Miles Edgeworth slept.

It begins as it always does. Dark. Empty. He cannot breathe. He is choking. He is going to die.

As it always does, it begins, dark and empty. He is dying. He cannot breathe. He is going to choke.

Dark and empty it begins, always dying, choking, he cannot not breathe.

Always dark and empty. Cannot breathe. Choke. Die.

Always.

Watch out.

Miles Edgeworth dreamed.

Something cold and hard is in his hand. Violent. He picked it up. No. It was put there. It makes him lift his hand, even though he doesn't want to. He tries to tell it no but then the cold thing is gone. Something warmer and soft and slick winds its way around his fingers now.

A snake.

But no.

His hand is the snake.

But no.

The snake is he. Huge and scales and fangs for a teeth. A snake.

He can see in the dark. He sees a man. His father.

Father-man can see him, too. Father-man looks at him, eyes of fear.

You now, snake. Keep your fangs away from me.

He goes to bite, he drips with poison. He is snake. Snakes bite. His mouth is open.

Miles Edgeworth stirred.

But wait.

If cowering father-man is a man, how is it that father-man is his father and he a snake?

There is a laugh.

He twists towards the source. He sees the man who made him snake. Who had the gun and gave him scales and put the poison in his mouth. He slides away from father-man and pushes his head into the hand of snake-maker. Snake-maker whispers in the snake tongue, angry and twisted he speaks.

Dummer verlorener Junge... Bei├čen Sie sie alle!

Father-man stares. He does not know snake tongue.

Then snake-maker has him. Snake-maker wraps a hand around his neck.

Miles Edgeworth continued to dream.

Snake-maker made him snake to kill him with a squeeze. He knows that now. He bites the hand. He screams murderer with his powerful lungs. He pushes the man away as he falters. He draws himself to his full height. Bends down. Picks up his glasses, the satisfying thick black rims weighing on his face.

He turns and finds a mirror. Leans over the bathroom sink and looks at himself. Pats himself all over, makes sure that he is fine.

Miles Edgeworth stirred again.

No wait. This is not right. Too many years on the face. The glasses are all wrong.

He can see movement behind him in the mirror. There are faces, indistinct and blurred. They move slowly towards him, the bodies that have those faces.

He is shaking as he turns toward them. He grips the sink in front of the mirror unable to stand on his own. He sees the NL-9 boy and he recognizes them now, each and every one.

The snake ate them all. His son the snake.

No.

He removes the glasses; they make it so he cannot see. The glasses shatter in his hand.

He remembers.

He is not the father. He is the snake.

He killed them all.

O O O

Miles woke up with a gasp. It was a painfully sharp intake of breath, yet still quiet and inaudible. He grasped the sheets with white knuckles. It was the waking of a man trained by endless years of nightmares.

His eyes ran wildly over the room while his body remained stiff and motionless. Where was he? Somewhere unfamiliar. Somewhere pleasant.

Phoenix's room.

Phoenix.

In an instant, he was aware of the warm body lying next to him.

Slowly coming to his senses, Miles carefully raised himself up so that leaning on one arm he could look down on the man next to him.

Phoenix was not the most attractive figure while asleep. He lay on his stomach, sprawled over the bed, one foot sticking out from underneath the covers. His mouth lay half open and slack while his hair was wild around his face, strands falling and sticking out at odd angles.

Miles couldn't take his eyes off him.

He'd never made love to someone he'd really cared about before, at least not so much. The emotional aftershocks of it were almost frightening to him, his feelings doubling and redoubling, washing over him and threatening to tear him apart, just from watching one awkwardly placed man sleep.

Tentatively, Miles reached out a hand to stroke his cheek.

A memory of the snake's fangs flashed through his head before he could make contact.

Miles recoiled, pulling his fingers back in response.

His stomach clenched involuntarily and he stared at his fingertips the images of his dream coming back to him in full force now. His father. The snake. Von Karma. The people in the mirror.

His eyes drifted back to Phoenix. He looked boyishly content while he slept.

Miles shut his eyes, wishing silently that nothing would ever erase that look while he slept. There had been enough in that man's life already, he thought, remembering the way the name of his former boss had floated off of Phoenix's lips in a something that had sounded like an incredibly private admission before he slept.

Sitting up completely, he climbed out of bed as gently as possible, doing his best not to wake the sleeping brunette. Finding his underwear and pants on the floor he pulled them on, then wandered out into the rest of the apartment to find his shirt.

The shirt was found on the floor next to the couch where Phoenix had unceremoniously dropped it the evening before. He picked it up and slid into the sleeves, not bothering to button it, just glad to be shielded from the pre-dawn chill. Then he sank into the couch in a miserable heap.

One of the oddities of his relationship with Phoenix was that he knew so much more about the man than he ever alluded to. Whether this was understood and implicit or was simply something Miles believed, he didn't know. But Miles had repeatedly read years of letters and confessions. And he had been the prosecutor in the Fawles trial. Between the two he had an idea of what had happened with Dahlia Hawthorne. And he knew about Mia. He'd not only run into her professionally but also prosecuted Maya for her murder, after all. These female disasters twisted themselves around Phoenix's life and neither one of them hardly breathed a word about them.

Not that Miles was a great candidate to talk about those sorts of things with, he reminded himself. He wasn't exactly the sort of person people gave emotional confessions to and for the most part, that was just fine.

He ran one of his hands over the couch cushion next to him and scratched vaguely at a particularly worn spot.

One of these days Phoenix would need someone to talk to and it couldn't be him. He was too much of a mess to even help himself.

Hell, he hadn't even told Phoenix he was leaving.

You're such a coward, Edgeworth, he told himself.

I just wanted this one thing, he responded. One happy night.

Do you really think you deserve that?

He heard a rustle from the adjacent room and Phoenix turned over in his sleep. In that moment, he had an overwhelming urge to forget all about his nightmare and his contemplations. He wanted to throw himself back in that warm bed, wrap his arms around Phoenix and bury his face in the man's shoulder.

He didn't move.

He could stay. Cancel the sabbatical. He didn't have to leave.

His entire body tensed at the thought and his nails scraped the couch as his hands clenched into fists. He winced as his damaged hand ached in response.

How selfish was he, really. If he stayed, the Bar and the DA's office would continue to pressure him and they'd have a reason to pressure Phoenix, too. If he stayed, there would still be a scared teenage girl all alone in Germany, even if she could admit to none of those things. And if he stayed what did Phoenix get out of it? He was would be stuck with a broken, corrupt, wreck of a human being, needily grabbing on to him for affection and attention to soothe ills that deserved no salve, only contempt.

Miles let his arms rest on his knees and hung his head.

Somewhere inside of him were the pieces of a good man but he had no idea where to find them all or how to put them back together in anything resembling sense.

Phoenix turned again in bed and Miles looked up in the direction of his bedroom.

One word, one look from that man in there and he would never be able to leave. Never be able to stay away.

Maybe it was illogical or strange or destructive but it had become the truth.

He stared at his hand, the knuckles properly bruised now and purple.

He was going mad here. He was breaking down, drinking alone, succumbing to nightmares, behaving violently.

He had to leave and he had to break things off completely.

He was shaking as he buttoned his shirt and found his socks and coat.

A brief search turned up a pen and a piece of paper and he scrawled out a note for Phoenix. He stared at the text and frowned, then added another line underneath the signature, hoping Phoenix would realize it was true.

Like a child's toy being guided by remote, he walked out of the apartment as though he had no control of himself and shut the door without a backward glance.

O O O

Every muscle he had seemed to be sore. It wasn't an unpleasant soreness nor an unwelcome one, though; just proof that some of those muscles hadn't been used in far too long. Phoenix stretched his arms and legs, feeling vaguely cat like as he twisted, breathing deeply trying to work out some of the aches in his back.

The sheets smelled like Miles Edgeworth and sex. It was a delightful smell to wake up to.

He snaked a hand out under the covers to find the man in question. He frowned. He opened his eyes. No one there.

Still murky in his half-awake head, Phoenix climbed out of bed and pulled on the pair of boxer shorts he'd cast off the night before. Then he stumbled into the living room, half expecting that Miles would be sitting on the couch ready to sarcastically berate him for sleeping in so late or for hogging the sheets, or something completely unrelated.

There was no Miles on the couch.

Phoenix frowned again and padded into the kitchen.

There was no Miles in the kitchen either, but there was a note prominently stuck to the refrigerator. Barely repressing a yawn, he grabbed the piece of paper and read its contents.

Dear Phoenix,

Please accept my apologies at having left so early. I needed to get into work early this morning and I didn't have the heart to wake you.

yours,

Miles

P.S. To me, you are beautiful.

Phoenix smiled as he read it. Then he read it again and smiled even more broadly.

He might have been upset or felt hurt but it was all very typical Miles Edgeworth, right down to the exceedingly careful handwriting. Besides, he couldn't expect most people to still be around at... He glanced at the clock. Nine-thirty. Holy hell, he had slept in.

But the line at the end, that proved it happened.

At least he said it in English this time.

Phoenix allowed himself to read the note a few more times before glancing at the clock again and admitting to himself that he needed to get to work soon or risk being in trouble; even if he was his own boss.

Phoenix knew he was grinning like an idiot when he got into the shower that morning. He knew he sounded like one when he allowed himself a single loud "Wahoo" over the loud rush of the shower jets. And he knew was still looking for all the world like a happy fool when he adjusted his tie in the mirror on his closet door.

But today of all days, he didn't really care.

He didn't care about a lot of things that morning. He didn't care about the sprawled out teenagers taking up two seats each on the bus or the woman's children who wouldn't be quiet for just one moment. He didn't care that the day seemed overcast and was still too chilly for his Southern Californian taste. He wasn't even bothered when he arrived at his office and he noticed that the slip for the rent had been slipped through the door.

For once, the world wasn't conspiring against him. For once, he got to be the happy man.

The only reason he was able to get any work done at all that morning was because at a half past ten o'clock he promised himself that he could go surprise Miles at work and take him to lunch. The next two hours flew by in a flurry of paperwork, a short meeting with a client, and an admittedly extremely unprofessional amount of daydreaming. At a half past twelve exactly, he gave up all pretense and attempts at lawyering, shut down his computer, grabbed his jacket, and all but ran to the bus stop.

On the bus for the second time that day, this time heading towards the prosecutors' offices, he noted to himself that he was a little too giddy and high-strung even his own comfort. He ordered himself to calm down and took several deep breaths, imagining the berating he'd get from Miles for acting like such an excitable puppy.

That didn't stop his feet, though, and the sound of the clipped pattering of the heels of his black dress shoes tapping on the floor of the bus followed him all the way to his stop.

Once inside the prosecutors' office, he smiled at all the various clerks and secretaries as he walked by them, filled to the brim with that particularly insufferable type of good will that comes only from A Man Having a Very Good Day. Few people smiled in return however and there was a grim sort of air to the place. He wondered briefly if he was committing some enormous faux pas by being there that day but he brushed the thought aside as illogical, considering that he'd shown up at Miles office without a moment's notice before.

There had probably been some sort of office upset or someone was going to be fired. Those were always bad days, he reasoned.

When he reached Miles' office, the secretary who usually sat at the desk in front was missing and there was an odd hush about the place. Detective Gumshoe stood in front of the open office door and he spoke quickly and nervously to three other officers, asking for reports and giving stuttered orders.

Phoenix's heart skipped a beat in a moment of paranoia.

But this was the prosecutors' office, after all. It was perfectly normal for the police to be around.

"Uh, sorry to bother you Detective Gumshoe but I was looking for Mr. Edgeworth..."

Gumshoe turned to face him and Phoenix was immediately stopped by the look on his face. He seemed grey and upset, his eyes dull as they glanced at Phoenix and then at the floor.

"He's not here, pal."

"What do you mean? Did he go to get lunch?" Phoenix was feeling genuinely worried at this point. The familiar pal was there but where was the usually upbeat investigator?

"No see... Man, I don't know how to tell you this..."

"Tell me what?" Phoenix knew his voice had an edge in it now but he didn't care. He was rapidly becoming genuinely frightened that something had happened to Miles and he wanted that fear gone immediately.

"You might want to sit down, pal." Gumshoe gestured towards the secretary's chair. "You were a friend of his and all..." Phoenix ignored the offer.

"Please, tell me now."

"We think..." Gumshoe licked his lips and looked at the floor again. "We think he's dead."

Phoenix said nothing. The world swam and stopped moving and swam again.

"How? What?" He leaned on the secretary's desk while he spoke.

"We haven't found a body yet but... well, there was a suicide note on his desk this morning. And he seems to have disappeared."

No. It wasn't possible. The facts didn't work. Just a few hours ago, he'd been in Phoenix's bed. Just a few hours ago, he'd been kissing Phoenix. Making jokes about German boarding school. He'd been warm... He'd been alive... He'd been...

"Let me see it."

"See what?"

"The note. Let me see it."

"I don't think I can do that, pal."

"Let me see it."

Gumshoe shook his head apologetically. "It's evidence. And until we finish the investigation..."

"Let me see it!" Phoenix howled, his voice bouncing off the office walls and pushing out every other sound.

"Calm down, pal. Just... calm down." Phoenix vaguely registered that Gumshoe seemed distressed now and that perhaps he shouldn't have just done that. Yet the part of his mind that might have cared was so far away and telling him this all wasn't real, this all couldn't possibly be happening...

"Here. Just be careful, okay."

There was a piece of paper being placed in his hands. Phoenix looked down at it.

The handwriting was Miles'.

It was the same deliberate script left on his refrigerator that morning.

Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth chooses death.

The same handwriting that had said he was beautiful.

Oh God. No.

Gumshoe was guiding him into the secretary's chair as his legs had obviously stopped working. His mouth was moving so he might have been saying the mantra aloud or even, for all he knew, saying something else.

Oh God. No. Oh God. No.

Phoenix was never sure exactly how long he sat in the secretary's abandoned chair. Long enough to collect himself while Gumshoe explained to a bewildered police officer that he and Edgeworth had known each other. Long enough to drink the glass of water that was shoved into his hand and to gather himself enough to thank the person who brought it.

Long enough to know he wasn't going to wake up.

Once he'd gathered himself sufficiently, he apologized to Gumshoe and the other officers for his outburst and thanked them all for their help.

Gumshoe just shook his head again and mumbled "this day..." Then the detective placed a hand on his shoulder before he left, just a little too long, squeezing just a little too hard, and Phoenix had patted his hand dumbly.

"If you find anything..." Phoenix said.

"Don't worry. We'll let you know."

"Thanks."

Phoenix did not go back to the office that day. The idea of work was an unthinkable impossibility. Instead, he went home and changed out of his suit then walked numbly back to the living room with no idea of what to do after. At some point, he noticed the unopened copy of Aida sitting on the coffee table. He tore the plastic off the case and put the disc in the stereo.

For over two and a half hours he sat completely still, just letting the music play. He neither rose nor moved nor even thought until at the very last the princess died in her lover's arms, while above, Amneris, the one left behind, cried and cried.

It was beautiful, just like he'd said.

And when the last note sounded Phoenix realized there were tears falling down his cheeks.

He felt himself crying then. First soft weeping and then wracking sobs and finally painful inhales, his lungs clawing for air between the moans, violent and uncontrollable. When the worst of it was over, he lay out on the sofa and buried his face in the back of the cushions and even though he could breathe again, the tears continued to come. And then everything faded to nothing.

When he woke, the sun had set. Something had set in Phoenix, as well and he stood up, achingly silent inside himself and feeling purposeful in his actions.

First, he went into the bedroom and stripped the bed of all its sheets. He tossed the old ones on the closet floor, not even thinking of where they should go, and made the bed up again with fresh ones.

Then he walked into the living room and calmly took the copy of Aida out of the CD player and broke the disc into halves and then into quarters. He attempted the same with the case but when the thicker plastic proved difficult he settled for breaking it into as many pieces as would neatly break.

Finally, he retrieved the note from the kitchen. This he ripped into implausibly small pieces, each one smaller than confetti. It was a delicate time consuming task but he focused on nothing else until the last scrap of paper fell from his hands.

The coffee table was covered in a mess of paper and plastic. He found a wastebasket and carefully swept it all into the trash.

Feeling excruciatingly tired, if he felt anything at all, he changed for bed and buried himself whole under the covers.

The faintest scent of Miles Edgeworth was still left on the pillows. He didn't move, didn't even deeply breath. Soundless tears rolled off his cheeks until Phoenix fell asleep.

It was the last time he would cry for the death of Miles Edgeworth.

But it would be more than a year before he could even bear to hear someone speak his name.

O O O

Deep in the silent inner room
Every fiber of my soft heart
Turns to a thousand strands of sorrow.
I loved the Spring.
But the Spring is gone.
As rain hastens the falling petals,
I lean on the balustrade,
Moving from one end to the other.
My emotions are still disordered.
Where is he?
Withered grass stretches to the horizon
And hides from sight
Any road by which he might return.

- Li Ch'ing-chao
- trans. Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung