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That’s the Magic of Theater

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Miles Edgeworth has earned a reputation for being a less than friendly man. 

This is about half fair and half unfair. He isn't rude— he doesn't think so, anyway, and he is admittedly quite biased in his own favor, as most people are. But he is particular about the way that he likes certain things to be done and he isn't shy about expressing that. 

He has been a playwright and theatrical producer for quite some time now. A decade flew by before he even realized it, and by then he had made quite a name for himself. He takes his art very seriously because it is a continuation of his father's legacy. He only wanted to continue in that family tradition, but Gregory had been relatively obscure. Miles, unintentionally, had dwarfed his father's reputation. His work has been forgotten in the shadow of what his son has created. This made Miles a bit sad at first, but then he thought that maybe his father would have been proud, and then he stopped letting it bother him and chose to focus on advancing his career even further. 

Though he has had many a success and has plenty of accolades to his name, he hasn't been doing as well recently. Not the plays themselves. People still go and see them, even when he feels they aren't his best work, and the reviews are largely favorable. But Miles knows better than anyone else what he wants his work to be. And too many times now he has sat idly by and watched directors butcher his vision. He has seen actresses that are too young and actors that are too handsome and others that play the role too seriously or with a bit too much comedic flair. To anyone else it might be negligible, but Miles Edgeworth is nothing if he is not a perfectionist. His overall frustration has led to a stagnation in his creative process, and he has more than once sat down to write and given up after many frustrating hours of not being able to write anything good enough. 

He has decided that he's had quite enough, and that something has to change, and so he's taken to sitting in on the casting calls and practice runs of his local theater, the one that always gets to perform his work first. He knows the various directors and casting directors and even the wardrobe and backdrop artists by now. He knows the place like the back of his hand. His presence is not a surprise to the people who (on more than one occasion) have listened to one of his lectures about costumes that are too modern or music that's too upbeat. 

The actors, though— they don't always seem to expect him. Plenty of them don't recognize him, because Miles isn't "famous" in the sense of a Hollywood starlet. His work is famous, and he might be considered a celebrity in particular circles, but Miles himself is very rarely recognized on the street. He prefers it this way. When actors do recognize Miles they often seem flustered upon realizing that it's THE Edgeworth, the mind behind it all. Miles worries in those cases that he has accidentally sabotaged what would otherwise have been a perfectly good audition, but he always reminds himself that any actor worth his salt can keep calm under pressure. 

Miles Edgeworth isn't an actor. He's nowhere near as controlled, not when he actually cares about something, and he cares about art. He is seated in a folding metal chair beside the "man in charge" for this particular production and the casting director, waiting for actors to arrive to read for his latest protagonist, and he can't seem to control his hands any longer. He can't help but angrily tap his pen against his notebook and the director looks as nervous as the gesture itself. He starts to say something about Miles being too particular, too specific, but he stops himself. Because he knows it's pointless and that he can say it as many times as he likes, but Miles' methods will not change. They got him to where he is now and he isn't about to change them because some producer or musician is annoyed by his demands. 

The first actor arrives at last. He's early, but the minutes have dragged by at such an achingly slow pace that Miles is certain in his mind that he's actually an hour late. He doesn't let this show, because that wouldn't be fair. The actor recognizes him right away, gushes over him for a minute or two before Miles stops him and tells him to get on with it. The actor, to his credit, isn't offended and does as he's told. And Miles is certain that he isn't the right fit for the part. He's blunt about saying this. Everyone looks startled. 

"Miles, I know you're picky, but he's good-looking and has a great voice. You can't just dismiss people in seconds."

Miles scoffs.

"Clearly you don't understand what I'm looking for— not that that's a surprise considering your casting decisions for Reverie."

"That was four years ago!" 

"And yet you haven't learned anything!"

"If I'm in the way, I can just go," the actor grumbles. He's waiting for feedback. Something more than a simple "no". Miles waves a hand. 

"My associate here thinks that a pretty face is a necessity. He's trying to find the next broadway star and that isn't what this part calls for. You haven't done anything wrong, and I'm certain you'll land an excellent role elsewhere, but you're plainly and simply wrong for this part." 

"What exactly do you want?!" The casting director wails. "He read the lines just fine. If it's not the next star you want—"

Miles groans and pinches the bridge of his nose, threatening to dislodge his glasses in the process. He's not going to sit here and explain the entirety of his script to people who claim to have read it. He glances over the stack of paper with the selected scenes as the actor graciously leaves. 

It's a bit different from what he's been writing recently. It's a simpler story, something centered entirely around people and their very personal struggles. It's the sort of thing he started writing about over ten years ago (Was it fifteen years now?). The lead role is that of a single father in his late thirties to early forties. A very average man who has led a mostly average life. Miles is not looking for a movie star because real people do not look like movie stars. 

Another actor arrives, and then another, and all of them suffer that same issue. Overacting. Showmanship. A sense of grandeur, like each of them is playing a man who knows deep down that he has an undiscovered greatness in his soul that only needs to be set free, and that isn't the character they're meant to be playing. No one understands. Miles sends them away one by one, slowly growing more and more frustrated with it all and finding less and less to say about each individual and even wondering if, perhaps, his script isn't as solid as he had assumed it was and the message isn't clear. The other two, the ones on either side of him, seem just about ready to strangle him. They can't, though, because they would likely suffer a steep decline in profits if they did. 

"I would like to remind you that I am the casting director for a reason," Cathy tells him. Dave is just plain tired. Miles doesn't control everything— he know that they're qualified to do their jobs on the most basic level. But this is his work (a bit of an artistic experiment that he's quite proud of) and he isn't going to let their egos cloud it. He doesn't care if they're offended or not.

"And I'll remind you that I don't cast everyone," Miles drones. "This character in particular is the heart of this entire play, and if he's wrong then everything is wrong."

Cathy sighs. Dave doesn't say anything. They may be annoyed, but they care about the finished product, too, and they understand that Miles ultimately knows better than anyone else who his lead actors should be. So for now, at least, they set aside their complaints in the interest of the greater theatrical good. 

Another actor, then one more, and then it's time for the last one for the day, and just as Miles has resigned himself to giving up hope. The man is almost late to his audition and half-sprints into the room, saying something about his cab being stuck in traffic. Not the best first impression. He's so busy trying to collect himself for a minute or two (adjusting his jacket, finding his script, etcetera) that he doesn't spare a glance upwards at the assembled judges. Miles flips through his papers until he finds the provided information on the disorganized man in front of him and raises an eyebrow. What sort of a name is Phoenix Wright? A stage name? Surely a stage name. No one gave a child that kind of name. 

"You're relatively new to theater," Miles says aloud, and it's only partially directed at said actor. He says it mostly out of disbelief. It's certainly gutsy— a near-amateur trying out for the lead role of one of his plays, and in such a prestigious theater. But Miles wasn't about to judge a man for having the audacity to believe in his own talent. Miles had harassed what felt like dozens of publishers and producers and directors with his scripts in his early days, certain that the pages were worth their while whether they were ready to acknowledge him or not. If one wanted something one had to seize it without fear of failure. 

Phoenix Wright doesn't answer. Miles glances over his notebook and finds the man gaping at him, face a total blank. He's still reading, so he doesn't have the time to introduce himself. Cathy explains on his behalf. Phoenix recognizes him. That much is obvious. He seems nearly star-struck, but it only shows in his eyes and his gestures. He is nowhere near as obnoxious about it as some of the others have been. Miles doesn't fault people for their excitement, not in and of itself, but he doesn't like being fawned over. That part of him has not changed even as that kind of praise has become a somewhat common occurrence. 

"T-To answer your question," Phoenix starts, likely addressing something that hadn't technically been a question, "I am. I-I dabbled in college, but other things took priority. But I recently settled on a dream, so... here I am." 

"And you're reading for our main role?" Dave asks, clearly skeptical. He's giving Phoenix a less than subtle once-over. Phoenix isn't a supermodel, and he barely looks like an actor. He's a relatively normal-looking man, despite his strange hairstyle, of average height with a decent build. Miles happens to think he's quite handsome, but that's his own personal preference. Phoenix isn't "conventionally" attractive enough to catch the eye of someone as superficial as Dave. 

"Well, yes, I... I read the available scenes and it resonated with me, I guess." That catches Miles' interest, because for all their attempts to impress him none of the others have said that particular thing. That it "resonated". Even though that used to be a cliché line that Miles often heard in auditions. He gives Phoenix another look, this one more direct, meeting his eyes. Phoenix isn't ready for that. "I-If I could just say something before we start—" 

"Yes?" Miles can't help the way that one corner of his mouth lifts slightly. It's kind of amusing, waiting for Phoenix to spit it out already. Phoenix laughs sheepishly.

"I'm... a big fan of your work," he says, and that's more or less what Miles expects him to say. "Especially Turnabout! I've probably watched it or read it a hundred times." Phoenix grins. That isn't expected. Not at all. Turnabout is one of his earlier works, and while he's still very proud of it and considers it one of his finest, it's so plainly self-indulgent that it's not as relatable to the masses and is one of his smaller successes. 

"...Really? That one?"

Miles is tentative as he asks that, because he's always been a bit cynical and can't help but suspect that Phoenix is lying to try and get on his good side. But even that doesn't make any sense, because Miles has kept his fondness for Turnabout quiet. He doubts that Phoenix is a mind reader.

Phoenix nods, and he's still smiling. His smile is glowing. It takes his "average" face and makes it distinctly not-average for the way that it radiates such sincerity. That's what Miles has been looking for, he thinks. Honesty. This role is a humble one. It really isn't all that complicated. 

"Let's hear it, then," Dave encourages. He clearly isn't expecting anything. Phoenix nods and sets his things aside, and he shakes off some nervous energy before he begins. 

When Phoenix gets to work, Miles knows instantly, in his gut, that this one is the right one. Meanwhile Cathy and Dave seem underwhelmed and look unimpressed. When Phoenix is done, Dave comments that Phoenix delivers his lines in too "normal" a fashion, says there's hardly any "life" there, and Miles scoffs.

"That's exactly the fucking point."

Cathy is startled to hear that kind of phrasing from Miles, as he rarely uses profanity. Miles waves the script around as an emphasis to his words. 

"I'm not trying to cast an actor; I'm trying to cast a person," Miles explains. "The character is a single father whose life has become so devoted to his daughter that he has forgotten himself, becoming a mere puppet of man whose love for her has become his entire personality. There isn't anything remarkable about him at first. And sure, he changes throughout the production, but in the beginning he is SUPPOSED to seem plain."

"Yeah." Phoenix almost shrugs as he voices his agreement. He looks confused. Like he thinks that Miles is stating the obvious and is surprised that anyone would fail to see that in the script. And what a relief that is. 

Phoenix waits with admirable patience as the three of them bicker amongst themselves. Dave is unsure, and Cathy seems agreeable enough, but reluctant, and Miles isn't having any of it. He has found his star and he will fight tooth and nail for him. The fact that Phoenix is humble and has yet to find his big break only motivates Miles to fight harder in his stead. Other people have had their chance and Phoenix has not. He wants to give him that chance. If Dave and Cathy don't see a star yet, Miles will make one. 

"But we'd have to market him somehow," Dave says. Which Miles internally cheers at because it sounds like he does, at the very least, intend to hire him. 

"If you want me to look more distinctive I could always just take out my contact."

All three of the seated professionals look up at Phoenix, as they hadn't expected him to intrude so blatantly, and even Dave looks mildly intrigued now. Cathy looks embarrassed about the fact that the three of them had been arguing so openly about him right in front of him. 

"I'm sorry, your contact?" Cathy asks. "As in a contact lens?"

"Oh, I— I wear a colored contact in one eye."

"Just one?"

"Yeah, see?" Phoenix does as he had suggested and removes a small piece of plastic from his right eye in one quick motion. The motion reveals that the eye beneath it is blue, not brown. And that's interesting. Miles can't think of a time where he's seen an actor with that kind of genetic quirk. Which is odd, because if his understanding is correct, heterochromia isn't that uncommon. How many actors have been forced to hide it? 

"Well, now, that's interesting," Cathy says, leaning in to squint at his face.

"They always used to make me cover it up. It's distracting or something," Phoenix says. "But, I mean, I guess it's cool that I can have blue or brown, depending on the day." He sounds just plain bored of it. Miles wonders if he wears a colored contact all the time. 

A bit more discussion and it's decided— Phoenix is granted the callback. He doesn't technically have the part, not yet, but it's quite apparent that Miles isn't going to let anyone else have it, so he celebrates as if he's been told he's gotten the part anyway. No one holds that against him. Miles has been quite obvious about his intentions. 

Cathy and Dave pack up their things and leave. Miles prepares to do the same. He passes Phoenix in the lobby, who's on his phone, likely looking for transportation. He had mentioned taking a cab there. Miles stares at the back of his head. 

He shouldn't do what he's thinking of doing, but he feels this urge. Like he'll regret it every day for the rest of his life if he doesn't. So he swallows that bit of fear and marches towards the actor, who hears his steps and turns to face him. He's surprised to see Miles again. 

"I thought you would have gone home—"

"I plan to," Miles confirms, "but I was wondering if you'd like to accompany me. For a celebratory drink." 

Phoenix blinks, likely waiting for Miles to tell him that he's joking. When Miles does not retract the offer, he nods.

"I— I mean, yeah, sure, I'd be honored. But... really?"

"Yes. I'll have you know that I'm genuinely relieved to have found you. I was beginning to think that my play was doomed."

"It can't have been THAT bad."

"Maybe not for a normal person, but I have high standards." 

After staring him down for another moment, Phoenix smiles and gestures at Miles to lead the way. Miles knew he'd have to drive him. Which he considers a bonus. He has a very nice car to show off. Phoenix can see that plainly enough. He whistles as soon as he sees it and circles it for a moment. 

"This kinda thing makes me wish I could drive," he jokes. Miles doesn't know a lot of adults who can't drive, but he doesn't comment on it. He's irrationally terrified of earthquakes and has his reasons, so he doesn't condemn that kind of fear or apprehension in other people. Maybe he's being presumptuous when he assumes that's the reason, but he would prefer to be safe in this instance rather than sorry. 

Phoenix looks starstruck and out of his element in the passenger's seat. He isn't used to leather upholstery and he can't relax just yet, not when he's this close to someone he's admired so much for so long. Miles tries to create a more casual atmosphere by starting the conversation. But he has never understood small talk, so he ends up rambling about the casting issues. He's still mad about Reverie. Phoenix laughs. 

"I had heard you were a hardass, but I assumed they were exaggerating," he teases. Miles rolls his eyes. 

"I wouldn't have to be a hardass if people weren't so stupid!"

"That's fair. But for what it's worth, I do think I understand your work pretty well. I would have to after reading it a hundred times."

"Is Turnabout really your favorite, or were you just trying to seem above it all by picking something more obscure?" 

"No, it really is my favorite. I'm not sure what it is about it." Phoenix's face reddens slightly. "Actually, it's probably because I have a bit of a fiction-crush on Thomas."

Miles is so surprised to hear that that he could have stopped the car. He opts for raising an eyebrow instead. 

"Is that so?"

"Yeah." 

Miles smirks.

"I suppose that bodes well for me."

"Why's that?"

"Thomas is a rather shameless self-insert." 

It's Phoenix's turn to be surprised. 

"Oh?" He asks, like that's all he can seem to say. His expression changes slightly. To what, Miles isn't sure. It looks vaguely scheming. 

In any case, Miles has arrived at his destination. Phoenix clearly isn't used to this kind of apartment building. The kind with a doorman. Miles guides him to the elevator. He doesn't live on the highest floor, in the penthouse, but he does live high up and the elevator ride would have been unbearably long had Phoenix not provided light conversation. The elevator doors ding as they open and Phoenix follows dutifully as Miles leads him to the door at the very end of the hallway. 

The first thing Phoenix says, as soon as he is in Miles' apartment, is "wow". Miles smiles to himself. It's the kind of reaction he wants. It's a studio-style apartment, almost everything in what is essentially one enormous room, with a whole wall that's made up of windows with a view of the park across the street. An envious spot, to be sure. Phoenix wanders over to the piano first, brushing a careful hand over the smooth polish of it. 

"Is it true that you compose a lot of your own pieces for your scores?" He asks, sounding a bit timid as he does. 

"It is," Miles admits, "but I don't usually claim credit for them. It's just something that I do when writing to help me set a scene, and if it happens to be good enough to use, well... why throw it away?" 

"That would be a waste." 

"Besides that, the versions that make it to the final cut are usually modified by a proper composer. It wouldn't feel right to disregard that work." 

Phoenix, when granted permission, sits down at the piano bench to absently poke at the keys while Miles fetches a couple of glasses and some of his nicer wine. He opts to make a little appetizer as well— something simple enough to pair with it. Phoenix steals the occasional glance, but doesn't bother him otherwise. 

Miles makes his way to the piano to stand beside Phoenix and explain what it is that he's doing. Phoenix looks flattered. He says something about not often having other people cook for him. Miles takes that to mean that he's single, or that he lives alone, or that he has unhelpful roommates. He kind of hopes it's the first one, even if that's just him getting carried away with his own wishful thinking. He barely knows this man. Maybe he's just been single for too long. 

"I can actually play a little myself, you know," Phoenix boasts when he sees Miles' eyes on his hands. 

"And yet you've refrained from doing so thus far?"

"Hey, I don't wanna show off." 

"Says the actor." Phoenix snickers. Miles is glad to hear it. He likes to banter. He finds people who don't rather boring. If he's being serious, he knows that it's only polite to wait to play when one has been granted a willing audience. He goes to the living room and sets the glasses down on the coffee table. "Go ahead, then." 

Miles catches the slightest hint of a smirk on Phoenix's face as he readies his fingers. As the wine pours from Miles' bottle into his own glass, he hears very familiar notes floating up from the instrument, and he laughs. 

"Surely you can play something other than Chopsticks," Miles challenges. Phoenix doesn't say anything. He turns to look Miles right in the eye, takes in a deep breath, and switches tunes, just as he'd been dared to do. Except that now he's playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Miles laughs harder than he has in a while as Phoenix changes it up again to Yankee Doodle. Phoenix is just running through everything he learned in the basic classes. Miles learned all of those pieces on a keyboard in elementary school. 

As soon as the laughter has finished and Miles has fetched the finished finger food from his oven, he's back at Phoenix's side and the actor's expression is more serious. He smiles upwards, in Miles' direction. 

"Honestly, though, I do know at least one more piece," he says. Miles tells him to continue with his eyes. And then Phoenix is playing an actual song, and doing it quite nicely. Miles recognizes it from the opening of some Pixar film. Miles has to relent and admit that he is, in fact, impressed. Phoenix lights up at his praise. 

"I learned it for my daughter," Phoenix says. Miles isn't sure what to say. Phoenix looks at him, this time with a smile that's resolved and mature. "It's why I was able to relate to that character so much— There's no mom in the picture, but I ended up with Trucy after a series of crazy coincidences, and she's... she's my whole life."

"...I see. I assume that's why I haven't seen you around before?" Miles asks carefully. Phoenix nods. 

"I didn't have time for anything else. I couldn't raise a kid on an income that inconsistent. Being a performer isn't very reliable." Miles grimaces, but nods his agreement at that. It's the same on the other side. He'd barely been able to keep the lights on sometimes. Back when he'd been unable to capture the attention of a publisher or producer. 

"So what's changed?" 

"Well, she's a teenager now. She can take care of herself. She's looking at college options and she'll be out of the house before I know it. I'm gonna miss her, but..." Phoenix looks sad for a fleeting moment. "She encouraged me to go back into acting. Figuring out how to focus on myself again was hard, but I managed. I have her to thank for that."   

"Ah. I suppose all you had to do at that audition was draw from experience, then." 

"Pretty much." 

Miles doesn't say anything more about that. There's nothing he could add. Phoenix takes a seat on the sofa as Miles finishes his set-up. He clicks on his electric fireplace and the stereo, settling on some quiet jazz. His atmospheric choices seem distinctly romantic in nature. He isn't going to pretend that they aren't. As Miles sits down beside Phoenix, he offers his glass and proposes a toast. Miles is surprised, momentarily, by that initiative. He proposes a toast to Miles, to his work, and even if it's a cheap way to win his favor, Miles isn't about to argue with that. He's worked hard. And with Phoenix's help, this play might turn out to be one of his best yet.

They discuss the play, and they discuss Miles' ideas, and they discuss Phoenix's decision to audition. The conversation keeps moving along, and doing so organically at that. Nothing feels forced. Nothing feels like a useless jumble of words meant to do little more than occupy the empty space of silence. Phoenix has interesting things to say. Miles has stories to tell about his career that Phoenix is interested in hearing. Phoenix occasionally puts his foot in his mouth, and he has plenty of stories about nearly ruining some opportunity in that sort of way, but he's so honest about it, so able to laugh at his own misfortunes and shortcomings, that it's endearing. 

Miles doesn't really have that quality. When he feels that he has messed up, he lets it bother him for weeks. It keeps him up at night. People like Phoenix just join in on the joke and then move along. So even when Phoenix says something a bit eyebrow-raising, he embraces it in a way that only adds to his charm. A weird sort of charm, but Miles still feels that the word is more than appropriate. Phoenix has a certain sparkle to him, some kind of idealism, or an ambition, perhaps, that shines through him despite his humble presentation. 

Phoenix is SO charming, in fact, that he manages to sneak up on Miles. He doesn't really notice the topic he's slowly breaching until he comes right out and says it. Phoenix gives him a curious, if sheepish, look, and he accompanies it with an awkward grin. 

"If I can be honest, I... find it kinda hard to believe that you're still single!" 

Miles chuckles. He does that to mask his surprise more than anything else. People don't normally try to tackle that subject with him so early on, and when they do he tends to find himself feeling offended by their nosiness. He'll answer that curiosity for Phoenix, though. For no particular reason, of course. 

Maybe it's just because they've already discussed so much. Phoenix has talked about his daughter and all that he's had to sacrifice for her, and Miles has talked about his father and how much his death changed everything and how much of his life has been lived chasing the man's shadow. He's talked about his greatest successes and failures throughout his long career and Phoenix has talked about the catastrophes of his early auditions in his college years. Miles doesn't know if it's appropriate to call Phoenix a "stranger" anymore. 

He decides that if he's going to answer that inquiry, he's going to do it by continuing to play the game. 

"Why was Thomas single?" Miles asks cryptically. And Phoenix actually has re-read Turnabout, because he doesn't have to ask Miles to clarify his question or, worse, ask him which Thomas he's referring to. 

"Thomas was a workaholic," Phoenix answers. Which is a short version of a long answer, but works well enough for Miles' purposes. He nods.  

"Precisely." He gestures at Phoenix with his wine glass. He isn't sure when he emptied it. "Thomas wouldn't settle for anyone who didn't understand the ins and outs of his career." 

"You can't find a guy as into theater as you are?" 

It's not presumptuous of Phoenix to use the word "guy". Phoenix has proclaimed himself to be a fan of Miles', so he's no doubt read or watched interviews, and Miles has never been secretive about his preferences. He swore to himself that he would never do that shortly after his father's death, as his father's last wish for Miles was for him to always be true to himself. He couldn't deny that aspect of his identity if he tried. 

"Well, no— I suppose it's not quite that simple. For one thing, I have yet to meet a man that understands me on a creative level." 

"You're, uh," Phoenix laughs as he searches for words, "a bit more grand than the average creative. I dunno if you're gonna find somebody on your level without looking pretty damn hard." 

Miles waves a dismissive hand. 

"I'm not asking for another writer. I just want someone that understands its significance. Someone that can actually talk about those things." Miles sighs and swirls around the last of his wine. "And if it's not that, they're too intimidated by the demands of my career. I want someone confident enough to allow me the space to create while still exciting me and challenging me intellectually."

Phoenix whistles.

"That's a pretty strict list of qualifications." 

"I'm sure it is. But why shouldn't I be picky? They say that beggars can't be choosers, but I'm not begging."

"You're not?" 

"No. I'm perfectly happy with my life the way it is. I'm perfectly fine with being single. I've found success. Anyone who wants to intrude on my routine— to share the spotlight, if you will— had damn well better make it worth my while." 

Miles notices just then that Phoenix is quite close to him now. He has slowly inched his way closer on the sofa, and he's been staring for a while. 

"I believe you, Miles. I do." It's funny, Miles thinks, that they've both arrived at a first-name basis so quickly. Still, Miles doesn't correct him. "But, you know, I think I know what you want." 

Miles tries to disguise his smirk. A challenge? He leans back in his seat. 

"Do you now?"

Phoenix nods, and his face says that he is, in fact, confident in his answer. 

"I think you want someone to remind you why people bother with other people in the first place," he says. "Something worth the effort, but something that doesn't feel like work."

Miles laughs, feigning some parody of disinterested arrogance by combining it with the sound of a scoff. 

"Now you're just quoting my own work at me like I won't notice." 

Phoenix smiles. Miles notices that he has a pronounced dimple in one cheek, that his grin is slightly crooked in order to give way to that perfect little dip. 

"Actually, it's because I knew you would notice." 

"So you're bragging, then?" 

Phoenix's smile wavers for a moment, likely the result of some kind of embarrassment. Miles calls things as he sees them, though, and has never been one to mince words. Phoenix should have expected as much if he was so willing to challenge him. 

"Maybe a little," he admits, "but that's not the point. What I meant was—"

"Don't elaborate." Phoenix seems a bit surprised by the interruption even if he's not offended. Miles shrugs. "It defeats the purpose, doesn't it? I understand."

"Ah. The old show-and-don't-tell rule," Phoenix laughs. "You've always been good at that." 

Phoenix laughs softly as he sets his glass down. It's empty. Miles, too, has finished, and Phoenix carefully takes his glass from him and joins them together on the coffee table. Miles studies them with a raised eyebrow as Phoenix resumes his earlier position, sitting up straight and looking only at him.

"Are we done with the wine? Does this mean that you wanted to move on to dinner, perhaps?" Miles wouldn't mind cooking something, especially if it gives him an excuse to keep the actor here longer. Phoenix shakes his head. 

"I'm not all that hungry," he says. His eyes are fixed directly on Miles' and he can't seem to look away. The clashing colors make his gaze more intense than he realizes— he never put his contact lens back in. He's suddenly aware of Phoenix's hand on his knee. Miles is reminded of the warmth of human contact and how much he's privately missed it over the last few months. "I was thinking we could... skip straight to desert?" 

This time Miles does scoff. Not that he's turning his back on Phoenix that quickly, though, because he has a feeling that the line was meant to be corny. His laughter verifies that suspicion. 

"If you think for a second that a line like that will—"

"Of course not. Just a joke," Phoenix says, verifying Miles' assumptions. Then his expression grows more firm, something resolved in his eyes. "I was... I was thinking that this might work, though." 

With that, he goes in for the kill. 

Miles feels a gentle hand on his chin that pulls him closer and a pair of lips against his own. Phoenix doesn't do this all of a sudden, even if it does happen quickly. Miles could have moved away, could have told him he wasn't interested. He doesn't do either of those things. Instead he meets the kiss, savors it and leans into it. He sinks into it like a pool of water and feels a cascade over him. 

It's a need for air and not anything else that separates them after several very long and drawn-out seconds. As he catches his breath, Miles has to admit to himself that he's surprised things turned out this way. Phoenix has been laying it on thick the entire evening. Miles has been encouraging it. Inviting it, even. Still, he thought he may have been imagining things. For one particular reason that he voices in that moment. 

"You didn't strike me as the type to go after men," Miles says bluntly. His voice is unpleasantly hoarse. Phoenix grins, wide and crooked as ever, and scratches the back of his neck. 

"Well, I'm... not. Usually."

Once again, Miles is surprised. He has rarely met men bold enough to act on something that amounts to little more than a sneaking suspicion. They don't normally pursue other men until they've wrestled with the issue for years. 

"Really?" Miles sounds as intrigued as he is and Phoenix hears it. 

"Yep. I've only ever pursued women. I guess I had my passing man-crushes here and there, a lot of them the fictional or not-quite-fictional kind," Phoenix takes a second there to give Miles a smirk directed at their shared knowledge regarding Thomas, "but nothing I ever acted on. I'm sure my daughter would be pretty surprised."

"Hmm." Miles tries to shrug. It's harder in such close proximity. "You are supposed to be figuring out what you want, right? Your own desires? She may very well be happy to hear it." 

"Maybe. She's been trying to get me back on the market." 

"How so?"

Phoenix laughs and rolls his eyes.

"One of those online accounts. She set one up for me."

Miles grimaces. He tried his hand at online dating when he was young and naive. After the sixth or seventh unsolicited picture or paragraph of horrendously detailed and vulgar text, he swore that he would never venture there again. 

"I... imagine that didn't go well?"

"No. No, it did not." 

Miles doesn't ask for clarification. They can talk about that later. The next time that Miles has him over, maybe, because Miles has already decided that there IS going to be a next time unless Phoenix somehow ruins things in too colossal a way to overlook. He doubts that anything will change his mind.

Phoenix pulls him into another kiss. He's careful about it. Polite, almost, like he doesn't want to squeeze too tightly. Miles' own hands grip harder in response. It's not an admonishment— an assurance, perhaps. He is granting a kind of permission that Phoenix accepts. 

Kissing is kissing, so there's nothing about that that gives Phoenix's inexperience in this area away. It's when his hands move lower that Miles can tell. Phoenix isn't sure what he's supposed to be touching and how, because he's telling the truth when he says he's never done this before, not with men. Miles mumbles against his lips— "don't think about it," he says. Phoenix hums in response. Miles takes that as both a "yes, okay" and an apology for his uncertainty. Then there's a firm hand on the back of his thigh and all is forgiven. 

There's a tug at his throat. Phoenix is trying to remove his neckwear. Miles doesn't interrupt or say anything. He simply tries not to laugh as Phoenix's fingers become tangled in it and the tugging becomes insistent. He breaks away, visibly frustrated. 

"How the hell do you get this thing off...?" 

"Allow me," Miles chuckles, and he deftly removes the cravat. Phoenix looks almost jealous. He removes his own necktie as if to say "well, sure, I can do that too". 

As soon as the cravat is gone, Phoenix's mouth is at the sensitive nape of Miles' neck, and his hands are working his vest off. Miles thinks for a moment that maybe he should, logically speaking, put a stop to this before it escalates. He's sure that more "modest" folks would insist on it. But why should he do that? Why bother when this is clearly what they both want? It's not as if they're harming anyone. That, and he has no intention of interrupting Phoenix's discovery process. This is brand new territory for him. Miles smirks, thinking that it might be fun to train him. He whispers as much in Phoenix's ear and watches his eyes dilate. 

Miles' couch isn't big enough for the both of them, really, and the fabric is the kind that's meant to look pretty rather than feel nice. There's a great deal of fumbling on both ends that might have been unbearably awkward if they were younger and less sure of themselves. Since they're adults, it's funny. Miles finds himself smiling against Phoenix's shoulder as his shirt is unbuttoned, the jacket and vest long since cast aside. The other man's hands are more certain now— Phoenix touches whatever it is that he wants to. Which, apparently, is every inch of him. Miles gets the distinctive feeling that Phoenix is making a mental map of him, like he's writing it down somewhere in his head so that he won't forget a single curve.

Miles groans. There's a pressure between his legs, then more fumbling before he finally has his belt off and his zipper undone. One last twist and he's finally free and lets out a little gasp of relief. He hums gratefully at the feeling of Phoenix's hand, even if it's slightly hesitant. It's more than enough encouragement. Phoenix nips at his jaw as he strokes him. Miles readjusts himself until they're positioned in a way that allows him to return the favor. 

It's strangely exciting to feel someone learning. There's a curiosity in Phoenix's touch and a wonder in his gaze that Miles is wholly unfamiliar with. It's even more refreshing that Phoenix seems willing to take charge despite his inexperience, or to at least try. They both discard their shoes and then it's Miles who ends up pinned down, back pressed against the arm of the sofa, Phoenix's arm beneath his head holding him in place. He tenses at first, tenses reflexively, but Phoenix whispers something in his ear and he lets his muscles fall loose, allowing Phoenix to support him. A bit more adjustment and they're lined up in such a way that they can grind against one another. Phoenix gasps sharply at the feeling. 

Miles decides that he's content with this much. Normally he might lead a date into his bedroom, where he keeps the supplies they would need to go further. He doesn't feel like he has to do that. In fact, he's newly excited by the prospect of having more to look forward to. This is just a prelude, he decides. It's a secret that he will keep from Phoenix until the timing is just right. He will let Phoenix give it his best effort for now, as if this is the only chance he will get, and reward him for his efforts later. And it is his best effort that Phoenix is giving— Miles is gripped tight all of a sudden and his mouth is pressed against Phoenix's as their bodies rock together in a steady rhythm with a quickly rising tempo. He feels Phoenix shudder as he reaches his limit. Even so, he fights through the fatigue and uses his hands to finish Miles off, leaving marks along his collarbone as he does so. 

He pants as he recovers from the exertion. Phoenix is the first to move, though his breath, too, is still labored. He chuckles softly as he collects a pile of napkins from the coffee table and hands several of them over, allowing Miles to clean himself up. 

"Wow," he says. "That was... new." His face flushes with slight embarrassment, likely due to having finished a bit early. "Wish it could've lasted a little longer—"

"No," Miles interrupts, "you don't have to apologize. It's... been a while for me, too." 

Phoenix nods as he re-fastens his buttons and gets his pants and underwear back on properly. Miles sees that he managed to leave a very small marking on one of his pectorals and smiles proudly. 

"Right. Sorry. ...I'll take care of the mess, okay? You sit tight." Phoenix pats Miles' thigh before he stands up and collects the napkins, the plates, and the wine glasses. Miles, still recovering, can hear him moving about kitchen. He disposes of the paper and rinses the glassware and plates off, leaving them in the sink, before he washes his own hands. 

By the time Phoenix returns, Miles has mostly composed himself. He doesn't bother to put his jacket and vest back on. He's quite tired now. It's not as if he's going somewhere else after this.  

"I'm never sure what you're supposed to say after one of these... things," Phoenix admits sheepishly. "Thanks?" 

"Maybe it's best that you don't say anything," Miles teases. 

"You're probably right." 

Miles stares at the ceiling for a moment, just then thinking of the possible repercussions of what just happened. He thinks about them, though he doesn't particularly care.  

"I wonder if the director will think there's a conflict of interest here...?" 

Phoenix clearly hasn't thought of that. 

"Uh... maybe. But I already have the part, don't I?" 

"That's almost true." Miles gives him a mischievous kind of smile. "There IS still the callback..." 

"Yeah, but we both know I have it as far as you're concerned." Phoenix pretends to look shy, perhaps offended,  and touches his own chest. "After all, if you go and give somebody else the part, I'll feel used!" 

"Shouldn't I be the one saying something like that? About your methods in attempting to secure the role?" 

They both laugh. They laugh because they're both aware that what just happened has nothing whatsoever to do with the play. It's little more than the excuse that got them both in the same place at the same time, and Miles has a strange feeling that their paths were meant to cross. He's not about to deny what fate has granted him. He isn't that arrogant. 

Phoenix's smile turns a bit sad. Miles yawns, though he doesn't mean to— between the sex and the wine he's gotten quite sleepy. 

"I should probably be heading back," Phoenix relents. He doesn't want to go. Miles has half a mind to ask him to stay the night, but the man does have a home and a daughter to go back to. 

"I'll be at the callback," Miles reminds him. "Maybe afterwards... we can run through some lines? Here? Once you've secured the part, of course. Which you will." 

"Sounds like a plan." Phoenix searches the floor for his shoes. "I wonder is this'll end up being my big break...?" He finds what he's looking for and has them both on again in little time. They have laces, and he puts very little effort into tying them back up. "I mean, it should be, right? I've already gotten quite a bit out of this audition process."

"You have." Miles doesn't bother with false humility. He knows that he's attractive and that Phoenix probably feels quite lucky. 

Phoenix takes hold of his jacket. He huffs. 

"...Guess I should be heading out," he says glumly. He's not a good enough actor to feign happiness about it. Or maybe he isn't trying. "Well. Goodnight." 

He leans in, and Miles thinks it's alright to give him a kiss goodnight. But there's electricity there that has yet to be calmed, and so it quickly becomes something more than the quick peck that Miles had intended. 

"Come, now," Miles breathes as soon as he's able to pull himself away. "It's too late to be getting carried away again."

"Is it? The night is young, and so are—"

Phoenix's cell phone interrupts his protests. Miles thinks that he recognizes the tune, but won't yet admit that, because if he's wrong then he will have inadvertently admitting something embarrassing about himself. Phoenix glances at the name on his screen and there's immediately guilt in his eyes. He gives Miles an apologetic nod. 

"I... kinda have to take this. It's my daughter." 

The moment Phoenix's finger presses upon the green button, Miles hears the agitated voice of a young woman floating out through the speaker. It's just loud enough for him to hear what she's saying when he is this close. 

"Dad, where are you?! I thought you would have been back two hours ago! Pearl and I have been waiting so we can all have dinner." 

Phoenix looks around, bewildered, and seems to notice just then that the night is not young any longer. It's getting dark out. The time has apparently escaped him, and probably because he was too busy trying to pull Miles in to pay attention to something as arbitrary as the passage of minutes. 

"I'm— I'm so sorry; I didn't realize how late it was. I got, uh, distracted. I promise I'll be home soon." He eyes Miles as he says that. 

"...You don't sound upset or anything. I'm assuming the audition went well? Did you get some good feedback?" 

Miles might have laughed at Trucy's less-than-optimistic assumption under any other circumstances, but it's a logical assumption to make. On paper, Phoenix never had a snowball's chance in hell of landing the part. 

"I'd say it went a little better than that," Phoenix boasts. "I actually, uh, got the callback. I've got a pretty good chance of getting the part!" 

Miles hears not one, but two girls screaming. Phoenix moves the receiver away from his ear so as not to deafen himself. He waits several seconds, until he knows that it's safe, before he risks holding it up again. 

"Don't get too excited," he jokes. "I feel like we'll end up jinxing it." 

Miles clicks his tongue scoldingly and shakes his head. Phoenix affectionately jostles his shoulder. 

"I just— I know how badly you wanted this part! I mean, you were SO psyched that you might eventually get to meet Mr. Edgeworth—"

Phoenix jumps to cover the speaker with his hand, his face bright red. Miles laughs, mostly at his expense, and rolls his eyes. 

"Yes, go ahead and cover it up, why don't you?" Miles whispers. "You wouldn't want me to get the impression that you like me or something." 

Phoenix realizes how silly he's being when he contemplates that. He's already been as apparent about his interest as he could possibly be, and he knows that the feeling is mutual. Miles hopes that he does, anyway. He isn't sure how to say it, or if he should. Sometimes it's best not to explain things too much. 

"I, uh, I sure was excited," Phoenix agrees once Trucy has finished relentlessly poking fun at her father's starstruck daydreaming. 

"So didja go out to celebrate? I could understand that, but we should celebrate together too! Uncle Larry's been worried pretty much all day." 

"I guess you could say that I did," Phoenix replies. He gives Miles a panicked look. He's not sure what his explanation should be. Miles gestures at him to hand over the phone. Phoenix obeys, but his eyes say that he's afraid of what Miles intends to say. 

"Um, hello," he begins somewhat awkwardly. "Am I speaking with Trucy Wright? ...Yes, alright. Well, I'm sorry for having taken up so much of your father's time, but I took him back to my apartment for drinks to celebrate having found someone that properly understands my work."

"Is—" Trucy nearly chokes. "Is this Mr. Edgeworth?!" She asks, sounding bewildered. Miles nods even though she cannot see him. It's a reflex. 

"It is," he confirms, and he hears several muffled shrieks. He knows that there are two girls there, and they mentioned an Uncle Larry. "I've started sitting in on casting calls. To make sure that the right people are playing my characters. Your father was a pleasant surprise," he explains, and he means that last bit in more ways than one. "We did get a bit distracted talking about various things, and for that I apologize. I'll send him back to you right away." 

"Oh, that's totally fine! You don't have to apologize! It's probably, like, the coolest thing that's ever happened to my dad. I understand! I-I'm a big fan of your stuff too, you know. My dad's taken me to a bunch of shows." 

"Thank you," Miles says, and he is truly grateful that someone so young can appreciate the fine arts. "As an apology, though, you're welcome to come along for the practice sessions. I know that we do have to wait until the callback is finished, but I have a feeling that your father's safe. And I do intend to be present for at least a few of the run-throughs." 

"Really?! I will! I'll definitely do that."

"I look forward to meeting you, then. I'll be giving you back to your father now." 

Miles hands the phone over to its rightful owner. He can no longer make out what Trucy is saying, as it's more excitable chatter than proper dialogue. Phoenix understands her, though, and that seems appropriate for someone as used to her as her own father. Phoenix is noticeably giddy as he hangs up and finishes pulling on his jacket. 

"I could drive you home," Miles offers, but Phoenix shakes his head.

"We've both been drinking. I don't wanna take any chances. I can just send for an Uber." 

"...Right." Miles can't mask the fact that he's a bit disappointed that their time together has to be cut short. He hasn't been this relaxed in a while. Phoenix smiles at that, smiles knowingly, and gives his thigh a brief but reassuring squeeze before he stands up and stretches. Miles suspects, by the way that he stretches, that he has a bad lower back. 

Miles pursues him to the door, as that's the polite thing he would normally do and he does have to lock the door behind him. Phoenix stands in the doorway for a moment and turns to face him. Miles extends a hand. 

"I'm... looking forward to working with you," Miles says. 

Phoenix locks eyes with him for a long moment and Miles is once again distracted by the lack of symmetry there. So he's caught off guard when Phoenix returns the handshake and uses that contact to pull Miles forward. There's a firm hand on the back of his neck as Phoenix steals another kiss from him. Miles shivers. Phoenix pulls away after a few long seconds. 

"You too," he says casually, and then he's gone. 

He disappears as anticlimactically as he appears.  

Miles stands by the door for a long minute. He's not sure what he's waiting for. Maybe he's just trying to process the evening. He knows that Phoenix must have put a lot of thought and effort into that last kiss, because it's the kind that drains his lungs and leaves his lips tingling long after Phoenix leaves. He touches them with one hand as if searching for some trace of that warmth again. It must be Phoenix's idea of a parting gift. His way of guaranteeing that Miles won't seek that sort of thing elsewhere while they wait to see one another again. They did not agree to exclusivity, or even exchange numbers, but Phoenix must have felt some urge to mark his territory anyway. Miles doesn't blame him one bit for that and he knows that Phoenix has succeeded. That kissing anyone else just wouldn't be the same. 

Miles doesn't go to bed right away despite his fatigue. He sits down and pours himself another glass of wine and puts on the kind of black-and-white movie he and his father used to love watching when they wanted to wind down. It's Miles' go-to "happy place" and it wouldn't feel appropriate to be anywhere else after the evening he's had. 

He wonders, only barely paying attention to the film, if Phoenix truly counts as a "hookup". That doesn't feel like the right word. A hookup is something he has always tried to forget the next morning. The sort of thing where both parties only take care of their basic physical needs and then move as far away from one another as possible the moment it's over. Phoenix, he already misses. He wishes that he could have stayed a little while longer. He wants to see him again, to see him soon. To kiss him again. That's not a hookup, he thinks. It's a hasty and somewhat abrupt beginning to something grander than that. 

Miles grins as he feels himself sinking into the sofa cushions. As a writer, Miles is used to deciding how the story ends. It might be nice to be in the passenger's seat for a change. And all of a sudden, he has the urge to get up and write. 

He knows just what to write about this time.