Coffee Housing

by Tenshi

Author's Note:Spoilers for all AA games. No Gyakuten Kenji canon is included. Takes place shortly after Stone Cold Bluff.

The high-security medical ward of County General did not have the feel of a prison. Even though the whole wing of the hospital was devoted to the care of criminals, it was clean and tidy, and the equipment was state-of-the-art. For a man in need of intense, prolonged medical care, being a prisoner at County General was probably better than being a free man down at the Hotti Clinic. As far as incarceration went, it was practically a resort.

Marvin Grossberg had not become a leading defense attorney by doing poorly for his clients, and he had gone out of his way to secure the best options for his most recent one.

A white-scrubbed nurse led Edgeworth down the corridor, past the efficient barrier of the security station. Normally, visitors would have their belongings held; cell phones and briefcases were not permitted. But Edgeworth was no ordinary visitor, he was Chief Prosecutor now, and that title held benefits far beyond the top-floor office and private tea service.

The nurse knocked lightly on the door to one of the rooms. The door, Edgeworth noted, was not locked. "You have a visitor," she called out, as she let Edgeworth in. "Normal visitations are limited to 15 minutes," she explained to him, her voice lowered, "but if you need longer, sir, just let us know."

Edgeworth nodded his thanks, and she squeaked back down the hall on her white shoes.

The room was as bright and comfortable as the rest of the wing. The table held a stack of audio books and a heavy ceramic mug, the bed was neatly made, but unoccupied. The patient--or inmate, as it was all one and the same--was sitting in a wheelchair by the window with his eyes closed. His shocking white hair was the color of paper in the sunlight, and the horizontal scar across his face had not quite faded, still pink. A bulky visor rested on the arm of his wheelchair, the red lights dull, switched off.

"Whoever you are," he said, "I hope you brought some decent coffee with you. I could read a newspaper through the watery piss they serve here. ...If I could read a newspaper at all, that is."

Edgeworth almost smiled. "Sorry, all I brought with me are some questions, Prosecutor Godot."

He tilted his head at the voice, and flicked a switch on the arm of his chair. The electric wheelchair hummed as it turned, and sightless eyes searched the area where Edgeworth stood. "It's all right. Diego Armando is fine. It's the name on my door anyway, and my medical chart. Godot...really isn't required anymore."

"I'm glad to hear it," Edgeworth said.

Diego shrugged. "Ah, people always said they were tired of waiting for him." He chuckled to himself. "Maybe he'll turn up tomorrow. Certainly he'll come tomorrow. But for now, you can talk to me." He picked up the visor and fitted it to his face, the device clicked once and the lights burst into three attentive bars of luminous color. Diego's body shifted in the wheelchair, as though in mild surprise, and Edgeworth knew he had been recognized at last.

"Well," Diego said. "I was hoping for my first sight of the day to be a beautiful woman made out of legs, but I guess you'll do, Chief Prosecutor."

"I'm relieved to be so adequate," Edgeworth said dryly, and sat down in the chair across from Diego. "You're already aware of my promotion, I see."

"I keep myself aware of a lot of things," Diego said. "Like I heard you and Trite had something of a little spat on the courthouse steps a few weeks ago." His visor lights flickered in something like a wink. "Tough love, eh?"

"You are well-informed in here."

"Sure. I get all the courthouse gossip. One of the Judge's aides has a great podcast."

"In that case, I will be spared having to give you any background on the current situation." Edgeworth carefully folded his hands in his lap. "As you already know what has transpired with Wright, and with me."

"Oh, I know more than I want to about the two of you." Diego's grin sliced across his face, as white as his hair. "And if you're here to ask me out on a date, Prosecutor, I'm flattered. But I'm afraid I'm something of a shut-in these days."

"So am I," Edgeworth replied, level.

"Of course. Business before pleasure, right?" Diego shook his head. "Business is the only drink I don't take black, Prosecutor. It needs a little cream in it."

"Perhaps I can offer you a bit of both?" Edgeworth said, and leaned forward in his chair. "Listen, Armando. I know Grossberg got you cleared of outright murder, and your charge for conspiracy was little more than a slap. You've got three more years in here, and then you're a free man. With good behavior, you can get out in two. Your doctor tells me that you'll always need the visor, but by then, physically, you'll be a healthy man with as much life ahead of you as any of us can expect. What do you intend to do with it?"

"I dunno," Diego said. "I thought I might catch up on my reading. Or organize my sock drawer. Or learn to knit. Did you have something better in mind?"

"Come back to the Prosecutor's office," Edgeworth said. "I know you can't just turn your back on the courtroom. If you're half the lawyer Mia Fey was--"

"You have no right to speak her name!" Diego growled, leaning forward in his chair, his hands clenched on his armrests and the lights of his visor snapping with an overload of charge.

"You forget yourself, Armando," Edgeworth said, coolly. "Ms. Fey drew the first blood I ever shed in a courtroom, and for a long while, it was the only such wound I bore."

Diego fell back into his chair, his laugh a short bark. "Ha! That's right, isn't it? I forgot she popped your prosecuting cherry." It was just as well that Diego's visor wasn't capable of picking up subtleties of expression, and the remarkable one on Edgeworth's face passed unnoticed. "Fine, then. You know I've got law and caffeine in my very blood. What about it?"

"I expect you've got justice in there, as well," Edgeworth said. "And if so, you know it is something thing our courts have been lacking." Edgeworth paused, a moment of consideration before showing his hand. "Phoenix Wright being stripped of his badge, for a start."

All the humor was gone from Diego's face, his mouth grim. "...That public fight was well-played, Prosecutor," he said, with a faint trace of admiration. "You certainly have everyone fooled. Just who are you two trying to snow?"

"I cannot discuss that at this time. But I can offer you a job when you come out of here, and promise you that if you assist me, you will be doing a great service to clear the name of an innocent man. A purpose, Armando. The thing that brought you back from hell, the thing you lack now." Edgeworth hesitated before using his final trump, it was a dangerous card, with Diego, but it could also be the most rewarding one. "...It's what Mia would have done."

Diego scrubbed his chin with one hand, ruffling his goatee with one thumb. "All right," he said, after a long pause. "It's better than being a barista, anyway."

"Indubitably." For the first time, Edgeworth allowed himself a small smile. "I'll make you work hard for your coffee breaks, I warn you. Before that, though, there's something you can do for me now."

"Oh?" Diego drummed his fingers on the armrest of his wheelchair. "And what's that? You'll never get the secret of Godot Blend #107 from me, so don't even try."

"Not that. I'm a tea man, myself. But now that I've offered you a job, I need you to tell me where to find one for someone else. Someone with... suddenly limited options."

Diego stared at Edgeworth, his visor impassive. "Classified pages?" he suggested.

"I've heard a rumor...only the vaguest hints, of course, of a secret poker club here in the city. From my impression, it is totally legal, but only certain elite circles are aware of its existence. Somewhere in the shadows behind it is a defense attorney, but as a prosecutor, I will never uncover his name alone. I want you to tell me who it is."

Diego was almost smiling. "You've heard about my record, then?"

"Marvin Grossberg tells me that you were nearly unbeatable at cards."

"Still am, Prosecutor. And my poker face is even better now." Diego flicked a finger on the side of his visor, and it made a soft metallic chime. "Too bad I can't play anymore. Hearts and diamonds are just blank cards to me now."

"Yes, but before?"

"Oh, yeah. Paid my way through law school with it. At that club you're thinking about."

Edgeworth suppressed a small shiver of excitement, a feeling he usually only had when he was across a courtroom from Phoenix Wright, with the truth unraveling between them. "So you do know where it is."

Diego turned his chair around again, and put his bare feet up on the warm windowsill. "Yeah, I know. The man you're looking for is a Russian defense lawyer, has a passion for cards, and if I mentioned his name, you would know it."

The name and face materialized at once in Edgeworth's mind, along with no small measure of awe for the legendary figure. Edgeworth's father had often spoken of him. "You don't mean--"

"It's probably better not to bring up his name, even here. He's retired from the courtroom of course, but his reach is considerable, even now." Diego gestured for a pen and paper resting on the side table, Edgeworth passed them over at once. "The fact that he is the backer of the club is a closely-guarded secret, and he rarely goes there himself. On the front, it's nothing more than a Russian restaurant, sort of a kitschy dive." Diego scrawled out an address on the pad, tore off the page, and handed it over to Edgeworth. "Go in and tell the guy at the bar that you might have a new piano player for them. You can take it from there."

"Piano player?" Edgeworth repeated, skimming the address.

"Don't worry," Diego answered, his manic grin hanging unevenly on his face. "The only ivories Trite will need to tickle are the ones with queens printed on them."

Edgeworth nodded, tucking the note into his suit pocket. "Excellent. Of course, I will require your absolute silence on this."

"Dead men tell no tales," Diego said, adding, as an afterthought, "Boss."

"I'm relieved to hear it."

There was a soft knock on the door, and the nurse poked her head inside. "Two more minutes, Mr. Edgeworth. Will you require more time?"

Edgeworth glanced at Diego; unreadable bars of red light shone back at him. "No," he said, rising. "I think we're all done here."

"Thanks for dropping by," Diego said. "If you get a chance, send me a cake with a French press pot and ten pounds of Guatemalan beans hidden it, would you?"

"I'll see what I can do." Edgeworth picked up his briefcase. "But perhaps a get well soon card would be in better order?"

"Sure." Diego reached up for his visor, it powered down with a gentle whine and he sighed as it came free. "Just make sure it's printed in black."

Edgeworth made a soft noise, not quite a laugh, and turned to follow the nurse out of the room. He left Diego Armando much as he had found him, still and thoughtful in his chair, scarred face tilted unseeing at the blue sky beyond his window.


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