A/N: And here we are. I'll get this out of the way now so I don't mess up the mood at the end with my rambling, but thank you to the anons who kept up with this at the kink meme, and everyone who read and commented here. It really does mean a lot to me to know that I was able to evoke such... I dunno, strong feelings out of people. I heart you guys!
V. Advanced Dementia
An old man and woman take him to a place they call home in a wheelchair. There is something familiar about them, but he cannot recognize who they are. All he is certain about is that they seem to care for him.
That is all he needs to know.
Sometimes the old man reads to him. Sometimes the old woman reads to him.
Right now, it's the old woman. She is holding not a book, but a thick folder. "'If the witness had seen the defendant as she claims… the defendant couldn't have been wearing this very hood.' Do you remember this case, Miles Edgeworth?"
He can barely make out her words. He shrugs.
"No? Foolish of me to continue thinking that reading court transcripts would help. Nevertheless, you were very good in that trial. You could have become a brilliant defense attorney if you had chosen to take that path. But I prefer you as a prosecutor. You did not soil the von Karma name as much as I had feared. Of course, I soiled it less." She smirks, but he doesn't understand the meaning behind it.
He shrugs again. He seems to be doing a lot of this lately.
The woman purses her lips. "I think you have spoiled me. You were yourself so soon after I came back to America, and now I am expecting it to happen frequently. But Phoenix Wright tells me such occurrences are extremely rare."
Phoenix Wright. He thinks that is the old man's name, though otherwise it is of no significance to him.
She is still talking. "He also tells me you have worsened considerably since returning from the hospital. He says you previously thought him to be his father. Now you do not recognize him at all. Do you recognize me, little brother? No… I shouldn't ask. I know the answer. Let me ask you this, then. Do you know who you are?"
"Who you are," he mumbles. Her words come out too quickly for him to keep up with.
The woman considers him carefully for a moment. "It doesn't matter, I suppose. I know who you are. You are Miles Edgeworth, prosecuting attorney and little brother of Franziska von Karma. That is how I will always think of you. You didn't have to ask."
He has no idea what she is talking about, but what she says makes him feel better all the same.
There are several pictures on the wall of the bedroom, which he finds himself sleeping in most of the time. Every now and then he takes a moment to consider them. Several contain a man in a pink suit. Another man in a blue suit appears frequently as well, along with a woman carrying a whip and a teenaged girl wearing a blue silk hat. There are other faces as well. All of them are smiling at him.
He smiles at these strangers in return.
"Uncle Miles!" the woman says brightly upon seeing him. She is not as old as the woman with the bluish hair, but she isn't young either. And though her tone is happy, her eyes are rimmed with red. In the background, he can see the old man leaning against the doorframe, the other woman standing behind him, their eyes also swollen and puffy. "So, after I got here… Daddy told me some things about you, and I think you'd really like to see some magic!" An article of clothing appears in her hands. "Look at what I can pull out of this!"
A whole slew of tricks follow. He finds himself laughing and clapping like a child at her antics, spurred on by her encouraging grins, but there is something sad in her expression that he cannot quite make out.
"I won't forget either, Uncle Miles," she tells him when she is done, kissing him on the cheek.
He still hasn't figured out what they are remembering.
"Drink," he croaks from the wheelchair.
The old man immediately stands up, pours some apple juice into a glass, then adds a straw before bringing it to him. He slurps it up enthusiastically; when he is done, the man tries to take it away, but he keeps his lips firmly around the straw and continues to draw in air.
"Don't do that, Miles, it's not good to breathe like that."
He ignores him.
A piece of hard candy appears in the other man's hand. "Suck on this instead."
The straw drops out of his mouth immediately as he places the candy carefully onto his tongue. "Sweet," he says happily.
"I know," the man says, and he closes his eyes and sighs.
They tell him that his hip has healed, which means he doesn't need to be in the wheelchair anymore. But when he tries to stand, he collapses almost immediately: his legs can no longer support him.
So he remains sitting.
The old man gently lifts him out of the wheelchair and places him on the couch, then sits down and cradles him against his body, rocking him gently. "Shouldn't reminisce, I know," he can hear him murmur. "Especially since you probably can't understand me." There is a pause as his hand begins to stroke his hair. "But I remember once, Trucy was going abroad for the first time to perform, and I was so upset… stupid, but I didn't want my baby girl to leave, even though I knew it was coming… so I saw her off at the airport and when I got home I cried, and it was pathetic but you didn't laugh and you held me like this… told me I wasn't alone… that I wouldn't ever be alone. Then you said something about how everyone became stars when they died, and I asked where on earth that came from. You got all flustered, remember? And something clicked and I asked you if that was from The Lion King, except you tried to deny it. Didn't work, though; I got the truth out of you eventually. And then we watched it." He laughs. "Two grown men, watching an ancient Disney cartoon. Even worse than a grown man watching the Steel Samurai. You didn't say anything, but I saw your eyes get wet when Mufasa died. So I held you too. And we just kind of clung to each other for the rest of the movie, and when that ended we stayed on the couch and didn't move until Trucy called the next morning."
He doesn't respond. Only the most basic words are getting through to him.
The man puts his head on his shoulder. "I don't really know what you're thinking right now. But I hope you realize you're not alone, either. Me, Franziska, Trucy… we're here. And I know… you can't really hold me anymore. But that's fine. I've got you. I've got you." He repeats those last three words, more to himself than to anyone else, as he continues to cradle him.
"Got you," he mumbles in return.
The old man holds him closer.
"Daddy, he's shivering," the woman says nervously.
He doesn't understand how he can feel so warm but so cold at the same time. It's uncomfortable.
"Trucy, go get a blanket from his room, okay?" the man says, kneeling in front of the wheelchair. The woman leaves while the man stares at him. "Miles, are you alright?"
"C-coll," he stutters.
The woman returns and wraps the blanket around him, then places a hand on his forehead. "I-it feels like he's burning up."
"You don't think… not a fever, is it?"
"Stop this foolishness at once," the other woman says, rising from the table. "Get him in bed. Immediately."
The old man quickly wheels him to his room and lowers him into his bed, then sits down in the little chair beside him. The other two women appear soon after.
"He's okay, right?" the younger one asks.
"I don't know. I think he's caught something."
The blue-haired woman frowns and approaches him. "Miles Edgeworth. You are going to sleep and recover. Understand?"
He blinks up at her.
She looks at the man. "Do you have medicine for these symptoms?"
"Yeah, but I don't know if you can mix it with the stuff he's taking… not that it's really doing any good, but…"
"We will figure it out. Come."
They leave, and only the younger woman is left. "Please be alright, Uncle Miles," she says weakly, sitting down beside him. "I know… I'm not a child anymore, but… I don't want to lose a father again. I love you, and so do Aunt Franziska and Daddy, and we don't want you to—to—" She breaks off and looks away guiltily. "Please. I'd tell the world my magician's secrets if I knew it meant you'd be okay. But because that won't ever happen…" A flower appears out of thin air. She places it next to his hand. "You did so much for us, and this is all I have to give back to you."
His fingers unconsciously curl around the stem. She gives him a wistful smile and kisses him on the forehead. "Love you, Uncle Miles."
But he cannot say the same in reply.
Every now and then he is awoken by someone lifting up various parts of his body. "Bedsores," he hears, but he doesn't know what it means.
He never talks to whoever is waking him up. He has no words anymore.
There is blood when he coughs.
When the old man sees it, he announces to the other two that he's taking him to the hospital.
He finds himself once more in that stark-white room. He is too tired to care, though, and so he continues to sleep.
Sometimes when he doesn't sleep, he seizes. His body trembles and he becomes temporarily blind. After it's over, his eyes dart around frantically, taking in the fearful, haggard faces of the old man, the blue-haired woman, and the lady with the silk hat.
Other times he finds it impossible to swallow, and someone puts something over his mouth until his throat opens up again.
But most of his waking hours are spent staring at the ceiling. He can feel the presence of at least one of the three people by his side at all times. They talk to him, read to him, hold his hand. But he cannot acknowledge them.
Even he is aware that he is close to dying.
When he knows who he is again, it is Phoenix who is in the room with him, Phoenix, who looks so worn and tired that he is almost unrecognizable aside from the wobbly eyebrows; even the fire that once lit those blue eyes seems to have almost died out, and oh God what has he done to him, this man he loves but is also killing just by existing, and when he thinks this, he suddenly realizes what he must do but it takes so much courage, courage he is not sure he has anymore because the idea is so terrifying but he cannot allow things to go on like this, not when he is draining Phoenix of his life.
His decision is simple: this will be the last moment of clarity he will ever have again.
"Phoenix," he rasps, and his throat burns from not speaking for so long, but the pain doesn't matter: if this is his last time, he will endure this as long as he needs to.
His voice is so quiet, the word so poorly enunciated that he is not even sure that the other man has heard, but no, he has, and suddenly the fire is back, and he is thankful that he has not killed Phoenix yet, that he will not kill him, not if he goes through with this.
"You're here," he whispers with a small smile, and his ears revel at the sound of his speech. "You-you're here," he repeats, and his shoulders begin to heave, but that doesn't stop him from clasping one of Edgeworth's hands. "Oh, God, Miles, I was so afraid you'd never come back—d-do you want me to get Franziska? Trucy? They're right outside, I'm sure, if you want to see them—"
"Want to talk to you first," he says.
Phoenix nods quickly, taking his hand and kissing it, and though he does not speak he can see him mouthing you're here, you're here, over and over again, chanting it like a mantra.
"Why… in hospital?" He is almost disgusted by his inability to form entire, coherent sentences, disgusted by the fact that he cannot truly be himself for Phoenix in these last moments, but he knows that this will have to do.
The other man glances at him, then looks away. "You caught pneumonia."
"So I'm really… I'm really dying now."
Phoenix closes his eyes and holds Edgeworth's hand to his cheek; he doesn't respond, and that is answer enough—it strengthens his resolution, gives him confidence that the choice he is making is the right one.
"I want…" He pauses and shivers involuntarily; speech is so hard for him now, especially when the muscles of his mouth oppose every movement he makes. "Want to thank you, Phoenix."
The eyes snap open and meet his own. "What are you talking about?"
Edgeworth tries to shift position, but none of his limbs seem to be cooperating. "Did you know…? I don't think I can… smile anymore."
He shakes his head; the movement is almost imperceptible, but Phoenix catches it and stops speaking. "Thank you because… spent a lifetime smiling with you. Because… you saved me." He takes a deep, rattling breath as he steels himself for what he is going to say next; the clattering of his lungs keeps him going. "But you can't… save me anymore."
"You're not—you're not saying what I think you are, are you?" His eyes are wide now, a little panicked, and Edgeworth knows that although this will hurt him, in the end, it'll be better for everyone.
He gives a slight nod, but even that small effort makes his head ache. "I'm… dragging all of you down. I'm in pain… and you are too… don't want it like this. Please… do this for me. End it."
Phoenix stares at him for several moments, as if judging the sincerity of his request; Edgeworth meets his gaze and does not break away, trying to tell him with his eyes, if not with his lips, that this is what he wants, what he needs: he cannot bear to remain a useless shell in this world any longer, cannot bear to deteriorate even more than he already has, cannot bear to see the anguish on their faces when they speak and he does not respond, and most of all: cannot bear to watch as they pour their lives into trying to preserve his own, not when it is so obviously in vain.
And because this is Phoenix, he understands. "I'll talk to the doctor," he whispers finally.
He closes his eyes in approval: he had the courage to ask after all, and now everything will end; it's strange, he thinks, how he can feel so calm about all this—perhaps it's the medication, perhaps it's because he knows it's time. "Want to tell you… one more thing."
Phoenix grips his hand more tightly. "What is it?"
"Remember… long time ago…? Told you… no regrets. Still true. I wouldn't change anything. Everything worth it… to have you in my life."
"Miles, I… I feel the same way." Phoenix is openly crying now, and Edgeworth's own vision is blurring as well.
But there are still a few more things he needs to do before it's all over, and so he slowly, painstakingly raises one hand to brush the tears off Phoenix's cheek. "Franziska and Trucy… explain… then ask them to come…"
Phoenix nods, reluctantly letting go of his hand and looking away only when he is past the door. In the few minutes that he is alone, he can feel the haze threatening to settle upon him again, but he fights it, fights it, thinking you will have me soon enough, just give me this one last moment, and it works: when they enter the room, he knows who they are—his sister and his daughter.
And, of course, Phoenix, because Phoenix is always by his side.
"So this is your choice?" Franziska asks: her voice is clipped but he can detect the tremor behind it.
"Yes," he murmurs. Franziska, Franziska, be brave for us all.
"You shouldn't have to leave us now," Trucy says softly.
She shakes her head. "Daddy explained it to us… and I think I understand. But… I'll miss you."
He tries to nod; the exertion is wearing him out and he knows he needs to get on with it. "Trucy… I never thought I would have… a daughter. But I… am glad I did. And Franziska… I have fond memories of Germany… because of you. Thank you… all."
"We'll remember you, Uncle Miles."
"Always, little brother," Franziska adds.
And Phoenix leans in close, murmuring in his ear: "I swear, Miles, this isn't the end. We'll be together again, someday. I'll find you. Because I meant it when I said forever. I love you. God, I love you, Miles. Wherever you go—don't forget me, alright? P-promise me."
"I promise," Edgeworth breathes in reply.
He looks at each of them in turn: Phoenix, Franziska, Trucy. They are the three closest people to him in the world, and though none of them are even related to him by blood, that is almost trivial—they are connected by so much more.
They are his family, and they will always be there for him.
"Goodbye," he whispers.
And when he slips away for this final time, he is content.