Disclaimer: Not mine. Originally written for a prompt, "What if Phoenix was in the elevator that day," and... went wildly out of control from there.
After the class trial, Miles was curious. His could understand Phoenix's gratitude up to a point. The other boy seemed toograteful, though, even to him, and he thought it was kind of odd that Phoenix didn't seem to have a whole lot of friends. Phoenix was really nice, after all.
Miles had confided these thoughts in his father. Gregory Edgeworth had grown very thoughtful before assuring Miles that he would look into his friend's situation, whatever it might be.
For near to a month Miles didn't hear anything else about it. He trusted his father, though, and he trusted his father's assurances that there was an ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, Miles spent more time with Larry and Phoenix both inside and outside of school. He noticed that Phoenix never mentioned his own home, or family, or anything even loosely related to the subject, for that matter. If Miles tried to bring it up Phoenix changed the subject. Larry, on the other hand, complained incessantly about his foster father. (Privately, Miles thought that the man's opinion of Larry's grades was scarily accurate, but he didn't tell his friend that.) When Miles mentioned these conversations to his father, something in Gregory's expression seemed to cement.
One day Phoenix didn't show up for school. He'd never missed a day before.
It seemed ridiculous to worry. He was probably just home sick. All the same, the first thing Miles did when he got home was blurt out, "Phoenix wasn't in school today."
It wasn't hard to see how much this distressed Miles. His father laid a hand on his shoulder and said quietly, "Wait here. Detective Xenia and I will go and check on your friend."
Frightened now, because the involvement of a detective implied that Phoenix was in serious trouble and not just sick, Miles nodded. He stayed very still as his father let go of his shoulder and moved past him. It wasn't until he heard the front door open and then click shut that he moved, going into his dad's office and sitting on the floor by the bookcase where he read through old case files. Most of the time, however, his eyes were glued to the clock.
Finally, at 7:42 that night, nearly four hours since his father had left, he heard the sound of the front door opening and hushed voices. Miles jumped up and crept cautiously to the office door, standing as unobtrusively as possible in the doorway.
His father and Detective Xenia stood just inside the door, talking quietly. Miles' heart skipped a beat when he saw his father was carrying Phoenix.
Phoenix had his head turned towards Gregory Edgeworth's chest and was drawing sharp, quick breaths like he was trying not to cry. One hand was clenched in Gregory's coat. Phoenix's other arm was in a sling.
Unsure what to make of this, Miles stayed where he was.
"Are you sure, Gregory?" Detective Xenia was saying in a low voice. "My partner and I would be happy to take him. We've been looking to adopt."
A strange jolt went through Miles at the word adopt.He forced himself not to react.
"I still think this is best," his father said firmly. "He's my son's best friend, you know. Miles has been very worried about him- if he hadn't been so concerned this could have gone on much longer." His voice dropped lower, became a whisper, and Miles strained to hear it. "This boy could have died." Then his father's voice was back to normal as he said warmly, "But if anything should happen to me, Detective, I expect you to make sure both these boys are looked after."
Xenia agreed to this with a smile before leaving. Once she was gone, Gregory strode into the house and laid Phoenix gently on the couch before calling, "Miles?"
Miles left the office and went to stand beside the couch. Gregory carefully disentangled Phoenix's hand from his coat and Miles tried not to stare as his friend turned away and closed his eyes and lay very still.
"Come with me," said his father and Miles followed him into the kitchen. Gregory started tea brewing, which was unusual for this time of night, and gazed at Miles as though considering. Miles gazed back, even though he was tense from the desire to go and check on Phoenix.
After a long moment his father sighed. "Miles... I've always been honest with you before, and I expect you'd know if I weren't honest now." He clasped his hands together. "You already know there are bad people out there. People who do bad things. They... hurt other people." Sometimes they kill other people, he did not add.
Miles nodded, uneasy now.
Gregory exhaled loudly. "Sometimes those bad people end up in positions they never should have been allowed. Phoenix," he explained carefully, "Ended up being taken care of by some very bad people. He was in foster care- you know what that is, right, Miles?" Miles nodded again. "Phoenix was in foster care and no one thought to do a background check on his foster parents. The people who were supposed to be taking care of your friend... were hurting him instead." He stopped again, almost long enough to make Miles think he was done, before adding softly, "Phoenix is very lucky to have you as a friend."
Miles didn't know what to say to that, so he didn't say anything.
After another long moment his father sighed again and got up. The tea was done, so he collected it on his way out of the kitchen, Miles trailing after him.
Gregory shook Phoenix's shoulder very
lightly to rouse him. Phoenix flinched and then scrambled unsteadily
to a sitting position, his eyes darting between Miles and Mr.
Edgeworth. He looked really lost, Miles realized, and he was
clutching his injured arm with his uninjured one.
"H-hi, M-M-Miles," Phoenix stammered. He didn't seem to want to look directly at anyone and settled for fixing his gaze on some distant point instead.
"Hi, Phoenix," Miles replied quietly, and at a nudge from his father, clambered up beside his friend on the couch. Gregory handed them each a mug of tea, left briefly to get another mug for himself, and returned to sit cross-legged on the floor across from the boys.
Phoenix was holding onto his mug very tightly with his one working hand. He was trembling very badly, though, and Miles set down his own mug so that he could reach over and steady Phoenix's.
"Thanks," Phoenix whispered, and with his friend's help he took a long gulp of tea. Miles helped him lower the mug, looking at him with concern, and Phoenix shied away again when Gregory chuckled. After a moment, though, Phoenix asked in that same scared whisper, "Can I stay here this weekend?"
"I rather hoped you would," Gregory said mildly, placing his hands on his knees, palms up. "In fact I've already called you both into school tomorrow." Miles scowled at this but didn't comment. "Since you've got Monday off that gives you a four-day weekend to settle in." He leaned forward earnestly- years in a courtroom had taught him that body language could speak volumes where words might not be believed. "You can stay as long as you like, Phoenix. That is, provided it's all right with Miles."
He tried to read the look on Phoenix's face as the boy's head swivelled to face Miles. Gratitude, terror, hope, pleading, and anxiety all flashed through the boy's eyes before Miles nodded sharply and for the first time that he could recall Gregory regretted his son's tendency to think deeply about every situation before making a decision. His hesitation had hurt his friend; that much was clear from the way Phoenix returned to clutching his arm and gazed at the floor. His eyes were beginning to look glittery, too, which wasn't surprising considering what his day had been like. Detective Xenia had gotten them access to the boy's home swiftly enough due to the ongoing investigation of his living situation and they'd ended up having to search a nearly empty house for him- they had eventually found Phoenix locked in the basement, trying to finish homework left-handed and nursing a broken arm. They'd had to take him to the hospital before returning here. He hadn't even encountered Phoenix's foster parents yet, which might have been a good thing because he wasn't sure he could have stopped himself hitting someone. Xenia had left a court summons and they'd both alleviated their anger by pulling some strings to ensure the man prosecuting the case would be Manfred von Karma.
"Miles," he said at last. "Take Phoenix up to the guest room, would you? Or if you would like," he added in a sudden burst of inspiration, "You could go and get the spare bedding from the closet and you two could have a sleepover down here. I can find some movies for you to watch."
Phoenix didn't reply to that in any way that Gregory understood. He did, however, look at Miles, and after a moment Miles translated, "He'd like that." Then he slid off the couch and went, presumably, to fetch pillows and blankets. Gregory got up himself and gathered movies for the boys- older Westerns and sci-fi, mainly, since despite Miles' love of courtroom dramas he suspected Phoenix would prefer something a little less... dusty. When he came back he was not surprised to see Phoenix and Miles huddled up together on the couch, a huge quilt draped over them both. Phoenix had a one-armed hug on a pillow and was curling into the arm of the couch; Miles sat close beside him and was whispering something. Gregory unobtrusively set the movies down and retreated from the room, seeing that the boys were now too wrapped up in each other to notice the roof falling down around their heads.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Miles whispered fiercely, eyebrows furrowing in distress.
Phoenix picked at the pillow he was holding, trying hard and failing to ignore the itching and faint pain in his immobilized arm. "I didn't- it wasn't- it wasn't your problem," he mumbled miserably. His voice was strained and harder to hear as he added, "Besides, it wasn't that bad."
At that, Miles drew himself up and glared at his friend, affronted. He regretted it when Phoenix shrank back and actually whimpered, and paused a long moment before saying sternly, "But it was that bad! Phoenix, they broke your arm!"
"It was an accident," Phoenix protested, but he didn't sound very certain anymore. He wouldn't look at Miles, either, which was more telling than he knew. "I mean I just- he was- I was just being diff...difficult, and he was...was... frust..trated, and it was an accident, I'm sure he didn't mean to-"
"Phoenix," Miles interrupted, and his friend stopped talking and finally looked at him. Miles stalled as he tried to think of what his father would do. If Phoenix was on the witness stand giving testimony, his father would be pressing him on anything that seemed unclear, right? "How were you being diffi...difficult?"
Phoenix mumbled something that he couldn't make out. When Miles eyed him suspiciously, he flinched again (and that wasn't normal, Miles was sure that wasn't normal) and repeated himself a little louder. "I didn't want to make dinner- I just wanted to go to bed. I didn't feel good," he added plaintively.
Gregory moved back into the room at that, startling both boys. "That's hardly your fault. Everyone gets sick sometimes."
"I don't," said Miles proudly. Gregory laughed and ruffled his son's hair fondly. Something sick stirred in his stomach at the undisguised longing on Phoenix's face as the boy's eyes tracked the movement. To alleviate it, he reached over and laid a hand on Phoenix's shoulder.
"My point is that you did nothing wrong," he said directly to Phoenix and was rewarded when the child's face lit up. "People get sick, Phoenix, and when I am sick I certainly don't make dinner. For one thing, that would make everyone who ate it sick, too, and then where would we be?" Phoenix smiled hesitantly at that. "There is no reason someone else couldn't have made dinner that night, or that they couldn't have ordered out." He was very aware that both boys (both his boys, now, as he was coming to realize more and more) were eagerly soaking up his words. He waited a moment longer, then released Phoenix's shoulder and bade them both goodnight.
When he returned to check on the boys in the morning, Miles was asleep propped up against the arm of the couch. Phoenix had migrated so that he was scrunched beside Miles and had one hand clenched in the other boy's shirt. Gregory smiled and let them be.
Phoenix settled in excruciatingly slowly. They spent the weekend arranging the guest room for him. Gregory asked him if he wanted to retrieve anything from his former home, but Phoenix had adamantly refused, so he took the two boys shopping instead. After some gentle urging, Phoenix began to shyly select things he would like. He didn't seem to want much- a bright blue bedspread, a wooden lamp with a horseshoe nailed to it (he'd lit up when Gregory explained that it was lucky), a poster or two. Anything that Miles expressed distaste for, Phoenix put back. This concerned Gregory but he figured it would pass.
In the second-to-last store they visited, Miles pulled Phoenix all the way to the back almost right away, which was odd for the usually solemn boy. Gregory followed the two at a more sedate pace and caught up just as Miles pulled something down from a shelf and pushed it into Phoenix's hands.
It was a beautifully detailed stuffed phoenix, and as he watched Miles demonstrated that it was a puppet. It was also thirty dollars, Gregory realized as he read the price. He looked at the boys- Phoenix was holding it tightly in the same one-handed grip he'd had on the pillow last night, and on Miles' shirt this morning, and Miles was smiling at his friend happily.
Gregory sighed and pulled out his wallet.
The guest room no longer looked like a guest room, but it also didn't look very lived in. He quickly discovered he was just as likely to find Phoenix asleep on Miles' floor as he was to find Phoenix asleep in his own bed. The stuffed phoenix (lovingly named Firebrand) followed him everywhere in the house and Gregory suspected him of sneaking it with him in his backpack to school some days.
Xenia's partner, Roc, was a therapist. Gregory made sure to get Phoenix regular appointments with her once a week. After every session, though, Phoenix always wanted to talk to Miles right away and the two would go straight up to Miles' room.
"It's not healthy," he told Xenia in frustration over lunch one day. "I don't mind them being close. It's nice that they're so close, it really is. But I don't think Phoenix ever talks to anyone but Miles anymore. He never does anything without Miles' approval, and he always goes along with Miles' ideas- I'm worried, Detective, and I don't know what to do. Separating them would be cruel, but it's not fair to Phoenix to let him become this... thisdependent on someone."
"I'll talk to Roc," Xenia promised. "We'll figure something out, all three of us will together."
"Thank you," Gregory said feelingly. He'd never known Xenia to break a promise.
As it turned out, though, this was one she wouldn't be able to keep.
They wouldn't know that yet, though. Christmas was coming up, and this was Phoenix's first Christmas with something like a real family and the Edgeworth's first Christmas since Phoenix had joined them. Miles' big present was in a few days- he'd wanted to go along with his father to court for longer than he could remember and in a few days he'd finally have his chance. Phoenix was coming, too, of course, because where Miles went Phoenix wanted to go too.
The best part of the holiday, Gregory reflected as he reclined in the armchair and watched the two boys curled up on the couch and surrounded by wrapping paper, was seeing the two's reactions to their gifts to each other. He was starting to doubt anything was going to replace Firebrand as far as Phoenix was concerned- even now, the stuffed bird's wings were slung loosely around his neck- but he did look very happy with Miles' gift of a new jacket (with a phoenix on the back, naturally) and Miles looked equally pleased with Phoenix's gift of Alfred Hitchcock's Solve-It-Yourself Mysteries. Phoenix had a ribbon in his hair from discarded wrapping paper and the only light in the room was from the Christmas tree. Gregory left to get them all some hot chocolate, stopping on his way out of the room to ruffle both boy's hair briefly. The ribbon fell from Phoenix's hair and landed on Miles instead.
Eventually, of course, it was time for them all to go to sleep for the night, and although he saw both boys shepherded into separate rooms when he came to check on them in the night Phoenix's room was empty again. From Miles' room came faint giggling and when he looked in, a flashlight lit the underside of the comforter and showed the shadowed forms of two boys with a book. Firebrand's tail trailed outside the blanket.
Gregory grinned and shut the door softly.
A few days later he stood in the Defense Lobby with the boys. He'd lost his case, but he'd gotten von Karma a penalty, and he told his boys quietly that that was a victory in itself. Phoenix grinned triumphantly at him and Miles smirked. Gregory sighed to himself a little when he saw the telltale signs of a hidden stuffed phoenix poking out from Phoenix's backpack but decided not to mention it. As they got on the elevator, however, he caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye of Miles picking up a trailing tail feather and raising an eyebrow at Phoenix. He tried not to grin at Phoenix's blush.
The elevator jarred to life just as the bailiff came jogging up, waving for them to hold the elevator. Gregory obligingly held the 'door open' button until the other man got in.
"Thanks," Yogi panted.
"You're welcome," Gregory replied amiably. "These old elevators take forever to come back down- I'd hate for you to miss it."
They'd only been in the elevator for a few moments, not even long enough for Phoenix to convince Miles to try jumping and seeing if he was weightless, when everything gave one tremendous shudder and then went still. Dark and still.
When the emergency lights clicked on seconds later, Gregory immediately checked for the boys. They were in the corner where'd they been tossed as the elevator shook, holding onto each other tightly and wide-eyed with fear.
"It's okay," Gregory said soothingly, waving Yanni off as the other man checked that no one was hurt. "The elevator's just stopped. I'm sure they'll fix it in no time."
Miles nodded hesitantly, slowly letting go of Phoenix. Phoenix didn't let go of him.
Gregory sat down against the wall beside the boys. Yanni did the same against the opposite wall. "So," Gregory offered, "We could use a way to pass the time. Any ideas?"
Phoenix had shifted slightly to try and rummage Firebrand out of his backpack, which was awkward because he was trying to do so one-handed and maintain a grip on Miles at the same time. Gregory reached over and lifted the bird free for him. Phoenix clutched it gratefully.
"Twenty Questions?" Yanni suggested wryly. "You play it often enough with the witnesses."
"They tend to force the issue," Gregory joked. "Miles, Phoenix? Do you want to play?"
"Yes," Miles said firmly. Phoenix nodded.
Twenty Questions did help pass the time, for a while. There was only so long a game could hold the attention of two nine-year-old boys though- and help still didn't seem to be coming. Gregory checked the emergency phone again as the two boys took a turn at Twenty Questions with Yanni.
"Is it.. is it animal, vegetable, or min- mineral?" Phoenix asked, enunciating the words carefully. He had never quite lost the stutter he'd arrived in the Edgeworth household with. Some nights, checking on them both, Gregory heard him in Miles' room just practicing speaking normally, and Miles would stop him periodically and have him repeat something until he could say it without stammering. It broke Gregory's heart to hear Phoenix trying so hard and made him even angrier with the boy's foster parents.
Gregory also checked the elevator's emergency exit on the ceiling, but it was jammed shut. He frowned at that and made a mental note to have maintenance check it out later.
Time slowed to a crawl. His watch said that they'd been waiting, in the dark cramped elevator, for longer than three hours. He was glad he'd yet to get either of the boys a watch. Time flowed considerably differently without one and the game had been keeping them occupied enough that they didn't realize just how long they'd all been trapped here.
Worse, Gregory realized as he glanced around the small space that Yogi was beginning to panic. That was bad. They'd remained calm this long, but admittedly, the elevator seemed smaller by the second. Miles and Phoenix, if anything, were taking up less space than they originally had; they were scrunched so close together that Firebrand's tail was squashed between them and Phoenix had slowly slid to rest his head on Miles' shoulder. His eyes were closed, and with a sudden feeling of foreboding Gregory really,really hoped Phoenix had merely fallen asleep.
As he watched Miles shake his friend- first very gently, because Phoenix still tended to jump at any unexpected physical contact, then more urgently- Gregory closed his eyes and reflected that of course it wouldn't be that simple.
"Phoenix?" Miles whispered, burying his head in his friend's shoulder a moment. "Phoenix?"
He looked up at his father, and the whites of his eyes were beginning to stand out, and before Gregory could reassure him that fool Yogi blurted out, "We're running out of air, aren't we?"
Gregory glared at him as his son's eyes grew impossibly wider before Miles looked down at his friend once more. He shook Phoenix ineffectively again and bit his lip.
Gregory wasn't sure what caused Yogi to suddenly lose his composure like that, but he whirled on the other man. "There's no need to jump to conclusions. I'm sure help is on the way."
Yogi lunged at him. He dodged to the side, keeping himself between the bailiff and the boys, and glanced at where Yogi's gun had fallen to the floor. "Yanni, be reasonable, would you? It'll be fine. Miles and Phoenix take care of each other and we'll be out of here in no time, then they- and we- can go back to our lives. This will just be an interesting story to tell later," he persuaded.
When he glanced again, the gun was gone.
The last sounds he heard were the sound of a gunshot, echoingly loud in the small space, and a defiant cry of "Stay away from my dad!"
When Phoenix woke up he was in the hospital. He wasn't sure how much time had passed. He didn't know where he was, or where the only man he'd trusted to take care of him was, or where Miles was, and no one told him anything. He tried to ask but for some reason his voice wouldn't cooperate. There were people in lab coats talking in hushed voices and it brought back things he didn't want to remember.
As soon as he was left alone, Phoenix got out of bed and made his way out of the room and down the hall, checking all the rooms until he found Miles. The other boy was asleep in a hospital bed in a private room and was small in the expanse of sheets. Phoenix climbed in next to him and curled up next to his friend, squeezing his eyes shut and huddling against him and wishing he had Firebrand with him.
The hospital tried to make them talk to a man they'd never seen before who dressed in suits all the time and smelled funny. He made Phoenix miss Roc. He explained to them both, slowly and carefully and as if they were four rather than nine, that Gregory was gone and he wasn't coming back. Phoenix didn't want to believe him. Miles didn't believe him, and he told Phoenix so every night after the hospital had gone dark and quiet and terrifyingly familiar.
The man talked to the nurses about something called PTSD, and about aphonia, and oxygen deprivation, and neurogenic voice disorders, and the words washed over Phoenix and Miles and still no one told them much of anything. Except that Gregory was dead, and that, they didn't want to believe.
Phoenix saw Detective Xenia in the lobby one day and ran to greet her. She stooped down and enveloped him in a hug immediately, and he closed his eyes and held tight to her coat as she said softly, "I'm sorry, Phoenix. Roc and I have been trying to pull some strings but the state won't let us take you and Miles in. The law won't allow us to adopt you right now... I'm so, so sorry, Nick."
He screwed his eyes shut tighter at the use of the nickname and wished he and Miles could leave with Xenia. He wanted to ask if she could at least get them out of the hospital for a little while, but he still couldn't get words when he tried to speak, so he wound up just gulping air.
Detective Xenia hugged him a little longer, then gently disentangled herself and stood up with one last pat on his head. "You cannot know how sorry I am," she murmured, and then she left.
Phoenix went to find Miles again.
While Phoenix had tentatively started to roam the hospital as time passed, and was indulged fairly often by kindly nurses and doctors who urged him away from anywhere he shouldn't be, Miles spent most of the time in their room staring at the window. The hospital staff had long since given up keeping them in separate rooms since Phoenix always found his way into Miles' room anyway.
He climbed up on the bed beside Miles and sat beside him, waiting for the hospital to go dark and silent again. It was almost late enough for the children's ward to be closed.
When it was dark Miles would talk to him. Phoenix waited patiently.
Sure enough, after the nurse came along and shut the door gently, Miles stirred and looked at him. He didn't say anything at first. He studied Phoenix for a long moment.
Then he finally broke the silence with, "The doctors say you can't ever talk now."
Phoenix made a quick what do they know gesture with his hands. Miles didn't look away from him but he wrapped his arms around himself and said quietly, "They said you got really hurt when we were..when we were running out of air. They said your brain got hurt, somehow, 'cause of it, and now you can't talk." Now he looked away and Phoenix reached out and grabbed his arm to make him look at him again.
He shook his head and gave Miles a look that said, challengingly,So what if I can't?
"I'm sorry," Miles mumbled. It wasn't clear if he meant it to be an apology to Phoenix or an apology in a broader sense.
You understand me,said the look Phoenix gave him. It was true that they'd always been good at communicating between themselves without words. That's enough.
And for a while, it was.
The hospital didn't release them because there was no one to release them to. Miles didn't know how long they'd been there anymore- months, he thought. It felt like years.
Then one day he was told they were being taken away from the hospital. He didn't know how he felt about this. If he left the hospital, then everything that had happened was more real, and his father really wasn't coming back. He wanted to leave but he wanted to leave with his dad and Phoenix. He thought he could have been okay with leaving with Detective Xenia though.
It was Prosecutor von Karma who'd come to get him. It was Prosecutor von Karma who was taking him away to Germany, who explained in hard-sounding tones that his father was dead and his father's killer was free due to a defense attorney. Worse, it was Prosecutor von Karma who had come for only him, and Miles was adamant in his refusal to leave without Phoenix.
von Karma didn't want to take Phoenix with him, only Miles, but Miles' refusal prompted him to obtain Phoenix's medical records and something he saw there made him agree to take both boys. They had enough time to gather anything they really wanted to take with them- Detective Xenia came to see them off along with Roc, and the two women brought Firebrand with them. Phoenix held onto it gratefully as they left the hospital at last.
Only a few days later they were in Germany for the first time.
"I only prepared one room," Prosecutor von Karma said stiffly, showing them into the huge house and to their new room. "I did not expect to require more than that." His voice was nothing like Gregory's. It was cold and calculating and precise, as though he did not want to waste a single word.
"We can share," Miles said quietly. Beside him, Phoenix nodded.
"We can share, sir," Prosecutor von Karma corrected him.
"...Sir," he repeated, even quieter than before. Manfred von Karma seemed satisfied with that and not at all concerned that Phoenix did not address him. Of course, he'd seen his medical files, he would know that Phoenix couldn't talk.
"Dinner is at seven, in two hours. You will take that time to settle in and then I will introduce you to my daughters and your place in this family will be explained." Manfred said this in a tone that brooked no argument. Miles nodded slowly and Phoenix tried to melt into the wall at Manfred's tone, trying not to tremble.
Manfred left them then, closing the bedroom door behind himself. Miles' eyes widened slightly when he heard a bolt shoot home. Checking the door confirmed that the prosecutor had, in fact, locked them in. He hoped Phoenix hadn't noticed.
When he turned around he saw Phoenix was inspecting the room. There was only one bed, of course, but they were used to that with as often as Phoenix snuck into his bed anyway. There was only one bed, and there was a small nightstand-cum-bookshelf next to it with a very plain lamp on it beside the bed, and an elaborate-looking wooden desk against one wall with an equally elaborate chair beside it. That was all in the way of actual furniture, although there was also a large rug on the hardwood floor and a landscape painting above the bed. There was an extra comforter on the floor, too, but Miles saw no reason they couldn't both sleep on the bed. Both the bed and the room, while small for the house, were huge compared to what he was used to.
Phoenix set Firebrand gently on the bed. Miles had seen Manfred looking at it with disdain, and he told Phoenix softly as they sat on the bed together, "You shouldn't carry him with you here. He might... Something might happen to him."
Phoenix nodded and they sat in silence until a servant came to unlock the door and lead them down to dinner.
Dinner itself was lengthy, silent, and strained. Manfred sat at the head of the table, of course, and Miles and Phoenix sat along one side while two girls who had to be the daughters he had mentioned before sat on the other side. There was no speech unless it was to ask that a dish be passed. Miles didn't recognise most of the dishes, and he was sure Phoenix didn't either, but he didn't want to incur Manfred's wrath by asking so he stayed silent.
When they had finished and the plates were cleared away, Manfred cleared his throat and became the immediate focus of attention of everyone at the table. "Miles Edgeworth and Phoenix Wright. These girls here are my daughters, Franziska von Karma and Hildred von Karma. You will show them respect at all times." He transferred his gaze to his daughters. The younger, Franziska, was very young indeed and Miles wondered at the hard tone her father used with her despite her age. "Franziska. Hildred. Miles Edgeworth and Phoenix Wright will be staying with us now, as Herr Edgeworth has passed on."
Miles flinched, almost imperceptibly, but he saw Hildred's gaze sharpen on him all the same. Manfred continued. "Since you, Hildred, have proven to be a disgrace to the name von Karma and the position of prosecutor, young Miles will have to take your place as my protegé. He, and Franziska, will carry on the name where you have failed." He didn't say anything about Phoenix, and Miles didn't know how to ask. Hildred saved him the trouble by asking for him.
"And the other boy?" She asked. Her voice was full of cool disdain as well, but it managed to sound more human than her father. "Phoenix Wright? What...plans do you have for him?"
It was not quite a sneer, and Manfred narrowed his eyes at her before replying dismissively, "He is a mute. Useless as a prosecutor. However, I suspect he can still be trained as a legal aide, and that is what will have to be done with him."
Phoenix looked up sharply but clenched his jaw shut. He had stopped trying to talk while they were still in the hospital, unless it was late and Miles wanted him to try, because he knew it wouldn't work.
Miles swallowed hard and said very faintly, eyes glued to the tablecloth, "But I wanted to be a defense attorney. Like... like my dad."
The elder von Karma daughter's glare grew sharper at this.
"That is a foolish profession," Manfred von Karma snapped, glaring angrily not at Miles but at Phoenix as if this were somehow his fault. Phoenix shrank in his seat. "Or have you forgotten, boy? It was a defense attorney without morals who let your father's killer go free."
Miles flinched and didn't protest any more. Nothing more was said on the subject.
It was hard to adjust to living in the von Karma household when it was so vastly different from the Edgeworth household. Manfred ran everything on a strict schedule and demanded that Miles address him as Sir. (Gregory had told Phoenix to call him by his first name, or Dad if he felt comfortable enough with it, after only two days.) He insisted that everyone in the house be awake by five and downstairs and dressed for breakfast at six. Between breakfast and lunch there were a series of tutors for Miles and Franziska while Manfred left for work. Phoenix sat with them during tutoring, but the tutors, much like Manfred himself, ignored him. Lunch was small and at precisely noon every day. Then there were more tutors until three, and from three until seven Miles and Franziska were expected to study on their own. The bookcase in Miles and Phoenix's room had been filled with books on law almost immediately. Dinner was at seven and after dinner Manfred would quiz them on legal matters. Getting a question right was expected and carried with it no form of praise.
Getting a question wrong meant something different for each of them. Franziska he would slap- gently, hard enough to sting but not hard enough to leave a mark, but it was a slap all the same. Miles he never laid a hand on. If Miles answered a question wrong, Manfred hit Phoenix, and he hit him considerably harder than he did Franziska. He insisted that it was nothing more than a slap on the wrist and that Phoenix could handle it at his age.
Miles tried very hard not to get any questions wrong.
Years passed, and very little changed. von Karma continued with his strict schedule. Bedroom doors were still locked after nine in the evening and not unlocked until four-thirty the next morning. There were no summer vacations because they didn't attend any conventional school. There were no vacations, period. Hildred moved out as soon as she was legally and financially able and it became rare to hear from her after that.
When Franziska was six she learned to pick locks from Phoenix, who had figured it out a few years earlier. After that she often snuck into the boy's room at night so that they could study together. Phoenix wasn't quizzed the way the other two were and wasn't expected to ever be anything more than Miles' legal aid, but he studied as hard as they did anyway. He was determined to be the best help to them that he could. Manfred continued to ignore him completely unless he was punishing Miles.
There was something horribly wrong with that, and Miles knew it, but he couldn't do anything about it. If he brought it up with Prosecutor von Karma that would mean he was talking back and that in turn would mean Phoenix would get hurt. He couldn't let that happen. He and Phoenix were supposed to look after each other. His dad had said so.
When they were fourteen Manfred discovered them still sharing a bed. He was furious. After a lengthy and furious diatribe delivered in a calm voice that was somehow worse than yelling, it was determined that Phoenix would sleep on the floor from now on. Manfred or a servant came in to check several times a night and make sure Phoenix slept on the floor. This had the effect of cutting everyone's studying time since Franziska could hardly be caught going over law books late at night with her 'little brothers.' (Miles was unsure where she had picked up this notion, but didn't have the heart to dissuade her from it.)
Even holidays were strictly structured. Christmas morning they were expected to be assembled and in front of the tree at exactly six-thirty a.m. (it was the one morning a year sleeping in was allowed). Franziska and Miles each received one gift- it was never anything but another textbook on law and they could expect to be quizzed on it that evening. Phoenix only received a gift twice. Their first Christmas there, Manfred gave him a black leather choker. It made Miles uncomfortable to see Phoenix wear it. Not wearing it made Manfred angry though, and Manfred's anger was worse than Miles' unhappiness, so he wore it.
The only other time Phoenix got a gift was when they were fifteen, a year after Manfred had demanded Phoenix sleep on the floor. Hildred came to visit and gave him a book on American Sign Language when Manfred wasn't looking. The boys hid it at the back of their bookshelf and Phoenix and Miles practiced signing every night after the doors were locked. By that time it was much less common for anyone to burst in on them, and the servants never reported anything anymore anyway.
At eighteen, Manfred brought them both back to Los Angeles where they shared an apartment for two years while Miles attended lectures at the university and studied for his bar exam. Franziska stayed with them the first week they were there while Manfred returned to Germany. It was the first time in years any of the three of them had the freedom to do as they wished, and they responded predictably to this, staying up at all hours of the night and indulging in straying off a strict schedule.
After only two days of this frivolity, however, Franziska threw down her whip in disgust one night at dinner and said flatly, "This is foolish. We should be studying."
"We study every night, Franziska," Miles said, staring at his dinner. German dishes had become much more appealing since they'd realised none of the three of them knew how to cook. Microwavable macaroni looked less appealing by the second. "We always study every night. One short break... It won't hurt anything." Phoenix nodded tiredly.
Despite this assertion, guilt drove the three back to their books in the early hours of the morning. The sun rose to find them all very much awake and sprawled across the floor of the living room with books and papers and case files spread all around them.
Franziska was reluctant to leave at the end of the week and they spent an inordinate amount of time in the Departure Lounge of the airport as a result. "I will come back," she said at last. "I will come back, and I will prove that I am just as good at law as you are, Miles Edgeworth."
"I'm sure you will," Miles said after a long moment, and then there didn't seem to be anything else to say.
A month later Firebrand arrived in the post. Franziska had successfully smuggled the much-loved and battered bird to them, along with Phoenix's book on sign language.
The years before the bar exam passed even quicker than the ones in the von Karma house. Miles continued to study every night, as did Phoenix, and Phoenix made a point of learning how to cook so that they weren't dependent on take-out. It was a blessing to study law alone and undisturbed in the States, where there was no imminent danger in breaking to practice signing to each other again, but habits were hard to break and life fell into a strict schedule once again.
Franziska passed the bar exam at the same time they did despite the age gap. Miles suspected her of grimly pushing herself to pass it just to prove she could surpass her little brother- both her little brothers, really, since Phoenix insisted on taking it as well. He couldn't actually prosecute, and Manfred had drilled it into his head over the years that he was to be Miles' legal aide and that was absolutely the end of the matter, but nonetheless he passed the exam out of a burning desire to prove that he could.
One day Miles came to collect Phoenix from the courthouse library after having studied the court proceedings in a current case extensively and found his friend wearing a new necklace over his choker and beaming. I met a girl, he signed, and Miles tried very hard to ignore the sudden sensation of his heart splitting in his chest.
He was happy for Phoenix. As trite as it sounded, he truly was. Manfred had at least paid attention to Franziska and himself- Wright had onlyhad Franziska and himself for these many long years. It was extremely disconcerting, though, to see Phoenix so eagerly tripping over his own feet for someone.
Someone other than you,whispered a sneaky voice deep in his subconscious, and Miles tried hard to ignore it. He had done nothing but try and protect Phoenix since they were children. It was only natural for him to worry over his friend. He was acutely aware that Phoenix was unhealthily dependent on him and he suspected von Karma's treatment of him over the years had been designed to foster that dependence. He still didn't know how he could possibly have fought Manfred's manipulations, though.
He did not trust this Dahlia Hawthorne at all.
Phoenix signed to him eagerly when they were home at night, and sometimes even when they were in the office during the day, about just how wonderful she was- She's gorgeous, she's sweet, she made me this sweater, she can even cook Miles- and he did his best to ignore the surge of unease he felt and listen to his friend go on about his newfound girlfriend.
What he saw and what Phoenix told him did not seem to match up. To him, Dahlia- who he would not call Dollie, no matter how much Phoenix wheedled him, and he was rather glad the girl did not know sign language and so did not know of this embarrassing nickname- was demanding, rude, and entirely too willing to step on Phoenix's feelings in favour of her own.
Dahlia came over for dinner at least once a week. Despite how excited Phoenix had been about her ability to cook, said ability having become a marvel for him and Miles since moving back to the States, it was always Phoenix who cooked on those nights. One evening, as Miles sat in the living room making small talk with her while Phoenix made a distressing amount of noise in the kitchen (they didn't own a television), Dahlia cut him off in the middle of a sentence. Smiling that small smile that had always disturbed him in a way he couldn't place, she murmured huskily, "Feenie is so eager to please, isn't he? He would be so very attractive with a leash to clip to that collar of his. I'm thinking of getting him one myself."
Miles kicked her out.
He told Phoenix something unexpected had come up and she had had to leave. He could see in his friend's eyes that Phoenix didn't believe him, but Phoenix merely looked disappointed before setting down dinner and didn't ask.
Miles wished he had asked.
Later, when Phoenix was arrested on suspicion of murder and Dahlia was all smiles and sympathy, he wished he'd been wrong.
Guardian: Reviews make me a happy author, and happy authors write more! There's plenty more of this to come.