Author's Note: This was written for Malachibi, for their birthday. They wanted to see Phoenix and Ema interacting more. Set mid-Apollo Justice, spoilers for that game. I got so behind on everything over the holidays, I need to post a bunch of stuff here and pick up conversations, I'm so sorry to everyone I disappeared on. Hopefully people enjoy!
Letters and Legacies
Phoenix stands in front of his closet, examining the rather sorry-looking collection of clothes inside.
It's silly, really, that he's been standing here for at least five minutes. There simply aren't that many options to choose from. Besides, he's not a teenager—definitely not a female teenager, and isn't that who stereotypically stands in front of closets terrified to make decisions about how to best mask their socially-unacceptable nudity?
He's going to be late, if he doesn't make a decision soon. He's supposed to meet Ema for breakfast, since she doesn't know for certain when her lunch break will be or if she'll even have one, depending on what cases come in, and she wants to be certain she gets to see him.
Phoenix sighs, staring at the suit tucked carefully into the far corner of the closet. That's really the only point of contention. Does he take it out again? Does he try to dust it off and see if it even still fits—see if seven years have changed his shape too much?
(Not quite seven years. Five years, maybe; maybe even a little less. He wore it, sometimes, when he still thought that he would be able to fix this quickly. When he made his appeals. When he adopted Trucy. The first handful of tense dinners with Kristoph Gavin. At Trucy's first magic show; at Trucy's middle school graduation. But eventually he was recognized one too many times by people he didn't want to talk to—had to restrain Trucy one too many times from trying to defend him for what were really indefensible crimes. It was easier to be anonymous. It was easier to bury the man that he had been beneath the too-real charade he was becoming, and he shoved the suit to the far corner of the closet, stopped thinking about how it used to look with his badge shining bright gold like the sun on the lapel.)
His hand moves slowly, drawing all his other clothes away from the suit. Not quite touching it, not yet, as though the fabric could burn his hands without trying, and he's being ridiculous but he can't stop himself. Can't seem to make his hands stop shaking, can't seem to tear his eyes away from what Ema will expect, and he didn't expect this to hurt so much.
He should change his will, have that engraved on his tombstone. Phoenix Wright, defense attorney and fighter for justice—never expected all of it to hurt so much.
"Damn it, Wright." Phoenix shakes his head, anger surging hot through his veins to drive away the self-pity. "You're almost there. You've almost got the Jurist System. You've put Kristoph in jail—not for all the crimes he's committed, but at least he shouldn't be able to commit more. And you're going to meet a friend, so just pick a damn outfit and let's go."
His fingers close on the sleeve of the suit, pull it towards him.
Slide through fabric that should be solid, and Phoenix stares in dismay at the moth-eaten sleeve that is attempting to disintegrate.
"Well." Giving a little laugh, Phoenix shoves the suit back into its corner. "Guess that makes things easier."
It's better, probably. Better that he wear jeans and a sweatshirt and his beanie, show Ema quickly and cleanly exactly who she's dealing with—exactly how much has changed in the time since they last spoke. His fingers toy with the pin that she gave him, which has become a near-constant presence on his hat. Should he take it off? Will she think it odd, that he's kept this memento close to him? Will she wonder if he's planning something with it?
Eventually he decides to leave it. It's as much a part of his new look as the rest is, after all—proof to himself and everyone else that he hasn't completely forgotten or abandoned where he came from, though it's sometimes best to pretend like he has.
Grabbing his wallet, Phoenix runs out the door with mere seconds to spare, a mixture of elation and trepidation bubbling in his chest.
She doesn't recognize him.
Of all the things she had expected, that was not one that Ema was prepared for. Phoenix Wright was the man responsible for saving her and her sister, after all—well, one of them. If not for him and Prosecutor Edgeworth, Lana would be dead for a crime she didn't commit and Ema would have spent the last years even more alone than she has been.
She's been in contact with both of them. Not quite as consistent and strong a correspondence as the one she's had with Lana, but she sends Wright and Edgeworth letters, keeping them updated on how her progress through her courses is going, and they send her back brief little notes about what's new in their lives and in the legal system of the country.
Very carefully edited notes, apparently, since Phoenix has a teenage daughter that he's never seen fit to tell her about.
(She hasn't been entirely truthful with him though, either. She has kept the darkest thoughts and the darkest happenings to herself, not wanting to burden him, not sure if it's all right for her to reach out to him and Edgeworth. She didn't tell them when she failed her practical exam and cried for four hours; she didn't tell them when... other things happened, things that required her to be briefly back in the country. She tells them enough, though, she hopes, to keep their friendship open, but not enough to strain it if the threads that bind them are thinner than she believes they are.)
She spends more time than she should staring around in confusion when he calls her name. He doesn't look like she expected, though, doesn't have any of the common tells showing, and it's only when her eyes land on the button that she gave him that her mind finally makes the connection between the scruffy-looking person before her and the man who stood beside her in court. "Mr. Wright?"
"Don't sound so horrified." He straightens a bit from his slouched posture, and there is something familiar about his smile, though it is... different than it was before. The energy that she associates with Phoenix Wright seems to have been muted by time, smoothed out into something calmer. "You look good, Ema. The very picture of a scientific detective."
Ema opens her mouth, but for a few panicked seconds nothing comes out. What is she supposed to say in return? You look... healthy? He does, at least. There's actually nothing bad looking about the stranger standing before her, but she never would have imagined Phoenix with stubble and his hands buried in the pockets of a sweatshirt that maybe needs a good wash. Or perhaps has already seen too many washes, the colors muted, the fabric having taken on the fuzzy look that her favorite study clothes have.
The thought relaxes her a bit, and her hands stop strangling the straps of her bag of tricks as she smiles at Phoenix Wright. He's changed, sure, but they're out for a friendly catch-up meal, not out solving crimes, and if you can't wear comfortable clothes to a meal with friends, where can you wear them? "Glad you like the look. You look very... relaxed."
He laughs, a surprised, pleased sound, and his smile actually seems to touch his eyes for the first time as he gestures toward the seating area. "Come on, let's get breakfast ordered."
They don't make much small talk as they settle down and give the waiter their choices. Phoenix asks about the trip back from Europe, about her finding a house, and Ema answers with probably more detail than any sane person would actually want to know. It gives them a chance to get a feel for one another in person again, and it gives her a chance to decide if she actually wants to ask him all the questions that have been running through her head for the last week, since she met Apollo Justice and Trucy-already-a-teenager-daughter-of-Wright.
"So." Phoenix beats her to the punch, smiling his strange half-familiar smile, the one that doesn't quite light his whole face. "Detective Ema Skye, huh? Not quite what I expected, but pretty awesome anyway."
"Yeah... well..." Ema fiddles with her fork, turning it this way and that. She supposes he'll find out eventually. "I didn't pass the test to get into forensics."
Both Phoenix's eyebrows shoot up. "What?"
"I didn't pass. So I'm a detective instead." Ema forces her fingers to close properly on her fork, to bring a hunk of chocolate-chip pancake from her plate to her mouth. It gives her a few seconds of chewing during which to decide what to say next.
"Let me get this straight." Phoenix leans forward, frowning. "There is a test to work in forensics. You failed to pass this test... and instead managed to make detective?"
"Uh..." Ema swallows her mouthful of food. "Yeah."
"That doesn't make any sense." Phoenix shakes his head as he slumps back in his seat. "No offense to forensics, they're amazing people and I appreciate their work, but doesn't it take more skill to be a detective? It certainly involves a great deal more problem-solving ability, that's for sure."
"Depends who you're working with." Ema can feel the corner of her lip twitch up into a wry smile. "With some of the prosecutors, oh yeah, you've got to be on your toes or everything's going to fall to hell and you and them will both look bad in court and the bad guys may get away."
"I suspect that you're referring to someone in particular." Phoenix raises his eyebrows. "Someone I'll know, or someone new?"
"Well, the first one was Gaspen Payne. I don't know how long he's been at the office, though he's old and thinks he owns the place, so I'm guessing a while. He was the first prosecutor I had to work with, and he was driving me crazy. He's so sloppy and irritating, acting as though he knows everything. Plus he's a sexist pig. Ugh, he makes my skin crawl every time I have to work with him."
"I don't believe I've had the pleasure yet, though I've met someone likely related." Phoenix scoops a messy spoonful of omelette into his mouth, and it's probably a good thing that he's not wearing anything that would require a dry-cleaner. "You're not stuck working with him, are you?"
"Depends on the case." Ema shrugs, eyeing Phoenix surreptitiously as she takes another bite of her pancakes. "I'd like the job more if I got to work with Prosecutor Edgeworth or Prosecutor DeBeste regularly, but Edgeworth's in Europe for the next few months..."
A knowing little smile, less bitter than the one he had been wearing, and it puts Ema just a tad bit more at ease. Phoenix is still in contact with his allies in the legal system. He hasn't been completely shut out—hasn't given up completely, no matter what he looks like.
It gives her the courage to keep going, to start asking what she needs to ask. "And though I've gotten to work with DeBeste a few times, the one I've ended up working with the most is Prosecutor Klavier Gavin."
For just a moment Phoenix's face goes blank, all expression wiped away. Then he smiles again, the enigmatic smile that may or may not indicate legitimate pleasure, and rests his head on one upturned palm. "And what do you think of Prosecutor Gavin?"
"I think..." She considers trying to tell him what her opinions had been before, when she first ran into Gavin and his infuriatingly relaxed approach to justice. She can't quite find it, though, the grim aura of frustration and exasperation, because it's buried beneath layers of fury and doubt. "I know about what happened. I looked into it."
Phoenix nods, straightening in his seat. His smile has faded away again, and he studies her with his almost-black eyes, intent and wary. "And what's your opinion?"
"He framed you, somehow. He must have." Her voice sounds too desperate to her own ears.
A flash of that smile she is starting to hate, and Phoenix shrugs his shoulders. "Are you certain of that?"
"Yes." A beat, and she presses down the fury—this isn't what she studied for, what she strove so long for, a broken legal system and a Phoenix Wright she doesn't recognize. But this is reality, whether she likes it or not, and she has to honestly consider the question. Turn it over logically—scientifically—and find the best answer. "Well... no. I suppose there are several different hypotheses that should be tested. It wasn't necessarily Prosecutor Gavin who framed you, but someone did."
"You seem... very certain of that." Phoenix's expression shifts, and she can't quite read what it is now. Hopeful? Wary, still? Uncertain? Afraid? "Why?"
"Because I know you, Mr. Wright." Ema stares evenly across the table, holding Phoenix's gaze. Presents her facts as though she were defending a thesis—as though she were a certain defense attorney, defending the innocent in court. "When you were defending Lana and I... there were so many different ways that could have gone. You could have agreed with my sister, hidden the truth to try to protect me. You could have decided not to take the case period—you were riding high after Von Karma's defeat, you could be as choosy as you wanted to be about clients. You could have attempted to forge or hide evidence at any time, and you didn't."
Now it is Phoenix's turn to fidget, his hand slowly tearing a paper napkin into small pieces of white confetti, though his eyes stay locked on hers. "That was a long time ago. People change."
"They do. But you didn't, not like that." Ema shakes her head. "I followed you and Mr. Edgeworth's careers at first, before I started college and things got really crazy busy. I know about Matt Engarde. You chose justice—the justice of the legal system—over revenge or preserving your perfect win record."
"That was still eight years ago. Most of a decade."
"It was." She stopped following the foreign papers after Godot's sentencing. Her own life had become too busy, and she trusted that if anything really noteworthy happened Wright or Edgeworth or Lana would let her know. Would it have made a difference if she had kept up on her own? Would it be better or worse if she had known what was waiting for her once she came home? "But your disbarring was seven years ago—not that long after that case. It doesn't fit, you using forged evidence for that trial. Especially not after... not after Gant."
A great deal is contained in that single name. Not after Edgeworth disappeared. Not after Gant and Von Karma and White and a half-dozen others crowed that they could make the legal system into whatever they wanted. After Lana and her and Edgeworth were hurt so badly by forged evidence, Ema can't imagine Phoenix willingly using it.
"I didn't. Not back then, at least." Phoenix shrugs. "For what my word's worth, I swear to you I didn't."
Something loosens in her chest, though there's really no reason she should feel relief. He could still be lying, after all. But as different as he is now, she doesn't think that he is, and having him say that it was a trap makes all of her pondering for the last week about who could really be responsible more than just an exercise in self-delusion. "So... who do you think did it? Who set you up to take the fall?"
Phoenix shrugs. "Long list of possibilities. I've... pretty much narrowed it down, but there's some information I'm still playing close to my chest. Which is why I'm curious about other people's takes on certain individuals, including Prosecutor Gavin."
"I find pretty much his entire existence infuriating." Ema grimaces, thinking of her first encounter with the rock star. "He flirts with everyone. At least he's not like Payne, he's not... gross about it, but I was not too happy to go from Payne to him. And Gavin expects everyone to adore him, because he's pretty and he's famous."
"It certainly seems to have worked on Trucy." Phoenix sighs. "I thought I raised her better."
Ema blinks. "She really doesn't remember him? I thought she was just being a frighteningly good actor."
"Oh, she is that, but no. I don't know if it's the longer hair or the extra seven years or just the fact that she was a child, but she doesn't remember him. Probably for the best, where she and Apollo may end up needing to work together again over the next few months." Phoenix's expression brightens, and once more Ema gets a glimpse of his smile as it used to be. "What do you think of Apollo, by the way?"
Ema shrugs. "He's cute, for jail-bait. And he must be smart, to've passed the bar so young."
Phoenix snorts out a bark of laughter. "He's twenty-three."
Ema frowns. "No, he's not. Eighteen, tops."
"Twenty-three. Just small and with what is currently an unfortunately youthful appearance. He'll appreciate it as he gets older, though." Phoenix studies her with one slightly raised eyebrow. "But I was going for something a little beyond appearance."
"Watching him in court..." Ema pours syrup in a spiral onto her pancake. "He reminds me of you. A lot. Clever and determined and tenacious. Just several orders of magnitude louder than you could ever imagine being."
"Hey, I give a pretty good objection when I need to." Phoenix's grin falters. "Gave, I suppose. I'm glad you like him, though. Apparently more than you like Gavin?"
"Gavin is designed specifically to annoy me. Anything he wants, he gets, without effort, while the one thing I want I can't get." Her knife bites down with what is probably a bit more force than necessary, tearing the pancake apart. "He thinks I should worship at his feet because he's a gorgeous man. He has very little respect for my control of a crime scene—case in point, him letting your duo traipse all over it."
"In his defense, I wanted my duo to traipse all over it."
"That's not the point." Ema stuffs her mouth with pancake pieces, chewing and trying to remember what exactly the point is. She had disliked Klavier since before she found out he was responsible for Phoenix's predicament, and she's certain she had good reasons to. She wasn't just taking out her rage and frustration at the way things had turned out on the nearest target that didn't seem liable to fight back—especially since said target is her boss. Even her subconscious couldn't be that foolhardy and self-destructive. "He's a decent prosecutor in court, and he's nice enough to everyone, but he's more concerned with his image than with getting a case solved. Though he did concede, when Apollo proved him wrong... hell, I don't know. Are you just trying to confuse me, Mr. Wright?"
"Just trying to get a few more opinions while I determine exactly where all the roots are for this latest grapple against corruption." A slight shrug, and Phoenix is studying his omelette with more intensity than it deserves.
"So you are still fighting." It lifts another weight somewhere in Ema's chest, hearing Phoenix say so.
"For certain definitions of fighting, and for certain definitions of still." Phoenix soaks up the last of his egg with a scrap of toast, putting more concentration into chewing than is probably warranted. "I... might talk to you about what I'm planning, if you wouldn't mind. If I need help from someone else on your side of the law enforcement line."
"Sure. Any time." Ema is running out of pancake, which is vaguely horrifying because it means she'll have nothing to distract herself with, and there are still lots of things she wants to ask him about. "Are you... once we beat this... are you planning on coming back to the legal system?"
Phoenix shrugs, not meeting her eyes. "Depends. On how long it takes, and how things look when I'm done. If Apollo still needs me... if I think that there's something else worthwhile that I can do..." A sigh, a bitter, bitter smile, and Phoenix tilts his head so far down that Ema can't even see his eyes. "Or maybe I'll just be a manager for Trucy and Apollo. Easier that way..."
"Easy doesn't always make for good choices. See also you having a teenage daughter." Ema raises both eyebrows. "What were you, eighteen when she was conceived? Poor decision when you started college? Hazing gone wrong?"
Phoenix's head jerks up, and he stares at her for a long second before bursting out laughing. "No! No, no, no, we are not having this conversation. For one, she's adopted; for two, you know that, you knew about her and Gavin's history; for three... god, Ema, just... no. My romantic life is not on the table for discussion."
"Along with a lot of other things, like whatever your secret fighting-back strategy is and, I'm assuming, anything actually important." The word hangs between them, bitter, accusing, and Ema winces in shame. She shouldn't have said that. She shouldn't have brought it up. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wright. I shouldn't have said that. I didn't mean—"
Phoenix has finished his meal, and he shoves his plate away, arms crossing on the table in front of him. "No, it's a fair point. I haven't been completely honest and open with you about everything that's been happening in my life. At first I thought it would be over quickly. That I'd find a way to right the wrongs before you even needed to know. And then you were working your way through school, you seemed so eager and gung-ho and energetic... I didn't want to ruin it for you, Ema. I didn't want to discourage you when you're what we need. More decent, driven, dedicated, competent people working in the justice system."
"I can understand that. But I still..." Ema bites down hard on her inner cheek, until she's certain that her voice will be steady and stable. "I still had a right to know. I mean... you've got a daughter. That's huge. That's major life milestone there. Your Game of Life piece has started sporting add-ons already. I imagine she's taken up a lot of time over the last seven years. And you... didn't tell me any of it."
"Most of it wasn't worth telling." Phoenix shrugs.
"Right." Ema nods. "And what you did tell me... how much of that was the truth?"
"I never lied." Phoenix's expression becomes very somber, and he meets her gaze with clear earnest honesty—something he hasn't done very often during this meal, she realizes, and her breath hitches. Phoenix's expression softens, his voice becoming lower and gentler. "Everything I said to you in those letters is true. Charley is, by some miracle, still alive. We're still in the same office. Everything I told you about Maya and Edgeworth, that was all true. I just... left out a few pieces that I probably shouldn't have, in hind sight. But you weren't exactly always completely truthful with me, either."
Ema opens her mouth to protest, then closes it again.
"I know that Lana was hurt. Four years ago, now?" Phoenix waits for her hesitant nod. "You didn't tell me about it. You didn't come see me when you were in the country. You didn't ask for help."
"There wasn't anything you could have done." Ema's eyes are fixed on the table-top, her hands clasped together, her fingers tingling from the forces they are applying to each other. "You're a lawyer. Well, actually, you weren't even a lawyer at that point, but I didn't know that."
"It's what everyone expected, right?" Ema raises her head, and she can feel her skin blazing red-hot, her heart beating too hard and fast in her chest. "A prosecutor in prison. A prosecutor who may have convicted innocents—may have killed innocents—that's not someone who's going to have an easy time of it."
"Lana went through her case files with Edgeworth, tried to point out where—"
"She did the best she could to right everything, but she couldn't remember it all, and fuck if Gant would help us." She watched him hang. It was the other time she came back from Europe, and Miles Edgeworth was there, though Phoenix Wright and her sister weren't. He only asked her once if she wanted to stay, then stood silently at her side as they watched the man who used Ema as a pawn swing and suffocate. She thought maybe some of the monsters would be put to rest that day, but the more time passes the more she thinks none really were. "She was lucky, really, going five years before any major incident."
For a few precious seconds Phoenix's face looks just like it used to—shows open, raw, aching emotion as he studies her with compassionate eyes. "They broke your sister's jaw, Ema. No one deserves that."
"I didn't say she deserved it. I would never say that." Lana did everything for her. And though it has been almost a decade, and though Lana has never, ever spoken words of blame to Ema herself, she still dreams, sometimes, that if she had just been faster, smarter, louder, cleverer when she was younger her sister wouldn't have had to—
"And you shouldn't have had to bear that burden alone." Phoenix frowns down at his hands. "Edgeworth didn't find out until two weeks after it happened; he didn't tell me until three or four weeks later. You and I had already exchanged a letter or two by then, and I thought it would be... awkward, my bringing it up. But I should have. I should have let you know that we knew, and we were doing what we could to make sure it wouldn't happen again, and that... that it would be all right to talk to me about it, if you needed to."
"That..." Ema presses her lips together, the wave of smoldering anger that had sustained her fading away. "That means a lot to me, Mr. Wright. That you noticed. That you cared."
"And I guess... it would work both ways, huh?" He has shredded most of a second napkin by now, and he scoops up a handful of the little white pieces, weighing them in his hand. "If I want you to tell me what's really going on in your life, let me help when things like that happen... I have to be willing to let you know what's going on in mine, too."
"That sounds like a pretty good theory." Ema smiles tentatively. "Perhaps we should test it."
"A new start, then." Phoenix tips his hand over, sprinkling the table with the small confetti pieces. "I hereby declare both defendants not guilty of any wrongdoing in the past, though I do encourage both defendants to consider how they can change their actions in the future to keep awkward situations like this from happening again."
It's not a halfway bad imitation of the judge, and Ema giggles before she stifles the sound with a hand across her mouth.
Phoenix smiles, the expression once more bright and honest, and Ema returns it with an honest grin of her own.
Flagging down their waiter, she takes care of both their bills, firmly ignoring everything that Phoenix is saying in protest. This becomes steadily more difficult, as he proceeds from words to cat sounds and eventually to something that may be intended to be a parrot imitating a cat.
It's more proof, as if she needed it, that he's not the man she left behind.
But she's not the girl who left, either.
And she thinks, as she follows him to the door, that she might end up being all right with the changes in both of them, given enough time.
They pause on the sidewalk outside the restaurant, facing each other awkwardly. Phoenix reaches under his beanie to scratch his ear. "Thanks again for breakfast, Ema."
Ema smiles for him, a quick, eager grin that reminds him much more of the girl he watched head off to Europe than the angry, frustrated, furious expressions he has seen far too much of over breakfast. "Not a problem, Mr. Wright. Thanks for agreeing to come out with me."
"How could I not?" Phoenix just barely resists the urge to reach out and muss her hair as though she were Trucy or Maya. "I still owe you a congratulatory meal, since you went and paid for this one. Maybe you can come out to Eldoon's with Trucy and I, get to know Trucy a little bit better."
A nod, another hesitant flash of her teeth in an honest smile, and Phoenix is so, so glad that he can do more than make Ema hurt. Her voice is all eagerness when she answers. "I'd like that."
"Well, I do owe you congratulations, both on graduating and on the new job." Phoenix takes a deep breath. He is not used to speaking plainly, openly and honestly, not anymore, but perhaps it is time to start getting back into the habit. "And I'm... I'm really glad that you're here right now. We're going to need all the good people that we can get over the next few months."
"Again with the crypticness." Ema sighs, and there is just a hint of real grievance in the sound.
He hadn't been planning on getting Ema involved. He has involved as few people as physically possible, to keep the potential for leaks—to the press and to those he is trying to circumvent with his plans—as minimal as possible.
To keep the number of careers at risk as small as possible, if this whole things explodes in his face.
Ema continues to watch him, her eyes bright with knowledge and strength. She knows how broken the system is. She was hurt by it long before anyone even began to acknowledge the flaws, and it's almost funny, the way they are starting to call it the Dark Age of the Law only now, when it has been building—despite his efforts, despite the efforts of many other good people—for several decades.
The time for cloaks and daggers is slowly drawing to a close. The time when he will be able to shoulder all the risk is disappearing—if it ever really existed in the first place.
Ema's eyes flick to the pin she gave him, a lifetime ago, and her honest smile flashes out again. "I'm glad you kept that little thing."
"Always." Phoenix's fingers slide over the smooth plastic surface, and he makes his decision. "I can tell you more about what I'm planning. About what I know. There might be danger, though. Personal danger, and political danger. You may end up putting that job you've worked so hard for at risk."
"The job was never the end goal, Mr. Wright." Ema stands firm, her voice even, almost gently admonishing, and he realizes with a start that though he still thinks of her as a child she is almost as old as he was when he passed the bar. "I want to help people. I want to protect people. I want to use what I know to make sure that the bad guys get what they deserve, and the good guys don't have to suffer like a lot of people we know've suffered."
"That's because you're amazing." He can't keep the grin off his face. "And I'd say that means it doesn't really matter what job title they give you—you'll do a fantastic job getting to the truth, no matter what stones you have to overturn to get there."
"Well, I learned from the best about kicking everything to find the point that unexpectedly squeaks." There's a sly edge to Ema's smile now, and she places her right hand on her hip.
"It doesn't matter how you get to the truth, whether it's through careful logical deduction or steady scientific inquiry or just asking questions and throwing thing at people until you find the point that has a small contradiction. It just matters that you get to the truth. And sometimes that means inventing whole new systems. So..." Phoenix studies the young woman before him. "How good would you say you are with electronics?"
"Huh?" Ema blinks.
"Electronics. You know, tiny gadgets with blinky lights and robot voices that make magic happen via captured lightning."
"Uh... decent, I suppose. Depending on what electronics you mean."
"Good." Phoenix nods. "Detective Gumshoe will extend an invitation to you to come to a building party this weekend; you should accept it. I'll see you there."
Comprehension dawns, and Ema grins as she nods. "I'm looking forward to it."
"So am I, Ema Skye." Phoenix holds out his hand.
Ema hesitates, a momentary flash of disappointment, and then takes his hand firmly.
Phoenix pulls her into a half-hug. "I really am so proud of you. You've become everything Miles and I could have hoped for and more."
Ema's arms are clenched tight around him, her head pressed to his shoulder. "I'm doing my best."
"That's all anyone can ask." Phoenix gives her a little squeeze before taking a step back, holding the young woman at arm's length. "I should let you get back to work, though. Lots of bad guys to stop."
"Yeah." Ema grins at him as she adjusts her bag on her shoulder. "I'll be seeing you around, Mr. Wright."
"Definitely." Phoenix returns her smile. "Especially if Apollo's going to keep stumbling his way onto big cases."
"So long as it's only metaphorical stumbling and not actually tromping on important evidence." Ema waves an admonishing finger. "I'm not going to take it easy on him just because he's your apprentice, you know."
"I wouldn't dream of asking you to. Not when it's so fun to watch him run in circles and flail about things." Phoenix reluctantly releases Ema's arms. "Take care of yourself, Ema."
"You, too." Ema turns to leave with obvious reluctance, waving until she disappears into the early-morning crowd.
Phoenix waves until he can't see her anymore, then shoves his hands back into his pockets and begins making his way to the agency.
It has been a long, drawn-out night, but he is starting to see stars shining brightly in it, and he thinks, maybe, they will cast enough light to see everyone through until dawn.