part four: franziska
It seemed to her, as she forced her way through its halls - to a gallery of indignant exclamations and bewildered stares - that everything in the airport was cold. The walls and the floor alike were frigid even through the thin barrier of her gloves and her boots, as well as the touch of the waves of people crowding against her in their hurry to go their own ways. And coldest of all was the feel of the thin card beneath her fingers - her ticket back to Germany.
She moved forward in a daze, guided by the dimly lit signs and the echoes of the awkward words of thanks given by a broken woman who had somehow managed to be reborn.
Not everyone could be so lucky.
She was thinking this as she heard the pace of her own footsteps slow--as though they were someone else's--felt the brush of air against her skin as she turned at the sound of Miles's voice.
"Where are you going, Franziska?"
They spoke. It was quiet reiteration of the lofty concepts he had spoken of at the courthouse--justice, truth, pride, a twisted sort of pride she could not connect with in spite of pride being what had defined her life for nineteen years.
"You don't understand anything!" she shouted, and the wild hysteria fuelling the outburst knew that it wasn't Miles she was addressing.
I can't do it.
"You can," he said, and his voice was firm.
She stared, and the realization hit her at once--the difference between then and now; then when they had been surrounded by others in the aftermath of Engarde's conviction and now when there was only a faceless crowd. He was speaking to her. For the first time, she thought, and something inside of her crumbled.
"I am Franziska von Karma," she said.
He smiled, softly. It was finally the one she could recognize back from the simpler times under the roof of her father--the quiet warmth she had always reached for, that had always been there, every other time she had been surrounded by cold. The one that had been telling her all along that he would wait.
It was the first time she had visited her father's grave. There had been no real funeral; the only people who might have been willing to mourn him had been his children-- but the two daughters and the foster son had all chosen to hide themselves in separate corners of the world rather than pay their respects. The grave was bare except for his name. Franziska thought it was appropriate in a way, looking at the letters etched upon stone--perhaps the most suitable memorial for him possible.
It was late evening. Her breath formed mist before her eyes. She was alone--something she had never thought she would be able to say, not in earnest, not carrying her family name. It was strange in a way that her first impulse had been to come to this place, when faced with the prospect of moving apart from he and his teachings to find her own answer.
My own answer.
Her mind had been in a blank as she had made her way here. It was the first time she had allowed herself to frame it in those terms. It was terrifying. It was standing against the edge of a cliff dropping into an empty abyss and knowing that she was expected to throw herself off.
"I don't know what to do." She spoke the words aloud, quietly, her nails digging into the handle of her whip, chest tight with her own helplessness. "I don't know where to start."
She thought back, once again, to her life--a life spent memorizing rules that had been set and framed from the very beginning when she had first opened her eyes and taken in the world around her. There had been no such thing as searching or epiphany or self-realization. She had never had to face uncertainty like this--understanding, finally, that in wrapping herself in the blanket of perfection, she had shut everything else out.
She had spent her entire life running.
"Papa," she said, finally, "I don't know how to live."
There was no answer, of course.
As she stared at his final epitaph, cold and barren, she realized why.
Neither did you.
She relaxed her hands, kneeling to set the arrangement of flowers against the stone. She knew that her father would scorn at such a gesture--but seeing them settle there, quiet bursts of color against the shape of his name, it felt as though something missing throughout both of their lives was slowly falling into place. She brushed her fingers over the petals, and felt the first chapter of her life quietly and irrevocably come to a close.
She thought of the black and white of absolutes that her father had so believed in, had so desperately and unforgivingly passed onto his successors. Her memories of her father were etched in shades of filtered gray.
"There are no easy answers, are there?"
What did she feel for her father in the end?
She had no answer for that, either.
She stood there, lost amidst herself, standing at the axis of a dozen crossroads--when her heart nearly burst from her chest when her phone began to ring from the pocket of her coat. The sharp sound dragged her forcefully back to reality. Flustered, she pulled it out--equal parts annoyed and equal parts relieved--and glanced at the caller ID.
It wasn't a number that she recognized--and from America, no less. She answered anyway, trying to shake off her disorientation, though she couldn't think of any stranger from there who had reason to contact her.
"This is Franziska von Karma."
The voice on the other hand was filled with the uncertainty that came with hope. "Franziska?"
She nearly dropped the phone. It was Adrian Andrews.
"You said it was all right to call," Adrian said. She measured her words out carefully. Franziska had the impression that she had rehearsed this long before dialing. "I'm sorry. If I'm being a bother…"
"You aren't," Franziska answered. Quickly--perhaps too quickly. She felt herself tense.
It was another thing she had never learned how to do--make small talk, whether over the phone or anywhere else. She had always prided herself on her businesslike mannerisms, on wasting no time on such silly contrivances. But now--
"How are you, Franziska?"
"Fine." She was standing over her father's grave. "Yourself?"
"I'm… all right, too." She was locked away in prison with a half-year sentence before her.
Franziska hesitated. It had been impulse--scribbling her phone number on a scrap of paper before she stepped on the plane, thrusting it at Miles, telling him quickly--a part of him hoping he didn't catch the words properly--to give it to Andrews. Sitting on the plane, she remembered thinking that the paper hadn't torn quite as easily as Adrian's old photograph. She wondered now if she had made a critical mistake.
"Did you need something?"
"No… nothing in particular. It's just that…" There was a quiet hum as Adrian audibly searched for the right words.
"I just… wanted to call." She sounded apologetic. "That's all, really."
Franziska stood, turning to face away from the field of graves. Her throat tightened with irritation--the logic behind Adrian's claim was lost upon her. Foolish, sentimental, a waste of everyone's time--
She remembered the phone ringing, glowing with Miles's number, the night she heard that Papa had died. She had come so close to answering.
"Franziska? Are you… are you there?"
"I don't mind."
Adrian's surprise reverberated through the receiver. "I'm sorry?"
"I don't mind," she repeated--it was easier the second time. "That you wanted to call."
"I'm…" The other woman swallowed. "I'm glad."
"I have to drive back now. You… can call again later, if you wish."
Quietly, gratefully: "I will."
She hung up with the press of a button, and felt herself exhale. Felt the rush as the edge of the cliff above disappeared from her view as she moved forward, even still uncertain as to where.
Germany was much the same as she had left it.
This was another thing that should have startled her in its normalcy, that the office welcomed her back even after knowing full well of her failures in America. But the surprise she felt as she stepped through its doors as though nothing were wrong (nothing was wrong, a part of her chided) was more weary than anything. She had learned that there were shades to such things as resignation.
"It's been chaos without you here, Prosecutor," the Chief said. She shrugged him off, annoyed at his statement of the obvious. It didn't surprise her. In a way, it was reassuring--even when the stacks of backlogged paperwork made their way to her desk, filled with errors and misfiles and shameful sloppiness all around. There was work to be done, punishments to be meted out. This corner of her life had managed to remain relatively stable.
After all, what she thought she had known of pride had been broken, so the only thing she had was work, and Miles's promise of a new answer hanging somewhere indefinable in the distance.
But even trying to lose herself once again, her mind drifted back to the chilly evening in the graveyard.
Adrian Andrews had called again a few days later. Franziska had been in the middle of dissecting an extremely tedious report—things had deteriorated to a worse state than she'd feared without her watch—and had brushed her off rather harshly. Adrian had been in midsentence when Franziska had left her to an empty ringtone. It was nearly a week before she tried again--considerably more hesitant than the first time, but persistent nonetheless.
She never seemed to call with any subject in mind in particular to talk about. Every time, she just wanted to call. Chat casually. Make small talk. A few times, she admitted, as apologetic as ever, that she was simply lonely.
It was like swallowing glass. Listening to the weight of each pause, straining for the appropriate words--she thought, several times, throughout the first few weeks of stilted conversation, that it would have been better if she had never given Adrian the offer of consultation at all. She had made her mind up to tell her to stop calling at least three times in a single day, but when the phone rang and Adrian's voice came through on the line, she found her resolve, inexplicably, withering.
For her part, Adrian seemed to adjust accordingly to the long stretches of silence--to waiting for several minutes for a curt reply. She had a way of catching Franziska off guard with the simplest questions, out of nowhere, that she had no real answer for and found herself feeling all the more foolish for it.
She had found herself structuring much of her day and the pace of the work around the times of those phone calls. Five minutes in between reports. Ten minutes between reviewing salaries. She found herself learning to take breaks for the first time in her life. To eat her meals with some measure of trained calm, with both hands, as opposed to one still clutching a pen and scribbling madly over the latest updates on the court records.
It was Monday night. She had just returned home from the office, had barely managed to lock the apartment door shut behind her, when the phone began to ring.
"What do you like to do with your spare time, Franziska?"
Franziska grimaced as she pulled her gloves off of her hands. "I make it a point to have as little spare time as possible."
A hmm sound echoed from the receiver, contemplative and vaguely disapproving. "I don't think that's very healthy." A pause. "Is it?"
Franziska snorted, balancing the phone between her ear and her right shoulder.
Adrian was quiet for a moment before adding, "Being where I am, it's about all I have."
"Naturally." In truth, Franziska had never really considered it--the activities of inmates inside their prison cells, how they passed the time, what dreams they drew upon, surrounded by gray walls and fellow criminals. It was a sobering, uncomfortable thought. "What do you do, then?"
"It's one of the only things you really can do." Pause. "You know, I was actually trying to reread some Dumas, but found I didn't care for it particularly anymore. Funny, isn't it?"
Dumas. Franziska wracked her brain, but the name wasn't familiar.
"I see." It was the only thing she could say.
"So the past few days I've been reading Les Miserables instead--it's another old favorite of mine."
She shifted uncomfortably in her chair. "I see."
"Have you read it, Franziska?"
She had suspected Adrian had been leading up to this, but hoped she wouldn't--from Adrian's tone of voice she could tell that it was something she should have read, something that any normal person would have read and recognized the name of immediately.
"No. I haven't."
"It's very good. I really recommend it." Adrian's voice was light, as though Franziska hadn't just admitted the shameful deficiency on her own part. The world continued to turn. Franziska swallowed. "It's a classic. I'm sure any library in your area would have a copy…"
Franziska expected her reply to come out resigned. But as she spoke, the words seemed to carry something else to her ears; something she could not quite identify, just yet.
"I'll check it out."
Wednesday afternoon. A small break in between reports. Franziska held her phone in one hand, nursing a fresh cup of tea with the other. A copy of Les Miserables was propped against the side of her desk, the corners of several pages creased with stopping points.
"I finished the book."
Adrian's voice was eager. "And?"
"It was… all right." She turned in her chair, eyes flitting downward to the streets of pedestrians moving in waves on the streets. "For a make-believe story involving the foolish actions of a bunch of fools, I suppose."
Adrian made a rather contemplative click of the tongue. "Did you watch the musical?"
"Yes, I did." Adrian had suggested it a few days ago and had praised the production at length. Franziska had been skeptical at best, but found herself making her way to a local video shop to obtain a copy anyway. "It was utterly ridiculous."
Adrian laughed softly. "You know, I thought you'd say that."
Then why did you ask me to see it?
She found she had to suppress a smile regardless. "Am I that predictable?"
"It's not that! Just… you don't seem like the type to care much for musicals. Maybe regular theatre… Well, in any case, I thought I'd give it a try with you anyway."
I don't seem the type?
"But you enjoy them."
"Yes, I do. You know, when Celeste was first starting out, she told me that the first job she managed to land her client was a role on Les Miserables. It was a bit part, but…"
What do you enjoy about such nonsense?
Enthusiasm audibly rising, she continued to talk at length about Celeste Inpax and her own experience with stage productions. Eventually, as she always did, Adrian said goodbye--with a cheerful promise to call again tomorrow. Returning to her work, and feeling inwardly as though she had just passed a trial by fire, Franziska marveled.
Friday evening. The phone had rang unexpectedly as she was reviewing the evidence list for her next case. Paperwork surrounded her in almost all directions; she could scarcely move her elbows to answer the phone without knocking something over.
"I'm busy, Adrian," she said.
"Oh--" She faltered. "I understand. I'll… talk to you later, then."
"Yes," Franziska said, "Later."
She meant it.
Tuesday morning. Breakfast had not quite settled in her stomach. She had been halfway in the midst of slipping on her jacket--the autumn air had been growing crisper these days. The left sleeve of it hung loose against her back as she flipped open the phone.
"Hello." The sleeve fell unadorned again--something was different. There was a subtle tremor contained within the greeting; Franziska wondered for a moment, selfishly, if anyone else would have caught it. "It's morning there, isn't it? How are you?"
"All right. What's the matter?"
"Nothing's the matter!" The forced cheer came out shrill enough for Franziska to pull the phone a few inches from her ear. "Nothing could be better, really."
Franziska frowned. She pulled the jacket off entirely and set it back on the hook. It took a moment for her memory to jog properly, before the significance of today recalled itself and account for Adrian's strange demeanor--for a moment, something twisted inside her for having forgotten so easily. She reached out to draw back the curtain to the nearest window, and saw the morning sky was clear through it.
"It's the day of your release, isn't it."
Adrian had been in midsentence--something about the weather, empty, jittery filler conversation that even now Franziska had little patience for--and fell quiet.
"Yes." Her voice was small. "I'm back in my apartment now."
It was the first time for months that Franziska thought back to the cowering woman she had first encountered back in Los Angeles, wretched and searching for the guidance of anyone willing to give it to her, grasping at her with hands that had stabbed a corpse in the name of vengeance.
"Franziska, I…" There was a soft thud in the background; had she dropped something? Collapsed? "I don't know what to do. Where do I start now? How do I start again now, after everything that's happened? I can't…"
Franziska closed her eyes. She felt herself giving voice to an echo. "You can."
She heard the sharp intake of breath on the other line. Franziska waited.
"Yes," Adrian answered. Her voice was steadier now. "Thank you."
Sunday night. The phone rang. Franziska sat up in bed, a bit of irritation in the motion as she glanced at the clock--two in the morning?--and picked up the phone, wondering what predicament Adrian must have gotten herself into to dismiss her usual consideration of the time difference. It had been several months since her release, and she had managed to do quite well for herself--recently, she recalled, being hired to host an art exhibit--but there were still times when she seemed to be on the verge of breaking down over the phone in a fit of frenzied insecurity.
"This is Franziska. What is it?"
The voice that answered was not Adrian's.
Miles said, "Franziska, I need you to meet me in Los Angeles."
Her eyes widened, then narrowed. "What's this, all of a sudden?"
He deftly brushed aside her question. His voice was oddly constricted. "By tomorrow morning at the latest."
"You were in Europe yesterday." Her lips thinned--she already suspected. "What happened?"
Silence. If she didn't catch the faint sound of his breathing on the other end, she might have thought the line had been cut off.
Slowly, she answered for him. "It's for Phoenix Wright."
He didn't respond--more than that, she knew, better than anyone, he couldn't; she understood more than anyone how frozen and paralyzed the words laid against his throat. But he didn't have to.
"You fool," she said, a sigh interwoven between her words. The duties of an elder sister. "I'll be there."
They stood opposite of each other, the familiar glow of the courtroom shining against them both. The unfamiliar badge shown on his lapel--a symbol of their battle. She tasted fire once again, felt thrill rush through her veins--it had been so long since her skin had burned with this lust for victory.
Not Papa's victory; not another victory to be listed under the von Karma name. Her own, against this man--this man, more than anyone else in the world.
He chuckled. She smirked, cracking the length of her whip against the desk before her.
"I've seen you somewhere before, haven't I?" the Judge asked, vague bewilderment entering his voice. "If I recall correctly, as a prosecutor…?"
Franziska scoffed. "Please. A weak man like this couldn't possibly be a prosecutor."
Miles's smirk only widened. Bowing with the flourish, he gestured for Franziska to call her first witness. They had both entered this arena at the last possible minute; they faced the same disadvantages. It was a matter of who broke first.
No, she felt Miles tell her, wordlessly, it's a matter of whose side the truth was on.
Ridiculous. But she was smiling.
A childlike giddiness filled her when he reeled back as she successfully countered one of his attacks, eyes wide, as though struck by a blow far worse than that of a whip. Behind closed eyes she could see knights and bishops falling against their checkered board.
He was still struggling, after all.
But he grew more certain with every contradiction, every correct move he made in this practice he hadn't been trained in, and as she watched him it became more and more apparent that he was following the example of a man who floundered at best when he had stood in the same place Miles stood now.
As it ended, she heard the echo of Phoenix Wright in his voice.
The judge considered the decision before him, before two lawyers who already know what decision he would pass--before declaring that the case needed more consideration given the points raised in the proceedings today. In so many words, it was Miles's victory.
"You were a great partner," he said to her, once the Judge had finished speaking.
Indignation flooded her--there was that trace of little girl seeping through his tone with the presence of Phoenix Wright alongside of him, coddling. She thought it was the thing she hated most amongst everything that man, currently bound in the hospital, had done to change her life--the one thing she couldn't accept. "I don't care," she spat, and the snap of the whip resounded through the courtroom. The last witness, still lounging on the stand, yelped with the force of it, feebly covering his head with his arms, and eventually diving to the ground for cover.
The only reason I came here was to defeat you. You fool.
He smiled. I know.
As the gallery flooded out of the court, and the defendant was quietly directed back to the detention center, Franziska met Miles's gaze--briefly, but that was all she needed. She shook her head, finally allowing the sense of defeat flood her senses--it wasn't unfamiliar now--and let it wash away the tension that had so burned in her shoulders. She returned her whip to her belt.
It was enough, for now.
In Germany, immersing herself in work once again--endless cases and sordid murders, always surrounded by the bustle of witnesses and detective and forensic investigators and yet always in solitude--she hadn't ever managed to tell herself that she was happy.
Happiness had never quite been a question in her life before, of course. It had not occurred to her, and therefore had not troubled her, for that entire time.
But as she pushed the doors to the courthouse open before her, exiting--Phoenix Wright had already left the courthouse, smiling as another weight had been lifted off his shoulders--she found herself wondering all at once as Miles nearly collided with her back as she hesitated, frozen in place, as she caught the glint of sunlight against blonde hair—belonging to a woman waving to her frantically from the parking lot.
"Franziska!" The sound of her own name fell upon her like an ambush. Miles began with "That's--" but Franziska had managed to halfway regain her wits and moved fully outside as Adrian rushed her way up the steps--nearly stumbling over one of her heels--to greet her.
"It's you! It's really you! Why didn't you tell me you were coming back?"
"It was on rather short notice." She threw her head back, casting a look of particular significance to Miles Edgeworth, who only raised an eyebrow.
"It's wonderful to see you again."
Franziska opened her mouth to reply--with what, she didn't know--that she was happy to see her, too? That she felt the same way? That she was glad Adrian seemed to be doing well for herself over the past year?--but none of it felt right, felt that it properly communicated the mess of muted feelings that arose upon seeing her more confident smile, so she said nothing.
She felt, though, and had the impression that Adrian thought so as well--that that was all right. They both seemed to understand regardless.
Her hands gripped the backs of Adrian's, closing both of their fingers around the handle of the whip.
"Your movements are too jerky." She'd risen from her seat in the lawn chair, leaving the drink Adrian had prepared on the glass table beside her. There had been hesitation written in every movement the other woman had taken; the whip was a weapon of fluidity--if one's movements were not smooth, not assured, it would as soon turn back against its user as hit its intended mark. "What are you afraid of?"
"Well… I'm afraid of breaking something," Adrian confessed. "When I'm around, things have a way of sort of, um--flying off the shelves, or out of my arms, or… whatever else they might be sitting under at the time."
In her father's house, the hours had just broken into evening. The trophy had wobbled precariously off the edge of its stand, surreally, foreboding, before tipping over and shattering into pieces against the floor. The little girl had stood paralyzed, unbelieving, the whip still clenched in her hands, not realizing her legs had given out from under her until she heard the impact of her knees against the hardwood floor. The servants had screamed when they had seen it.
Franziska had had nightmares for weeks in the time before her father had come home from his business trip. She remembered that his face had been impassive as the head of housecleaning tried to explain the unfortunate accident with the young mistress. She had cringed, burying her face within blankets in her room, anticipating beatings, anticipating starvation, anticipating her being thrown to the streets and left to die in a hole.
None of those things had happened. Manfred von Karma seemed to think that to leave her to her fantasies, to draw out the duration of time she had to live with them, was enough. She remembered there was a chill in her stomach on understanding that that seemed to surpass the physical torments she had associated with the notion of punishment up until then.
She felt Adrian's hands move under hers, and her focus shifted back onto the present.
"We're outside, Adrian. There's nothing to break."
"I know, but…" She squirmed. "I guess I'm a little…" She laughed. "It's embarrassing to admit, but I keep thinking I'm going to hit myself."
"It'll probably happen." Miles had sat with her--two children sharing yet another secret--and carefully run the brush through her hair until it fell against her cheeks in a way that hid the mark she had inflicted upon herself. "But there's no point in worrying about it."
"Yes," Adrian said, uneasy, "I suppose you're right."
Franziska drew behind Adrian, forcibly sliding her thumb towards the top of the handle. "Now draw back your arm. Relax your grip. One quick, decisive motion. Put your entire arm into it."
Adrian's arm lunged forward--but the motion was, yet again, concentrated too much in her wrist, and the length of the whip flopped uselessly in front of them both. Eventually it settlied on the deck in a mocking sort of coil. Franziska was unable to suppress her sigh.
"Oh, I'm hopeless." Adrian gave a self-conscious sort of laugh, letting her arms drop back in front of her.
"Considerably so," Franziska agreed.
Adrian shoved at her in jest. "Oh, you!"
Franziska let her go, shaking her head in bemusement, to return to her drink. The ice clinked against the glass as she drained what was left of it--it was such a small thing, but she was grateful, she found, to be here watching the sunset, feeling the cooling air on her skin, and being able to pay mind to something as small as the sound of glass pressing against ice.
"What?" It was a little grating, the way Adrian prefaced what she had to say with that particular tilt to her name. She knew it was a request for permission.
"You're going back to Germany soon, aren't you?"
"In a few days." She set the glass down and turned back to face the other woman.
Adrian bit her lip.
"Couldn't you stay… a little longer?"
"I have work to get done, Adrian."
"I see. I guess there isn't any helping that…"
A moment passed. Franziska opened her mouth to speak, intending to suggest Adrian try her hand at the whip once more, but Adrian spoke over her, abruptly. The surprise alone was enough to make her stop and listen.
"I've always…" Adrian spoke quietly, her eyes drifting upwards. "When I was a little girl, I've always thought it would be wonderful to travel--all over the world, seeing everything I could."
Franziska stayed silent, sensing that she still had more to say, pricks of wariness rising on the back of her neck.
"I remember picking up travel brochures whenever I could, reading them over and over. All sorts of places." She smiled, her fingers starting to intertwine nervously over the whip's handle. "I remember thinking that… that Germany seemed like a good place to visit."
Franziska tilted her head--this seemed like a strange tangent to move onto.
"It's not particularly remarkable. The justice system is a fair cut above the one here, however. I will say that. But I doubt that would interest you."
Adrian's smile was shadowed. "Still."
And what Adrian was saying--what she was really saying, as she sighed and offered the whip back to Franziska--hit her all at once.
"You're asking to come with me?"
The flush of embarrassment across Adrian's face was more than answer enough.
Franziska was only able to stare, disbelief flooding her senses.
But she caught sight of it, clearly, just for a moment--a life, a life, where she would be able to separate herself from the pedestal of pride and isolation, clinging to faded memories of a little brother just to remain breathing; a life in which someone would be waiting for her at the end of everything, with human imperfections and human warmth and flawed human devotion. She forced her expression to remain stony, but allowed her hands to tighten around Adrian's, for a brief moment--and realized she had wisps of dust caught in her hair, shimmering like flecks of silver in the fading sunlight.
Her lips parted, but several seconds passed before she spoke.
"I'll consider it."
She'd been reluctant, at best, to come here. She was no friend of Phoenix Wright's, to begin with, and had little reason to believe he would have interest in attending, much less funding, a "going-away party" for she and Miles.
"It's not just that," Maya Fey--Phoenix Wright's assistant--had insisted, hands on her hips. "I'm… we're all grateful to you and Mr. Edgeworth too, you know." Franziska had been entirely unsure how to respond to that, which Maya seemed to take as an implicit acceptance to her invitation, and with renewed cheer had given her the location--the Gatewater Hotel--and the date--the day after tomorrow. "I'll see you there, okay? All you have to do is show up. We'll have a great time, I promise!"
She brought it up to Miles on the phone later, when her feelings had settled from bewildered annoyance to something much more like bemusement.
"I think you should come," Miles had said, simply.
She had lost so many parts of him. She had long come to terms with this, now, since their departure from the airport a year ago, but it still stung--the way an old wound might throb intermittently--when she saw him smiling for someone else. Her temper flared outright when she caught the faint sound of his laughter from another corner of the hotel, and she sated it somewhat by inflicting physical violence on the oafish detective, ruining his clumsy attempt to court the woman in spectacles beside him.
She would be angry; she would be petty and scowl and stamp her foot, but she would learn to tolerate it. Someday she might learn to be happy for him without reservation; it was the sort of thing, she had decided, that Franziska von Karma would have the grace to allow.
He moved next to her, his conversation with Maya Fey apparently finished, a look of satisfaction on his face that had nothing to do with victory. It suited him, she thought. It seemed to her now that Miles was one who was meant to change the world, rather than triumph over it.
"You seem distracted," he said, meeting her gaze. "Is something on your mind?"
He tilted his head, just so. "Franziska."
She leaned back, resting against the wall. "It's just a strange thing, isn't it," she said, slowly, choosing her words with careful deliberation. "How we've both ended up--here."
They both understood that here was not a reference to the lobby of a hotel.
Miles considered for a long moment. Finally, he began to speak, words forming with the same eloquence that had been forged alongside her in her father's house; speaking of many things she still did not quite care to follow, things of trust and belief and companionship and purpose and truth, most of all--concepts in which she still trailed behind him, still learning and not quite ready to meet them in the eye. So she didn't listen, not really.
But she saw his eyes become distant as he continued speaking; she recognized that he was no longer really addressing her and the familiar ache flared in her chest. She suspected that no matter what she did, it would never fully fade--and followed his gaze to where Phoenix Wright was muddling aimlessly at the other end of the hotel.
She realized with a start it was the same. He had grown older and he had grown stronger, but in some respects had never quite divorced himself from the quiet emotions of the boy gazing in silence out the window.
She had not grown enough that she had reached the point where she could stand seeing it unfold right in front of her--not yet. She knew that. So she reached for anything with which to cut him off.
"Adrian Andrews," she said, and Miles blinked, "has asked permission to accompany me to Germany, for a time."
He looked at her, interrupted mid-sentence and broken from his reverie, and it took him a few seconds to recover from the unspoken remnants of his thoughts.
"In a way. Stammering, dancing around the topic, the way only the most foolish of fools could be proud of. You can imagine, I'm certain."
"Ah. If you put it that way, yes." He considered for a moment. "And? How did you respond?"
"I suppose from her perspective, I didn't."
He looked thoughtful. "How very unlike you."
"The Franziska I knew," he said, the lilt of fond reminiscence coloring his voice, "would only hesitate if there were a very good reason for it. The Franziska I knew thrived in her certainty, despite what anyone else might say to her. She is not someone to hold her tongue only for the sake of sparing another's feelings. She is not one to sidestep. Franziska von Karma is someone who gives certainties in her silences."
Franziska shook her head. If he had been right once, he was wrong now. But she didn't tell him that.
"What exactly is it that you're trying to say?"
"Only," he said, tilting his glass so that he could study both of their reflections in its curve, "that you do seem rather taken by the idea."
Her mouth curved downwards. "Taken, you say?"
"If I had to say one or the other," he said, with the ghost of his old smile. "Yes. I would say taken."
She looked at him full on then, at his face framed in the dimming lights of the hotel; the brush of warm twilight against his cheek. She exhaled deeply; raising a gloved hand to rub the back of her knuckles against the moisture threatening to gather at the corners of her eyes. They were paralyzed on the edge of her lips: the various things that she wanted so much to tell him that he was and always had been in her life. Brother. Savior. Enemy. First love.
"Miles," she said instead, "thank you."
He looked startled, wine nearly tipping over the edge of his glass, and she thought she saw him start to say something. But Franziska didn't give him time to respond--she had already taken off at a confident stride, her target fixed on Adrian's figure standing in awkward solitude by the entrance.
She didn't bother turning on the lights.
In the chaos that revolved around Phoenix Wright's final trial against the man who identified himself as Godot, and her involvement within, she had barely returned to the room she had reserved for nearly four days now. It seemed pointless to have had had made the arrangements in the first place.
She had never lowered herself to stay at such a low-class hostel before, where the breakfasts were mass-produced and the janitors operated under the standards of adequate functionality.
But their negligence had left traces of dust spiraling in the air before the windows, the last traces of sunlight making them glow a vibrant red. She stared. She was three years old again, drowning herself in a world that defined lines outside the will of her father.
Franziska stepped towards the window, breathing it in. Cupped her hands, and blew.
Two days later, she stood on the doorsteps leading into Adrian Andrews's apartment. The plane tickets were thin and fragile in both of her hands.
She had hesitated before purchasing them both--she had learned what a flimsy thing a final decision could be, tested over and over and over. She learned that she had no real grasp on what true resolution was, and it was odd, in a way, with the glow of the computer monitor against her face, to finally understand that any future she could foresee in the upcoming years were no less plagued with doubt than the ones that preceded them. Her stomach was twisting in knots even now, unsure of what she would say when the door opened.
But somehow, that was all right. It seemed that things often turned out that way when it came to Adrian.
In one hand, she held dream; in the other, she clutched duty.
Franziska pressed her fists together before her, touching her lips to both, before stepping forward to knock on Adrian's door, waiting for her to answer.