Phoenix finds the present buried underneath a pile of old concert t-shirts and half-filled sketchbooks in a box he has probably opened a maximum of four times since college. It’s red, because of course it is, patterned with slightly lighter-colored snowflakes, and the lid is topped with a completely decorative ribbon whose elegance is slightly undercut by the yellowed packing tape that’s actually responsible for keeping the thing closed. It shows age in the way the corners have been worn down showing through to plain cardboard underneath, the way the edges of the tag have frayed and softened, the flatness of the bow, but other than that the past two and a half decades have treated it well. When Phoenix pulls it out to take a look he can’t help but give a small “Huh.”
“Hm? What is it?” Trucy looks up and away from the mugs she’s loading into the cabinets of their new apartment. Their new apartment. Their new apartment. The words still don’t fit together quite right in his head.
“It’s a present for Edgeworth,” he answers. He had almost forgotten about it. Almost. A few times over the years he considered going looking for it, but never followed through.
“Ooh, are you going to give it to him?” She abandons the mugs entirely to come peer wide-eyed over his shoulder from the back of the couch.
Considering that his friendship with Edgeworth is currently teetering on the delicate brink between ‘something spoken about in past tense’ and ‘salvageable,’ it’s a question that bears asking. But Phoenix remembers perfectly well what’s inside and so, without hesitation, he answers, “Yeah.”
Phoenix strolls into Edgeworth’s office without knocking, which he knows Edgeworth absolutely hates. Edgeworth is preemptively scowling before he’s got the door all the way open and, if anything, the expression deepens rather than relaxes once he’s identified the blight upon his privacy.
“Wright,” he huffs. “Why, yes, you can come in. Please, make yourself at home.”
“Aww, really? Edgeworth, I’m humbled by the hospitality. Really, I am.” He walks up to Edgeworths desk. He grabs the cup of tea Edgeworth had clearly been drinking barely a handful of moments ago, still near-full and piping hot. This, he admits, is a dick move, and overstepping a bit even within the weird little back-and forth they’ve developed as a substitute for proper conversation. But if Edgeworth tries to do that thing he does where he makes people talk themselves into a corner Phoenix would like to have something to do with his mouth other than keep it awkwardly shut.
“Is there something you wanted or have you brought yourself all the way to the prosecutor’s offices just to purloin my beverage?”
“I was following up on some of the technicalities of the jurist system with a few of your underlings, figured I’d stop by. I never did officially congratulate you on the promotions, did I?”
“No, you very pointedly didn’t.”
“And I’m not going to either!” He shoots back his shittiest grin. It’s the kind of grin that started fights at the Borscht Bowl and his other poker haunts, but since switching to the new suit he’s been told it makes him look “roguish,” whatever the hell that actually means. He’s not sure what Edgeworth thinks. Of the grin, or anything else Phoenix has been doing lately. He takes a sip of tea. It’s his special blend - the kind reserved to offset life’s rough edges when Edgeworth is having A Bad Day. His stomach turns a bit. Being an asshole to Edgeworth when he’s actually trying to be is always feels different than doing it on accident. “Actually-”
He hasn’t bothered to sit down yet, nervous energy keeping him stood sentinel by the side of Edgeworth’s austere mahogany desk. He sets the cup back down under the pretense of fishing the present out of his bag, but, well, if it ends up comfortably back in Edgeworth’s arms reach, that’s fine too. He holds out the faded red box and says, triumphantly, “Merry Christmas.”
“You do know it’s November 25th, Wright. I think you’ve flipped the page on your calendar early.” Edgeworth grabs the box, but does so like someone’s handing him a used tissue. He starts to make like he’s about to peel up the tape to open the box and, knee-jerk horrified, Phoenix grabs his wrist to stop him.
“What are you doing!”
“What do you mean what am I doing? I was trying to open it.” He seems genuinely confused.
“It’s a Christmas present, Edgeworth. You have to wait until Christmas,” he lies. Edgeworth can open it whenever, so long as Phoenix isn’t in the room.
“Then why give it to me now!?”
“So you have enough time to figure out what you’re going to get me, obviously,” he says, once again, fully lying, because the real answer is that he had to do it before he could chicken out.
The gift is earnest. It is saccharine and naive and brimming with unfiltered boyhood affection. That is to say, it’s all the parts of Phoenix that he’d really prefer people forget were ever there to begin with. Nothing to see! Move along! If he didn’t know Edgeworth would actually want it, he’d tuck the thing back into the storage unit he’d fished it from and let it sit there another twenty five years. Another fifty.
“I hope that using the weighty shackles of social obligation to extort a Christmas gift out of me wasn’t your only reason for getting me a present,” Edgeworth quips.
“Actually, I didn’t really get you anything. I’ve just had this lying around,” he admits. “Meant to give it to you ages ago. Figured you’d still want it.”
“Really? How long have you-” Edgeworth cuts himself off, because he’s finally taken a decent look at the thing. His eyes linger on the tag, the name ‘Miles’ penned with smeared blue ink in a barely legible scrawl. He runs his thumb pensively over the box’s lid, and his face takes on that brooding quality that isn’t actually brooding. It’s the face he makes when he’s turning something around in his head. The one that gets everyone thinking he’s mad about something that he won’t say. “...Ah.”
“Well, I should really get going,” Phoenix says. “I’ve got a pile of boxes back home that needs taking care of, and they’ve got my name on them instead of yours.”
“I…” He seems like he has something to say but it doesn’t come out. He nods once, firm. “Good luck with that, Wright.”
“Oh, Edgeworth? One more thing, actually.”
“I lied earlier, actually. Congratulations. You’ve earned it.”
“How on earth am I supposed to know what Phoenix Wright wants for Christmas?” Franziska punctuates with an outlandish flourish of her hand.
“You’re not and that very much isn’t what I asked you, I simply asked if you had any suggestions. If you don’t, all you have to do is say that. No need to put words in my mouth to avoid having to admit to any shortcomings,” Edgeworth counters.
“If being unable or unwilling to spend enough time dwelling on Phoenix Wright that I may come to any conclusions regarding potential gifts is a ‘shortcoming’ then I must confess, dear brother, I find myself oddly content with this inadequacy. I suggest you reach the same conclusion yourself. Surely the man has interests? Hobbies? Surely your foolish quest for a perfect gift starts there?”
Phoenix hates the new apartment, a fact he will be admitting to exactly nobody. It is better than living in his office in almost every conceivable way. The only downside to it is that it is not the office. Another secret: despite his capricious nature, Phoenix hates change in very many of its forms. The Wright Anything Agency formerly Wright Talent Agency formerly Wright & Co. formerly Fey & Co. offices have been the only place Phoenix has thought of as home since he was twenty. The first time he’d been inside was the day after his acquittal. He had been doubled over in the bathroom, crying too hard to do anything about the blood pouring out of the reopened cuts in his mouth, opting to let it pool in the toilet instead of on his clothes. Mia had sat behind him and rubbed soothing circles in the space between his shoulder blades as she spouted the kind of assembly-line platitudes that are your only option when dealing with someone you’d known less than 48 hours. He had taken them deeply to heart. When he had finished crying, dried his eyes and managed to catch his breath, she handed him a brush and a spray-bottle of watered down bleach and had him scrub the porcelain until they could have eaten off of it.
“If it weren’t for Trucy” is a disclaimer on a lot of his life decisions but, despite the redundancy, he allows himself the thought of “If it weren’t for Trucy, I’d still be there.” Phoenix had fully intended to die in that office. Not in a melodramatic way - it just seemed both statistically likely, and a bit poetic. Okay. So, maybe it’s a little bit melodramatic. Point being, he still intends on dying in that office, it’s just probably going to take some planning now. He’ll need to make sure he’s killed during the workday.
He tries not to resent the lack of stains on the carpet as he slides the coffee table into place, tries not to resent the lack of cracks on the wall as he hangs the few pictures he has that actually have frames to them, tries not to resent himself as he catches his expression in the mirror, clean-shaven and fresh-faced and blank as a slate. Blank as an unstained carpet. Blank as an uncracked wall.
“Get him something for Trucy!” Maya declares. “I’m serious. Nothing would make him happier.”
“I’ve already got something planned for Trucy as well. I’m not that clueless. It just doesn’t change the fact that I still need something for the man himself.”
“Yeah, well, good luck with that. Nick’s not a ‘stuff’ kind of guy. He doesn’t really like… like things. Y’know what I mean?”
“I have no idea what you mean. At the risk of sounding unforgivably materialistic, how can someone not be a ‘stuff kind of guy’? He’s not exactly some enlightened monk who has evolved beyond the need for earthly possessions. For goodness sake! His office looks like the back room of a Goodwill.”
“Have you ever even been inside of a Goodwill, Edgeworth?”
“Well, no, but-”
“God,” she groans. “You suck! But, listen to me, none of that stuff is even his. Seriously. Think about it. Take away all the junk that other people left there, you’ve got an Ikea catalogue photo or something. I don’t even think the poor guy owns more than like, two shirts. Total freak.”
The magnetic poetry set is combined from a handful of different ones that have since mostly intermingled, including one for legal terms, one for office workers, one with Shakespeare quotes, and others whose distinctions have been forgotten over time but include words like ‘tergiversate’ and ‘cryptocurrency’. Trucy’s poem reads: only people with dark ness inside them can hide from love so try and eat more lightbulbs. Apollo’s reads: this is serious please stop taking my lunch out of the office fridge thanks in advance. Maya’s is succinct and reads: no. Phoenix adds one that reads: synergize your quarter ly growth by invest ing in civil asset forfeiture.
It’s 5:47 on a weekday, after business hours, and he’s at home, doing nothing, because… because it’s after business hours, and he’s got a job that happens during business hours now? After the jurist system’s trial went well and the state decided they’d actually be implementing the damn thing, they’d hired him in an advisory position. He is no longer dabbling in academia, but instead has been catapulted full-force into bureaucracy, which pays a lot better but somehow manages to work even slower. At 5:47 he should be on his second adderall and third 7-11 vanilla latte holed up with a dense pile of overly-highlighted documents, waiting for the antique office PC that still runs Windows 95 to finish booting up so he can check his emails, all while the looming threat of a 9 pm to 3 am closing shift at the Borscht Bowl Club hangs over his head. He shouldn’t be at home, without a three-week backlog of errands, with enough time on his hands to dick around making poems on the fridge.
He should be studying for the bar exam right now, actually. Eugh. But he wants to do that even less than he wants to sit around and feel vaguely existentially unfulfilled so he opts for the third option and gets out the stuff to make bread.
Here’s another one of Phoenix’s secrets: people fucking love homemade bread. It’s not even that hard to make. Toss some flour, some yeast, and some water in a bowl, mix it all up, let it sit overnight, toss it in the oven the next morning. Barely 20 minutes of work all put together and cents on the dollar for supplies. It’s the cheapest and most effective bribe on the planet. There were a number of well intentioned but overly concerned helicopter moms who looked at him and who looked at Trucy and came to some very wrong conclusions. He knows what he looks like. Pair that with Trucy’s middle-school growth spurt gangliness causing a significant increase in on-the-job injuries including but not limited to: finale fireworks preemptively going off underneath her cape, throwing knives grabbed by the wrong end, knees brutally smashed against the corner of a prop trunk, and one unfortunate and ill-advised incident where she had tried to saw herself in half. Well. Phoenix could understand where they were coming from even if he didn’t particularly enjoy the visits from CPS, to say the least. He learned quick to nip it in the bud and show up to grab her after school with a fresh loaf wrapped in a gingham cloth and to smile brightly and say, “I was just doing some baking and we ended up with extra, I feel so silly! It’d be such a shame for it to go to waste, I’d love for you to take it.”
It works literally every time, is the thing about it.
Maya had taught him how, back when they were living together after Mia’s death and they were the kind of broke that had you reusing tea bags. They made their own bread in Khurain, because they made their own everything in Khurain, and he had protested learning at first but she had insisted it was easy and told him to stop being a lazy jerk. It was, and he did. They had just about lived off the stuff.
He grabs a bottle of gatorade from the fridge. This is another secret, but this one’s Maya’s. It had been on the tail-end of a long and miserable day of investigation and they had been pushed through the wall of dead-eyed exhaustion into the realm of late-night giggly hysteria as they began mixing dough for the next morning’s breakfast.
“Hey Nick,” she had said, “Can you replace the water for making bread with other stuff? Like, could you make juice bread and have it taste like juice?”
“I don’t know. You’re the bread expert, not me. Besides, would juice-flavored bread even taste good?” he’d replied.
“We won’t know until we try!” She strode confidently towards the fridge and swung it open. “Nick, we don’t have any juice.”
“How are we supposed to make juice bread without any juice! We’re on the culinary cutting edge here! This could be the origin story for our famous bakery, and you don’t even keep any juice around!?”
“ You drank it all!”
“That’s not the point.” she shook her head and the resigned disappointment in her voice was less along the lines of ‘you’re letting me down’ and more leaning towards ‘you’ll understand when you’re older’. She started rooting around in his bag where it had been haphazardly tossed onto the couch. She had come back with a half-drunk bottle of fruit punch gatorade she had initially gotten her hands on by kicking a vending machine in the lobby of a 24 hour laundromat that suffered from some rat-based wiring failures.
“You can’t be serious,” Phoenix said, knowing she was entirely serious. The bottle had the weird condensation in it that bottles get when they’re left out in the heat for a long time. He just sat there watching in bleary-eyed horror as she dumped it into the bowl, because honestly Phoenix sort of always just let Maya do whatever. Yeah, he complained, but he wasn’t gonna do anything about it.
“C’mon, where’s your sense of adventure?”
“It keeled over and passed out after about ten straight hours of investigation. If this tastes terrible you’re buying a new breakfast for us,” he’d whined, as if it wasn’t the same money either way. As if there was money.
Phoenix had seen a lot of unprecedented and bizarre things by that point in life but few had managed to completely blindside him as much as that bread. It had smelled like a dream and had a pristine, crunchy crust, with insides that were soft and fluffy as a cloud, lightly tinted pink. The only discernible taste difference had been a delicate sweetness.
“Nick,” Maya declared. “We’re going to be millionaires.”
Making gatorade bread feels rather sacreligious in the new kitchen. It feels the way it felt when he wore his shitty, grimy sandals on Gavin’s afghan silk rug. He smiles.
“Oh dude, you’re really desperate, huh?” Larry laughs into the receiver. “I kinda feel like I should make you work for it a bit! Now Larry gets to be the guy in the know for once.”
“Larry,” Edgeworth lets a measured amount of pleasant malice drip out. “I’m coming to you as a friend. Unless you want for the next time I come to you to be as something very much worse than a friend, I’d suggest assisting me to the best of your ability.”
“Okay, jeez, I get it. Do you have to be so intense all the time? Sheesh. Let me think.” Larry hums pensively for a moment. “Okay, so, here’s the thing about Nick. He’s actually super boring. And not boring in the stuffy business-y way like you are-”
“Larry,” he sighs.
“C’mon dude you’re not fooling anyone. Anyway Nick’s not like that, he’s just the normal kind of boring. So get him a boring guy present. He’ll probably love it.”
“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific about what a ‘boring guy present’ is.”
“Man you guys are always nitpicking the stuff I say even when I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“For the love of god will you please just-”
“You didn’t even let me finish! This one’s on you, Edgey. I mean, like. Get him something practical. Adult-y. Like a really nice vacuum or one of those super fancy blender bowl thingies.”
“Are… are you referring to a stand mixer?”
“I don’t know, maybe? If that’s what they’re called. Whatever.”
Apollo is nigh-supernaturally perceptive and yet the things he manages to not notice never fail to astound Phoenix. The first thing Apollo doesn’t notice: he holds his food with both hands a lot of the time. He’s doing it right now, perched on the piano stool and nibbling at a slice of bread like a squirrel with a cracker. It’s one of the only things Phoenix and Trucy won’t lovingly bully him about, because if he ever realized he was doing it they know he’d stop, and that would be a tragedy. It’s just so damn cute. Apollo hates being called cute and on one hand he gets it but on the other hand Apollo should be grateful, because some people never get called cute, they get called sweet , which is just cute but for ugly people. Phoenix got ‘sweet’ a lot.
The second thing Apollo doesn’t notice is that Klavier Gavin follows him around like a lost puppy. The latter man is here as well, also indulging in some bread, but he is significantly less perched and more what Phoenix would describe as ‘reclined’ or ‘lounged’ on the simultaneously overstuffed and uncomfortably sunken office loveseat. He doesn’t think a Gavin brother is capable of perching, should that be something one of them feel compelled to do. Oh well. It’s a learned skill.
“This bread is good,” Klavier comments. “Reminds me a little bit of these buns they used to sell at a market down the street from a flat I had when we were recording in Vienna. What’s your secret?”
“Gatorade,” Phoenix replies flatly. Klavier usually can’t tell whether or not Phoenix is joking but he always takes it in stride, giving a pleasant, neutral laugh that somehow manages not to condescend.
“Well then, how are things going with your Jurist system, Herr Wright?” Klavier asks. Phoenix likes that he calls it his jurist system, because it is , and he likes that there’s nothing in his voice or posture that suggests his asking is anything but genuine.
Phoenix actually likes a lot of things about Klavier, like how he’s nice to Trucy and how he always buys dinner if he’s around, but a lot of what he likes about Klavier boils down to knowing how much Kristoph would fucking hate it that the two of thems are friends.
“Fine,” he sighs. “Slow. Boring. I hate the government… Can’t imagine how you prosecutors work for them all the time. But a steady paycheck is a steady paycheck… I guess boring jobs are part of growing older.”
“I wouldn’t mind a boring job with a steady paycheck,” Apollo notes.
“Apollo!” Trucy cries from Phoenix’s side. “How can you say that?”
“If you can’t think of anything to get for him, why not do something with him? Spend some quality time with the guy! Everyone loves quality time with their friends!” Kay declares boldly.
“It’s not that simple,” he sighs. “We’re - we haven’t been on the best of terms lately. We’re not exactly at a ‘spending quality time together’ stage of our relationship.”
“Ooh, look at me, I’m Mr. Edgeworth, ‘it’s not that simple!’” she parrots back in a crude impression of his own tone. “‘Yes… my logic is flawless… I’m not particularly close with someone I’d like to be closer with, ergo, I will avoid spending time with him.’ Wow! Gee whiz, Mr. Edgeworth! How do you do it?”
“You are completely misrepresenting my thought process. Best watch your tongue, Faraday, I could have you for libel.”
“Watch my tongue?” She blows a raspberry. “How about you watch that, huh.”
“I’ve seen it before, I’m not impressed.”
“Feh. Everyone’s a critic!” She shakes her head dramatically. “Listen, I get you’re nervous-”
“Nervous isn’t… No, that’s not quite it,” he sighs, drumming his fingers on the desk. “I just want to avoid worsening the situation. Committing to spending time with him before I even know what sort of things we’d have to talk about is a recipe for disaster. He’ll just sit there, freezing me out, and I, in all my haste and hubris, will say something that gets entirely misconstrued and he will add it to the lengthy mental list he keeps of reasons to hate me.”
“Aww, come on, he doesn’t hate you.”
“Well, he doesn’t hold me in particularly high esteem either. That much is certain.”
“Okay, new plan.” She rubs her hands together deviously. “How about you guys just sit down and have a normal fight like normal people and get mad at each other and then get over it so you can be friends again?”
“You don’t have a normal fight with Phoenix Wright. There’s no honor there - it’s guerilla warfare, scorched earth,” he grumbles.
“And you’re… Not that much better, probably. Bad idea. Okay, third plan! Do you want me to break into his house and see if I can get any intel? You can learn a lot about people from their trash.”
“As much as I’d love to conduct a thorough investigation of the scene myself, it’s probably bad form under current circumstances.”
“Well. If you change your mind, the Yatagarasu’s wings are here to carry the truth to you.” She grins and flexes. “Speaking of going through people’s trash, is your sinus infection finally cleared up?”
Phoenix is at the prosecutor’s office again so he decides to go bother Edgeworth again too. Thankless work, but someone has to do it. He tries to do it quietly this time, slipping the door open quietly and padding in on the balls of his feet. Edgeworth doesn’t notice. He’s deep in focus, bent down over his desk at an awkward angle that reveals just how far gone he is from the world around him. Normally the stick up his ass keeps his posture ramrod straight, and to see otherwise is damning.
The gaudy magenta curtains that line the fully-windowed exterior wall of his office are drawn, like they almost always are, as to do otherwise leaves the room in oppressive baroque shadow. Behind him, the afternoon sun pools in and leaves the finer details of his face obscured in a mess of shadow and bangs. The light’s got the crisp, fresh quality to it that serves as the only real difference in how the city looks between seasons. It makes the room feel stark and wide. Edgeworth shifts to grab a truffle or bonbon or some sort of chocolate or whatever from a tray on his desk and shove it ungracefully into his mouth. Sunlight scatters off of him, and the silver of his hair shines like stars.
A secret about Miles Edgeworth: He loves sweets. Always has.
Phoenix tiptoes forward. He grabs a bonbon and, when that fails to achieve the desired effect, bumps his foot into the desk enough to make a small noise. Edgeworth doesn’t quite jump but he does startle delightfully and Phoenix takes a very appropriate amount of pleasure in it.
“Good god, Wright, how long have you been standing there!?”
“Around eight minutes,” he lies. “But I got bored.”
“I can’t imagine anything I’ve been doing to be particularly riveting when observed,” Edgeworth says, but he quickly switches tracks when he sees Phoenix pop the bonbon into his mouth. Or maybe it is a truffle? Is one of those a pastry? “Since when do you eat chocolates?”
“Since I got my teeth fixed and eating it doesn’t hurt anymore?”
“ I thought you said you didn’t like them! ” Edgeworth chokes out. “You’re telling me this entire time you’ve been skipping out on entire food groups just to avoid going to the dentist?”
“I wouldn’t call candy a food group but, yeah, that’s about it.”
“I know you’re not a fan of going to the doctor but that seems like an oddly shortsighted tradeoff.”
“Hey, wasn’t my choice… You have any idea how much trips to the dentist cost when you don’t have insurance? It’s not great… My teeth are never gonna look good, but now at least I have the means to eat as I please. I’m a simple man, it’s all I need…”
“Your teeth look fine.”
“What? Thanks, I guess, but I’m not trying to be self deprecating… it’s okay, Edgeworth. They’re kinda fucked up. At least, that’s what the dentist said. Those were the words he used too, he said ‘kinda fucked up.’”
“I’ve always found them to suit your face quite well.”
“You think my face is fucked up?” Phoenix throws a hand to his cheek.
“Must you always jump to bad faith?” Edgeworth huffs. He rubs his eyes under his glasses and gives a weary sigh. “I only meant that, regardless of what the general consensus is regarding dental aesthetics, I don’t find your teeth to be a detriment to your appearance. They - they suit you. Pardon the repetition, but it’s more or less the only way I can think to say it.”
“I think ‘your teeth suit you’ is a compliment no one else has ever given in human history,” Phoenix says, popping another bonbon into his mouth.
“Not that this isn’t a productive use of my time but, yet again, I’m afraid I find myself pressed to ask if there’s anything you actually require of me, or if you’re simply here, once again, to steal from me. Are they not feeding you on that advisory board of yours? Do I need to put in a complaint? I’m willing to extend the effort, should it be deemed necessary.” He pauses the steady, mechanical form-filling he’d been in the process of. With his hands folded primly atop the pile of documents and his eyes peering out behind his wireframes he’s given the air of a rigorous school headmaster, the effect only ruined by the hint of a wry, expectant grin.
“I’m actually on my lunch break right now. I’m waiting for Apollo and Trucy - they’re in the area for a case and they’re going to swing by so we can check out that stupid little gourmet macaroni truck down the street.”
“Really,” Edgeworth scoffs lightly. Phoenix feels an unidentified feeling somewhere in his stomach. Edgeworth’s half-grin doesn’t fade. “It would seem things never change at that agency of yours. It’s all either mischief at breakneck speeds or questionable culinary decisions, with very little in between. Sometimes both at once.”
“Hey… Everyone’s gotta eat.”
“Untrue, actually,” he states matter-of-factly as he slides the glasses further up on the bridge of his nose and quirks an eyebrow. “I once knew a man who didn’t need to eat. He identified as a neo-vegan and opted instead to spend 2 hours soaking in a natural spring near his house every day, claiming that he absorbed necessary nutrients through algae in the water. He died not long after attempting this, but due to presumably unrelated causes, as it was a stabbing.”
“No, that was - well, I was. Joking.”
“Oh you just sounded really se-”
“I know, I know-”
“I mean now that I know, it’s funny, but-”
“I thought you’d be able to tell. Sorry.” He picks up his pen and starts writing on the form again and very much doesn’t look up again. “Normally you can tell.”
“Sorry, I’ve just been a little out of it lately,” he replies lamely.
“Are you doing alright? There’s nothing wrong, is there?”
“No, I’m just-” he pauses the exactly wrong amount of time between the words as he speaks. Too long to sound natural but not nearly long enough to sound intentional; the verbal equivalent of a scribbled out letter before you start the next word. This one was supposed to be a secret too. “-tired.”
Edgeworth doesn’t miss it. His hand tightens on the pen. His jaw sets. He is still not looking up.
“Well, have you been resting?”
“Nah.” I am either on or I am off and I am so scared of being off again, of having another set of months where the days blur together and I forget how to get out of bed, and if I sit still for long enough it will happen.
“In that case it seems like I’ve spotted a contradiction in your defense.”
And he does not ge tthe chance to accidentally say something really, really stupid along the lines of ‘Please tell me how to get better like you do instead of always and only ever getting worse’ because the tinny beep of the Steel Samurai theme song bursts from his phone. Trucy and Apollo must be here. He lets out a breath of relief.
“Something homemade!” She answers without hesitation. Edgeworth can see the sparkle in Trucy’s eyes through the sound of her voice. “Nothing ever beats the sentiment of a handmade gift. Daddy loves everything I’ve ever knitted for him.”
“Not to discount your idea, but I don’t think using the gifts you’ve given him provides a fair assessment on his general feelings on the subject. You’re his daughter. Of course he likes everything you’ve made for him.”
“Oh, but it’s not just mine of course. It’s from anyone, really. He gets all misty-eyed and sniffly, you know how he is, poor sweet Daddy, choked up at the drop of a hat. He cried a bit when Charley started getting too big for his old pot and Larry threw him a new one in the studio a couple of years back,” she points out. It’s the best and most concise advice Edgeworth has been given by anyone up to this point, save for one horrible little problem.
“I don’t know how to make anything,” he says.
“Hmm… really? Nothing?”
“I’m afraid I’m not the making sort. Arguably none of my hobbies are the creative type; I’m a decent pianist, but no composer. A decent voice but never a lyricist. Far more likely to be a patron of the arts than a purveyor of them.”
“Oh, is that what we’re calling it now?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“That is a certainly a predicament, though, Mr. Edgeworth!” She ignores him and continues speaking. “You should really have a creative hobby. Everyone should, I think. It’s good for the soul. You’ve got to be firing neurons on both halves of your brain, you know!”
“You've been speaking with Detective Skye too much.”
“She’s wise beyond her years.”
“Now, how exactly would you yourself come to such a conclusion about someone ten years your senior?”
“It’s simple, really,” she declares. “I’m incredibly wise beyond my years as well.”
“As you are. Sadly, such wisdom is wasted on a man without the means to act upon it.”
“You could train Pess to deliver mail and write him a very heartwarming letter!”
“I feel as if it’d be much more efficient and appropriate to let a postal worker do it.”
“Wow, you were right, you really are bad at this!”
The trenchcoat is gorgeous. It’s made out of soft and sturdy wool in Trucy’s signature shade of powder blue, the one that brings out the auburn of her hair. Every stitch oozes quality and Phoenix knows that it’s the kind of coat you could wear every day for a decade without it sporting a single frayed hem. Maybe that’s why the cut of it is so mature; assuming nothing happens to it, this is a coat Trucy could be wearing into her thirties. She puts it on and it makes her look in an instant no longer like a child but instead a tiny adult.
“Well? What do you think!?” She chirps. What Phoenix ‘thinks’ is that he needs to go lay down in his bedroom and listen to the Dixie Chicks cover of Landslide and cry for a little while but he doesn’t think that’s the answer she’s looking for.
“You look beautiful, honey.” A stock reply, but not any less true for it. She always looks beautiful. His little girl. His incredibly small woman.
“Oh my god,” she gasps. “Daddy it’s got pockets. ”
“Most coats do these days. The technology’s come really far since I was your age.”
“No! It’s got so. Many. Pockets. ” She reaches her hand further into the pocket at her side and it just sort of… keeps going. She’s bent double and her arm is submerged almost up to the shoulder. She retreats from one pocket and then opens the front of the coat and starts fishing around in there, undoing flaps and zippers and buttons and poking her fingers in all of them. “Genius craftsmanship. My regards to the tailor. Daddy this is the best coat anyone has ever made.”
“Should have figured there’d be a trick to it. If I had to guess, the outside’s all Edgeworth, and the inside’s Faraday,” he reasons. When Edgeworth had said that the gift had been joint from him and Kay, Phoenix couldn’t quite picture what to expect, but seeing it now makes perfect sense. Over the years he’s known Kay, he’s come to the conclusion that the primary difference between a thief and a magician is whether a person is pulling things out of their clothes or shoving them in there. Either way, maximizing your storage is essential. “You’ll have to send them a nice thank-you.”
“So what about your present?”
“Edgeworth has insisted upon giving it to me in person.” He gives her a conspiratorial raising of his eyebrows.
“Ooooh, mysterious. I like it. Maybe it’s not a thing, in that case?”
“I’ve got no idea,” he admits. “The man’s machinations are an enigma to me as far as this one’s concerned.”
“Well, whatever it is, promise me you’ll be extremely appreciative and thankful, okay, Daddy?” She clicks her tongue softly. “You’ve got the poor man in shambles.”
She gives him a pitying, withering look.
“He called me and asked for advice about what to get you. From the way it sounded, he’d been through the gauntlet. I told him I wouldn’t tell you about it, but, well, I lied. I think it’ll go better this way, you know?”
“What did you tell him?”
“Now that’s something I don’t intend on spilling! What if I ruined the surprise? Unforgivable!”
“Aww… come on… you used to tell Daddy everything, you know,” he sighs. “My little girl… it’s like I’m losing you. I thought… after everything that’s happened over the past year… we could be done keeping secrets from each other at the very least.” He lays it on a good few inches too thick like he knows she likes.
“Well, you’re keeping one from me,” She says. He feels ice pooling in his stomach.
“It’s fine.” She takes off the coat and folds it delicately back into the box it came out of. Her hair is tousled a little and standing there in her fuzzy Christmas pyjamas she’s back to being a child again. “I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and assume there’s a good reason for it. So there’d better be, okay?”
“Okay,” he says, as there is nothing else to say.
The tension doesn’t linger and it could lapse into an easy silence as they shove wrapping paper into trash bags, but Phoenix doesn’t want it to. He takes a few steps back in the conversation they’d been having.
“I just don’t understand why I always seem to be the last person to know what he thinks about me.”
“You do it to him too, don’t you?”
There are two types of people who give Miles Edgeworth Christmas presents; those who don’t know him well enough to be aware of his deep-seated distaste for the holiday, and those who know him so well that they feel fully entitled to ignore it. Those in the former category send things like imported wines, first-edition books bound in heavy leather, cashmere scarves, and tasteful pieces of art. Those in the latter send things like imported teas, out-of-print Steel Samurai fan anthologies, cashmere scarves for his dog, and art more likely to be described as ‘dated and lacking in appeal’ by anyone who did have taste. There’s also a third category of people who give Edgeworth very strange things with no discernable pattern at all but so far the only person who fits there is Phoenix Wright.
Promptly, first thing in the morning when the light is still new enough to paint the sky in an unseemly dishwater gray, he makes himself a cup of tea. He ignores the gifts from both categories, leaving them piled to the side of his undecorated mantle, in favor of striding towards his office and the box that’s spent the past month tucked in the topmost drawer of his desk.
He takes a seat and sets the tea down on the in front of him where it lazily steams. His glasses fog up with it a bit as he bends down to fish the box out of its resting place. His hands run pensively along the surface of the thing as if he hasn’t already long since exhausted the conclusions he can draw from the exterior. His letter opener looks sinister in the glare of the winter sun. It hits at a different angle this time of year, this time of day. It feels weightier than it should, too, and less in his control, his hands not quite sweating and not quite shaking but something close to it.
Edgeworth once worked a case in Leeds that found him in the apartment of an untreated schizophrenic textile warehouse foreman who was convinced that the looms were sending him morse code messages from God instructing him to reunite all three Irelands by whatever means necessary and who took to addressing this call to action with homemade bombs. Upon opening the door to the flat, he had knocked one over. The following two minutes and thirty seconds (according to the timer) had seen him with his phone wedged up against his ear as Ema and Kay talked over each other on speaker phones to give him directions and he stood there with a boxcutter trying to figure out which wire was azure and which was cobalt. That was a less nervewracking moment.
He opens the box and there is a book inside of it.
No - that’s wrong. It’s not a book. It’s a journal. A brown leather cover. Small enough to be slipped into his jacket pocket. Pages with a bit of a cream tint to them that he can’t attribute specifically to either intent or age. It's of slightly poorer quality than the journals he uses for his organizers but it’s by no means cheap and it’s quite clearly been used already. The pages bulge with… something between them.
He opens the cover with the delicacy of a surgeon. Written at the top of the ‘CASE NOTES’ in Wright’s childhood penmanship, which isn’t too far off from his adult penmanship, and below it ‘EVIDENCE COLLECTED FOR THE CASE OF PHOENIX AND MILES’S BEST FRIENDSHIP’. Oh, now that’s very cute.
“Figured you’d still want it.” Wright’s words upon giving him the gift pop into Edgeworth’s head. To be honest, yes, he does feel like he could use some evidence of this because he’s been running his own leads to numerous dead ends as of late. A break in the case would be welcome. But he’s not sure why Wright thought this gift to be worth giving. It’s vulnerable. It’s sentimental. It contradicts everything about the person that Wright spent the last seven years becoming. It confuses him.
Until he turns the page and it stops being confusing.
This is neither a book nor a journal; it’s a scrapbook. There are movie ticket stubs, trading cards, messages on torn bits of notebook paper, and most importantly photos, dozens and dozens of photos. Most of them are folded down the middle and crammed into the crease giving the notebook it’s bulging effect. Most of them are of Edgeworth with frequent cameos from Larry and Edgeworth wonders why Wright is so absent from them until he realizes that he must have been the one taking him. Some photos taken at odd angles have the tops of his knees poking into the frame, or the unmistakable blue of his shoes, or a bit of his thumb over the lens.
A not insignificant amount of these photos have his father in them. This makes sense, because to the best of Edgeworth’s knowledge, Greg loved Edgeworth’s friends, particularly Wright, and so he’d make the time to take the kids around town whenever he was able. Edgeworth says knowledge and not memory because it is very much the former and not the latter.
Edgeworth’s secret: the years of his life before his father’s death are a messy and distant blur that he is almost fully incapable of pulling any meaningful fact out of. He’d underplayed this in his conversations with Wright, not lying outright, falling back onto the time-honored tradition of ‘yes, that sounds a bit familiar’ or ‘I’m foggy on the details, but-’ and nodding his head along to any tales of childhood antics but the truth of it is it’s all gone. It always has been. He didn’t even know Larry and Wright a full year, and he was so very young, it didn’t leave an impression. Sometimes, even his father barely did. As the time Edgeworth spent living without his father came to surpass the time he’d spent living with him, Edgeworth found himself increasingly unable to tell if the very few memories he had of his father were preserved by the photographs that accompanied the events, or fully constructed by them.
Either way, he didn’t have very many of those photos and the ones he did have were very precious. Now he has far more.
The defense’s case: Miles Edgeworth did have a childhood at one point. Phoenix Wright had been his best friend and they had been young and happy and had a lot of fun. It was neither an elaborate daydream fantasy or a black void only defined by its absence of memory.
The defense’s evidence: Piled into a little leather book and sitting innocently on his desk right now.
He doesn’t cry. He’s not entirely sure what the feeling he’s experiencing is but whatever it is, he’s feeling a lot of it, two measures of joy for every one of sorrow pressing his mouth into an unsure line even in the privacy of his own home.
What he does is this: carefully peel the photos from what little of the gluestick glue holding them still remains and one by one flatten them as best as he’s able so he can run them all through the high-end document scanner he has for work. The crease down the middle is irreparable on the physical prints, but he knows there are people who can fix these things with computers. On top of that, even should his entire home burn to the ground, his digital backups won’t.
Then, he promptly dresses himself for the day and takes his leave because his current present for Wright is, he now realizes, lacking one incredibly critical component.
“No, I don’t have any idea what Edgeworth got you for Christmas, and If I did, I wouldn’t tell you,” Ema huffs. “Besides, it’s almost Christmas, you don’t have to wait that long to find out.”
“Ema,” Phoenix replies. “It’s Christmas today. What day did you think it was? ”
“Shit, really? Like, right now?”
“Oh my god I must have lost a day,” she gasps. Phoenix hears frantic rustling from the other side of the receiver. Papers shuffling, fabric rustling, and a noise best described as a glass jar of coins being knocked over. “Shit! I’m supposed to be at Gavin’s thing soon, I thought it was tomorrow! Not like I care about making appearances but if they run out of mini-quiche before I’m there...”
“...Lost a day?”
“I’ve been cramming. For the forensics exam. It’s - well, you know how it is when you get really into something? The time just slips away from you?”
“Not like that I don’t.”
“Maybe I’m a bit on the extreme end of things but, hey. It ain’t gonna study itself. Speaking of, how’s the bar treating you?”
“That bad, huh? Sorry, dude. Tell me if I can lend any kind of hand, okay?”
“You could at least tell me what sort of advice you gave me when he called you,” he whines.
“Jesus, Mr. Wright,” she clicks her tongue. “Why are you so weird about this Christmas gift thing?”
“I need the upper hand here! I won’t let him catch off guard.”
“It’s not a trial.”
“Everything’s a trial with Edgeworth. You can win or lose at breakfast with Edgeworth,” he huffs. “Just tell me. You said you wanted to help me, right? And the sooner you answer my question the sooner you can go get those mini-quiches. I bet Gavin’s shoveling them all into his guitar case as we speak. You’re out of time.”
“I was extremely unhelpful to Mr. Edgeworth, which means I’m about to be extremely unhelpful to you right now,” she admits. “Pretty much told him I had no clue and to go figure it out himself. So, I guess my answer to you is… I’ve got no clue. Figure it out yourself.”
“You’re a horrible detective.”
“Good. I hate being a detective.”
“Welcome to my humbling abode.” Phoenix beckons Edgeworth through the door of the apartment.
“Don’t you mean ‘humble?’” Edgeworth corrects.
“No, I think you need to be knocked down a peg. But thanks for insulting my house. So? What do you think?”
“Honestly?” Edgeworth says, looking around. “It’s fine, but it doesn’t suit you. Thinking of you… well, existing, anywhere other than that office of yours? Completely anathema to my worldview.”
“Fucking thank you,” Phoenix sighs. “I feel like.. I feel like a crawdad someone fished out of the river and dropped into a saltwater aquarium exhibit.”
“I’m sure you’ll adjust soon.”
“Really? That’s it? First it’s ‘completely anathema to your worldview’ but the solution is as simple as ‘I’ll adjust soon?’” Phoenix rolls his eyes and huffs.
“Yes. Seriously, Wright, It’s been - how long now? A month? Of course it doesn’t feel like yours yet,” Edgeworth shoots him a condescending look. “You’ll get there.”
“I’m a creature of habit,” he whines.
“You are. And eventually those habits will have this place looking like just as much a disaster as the office did, with the added bonus that you won’t need to be bringing clients into your living room. ” The firmness of Edgeworth’s voice leaves no room for debate, so Phoenix doesn’t. He just sighs. “Oh don’t be so melodramatic.”
“I would be less melodramatic with a Christmas Present from my dear friend Miles Edgeworth.”
“Fine. But first, I have to ask or I’ll never hear the end of it from Kay - did Trucy like the coat?”
“Edgeworth, she loved it.” Phoenix insists. He’s grinning wide before he’s even aware of it as he pictures her opening the gift this morning. “She’s wearing it right now for Gavin’s Christmas benefit concert thing or whatever it is they’re all doing. Instead of her cape!”
“Is that really that big of a deal? I’ve seen her without the cape plenty of times.”
“Not in a professional setting, you haven’t. But seriously, Edgeworth, it was perfect. Beyond perfect. Thank you, really,” Phoenix says. Edgeworth shoots him back a bashful smile and starts fishing around in the pocket of his coat for something. “What are you looking for? Is that not mine?”
By ‘that’ Phoenix means the blue gift bag Edgeworth carried in with him, topped with a shimmery gold bow. Who else would it be for?
“It is, you greedy lout. Don’t worry. You’re not even going to offer me a cup of tea first? A terrible host.”
“As a matter of fact,” Phoenix says, as he gives Edgeworth a small shove that prompts him to gently sit down on the fresh-off-the-lot living room couch. He grabs the mug of tea from where it’s been sitting on the counter for the past couple of minutes or so, still steaming. It’s just the way Edgeworth likes it, hopefully. “I took the liberty myself, I figured offering would be an unnecessary extra step.”
“Efficient,” Quips Edgeworth as Phoenix settles in next to him. He hands Phoenix a sturdy envelope. The expression he’s wearing turns expectant and, as always, just a bit smug. Phoenix opens it with as much fanfare as one can muster for an envelope and. Well. Once again he finds himself in the position of not realizing he’d had expectations until they were unmet. He pulls out the envelope’s contents - a brochure with a printout confirming a booking - and flips through them. Once. Twice. Once more just to be sure.
“...Cooking classes?” He’s not really sure how to respond to this one but he tries to keep the building disappointment from slipping out into his voice. “Now Edgeworth, I’m a fan of passive aggressive gifts in concept, but it’s not exactly like you’re any kind of cook either.”
“No, I’m not,” Edgeworth says, and his smile gets a little bit wider. Like he’s… like he’s trying to hold it back. Phoenix has the sneaking suspicion he is about to become the victim of some kind of turnabout. He suddenly feels sorry for everyone he’s ever beaten in court.
“These don’t take place in the city, though. There’d be almost no way to get there - it’d take hours round trip, syncing up the bus routes.”
“Then I guess we’ll just have to carpool.”
Phoenix’s mouth work’s slightly faster than his brain does. In general, but now specifically as well.
“ Oh you son of a-”
“Well it’s like you said, I’m lacking in culinary expertise myself. Besides, I’ve been considering branching out my hobbies lately.”
“Okay. Okay,” Phoenix laughs with a lightness he hasn’t in a while, hand over his eyes, feeling a growing warmth start to build in his cheeks . “Okay, you’ve got me. That’s a pretty fun gift.”
“I’m not done. Aren’t you forgetting something?” he chastises. He holds out the bag expectantly.
“Come on, Edgeworth, one gift was enough. Seriously I’m sure this cooking garbage cost way too much money already, I can’t take anything else from you.”
“Don’t protest until you’ve opened it at least. And don’t protest afterwards, either, because we had this argument in my head already on the drive over here and I can tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s oneI win.”
“Jeez, okay, okay, I’m taking it!” He unties the bow and starts digging through the forest of tissue paper and when he comes back he is holding an incredibly pristine looking digital camera. His face has gone from warm to scalding. His mouth tries to pull itself into a smile. “Edgeworth…”
“I don’t know what to say…”
“Thank you,” Phoenix parrots back.
“No,” and Edgeworth’s voice comes out soft, soft, dangerously soft, and he feels the couch shift the tiniest bit as Edgeworth leans just a hair closer. “I’m saying it to you. Thank you, Wright. Your gift meant a lot to me.”
“This means a lot to me too,” Phoenix replies, his thumb sliding over the camera’s case despite that very much not being what he’s talking about. “Can you answer just one question for me, though?”
“Of course,” he replies without hesitation. “What is it?”
“Are you going to cook and eat me?”
“That’s awfully forward. How about we just see if either of us are any good at this first? I don’t want to over commit.” And the smile Edgeworth had been holding in breaks out of him in full. In a heartbeat he is five, ten, twenty-five years younger, a shy little boy, the most condescending nine-year-old on the planet, Phoenix’s best friend in the whole world, half soulmate and half stranger. Phoenix doubles over with a wheezing laugh.
“You look so fucking proud of yourself!” He coughs out.
“Well, I am. This was a difficult decision to come to. You’re an exceedingly difficult man to shop for.”
“So I have been told,” he says with a nod. Phoenix grabs his own cup of tea from where it sat half-drunk on the living room table. He raises it in a toast. “Here’s to learning to feed ourselves.”
“And here-” Edgeworth declares, clicking his mug against Phoenix’s. “Is to twenty-five more years.”