Ripples

By Cyberwulf

Rated: T (suitable for teens and over)

Betas: ProspectKiss, LadyLuckDoubt

Fanmixer: Stillarium

Summary: Four years after the events of T&T, a sick and friendless Diego is about to commit suicide when he's interrupted by an angel. The angel tells him that his suicide will have far-reaching effects, and shows him visions of a bleak future in which death and misery blight the lives of several people. But Diego finds himself pointing out contradictions in the angel's visions. Can one pebble really capsize so many boats? And are the angel's motives as pure as they seem?

Written for the Ace Attorney Big Bang (aceattorneybigbang at dreamwidth dot org).

Warnings: Character death; suicide; suicidal ideation; implied sexual assault; flippant attitudes to death, suicide, and sexual assault; gore; implied reproductive coercion.

Spoilers: The Phoenix Wright trilogy, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, and Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies.

xxx

Prologue

The midsummer moon was just bright enough to read by. Diego shifted on his bunk, moving the letter in and out of the shadows cast by the barred window as he slowly considered each line. It had been folded and unfolded several times over the last four months, forcing him to tilt it when the writing disappeared into the shadow of a crease.

It was from Pearl, dated the anniversary of his crime. It was just one sheet of paper, cursing him and his stupid plan and how he'd put Mystic Maya in danger. Diego had read it over and over.

It was the last piece of correspondence he'd had from anyone.

Diego reached the last line – Pearl signing off by inviting him to go to hell – and closed his eyes briefly. She was about thirteen now, he guessed. Trite and Maya couldn't hide the truth from her forever. It had been only a matter of time before she found out exactly how he'd engineered that terrible night on the mountain; how close he'd let her come to killing Maya, just so he could play the hero. He couldn't blame her for hating him, and yet it still hurt.

A lot of things hurt, in body and soul.

He sat up and got down from his bunk, taking care not to wake his cellmate sleeping below him. Blackquill's ghostly face was lit up in the moonlight, his cheeks stained with fresh tears. Diego shook his head slightly. He could still remember the day he finally got Blackquill to tell him why he was really in prison, and learned that his cellmate was an honest-to-God saint. Diego had taken a woman's life, put another in mortal danger, and had risked turning a little girl into a killer, all for his own selfish desire. Blackquill had given up his life to spare a little girl from the horror of what she'd done. A man had to smile at the irony.

Diego turned away and drew a match from his pocket. He struck it against the wall and touched the corner of the letter to the fire. Yellow flames licked along the dry paper, sending its angry contents to the void. He shook his head at the burning page. If he'd done this three and a half years ago to another letter, all this misery might have been avoided. When the flames reached the last corner, Diego let go, dropping it into the toilet. It was ash before it hit the water.

Diego sat on the floor and ran a hand through his sweaty hair. It was a muggy summer night, one of several they'd had so far. He drew a cigarette and another match from his pocket. His hand shook as he lit up. Diego eyed his trembling fingers apprehensively. That had been happening on and off over the last six months, and the prison doc wasn't exactly happy about it. Diego flexed his hand a few times, then let his arm drop by his side. He took a calming drag from the cigarette and blew the smoke at the ceiling.

They'd told him, way back, that the poison had damaged his nervous system. That eventually there would be tremors, loss of sensation, problems walking, loss of motor control. That all medical science could do was slow the process down. Diego smirked bitterly. His death would be slow, painful, undignified, and there would be no-one to mourn his passing. Maya had stopped visiting years ago. She'd tried so hard to forgive him, and maybe she had, but it was killing her to look at him and pretend that they were friends. Trite had never visited him – Diego would have told him to get lost if he had. Pearl hated him. He didn't blame them – any of them. If he'd acted like a man, if he'd put others first instead of himself, maybe he wouldn't be sitting here, facing a slow deterioration all alone.

But at least now no-one would be upset by what he was about to do.

Diego closed his eyes briefly and opened them again, looking up at the frame of the bunk. He hated doing this where Blackquill would find him – kid had seen enough horror – but it was time. He had no interest in holding out for a miracle. Already the pills worked and didn't work, made some things better and made other things worse. He was broken in ways that couldn't be fixed, and he wanted to be done.

And maybe there was someone on the other side who would be happy to see him.

Diego finished his cigarette and climbed back up into his bunk. He took off his trousers and carefully tied a noose in one leg. Once he was satisfied, he tied the other pantleg securely to the bedframe. It wouldn't be as quick as a proper "long drop" hanging, but Diego didn't care. A few minutes of painful strangulation were a small price to pay when set against years of living in a ruined body that stubbornly refused to die. He picked up the noose and made to place it around his neck.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you."

He almost leaped out of his skin at the male voice in the room – too deep to be Blackquill. Diego whipped his head around and immediately had to shield his face against the bright light filling the far corner. It dissipated, revealing a bespectacled man in a trenchcoat.

Diego frowned at the stranger, and glanced quickly at the bars of his cell. Still locked tight. He directed a wary look at the stranger, who was gazing back at him.

"That's a hell of a magic trick, amigo," he murmured. He wondered if he was hallucinating. Maybe the docs had changed his meds up and hadn't told him.

"Don't be alarmed," the stranger declared quietly. He took a couple of slow, careful steps towards the bunk. "There's a logical explanation for this. You see, I'm an angel."

Diego was now sure he was hallucinating.

"Ha…! I don't remember jumping," he remarked.

"No, you haven't." The stranger stepped into the moonlight. Diego frowned. The man looked familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "I got here just in time." Diego eyed him suspiciously as he approached the bunks. "I know what you want to do, and I'm here to change your mind."

Diego barked out a bitter laugh.

"Save it for Christmas, Gabriel," he sneered. "My mind's made up." He sobered, and looked away. "There's nothing left for me here."

"You're wrong," the angel insisted. "There are still people who need you. If you die now, all their lives change, and not for the better."

Diego smirked and shook his head. He'd heard about jumpers who changed their minds halfway down; people who poisoned themselves only to cry for the antidote when it was too late; people who walked into the sea and still struggled, despite their wish to die, against the water filling their lungs. But he was pretty sure this was the first case of somebody's own ego trying to keep him alive.

"Sorry, Gabriel," he repeated. "No dice. No-one needs me." He turned to reach for the noose, dropped in his earlier shock.

His hand passed straight through it.

Diego tried again, with the same result. He turned and stared at the angel sharply. The angel gazed back, the hint of a smug smile on his face…and yet again, he looked strangely familiar.

Diego looked at the noose, then back at the angel, and shrugged.

"I don't have a choice, do I?"

"I'm afraid not," the angel replied. He extended a hand. Diego considered it for a few moments, then smirked and slid down from the bunks, unassisted.

"So what now, Gabriel?" he asked. "You take me flying through the night in my underpants?"

The angel nodded to the lower bunk, adjusting his glasses as he did so. "Actually, I thought we'd start with him."