A/N: Holy Batman, after over a month, we're finally here. I hope this ending is not made of too much suck.
Phoenix, Part 10
"I wanted to protect you" is the first thing he hears.
The next sound that comes to him is that of a drawer opening as Edgeworth reaches in and pulls something out. A picture frame.
He sees what's inside. "You kept that? And framed it?" he asks, and his heart swells a little more. Everything bad he's felt toward Edgeworth, all the pain and hurt and bitterness—he feels it dissipating with each passing second. But he cannot let his guard down completely, not until he knows Miles really means it, not until he knows this isn't some elaborate ruse. "It was just a sketch."
The other man looks at him over his glasses. "You drew me. Of course I kept it. There's more in here than just that, though." He dissembles the frame and extracts from it three folded pieces of paper, then spreads them out across his desk. Phoenix moves his chair closer to see. "I received these after we… ah, began dating. Staggered over a period of several months. They… were from von Karma."
Phoenix's eyebrows furrow as he tries to remember. "That case was over seven years ago."
"Well, he's one to hold a grudge," Edgeworth says. "Especially against the man who put him in jail. I know how he thinks. And so… when I saw these, I knew what he was going to do. And then I knew what I had to do."
He continues to explain von Karma's reasoning and his own convoluted plan—including how Phoenix's appearance that night three years ago had nearly ruined everything, how he had to come up with something devastating to tell him so that he would not be followed.
And so the pieces click into place; everything begins to make a twisted kind of sense. Relief washes over Phoenix as he comes to the realization that he's been right all along—Miles had had a reason for doing all this. But one thing sticks out like a sore thumb.
"Why," he asks slowly when Edgeworth is done, "didn't you just tell me?"
The other frowns. "Isn't it obvious? I couldn't ask you to do what I did. I couldn't ask you to leave everything behind."
Phoenix lets out a bark of laughter. God, it's so typical of him to underestimate other people, and somehow it's infinitely amusing. "Miles, can't you see? I did all that anyway."
Edgeworth stares at him—and then, to Phoenix's surprise, he begins to tremble. "Forgive me," he whispers.
And he realizes that Miles has suffered as much as he has.
In a flash, Phoenix is by his side, holding the other man as he shivers violently. "It's okay," he soothes, stroking the other's silver hair. "It's going to be fine. I found you. We're together."
His slate-gray eyes are wide as they stare straight ahead. "I ruined your life."
"You were trying to save me. And it worked. I'm still here, aren't I?"
"Miles," he snaps, grabbing the other's face and turning it to face his own, "none of that matters. You did what you thought you had to do. And in the end, everything turned out alright. You're safe. I'm safe."
But he's still shivering, and so Phoenix gently leads him out of his chair and sits him down on the floor so that his back is to the wall, then follows suit, with one arm wrapping around the other man. "Inhale," he says softly. Edgeworth looks at him in surprise. Phoenix smiles. "Do you remember?"
"There's no earthquake," he mumbles, but the trembling seems to have lessened.
"Shh," he whispers in reply, cradling the other's head against his body. "Don't think about anything right now. Just inhale. Exhale. Don't cry." He repeats the last three phrases over and over again, waiting for Edgeworth to be still, waiting for their breathing to become in sync. Miles is mouthing something soundlessly; he can't make out what it is, but it seems to help.
And finally, the other man is calm. "Phoenix," he murmurs.
"What is it?"
A pause. "I… missed you." He looks embarrassed.
Phoenix laughs lightly. "I missed you too, Miles. I didn't come all the way out here to find a man I hated."
Edgeworth is silent for a moment before answering. "You didn't hate me?"
"I knew you had to have a reason, even if I didn't know what it was," he replies. "And I was right. I found the truth, and now we're here together, and everything will be okay."
"But we can never go back. To California. Not as long as von Karma is still alive."
"You might not be able to be a defense attorney anymore."
"I'll find another job."
The other man glances up at him. "I'm trying to tell you that if you want to stay here, your life won't be the same."
"And I'm trying to tell you that that doesn't matter, as long as my life has you in it." He tilts his head towards Miles. "I asked you to promise to spend the rest of your life with me once. I still stand by my question. Has your answer changed?"
One of Edgeworth's hands—the one with the ring on it—takes his own. "No. It hasn't."
He squeezes. "That's all I need to hear."
Several minutes pass by in silence. And then: "I thought about you every day. I still loved you. Love you. For all these years."
"I know," Phoenix murmurs.
Miles tenses abruptly within his arms, and he suddenly realizes that maybe the other man is waiting for him to say something more in return. Oh, Edgeworth, he thinks. I never thought I'd see the day when you needed to hear these words.
And he knows that if Miles feels this way, feels like he actually needs to hear him say it, then this is it, his incontrovertible proof. And everything that happened three years ago—Phoenix can forgive.
"I still love you too," he whispers, and means it.
They turn to face each other, and before he knows it, Miles' lips are on his own—and though their noses bump a little awkwardly, and Phoenix isn't entirely sure what to make of Edgeworth's glasses pressing into his face, it still somehow feels as perfect as ever. It's almost as if he is being reborn: even the light filtering into the room, which seemed so harsh and bright before, is softer now. Everything is right with the world again.
As he pulls Miles closer to him, hearing the other man breathe his name into his ear, he thinks that maybe it's not such a cruel joke after all.
A/N: Fin! I did my best to tie everything together, though I've always been rather horrible at that, so I apologize if there are any gaping plot holes. Basically the whole point of Edgeworth's suicide gig was to throw von Karma off the scent, so no one (except for Phoenix now, lolz) knows he's alive and in D.C. Yeah.
That said, thank you to the OP of the prompt (even though he/she will probably never see this), the anons (and not-so-anons!) who kept up with this fic over at the meme, and of course, everyone who read and reviewed here. :D I never would have thought this story would have been received so well, so... yeah, wow, guys, you're freaking awesome. See you all around!