It is the last hour of the Feast, and your heart beats a nervous, staccato rhythm in anticipation.
You linger near the silver fountain in front of the courthouse steps, waiting for the Steely Solicitor to arrive and share the last moments of the city's celebrations. The season allows you to indulge your embarrassing romantic side, usually sated with trading absurd gifts with your partner. Your lips twitch up in fond remembrance; after so many years the stacks of singed playing cards in your office must nearly rival the collection of buttered chess pieces in his.
But for this year's Feast you have resolved to go one step further and completely win the Steely Solicitor's heart with a gift of undeniable magnitude and affection, and a vow that will tie your lives inextricably together. The ring rests in your waistcoat pocket, jewels nearly as bright as the hope his answer will be 'yes.'
In the far-away cavern ceiling, the false-stars shine with peculiar intensity: iridescent twinklings of apocyan and violant wink down their favour on lovers across the Neath. Coils of fog slink around your ankles like the tails of the Duchess's cats. The air is cold, but even at this hour the streets are filled with couples wrapped arm-in-arm for an intimate midnight rendezvous, and your foot taps restlessly.
What has delayed your partner?
A scuffling sound from the alley near the courthouse draws your attention. A tall figure hastily withdraws his hand from the outstretched fingers of a street-urchin, something tightly clasped in his palm. Your pulse quickens as you recognize the Steely Solicitor in his dark overcoat. Their voices carry as you move forward.
"Don't worry, Guv, it'll fit him," the urchin smirks. The smudges of dirt on her face only heighten the mischievous gleam in her eyes. Is that an old key tucked into her hair? "Heavy sleeper, that one. Lock on his door was a bit tricky, but–"
"Please spare me the incriminating details," the Steely Solicitor interrupts. "I would greatly dislike calling for your arrest." Though his words are harsh, his tone is filled with relief and gratitude.
The girl breaks into a toothy grin. "Any other jobs for me?"
The Steely Solicitor fervently shakes his head, hand ducking into his trouser pocket. "No, that's quite alright. Your assistance has been illicit enough."
You can barely contain your grin as you watch the Steely Solicitor straighten his cravat. The urchin girl spies you and flashes a quick wink as she disappears toward the rooftops, like a raven flying into the gloom.
Your partner turns and his gaze lands on you. A red tint colours his usually stoic expression. "Ah. Please excuse my tardiness. Business, of a sort."
His voice is hard, but you detect a faint tremble in his words. What has flustered him so?
"You needn't worry," he says, halting your enquiries. "I required information of a personal nature, and I merely called in a favour to obtain the answer." The flush on his cheeks remains.
You clasp his unoccupied hand and amble back to the fountain, and invite him to rest on the narrow ledge with you. Seated beside him, you can hear him draw long, deep breaths, his silvery bangs shielding his eyes as he collects his thoughts. Though your question – the question – burns in your mind, you know it would ease him to speak first.
There is a stirring in your stomach, like the fluttering of moths.
"I have given this matter a great deal of consideration," he begins, tightening his hold on your fingers as his eyes finally meet yours. There is a weight in those grey depths, not heavy with nightmares as they once were, but piercing and purposeful.
You give an encouraging nod, a tentative smile.
"I am not one for grand romantic gestures," he continues, his flush deepening. "But considering it is you, I…"
He swallows hard, and your breath hitches as the Steely Solicitor brings his hands to your face and presses a sudden kiss to your yielding lips. The bold movement, the heavy drags: one would think you were a bottle of the Neath's finest vintage, distilled by the Devils themselves. Irresistible.
It ends as quickly as it began and the Steely Solicitor straightens, decorum triumphing over passion.
"I only have the courage to do this once," he says, fumbling at his pocket. Something is withdrawn – was that a gleam of light? Your breath turns shallow with a sudden, overwhelming thought. Could he intend…?
He clears his throat. "Our time together has been more meaningful than I can properly express. You inspire me to be a better man, and I cannot conceive where or how I would be without you. I hope by now you realize the depth, the truth, of my affection for you. And if you wish it, I vow to spend the rest of my days searching for truth with you."
The realization hits, like a great swell of the zee washing over you on the shore. The delight in your expression causes the Steely Solicitor to stumble over his speech.
"It would- I would be honored if- if you–"
His eyes widen as you withdraw the ring from your pocket. The Steely Solicitor opens his hand; the ring waiting for you in his palm is perfect.
A startled chuckle escapes his lips. Moments later you join him in laughter, the sound warm and comforting, until it is muffled by the press of your lips to his, again and again.
At last you give him your answer, eyes shining. As the urchin girl promised, his ring fits snugly upon your finger like it always belonged there.
"Yes," he returns, as you slide your ring into place.
In the depths of your soul, this moment will outlive the stars.
You lean into your partner's shoulder, chiding him for spoiling your own speech. It was quite good, after all. Poetic even. All about journeys and burning truths and love brighter than the forgotten sun.
"I no longer need the sun," the Steely Solicitor remarks, his expression soft. "I have you."
Even the gladdest of love stories cannot compare to the happiness enveloping your heart.
All shall be well.
Author's Notes: And all manner of thing shall be well. Inspired by the rings Capcom released for Phoenix and Edgeworth, as well as my deep and abiding love for the Victorian city underground. For those wondering what epithet Phoenix would have in this AU, what other title could be more fitting than the Ace Attorney?