention back to the computer and started preparing the warrant request.

“So, err, I’m guessing this means something, then?” Phoenix asked, feeling like he’d fallen behind Gumshoe at this moment and not liking it.

“HDCriminals is the company owned by the defendant,” Miles replied, turning to face Phoenix. “I apologise again, Wright. It appears this is going to take a bit longer to investigate. You don’t have to hang around if you don’t want to.”

Phoenix smiled. “Like I said, don’t worry. You’re giving me a better reason to dodge my chores than I could ever think up.”

Miles regarded him scrutinisingly, before finally accepting his choice with a nod.

Once Gumshoe’s document had printed, the three of them left and Miles and Phoenix headed straight to the Courthouse for the warrant.

---

Acquiring the warrant from the Judge was a lot faster than Phoenix thought it would be. In fact, he was quite impressed by how Edgeworth’s mere presence seemed to speed up the process. He had hardly said anything in order to get the warrant approved and, before Phoenix could blink more than a couple of times, everything was ready for them to head over to HDCriminals.

After retrieving Miles’ car from the café, they made their way to the building in question and waited for Gumshoe and the officers in the lobby. When they arrived, they asked the receptionist for directions, and it turned out that the floor they needed was ten stories up. Phoenix didn’t let Miles convince him to take the elevator with Gumshoe, but deeply regretted his decision after what felt like hundreds of steps.

“I wish they’d label these floors,” Phoenix grumbled as they walked up, slightly out of breath.

“They do,” Miles replied. Phoenix suspected he deliberately kept his response brief so as not to show that he was out of breath as well. “That door was fourth.”

“Fourth!? I could have sworn we were near the friggin’ top by now!”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Don’t be so dramatic.”

Phoenix smirked. “But it might get to the point where ‘we cannot hold mortality’s strong hand’!”

Miles frowned, before it seemed to click. “Very witty, Wright.”

Come on, it was a bit more than just witty… I bet he hasn’t even seen a performance of King John.

“I think I’m going to pass out.”

“I didn’t ask you to come with me,” Miles said sternly.

Phoenix looked up as they reached the top of the steps and noticed that they were only halfway to the fifth floor. “Okay, I’m definitely going to die.”

“Well, that escalated quickly,” Miles muttered in response.

They finally reached the tenth floor, both obviously struggling to breathe no matter how much Miles tried to hide it, and made a beeline for the CEO’s office to meet with Gumshoe.

The room was moderately sized; bigger than Phoenix’s office, but probably smaller than Edgeworth’s. There were a few bookshelves along the walls, and a large wooden cabinet that looked slightly out of place. Some of the shelves had statues on them, and a small Hindu tapestry was hanging on the back wall. There was an especially ornate statue of Shiva with the deity’s many arms coated in white gold and blue gems, but Phoenix couldn’t name the rest of them, which made him feel slightly uncultured. The majority of the books appeared to be on engineering, and a diploma for some degree in electronics hung on the wall.

Gumshoe and the two officers had busied themselves with the bookshelves, checking every book and ornament. Not wasting any time, Miles walked over to the cabinet and inspected every corner, before opening the doors and looking through the contents.

“What are you looking for?” Phoenix asked.

“Something incriminating,” Miles replied dryly.

I guess that was a stupid question…

“Hey, pal,” Gumshoe called, grabbing Phoenix’s attention. He pointed a finger at him, a fierce look on his face. “Don’t you go rearranging anything or messing with important evidence! Your client is guilty as charged this time, pal!”

How many times…!?

“I don’t have a client!” Phoenix repeated. “I’m just an innocent, clientless defence attorney!”

Yelling out his profession might not have been the smartest thing to do as it seemed to earn him some evil looks from the police officers helping Gumshoe.

Oops…

“Whatever, pal! Just don’t touch anything! I’m watching you.”

“Alright, geez…”

Sighing, Phoenix leaned against the desk and decided to keep his mouth shut to avoid further embarrassment. After a while, he shifted slightly and felt something pressed against the back of his lower thigh. He looked down and noticed a small section of wood sticking out from the edge of the desk. As he pressed against it with a bit more force, the edge receded back into line with the desk. Turning around, he picked at the area with his nails, which revealed a very thin concealed drawer just below the surface. Inside it was a single photo of a man with his arm around a woman as they sat on a beach towel near the ocean. Phoenix picked up the photo and took a look at the back. There was a sequence of numbers and letters that resembled some sort of code.

“Hey, Edgeworth,” Phoenix called out, inspecting the writing. “I found something hidden. Hidden normally means incriminating, right?”

Miles came to stand next to him, a small bottle in his hand. “They don’t always have to be hidden.” He presented the bottle to Phoenix, who looked at it dumbly.

“Ipecac syrup? That sounds like it would be tasty on pancakes.”

“It’s an emetic,” Miles informed him. “Trust me, you don’t want it on your pancakes.”

As if it wasn’t already obvious enough that I have no clue what’s happening…

Phoenix handed over his find, indicating the concealed drawer he had obtained it from.

“It’s already been made clear that these two were involved in the past,” Miles said, sounding a little disappointed.

“There’s also some nonsense written on the back, if that helps.”

Miles flipped the picture over and scowled. “Ah, yes, I can always trust you to provide me with a load of nonsense, Wright.”

And I can always trust you to be a complete jerk, Edgeworth.

“Hey, watch that statue!” Gumshoe boomed, making both Phoenix and Miles turn to witness one of the policemen propping the Shiva statue back on the shelf from where it had toppled slightly. “One wrong move and the criminal could get away with everything!” He threw his arms out to emphasize his statement and knocked another statue off a shelf near him. “Yeah, I… meant to do that.”

Miles strode over to where Gumshoe was standing, having apparently noticed something where the statue had been. He pulled out a piece of paper and frowned. “It’s the company’s credit report. They’ve lost a fair amount of money recently.”

The investigation went on for a while longer. Phoenix felt slightly out of place, sitting around and not really doing much.

Well, it’s my own fault. I should have known this would take a while.

After searching just about everywhere in the office, Miles turned on the computer. Looking through the defendant’s emails, he found some messages between her and the victim. They seemed fairly benign, but Miles still ordered for them to be copied, showing that even prosecutors clung to tiny bits of potential evidence.

Gumshoe’s team finally packed up their equipment and were ready to go by around six o’clock. After they left, Miles took one last look around, probably to make sure nothing had been overlooked, before walking back over to Phoenix.

“I believe I should apologise for spending the rest of the afternoon investigating,” Miles said, checking his watch.

“How many times do I have to tell you that it’s cool?” Phoenix replied, following Miles out of the office. “Besides, it’s not like we wasted the whole day.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “What are you insinuating?”

“Well, I don’t have any plans now, and I know you’re done with your investigation till court, so…” Phoenix shrugged.

“I would have thought you’d be bored of me by now, Wright.”

“Normally, I would be, of course,” Phoenix agreed with a cheeky grin, “but I haven’t exactly been talking to you for the last couple of hours.”

Miles seemed to ponder for a few seconds. “…I suppose I could put up with you for a bit longer. Where do you propose we go?”

“You could come over to my place for coffee,” Phoenix suggested as they started walking down the stairs. “Actually, I have tea. I saw it last time I went grocery shopping and thought of you.” He smiled. “And you’ll be heading there to drop me off, anyway.”

Miles nodded slowly. “Well, it looks as though you’ll get the chance to show me some of your relaxation techniques, after all.”

Phoenix blinked a few times, before bursting into fits of laughter.

“What’s so funny?” Miles asked, a confused look on his face.

Did he not just hear himself!?

“You… That sounded so wrong, Edgeworth! I mean… ‘relaxation techniques’?” He bit his lip to stop himself from laughing again.

“Don’t make me change my mind,” Miles said, turning away, clearly trying to hide his embarrassment.

Glad he wasn’t the one looking stupid for once, Phoenix simply grinned in response.

---

Phoenix kicked off his shoes as he entered the apartment and walked over to the coffee table. Picking up the remote, he turned the TV on and recognised the character on the screen as Doctor Manhattan.

“Oh, look, Watchmen is on.” Phoenix looked over at Miles, who was standing near the door. “Come sit. You can watch TV while I make the tea.”

Miles glanced at the TV, then gave Phoenix a blank look.

“Right, that’s not your kind of movie, is it?” Phoenix said, remembering it was Edgeworth he was talking to. “You can change it if you want.”

Miles shook his head. “It’s fine.” He made his way to the couch and sat down, before looking up at Phoenix. “Can’t be worse than what we had to sit through yesterday.”

“Oh God, don’t remind me. I don’t think anything could ever compete with that.” Phoenix smirked. “Well… except maybe that stupid Samurai show you’re so obsessed with.”

Miles sent him a disapproving look. “It’s not--” He cut himself off, his eyes widening as he seemed to realise what he’d come this close to admitting. “I’m not obsessed with it,” he amended, trying to cover his slip of the tongue.

Phoenix burst out laughing.

“It’s not funny,” Miles muttered, crossing his arms.

“Oh man,” Phoenix said, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. “You should have seen your face.”

Miles’ gaze turned into a glare.

“Aww, come on.” Phoenix sat down next to Miles and smiled. “Look, there’s no point in hiding it. I won’t make fun of you.”

“You just did.”

“I was laughing at how stupid you’re being about it, not at the fact that you’re the biggest Steel Samur--”

“You’re doing it again!” Miles interrupted, failing to hide the amusement in his voice.

Phoenix chuckled. “Only because you’re so fun to annoy. But like I said, there’s no need to hide it; it’s just me.”

Miles narrowed his eyes, then seemed to hesitate before answering, “I suppose.”

“Hey, we could go see that movie on Friday if you want,” Phoenix suggested, remembering the poster from last night. “I’ll probably hate it, but I don’t mind going with you.”

“…The movie?” Miles studied his face for a moment. “You’re serious.”

“Well, I did say we had to go see a movie not chosen by Kath.”

“Yes, but I didn’t realise that you meant…” Miles shook his head. “Never mind.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “So, you wanna go?”

“I’ll have to see how much paperwork I get this week,” Miles replied. “I’ll let you know.”

“Alright.” Phoenix glanced at the TV, then down at the remote in his hand. “Here,” he said, offering it to Miles. “I’ll go make the tea.”

Miles took the remote and Phoenix got up from the couch. He made his way into the kitchen and picked up the kettle. After spilling the old water in the sink, he rinsed it and filled it up, before putting it back on its base and flicking the switch.

He grabbed two cups from the cupboard and placed them down on the counter, then walked over to the pantry to get the box of tea. Opening the box, he took out two tea bags and put them in the cups, then waited for the water to finish boiling. When the switch finally clicked, he quickly poured the water and made his way back to the living room.

“You like yours black, right?” Phoenix asked, putting the cups down on the coffee table.

Miles nodded, then looked down at the cups. “No coasters?”

Phoenix shrugged and sat down. “It’s okay, it’s an old table.”

“If you say so,” Miles said, picking up his cup. He looked at the tea for a few seconds, then pulled the tea bag halfway out. “Where do I put this?”

“Oh!” Phoenix looked at the coffee table and noticed a bowl he’d forgotten to pick up the other night. “Here,” he said, grabbing it and holding it in front of Miles.

Miles raised an eyebrow, but still proceeded to put the tea bag in it.

Phoenix did the same for his, then put the bowl back on the table. “Sorry about that. I’m so used to making coffee.”

“Coffee is bad for you,” Miles commented with a smirk.

Phoenix smiled. “Yeah, well, it keeps me awake.” He picked up his cup and took a sip, before grimacing at the bitterness. “And it tastes better.”

Miles snorted. “You’re just not used to the taste. Why are you drinking it black?”

“I dunno. I figured I’d take it the same way you do.”

“I see…” Miles said, before taking a drink. He then glanced at the TV and seemed to do a double take.

Phoenix turned to see what had caused Miles’ reaction and saw Doctor Manhattan floating in the air, naked.

Oh God.

Phoenix burst out laughing.

Miles rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me you’re laughing becau--”

“Because of the giant blue dick?” Phoenix cut in through chuckles. “Yes.”

Miles gave him a patronising look but was unable to stop a smile from forming on his lips. “Why do you always have to be so immature?”

Phoenix snorted. “Why do you always have to be so mature?”

“Because, unlike you, I know how to act my age.”

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “You’re twenty-five, not fifty.”

“And you’re acting like a five-year-old.”

“Psh… you just don’t have any sense of humour.”

Miles frowned. “That’s not true.”

Phoenix gave him an unimpressed look. “Oh yeah? What do you find funny, then?”

“A lot of things,” Miles replied dryly, turning to the TV.

Nice try, Edgeworth.

“Like what?”

Miles sighed. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean you don’t know?”

Miles took a sip of his tea and turned back to him. “I can’t think of anything right now, but it’s not as if nothing ever amuses me.”

Phoenix smiled. “I bet I can make you laugh.” He put his cup down on the coffee table and twisted sideways on the couch, folding his left leg under him.

“Should I be scared?” Miles asked, a sceptical look on his face.

“When ducks fly,” Phoenix began in a serious voice, “why is one side of the ‘V’ longer than the other?”

“I don’t think one side is always longer than the other, Wright,” Miles criticised.

“Well, for the sake of the joke, let’s say it is.”

“I don’t know, then.”

Phoenix grinned. “‘Cause it has more ducks.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “I should have seen that coming.”

“Oh, come on! It was funny!” Phoenix said, nudging Miles on the arm.

Miles glanced down at Phoenix’s hand, then back up at him. “Not really.”

“Okay, I have a better one.” Phoenix snickered. “What kind of dog can jump higher than a building?”

“I don’t know,” Miles replied in a bored voice.

“Any kind,” Phoenix stated. “Buildings can’t jump!”

Miles blinked, then his expression changed to one Phoenix had never seen before – or, at least, never to that extent. He quickly turned away, but not before Phoenix had time to notice the wide smile on his face.

“Aha! You’re laughing!”

When Miles didn’t respond, Phoenix scooted closer to him and leaned forward to try and look at his face.

Miles suddenly turned to him, startled. “What are you doing?”

Oops… I guess I invaded his personal space.

“Just proving that I’m right,” Phoenix replied, sitting back straight.

Miles stared at him for a moment, then smirked. “Actually, you just proved that I have a sense of humour.”

…Damn it!

“So my joke was funny?” Phoenix asked, sounding a bit too proud of himself.

“It was… clever.”

Phoenix smiled and picked up his tea. “You know, you used to laugh a lot when we were kids. Larry kept making up all these stupid jokes and it was so funny.”

Miles looked down at his cup. “I remember.”

“I miss that,” Phoenix commented. He unconsciously took a sip of tea and nearly gagged at the taste.

Miles chuckled. “You don’t have to force yourself to drink it. I won’t think any less of you.”

“Yeah, you know what? I think I’ll stick to coffee,” Phoenix stated, placing his cup back down on the table. “You can have the whole box.”

“I think it’ll get stale before I have time to drink even half of it.”

Phoenix shrugged. “Come over more often, then.”

Miles seemed to ponder for a moment, before saying, “I don’t usually drink cheap tea but I’d feel bad letting it go to waste, considering you probably spent half of your paycheck on it.”

“Hey!” Phoenix protested, failing to sound offended. “Is that the thanks I get for thinking of you?”

Miles merely smirked and turned to the TV.

Jerk.

Phoenix shook his head and decided not to retaliate. He propped his feet up on the coffee table and turned his attention to the movie. Silk Spectre and Nite Owl were walking out of a diner.

I should rewatch the whole movie sometime. I haven’t seen it in ages…

He looked at Miles.

I wonder if he ever watches anything besides the Steel Samurai.

Maybe he likes other superhero movies?

I don’t think he’s ever seen this one, though…

“Interesting,” Miles commented suddenly.

Phoenix glanced at the TV but failed to see what Miles was referring to. “What is?”

“Rorschach.”

“Oh. Yeah, he’s pretty badass.”

Miles turned to him. “No, I meant that he’s named after the inkblot test.”

“Well, yeah…” Phoenix replied, not sure what was so interesting about that fact. “That’s why he wears that mask.”

Miles nodded absently before putting his cup down on the table and turning back to the TV.

Wow, he’s actually interested in the movie?

…Well, I guess the inkblot test is kind of work-related.

Phoenix studied Miles’ face for a moment and smiled to himself.

He looks like a completely different person.

I guess he’s finally comfortable enough around me to let his guard down?

He’s really come a long way…

If someone had told me two years ago that I’d be spending time with Edgeworth like this, I wouldn’t have believed them.

I mean, I was hoping we could be friends again, but I never imagined we could be this close. Not with the way he was.

Phoenix took his feet off the table and shifted a bit in his seat. He turned his attention back to the movie and watched for a while, but his eyes kept darting back to Miles. Seeing him so relaxed was kind of strange – in a good way.

And to think this would have been so awkward just a few weeks ago…

Yawning, he grabbed a cushion from the couch and started fiddling with it.

How am I tired? It’s only seven something.

I guess that was a lot of walking for one day.

That thought suddenly gave Phoenix the urge to stretch his limbs, but as he did so, he felt his left hand brush against something. He looked over, only to realise that he had accidentally touched Miles’ back, and that Miles was now staring at him with a strange expression on his face.

Phoenix felt his cheeks flush slightly. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

Great. So much for this not being awkward.

Miles shook his head. “It’s fine.” His eyes moved around the room for a few seconds, before focusing back on Phoenix. “Look, I--”

The song that was playing in the background suddenly got louder as a choir started singing ‘Hallelujah’.

Phoenix looked at the TV.

Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

The most awkward sex scene in the history of all movies had chosen this moment to start playing. Unable to look at Miles, Phoenix watched the scene until Silk Spectre hit the fire button, causing the Owlship to shoot a burst of flames.

I think this thing gets worse every time I watch it…

After the scene was over, Phoenix risked a glance in Miles’ direction and noticed that he was looking at him. He quickly turned away and cleared his throat. “Sorry… that was weird.” He waited a few seconds, then turned to Miles again. “I keep forgetting about that scene.”

Miles gave him an odd look, his eyes flickering downwards.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow, then looked down, only to realise that the cushion was on his lap, making it look like he was trying to hide something. “Oh! It’s not…” He picked up the cushion and threw it back on the couch next to him. “I wasn’t…” Realising that words were failing him, he tried to gesture something, before dropping his hands and sighing resignedly.

Miles frowned. “What was that about?”

Phoenix blinked. “I thought you…” He trailed off as he realised that Miles looked genuinely confused. “Never mind…”

I swear I have a talent for making myself look like an idiot.

“Listen,” Miles said, a serious tone to his voice. “I’m not sure how to say this, but… It’s been two weeks since this all started, and I--”

“Oh!” Phoenix exclaimed, before noticing the frown on Miles’ face. He smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, didn’t mean to cut you off. I just remembered we’re supposed to plan that breakup for next week. Totally forgot about that.” He chuckled. “Anyways… What were you saying?”

Miles stared at him for a few seconds. “I-I was…” He stared a bit more then suddenly got up. “Sorry, I… I just remembered… there’s something… something I have to do.” He stepped around the coffee table and started walking towards the door.

“W-wait!” Phoenix called out, getting up from his seat. “Where are you going?”

Miles reached the door and opened it, then paused. “I’ll see you later,” he said weakly, before disappearing behind the door.

Phoenix stood there for a moment, dumbfounded.

Well, that was sudden.

Did he just remember something about the case he’s working on?

He shook his head and sat back down.

I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

As he turned to look at the TV, a knock was heard at the door.

Or right now.

Smiling, he got up again and went to open the door. “Why’d you leave so sudd--”

“Surprise!”

Phoenix blinked. In front of him stood a beaming Maya.

“Hi, Mr. Nick!”

And an equally cheerful Pearl.

What’s going on?

“Hey…” Phoenix said uncertainly. “What are you guys doing here?”

“Pearly just got here from Kurain,” Maya replied. “I told you she was coming to visit, remember?”

Phoenix frowned. “Uh… yeah… I remember.”

I think…

He poked his head in the doorway and looked down the hall, half hoping to see Edgeworth there, but wasn’t exactly surprised when he saw no one.

Of course he’s not there. Why did I even check?

“Something wrong?” Maya asked.

Phoenix looked at her. “N-no… nothing’s wrong. It’s just…” He shook his head. “Never mind.”

Maya raised an eyebrow. “Whatever you say.” There was a pause. “Can we come in?”

“Oh! Yeah, sorry…” Phoenix quickly moved aside to let the girls in.

Maya walked past him, then turned around and gave him an accusatory look. “You know, I thought you’d be happier to see us, considering Pearly hasn’t visited sin--”

“I am happy to see you,” Phoenix protested, closing the door behind him. “I’m just a bit tired, is all.”

“It’s not even eight,” Maya said incredulously.

“Yeah, well… I’ve had a long day.”

“On a Sunday?”

What is this? An interrogation?

“Yes…” Phoenix replied cautiously.

“So what did you do all day?” Maya asked, walking over to the couch.

“Stuff people normally do on Sundays,” Phoenix said, trying to sound convincing. “Grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry. You know, boring stuff.”

“That’s not very tiring,” Maya commented, sitting down next to Pearl. “But I guess that’s what happens when you get old.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes.

I’m not even going to bother…

“You guys want anything to drink?” he asked, seeing an opportunity to change the subject.

Maya looked at Pearl, then back at Phoenix. “Do you have hot chocolate?”

“Uh… yes, I do, actually.” Phoenix nodded to himself. “I’ll be right back.”

He made his way into the kitchen and breathed a sigh of relief.

Why do I feel so weird? It’s just Maya and Pearls.

Shaking his head, he picked up the kettle and gave it a small shake. There was more than enough water left for two drinks, so he put it back down and flicked the switch. He leaned on the counter and looked out the window. The sun was starting to go down.

It’s nothing to do with them; it was just really bad timing.

Edgeworth left so suddenly, and then…

He frowned.

What was so urgent that he needed to leave so fast?

“Here!”

Phoenix jumped at the voice and quickly turned around.

Maya was standing next to him, holding two cups in her hands. “I guess you forgot to clean the coffee table.”

“Oh… thanks,” Phoenix said, gesturing towards the sink. “Those have been sitting there for ages.”

“I guess that explains why they’re still warm,” Maya replied with a smirk.

…Damn you and your detective skills.

“I… well…”

“Look, Nick, there’s no point in even trying to hide it anymore,” Maya stated, putting the cups down in the sink. “So, what’s her name?”

Phoenix sighed. “I don’t have a girlfriend, Maya.”

Maya scowled and put her hands on her hips. “I can’t believe you’re still denying it! Why would you drink two cups of tea at the same time?”

Think, Phoenix. Think.

“I… left the tea bag in for too long and had to make another one.”

Nailed it.

Maya raised an eyebrow. “Right. Since when do you even drink tea?”

Phoenix shrugged. “I guess Edgeworth is rubbing off on me.”

Why didn’t I just tell her that Edgeworth was here? It’s not like she’d find it suspicious; Larry comes over all the time.

Oh well. Too late now.

“Speaking of Mr. Edgeworth,” Maya said, a smile suddenly appearing on her face, “that was really nice of him to buy me food last night.”

“Yeah… It was.”

My wallet was especially thankful.

Maya clapped her hands together. “Can you order a pizza?”

Phoenix blinked. “What? Why?”

“What do you mean ‘why’? I’m starving!”

Phoenix sighed.

Thanks a lot, Edgeworth. Now Maya has an excuse to get inside my wallet.

Chapter Text

Tapping his finger against his arm, Miles glanced up at the courtroom clock for what seemed like the hundredth time.

“Your Honour, it’s been thirty minutes,” he said, before gesturing at the empty desk opposite. “It would seem to suggest that the new defence attorney has little to defend if they cannot get here on time.”

“I do find the tardiness quite rude, Mr. Edgeworth,” the Judge agreed. “However, court cannot proceed without the defence. Since Mr. Skipp Bailey dropped the case, we have no choice but to wait for his last-minute replacement.”

Miles sighed.

I wish the bar exam would filter out these time wasters.

Lacking something meaningful to do, he set about rereading the transcript from Friday.

The defendant, Ms. Naila Gasket, was arrested for the murder of her ex-boyfriend, Blake Male. The murder occurred late on Monday, May 28th, at Lucky 13 Casino. Staff found Mr. Male lying in a puddle of his own blood by the slot machines with a necklace clasped in his hand. The next day, the autopsy revealed that he was stabbed from behind with a small knife, in the armpit and then the neck, cutting through the jugular. The estimated time of death was between 11 P.M. and midnight. The police discovered a Swiss Army knife in a garbage can near the staff room, which bore no fingerprints but was covered in the victim’s blood.

The prosecution’s investigation on Wednesday narrowed the time window for the murder to between 11:40 P.M. and midnight, due to a card being hidden in the slot machine before that time.

On Wednesday night, there was a report of a break-in at Ms. Heidi Dinduet’s apartment. Ms. Dinduet was the victim’s new girlfriend. The police found Ms. Gasket at the scene and arrested her on the spot. Investigators then discovered that the knife was hers due to her initials matching the ones engraved on it. She also did not have a secure alibi for the time of the crime.

On Friday morning, Ms. Dinduet was called to the stand to testify about Ms. Gasket breaking into her apartment to attack her. The defence then pointed out that the defendant could not have known that Ms. Dinduet was home that night due to a status she posted on a social networking site stating that she was out with friends. It was only a coincidence that she had arrived home earlier than anticipated.

The witness then remembered that she had overheard the victim talking on the phone about a casino on the day of the murder. Redial proved it had been Ms. Gasket’s number. With that evidence, the prosecution claimed that the defendant must have met up with the victim that night.

Miles frowned.

If only I’d left it at that.

He had gone ahead and presented the necklace that had been found clutched in the victim’s hand, thinking he was putting the final nail in the coffin. In hindsight, he should have known that it didn’t belong to the defendant – that would have been too easy. Instead, the victim’s girlfriend had piped up, telling the court that it was actually her necklace.

A casino security guard sitting in the gallery had then taken the chance to jump in, claiming that the defendant had been with him in the staff room on the night of the murder. With that new alibi, the defence attorney had accused Ms. Dinduet of the murder, forcing the Judge to call for further investigation.

“Ah, Everett, you are late,” the Judge called out.

Everett…!?

Miles’ head snapped up from his documents, only to meet eyes with a different Everett from the one he had imagined.

Robert, Kath’s uncle, strode up to the defence bench. “I apologise, Your Honour,” he replied, before opening his briefcase.

Surely he can’t… Please don’t tell me he’s the defence.

“I hope you have your affairs in order, Mr. Everett. Defending your client is an important job, no matter how late you are given the case,” the Judge warned, squashing Miles’ last bit of hope.

“Don’t worry, Your Honour, I am fully prepared,” Robert said, taking some documents out of his briefcase. “It’s just that I accidentally bumped into this little old lady on the way here and made her drop her bag. After apologising and helping her pick it up, I saw a suspicious white package inside. Before I could say anything, a police dog came out of nowhere and jumped on the old lady, spilling the entire contents of the package, which just so happened to be a kilo of cocaine. Turns out the FBI had been following her as a known drug trafficker and I’d just helped them secure her with the evidence they needed! What are the chances!?”

Miles heard murmurings from the gallery about how cool that must have been.

I’ll let him have his moment before I crush his defence to pieces.

“That’s great to hear, Mr. Everett!” the Judge exclaimed, before clearing his throat. “Of course, I’m talking about aiding our friends in the FBI, not about your lateness or knocking over an elderly lady.” He banged his gavel. “Court is now in session for the trial of Ms. Naila Gasket.”

Finally.

“The prosecution is ready, Your Honour.”

“The defence is ready, Your Honour.”

The Judge nodded. “Now that we have a full court, you may give your opening statement, Mr. Edgeworth.”

“Thank you, Your Honour.” Miles picked up the transcript. “It was previously demonstrated that Ms. Gasket’s knife was the murder weapon in this case and that the defendant had arranged a meeting with the victim shortly before the murder. However, all this evidence has been overshadowed by the fact that the victim was clutching Ms. Dinduet’s necklace, which was presumably ripped off at the time of the murder. The court was then interrupted by someone giving Ms. Gasket an alibi. After further investigation, the prosecution states that there is more evidence to show that Ms. Gasket is the true murderer. To start proceedings,” Miles leaned forward onto his desk, “I would like to present a photo of Ms. Dinduet, time-stamped shortly after the time of the murder.” He handed the picture to the bailiff, who brought it to the Judge.

“Very well, Mr. Edgeworth. The photo is accepted into evidence.” The Judge stared at the picture for a moment, before scrunching his eyes. “Ah, yes, I see… Hmm, indeed.”

“As Your Honour can clearly see, Ms. Dinduet is wearing the necklace that is supposedly in the victim’s hand.”

“Of course, yes, I saw that, definitely,” the Judge agreed, nodding. His eyes then flew wide open in surprise. “But, how can this be!?”

“There is only one explanation.” Miles slammed a hand down on his desk. “Ms. Dinduet did not get her necklace ripped off by Mr. Male. It was planted on the victim by the true murderer!”

That sent the audience into an uproar.

Miles eyed Robert, who seemed to have been listening to every word. His dark hair was a mess and his gold ascot tie wasn’t quite tucked into his shirt properly, but Miles still felt somewhat unnerved by his presence. There was no room for personal problems in the courtroom, but it was exceedingly difficult to stop the link between Robert and that party – and therefore that kiss – from forming in his mind.

“Order! I will have order!”

Miles crossed his arms, letting his finger tap against his bicep in a slow, reassuring motion as he waited for the Judge to calm the audience down.

There might be a link with Robert, but I’m professional enough to break it. At least it isn’t Wright defending.

He closed his eyes briefly.

Thank God it isn’t Wright…

“Mr. Everett,” the Judge spoke up, “what does the defence have to say about the prosecution’s claim?”

Robert stood up straight, pulling his shirt sleeves down. “Interesting theory, but highly implausible. How could Ms. Gasket have had time to steal the necklace and plant it before the body was discovered?” He grinned and grabbed the front of his desk. “Not to mention she has not been placed at the scene and has a solid alibi. Obviously, my client continues to plead not guilty to all charges.”

The Judge nodded. “I see. How would the prosecution like to continue, Mr. Edgeworth?”

Miles smirked. “As a matter of fact, I have a reliable witness who can place Ms. Gasket at the scene of the crime and can hopefully lead us to the truth of the matter.”

Well, ‘reliable’ is one word for him…

“I would like to call Mr. Homer Esman to the stand.”

“Very well,” the Judge replied. “Let the witness, Mr. Esman, take the stand.”

Homer Esman was brought in and immediately made an impression on the courtroom. His hair was bright white, long and tied up using a cheap wooden chopstick. He was wearing what seemed to be a white ‘I heart L.A.’ t-shirt, but most of the writing remained hidden underneath an olive-green corduroy waistcoat. This was complimented by the tatty, designer leather jacket he wore on top, making it a rather peculiar outfit. Strapped across his back was a small canister that held a couple of logs and a few twigs.

“Witness, your name and occupation, please,” Miles asked.

“You’ll have to speak up, bro. My hearing isn’t as clear as my pearly white locks!” Homer snickered, apparently at himself.

Miles cleared his throat. “Witness, could you please state your name and occupation for the court?”

“Yes, I’d love some slate so I can occupy my thoughts,” Homer replied, before snickering again.

He could at least make sense when pretending to mishear me.

“Being called into court is not a joke, witness,” Miles scolded. “State your name and occupation.”

“Bit of a killjoy, aren’t you, bro?” Homer grinned. “I’m Homer Esman and my profession is travelling shadow puppeteer.”

The Judge blinked. “I’ve never heard of such an occupation, witness. You aren’t making things up, are you?”

“I guess you could say that, yeah! I made up my own profession after I lost my home.” He made a silhouette of a bird with his hands and made it fly off with a small whistle.

“Mr. Esman currently resides in, as he describes, ‘Bin Number 6, Casino Back Door’,” Miles explained, reading from the document with the witness’ details.

“Finest accommodation I’ve had in a while; got a mosaic of fake casino chips on the wall. Damned fancy, that.”

I’ll be sure to let Wright know that his tiled soup can painting has been outdone. Perhaps he’ll agree to replace it.

…Christ! What’s wrong with me!? Am I seriously daydreaming about furnishings for that idiot!?

Miles rubbed his temple.

I am so far gone.

“Mr. Edgeworth?”

Miles snapped his attention back to the Judge. “Err… From his, let’s say, ‘apartment’, Mr. Esman witnessed something critical to the case, Your Honour.”

“Oho! Yes, bro, that I did!” Homer made a walking movement with his index and middle fingers. “Saw the murderer escape with my very own eyes!”

“That is very important, indeed!” the Judge agreed. “Please begin your testimony, witness.”

“Sure. It all began on a dark and stormy night with the wind howling in the trees…”

Objection!” Robert shouted, pointing at Homer. “Your Honour, I’ve read the weather report for that night and it was neither windy nor stormy, and there are definitely no trees behind the casino.”

Objection!” Miles retaliated. “The witness was merely setting a dramatic scene to display the facts in, Your Honour.”

Still, I wish he wouldn’t ad lib, for the sake of my health.

The Judge looked surprised. “Why, we haven’t even heard the rest of his testimony, Mr. Everett!”

Robert smirked and put a hand on his hip. “What’s the point of hearing the testimony if the witness has already proven himself a liar with the first couple of words?”

“Who’re you calling a liar, bro!?” Homer exclaimed. “I’m a storyteller; I have to make it interesting or I’ve failed in my one true calling!”

“Witness, I cannot tolerate any deviation from the truth, no matter how mundane it may seem compared to your fantastical stories,” the Judge scolded. “Objection sustained. You must tell the truth, and nothing else!”

Homer huffed and crossed his arms. “Fine. I’ll keep it short and sweet. I shall call it ‘The Tale of the Night Guard’!” He cleared his throat. “The story… err… testimony begins on a dark and blustery night where I was making a fire in Old Bessy so I could start my next show for my crowd of fans.”

I see that the ‘no deviation from the truth’ lasted for about two seconds…

“It got to 11:55 and I was making the last of my setups, as my shows start promptly on the hour. Suddenly, I felt a suspicious chill within me, despite the fire. I saw the back door of the casino fly open and out rushed a woman in such a hurry that she almost stumbled over several times down the alley. She had this evil aura surrounding her, blood red and flashing…” Homer flicked open a Zippo lighter and held it under his chin, taking the moment to do a dramatic pause. “Flashing like a light that really needs changing.”

If there was a simile of the year award, that would definitely get my vote.

“That certainly is… vague,” the Judge said, sounding a little bewildered. “Wait, how did the witness smuggle a lighter into the courtroom!? Bailiff! Remove that item immediately!”

The lighter was taken with a small protest from Homer.

Miles inwardly cringed. Why was it always his witnesses who caused trouble?

“So, witness,” the Judge continued, “who is this ‘Bessy’ character you mentioned? Why has she not come forward to give testimony?”

“Ah, but she has, bro.” Homer tapped the can strapped to his back with a grin. “Old Bessy is where I brew the fire for my shows. Need light to make a shadow show, you see.”

“Oh! Yes, naturally,” the Judge said with a nod, before turning to Robert. “Please begin your cross-examination, Mr. Everett.”

“Certainly,” Robert replied. “Actually, that whole story reminded me of this one time at football camp near San Diego. We got pretty wasted on the coach’s rum stash and somehow ended up in a back alley in Montreal.” He winced and adjusted his ascot. “That rum definitely had a bad aura.”

“Cool story, bro,” Homer commented. “We could totally do a collab on that gem. Get in touch if you want to share the details!”

Miles slammed a hand down on his desk before Robert could reply. “Objection! We are not here to tell fairytales, Mr. Everett.”

“Ah… Of course not, Mr. Edgeworth.” Robert cleared his throat. “So, Mr. Esman, you say you saw a woman running out the back door of the casino.” He grabbed the front of his desk. “However, you fail to say what she looked like.”

Homer pointed at the defendant. “That woman over there, of course.”

Robert fell backwards into the wall in surprise and the courtroom burst into a loud chatter, requiring the Judge to step in with his gavel. “Order! Order! Mr. Esman, this was probably the most crucial part of your testimony! Please add it in immediately!”

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure.” Homer twisted the chopstick in his hair. “The woman I saw looked like the defendant and was shrouded in an evil aura.”

Great, he sounds as confident as a cat in water.

“Hold it!” Robert shouted. “When you say ‘evil red aura’, what do you mean, exactly?”

“I can read auras, bro, and hers was intense. The front of her clothes was coated in it.”

“Just the front?”

Homer nodded. “Yep, I thought that was weird, too. I guess hers was too thin to spread all the way around her body.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Witness, this ‘aura’… Are you absolutely sure it wasn’t a bloodstain?”

Homer twisted his chopstick, apparently in thought. “Huh. Now that you mention it, yes, I guess it did look a lot like blood on her white casino uniform.”

I think what’s more confusing is how he got blood mixed up with spiritual energy…

Miles smirked and held his arms out wide as murmurings grew in the audience. “Well, I think that clears things up nicely, Mr. Evere--”

Objection!” Robert slammed both hands down on his desk and grinned back at him. “Mr. Esman, could you please repeat your last statement?”

Homer frowned. “Uh… It looked like there was blood on her casino uniform?”

Robert’s grin grew wider and he leaned further forward. “I think you’ll find a glaring contradiction here, Your Honour. My client doesn’t work at the casino; she’s the CEO of HDCriminals. Why would she be wearing a casino uniform?”

Objection!” Miles slammed a hand down on his desk. “Anyone could acquire a uniform from the staff room.”

“Then the woman the witness saw could have been anyone!” Robert retaliated. “How did he even recognise Ms. Gasket at such a dark hour?”

“Good question, bro,” Homer said, snickering. “I guess I just assumed it was her because she had the same hair colour and build.”

Miles flinched. “W-what!?”

“Are you saying that you didn’t see her face?” the Judge asked.

“Nah, I didn’t see that.”

Christ! Seriously!?

Homer twisted his chopstick thoughtfully. “I did see something that made me question her presence, though…”

The Judge’s eyes widened. “Please share with the court before we all lose track of where this maze of a testimony is leading.”

Homer nodded. “There was another female security guard with the same hair and build who came out of that very door only fifteen minutes earlier! I know, bro, that the shift changeover is every six hours. The only conclusion I can reach is that the second lady was actually an evil shadow spirit that had experienced a bit of lag.”

Objection!” Miles pointed at Homer. “The witness is talking nonsense, Your Honour. We have already established that the second woman was the defendant.”

Objection!” Robert cut in, fiddling with his tie. “Don’t be so hasty, Miles. What we have actually established is that there were two women who looked like my client. Even if Ms. Gasket was one of them, who’s to say which was which?”

Miles smirked and tapped his temple. “I was hoping you’d bring that up, Mr. Everett.” He picked up the security guard records from his desk. “It says here that the first guard had to leave early due to an unexpected illness and that she was replaced by an unnamed agency worker who was on duty until the murder.” Miles then picked up the disc containing the security footage. “Your Honour, I have here the footage from the casino’s security camera, if we could please take a look at it?”

The Judge nodded. “Absolutely, Mr. Edgeworth.”

Miles handed the disc to the bailiff, who immediately popped it into the court’s DVD player.

“Watch the security guard here,” Miles said as the footage started playing. “She’s going to leave the room in a moment. Pay close attention to her when she comes back.” After a few seconds, the guard was seen exiting the room, before reentering about a minute later. “Notice that the guard is wearing gloves and that a document can be seen in her pocket. She had neither of those a minute ago.”

The Judge’s eyes widened in surprise. “Why, Mr. Edgeworth, you are quite right!”

“If you look closely,” Miles continued, “you can see the name of the defendant’s company, HDCriminals, written on the file. And if you fast-forward a bit…” He grabbed the remote from his desk and skipped to the part he was looking for. “There. The guard clearly leaves the screen towards the slot machines a few minutes before Mr. Esman saw her leave the building with bloody clothes.” He hit his desk. “This security guard is obviously the murderer. And since she has a document with the HDCriminals logo on it, the obvious conclusion is that this guard is none other than the defendant, Ms. Naila Gasket!”

“Gah!” Robert fell backwards into the wall. “You remind me of this magician I met when I went to a bachelor party in Las Vegas. You really don’t want to know where she was hiding the key to the handcuffs…”

Miles flinched.

“Bro, I think that party trick would definitely increase my show’s popularity,” Homer commented with a snicker.

The Judge banged his gavel. “I feel as though this conversation might be falling into a bit of a hole…” He cleared his throat, cheeks blushing. “Mr. Everett, do you have any objections to the prosecution’s claim?”

Robert pondered for a moment. “Actually, Your Honour, I do. There is still no solid evidence that this woman was my client. Any security guard could have had a document with the HDCriminals logo on it, seeing as the company supplies cameras for the casino.”

…It’s true. I need something more conclusive than an unnamed security guard.

“Hold it!”

Miles looked over at Homer, who was pointing at Robert, obviously trying to imitate him.

“As long as the sun is shining in the sky-blue heavens, I shall see that truth will be avenged!” Homer proceeded to flick open another smuggled lighter, before placing it under his chin. “Like how WD-40 avenges the lost oil on a squeaky door.”

He’s outdone himself with that one…

“Bailiff, please remove that lighter and thoroughly frisk the witness!” the Judge interjected, looking alarmed.

After another dozen lighters were seized from his pockets, Homer was allowed to continue.

“Your Honour, ladies and gentlemen of the court,” he turned to face Miles, “and stick-in-the-muds.”

I don’t think I deserved that.

“I believe that I have the evidence you are all looking for!”

“Y-you do?” Robert said, sounding a bit worried.

In a dramatic fashion, Homer spun Old Bessy from around his back and started rummaging through it, pulling out random bits of half-burnt materials in his haste. One of them looked suspiciously like the remains of a wad of hundred-dollar notes, but Miles decided not to question it.

“Aha!” Homer pulled out a small, mostly burnt scrap of paper and held it above his head. “Behold, the evidence that will put the final screw in the cupboard!”

Doesn’t he mean ‘the final nail in the coffin’? Oh, I give up…

Everyone fell silent, presumably unimpressed.

“And what does this show, exactly?” Miles asked, arms crossed.

“The second security guard I saw dropped this piece of paper.” Homer snickered. “Well, it was a piece of paper before I used it to light the fire for my next show.”

“You… mmmmmghhh!” Miles clenched his fist. “Witness, did you just admit to burning critical evidence!?”

And Wright complains about the witnesses he has to put up with!?

“No sweat, bro. There’s still a logo and a bit of writing left on this baby.”

“This must be the document we saw in the video!” Miles pointed at the witness stand. “I request an immediate handwriting analysis, Your Honour.”

The Judge nodded. “Permission granted, Mr. Edgeworth. The court will take a twenty-minute recess for the prosecution to get the evidence analysed.” He banged his gavel. “Court is adjourned.”

As people in the gallery started getting up, Miles spotted Gumshoe and gave him a look, to which Gumshoe responded with a nod.

Don’t disappoint me, Detective.

Miles turned his attention to his notes and decided to go over them again to make sure he hadn’t missed anything important. Things seemed to be going in his favour, but he figured that he should be prepared in the event that his assumption turned out to be wrong.

Before he knew it, Gumshoe was back with the results.

“You were right, sir!” he exclaimed, handing him a piece of paper. “Everything on the document was written by the defendant!”

I knew it.

“Thank you, Detective.”

“You’re welcome, sir!” Gumshoe bowed his head, beaming, before heading back to his seat in the gallery.

Now I just have to hope for no more surprises.

A few minutes later, everyone was back and ready to continue.

“The court will now reconvene for the trial of Ms. Naila Gasket.” The Judge banged his gavel. “Mr. Edgeworth, does the prosecution have the results of the handwriting analysis?”

“Yes, Your Honour,” Miles replied, before sending a smirk Robert’s way. “As I suspected, it says here that the handwriting does indeed belong to the defendant, which means that she was the one who dropped the document in her haste after killing the victim!”

Whispers in the audience grew as Robert’s face fell.

“Order! Order in the court!” The Judge banged his gavel a few times. “Well, I believe that I have seen enough evidence to show that the defendant was the true murde--”

Objection! Objection, objection!” Robert yelled, pummelling his desk in time with his protests.

He doesn’t give up, I’ll give him that.

The Judge blinked. “You have an objection, Mr. Everett?”

“Your Honour,” Robert began, having apparently calmed down from his outburst. “All the evidence is circumstantial! My client is the CEO of HDCriminals; her handwriting could be on any document! Plus, I think the court has forgotten the fact that Ms. Gasket has an alibi.”

I was wondering when he’d bring that one up…

“An alibi?” the Judge questioned, before it seemed to click. “Ah, of course! Mr. Edgeworth, what do you have to say about this forgettable alibi?”

Miles crossed his arms. “I agree with the defence. This matter needs further questioning from the court.”

“See?” Robert said smugly, gesturing at the prosecution bench. “Thanks, Miles.”

I wish he’d stop calling me that in here…

“I would not be saying that quite yet, Mr. Everett,” Miles replied. “But indeed, the prosecution would like to call Mr. Kenny Ogden, the witness for Ms. Gasket’s alibi.”

The Judge nodded. “Very well. Let the witness, Mr. Ogden, take the stand.”

Kenny Ogden was a very tall and burly man who, if the sheen of his skin was anything to go by, seemed to have a slight obsession with body oil. His hair was shaved and he had a dark horseshoe moustache that contrasted with his goatee, which had obviously been bleached. He was wearing a pair of jeans that had holes at the knees and a black tank top with the word ‘Pain’ written on the front. Around his waist, he sported what looked like a championship belt, and on his wrists were red sweatbands that matched his elbow pads. With his thick eyebrows, that had been shaved in a tick shape, he certainly projected an intimidating aura.

“Witness, could you please state your name and occupation for the court?”

Crossing his arms, Kenny simply stared back at Miles, eyes wide.

“Witness, your name and occupation,” Miles prompted again.

“K.O. needs no introduction.” Kenny raised a hand up, fingers splayed. “K.O. is five-time, five-time, LAWF champion!”

“Law F? I’ve never heard of that law before!” the Judge said, bewildered.

“No, pops,” Kenny boomed, flexing his biceps. “L.A. Wrestling Federation.”

“Ah, that does clear things up,” the Judge replied, before frowning. “But it says here that we should be talking to a Mr. Kenny Ogden, a security guard at the casino?”

“If I may, Your Honour,” Miles spoke up, producing a document. “This is Mr. Kenny Ogden, and he does work as a security guard at Lucky 13 Casino--”

“Watch it, frilly!” Kenny grabbed hold of the stand, ripped a piece of wood off the top and lifted it up into the air, much to the amazement of the crowd. “K.O. uses the Wood Smash on homies who spill his secrets!”

Why is it always the cravat they pick on!? Do these people not understand style?

“As you’ve probably guessed,” Miles continued, unfazed by Kenny’s threat, “Mr. Ogden is also a wrestler in a small local league, where he goes under the pseudonym of K.O.”

I didn’t think anything could beat ‘travelling shadow puppeteer’.

Obviously, I was wrong.

“Mr. Ogd… err, K.O.,” Robert began, looking slightly bemused, “could you please inform the court on the topic of Ms. Gasket’s alibi? Specifically where you were and at what time?”

“You got it, suits,” Kenny spread his arms out wide. “When K.O. testifies, he testifies on another level, a God-honest-no-messin’ level!”

If we’re talking about the basement level, then I quite agree.

“At 11 P.M., K.O. and his girl Naila over here were chilling in the staff room at the casino. She has the best, and that is the best, advice on K.O.’s sweet moves. But then, it’s like, bam! Some underling comes in saying there’s been a murder on the floor! So K.O. psyches himself up and checks out the scene, but that was the first time Naila was out of his eyeshot. She was in that staff room the whole time!”

“I think that provides a very conclusive alibi from a respectable source,” Robert summed up. “The defence has no objections.”

Of course you don’t.

“At first glance, it might seem like a solid alibi,” Miles conceded, “but I would like to ask about a separate incident from that night.”

“What’s that, frills?” Kenny asked, pointing the piece of wood in Miles’ direction.

“I would like to know about this guard who had to be replaced. Seeing as you’re the head of security, I believe it’s safe to assume you would know the details of what happened.”

Objection! I don’t believe that the guards on duty are relevant to the alibi, Your Honour,” Robert spoke up, possibly understanding the implications of Miles’ question.

Objection!” Miles tapped his temple. “There is more to this murder than the evidence supplied so far, Your Honour, and it is our duty to look into every possibility.”

The Judge closed his eyes. “Hmm. I do believe there are several things that need clearing up regarding the case as a whole.” He opened his eyes and nodded. “Please answer the question, witness.”

Kenny shrugged. “Don’t know why you homies want to know about that. One of the underlings came into the office spewing puke everywhere, so K.O. rose to the challenge and sent her home while securing a last-minute replacement.”

“And who was this replacement, Mr. Odgen?” Miles probed.

Kenny pulled a face and smashed a fist down on the witness stand, sending the piece of wood he broke off clattering to the floor. “That ain’t got no bearing on the case, frills!”

Miles slammed a hand down on his desk, not making the wood shudder in quite the same way. “It was Naila Gasket, wasn’t it?” He pointed at Kenny. “You switched the previous guard with the defendant, meaning she was not in the staff room at the time of the murder!”

Kenny let out a roar and stared menacingly at Miles, eyes wide.

“Witness, is this true!?” the Judge exclaimed.

Kenny hung his head. “Yes, it’s true, pops,” he admitted, before sending Miles a glare. “K.O. asks for permission to use the Face Raper to put frills back in his place!”

The Judge blinked. “I’m afraid I cannot grant that request, K.O.”

Kenny huffed. “Consider yourself lucky, frills! You’d tap out in two seconds!”

Finally, we’re getting there.

If people just told the truth, my job would be a lot easier.

Miles paused on that thought.

The truth…

Maybe he could understand those witnesses to a degree; sometimes the truth was difficult to come to terms with.

But no matter how hard it is, surely it always needs to be heard?

…I suppose this means I should tell him?

“Mr. Edgeworth?”

Miles snapped his head up, caught unawares. “Th-the prosecution alleges that Ms. Gasket knew of these plans to switch places with the other guard.”

Gah! I can’t keep spacing out like this in the middle of court!

Objection!” Robert grabbed the front of his desk. “How could the defendant have known such a thing? That’s a ridiculous claim!”

Objection! I have evidence, Your Honour.” Miles reached into his briefcase and took out the bottle of ipecac syrup, before holding it up to show the court. “This bottle was found in Ms. Gasket’s office. It contains ipecac syrup, an emetic no longer recommended for medical use. This is what was used to induce sickness in the other guard!”

“So what!?” Kenny shouted on top of the growing chatter. “Who cares if K.O.’s lady wanted to be on guard duty that night!? Don’t make Naila out to be a murderer because of it!”

“Order! Order!” The Judge banged his gavel a few times, before looking across at Robert. “Mr. Everett, does the defence have any objections regarding this new information?”

“Yes!” Robert answered confidently, before his face fell. “But… erm… this is kind of embarrassing…” He chuckled nervously and fiddled with his tie.

The Judge blinked. “What’s embarrassing, Mr. Everett?”

“I’m going to present the crime scene photo to the court,” Robert replied, loosening his tie slightly. “However, the last time I did that, I threw up all over the defence desk.”

The Judge nodded in sympathy. “It’s very unfortunate to be haemophobic in this line of work.”

“Ah, but that wasn’t the only problem,” Robert confessed. “I’d drank too much the night before while trying to beat a lead at blackjack in order to secure some evidence.” He looked pensive for a moment. “Yeah… that’s when I decided to take a break from murder cases for a while. Seven years, in fact! Only took this case ‘cause no one else would, and I recognised the prosecutor as a decent guy.” He gave Miles a sly wink.

How I wish I could reciprocate those feelings…

“What do you wish to show us in this photo?” Miles asked, arms crossed.

“Here.” Robert briefly glanced at the photo and pointed at the necklace in the victim’s hand. “The prosecution has yet to explain how Ms. Gasket could have had time to plant the necklace on the body before it was discovered. You were the one who proved that Ms. Dinduet was still wearing her necklace after the murder occurred, Mr. Edgeworth.”

The audience murmured in agreement, forcing the Judge to bang his gavel a couple of times.

Miles smirked and shook his head. “Mr. Everett, you bring up a very good point.” He gestured over at Kenny. “I’m sure you’d like to enlighten the court on this matter, Mr. Ogden?”

“K.O. says ‘no comment’.” Kenny lowered his head and twiddled his thumbs.

“Come now, Mr. Ogden, this is not one of your shows; you are in a court of law,” Miles rebuked. “Ms. Dinduet told me that you met her that night before the police arrived. She was in the restaurant next door, after all.”

Kenny punched a fist into his other hand. “Are you asking for the Pummel Horse, frills!? That’s what happens to homies who go around accusing K.O. of shit he didn’t do!”

“I also know that Ms. Gasket made you fix the security camera before she met with the victim,” Miles continued, unfazed, before pulling out a document. “These are HDCriminal’s earnings for the year. It’s very clear that the company is currently losing money. This, I am informed, is due to a defect in the new cameras they released, which prevents the turning mechanism from being controlled.” Miles reshuffled his evidence pile and presented a second document. “Here, in the security records, two days before the murder, we can clearly see that you worked a double shift. This would have given you enough time to fix the camera so you could make it stop rotating before the murder!”

Silence from the defence desk was always a good sign; Robert stared blankly at him, looking completely at a loss.

“You certainly have done a thorough job, as usual, Mr. Edgeworth,” the Judge chimed in, seemingly impressed.

“Thank you, Your Honour,” Miles replied, taking a small bow.

Kenny banged the witness stand, sending another piece of wood flying. “K.O. calls you out on your scheming ways, frilly! K.O. challenges you to a one-on-one, no-holds-barred…”

Hardcore wrestling match, with the Judge as referee…?

“…motive declaration!”

Ah.

Miles crossed his arms and tapped his finger. “I have already shown exactly how the murder was carried out, Mr. Ogden. What need do we have for a motive?”

Objection!” Robert intervened, picking up on Kenny’s last lifeline. “Motive is of a very high importance, especially in a premeditated murder! I think you’re forgetting that the defendant and the victim were once in a relationship, and I have proof that they were still on good terms with each other.” He pulled out a pile of documents and flicked through them. “I have here a series of emails exchanged between the defendant and the victim. It’s clear from reading them that they were friends.”

It’s true, none of those emails contained anything incriminating…

“That’s right, suits! K.O. can testify that his lady and the dead one were still talking good. They had nothing to hide!”

…Nothing to hide?

“Why, that is some very important information, Mr. Everett!” the Judge exclaimed. “I don’t see why the defendant would have wanted to kill Mr. Male if they were such good friends!”

No, it’s true, there must have been a motive…

…And I think I know where to look for it.

Miles hit his desk. “Mr. Ogden, could I please get you to repeat your last statement for the court?”

“Naila and Blake were still friends and they had nothing to hide, frills! So how do you like that!?”

“I like that very much,” Miles said, throwing the curve ball. “Your Honour, I have in my possession a photo of the defendant and the victim.” Flipping the photo over, he held it up to show the court. “Here, on the back, is a string of letters and numbers that looks like a code of some sort. The prosecution was unsure of its significance, but I now have reason to believe that it is the key to finding the true meaning behind those innocuous-looking emails. If an IT expert were to examine them, I am convinced that they would find the motive we’re looking for.”

“Noooo!” Kenny’s eyes bulged and he crumpled onto the witness stand, taking out the top of the stand in one fell swoop. “Where did you find that!?”

Miles tapped his temple. “It was found in a hidden drawer in Ms. Gasket’s desk.” He smirked. “It looks like the defendant did have something to hide, after all.”

“Mr. Edgeworth!” the Judge cut in, wide-eyed. “Please take that code and have the emails examined at once!”

“Right away, Your Honour.”

Gumshoe ran over to pick up the picture and quickly left the courtroom, promising to be back in a few minutes.

Surprisingly, Robert didn’t seem too down about the turn the case had taken. If anything, he looked relieved and seemed ready to pack up his belongings, the fight having obviously left him.

A moment later, Gumshoe re-emerged with the results and handed them over.

Miles couldn’t help but smirk as he read the contents of the emails.

“Well, Mr. Edgeworth?” the Judge prodded. “Don’t leave us hanging!”

“Your Honour, it looks as though Mr. Male was blackmailing Ms. Gasket with some evidence of her former drug addiction. In response, she arranged to meet up with him to hand over the assets of her company, HDCriminals.”

“Unbelievable!” the Judge exclaimed. “How did this get deciphered, Mr. Edgeworth?”

Miles tapped the sheet. “Apparently, the real messages were hidden in the emails’ HTML source. A quick search of the code brought up the messages in question.”

“I see,” the Judge said with a nod. “Well, I believe I’m about ready to hand down my verdict. Bailiff, please let the defendant take the stand.”

Naila Gasket, a petite, elegant woman, walked up to the stand, quiet and despondent. She seemed to have dressed up for the occasion as she was wearing a red and white silk sari decorated with golden sequins. “Your Honour, I’d like to… confess.”

“No, Naila!” Kenny shouted, his tough-guy persona crumbling at the sight of her, tears already rolling down his face. “I know you didn’t mean to kill him!”

Naila closed her eyes and looked away. “It’s true; that was not my first intention. I arranged the meeting in a public place to protect myself, and the disguise and camera manipulation were so he wouldn’t have evidence of our exchange.”

“So you traded your business for the blackmail material?” Miles asked.

“Yes. It should have ended there, but after telling me that he had more evidence hidden somewhere, Blake said that he was going to liquidise the assets.” Naila looked up at Miles. “I couldn’t let him ruin all my hard work, so I… I took my penknife and… I don’t know what came over me. Next thing I know, Kenny is telling me that he took care of everything and that I’m going to be fine.” She turned away again. “I’m sorry, Kenny. You’ve been such a good friend to me…”

Kenny’s bottom lip wobbled. “Naila, my lady!”

The Judge cleared his throat and Miles caught sight of Robert wiping his eye with his sleeve as he turned away.

Miles crossed his arms. “I assume the reason you broke into Ms. Dinduet’s apartment two days later was to steal the rest of the blackmail material that Mr. Male mentioned?”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Naila answered. “I couldn’t find anything at Blake’s apartment, so I decided to check her place. I didn’t mean her any harm… I didn’t think she’d be home so early.”

“I see…” Miles replied.

“Well, I believe this puts an end to proceedings,” the Judge spoke up, his voice wavering slightly. “The court finds the defendant, Ms. Naila Gasket, guilty on the count of murder.” He banged his gavel, before turning to Kenny. “As for you, Mr. Ogden, I hope you realise that trying to conceal a crime is a serious offense, for which you will be tried later this week.”

“I understand, Your Honour,” Kenny replied dejectedly.

The Judge nodded and banged his gavel. “Court is adjourned.”

As people started leaving, Miles noticed that the courtroom was a lot quieter than it usually is after the proceedings.

People are too quick to sympathise. It’s not as if it was an accident.

Whether or not she regrets it, she’s still a murderer.

He picked up his briefcase and started putting his documents away. The thought that he wouldn’t have to deal with this case anymore made him feel a little better.

I have enough to worry about as it is…

Sighing, he put the last document on top of the others and closed the briefcase, before setting off towards the exit. He found himself thankful that most people had already left the courtroom – his personal space being invaded was the last thing he needed at the moment.

I let one person in and this is where it lands me.

I should have known better.

He took a left in the hallway and looked at his watch. 11:53. At least the trial had gone faster than he thought it would.

I suppose I should thank Ogden for practically handing me the last piece of the puzzle.

Miles smirked at the thought and looked back up as he approached the prosecution lobby.

He froze.

Wright was standing near the door, staring right at him.

Christ, I don’t need this right now! What is he doing here!?

Phoenix laughed and walked up to him. “What’s wrong, Edgeworth? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

A ghost sounds like a rather pleasant sight at the moment.

“What do you want?” Miles asked, a bit too harshly.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “Someone’s in a bad mood.”

Shit. I’ve been over this. I have to act normally.

“Sorry. I’m just--”

“If I did half as well as you did in there, I’d be out celebrating right now.”

Miles blinked. “You watched the trial?”

“Well, yeah.” Phoenix shrugged. “I got curious after what we found yesterday. Wanted to see how things would turn out.”

“…I see.”

Fair enough. He did find that photo, after all.

A smirk appeared on Phoenix’s face. “Looks like I saved your ass again.”

Miles rolled his eyes.

I should have seen that one coming.

“Don’t get too proud. I still would have found that photo had you not been there.”

Phoenix chuckled. “Yeah, sure.” He shook his head. “So… how much paperwork are you looking at?”

“I’m not sure yet. I have to get back to the office and go over everything.”

Phoenix nodded. “Well, in any case, you’re taking a break on Thursday night.”

Miles frowned. “What are you talking about?”

“I made a phone call last night,” Phoenix replied, his smirk turning into an actual smile. “I managed to get two tickets for the premiere of the Steel Samurai movie on Thursday!”

Miles’ eyes widened. He opened his mouth to speak, but words failed him.

What is he…?

Phoenix laughed. “Wow, I knew you’d be happy, but speechless? Man, I’m good!”

Miles stared at Phoenix for a moment, confused.

Is this… an apology for last night?

No, it can’t be. He has nothing to apologise for. I’m the one who stupidly started believing in something that didn’t exist, and then--

Miles winced at the thought. He had been so close to telling Wright how he felt, somehow convinced that his feelings were reciprocated, only to be brought back to reality by a simple comment. How could he have been so stupid?

On the other hand, he couldn’t possibly have imagined everything. Had Wright been giving him all the wrong signals without realising? He didn’t know what to think anymore.

“…Edgeworth?”

Miles snapped out of his thoughts and focused on Phoenix again. “Look, Wright…”

How do I say this?

He sighed. “This isn’t right.”

Phoenix frowned. “What do you--”

“Well, look who it is!” a familiar voice interrupted from behind.

Miles turned around to see Robert walking up to them.

Christ. Why now!?

“Hi, Mr. Everett,” Phoenix called out, obviously trying too hard to sound enthusiastic.

“Please, call me Rob,” Robert said with a smile. “I mean, we’re practically family now.”

Miles raised an eyebrow. “Family?”

Robert chuckled. “Well, we did spend a whole night drinking together.”

That’s… an interesting definition.

“Miles didn’t actually drink anything, though,” Phoenix commented with a smirk.

“Such a responsible young man,” Robert said, patting Miles on the shoulder, before turning to Phoenix. “You’re so lucky! You can drink as much as you want without ever worrying about not being able to drive home.”

…Is drinking all this man ever thinks about?

Phoenix laughed. “Yeah, it’s nice to have my own personal chauffeur.”

Miles sent him a disapproving look.

Phoenix grinned and cleared his throat. “So, err… I didn’t know you were a defence attorney.”

Robert frowned. “Didn’t I mention it at the party?” He shook his head, as if to answer his own question. “I must have been too drunk.”

I wouldn’t have guessed.

“You know,” Robert continued, “I’m kinda the reason Kath became a lawyer in the first place.”

“Is that so?” Miles said flatly.

Robert smiled proudly. “She’s just a few months older than the twins so she used to come over to play with them as a kid. But then she’d get into fights with them and come watch TV with me in the living room.” He chuckled. “There was this really good legal drama I watched at the time and she got really into it.”

“But…” Phoenix paused. “If you’re a defence attorney, why did she become a prosecutor?”

“Ah, that’s an easy one,” Robert said with a nod. “One of her friends was being threatened by this guy, you see. He got arrested and put in jail, and then Kath couldn’t stop talking about how much she admired the prosecutor for putting that criminal behind bars.”

So, in other words, you had absolutely nothing to do with her career choice.

Phoenix gave Miles a sideways glance and smirked. “Speaking of Kath, she’s going to Italy soon, right?”

“Yes, she’s leaving on the 18th,” Robert replied. “Assuming she doesn’t party all weekend and miss her flight on Monday morning.” He laughed.

“That’s… in two weeks,” Phoenix stated.

Robert nodded. “Yeah, she’s really excited. Although…” He turned to Miles. “She seemed a lot more eager to leave before she started talking about you, if you know what I mean.”

Miles flinched, making Phoenix burst into laughter.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Robert added with a smile. “I’m sure she’ll get over you as soon as she gets to Italy.”

“She better,” Phoenix said teasingly. He made a move as if to grab Miles’ arm, but seemed to catch himself at the last second, lifting his hand up to rub the back of his neck instead.

Miles glared at him.

What do you think you’re doing!?

“Must be hard,” Robert commented.

Miles turned back to him. “Pardon?”

“Having to hide your feelings like that.”

…You have no idea.

“You saw that, huh?” Phoenix said sheepishly.

Robert smiled. “Don’t worry. Your secret’s safe with me.”

“Thank you,” Phoenix replied. He took a glance at Miles and seemed to notice his discomfort. “So, um… Why is Kath going to Italy, anyways?”

“She’s been wanting to learn Italian for a long time. She was always impressed whenever she heard me speak it on the phone.”

Phoenix’s eyes widened. “You speak Italian?”

“Of course!” Robert answered cheerfully. “I moved to Italy after I got my attorney’s badge back in ‘88.” He let out a sigh. “Can you believe it’s already been thirty years? Time sure flies!”

Phoenix chuckled. “Yeah, that’s what I hear. Did you live there for a long time?”

“Just short of five years. I wasn’t planning on staying that long, but things got… complicated.”

“Complicated?”

Please, Wright… Why do you feel the need to encourage him?

“Well… I originally went to study their legal system, so I thought I’d be there for about a year, but then I met this girl…” Robert paused, looking wistful. “She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. And, of course, I was young and stupid at the time, so, one night, I drank too much and… well… Tonio happened.”

Miles blinked.

Tell me he didn’t just say that.

“Right. Tonio,” Phoenix said, failing to mask the uneasiness in his voice. “One of your daughters mentioned him at the party.”

“Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, though. He may have been an accident, but he’s still a great kid.”

Please. Stop talking.

Phoenix probably didn’t trust himself to speak at this point as he simply nodded in response.

Robert laughed. “You guys are lucky! No matter how much you drink, you don’t have to worry about that.”

Phoenix glanced at Miles and chuckled nervously. “Yeah…”

“Anyways…” Robert looked at his watch. “I won’t keep you any longer; I’m sure you’re both busy.”

“Indeed,” Miles said dryly.

“I’ll see you two around!” Robert bowed his head slightly, then disappeared into the defendant lobby.

As soon as the door closed, Miles let out a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding.

I guess it’s a family thing.

“Well, that was awkward,” Phoenix commented.

Miles turned to him and simply nodded in response.

Phoenix managed a weak smile, before lowering his gaze. “Sorry about before. I forgot where we were for a second.”

Miles sighed. “This is getting out of hand.”

Phoenix looked back up and frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Not here,” Miles replied, shaking his head. He pointed at the door behind him. “Let me get my things and we can talk outside.”

Phoenix gave him a weird look. “…Alright.”

Turning around, Miles entered the prosecution lobby and closed the door behind him.

“Hey, sir!” Gumshoe greeted cheerfully. “Great job today, as usual!”

I almost forgot he was here…

“Thank you, Detective,” Miles replied, walking over to the couch.

Gumshoe’s smile suddenly faded and he let out a sigh. “I can’t help but feel bad for that woman, though. She really didn’t mean to kill him.”

Miles frowned. “It doesn’t change the fact that she did. And her friend tried to pin the murder on an innocent woman.”

Gumshoe seemed to ponder for a moment, before smiling again. “You’re right, sir. I’m glad we uncovered the truth! I didn’t rummage through all that garbage for nothing!”

Why does he keep bringing that up like it’s something to brag about?

“Indeed,” Miles said, sitting down. He opened his briefcase and started putting away the unneeded evidence he had left on the table before court. He looked up at Gumshoe. “Detective, could you get the paperwork sent to my office? I have to… take care of something.”

“Sure thing, sir!”

Miles nodded and put the last piece of evidence away, before closing the briefcase and getting back up. He walked over to the door and paused with his hand on the knob.

I can do this.

“I’ll see you later, Detective.”

“Have a good lunch, sir.”

Taking a deep breath, Miles left the lobby and turned towards the exit, motioning for Phoenix to follow him.

“So what did you mean by--”

“Not here, Wright.”

Phoenix looked over his shoulder. “But there’s no one around.”

Miles ignored him and they continued in silence until the exit. As they stepped out, Phoenix chuckled slightly.

Miles looked at him and frowned.

“Sorry,” Phoenix said sheepishly. “I just had a big déjà vu. Which reminds me… I still have your umbrella.”

I’d completely forgotten about that…

But if I ask him to give it back, he’ll use that as an excuse for us to spend time together.

“Keep it,” Miles replied as they reached the parking lot.

Phoenix raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Miles shrugged. “I have several.”

“…Are you sure?” Phoenix looked perplexed. “I could bring it on Thursday when--”

“I’m not going to that movie with you.”

Phoenix blinked. “What? But you’re the one who wanted to go!”

“I never said that.”

“Maybe not, but I saw you look at that poster on Saturday, and you seemed pretty enthusiastic when I asked you if you wanted to go.”

Miles stopped and turned to face Phoenix. “Look, Wright.” He paused, choosing his words carefully. “It’s not that I don’t want to go, but as things stand, I can’t.”

Phoenix frowned. “But you said you didn’t know about your paperwork yet.”

“It’s not that.”

“Then what is it?”

Miles lowered his eyes.

Now what? I can’t exactly tell him outright.

This seemed a lot easier last night… before Wright made me realise that I was delusional.

“Edgeworth? Is something wrong?”

Miles looked back up at him and sighed. “Yes.”

Phoenix seemed slightly taken aback. “I think this is the first time I’ve gotten a straight answer out of you.”

…I think you’ll find that my answer is anything but straight.

Miles took in a deep breath. This was going to be difficult. “Look. As much as I’d like to go see that movie with you, it’s not right.”

Phoenix scowled. “What do you mean it’s not right?”

“I mean that this whole thing is getting out of hand. Pretending is one thing, but when you start subconsciously grabbing my arm, there’s a problem.”

“That wasn’t subconscious!” Phoenix protested. “I just forgot we were in the Courthouse.”

And I suppose you forgot we were at your apartment when you put your hand on my back last night?

“I disagree.”

Phoenix snorted. “You can’t just disagree! I knew what I was doing.”

“Sure you did,” Miles replied dryly, before setting off again.

“Wait!” Phoenix jogged up to him and grabbed his shoulder, making him turn. “Why are you being like this?” He looked at him expectantly for a moment, before sighing at the lack of response. “When you called me yesterday, I thought you’d finally realised that spending time with friends instead of working all the time wasn’t so bad. Do you have any idea how happy that made me?”

A strong feeling of guilt suddenly rose within Miles. It wasn’t Wright’s fault that Miles had stupidly fallen for him and he didn’t deserve to have his feelings hurt like this.

“I’m sorry.”

Phoenix scoffed. “For what? Making up excuses not to spend time with me?”

Miles let out a sigh. “I’m not making anything up.”

I wish I were.

“Then why won’t you go to that movie with me?”

“Because friends don’t go to movies together, Wright!” Miles snapped. “They don’t spend hours together for no reason, and they definitely don’t go out for coffee and have the barista believe that they are dating!”

Phoenix stared at him for a moment. “Edgeworth, what’s going on?”

Miles looked away.

I guess now is the time to come clean.

I don’t really have a choice after what I just said.

He turned back to Phoenix, who was still staring at him, waiting for an answer.

…But I can’t tell him. It would only make things awkward.

I don’t want to ruin everything after he’s spent so much time trying to mend our friendship.

I’ll just have to avoid him until I can keep my feelings in check.

“I just… need some time to clear my head,” Miles replied. “This situation has affected us more deeply than you realise.”

“Us?” Phoenix scoffed. “Fine, I’ll leave you alone.” He turned and started walking towards the bus stop, visibly upset.

I can’t just let him leave like this.

“Wait,” Miles called out.

Phoenix stopped, but didn’t turn around.

Miles walked up to him and went to put a hand on his shoulder, but stopped himself. He needed to stay detached. “Please don’t take this the wrong way. I just need to figure some things out on my own.”

Phoenix spun around. “You mean like the time you disappeared for a whole year because you needed to ‘figure out what it meant to be a prosecutor’? What is it this time? You need to figure out what it means to have friends?” He shook his head. “How long is that gonna be? Another year? Why does everything always have to be so fucking dramatic with you!?”

Miles looked down sheepishly. “That’s not--”

“It’s fine, I get it,” Phoenix cut in sharply. “I’m interfering with your work time. I guess I’ll just… go hang out with Larry.” He turned to leave again, before adding over his shoulder, “At least he appreciates my company.”

Miles felt his jaw tighten as he watched Phoenix walk off.

You’ve got it all backwards.

If only I could appreciate it less.

He set off towards his car, wishing the conversation had gone better. But no matter what excuse he’d come up with, the outcome would have been the same, and telling the truth would have been even worse.

At least avoiding Wright shouldn’t be a problem now.

Reaching his car, he quickly unlocked the door and slid into his seat, before letting out a long, exasperated sigh. To think that when he first met Wright again, he thought that his feelings were difficult to deal with.

Unnecessary feelings? I was such a fool.

Chapter Text

Phoenix sighed as he glanced at the timer in the corner of the Minesweeper window, which had just reached 999 seconds. Again.

How did I manage 356 seconds before!? This is bullshit!

Drumming his fingers against the desk, he started a new game and clicked on a random square, only to find a mine.

“That’s it! I give up!” he exclaimed, throwing himself back in his chair. He glared at the message on the screen, which read ‘Better luck next time!’, before leaning his head back to stare at the ceiling.

He sighed loudly.

Stupid Edgeworth…

Why couldn’t he get him out of his head? It had been almost twenty-four hours.

“I just need to figure some things out on my own.”

“What does that even mean!?” Phoenix grumbled, rubbing his forehead.

I thought he was making progress…

I guess I was wrong.

He leaned forward onto his desk and picked up a pen. He twirled it between his fingers a few times, before dropping it.

Maybe it’s my fault… Was I pushing him too much?

…But he’s the one who called me on Sunday.

He sighed again. “This doesn’t make any sense.”

“Who are you talking to?”

Phoenix looked up to see Maya standing in the doorway, eyebrow raised. He hadn’t heard the door open.

“Just thinking out loud,” he replied dismissively, sitting back straight.

Maya smirked. “What were you thinking about?” she asked as she made her way towards the desk.

Phoenix shook his head. “It’s not important. What did you want?”

“Hey! Just because I come in here doesn’t mean I want something!” Maya protested, pouting.

Phoenix gave her an unimpressed look.

“Okay, okay, you’ve got me! It’s eleven thirty so I thou--”

“How much do you want?” Phoenix asked, reaching for his wallet.

“Actually, since Pearly’s here, I thought we could all go out for lunch,” Maya said with a smile. “It’s been ages since we all went out together and it’d make her really happy.”

Phoenix blinked. “Oh.”

I guess it’s better than staying here thinking about Edgeworth.

“Let’s go,” he said, getting up.

Maya’s eyes widened. “Wow, that was easy. I was expecting you to pretend we have work to do.”

Phoenix sent her a glare.

“What? It’s true!” Maya insisted. “You haven’t taken a real case since March!”

“That’s not true! I’ve had plenty of clients since then!”

Maya raised her eyebrows. “Candy thieves don’t count, Nick.”

“They weren’t thieves!” Phoenix retorted. “They didn’t steal anything!”

“Whatever, Nick,” Maya replied, waving a hand. “The point is, you sit here all day doing nothing. It’s not like I’m going to get kidnapped every time you take a case, you know.”

Phoenix sighed. “I know that.”

“Then what are you waiting for?”

“A client I can trust,” Phoenix answered truthfully.

She has a point, though. That case has made me kind of paranoid…

Maya rolled her eyes. “Fine, whatever.” She spun around and threw a fist in the air. “Let’s go eat!”

Phoenix followed her to the reception area, where Pearl was sitting on the couch, reading a book.

“What are you reading, Pearls?” Phoenix asked, leaning towards her.

Pearl looked up at him and smiled. “Mystic Maya got it for me,” she said proudly, lifting the book so he could see the cover. “It’s called the Steel Summer Eye.”

Maya chuckled. “It’s ‘Samurai’, Pearly.”

Phoenix turned to her and raised an eyebrow.

“What!?” Maya snapped, staring back at him.

You know what.

“Isn’t she a bit young for you to start brainwashing her?”

“I’m not brainwashing her!” Maya protested. “I’m just showing her cool stuff a kid her age should know about.”

Phoenix smirked. “And what does that make you?”

“Shut up, Nick!” Maya grumbled, crossing her arms. “It just means I’m not an old fart like you!”

“Please stop fighting!” Pearl cut in, looking at them with sad eyes. “You shouldn’t fight with your special someone.”

Maya gave Phoenix a look, before sitting down next to Pearl. “We weren’t fighting, Pearly. We were just discussing how cool the Steel Samurai is.”

Sure…

Pearl looked up at Phoenix, then back at Maya, a confused expression on her face.

Shaking his head, Phoenix sat down on the other side of her. “Hey, Pearls, what do you say we all go have lunch together?”

Pearl’s eyes lit up. “Really, Mr. Nick?”

Phoenix nodded.

Closing her comic book, Pearl gave him a hug and hopped off the couch. She walked over to the reception desk and put her book down, before turning around, looking concerned.

“What if people come by while we’re gone?” she asked, glancing at the appointment book.

“It’s fine, Pearls,” Phoenix replied, getting up. “People can wait a couple hours.”

“Are you sure?”

Why do I get the feeling that Maya’s been saying things about me?

“Yes, don’t worry,” Phoenix said with a smile, ushering her towards the door.

“Yay! Let’s go!” Maya exclaimed, jumping off the couch. She ran to the door and yanked it open. “Follow me!”

You’d think she was the one who’s nine years old…

“Where are we going?” Phoenix asked, though he was pretty sure he already knew the answer.

“Mr. Patty, of course!” Maya said, clapping her hands. “Pearly’s never been and I’m sure she’ll love it.”

Phoenix nodded. “Alright.”

Maya quickly grabbed Pearl’s hand and dragged her into the hallway, before turning to Phoenix. “We’ll wait for you outside. Don’t be slow!”

Rolling his eyes, Phoenix grabbed the ‘Out to lunch’ sign as Maya and Pearl ran off and slid it in front of the ‘Open’ sign in the door window. He walked out and grabbed his keys to lock the door, but paused when his eyes fell on the sign.

I was gonna show him another good place after the trial yesterday, but…

“Damn it!”

Maya and Pearl had almost managed to make him forget about Edgeworth. Almost.

---

Phoenix stared down at the laminated card in his hand, not really reading what was on it. The word ‘burger’ stood out, but everything else on the menu could have been written in Swahili as far as he was concerned.

I can’t concentrate on this stupid thing.

He narrowed his eyes in an attempt to focus on the text.

Maybe it’s a good thing he doesn’t want to spend time with me. Now I can eat all the burgers I want without his smarmy comments and fancy food critique.

Phoenix pictured Edgeworth eating caviar at a massive table with only a butler for company. He scowled and brought the menu closer to his face.

I bet he doesn’t even let his butler spend any time with him. I bet he tells him to wait outside while he eats.

‘Cause he totally has a butler. Bet he has a maid, too.

Stupid Edgeworth.

“Nick, you’ve been reading that for ages now,” Maya complained, snapping him out of his thoughts.

He put the menu down and glanced over at her. “Err, well… That’s because I can’t decide; they all look good.”

Actually, they all look like crap on these pictures. Edgeworth would have a field day…

Phoenix mentally kicked himself.

Go away, I’m trying to have fun!

“Hurry up! Even Pearly has chosen what she wants, and I’m hungry!”

Pearl smiled at him and pointed down at her menu. “I’m getting the chicken nuggets, Mr. Nick. Why don’t you get the same? Mystic Maya told me that they shape them like diny-o-saurs!”

Maya snorted. “Nick’s way too old for chicken dinosaurs, Pearly. He’s too big; the dinosaurs would look tiny and he’d look silly.”

Because you don’t when you order them as a side to your dozen burgers?

Phoenix sat back in his seat. “Thanks for the suggestion, Pearls.” He picked up the menu again and stared at it a bit more.

Honestly, I don’t care enough about this meal. I’m not even hungry.

Damn you, Edgeworth! You’ve destroyed both my ability to read and my appetite! I hope you’re happy, you jerk.

With a shake of his head, Phoenix dropped the menu back onto the table. “Actually, tell you what, I’ll take the chicken nuggets.”

“Yay!” Pearl bounced in her seat. “We can compare diny-o-saurs!”

“You’re ordering a kids’ meal?” Maya scoffed. “Nick, you’re not a kid anymore, and I don’t think it’s quite time for your midlife crisis.”

“Hey! I’m just not hungry,” Phoenix protested.

“You lame-o. I can eat, like, ten times as much as that when I’m not hungry!” Maya threw her arms open wide to show exactly how much she could eat, only to hit a passerby.

“Ouch!”

Maya looked to her right, where the unfortunate waiter stood, holding his elbow. Her eyes widened. “Whoops, I’m so sorry!”

“Good aim, you got me right on the funny bone,” he half joked, wincing.

Phoenix grinned. He’d been saving a line for this sort of situation. “I’m guessing that wasn’t… humerus.” He chuckled a little to himself.

Pearl and the waiter looked at him blankly.

“Ha-ha,” Maya exclaimed, a fake smile on her face. “Ha…”

Oh, come on, that was an awesome joke!

Still rubbing his arm, the waiter turned his attention back to Maya. “What can I get for you, ninja warrior?”

Maya pouted. “I prefer samurai master.”

The waiter laughed as he took out his pen and notepad.

Little does he know how serious she is about that…

“We’ll take the Triple Supreme, two Single Cheese, and the Mexican Tower with a side of fries,” Maya said excitedly. “Oh, and two kids’ nugget meals.”

The waiter nodded, scribbling down the order. “Anything to drink?”

“Three Cokes, please.”

“Coming right up, samurai,” the waiter replied, clicking his pen before walking off.

Maya turned to Phoenix. “He totally forgot the ‘master’ at the end of that.”

Phoenix chuckled.

Speaking of samurais…

“Hey, so, I’ve just had a thought,” Phoenix began, trying to sound breezy. “Now that you’ve roped Pearls into your samurai fanaticism, how about you both go to the premiere of the new movie together?”

Maya sighed. “That would be great, Nick. Unfortunately, I didn’t win any tickets even though I entered, like, fifteen different contests.” She pouted. “It’s so unfair.”

Phoenix grinned. “Well, today is your lucky day!” He pulled the tickets out of his jacket pocket. “Will Powers sent me some, and I obviously don’t need them, so…”

I won’t mention the fact that I practically begged him for them.

The tickets were snatched out of his hand before he could blink. “You’re the bestest of the best! Did you hear that, Pearly? We’re going to the premiere!”

Pearl cheered, before pausing, confused. “What’s a premiere, Mystic Maya?”

“Only the first, extra special viewing of the most amazing movie in the world!” Maya jumped up and down in her seat. “This is definitely the third best day of my life, ever!”

Phoenix smiled and shook his head as Maya danced about in her seat.

At least someone’s excited about it.

“Thank you, Nick,” Maya said, clutching the tickets to her chest. “I’m glad you chose to give them to me. Mr. Edgeworth will be so jealous!”

Agh!

“Don’t talk about Edgeworth!” Phoenix snapped, before adding a polite, “Please.”

Maya blinked a couple of times and opened her mouth to reply, before closing it again. There was a brief, but awkward, silence.

“Mr. Wright?”

Phoenix whipped his head around, recognising the voice all too well. “Kath!? I-I mean… Miss Everett? What are you doing here?”

Oh God… Did she hear my shitty comment about Edgeworth?

“Oh, I frequent this place quite a bit,” Kath replied with a smile. She gestured at her takeout bag. “Their burgers are the best in town.”

Phoenix sighed with relief.

I guess not.

“You’re not going to introduce us, Nick?” Maya asked.

Crap.

He looked at Maya, then back at Kath, panic slowly rising inside him.

What’s she going to say in front of Maya and Pearls!?

“Erm… yes, sure, okay…” Phoenix quickly tried to form a plan to get out of the awkward situation, but kept drawing blanks. “Miss Everett is a prosecutor,” he said, gesturing at Kath. “And this is Maya and her cousin Pearls,” he added, waving his hand across the table at the two of them.

“How cute!” Kath giggled. “Is he giving you both fashion advice? The matching outfits are adorable!”

Way to stereotype, Kath…

Maya raised an eyebrow. “Wow, advice from Nick? No way.”

“Hey!”

Maya grinned. “Sorry, you’re just not… hipster enough.”

“I can totally be hipster enough!”

What on Earth is hipster?

Kath laughed and punched Phoenix lightly on the shoulder. “Oh, you!”

“Mr. Nick, is Miss Everett like Mr. Edgeworth? Do you two catch bad guys together?” Pearl asked in her little innocent voice, making it hard for Phoenix to be annoyed at her.

“Erm, no, Pearls,” Phoenix replied, trying to keep his voice steady. “We’ve never worked on a case together.”

“Huh.” Maya crossed her arms. “So you two met outside of court?”

“Why, yes, we met through ‘Mr. Edgeworth’, actually.” Kath winked at Phoenix, who inwardly cringed.

At least it looks like she’s going to keep our secret…

“Order’s up!” The waiter appeared over Maya’s shoulder. “Triple Supreme?”

“Ooh, me!” Maya clapped her hands together in excitement.

“Two Single Cheese?”

“Also me!”

The waiter laughed. “Alrighty. The Mexican Tower and fries?” He looked over at Phoenix expectantly.

“Mine too!” Maya exclaimed.

Surprise evident on his face, the waiter set the burgers down in front of Maya and handed out the kids’ meals and drinks. “Wow, that’s impressive.” He leaned over slightly and gave Maya a smile. “I like a girl who can handle her food.”

Pearl suddenly sprang up out of her chair, rolling up her sleeve. “Excuse me, Mister, but Mystic Maya has her special someone right here!” She pointed across at Phoenix.

Oh, crap…

Maya laughed. “Pearly, don’t be silly. He was only being nice!”

The one time I need Maya to correct Pearls…

Phoenix could practically feel Kath’s piercing glare. “That’s not… We’re not…” He vaguely gestured between himself and Maya but the words just wouldn’t come.

Kath’s eyes narrowed further. “Don’t worry, I see how it is.” She shook her head and stormed over to the exit.

Double crap.

“Wait!” Phoenix yelled, but it was futile. He turned back to Maya. “I’ll be right back.” He jumped out of his chair and sprinted across the restaurant to the exit. Flinging the door open, he managed to catch Kath’s arm just as she was about to walk down the steps.

“This really isn’t what it looks like,” he stated breathlessly.

“I can’t believe you!” Kath screeched, shaking off his hand. “So that’s why your relationship is a secret!?”

“N-no! That’s not--”

“How could you do this to her!?”

“We are not together,” Phoenix said clearly, pointing back at the restaurant.

Frowning, Kath crossed her arms and looked him directly in the eye. “Are you sure? Don’t be lying to me right now,” she added with a dangerous tone.

“I swear we’re just friends,” Phoenix stressed. “Pearls is young and she has a lot of imagination. I couldn’t really correct her in there because, well…”

“They don’t know about you and Miles,” Kath finished for him.

Phoenix nodded. “It’s just… it’s complicated.”

Kath looked up at the sky and let out a long sigh, before looking back at him. “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on this one.” She moved closer and poked his chest hard with her finger. “But if I find out that you’ve been messing that girl around, I will not be happy, Mr. Wright. No matter how in love with Miles you are.”

“Thank you,” Phoenix replied weakly, sighing with relief.

With one last exasperated look, Kath marched off, takeout in hand, leaving Phoenix to go back inside by himself.

Well, I wouldn’t call that a complete disaster…

As he returned to the table, Maya looked at him and frowned. “You okay, Nick?”

“Yep, no problem, all good,” Phoenix replied, sitting back down. He looked over at Maya’s plates and couldn’t help but notice that two of her burgers had already gone. “So, where were we?”

“We were at the awesome food part.” Maya grabbed her next burger. “But yours is totally going cold.”

Phoenix picked up one of his nuggets and sighed. He looked at Pearl, who smiled at him, before biting the head off one of her chicken dinosaurs.

Is it just me, or is that slightly morbid?

Shaking his head, he dropped the nugget back onto his plate.

I’m even less hungry than I was before, if that’s possible.

“What’s this, Mr. Nick?” Pearl asked, pointing at something in front of him.

Phoenix looked down and noticed a leaflet next to his plate. He picked it up and gave it a quick skim. It was advertising a local end of spring festival set up with stalls and fairground rides.

“Ooh, gimme!” Maya reached across and snatched the flyer, before eagerly reading it. “This sounds so fun! We should go!”

Phoenix shrugged. “Sure, why not? I’ll probably have some spare time this weekend.”

Maya rolled her eyes. “Not this weekend! We should go now! It’s just around the corner.”

“Wait, what? But… what about the office?”

Maya took a bite out of her burger and waved a hand. “Office smoffice. It’s not like we have anything to do there.”

“Oh, can we go? Please?” Pearl piped up, clasping her hands together.

Maya does have a point. It’s not like I have work at the moment.

Phoenix studied the two girls for a second.

I’ll be damned if I let Edgeworth ruin my fun.

He smiled. “Okay, let’s go!”

---

Three sticks of cotton candy, ten goes at hook-a-duck and a ride on the teacups later, Phoenix had come to realise that Maya’s version of fun fundamentally involved spending as much of his money as possible. Normally, he would be glad to spend time outside the office with Maya and Pearl – even with a slowly emptying wallet – but no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t seem to enjoy himself.

I thought this would make me feel better, not worse…

They walked down a row of small performance stands with comedians, bands and singers, before reaching a more open area. Looking around, Phoenix noticed that it was filled with children.

He felt a tug at his sleeve and turned his attention to Pearl, who was pointing at a sign a few feet away.

“What’s a petting zoo, Mr. Nick?”

Phoenix smiled. “It’s a place where they let you feed and pet animals.” He grabbed her hand and brought her closer to the fence so she could see inside.

Pearl looked around in awe at all the animal pens. “I’ve never had a pet before. Can I have a go?”

Maya ruffled her head. “Of course, Pearly! You can pet all the animals you want!”

“Yay! Thank you!” Pearl exclaimed, before running over to the entrance.

Phoenix and Maya followed her inside and noticed that the place seemed to double as a daycare centre. They found a demonstrator looking after a group of children in the guinea pig pen and, although hesitant at first, Pearl joined in.

“Are you good here, Pearly?” Maya asked after a few minutes. “‘Cause I wanted to show Nick something.”

Pearl’s eyes lit up. “Oh, I don’t mind, Mystic Maya! You two should spend some quality time together!”

Maya grinned. “Right, come on, Nick! Let’s go!” She grabbed Phoenix’s arm and started pulling him away from the pen.

“Whoa, wait, what…? Where are we going?” Phoenix asked, stumbling along as they weaved through the crowd.

Maya ignored him and continued walking for a while, before suddenly coming to a halt. She turned to him and pointed at the Ferris wheel next to them. “Pearly is too short to ride it, but now that there’s someone to watch her, we can have some fun!”

Slowly riding up to a height that could end up in death is fun!?

“W-wait!” Phoenix protested. “I’m not sure I--”

“Come on!”

Before Phoenix could say anything else, Maya dragged him into one of the flimsy-looking seats and lowered the bar in front of them. He turned to glare at her, only to receive a mischievous grin in return.

I hate you, Maya.

A moment later, the wheel jerked as it started to move, making Phoenix grab the safety bar on reflex.

Shit. I never even got to write my will…

“Whee!” Maya giggled, swinging her feet. “The start is almost as good as the view from the top.”

I beg to differ.

Phoenix glanced down. They were only about ten feet off the ground, but the floor seemed to move in and out of focus, causing his head to start spinning. He quickly looked back up and decided that fixing his gaze on the inside of the seat was his best option.

“So, Nick, we haven’t really had a chance to talk properly in a while…”

Phoenix focused on breathing for a few seconds, before letting out a small, “Mm-hmm.”

“You’ve been acting like a complete weirdo lately.” Maya sighed. “Well, still yourself, but distant. Like you’re hiding something. Very badly at that.”

He met her eyes for a brief second. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Hah!” Maya kicked her legs out to make the seat rock, causing Phoenix’s stomach to do a couple of flips. “You’re dating someone! I know it! I just don’t know why you won’t tell me.”

I wish I could.

“I’m not dating anyone,” Phoenix replied, closing his eyes and tightening his hold on the bar as he felt the seat get even higher.

“Is it because you’re dating a prosecutor?”

Phoenix opened his eyes and snapped his head around to face Maya. His heart seemed to jump up into his throat. “W-what!? How did you…!?”

“Aha! I knew it!” Maya gave him a triumphant grin. “You started acting all weird the minute you saw her! It was so obvious!”

Phoenix stared at her for a moment, before it clicked.

…Oh. Her.

He chuckled slightly. “You think that Kath is my girlfriend?”

“No, I know that Kath is your girlfriend!”

“See, that’s funny, because she thought I was dating you,” Phoenix said with another laugh.

Maya narrowed her eyes. “This isn’t funny, Nick! Why couldn’t you just tell me? It’s no big deal that she’s a prosecutor… or that she has really weird taste in clothes.”

You’re hardly one to talk…

“I know, but I’m not--”

“If you like her, then that’s all that matters,” Maya continued, a serious look on her face. “You know I would never judge you over something so silly!”

Phoenix sighed. “I would tell you these things, Maya. I’m not dating Kath.”

Maya frowned. “You’re still denying it?”

“Yes, because she’s not my girlfriend.”

Maya gave him one last, long, hard look, before breaking into a smile. “Ah, I see! I’m so sorry!” She clapped her hands together. “I hope it works out for the two of you in the end.”

What’s she on about now…?

Phoenix raised an eyebrow and Maya just grinned back at him.

Actually, I’m just going to leave it. I don’t want to know.

The wheel suddenly stopped as they reached the top, making the seat sway slightly. It elicited a sharp gasp from Phoenix as he remembered that he was about a hundred times higher than he felt comfortable.

Maya snorted. “You’re such a wuss! I could literally fall asleep up here!”

Good for you.

“Oh, yeah, there was one other thing…” Maya added, a thoughtful expression on her face.

“Are you going to pair me off with Franziska von Karma now?”

Maya laughed. “No, you idiot. It’s about Mr. Edgeworth.”

Phoenix felt his jaw tighten. He looked off to the side, trying his hardest not to focus on the fact that he was over two hundred feet in the air. A few seconds passed and the wheel started to move again.

“Did he do something bad?” Maya asked, putting a hand on his arm. “‘Cause you totally snapped at me when I mentioned him earlier…”

Phoenix gripped the safety bar even tighter, his knuckles turning white. “I don’t want to talk about him right now. Please don’t make me.”

There was a pause.

“If it’s any help,” Maya said hesitantly, “I know you two will work things out. You always have, and you always will.” She gently patted his arm, before withdrawing her hand.

Phoenix smiled weakly. “Thanks, Maya.”

I just wish I had the same confidence as you.

“Sorry for dragging you up here,” she said apologetically. “It’s just… it was the only way to get you to answer me.”

Phoenix shook his head. “It’s fine.”

Oh, I’ll get you back. You just wait.

---

Phoenix unlocked the door and looked at his watch as he removed the ‘Out to lunch’ sign. 4:07.

I hope no one actually waited for me to get back from lunch.

Shrugging, he walked straight into his office and sat down at his desk. It didn’t look like he had any messages.

Figures.

He picked up a pen and started tapping it on the desk, trying to think of something to keep him busy for the rest of the day. He’d already rearranged his case files twice since yesterday, so that was out of the question. Watching the news was another option, but he didn’t really feel like it at the moment. In fact, he didn’t feel like doing anything. Even though he’d just spent the last four and a half hours with Maya and Pearl, all he could think about was Edgeworth.

Why do I care so much about that jerk? It’s not like I don’t have other friends.

…But other friends are useless if I can’t stop thinking about him while I’m with them.

Annoyed, Phoenix dropped the pen and got up, then made his way to the window. Resting his hands on the windowsill, he looked at the Gatewater Hotel next door and spotted a couple kissing in one of the windows.

I guess there’s no point in telling them to get a room.

Phoenix scoffed at his bad joke and shook his head, before turning his gaze to one of the trees between the buildings. A squirrel was running along one of the branches, an acorn in its mouth. Phoenix followed it with his eyes until it disappeared in the foliage. He looked around for another squirrel, or perhaps a bird, but couldn’t find anything.

Damn it, tree! Distract me!

After looking for a few more seconds, he sighed, defeated, and rested his forehead on the window.

I have to go talk to him.

Glancing at his watch, he saw that only five minutes had passed since he got back to the office. There was no way he could wait till five. But what was he going to tell Maya?

…I’ve got it.

He pushed himself off the window and made his way to the reception area.

“Hey, Maya, could you close the office today?”

She looked up at him from the couch and frowned. “Why?”

“I had a message,” Phoenix lied. “A potential client. I have to go meet him.”

Maya’s eyes widened. “Ooh!” She glanced at Pearl next to her and jumped off the couch. “We’re coming with you!”

Crap.

“No, you can’t,” Phoenix argued, shaking his head.

“What? Why not!?”

“Because someone has to close the office.”

Maya raised an eyebrow. “Nick, we were out of the office all day. I don’t think it’ll make a difference if we close a bit early.” She smiled. “Plus we got a client now so it doesn’t matter! Let’s go!”

Phoenix bit his lip. He hadn’t thought this through.

I should have known that Maya would want to come. And now I got her all excited for nothing.

Good job, Phoenix!

“Look, Maya,” he began hesitantly, still not sure of what to say.

Should I just tell her the truth? Why do I feel the need to hide the fact that I’m spending time with Edgeworth? It’s not like she’d figure out that we’re pretending to date just because we spend more time together than usual…

Plus she already knows I’m mad at him, so she wouldn’t find it weird if I said that I have to go talk to him.

“I’m just--”

No… I’ve already made up this whole story about a client. It would be too suspicious now.

Phoenix sighed. “Look, you can’t come because… the client asked me to come alone.”

Maya scowled. “What? That sounds awfully sketchy…”

“No, no, he’s just… shy! Yeah, he’s very, very shy!”

Nice one.

Maya gave him a sceptical look. “Uh-huh. And what’s the real reason?”

“It is the real reason!” Phoenix insisted. “He’s so shy he didn’t even tell me his name!”

“And you’re still going to meet him?”

“Well, yeah…” Phoenix replied with a shrug. “He sounded like he could really use my help.”

Maya rolled her eyes and flopped back down onto the couch. “Fine, whatever. I’ll close the stupid office.”

“Hey! My office is not stupid!”

Maya gave him an unimpressed look, to which he laughed.

“Thanks, Maya, I’ll owe you one!” he said as he made his way to the door.

“Be careful,” she called from behind him. “I’m not sure I trust that guy.”

Phoenix turned to her and smiled. “Don’t worry. I’m sure he’s harmless.”

Especially since he doesn’t exist.

---

Stepping in the elevator, Phoenix pressed the button for the twelfth floor and moved back to make room for a blonde woman and a man in a grey suit. He glanced down at the woman’s pantsuit, which was made out of weird fabric that reminded him of his grandmother’s couch.

He frowned.

She could be attractive if she didn’t wear recycled furniture…

Looking back up, he realised that both she and the man were eyeing him oddly.

I guess most prosecutors know who I am now.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

The man turned around and pressed the button for the second floor, before leaning against the wall.

Really? Even I’m not that lazy…

The doors closed and the elevator almost immediately reached the second floor, where both prosecutors got off, whispering to each other as they headed down the hallway.

They’re probably talking about how awesome I am.

Chuckling to himself, Phoenix looked at his watch and wondered why he was in such a hurry to get here. It wasn’t even five o’clock and there was no way Edgeworth was going home anytime soon.

I should have sucked it up and waited instead of lying to Maya…

He shook his head and decided he’d have to fix that later. He had something more important to deal with right now.

The elevator doors opened with a ding and Phoenix exited towards Edgeworth’s office. Looking around, he was thankful to see that the corridor was empty. He definitely didn’t want to run into Kath again.

He reached room 1202 and paused for a second, before knocking on the door.

“Come in,” Edgeworth called from the other side.

Here goes nothing…

Phoenix entered the office and braced himself for the predictable reaction.

“What are you doing here, Wright?” Miles asked sternly, glaring at him from across the room.

Turning around, Phoenix closed the door and locked it, then turned back to Miles, arms crossed. “We need to talk.”

Miles shook his head and turned his attention back to his paperwork. “There’s nothing to talk about.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes and made his way over to the desk, before slamming both hands down onto it, making Miles jump.

“What do you think you’re doing!?” Miles snapped.

“Getting your attention,” Phoenix replied, staring down at him as he leaned over the desk. “I’m not leaving until you tell me what’s going on.”

Miles looked at him for a moment, an odd expression on his face, before looking back down. “Nothing is going on; I’m just busy.”

Phoenix scowled. “You’re lying. Yesterday, I asked you if something was wrong and you said yes. You would never give me such a straight answer if it wasn’t true.”

Miles paused, his pen hovering over the paper. He seemed to ponder for a few seconds, then dropped the pen and sighed. “Fine. I’ve had something on my mind for a while, but I don’t think telling you would do any good.”

“Why not?” Phoenix asked, doing his best not to lose his patience. How long was Edgeworth going to keep avoiding the question?

“Because… it’s not something you can help with,” Miles replied, still staring down at his desk.

Where have I heard this one before?

“Try me.”

Miles looked up at him. His expression was not quite readable, but Phoenix could see a hint of pain in his eyes. Whatever he was hiding, it was definitely affecting him more than he wanted to admit.

“Come on, Edgeworth,” Phoenix said calmly. “You know you can tell me anything.”

Miles turned away. “This is... different.”

“How so?”

Miles remained quiet for a few seconds, then suddenly got up and walked over to the couch. He sat down and patted the cushion to his right, giving Phoenix a quick glance before averting his gaze.

Finally, we’re getting somewhere.

Smiling, Phoenix joined him and waited for him to be ready to talk. Rushing him wouldn’t accomplish anything at this point, and he didn’t want to risk making him change his mind.

A moment passed. Edgeworth was staring off into space, a pensive expression on his face. Phoenix could only guess what was on his mind, and it was seriously starting to worry him. What if something really bad had happened?

No, that’s not possible. He seemed perfectly fine on Sunday.

…And then he left in a hurry without any explanation.

Phoenix frowned.

Come to think of it, he still hasn’t told me what that was about.

Miles suddenly turned to him and studied his face, looking uneasy. “I think… I think it’s time I told you the truth. I tried to believe that it would go away if I just ignored it, but now I know that I was deceiving myself.” He paused, letting out a long, shaky breath. “I was hoping that you would figure it out yourself and save me the trouble.” He scoffed. “I even thought for a while that you felt the same way, but I was wrong.”

Phoenix laughed. “Edgeworth, stop. You’re making it sound like--”

Suddenly, everything made sense. Everything Edgeworth had said, all the strange looks he’d given him, the way he’d been acting.

No, this can’t be right.

The expression on Edgeworth’s face told him otherwise.

Phoenix felt his mouth dry up. “I-I don’t…” He took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself down. “Edgeworth, I… I don’t know what to say…”

His throat was burning. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be.

“Edgeworth… We weren’t actually dating,” Phoenix blurted out, aware that he was stating the obvious, but unable to think of anything else at the moment.

“I know that,” Miles replied dryly, clearly offended.

This is all wrong. I’m not…

Phoenix swallowed hard. “I didn’t know you were…”

“Neither did I.” Miles lowered his gaze. “I’d never really thought about it before, but then--”

“What made you think I felt the same?” Phoenix cut in, causing Miles to look back up at him. “Was it all those stupid jokes I made?” He brought a hand to his face and groaned. “God, that was so stupid. If I knew you--”

“No,” Miles interrupted, shaking his head. “It’s fine.”

“It’s not fine, Edgeworth!” Phoenix snapped, glaring at him. “How long has this been going on? When were you planning on telling me? This whole time, I was trying to fix our friendship, and you were…”

Miles’ face turned somber and he quickly looked away. “Wright…”

A wave of guilt washed over Phoenix. He hadn’t meant to raise his voice. Where had all this anger come from? He tried to calm down but his chest felt tight and it was hard to breathe.

This can’t be happening.

He had spent so much time learning to deal with Edgeworth, so much time showing him that he didn’t need to push people away. How could this have happened when Edgeworth could barely deal with having friends? A billion questions popped up in his mind, but Phoenix wasn’t sure he was ready to hear the answers. All he could focus on at the moment was the awkward feeling in the pit of his stomach.

I need to get out of here.

Phoenix stood up. “Edgeworth, I’m sorry, I… I can’t deal with this right now.” He turned around and made his way to the door. After quickly unlocking it, he started turning the handle but paused. He really didn’t want to leave like this, but he needed some time to think. “I’m so sorry,” he added weakly, before opening the door and walking out.

Once again, he was relieved to see the corridor was empty, and could barely believe his luck when he found the elevator still on this floor. He swiftly entered and pressed the button for the lobby, then felt a sudden surge of emotion course through him.

“Goddamn it!” He punched the wall out of frustration and immediately regretted it as his hand started hurting.

I need to calm down.

Rubbing his hand, Phoenix took a deep breath, only to realise that he was shaking. Why was he so upset? He had no right to be mad at Edgeworth for feeling that way, no matter how weird it made him feel. But no, that wasn’t it. The more he thought about it, the more he felt… betrayed? Edgeworth knew full well that all he wanted was to fix their friendship, and yet he had taken advantage of the situation to spend time with him.

But… he said he thought I felt the same way?

The doors opened and Phoenix hastily got out, nearly bumping into an older man who was waiting for the elevator. “Sorry,” he said weakly, before turning towards the exit.

Why would he think that? He knows I’m straight… right?

Phoenix shook his head.

Of course he does. I never said anything to make him think otherwise.

…Maybe he misinterpreted something I said?

Reaching the exit, Phoenix pushed the door open and looked over at the bus stop, only to see that the bus was about to leave.

“Shit.” He took a few hurried steps, but quickly stopped as the bus started pulling away. Sighing, he decided he wasn’t in the mood to wait for the next one. It was a long walk from here to his place, but maybe walking would help clear his head.

The idea started sounding even better when he realised that his eyes were stinging.

Am I actually going to cry over Edgeworth? What’s wrong with me?

Chapter Text

Miles cursed under his breath as he undid his cravat for the second time, before wrapping the fabric around his neck again. He tied it as best as he could, then took a look in the mirror.

…It’s crooked.

Sighing in frustration, he took the cravat off again and threw it on the floor.

If I can’t focus enough to do something as simple as tying a cravat, how am I going to get any work done?

He took a deep breath to calm himself down, then stared at the cravat on the floor for a moment, before picking it up and folding it neatly on the corner of his dresser.

Turning back to the mirror, he looked at his reflection, taking in the damage his insomnia had caused. The circles under his eyes were darker than he remembered and his skin was so pale that it looked as though he hadn’t gone outside in weeks.

Wright would worry if he saw me right now…

Or he wouldn’t care after what happened yesterday.

Miles’ chest tightened at the thought and he had to stop himself from breaking down again. Why couldn’t he just get over it? He already knew how Wright felt about him – hearing him say it shouldn’t have changed anything.

But it did.

For some absurd reason, Miles had believed that there was still hope, and Wright’s reaction had completely shattered it. And it hurt. More than he ever thought possible. His whole life, if there was one thing he was sure he would never suffer from, it was heartbreak. The mere thought of letting someone into his heart was laughable. And yet he had.

Despite his best efforts at remaining calm, his eyes started burning, and before he knew it, tears were rolling down his cheeks again.

This is ridiculous. Am I so pathetic that I can’t function because Wright didn’t reciprocate?

Miles went to sit on his bed and grabbed a tissue from his night table. Forcing himself to calm down, he wiped his eyes and blew his nose, before walking back to the mirror. To add to his already disastrous appearance, his eyes were now red and swollen, and his face was flushed.

He sighed.

I can’t have anyone see me like this.

Picking up his cellphone from the dresser, he started dialling the number to the Prosecutor’s Office, only to realise that he had no clue what to say.

What do people usually pretend to have when they call in sick?

He stared at the phone in his hand, racking his brains for ideas.

I suppose I could say that I have a cold… but the weather hasn’t exactly been cold-inducing. Plus a cold has never stopped me from working before.

Maybe I could say that I ate something bad and got food poisoning?

He frowned.

No, that’s just embarrassing.

This was difficult. It was also past nine – meaning Miss Spencer would be there to answer the phone – and the idea of talking to her wasn’t particularly thrilling after her reaction to his leaving the office early a couple of weeks ago.

No matter what reason I give her, she’s going to question me.

What was it that Everett told her again? Something about taking my dog to the veterinarian?

Maybe I could use the same excuse?

…But then she might start asking questions and I don’t know anything about dogs.

Miles shuddered at the thought of a dog drooling and shedding all over his apartment.

Let’s not go there.

Running his finger over the keypad, he tried to come up with a believable reason for him to miss work, but to no avail. His reputation preceded him and there wasn’t really anything he could say that wouldn’t be met with scepticism. Especially since it was already past nine and he usually went into work a lot earlier.

Unless…

Miles cancelled the call, then pressed the first speed dial key, before putting the phone to his ear. It rang a few times.

Hello?

“Detective, it’s me.”

Oh, hey, sir!” Gumshoe said cheerfully. “How can I help you?

“I’m… um… not feeling well and I need you to let Miss Spencer know that I’ll be working from home today, in case anyone needs me.”

Is everything alright, sir?” Gumshoe asked quickly, concern evident in his voice.

“Yes, everything is fine,” Miles replied, closing his eyes for a second. “I’m just… feeling a bit under the weather and I think I’ll be able to get more work done if I stay here.”

If by getting work done I mean trying not to completely break down, then sure.

O-okay…” Gumshoe sounded taken aback. “Are you sure everything is fine? You’ve never--

“Yes, I’m sure,” Miles cut in, annoyed. “Why are you questioning me?”

I-I’m not questioning you, sir. I was just--

“Then please just call Miss Spencer like I asked.”

Right away, sir!” There was a pause. “Actually, I just got to the Prosecutor’s Office so I’ll just go and tell her.

Miles frowned.

What’s Gumshoe doing at the Prosecutor’s Office at this hour?

He shook his head.

No matter.

“Thank you, Detective. Goodbye.”

Miles hung up and put his phone down on the dresser, before letting out a sigh. Even Gumshoe couldn’t be fooled.

I hope no one calls later to check if I’m still alive.

Looking at himself in the mirror, Miles decided he might as well change into something more comfortable. His suit didn’t look right without the cravat, anyway.

He took out a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved, black henley. After quickly changing, he grabbed his phone and made his way to the kitchen.

Autopilot must have kicked in somewhere within Miles’ barely functioning subconscious, and he made his way over to the kettle. He stared at the temperature buttons along the bottom of the stand. Green tea needed the lowest setting. Higher temperatures would release less delicate flavours from the leaf pulp as the younger leaves in green teas weren’t as robust as the ones in black-based teas. Miles had researched these chemical changes in great depth, and yet his mind felt so clouded that many facts remained hidden to him at the moment.

Why can’t chemical processes of the brain be as simple and logical as letting tea steep?

Miles shook his head. This heartbreak stuff was tiring, both physically and mentally. Strong tea was certainly required.

Finding the right tea was never too tricky due to his strictly alphabetised shelves of tea boxes. Miles toyed with the idea of placing them in order of preference and strength; an act of calming logistics to help soothe his nerves. However, this did have the potential of being a risky manoeuvre and Miles felt his fragile state didn’t need any more shaking up. Rearranging could wait until a more adventurous moment.

He reached for his go-to favourite, but stopped just before he grabbed the tin.

Lapsang Souchong. Why did Wright have to buy Lapsang bloody Souchong?

His hand hovered over the Lapsang for a few more moments, but he couldn’t do it. Instead, Miles reached up onto the top shelf for the box of standard Ceylon tea. It was refreshing and, more importantly, strong. He busied himself with preparing the cup.

I never got the chance to show Wright the proper way of enjoying tea…

Actually, maybe my odd obsessions made him walk out that door.

Miles stared out the kitchen window as the kettle whizzed away.

He reacted so awfully. Worse than I had imagined.

Then again, my moronic and misplaced optimism didn’t let me calculate every possible outcome.

Miles felt stupid. He had been a complete imbecile. For a man who prided himself on intelligence, he really had let himself down.

I can’t let it happen again. Especially not with Wright.

Perhaps, with time, we can be friends again.

For some reason, that thought made Miles feel worse.

Glancing down, he noticed that the kettle had reached its temperature long ago. He frowned.

Right. Recuperation starts now.

He reboiled the water before pouring it into his cup. Tea in hand, Miles then fetched the newspaper from the table and brought it into the living room.

Real news was wonderful. Law and order, business and finance, science and technology; they were all so rational. Miles’ stocks were up, crime in the city was apparently down, and there had been a breakthrough in malaria treatment research. He even felt a smile grace his lips after reading the daily business comic strip of a worker outwitting his boss. And yet, he still felt terrible.

Miles rubbed his forehead.

I’m starting to wonder if I am ill after all.

He had picked up his pen at some point during his reading, probably out of habit, so he flipped to the puzzles page where the cryptic crossword lay waiting. Logic and problem solving were always a good way to start the day, ill or not.

The first answer was always one of the most enjoyable as it was the easiest. Miles took this moment every day to judge the quiz masters for lowering their standards.

5 down, 4 letters: ‘You might call it an early night.

So obvious…

‘D’, the first letter, was quickly followed by ‘U’, but then Miles came to a grinding halt.

Why on Earth is that godforsaken movie in my crossword!?

Anger simmered down just as quickly as it had bubbled up. Consequences were a pain, but that was to be expected. There were probably many words in the dictionary he could now associate with Wright after spending so much time with him.

Still… Dusk? Really?

Next up, Miles didn’t have to look far for easy pickings. 6 across, 2 words, 12 letters: ‘Appetiser.

French cuisine and fine dining happened to be some of Miles’ favourite pastimes, so ‘hors d’oeuvres’ was an easy one to catch.

Wait…

Miles suddenly felt as though he was back in the seafood restaurant, with Kath opposite and Phoenix beside him. He could almost relive the nervosity and embarrassment, hindsight proving to be an awful thing.

These consequences were agitating.

Moving along, he found the next favourable clue. 9 down, 9 letters: ‘Scottish distilled gin.

Miles tutted under his breath.

Hendrick, you bastard.

He scanned the page, not liking where this was headed.

Polish-French composer.’ 6 letters.

Chopin…

The accused.’ 9 letters.

Defendant…

Sweet liquid.’ 5 letters.

Honey…

Annoyance had now squeezed into his early morning routine. How could so many horrific consequences come at once?

Unless, of course, it is I who is creating them.

The words had no relation to each other, only to Miles and his frayed nerves. Any other day, many words would come up that would also remind him of Wright. Maybe it just so happened that today, he was at a particularly vulnerable point and that…

Mid-thought, his gaze caught the clue for 25 across, 7 letters: ‘Legendary bird.

Miles closed his eyes and slumped back into his armchair.

He was done. Today was not going to happen. Tomorrow seemed doubtful. Maybe he could become one with the armchair and live a happy, inanimate life.

Some undefined amount of time later, there was a knock at the door. Miles didn’t move. In response, there was a series of louder, more frantic knocks. It was then that Miles realised that the noise was coming from the back door, rather than the one facing the road.

There are only a few people who know the correct entrance…

What if--

“Miles Edgeworth!” came a muffled shout from behind the door.

Miles groaned and tried to shuffle deeper into his armchair.

“Miles Edgeworth! Open the door this instant or I will open it for you!”

He grimaced at the thought of his wooden door splinted and off its hinges. After a few more seconds of mental debate, he reluctantly heaved himself up and made his way over to the kitchen.

Miles briefly closed his eyes, before swinging the door open. “Franziska. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Franziska narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. She looked as pleasant as ever, and, judging from the marks on the door, she’d just had a good whip workout. However, her glare started to soften as she studied Miles.

“Little brother, you look terrible.” She barged past into the kitchen and inspected the sink, then the bin. Glare returning to her expression, she spun back to face him. “However, your illness is a lie!”

“You’ve been talking to Detective Gumshoe, I take it,” Miles stated. “It’s good to see you back in America. When did he pick you up from the airport?”

Franziska’s annoyed stare deepened. “Don’t change the subject, Miles Edgeworth.” She pointed at him. “I demand answers! A prosecutor does not take days off. A prosecutor lives and breathes court. A prosecutor does not abandon their work!”

“A prosecutor does not work when compromised,” Miles added.

Franziska raised a hand to her chest in alarm. “Compromised?” She stretched out her whip between her hands. “What foolish criminal dares to interfere with us?”

Of course she would think it involves her too…

“It’s not a criminal. I’m just feeling a little under the weath--”

“Are they blackmailing you?” Franziska cut across, her whip hand twitching. “Is that why you have yet to tell me?”

“There is no criminal, there is no blackmail, and, before you ask, there is no murder, rape or torture involved in why I am not currently at work.” Miles gestured to his kettle. “If you insist on wasting your work hours here too… tea?”

Franziska pursed her lips. “Please. I’ll be waiting in the living room.” With that, she spun around and went to take a seat in Miles’ favourite armchair.

Miles closed his eyes and leaned heavily against the counter behind him. Trying to disguise his misery was evidently not working.

All I wanted was some time by myself to get over these past couple of weeks. Why is life so inconsiderate to that?

Shaking his head, he got back to the task at hand and busied himself with boiling the kettle and preparing the cup. Franziska preferred tea that reminded her of home in Germany, so Miles always made sure to have a stock of her favourite German brand, Teekanne, flavoured with vanilla. It was awful.

He took the single-cup teapot filled with Teekanne and his second cup of Ceylon through to the living room, along with a tin of European sweet biscuits. Being compromised, as Miles had put it, did not mean that one had to forget proper tea etiquette.

“Why must you always make a full pot?” Franziska complained, reaching to take a coconut-flavoured biscuit out of the tin as Miles set the tray down on the table in front of him. “I don’t plan on staying the whole morning.” She frowned. “Unless you prove weak enough to need it.”

She’s bad at hiding that she cares.

“You would complain if I hadn’t made it in a teapot,” Miles retorted. “We both know it tastes better that way.” He glanced at Franziska’s cup as she poured her tea. “Even when it’s Teekanne.”

Franziska scoffed. “What would you rather I drank? Lipton?”

Miles smiled faintly. “Don’t even joke. I have some new labels, though, if you’d care to try them?”

“Your tea distraction skills are formidable, little brother,” Franziska replied, not at all answering the question. “However, my purpose is clear; I need to rid you of your compromising situation.”

Why does that make her sound like some kind of hitman?

Miles took a moment to respond. There were defined boundaries between himself and Franziska, and his nonexistent love life was certainly one of them.

He settled with a simple, “This isn’t fixable.”

Franziska frowned. “I do wish you weren’t so foolishly dramatic,” she quipped, placing her tea back down on the table. She looked at him long enough that Miles had to avert his eyes. “If you aren’t physically ill, and it isn’t crime-related, then you must have a mental blockade. Am I correct?”

Yes, damn it.

Out loud he said nothing, his gaze fixed on the dusty studio piano in the corner of his living room.

Franziska sighed and tapped her foot impatiently against the table leg. “You have always been susceptible to self-torture.”

And I’m the dramatic one?

“Just leave me alone, Franziska,” Miles said, a harsh tone to his voice. “My ‘mental blockade’ is not going to be breached by your meddling.”

Franziska smirked. Miles instantly regretted saying anything.

She’s taken it as a challenge. There’s no chance she’ll back down now…

Miles stood up. “With that said, I am feeling much better now. I had best return to work.” He made a fleeting effort to tidy away his two cups, then fiddled with the newspaper a bit. Franziska barely moved an inch.

Maybe I could turn on the TV and scare her away with loud advertisements?

“Process of elimination,” Franziska stated, stirring her tea, possibly for no other reason than dramatic effect. “Are you stressed about money?”

Miles didn’t quite know how to reply to that without coming across as pompous. Instead, he gave her a dirty look, thus emulating the pompous effect without the need for vocabulary.

Shrugging, Franziska took another biscuit from the tin. “With all your frivolous spending on cars and pianos, little brother, one does not have to use too much imagination to see how that could occur.”

“Frivolous?” Miles shook his head and sat back down on the couch. “My finances are well maintained. Now, please, just let me get back to work. I am feeling quite refreshed after my morning off.”

That is, if ‘feeling refreshed’ is the equivalent of being shoved in an ice bath and taunted by popular music.

“Hmm.” Franziska tapped her biscuit against the air, before taking a bite.“Work?”

Miles rolled his eyes. “You have a crumb on the corner of your mouth,” he added nonchalantly.

“I suppose that was a foolish idea,” Franziska reluctantly admitted, wiping her mouth. “I don’t have to talk to some people in the media again, do I?” She reached for her whip.

“The media haven’t hounded me in over a year, Franziska.”

Miles wondered if his truthful responses were the best course of action. Perhaps pretending to have money problems would have been a preferred route out of his sister’s logical deductions and questioning. On the other hand, he’d rather not lie to Franziska. She had a habit of detecting mistruths, and punishing accordingly.

She probably won’t even want to discuss the actual topic if she gets around to it anyway…

“It is a person bothering you, though, yes?” Franziska asked, tightening her grip on the whip.

“Look, this probing is not going to solve anything,” Miles replied, scowling down at the table.

Franziska narrowed her eyes. “Scruffy?” Miles looked off to the side, and she sighed in response. “It’s as I feared; that foolish defence attorney is involved.”

When his eyes snapped up to meet Franziska’s, Miles knew he’d given the game away.

Agh! How did she guess that so fast!?

He sat dumbfounded for a few seconds, before clearing his throat and breaking their shared gaze. “I don’t want to talk about this. Please.”

There was no movement on either side of the table, both holding their ground in the metaphorical war zone. After a few minutes, Miles eventually crumbled, his standpoint proving to be the weaker force. “Why do you think it involves him, anyway?”

Franziska shook her head slightly. “It’s always Phoenix Wright.”

Nothing summed up his troubles quite as succinctly as that.

It always has been Phoenix Wright. Never anyone else…

The realisation hit him hard.

I can’t do this.

He glanced over at the window and saw his weary half-reflection. There was a fiery red starting to creep around his eyes. It burned.

“If he’s dragged you into another one of his sob story cases--” Franziska cut herself off. “He’s your weakness, Miles Edgeworth.”

“I… I know.” Sheer willpower stopped any teardrops from falling down his face.

“You should cut him loose,” she added. “You’re simpler and less distracted without him.”

“I know,” Miles repeated, barely a whisper.

There was another pause in conversation. In the window, Miles could barely make out Franziska’s stare directed towards him, her expression lost in the mix with the outside scenery. He couldn’t tell if she understood exactly what it was about Wright that was bothering him, but he certainly wasn’t in any position to elaborate.

“He is also your greatest strength,” Franziska added suddenly. “Both in and out of the courtroom.” She took the last swig of her tea. “Whatever foolish shenanigans he is perpetrating, I don’t think you should lose him as a commodity.”

Miles smiled wryly.

Trust you to think of him as an item. I envy that.

“It’s not Wright… It’s not him.” Miles felt a tear escape and quickly wiped it away. “I don’t want you to see me like this, Franziska. This is not me.”

“…You are beginning to worry me, little brother. What have you done?”

Miles grabbed his arm and took a deep, shaky breath. His vision was blurry and his mind foggy. This feeling of dread was normally reserved for the Miles in an earthquake, or the Miles who woke up after a nightmare. It was not for the Miles who felt so broken over feelings.

I’ve been over this thousands of times already. What’s one more?

Just keep it together, Miles.

For all the pregnant pauses in their conversation, this was the longest.

“I’ve lost him.” He looked down at the table. “It was my fault. I didn’t tell him soon enough.”

“Didn’t tell him what?” Franziska asked. If she had any understanding, it was certainly masked well.

Miles gripped his arm tighter. “I have feelings for Phoenix Wright that go beyond colleagues and friendship.”

There. He’d said it. Possibly for the first time out loud, and certainly in a more roundabout way than intended. It was uncomfortable for the both of them.

It’s her fault for bringing it up.

Franziska was speechless, potentially another first in Miles’ book.

“I told you that you wouldn’t want to know,” he added, a hint of strength returning to his tone.

“You foolish boy!” Franziska finally exclaimed, jumping from her chair. “A defence attorney? The man who has defeated us both?” She paced the room. “And he rejected you!?”

Miles nodded absently.

Halting her pacing, Franziska picked up her whip. “You are weak. Yet again, I have proved to be the winner.” She flexed her hands, grip tightening on the handle. “I will go and show Phoenix Wright what I think of his meddling.”

I didn’t think my hitman analogy would turn out to be correct!

Miles sprang from his seat and grabbed Franziska’s arms. “You can’t do that. Our friendship… it means a lot to him, and I’ve gone and ruined that.”

“Nonsense! It’s Phoenix Wright’s fault that you’re this pathetic mess.” She took a step away from Miles’ grasp. “If he can’t deal with the truth, then your ‘friend’ is not worth the tears or strife.”

She… really has a point.

It was Miles’ turn to be speechless. All this time, he had been focusing on his feelings, and the lack of feelings in the other direction. The problem was not just that Wright had walked away; it was also the lack of finesse in which it had happened.

Especially after all we’ve been through together. He hasn’t even tried contacting me…

“So… you’re suggesting I should be angry with Wright, not myself?”

Franziska pursed her lips. “You should be angry with both yourself and the foolish attorney.”

Huh.

“You should not,” she carried on, “be moping in a room. Even if it involves tea.”

“Not even Sri Lankan tea?”

“Hilarious.” Franziska scoffed and crossed her arms. “Miles Edgeworth, you are a travesty. How could this happen?”

You would not believe the amount of times I’ve asked myself the same question.

Miles sat back down. He put his elbow on the armrest and supported his chin with his hand. “Honestly? I think I let it happen. I never thought I’d experience these kinds of feelings, but--”

Franziska made a small ‘hrumph’ sound under her breath. “I was talking about the state of this room.” She stalked over to the piano and wiped a finger along it, shaking her head in disgust. “This will not do. You shall clean, and I will supervise.”

Miles smiled, albeit weakly.

I guess we’re both too emotionally stunted to actually discuss such a thing.

“You don’t seem too shocked,” Miles replied, seemingly off-topic but both understanding.

Franziska closed her eyes and held her chin up. “A prosecutor always stays two steps ahead.” She stretched her whip. “Phoenix Wright is a foolish fool, and yet you have always defended him. I am weak to have not seen it before today.”

I know that feeling.

“Now stop with these distractions,” she scolded. “You have a room to clean and I have things to talk about.”

Miles nodded and left the room to grab a cloth, furniture polish and glass spray. Head still feeling heavy, but his heart a little lighter, he set about cleaning the spots that Franziska pointed out, all the while listening to her tales about the German court cases she had been working on.

---

“Remember,” Franziska said, turning around on the balcony to point at Miles, “you don’t need that foolish fool.”

Miles rolled his eyes. “Yes, Franziska. I heard you the first time.”

And the fifteen times after that.

Franziska bowed her head slightly as she reached for the railing. “Take care, little brother. And don’t forget to call if you change your mind.”

Not a chance. No one deserves that kind of punishment.

“Goodbye, Franziska.”

As she started making her way down the stairs, Miles closed the door and leaned his back against it. He let out a deep breath and rubbed his forehead.

Talking to Franziska about my feelings wasn’t exactly on my to-do list for the day…

He was thankful for her attempt to take his mind off of things, but his brain had somehow managed to connect even her court cases to Wright.

Prisoner to my own thoughts, once again.

Sighing, he mulled over what Franziska had said. She had a point about Wright’s reaction being unfair, but she also didn’t know the full story. She didn’t know that they had been pretending to date to keep a woman at bay. She didn’t know that he’d taken advantage of the situation to spend time with Wright.

The more Miles thought about it, the more awful he felt. The optimistic voice in his head had told him that there was a chance, that Wright probably felt the same way, but deep down, he knew that wasn’t true.

Still, Franziska was right. He couldn’t lock himself in his apartment and avoid the entire world because of Wright.

Straightening up, he made his way into the living room and looked around. Cleaning up had managed to lift his spirits somewhat and he felt like he could at least breathe a bit better.

I’ll be fine.

He grabbed the newspaper from the coffee table and sat down in his armchair.

If I stay positive, words will surely stop reminding me of Wright for no reason.

Hopeful, Miles flipped to the puzzles page and picked up his pen.

12 across, 6 letters: ‘Refusal to admit painful truths.

And there it was. The word that summed it all up. How he’d refused to acknowledge his own feelings at first. How he’d refused to listen to his common sense about Wright. And how he was now refusing to see that he was not fine – that he couldn’t just make heartbreak go away by asking nicely.

Miles sighed.

If I deny it long enough, maybe it’ll come true.

Chapter Text

Phoenix groaned as the Steel Samurai theme started blaring in his ears. After a few seconds, he begrudgingly reached for the night table and fumbled blindly for his cellphone. Grabbing it, he brought it closer to his face and cracked an eye open to inspect the number. He sighed.

Crap.

He pressed the accept button and put the phone to his ear, bracing himself. “Hello?”

Nick! Where the hell are you!?

“Sorry, Maya,” Phoenix replied, rubbing his eyes with his free hand. “I forgot to set my alarm. I’ll be there ASAP.”

Maya sighed. “Hurry up, you’re already forty minutes late.

“I’ll do my best. See you in a bit.”

The line went dead.

She’s really mad.

Sitting up, he put the phone back down on the night table and stretched his arms.

I guess she has a right to be. I keep lying to her and now I’m late for work. I really need to make it up to her once this is over.

He frowned.

What am I talking about? It’s already over.

Phoenix winced as the feelings that had kept him up for most of the night came rushing back. No matter how many times he replayed Edgeworth’s confession in his head, it still didn’t feel real.

I’ve been over this a thousand times already. Why can’t I just let it go?

If he was being honest with himself, he knew the answer to that. It had taken several months just to get Edgeworth to act somewhat friendly towards him, and then Edgeworth had actually wanted to spend time with him and Phoenix was so overjoyed to finally have his old friend back, but no, that would have been too perfect. Instead, Edgeworth had somehow fallen for him and gotten the wrong idea about Phoenix’s feelings.

How did this happen?

Phoenix had only flirted with him as a joke and it had been obvious to him that Edgeworth was aware. He couldn’t recall anything that could have led Edgeworth to believe that he was interested in him in that way. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He could remember talking to Edgeworth about women. Hell, he’d even flirted with a girl right in front of him.

Wait…

He grabbed his wallet and started flicking through the pile of business cards he’d accumulated from random stores and cafés he’d been to. Finding the card he was looking for, he took it out and read it again.

May Q. Jellis
Hair Stylist
Landline: 555-7599
Mobile: 555-5844
Sunday-Wednesday Working Hours

He picked up his cellphone. After hesitating a bit, he dialled the number to May’s mobile and put the phone to his ear. It started to ring.

May Jellis speaking. How may I help you?

“Yes, hi,” Phoenix said, more nervous than he should be about a simple phone call. “I’d like to make an appointment.”

You’re in luck! I just got a cancellation at 1 P.M. this afternoon. Would that work for you?

“Uh…”

Phoenix pondered for a moment. He wasn’t expecting to see May today – it didn’t give him a lot of time to mentally prepare. Not only that, but he’d probably have to take the afternoon off after getting yelled at by Maya for being late. He decided he didn’t care.

“Sure, that works just fine.”

May hummed. “Okay, let me mark this down. What’s your name?

“Phoenix.”

Oooh, I knew I recognised that voice!” May exclaimed. “How’s mystery man doing today?

Phoenix chuckled at the nickname. “I’m good, and you?”

Oh, I’m great! Especially now that you called!” She laughed.

Phoenix felt his face get hot. Getting hit on so openly was not something he was used to. He opened his mouth to reply but closed it again when nothing came out.

Cat got your tongue?” May asked playfully.

“Sorry, I’m just…” Phoenix started to reply, before realising he didn’t know how to finish his sentence.

Idiot.

May laughed again. “It’s okay! I’ll see you at 1, then?

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll be there.”

Alright, see you then!

“Bye.”

Phoenix hung up, dropped the phone back on the night table and buried his face in his hands with a groan. Why was he so useless?

---

The sky was bright and clear, summer in full swing as Phoenix walked through the neighbourhood to the salon. He shuffled along and scowled up at the sky. He hadn’t gotten enough sleep for the nice weather to be uplifting. In fact, it made him feel even worse.

I doubt it’s the weather’s fault, but I feel like the sun is criticising me.

Damned sun.

This area of town was one of those typical new, trendy districts with nice street art and lots of jaunty coffee shops and brunch places. Walking past a particularly aesthetically pleasing shop, Phoenix paused to look through the window.

It was a tea room. They had shelves of the stuff, all in fancy loose leaf form without a tea bag in sight. Every aspect of the place looked inviting, even the dozen twenty-somethings sitting around playing with their MacBooks.

Of course it’s a tea room. I could have stopped by a place that didn’t remind me of Edgeworth, but that would have been too normal.

Phoenix picked the next shop along. It was a tattoo parlor. Much better. And boy, was it full of tattoos. Even the shop front was covered in the things. Phoenix didn’t have any interest in getting a tattoo, nor did he know anyone who had one, so there was no chance of them triggering any unwanted thoughts. There were big ones, small ones, animals, words…

So why am I still thinking about the tea shop? Why do I suddenly have the urge to let him know about it?

Phoenix shook his head. What was he doing? He’d been over this a hundred times already, complete with lack of sleep, tears and all that jazz. Hanging out with Edgeworth, even sending a text, was not currently an option. Besides, he had somewhere to be.

He quickened his pace, staring at the sidewalk in front of him as he went along. Tunnel vision. All he needed was to have a relaxing haircut in nice company and he’d feel much better.

…Do I even deserve to feel better?

Yes. Stupid question. I’m sure Edgeworth is at work right now, buried in his paperwork, distracting himself from all this crap. He’ll forget about me in no time and everything will go back to normal.

I’ll do the same.

Relief washed over Phoenix as he finally spotted the salon. He quickly made his way to the entrance and walked in.

“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked with a smile.

“Um, yes, actually, I--”

“Oh, I remember you!” she cut across, smiling even more. “You’re Larry’s friend, right?”

Ugh. Why do I always get this sense of dread whenever I’m linked to the Butz?

“Yeah, I guess I am,” Phoenix mumbled in reply. “He’s not working today, is he?”

The receptionist shook her head. “No, I’m sorry. But I’m meeting up with him for a drink after work. I can tell him you were looking for him if you want?”

Phoenix eyed her suspiciously. She was wearing some flashy jewelry and her nails looked pristine. Those were telltale signs he’d seen before.

Looks like your charms have somehow worked again, my romantic friend.

Phoenix cleared his throat. “No, that’s okay. I’m actually here for an appointment. Is May around?” He peered over the divider that separated the reception area from the salon to try and spot her colourful purple hair.

Putting her hand to her heart, the receptionist sighed in an exaggeratedly sweet way. “Oh, honey, I should have known you were May’s cute guy!”

I guess I should take that as a compliment. And May has been talking about me, so that’s obviously good.

But why did she have to call me ‘honey’?

…I hate this.

“Hah, yes, that’s me,” Phoenix replied, proceeding to clear his throat a second time and hoping that didn’t make him sound as stupid as he felt.

“I’ll go grab her,” the receptionist said with a wink before trundling off to find May.

Phoenix ran a hand through his hair. Now that he was actually here, it felt strange. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but the feeling was there all the same.

Haircut and chill. You’ve got this, Phoenix.

“Hi, Phoenix!” May had changed her hair. Today, she wore it flat, still long, but instead of the purple colour, her roots began as a deep blonde and slowly turned to a bright orange at the ends. It looked pretty cool. Edgeworth would hate it.

“Hi, May. Your hair is different,” Phoenix commented. He cleared his throat, again, before adding, “I mean, it’s a great colour.”

“Aww, thanks!” She smiled brightly. “I like to experiment on myself.” She gestured behind her. “Do you want to take a seat so we can talk about what you want today?”

“Yes, sure, of course, thanks,” Phoenix stumbled.

Any other synonym for ‘okay’ you want to add in there, you big idiot?

May nodded and took him over to a spare seat in the salon. Sitting down, Phoenix took a look around before settling.

There were two other customers, a guy and a girl. Phoenix had been to salons that made him feel out of place because he was the only guy there, but this one seemed to be doing a decent job of drawing men in. The décor wasn’t overly girly and the posters on the walls featured hairstyles for both genders.

“So what can we do for you today?” May ran a hand over his hair and took a look at the ends. “You have such awesome hair,” she added, smiling at him in the mirror.

Phoenix grinned, looking only slightly self-conscious from what he could see in his reflection. “Thanks. It’s a bit of a pain, really.” He looked down for a second, before looking back at May in the mirror. “Erm, but if you think it’s nice, then it definitely is.”

Smooth as shit.

May laughed. “I do have very good tastes, I assure you.”

Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck. “Yes, uh, anyway, I was hoping for a quick trim. Just, you know, tidy things up a bit.” He paused. “I thought you’d be the best person to call seeing as you like me--I mean! My hair.”

Hallelujah, I’ve finally stopped talking.

May ran her hands through his hair. “You’re cute, you know that?” Phoenix felt his face flush slightly in response. She studied his hair a little longer, before meeting his eyes. “It doesn’t look like you really need much taking off at all. When was the last time you had it cut?”

Oops, I’ve been had.

“Well, I like to have very precise cuts with my hair.” He mimed cutting something with his fingers. “It has to stay perfectly the right length, you see.” He nodded and awkwardly put his hand away after realising what he was doing. “Yep. Very precise.”

May laughed again, which Phoenix took as a good thing. “Alrighty. Well, I’ll go and get my tools ready. Wet or dry cut?”

Dry.

“Wet, please.”

Fuck.

Once May was out of sight, Phoenix put his head in his hands. He didn’t have a clue what he was doing. It was painfully obvious that he was terrible at flirting. Plus it felt wrong for some reason.

I guess it’s ‘cause I’ve been ‘dating’ Edgeworth for a bit. That’s bound to mess up my moves a little.

Pfft. Like you ever had any moves to start with.

Phoenix felt the familiar Edgeworth hole open up in his stomach and he rubbed his eyes as exhaustion overwhelmed him. All those thoughts buzzed around in his head again. Poor Edgeworth and his feelings, then anger at his deception, then sadness at the fact that he couldn’t just pick up the phone and call Edgeworth about what to do about Edgeworth. Phoenix knew he missed Edgeworth already. He pictured them making up and pretending that nothing had happened so that they could go back to their fake relationship and hang out some more.

“If you could follow me to the sink,” May said sweetly, interrupting Phoenix’s thoughts.

“Will do.” Phoenix got up and looked around the salon again on his way over. There weren’t any art pieces or food stands – weird things to look for in a normal salon, but with Larry around, you never knew. “So, May, what does Larry actually do around here?” He settled into his seat as she busied around, gathering items.

“Larry?” May laughed. “Officially, he’s a caretaker intern. Cleans up hair off the floor, shampoos and mixes colour.” She turned on the showerhead and started washing Phoenix’s hair. “Good on the temperature?” Phoenix nodded. “Cool. Unofficially, he washes women’s hair and makes wacky wigs with hair cuttings.”

Phoenix laughed out loud at that. “Seriously? He gets away with that?”

“Yup. Outright refuses to touch any of the guys’ hair. I don’t think he realises that probably makes customers doubt his sexuality more than if he just did it.”

Sounds like Larry. Tries way too hard at everything he does.

“I have my suspicions that I won’t be seeing him much in the near future,” Phoenix commented, pointedly looking over at the reception desk.

“Has he already mentioned that?” May giggled. “Chelsea finally gave in to his flirting. It’s quite sweet, actually. He’s more than happy to take her out for a meal whenever she pleases. Even paid for her manicure the other day.”

Just call me Sherlock, baby.

“Larry’s an attentive boyfriend, I’ll give him that,” Phoenix agreed.

Doesn’t half pick ‘em, though…

“Oh wow!” May said in awe. “Look who just walked in. Isn’t that the most amazing hair you’ve ever seen!?”

Amazing was not quite the first word Phoenix would have used, but the man in question certainly didn’t have standard hair. The only thing Phoenix could think of calling it was a ‘front-facing mohawk’ – it looked like some kind of sun disk that stuck straight up from one side of his head to the other. He’d also dyed the mass of hair bright pink at the tips.

“Eye-catching,” Phoenix eventually replied, making sure not to lie but not to disagree, either.

“I feel like you two would be the best of friends.”

Because hair is how people make friends, obviously.

When he thought about it, though, Phoenix realised that hair was the exact reason he was here, in that precise moment, trying to make a new friend. But he quickly disregarded that fact – it was still stupid to think that people would get along just because of their hair.

Plus my hair isn’t as crazy as that!

“Oooh!” May exclaimed. “You could employ him as your assistant and fight crime together! ‘Peacock and Hedgehog: Defenders of Your Back Garden’.” She giggled to herself.

Hedgehog!?

“Heh. Yeah.” Phoenix racked his brains to come up with something a little more clever. “Or even: ‘Parrot and Porcupine: Picking up the Trash’.”

That sounds pretty damned awesome. Good one, buddy!

“Hmm… Definitely more of a peacock. Look at that handsome little face of his.”

It registered for a second in Phoenix’s mind that that comment should probably bother him, seeing as he was the one trying to be a little more than friendly with May, but he found that he didn’t care. Probably because he didn’t know May well enough yet.

Probably.

May was done with the hair washing by this point. Next up was the massage.

It felt nice. Nothing special, but Phoenix didn’t need special. Perfectly adequate. Definitely relaxing. Also, part of the job.

Way more relaxing and professional than I imagine trying to get Edgeworth to give me a massage would be.

…Nope. That’s banned. All thoughts combining Edgeworth and massage in a single sentence are hereby in contempt of thinking.

Stupid thoughts like that and inappropriate jokes that followed were likely what had caused Edgeworth to get the wrong idea in the first place. If only he’d kept his mouth shut, they wouldn’t be in this awful situation.

“Right, Porcupine. We’re done at this waterfall.” May patted his shoulders. “Time to prune those spikes.”

What have I done?

“That was a nice massage,” Phoenix commented as they made their way back over to the styling chair. Sitting down, he was about to commend himself for the smooth remark, but then he replayed it in his head and realised it didn’t sound quite right. “Oh God, I’m sorry. That wasn’t what I meant.”

May laughed and shook her head. “Phoenix, instead of being an awkward and crap flirt, why don’t you just ask me out?”

Phoenix stared at his reflection.

Yeah, Phoenix, why don’t you?

Well, I’m not especially attracted to her, and although she seems nice, I don’t really know her…

Stop it.

He looked at May in the mirror and smiled sheepishly. “So you worked that out, huh?” He leaned his head forward as she wrapped the sheet around him. “Can you… I mean, would you like to go for a drink sometime?”

May smiled back. “That would be heaps of fun.”

“Great!” Phoenix just beamed for a moment. Realising he was being awkward again, he continued, “So, when are you free?”

“Uh… I’m covering for someone on Saturday, so you could pick me up here after my shift?” May grabbed a pair of scissors and a comb from her apron. “I’ll make sure to do my hair almost as perfect as Mr. Peacock.” She winked and started trimming the smallest amount off Phoenix’s precious locks.

She’s so calm and natural about this.

And I think she actually does like me, for some strange reason.

“Perfect! You’re so easy.” Phoenix was about to leave it at that, before his words finally registered. “Crap, I meant, that was easy, ‘cause you’re so laid back and easy to talk to. Goddamn it…”

“You terror!” May tapped him lightly on the shoulder in jest. “Well, good thing one of us is, huh?”

Is easy? Or…?

“Sometimes I do wonder how I function in life,” Phoenix replied, rubbing the back of his neck.

May paused from her trimming. “You know, I have a friend who’s just like you. They find it really hard to talk to boys.”

“I can actually talk to boys quite well,” Phoenix boasted.

May rolled her eyes and went back to cutting. “I hope your flirting game is better with them, too. Can’t get much worse.”

Ouch.

Wait… what?

Phoenix studied her, not wanting to jump to conclusions. It was definitely a joke – he could tell from the way she was silently laughing to herself. Flirting with men was not something she actually thought he was doing.

It was so easy to fake flirt with Edgeworth.

Why is this so much harder?

“Anyway, my friend,” May continued, a light smile still on her face, “maybe you could find someone to bring along for them on Saturday?”

“Um… maybe.” Phoenix rubbed his chin in thought.

Larry is apparently dating someone now, and Edgeworth, well…

“This may sound lame, but I can’t think of any single guy friends of mine right now.”

“Oh well.” May sighed. “I was hoping your uptight friend from the other day was single.”

Phoenix couldn’t help it; he let out a loud, sharp laugh, then had to hold onto his ribs as a jolt of pain stabbed through his chest.

Shit. I have the most morbid humour.

Massaging his ribs, he did his best to keep his head still. “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to be rude. It’s just… Edgeworth?”

“So he’s single? My friend likes the handsome bookworm types.”

Phoenix chuckled at that. Edgeworth definitely fit that description. “Well, he’s single, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be interested in your friend.”

Or in going on a double date with me…

Guilt suddenly washed over him. No more laughing at Edgeworth. He didn’t deserve that treatment.

“Really? Why?” May tilted her head. “Isn’t he gay?”

Phoenix’s eyes widened in surprise.

Wait… so she’s talking about a guy friend? How did she know that Edgeworth likes men?

Phoenix bit his lip. “Yeah, I think so… He just… I don’t think he does dating.”

I guess that’s why he didn’t want to tell me… If he kept it a secret, he could keep spending time with me without having to commit to anything.

Does that mean he thinks I’m attractive?

That felt like a massive compliment. Edgeworth thought he was good-looking. Pretty damned flattering. But should he really be flattered? Phoenix didn’t know. Everything seemed so complicated now.

“Really?” May looked a little shocked. “I could’ve sworn… Well, never mind.”

“Could’ve sworn what?” Phoenix probed, curious.

“Well… He got a little defensive when the two of us were talking, and you looked a little out of sorts when he did, so I just assumed.” May shrugged, leaving it at that.

Not quite enough for Phoenix to figure out what was going unsaid.

“Okay, I’m a bit lost here.” Phoenix readjusted the towel around his neck. “You assumed what, exactly?”

“Well, I just figured since your friend… Edgeworth, was it? Yeah, he seemed a bit jealous when we were talking, so I thought he kind of… liked you that way, I dunno.” She shrugged again, taking a step back to look at the overall style, before looking at Phoenix. “Sorry, I thought it was obvious and you knew.”

Phoenix swallowed and looked away, eyes wide.

Seriously? Am I that oblivious? A complete stranger picked up on something I hadn’t even considered about one of my closest friends?

How did I not notice this? What the hell is wrong with me!?

After a few minutes of silence, May piped up again. “Done with the cut!” She picked up a hand mirror to show him the back. “There wasn’t too much to take off but I’ve tried to keep it glorious.”

Phoenix glanced at the mirror absentmindedly and managed a small nod.

He was even acting strange when we went to the restaurant that first time…

Fuck. How long had Edgeworth kept this from him? Why did he think it was okay to inadvertently let others in on his secret but not him?

…I’m being irrational.

“Thanks for your patronage, sir,” May said in jest, bowing a little.

“No worries, lassie,” Phoenix replied, immediately realising that he’d bungled what could have been a witty response and basically called her a dog. He scrunched his eyes closed and rubbed the back of his neck. “You know, I may have to take some eloquence lessons before Saturday.”

May’s laugh was nice. Girly and high-pitched, but very warm and not at all shrill. For some reason, Phoenix found himself comparing her open humour to Edgeworth’s guarded emotions. Laughter seemed to ooze from May like honey, filling in all the cracks and making everything sweet. Edgeworth would only allow small drips through, leaving you needing more and looking for reasons to squeeze out the next drop. Honey, he was not. Absinthe seemed more fitting.

That’s when Phoenix decided he needed a drink.

After sorting out the last few details for Saturday, May directed him over to the reception desk to pay and he managed to say goodbye without making himself look even more like an idiot. Once he was out of the salon, he let out a deep breath and felt his shoulders relax.

He wandered down the street for a while, looking for a bar. There were plenty of cafés so he was sure one would turn up eventually. Brunch was now the trendy thing but alcohol was never out of fashion.

Phoenix considered calling someone to join him. Maya would normally be a fun presence but she was currently mad at him and besides, she wasn’t old enough to go to a bar and he really needed that drink. Larry could distract him from his thoughts with his inane chatting about his new girlfriend, but Phoenix would be terrible company in this state and both of them would notice that.

I wish I could call Edgeworth.

Phoenix pushed his hands further into his pockets. Damn that man. He’d infected Phoenix’s thoughts so thoroughly. It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours since he’d learned the truth and yet Phoenix already missed him. Even while trying to get his life back on track by meeting new people, all Phoenix’s mind supplied was Edgeworth thoughts.

Why did he have to tell me?

Phoenix knew he was being selfish. Of course Edgeworth had to tell him – Phoenix had even made him confess.

Why does it bother me so much?

Because their friendship would never be the same again. Unrequited feelings always ruined everything.

God, I didn’t even know he had the capacity for any type of romance! I’m such a closed-minded idiot.

Finally, a bar appeared in front of Phoenix. He couldn’t find the name. It must have been edgy enough to not need one.

As he entered, the smell of hops and yeast hit him in full force. Not the most pleasant aroma, but neither was it bad enough to make him turn around and walk out. There were several beer vats at the back. He’d stumbled on a microbrewery. Excellent.

The place was surprisingly well lit and featured white-coloured everything. There was the usual industrial feel that these places went for, with exposed metal beams and brushed steel in some areas. Even the bartender looked more like a miner than a barkeep. She was wearing beige overalls over a bright white top and she had a heap of piercings scattered over her ears and face.

It was quiet with only one other patron, so Phoenix took a seat at the bar and signalled to the bartender to bring him the house beer.

“We call this one ‘Hopping Mad’,” she said, placing the glass of amber liquid in front of him. “It’s got that fruity taste of melons and oranges at first, but then bam, the hops will hit you smack in the face.”

And that’s a good thing?

“Thanks,” Phoenix replied, trying not to sound too miserable. He took a drink. It tasted like beer. “Yeah, really getting those hops through,” he lied. He was as good at tasting beer as he was at distinguishing wine.

The bartender nodded emphatically. “We make sure to brew it with the finest stuff.”

Now I just want to call Edgeworth even more. He’d love all that brewing crap talk.

Phoenix sighed and stared down at his beer, before taking another sip.

They were going to have to talk to each other soon. He needed to work out what he could do to salvage their relationship.

I’ve obviously been acting too sexy. Got to rein in that Phoenix charm.

…It’d probably go a lot better if I wasn’t such a sarcastic jackass.

Phoenix took another gulp of beer. He still didn’t feel relaxed.

All the days he’d spent with Edgeworth over the past month played through his head. Everything had gone so fast, and yet he could recount each moment. The accidental stumbling into a fake relationship, Edgeworth’s adamance about not wanting to do anything romantic, their first date where everything went wrong, their second date where everything went right. All the times afterwards where they’d enjoyed spending time together. Edgeworth’s smile, when he’d finally relaxed. Phoenix could visualise it so readily. He tried to pinpoint the moment when Edgeworth had ruined everything by seeing Phoenix in a different light, but he couldn’t figure it out. Edgeworth had always been so hard to read.

Maybe if I can work out why he likes me that way, I can just not do those things? Then we can be normal friends again.

But as much as he joked about it, Phoenix was sure that any attraction Edgeworth felt probably wasn’t focused on his looks. Phoenix knew he wasn’t ugly, but his face and body weren’t the type to turn people gay, if that was even a thing. Hell, the fact that he was a man probably didn’t even play into any of it for Edgeworth. So, no, Phoenix couldn’t fix it by simply wearing a bag over his head or something.

He sighed.

It’s not like I can change my personality, either. Plus I don’t see why he’d be interested in my sarcastic, awkward – but admittedly hilarious – self.

He’d saved the guy’s life in court, he guessed, but that was work.

The only other thing Phoenix could think of was that maybe Edgeworth was attracted to the way he treated him. Phoenix liked him and wanted to spend time with him. Edgeworth was pompous and a bit of a know-it-all, sure, but he was also secretly kind, dryly funny, and so passionate about everything. Who else knew him the way Phoenix did? Was there anyone else who knew how great Edgeworth was as a person, not just as a prosecutor?

Most of the way through his beer now, Phoenix was starting to feel a little better. A plan was forming. He could just act indifferent to anything cool that Edgeworth did, not look so happy to see him. More of a colleague, less of a close friend.

Doesn’t sound great, though.

Finishing the dregs of his beer, he slumped onto the bar and gestured to the bartender for another.

“I don’t mean to interrupt, buddy,” the bartender said, definitely interrupting as she gave him another beer, “but I see you’re on a bit of a downer.”

Phoenix shrugged and took a drink. “Yeah, something like that.”

“Girlfriend troubles?”

“Not quite, but ish,” he said, swilling the liquid around in the glass.

“Romance is a bummer, huh.”

“Yeah.” Phoenix took another gulp, the bitterness not reaching him this time. He was getting tipsy.

“I just swear off dating at all now,” the bartender added. “Only so many assholes you can put up with in this world.”

I wish Edgeworth was an asshole. That’d make it easy.

Phoenix ran a hand through his hair. It felt so fresh and clean. “Tell me,” he began, knowing just how chatty he got after even the slightest bit of alcohol, “what would you do if a friend told you they liked you as more than a friend?”

She shrugged and leaned on one of the small fridges behind the bar. “Depends. Is she good-looking?”

“I guess.”

“Is she a close friend? Or one you just put up with?”

Is it bad that I just imagined Edgeworth and Larry side by side for comparison there?

Phoenix sighed. “Close. Very close.”

“Sounds like you should just give it a go, buddy. Wish one of my close friends liked me that way. Would make things easier.”

The bartender nodded to herself, before going over to serve the other patron. Phoenix leaned back in his seat and stared at the ceiling for a while. As much as he had teased Edgeworth about his lack of knowledge on the subject, Phoenix wasn’t particularly gifted in the art of romance, either. He’d only had one long-term girlfriend, who had turned out to be a murderer. Go figure. Plus, thinking back on his stale flirting from earlier, he realised he hadn’t even tried to date anyone in years.

“You need a top-up?” the bartender asked, indicating Phoenix’s glass, which was surprisingly almost empty.

“My friend… He’s not a girl,” Phoenix answered, nodding his head for another beer. Yep, he was definitely tipsy. Come to think of it, he hadn’t eaten much today.

The bartender made a small humming noise as she poured the next beer. “But now you wish he was?”

Now there’s a question.

Phoenix took a long drink at that, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

Would I date Edgeworth if he was a girl?

He couldn’t picture Edgeworth as a female, and if he met an Edgeworth-acting woman at a bar, he definitely wouldn’t want her number. But what if Miles had always been a girl? If it had been a girl he’d known in school and he’d saved her from herself in their adult years and grown closer to her once their friendship was rekindled?

Phoenix suddenly felt tears well up in his eyes. “I don’t want to not be friends. It’s going to be shit without him.”

The bartender whistled and shook her head. “Buddy, you’re screwed. You’ve either got to gain a boyfriend, or downgrade a close friend to an acquaintance.” She shook her head again. “I’ll keep the beer flowing for ya.”

“Appreciated.”

Funny how she thinks ‘gaining a boyfriend’ is an actual option here.

In reality, I guess I just lost one, kind of. Except it wasn’t real.

Dating hadn’t been a part of his life for a very long while, and now Phoenix had found himself a fake partner, rejected him, then put himself into another goddamned awkward dating situation with some random woman. What a rollercoaster, and all because he’d gotten drunk after overthinking his friendship with Maya following the Engarde case.

Romance sucks.

The glass of beer was emptying quickly, but that was a good thing. All the emotions felt fuzzy, his thoughts free to roam. Nothing was there to stress him now. He could think about anything without all the guilt.

I wonder what Edgeworth is doing now? I hope he’s okay. He hasn’t called, so I guess he’s coping.

Edgeworth was strong. Even though Phoenix hadn’t reacted well – he’d run away faster than a dodgy witness – Edgeworth would be handling it. Probably not in the most healthy way, but in an Edgeworth way that involved work, tea and reruns of the Steel Samurai.

Phoenix smiled a wry smile down at the bar. Images of Edgeworth playing chess and walking around a museum were fun. He could imagine him dressed in his usual expensive clothes – in this case, designer jeans and a flattering henley – smell the woody cologne he always used – which was probably expensive too – and see his small frown as he overthought every move or silently judged every other art piece.

He’s such a dork. He can do so much better. Actually find someone who’s interested.

Phoenix frowned. That seemed a little wrong. Edgeworth didn’t date. He’d developed feelings for Phoenix by accident, a strange phenomenon that Phoenix still didn’t understand.

Seriously, how does a man like him see anything in me?

Phoenix had cleared the hell out, not wanting to confuse Edgeworth any more than he already had. He’d moped, and cried, and been emotional. Angry at Edgeworth, but also furious with himself for letting it get to this. Sad about ruining an important friendship. He’d tried to fix things by asking May on a date, hoping it would make the situation clear for both himself and Edgeworth.

And now he was sitting in a bar, crying again, he noticed, and drunk as a defendant at a ‘not guilty’ verdict.

He slammed a hand down on the bar, not caring if it seemed rowdy. It made him feel better.

We need to talk about this. I should call him right now.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket and tried to hold it so he could see the keypad. It kept going in and out of focus. Pretty much impossible to press the correct keys when his cell was being a dick. After several attempts at dialling the number, Phoenix gave up.

Sliding his phone back into his pocket, which took a bit of fumbling, he signalled for another beer.

I’m a strong, independent man, totally dealing with this. I don’t need no emotional talks… until the morning.