A/N: Yes, this is the final chapter. I know what you're all thinking: she's finally done! Haha, I don't blame you. Thanks for sticking around…and here you go. More comments to follow, I'll just get out of your way now. /smiles
July 18, 9:21 am, Hotti Clinic
Phoenix was wearing a strange expression when he reentered Aion's room, though perhaps only Aion noticed.
"Everything all right?" she asked. He nodded.
"Yeah, everything is fine." He sat down in the chair next to her bed. "How about you? How are you feeling?"
Aion gave him a wry smile.
Phoenix frowned at her.
The female defense attorney shook her head, and Phoenix let the matter drop. After all, he thought, I guess one doesn't really want to relive the memories of being kidnapped, and drugged...once again he marveled at his friend's strength of character and composure, something he had admired throughout school.
"I haven't had the chance to thank you yet," Aion said, breaking him from his thoughts. "You—and Mr. Edgeworth—saved two lives." She paused. "Thanks for believing in my client, Nick. And…in me, I suppose." She laughed, to dispel the emotion that shadowed her words, though the expression in her eyes conveyed her sincerity. Phoenix remembered that she had never been one for emotional scenes. He nodded.
"It was no problem, Aion." He grinned at her. "I know you, after all."
"I suppose you do." She smiled, and, after briefly debating whether to bring it up, Phoenix decided to go for it.
"Speaking of which, Aion…about Edgeworth." Aion looked at him curiously, and he felt Maya's ears prick up.
"What about Mr. Edgeworth?" Aion said, amused. Phoenix shook his head.
"He has a lot of self-conflict and angst…which I'm sure you've noticed," he said dryly.
"Why does he hate himself?" Maya asked, leaning forward on the bed with interest. Pearl, who was perched at the foot of the bed, also appeared to be interested in hearing the answer.
"As far as I can tell," Phoenix said slowly, frowning, "he feels like he's betrayed himself, sort of. When we were kids, he used to have all kinds of ideals and…dreams, that he lost somewhere along the way. It's only recently that he's begun to regain those values, but it's been a hard path. He's still…trying to reconcile these different views of himself, and I'm not sure that he likes what he sees." He paused. "He's just now realizing, I think, that who he thought he was and who he actually is, are two very different people, and I've never been entirely sure that he's been happy as either one." He looked at Aion. "I'm not sure how this affects who he wants to be, either."
"In short, he's very complicated," Maya remarked, looking bewildered.
"So I've gathered," Aion said dryly, though she did not seem to be overly concerned with these revelations. Merely curious—or intrigued.
"Aion?" Phoenix said uncertainly. "You're not seriously still thinking…?" he couldn't quite bring himself to finish the question.
"I'm not sure," she said innocently. "What might I be thinking?"
Phoenix made a face at her and she laughed.
"You disapprove." It wasn't a question.
He shook his head slowly.
"No. That's not it. But I wonder…are you sure about this? Edgeworth—he's definitely different. Though not necessarily in a bad way," he added hastily, seeing Aion raise an eyebrow. "But it makes interacting with him…an interesting experience."
"I like interesting," Aion said with an amused grin. After a moment, Phoenix gave her a defeated smile. "I know." He glanced at the clock on the wall behind her and blanched.
"Ack, the trial," he said, gesturing quickly toward the two Kurain girls.
"Yes, you shouldn't be late," Aion said. He nodded.
"Come on, Maya, Pearl. Let's go. Aion needs her rest." He grinned at her as he said this; Aion waited until Maya and Pearl had said their good-byes and skipped out of the room before she stuck her tongue at him. Phoenix chuckled.
"Call me if you need anything," he told her, and then he walked out, closing the door softly behind him. Aion sighed and closed her eyes; within moments, she was asleep.
July 18, 1:08 pm, Prosecutor's Office
Edgeworth sat in his office, but for the first time, he was not diligently working on a case, nor was he reading important legal material; his mind wasn't even on his work. The trial in the morning had finished in less than an hour, with, of course, a "not guilty" verdict being passed down. Edgeworth no longer cared about trivial matters like his trial record; the fact remained that an innocent man's name had been cleared, and he was satisfied.
The police were still conducting investigations into the matter of all of the thefts, but as far as he could figure, it seemed that Chess had planned everything from the beginning: he had broken into Onyx's car and stolen all of the relevant documents; when Carmen agreed to store the gems he saw his chance. It had simply been bad luck that she had been home when he dropped in; Chess had apparently borrowed the stolen clothing to make it appear that Onyx was picking up his gems if anyone had happened to witness him. But he had entered her apartment and Carmen had seen him—pretending to be Onyx, and carrying all sorts of tools with him, no less—and not the kind necessary for a simple plumbing problem, and he had killed her. Whether it had been just a hasty reaction or a deliberate action of ruthless intent, Edgeworth had no idea. The police seemed to think that perhaps there was more to it than there appeared; someone mentioned an underground ring of high-target thieves and mob bosses. But there was no proof of any of that, though the fact remained that Chess had preferred to kill himself than be taken into custody. Edgeworth still wasn't sure what to make of that.
But there were other things bothering him, though he didn't like to admit it. He had been staring into space for the better part of half an hour, simply trying to ignore the thoughts that kept popping up. He was also trying his best to ignore the presence of a small, shiny round object that was sitting on his desk, an object that didn't belong to him. With an annoyed sigh, he opened up his briefcase; he might as well get back to work. Once again, however, his phone interrupted him. He answered it without even looking to see who it was.
"I hear you are quite the hero, Miles Edgeworth," the caller said, in a crisp, all-too-familiar voice.
"Franziska," Edgeworth said in resignation. "What a pleasure to hear from you."
"I'm sure." Her voice was full of superior amusement. "Congratulations. I hear you lost yet another trial."
"As if that matters," Edgeworth replied, bored.
"And what's this I hear about you dashing into a hostage situation alone and being held at gunpoint?" she continued, ignoring him. "Don't be so reckless. I've only got one little brother, you know."
"I'm touched by your concern."
"Hmph," Franziska said. "Well. Are you still coming to visit me in December?"
"I suppose," Edgeworth said.
"Try not to sound so enthusiastic," she snapped. There was a slight pause. "Though I was thinking perhaps, if you did not wish to hazard another German winter, I might come to visit you, instead. I would like to meet…your damsel-in-distress. Unless you'd rather bring her here?"
"She isn't," Edgeworth said evenly, "in any distress. And I didn't think even you, Franziska, could be so ridiculous. I haven't even taken her out to dinner yet—and I have no intention of doing so. I have absolutely no interest in Ms. Mercury."
"But still you say 'yet,'" Franziska pointed out smugly. "It seems like that fool Phoenix Wright was not so foolish after all, this time."
Edgeworth raised an eyebrow. Since when did Franziska talk to Wright in any sort of productive, civil fashion? He would have given a great deal to have been privy to that conversation. As if she could hear his thoughts, Franziska tsk tsked him.
"I called Phoenix Wright as soon as I heard about your…adventure. You must admit, you are not exactly forthcoming with information about yourself, little brother. So I went to another trustworthy source." She paused again. "And judging by the contradiction in your speech, it appears that you are, indeed, at least marginally interested in this mercurial woman."
"Her last name is Mercury," Edgeworth corrected mildly. Who's the mercurial one, anyway?
"Stop that," Franziska said in irritation. "I am very aware of your famous tactics of misdirection, you know. This is not a trial."
Well, then stop pointing out contradictions, Edgeworth thought with annoyance.
"Very well. Let us have a friendly conversation," he said. She gave a scornful snort.
"I am very busy, Miles Edgeworth. I only called to tell you, that you should not let this chance go, as you so often do. Ask her out to dinner. Amuse her. Be amused. Have a conversation. Watch films together. Experience the joy of something other than your work, for once. It has too long consumed you."
Edgeworth's eyebrows flew up—both of them, this time. Franziska von Karma was lecturing him about being a workaholic, telling him to live life to its fullest? This was…too much.
Apparently Franziksa heard the skepticism even in his silence.
"Phoenix Wright informs me that you hold my family responsible for suffocating any humor—and perhaps any form of positive outlook on life—that you might have otherwise developed," she said with just a trace of dry humor. "I am…trying to remedy that, now. Don't be ungrateful."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Edgeworth managed to say.
"Hmph," she said again. Then her voice softened ever so slightly.
"You changed my mind once, did you not? At least let me return the favor."
Edgeworth was silent.
"See you at Christmas, Miles Edgeworth. Bring a warm coat. You know what winters in Germany are like." With that very abrupt goodbye—if it could even be called that—she hung up. Edgeworth put his phone down on his desk, bemused. What on earth…? He shook his head, but as he did so his gaze once again fell upon the defense attorney's badge sitting on the surface of his desk; Ms. Mercury's badge. It did have to be returned…but surely she wouldn't be returning to work anytime soon. Surely he could wait, at least a day or two. But…wait for what?
July 19, 10:48 am, L'acier Apartment Complex
Edgeworth couldn't quite believe it himself, but here he was, standing in front of a strangely familiar apartment door. He brought his hand up to knock, hesitating only a moment before rapping his fist sharply against the door. He heard movements in the apartment, and thought he glimpsed someone glancing out of the peephole in the door. Then the bolt was drawn and the door opened to reveal Aion. She was dressed simply in jeans and a T-shirt, but her dark hair was loose around her shoulders as he had never seen before; even in the hospital, she had worn her hair tied back at the nape of her neck—probably in an attempt to appear neat, in anticipation of visitors. She leaned against the half-open door, wearing a slight smile.
"Mr. Edgeworth," she said. "Hello."
"Good morning," he said. "I hope I am not disturbing anything?"
She shook her head slightly.
Edgeworth waited, but she didn't seem inclined to say anything further. Right. He slipped his hand into his pocket to retrieve her badge, and held it up.
"I hope this hasn't caused you too much worry," he said neutrally. She didn't seem surprised to see it in his hands, nor did she make any move to take it back. Edgeworth frowned. As if she could read his thoughts, Aion smiled faintly.
"I had assumed that either you or Nick must have found it," she explained.
"I'm afraid I'm the one who found it," he said, and the self-mocking note in his voice caused Aion to raise an eyebrow.
"I apologize for having troubled you with it," Aion murmured, though there was nothing snide or discourteous in her tone.
"That's not quite…what I meant," Edgeworth muttered, looking away.
"Though…I can't say I'm exactly sorry," Aion continued. She paused; though he wasn't looking at her, Edgeworth unconsciously held his breath, waiting to hear what she might say next.
"After all, it afforded me the chance to have this conversation with you."
Edgeworth's eyes rose to meet hers; she wore a secretive smile.
"Please, come in," she said. "I just made a fresh brew of tea; it's a new ume (A/N: Japanese pickled plum) green tea that I recently acquired." With that casual invitation, she pushed the door wide open and turned around, heading for the kitchen, leaving Edgeworth no choice but to follow. He closed the door behind him, and, after a moment's hesitation, turned the lock. Their recent experience had suddenly made him very alert to such things.
"Have a seat," Aion called from the kitchen; Edgeworth just stood in the living room, feeling uneasy. When Aion walked back into the living room, carrying a tray with a small glass teapot and two ceramic cups, she raised another eyebrow before setting her tray down on the table. She said nothing, though, as she gently poured the tea, and after she took her own seat on the couch, holding a cup up to Edgeworth, he finally sat down and accepted the drink.
"No problem," she replied, sipping her own tea quietly.
Why did I agree to this farce again? Edgeworth thought irritably, taking a sip. Oh. Because she has good taste in tea.
"I'd like to thank you, obviously, for finding me," Aion said, her wry voice breaking the uneasy silence that had fallen upon them. Edgeworth shook his head curtly.
"You needn't thank me," he said. Aion regarded him with a faint air of skepticism.
"I didn't know that people in our profession were so blasé about being held up at gunpoint." She paused, taking another sip. "I must say, I wasn't aware that lawyers were required to risk their lives. The training that prosecutors receive must be more rigorous." A smile lurked on the edge of her lips. Edgeworth frowned into his tea; she was teasing him.
"Then we have both done something we didn't expect to do," he replied coolly. Aion looked at him, her face carefully expressionless, a look to match his own.
"Regardless. I don't expect you to feel that you owe me some debt, because of my actions," Edgeworth continued, looking away. "I realize the situation surrounding our…acquaintance, has been rather traumatic. I am aware that you wouldn't want people to believe that the only reason why you won your case was because you—" he stopped, suddenly feeling as if he had said too much.
"I don't think anyone who is familiar with either you or I would think that," Aion said calmly. "The situation over the past few days has been rather chaotic, but I don't think that is to be blamed for anything." She paused. "Besides. It is Phoenix Wright who is now listed as Mr. Onyx's defense attorney, and it is he who will receive—quite due—credit. I have asked—and Gavin has agreed—that all of the relevant fees be made out to Wright & Co. Law Offices."
Edgeworth said nothing for a moment.
"That is…generous of you, and of Mr. Gavin," he said finally. Aion shrugged.
"It is what's appropriate."
"Admirable," Edgeworth said blandly.
"Speaking of which," Aion said, "forgive me if this is too forward, but I would like to know, Mr. Edgeworth, why someone who is so obviously honorable…would go to such lengths to conceal it?"
Edgeworth's eyes narrowed.
"Ms. Mercury," he began carefully, "I must confess, I'm not sure what you're talking about. As lawyers—and as people, we need only be concerned with the truth of all matters. Let's not have any misunderstandings between us."
"An excellent suggestion," Aion agreed.
"A practical one," he countered. Aion's mouth quirked.
"We're not in court, Mr. Edgeworth."
No, believe me, that was easier, Edgeworth thought grimly.
"I believe you are, in your roundabout way, asking me to be frank with you?" Aion inquired. Edgeworth shook his head jerkily.
"You have no obligation to be honest with me," he said. "I cannot demand your frankness." He set her badge gently on the table.
"That is all I came here for today," he said, indicating the badge with a slight movement of his head. "I appreciate your gratitude, Ms. Mercury, though I repeat that it isn't necessary." He placed his cup down, and stood up. "Thank you for the tea." He paused.
"Perhaps I will see you in court again, someday." He made to leave, but a certain female prosecutor's words began to replay in his head. Ask her out to dinner. Amuse her. Be amused. Aion intrigued him, he'd give her that; her cool, self-possessed manner, her secretive smile…he closed his eyes briefly, trying to assure himself that leaving now was not a mistake. Behind him, Aion had stood up, presumably to see him to the door. Before he could change his mind again, he turned to her.
She watched him expressionlessly.
"Are you familiar with the Beau Thai, Ms. Mercury?" he asked evenly. A faint smile had begun to tug at her lips.
"I am," she said.
"Their cuisine is…exquisite," he continued. "One day when you are free, perhaps, you will let me know, and we can…well. If you've of a mind to, just let me know. When you are free, that is."
She was smiling openly now.
"I'll do that."
He nodded. "Very well. Until then, Ms. Mercury."
"Aion," she said, as she opened the door. He barely acknowledged the correction as he strode briskly out the door. He could not really believe what he had just—rather ineptly, he thought with a grimace—done. But perhaps it would all come to nothing, anyway. He forced himself to shrug as he walked away toward the elevator. He was about to press the elevator call button, when his phone began to ring. Impatiently he pulled it out and answered without even bothering to look at the screen.
"Hello, Mr. Edgeworth," a familiar voice said. "I just thought I'd let you know…I'm free, now."
The barest hint of a smile touched Edgeworth's lips.
"Indeed," was all he said, and then slowly, he turned around.
August 21, 7:03 pm, House Onyx Jewelry Store
Maya squealed with excitement as she entered the famous store, and even Phoenix had to admit that the place had been decorated quite extravagantly. Mr. Onyx was throwing a gala to celebrate the introduction of his fall line, and they had been invited to attend. Maya darted to and fro between the display cases, her eyes wide with pleasure and exhilaration.
"Isn't this so cool?" she exclaimed, looking at all of the brilliant pieces on display. One specifically caught her eye, and she pointed it out.
"Oh look, Nick, it's my bracelet!" She dangled out her wrist to demonstrate, and Phoenix saw that the two items were indeed, a match. Onyx had sent the silver charm bracelet—which was decorated with little miniature charms of the Steel Samurai and Co.—to Maya along with the fees for his representation, with a little note that simply said, "Because you mentioned you were a fan." It was beautiful, and apparently he had seen fit to recreate another one for his fall line of jewelry.
"I'm glad you liked it," a quiet voice said with genuine pleasure. Phoenix and Maya looked up to see Mr. Onyx walking toward them, dressed in a fashionably cut chocolate brown suit, trimmed with pale lavender along the edges. He wore an amethyst stud in his left ear, and his long hair was tied in a neat horsetail, as always.
"Thank you for the invitation," Phoenix said warmly as the two men shook hands. "It was very kind of you."
"I'm happy to see that you could make it," his former client said. "It's good to see you here. Please, enjoy yourself…and if there's anything you like, let me know." He winked at Maya, with more animation than Phoenix had ever seen him display. Maya giggled.
"Thanks, Mr. Onyx!" she said happily. Onyx smiled before moving on to greet his other guests, and Maya's eyes grew wide as she caught sight of the food table.
"Nick," she began, and then she stopped.
"What?" Phoenix asked. He followed Maya's gaze to the front door, and his eyebrows lifted in surprise. Aion Mercury had just entered the room, looking elegant in a strapless emerald-hued cocktail dress; matching, delicately twisted strands of emeralds sparkled at her ears. But that wasn't the surprising part; he had always privately thought of his friend as an attractive woman. No, the more interesting thing was—
"She came with Mr. Edgeworth!" Maya whispered, catching at Phoenix's arm. And indeed, she was. The prosecutor, who, like Phoenix, had exchanged his usual maroon suit for a black one, followed Aion into the room. The two new arrivals were not physically in contact, nor did they speak much, but there was an awareness in each of them—Aion and Edgeworth—that suggested they were closer than appeared.
"Aion," Phoenix called. Upon hearing her name, the female defense attorney glanced around the room, looking for the source, until she saw Phoenix and Maya. She smiled and moved over to them.
"Nick, Maya," she greeted them. "How are you?"
"We're doing good," Maya replied cheerfully. "And you?"
Aion's smile was as mysterious as ever.
"Well enough," she said. She was alone; Edgeworth had been called over to another group of men who were apparently here with their wives—more law types; Phoenix recognized a few of them himself.
"That's good to hear," Phoenix replied. "You look…lovely."
Aion laughed as Phoenix ran his hand over his hair absently, glancing over at the other group of people. "Excuse me, ladies," he said then, and Maya giggled at the term. He headed over to where Edgeworth was standing.
"Edgeworth," he said pleasantly.
"Wright," the other man replied, making an obvious (and not very successful) attempt to ignore Phoenix's smug expression.
"You're looking well," Phoenix noted, unwilling to give up. Edgeworth finally glared at him.
"Enough," he snapped. "You can cease your gloating now. It's not very becoming."
"Oh, I don't know," Phoenix said, grinning openly now. "I'm rather enjoying it."
"You really did have it coming," Phoenix told him. "You're far too stubborn."
"I'm stubborn?" Edgeworth repeated incredulously.
"Yes," Phoenix replied. "This sort of thing is good for you."
The prosecutor rolled his eyes.
"Whatever you say." He glanced over to where Aion and Maya were strolling through the displays, talking quietly together.
"Although, you know, you should talk, Wright."
"What do you mean?"
But Edgeworth, who had never had any trouble being mysterious, had apparently picked up the habit of Aion's enigmatic smile.
"Never mind, Wright. Never mind. Shall we?" he gestured toward their two companions; Aion had caught the two men watching them, and had quirked an eyebrow, waiting patiently.
"I suppose so," Phoenix replied. The two men rejoined their dates, just as Onyx began to make his opening speech; the crowd moved into the store's other showroom. Edgeworth offered Aion his arm; behind them, Maya was practically giddy with excitement as she watched the two walk ahead of them.
"I told you, Nick," she said smugly as they followed the other couple into the next room. Phoenix rolled his eyes good-naturedly.
"Yes," he replied. "I suppose you did."
A/N: Finally done! Thanks to everyone who stuck through all nine chapters with me, and a special thanks to everyone who took the time to review! The comments and contradiction-catching always helped, as well as the encouragement.
This was actually my first fan fiction; I've never really felt compelled to write one before, but the characters in the Ace Attorney series are so complex and rich that I just had to try. Hopefully it didn't turn out to be too much of a disaster. I've played AJ recently (I'm on the second playthrough now!) and I've fallen in love with Klavier; I'm also really loving the Klavier X Ema pairing, and I love the Phoenix and Trucy moments. So I've been thinking about trying to depict some of that, but I'm not sure. Any comments or suggestions, or just general feedback, are totally appreciated, especially now since this story's finally complete. Again, thanks for reading! Have a nice day.