Author's Note: Spoilers for all AA games, including AJ. No Gyakuten Kenji canon is included. Takes place shortly after the catastrophic events following PW3.
Edgeworth hated flying coach.
It was a frustration he did not often have to endure, as money and influence usually equaled large amounts of leg room and free champagne when traveling. But the soonest flight back to LA had been completely booked in executive class, and Edgeworth had been obliged to take a seat crammed in with bargain holiday-goers, mothers with shrieking babies, and what appeared to be the entirety of Ivy University's lacrosse team. A toddler in the row behind him was pummeling Edgeworth's kidneys through the back of the seat. He hunched over his laptop while waiting for the drinks cart to arrive, creeping at a glacier-like pace from the rear of the plane.
This had better be important, Wright, he thought, feeling martyred. He had been observing a fascinating trial in Borginia, where the ancient legal system was slightly draconian but gloriously efficient. If Wright had called him back to the States just because he had fallen off a bridge again--
The children in the seat behind him began singing, their knowledge of YMCA limited to precisely one key line repeated over and over, with vigorous kicking motions. After the twenty-fifth reiteration, during which the drink cart only moved forward by one row, Edgeworth had had it. He whirled in his seat to unleash his fury on whatever foolish mortal claimed to be the keeper of the noisy spawn. He assumed it was the woman in the seat next to them, but she was sound asleep, snoring with the exhaustion of the overworked. Edgeworth was more than prepared to administer justice in her place. His blistering retort died unspoken, however, as his eyes fell upon the rolled newspaper the brats were using as an improvised megaphone. The headline stood out in stark, bold font, above a photographed face he knew all too well.
Objection Overruled: Prominent Attorney Found Guilty of Evidence Fraud, Stripped of Badge.
"Give me that," Edgeworth said, snatching the paper from the children. Their mother snorted in her sleep but did not wake. The children set up a combination wail and sniffle act, and in Edgeworth's mind, it was a vast improvement over the singing. He sank back down in his seat, spreading the newspaper over his laptop on the cramped tray table. The paper was dated three days ago, and contained a gleefully involved feature on the fall of a man everyone had always presumed was too good to be true. Edgeworth felt sick. Why hadn't he heard about this already? Oh yes, he remembered, belatedly. He had been neck-deep in thirteenth-century Borginian land rights.
He devoured the article with his eyes, picking over each word until he had assembled the facts. A related story on the back page gave a fleeting description of the trial: the murder of some magician. Edgeworth read it over and over again, and when the steward came by hawking coffee and ginger ale, he didn't even notice. By the time the plane landed, Miles Edgeworth had prepared a barrage of questions that would strip the flesh from the bones of the steeliest witness.
Even if that witness was Phoenix Wright.
It took a moment for Edgeworth to find him, in the crowd by the baggage claim. Edgeworth was scanning the crowd for a blue suit and familiar spiky hair. He certainly didn't expect a disreputable figure in jeans and sweatshirt, with a knit cap pulled down low over his eyes.
"Thanks for coming so fast," Phoenix said, in greeting.
Edgeworth raked him over with his eyes, and stuffed away the interrogation for later. "You look terrible."
Phoenix was a hollow-eyed phantom of himself. In less than six months, he seemed to have aged as many years. His face was haggard and he needed a shave. "I feel terrible," he answered, with transparent brightness. "But it's good to know at least I look authentic." He glanced back down the terminal, as though looking for something.
"Well, I have my luggage, and I want some explanations." Edgeworth yanked up the handle of his vast burgundy suitcase, tipping it back on its wheels. "So let's go--"
"Just a minute," Phoenix said, still peering down the hall. "Here she comes."
"Ah." Edgeworth glanced through the crowd, in search of a familiar topknot. "Maya is with you, I suppose?"
"Well then who are we waiting fo--"
"I'm all done, Daddy. The bathrooms here are totally huge!"
Edgeworth started. Clinging to Phoenix's hand was a small girl in a pink cape and top hat, her eyes studying Edgeworth with frank appraisal.
"Daddy?" Edgeworth demanded in loaded tones, as his eyebrows struggled to remain on his face.
"Didn't we always say we were going to adopt?" Phoenix said, with a thin, ghostly vestige of his former humor. "This is Trucy. Trucy, this is Mr. Edgeworth."
"Daddy said you'd been friends a long long time," Trucy said, holding out her small hand for Edgeworth to take, as solemn as a diminutive queen. "Does that make you my uncle?"
"Ah, well, I'll have to talk to your... um... 'daddy' about that." Edgeworth shook the hand presented to him, trying to hold back on his usual firm grip. "Wright," he said, through gritted teeth, "you've got a lot of explaining to do."
"I'm tired of explaining," Phoenix said, wearily. "So I think I'll just tell you the truth, instead."
"I would hope so." Edgeworth pulled the newspaper out from under his arm, brandishing it. "I want to know what the hell--" He halted, glancing at Trucy and feeling deflated. "I mean, I want to know what this is all about."
Phoenix flinched at the sight of his own picture, and looked around as though he hoped nobody else in the terminal would see it. "Yeah, well," he summoned up a wan smile, "that's two of us."
Normally after arriving back in town, Edgeworth would have had a car from the Prosecutor's Office come and pick him up. But after reading the article he had cancelled the service, and instead rented a car from the airport kiosk. They drove back to Phoenix's office in silence. The Law Offices of Wright & Co. already looked dilapidated, barely a week after Phoenix's disbarment. The foyer was full of boxes, hastily packed.
"I moved out of my apartment," Phoenix explained, scooting a box out of the way with his foot. It was half-unpacked, full of Steel Samurai DVDs, a spice rack, and Phoenix's boxer shorts. "I won't be able to afford rent on both, so I thought I'd cut my losses and live in the spare room here." From the looks of the place, Phoenix had given Trucy the bedroom and been sleeping on the sofa, himself.
"Wright," Edgeworth began, in a way that usually presaged a withering counter-argument in the courtroom.
"Not yet," Phoenix said, and bent down to Trucy's level. "Trucy. It's past your bedtime, you know. Go brush your teeth and get your PJs on for me."
Trucy did not argue or protest, she surveyed Edgeworth again and vanished into the bathroom, like a conjurer's trick.
"My client's daughter," Phoenix explained, as Edgeworth shucked out of his jacket. "She hasn't got anywhere else to go. I'm thinking of filing official papers, but I don't know whether they'll be to let her go, or adopt her." His gaze flicked to Edgeworth, briefly. "It's nice to have someone around who has absolute faith in me," he said.
It was Edgeworth's turn to look away, busying himself by hanging his coat on the rack, next to Trucy's top hat. "You didn't do it, did you?"
Phoenix sighed, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "...Even you have to ask."
Edgeworth's hands tensed on his coat. "It's my job to believe the worst of people, Wright. And the evidence against you is... compelling."
"I didn't call you back here as a prosecutor," Phoenix snapped, showing the first evidence that his temper was as frayed as his pride. "I called you here because I needed a friend."
"Well then as your friend," Edgeworth bit off the words, slapping the newspaper down on the desk, "You could have told me what was going on rather than leaving me to find it out like this!"
Phoenix slumped, looking utterly defeated. "I thought you of all people would believe me. After all, you were slipped forged evidence during a trial, and you--"
"Disciplinary proceedings for prosecutors are entirely different, Wright, you know that! Defense attorneys present evidence based solely on their own recognizance, if there's so much as a shred of doubt to it it can mean the end of your career!"
His voice rang in the small office, all the louder for Phoenix's tight-lipped silence. "It did," he said, at last. They stared at each other. "...Don't you trust me, Miles?"
His words touched off the guilt in Edgeworth's heart, like a match to dry tinder. "Why didn't you call me sooner?" Edgeworth exploded, taking Phoenix by the front of his sweatshirt, forcing the other man to look at him. "I could have stood by you! I could have helped you--"
"A prosecuting attorney would have had no influence in my hearing, it was a defense matter." Phoenix's eyes were pleading for understanding. "And if you had come back and helped me--Miles, you've just gotten your reputation back. Do you really think I would let you blow it, all for the sake of such an obvious fraud?"
"Goddamnit, Wright! if you had only--"
"It's not your fault." A small voice, serene from the bathroom door. Trucy stood there in bare feet and pink rabbit patterned pajamas, the light behind her turning her into a tiny angel. "It's not your fault, Uncle Edgeworth."
Edgeworth tried to say something, it came out as a strangled noise.
"I know, you're guilty for not being here," Trucy continued, unperturbed. "But it's not your fault." When she had finished with this announcement, she turned to Phoenix. "Your toothpaste tastes funny," she said, wrinkling her nose. "I like the kind with stars in it."
Edgeworth was beginning to notice that Phoenix always had a smile for Trucy, no matter how threadbare. "I'll get some for us later, okay?" he said.
Trucy bounced over to them like a stray magic ball. "Mmkay. Goodnight, Daddy." She tilted up her face to be kissed goodnight; Edgeworth reluctantly released Phoenix's shirt so that he could do so.
"Goodnight, Uncle!" Trucy leaned one cheek in Edgeworth's direction. Edgeworth, hapless, looked to Phoenix for aid.
"Well?" Phoenix said. "Give her a kiss, Uncle E."
"I begin to suspect you're enjoying this," Edgeworth said, and dutifully aimed his face at the direction of Trucy's temple. She flung her arms around him, unexpectedly.
"Daddy says you can help anybody in trouble, that you're his best friend. So I know things will be all right now. Don't let him stay up too late. It's bad for him." Trucy squeezed Edgeworth's neck, got one more hug from Phoenix, and scampered off to the back room.
"You're a devious man, Phoenix Wright," Edgeworth growled, when she had gone.
"If I wasn't before, I'm going to have to be now." Phoenix pulled off his hat, unleashing the dark spikes of hair that Edgeworth knew so well. His fingers itched to touch them, but he held off. This was not the reunion he had planned, and there was a seven year old girl asleep in the next room.
"Why don't you tell me what happened?" Edgeworth said, settling down on the leather couch. "After you get us both a drink."
Hearing it from Phoenix's own lips was not much more enlightening than the newspaper, but it eased the bands of doubt and guilt around Edgeworth's chest. The office grew darker and darker, but neither one got up to turn on more lights.
"I don't know much about Kristoph Gavin," Edgeworth said, when Phoenix was finished. Edgeworth looked out the window, pretending to study the moonlight on his teacup as Phoenix rubbed at his red eyes with his shirtsleeve. "He has a sterling defense record, a reputable firm, and is highly regarded in the international community. Especially in Germany, as is his younger brother, Klavier."
"Deutschland Douchebag," Phoenix said, thickly. It was uncharitable, and both of them knew it.
"He was only doing his job," Edgeworth said. "Legal training in Germany does not exactly lean towards a fuzzy-wuzzy, kitteny sort of final product. It is the machine that made Von Karma, and Franziska... and me. Ruthless competency, Wright. Though it worries me that Klavier was so ably ready to debunk your evidence. When did you first meet Kristoph, again?"
"I met him when he defended Iris, a few months ago. He did wonderfully by her, really. She's already out on parole. But isn't Klavier the real issue?" Phoenix's eyes were too bright, but he was composed again. "He was the prosecutor in the case. Kristoph didn't have anything to do with it."
"On the contrary, I expect he had a good deal to do with it. But in what way, and how much, I'm not sure." Edgeworth sighed through his nose. "It would have been far better if you'd told me about this the moment you came into trouble. All the trails will be cold by now."
Phoenix wrung his beer bottle in his hands, and shook his head. "No," he said. "I knew right away that I was screwed. There was no way I was getting out of it clean. I knew I would need you." He looked up at Edgeworth, and for a moment he was a small boy wrongly accused in a grade-school classroom, blubbing his innocence and helpless to prove it. It made Edgeworth's heart ache. The flashback was gone, almost instantly. It was replaced by something else in Phoenix's expression, some cold steel determination that had faced down both the unscrupulous and the undead in the courtroom. "But I need you untainted by my scandal in any way. I'm toxic now, Miles, and you've got to avoid it at all costs."
Edgeworth's mouth twisted. "That's hardly possible, Wright. Our relationship has been public for years. The moment I'm back in town, people will assume--"
"Then the end of our relationship will need to be equally public," Phoenix said, his lips drawing back in a feral sort of grin. "Catastrophic, if possible. I'll need your help, but it can never be traced back to you. As far as the public's concerned, my crash has to be complete. I must be without any obvious allies, utterly alone."
Edgeworth's mouth was an unhappy line; he turned his teacup in circles on the arm of the sofa. "To do so means we cannot be seen together. Not until you've been exonerated."
"It might be years, Wright."
Phoenix took a long shaky breath, nodding. But the determination in his eyes was unwavering. "I know, Miles."
Edgeworth considered the last, cold sip of Darjeeling in his cup. "I've been offered the position of Chief Prosecutor here," he admitted finally. "The department's been trying to make me accept it for years, but I keep turning them down." He knocked back the dregs of his tea, wishing it was something more potent. "I'll go down tomorrow and tender my letter of intent to them. Does that make me a powerful enough silent ally for you?"
Phoenix's face was full of gratitude. "I can never pay you back for this," he exhaled, shoulders lifting as though some weight had been thrown off.
"I thought we were past the point of paying each other back." Edgeworth reached into his back pocket. "Which is why I want you to take this, and don't argue." He pulled the gold clip off of a thick stack of rolled bills, and pressed the whole wad into Phoenix's hand. The smallest bill was a twenty, and it was outnumbered by a cadre of more impressive zeroes.
"No arguing, Wright. We'll have to work on getting you a job--something low to the ground, preferably where we can meet privately. It's too dangerous for me to come here, and you certainly won't be able to come to my apartment or my office. But until then, you've got to take care of yourself, and Trucy."
The bills whispered faintly as Phoenix ran his thumbnail down the edges. "I'll take it," he said, "but only for Trucy."
"I shouldn't stay here tonight," Edgeworth said, standing. "Though if we're going to have a public falling out, I suppose we have to have a few encounters first. Still, it would be better if I went to a hotel."
"You're only saying that," Phoenix said, carefully tucking the money in his back pocket, "because the only place left to sleep is on the floor."
"The thought had crossed my mind, I admit." Edgeworth reached for his coat, pulled it on. "I promise I'll be in touch. I'll call you tomorrow, as soon as I've checked into the Department, and..." He trailed off. Phoenix had crossed the room to stand beside him, his hand was on Edgeworth's arm.
"Miles," he said. "I--"
He got no further. They fell into a desperate kiss, mouths crushed together, arms tangled. Edgeworth thought he felt Phoenix's ribs shuddering, a tremor in the other man's jaw like a sob held in check. But when they parted, Phoenix's eyes were dry.
"Want me to carry your bag down for you?" he offered, his voice only a little bit rough with emotion.
"No," Edgeworth said. "It's... probably best if you don't."
A heaviness settled on the two of them, as though they already realized the burden of their undertaking, the gulf of separation it would open up between them. Edgeworth knew it would be far worse than any trip abroad, and of a longer duration than a fake suicide note. The moonlight crept in a white rectangle up the wall as they stood there, memorizing each other's faces.
"I'll find ways to contact you," Edgeworth said. "If we can put you somewhere neutral, where I could meet with you in private, it would be ideal. But it might be a while."
"I appear to have plenty of time," Phoenix said, spreading his hands. "And this time, I know you're staying in town."
"I knew you'd find a way to pin me down someday," Edgeworth said, picking up his case. "I just didn't know it would be like this. ...Get some sleep, will you? You look like utter hell."
"Yeah, yeah. You're as bad as Trucy." Phoenix held the door open for him. "Goodnight, Miles."
Edgeworth looked over his shoulder at him. "...Goodnight, Phoenix." He took a mental snapshot of him standing there, in front of the familiar sign with his hips tilted just so and his lopsided smile, and then he turned away. Moving was always better, and looking back only painful. The only way to go was forward, towards a future where, hopefully, justice prevailed.
In the darkness, the hallway stretched out an impossible distance, to a chain of tomorrows shrouded in doubt and danger.
Edgeworth plunged into it, unhesitating.