They'd joked about it, of course. Especially Miles. Miles had always told Phoenix that he wouldn't live to see forty; that he'd put too many people away on too little evidence in his days as Von Karma's apprentice. That some of those people would be released, one day, and seek him out. He said it with a wry smile and a chuckle, and a joke about his will, before immediately turning his attention to something else.
It always gave Phoenix a bitter taste in his mouth when he heard Miles talk like that. It always brought back to him the memories of that day when he'd had the call from the Prosecutor's Office, about the note. That whole year when he'd believed that Miles was dead by his own hand. He could feel himself dying inside just a little whenever that memory came to mind.
But he never really took it seriously. Not really. It was just Miles, after all. Miles never looked on the bright side. It was one of those things that a hopeless optimist like Phoenix could push to the back of his mind and ignore. It was something to worry about another day. Things like that only happened to other people. Not to him. Not to them.
In retrospect, he realised now that Miles was trying to tell him something. He was trying to tell him that this was something that was going to happen to them. To be prepared. And he was trying to tell him gently. Thinking back, he remembered that eyes of granite had always accompanied the wry smile when the subject was mentioned. And one of those looks that Miles always gave him when he was trying to communicate through his eyes those words he could not speak. I trust you. We can win this. I love you.
He just hadn't seen it. Or he hadn't wanted to.
In the end though, Miles had been wrong. He hadn't even lived to see thirty. And it wasn't a victim of his erratic prosecuting record that had been his nemesis – it was just a common criminal, a complete stranger who would probably never even face trial.
They'd stopped into the grocery store to buy beer. Miles had been working late at the office and Phoenix had been sprawled on his couch reading. They'd left at nine, and on the way home Phoenix had suggested the beer. Miles hadn't really wanted to stop and hadn't really wanted beer, but Phoenix had pouted, and Miles had relented.
They hadn't noticed anything amiss in the parking lot, and were too wrapped up in their usual banter to notice anything in the store, either. It was unusual really, because Miles normally had observation skills better than any detective. But Phoenix supposed he must have been distracted for once.
Phoenix didn't know if the murderer had been in the store when they arrived or not. The police still weren't clear on that point. He wasn't even sure if it mattered to him. Not now.
He'd selected some beers; they'd walked up to the register to pay. That's when they'd realised that something was going on. After that it had all happened so fast. Phoenix had no idea what Miles was thinking when he intervened, and there was no time for Phoenix to react before he saw the flash of steel and the surprised look on Miles' face, the scared look on the robber's. And then he was gone. Out of the door. And Miles was on his knees, clutching his stomach and coughing. Phoenix could see blood on Miles' hand and he still couldn't move. From then Phoenix's memories ran like a slow motion film.
The clerk was screaming, running, calling for the police. Phoenix was still standing there like an idiot with the beers in his hand. When his now nerveless fingers finally released them, they shattered on the tiles, scattering shards of brown glass in all directions and making the floor slippery underfoot.
The sound of the bottles smashing had released him from his state of shock and he scrambled to close the gap between himself and Miles, slipping and falling in the spilled beer. Splinters of glass cut his hands and his knees but he still kept going. Ten feet felt like a million.
By that time, Miles had slumped onto his side, that look of surprise still fixed on his face. His mouth was moving, trying to form words, but failing. Apart from that look, what Phoenix remembered most clearly was the lack of blood. They'd explained to him later that most of the bleeding was inside. That was what happened with these kinds of stab wounds, they said.
"Miles, please don't die." It had been a stupid thing to say. But it did help the other man find his voice at last, weak as it was.
"I … told you beer was a bad idea." Hope had stirred in Phoenix's heart, then. The relative lack of blood and the gallows humour made it seem less serious, somehow. He pulled Miles into his arms, pressing his own hand over Miles' in a vain attempt to do something, anything, to stop the bleeding, to keep him alive, and wincing at the gasp of pain that triggered. He was desperately listening out for the clerk, hoping for the sound of a siren. He heard neither, and his cell phone was in the car.
Miles was breathing faster, now, his grey eyes fixed on Phoenix, pupils dilated and standing out darkly against his too-white skin "I'm sorry," he gasped, "That was … damned stupid."
"Miles …" Phoenix had finally remembered some basic first aid and checked Miles' pulse. It was fast, ragged, weak. He took the man's hand and was shocked at how cold it felt. "Oh Christ Miles, please, no. You have to be okay. I can't live without you. I can't. I don't want to." He was babbling. He knew it. He couldn't help it.
Miles squeezed his hand weakly, tried to shake his head. "I love you," he whispered, and Phoenix felt his own breath hitch and tears burn behind his eyelids. They were words he'd wanted to hear for months, but now he'd give anything not to have heard them, to go back to how things had been an hour ago, a day ago.
Miles was shivering, now, his breath still fast, and noisier as it became shallower. Phoenix pulled him closer, desperately trying to warm him, to will some of his own energy into the other man's body. "I love you Miles. Please hang on. Please don't leave me alone, Please don't." Finally he could hear sirens in the distance.
"You won't be alone," Miles sounded so certain, his eyes looked so sure. Phoenix couldn't hold back a sob, and he felt Miles' fingers tighten on his almost imperceptibly before loosening again. He never could explain to anyone afterwards how he'd felt. The complete helplessness; the sense of utter futility as he sat there trying to will life back into someone who was so obviously dying.
Suddenly he felt Miles' hand tighten round his own again, with surprising force. "He's dead. I think I killed him."
Phoenix looked down at him in confusion but if Miles was looking at Phoenix there was no recognition in his eyes. He just looked scared and bewildered and a tear slipped down his cheek. It took Phoenix a few moments to fight past his own tears and realise what Miles was talking about. Then he squeezed that hand in return "You didn't kill him, Miles. It wasn't you."
Thankfully, the grey eyes refocused on Phoenix's face for a moment, and Phoenix would hope and believe for the rest of his life that the words had registered because a soft smile crossed Miles' lips, just for a second. "Father…"
That was the last word he said. Phoenix held him in his arms, face buried in his hair, murmuring words of comfort until the ambulance finally arrived. He could feel the heartbeat getting weaker, the breathing becoming ragged with every second that passed. But there was nothing else he could do.
When the paramedics took over, he already knew it was too late, and he sat on the floor among the blood and the glass while he watched their desperate efforts to resuscitate the man that until a few minutes ago he had hoped to grow old with. When they finally called it in as a death at the scene he broke down.
It was Maya and Larry that picked him up from the hospital and looked after him for the whole week afterwards as he organised the funeral. He made sure that Miles was buried next to his father, with a headstone that read:
"We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart."
There was nothing else he could do.