Disclaimer: Not my characters or copyright, unfortunately.
Notes: For the kink meme. Requester asked for P/E and anorexia. ...It just made a little too much sense.
Warnings: I tried to write it realistically, so it could potentially be triggering.
Perfection and Peach Preserves
In retrospect, there were plenty of warning signs. Once Edgeworth was back on the prosecutor's bench, he and Phoenix faced each other all the time, working together to find the truth behind each incident. Usually, after a case was resolved, they would all go out to eat. Most often, at that burger place Maya liked.
Edgeworth never ordered anything, though. It wasn't his kind of place, he said, and there was absolutely nothing on the menu that wasn't revolting. Not that he was rude about it - he took part in the conversations that went on about the table, intermittently sipping at a drink - unless Maya pestered him. If she had any idea what was in just one of those burgers, he would say... It was, apparently, much akin to eating a handful of lard.
Sometimes they were in court all day, though. Phoenix knew perfectly well he hadn't had a bite to eat all day, since he'd sent Maya to raid the vending machines for everyone during recesses, and Edgeworth never wanted anything. Still, all he'd get was a drink. Diet soda, always. He'd eat when he got home, he claimed.
Apparently Phoenix and Maya's nagging eventually got to him, however, and he started bringing his own lunch - or dinner, or whatever it was by the time they were finished. Good idea, Phoenix thought - though every time, it seemed that all Edgeworth brought was an apple. Singular. Or maybe some celery, without even any dressing. And sometimes he wouldn't finish it.
Even so, it wasn't like Phoenix was watching him all the time. He probably had a good breakfast at home every morning, and that got him through until he got home at night. He didn't think about it too much if he just didn't ever happen to see Edgeworth eat anything.
He didn't really start wondering about any of this until he was sorting through some stuff in his desk and found that picture Lotta had taken of everyone just after the Robert Hammond murder trial. Miles Edgeworth looked... abnormally attractive in that picture, if somewhat subdued. Funny, because Phoenix had thought, ever since he saw the picture with that news article years ago, that Edgeworth had grown up to be extremely attractive, and he'd never stopped thinking so...
Lately, he hadn't been thinking it so much, though. He still enjoyed looking at Edgeworth, but it seemed like recently he hadn't been nearly so vibrant. It wasn't his wardrobe - he still wore the same crazy suits as ever, ruffles and all.
Lotta had shown up again recently, he recalled, and in a moment of curiosity, he pulled out the picture she'd sent along a few days after that trial. The whole gang together again, with Edgeworth looking a little awkward off to the side. Phoenix laid it next to the earlier picture.
No, it wasn't his imagination. In the earlier picture, Edgeworth looked good. In the latest, he looked... kind of sick. He was much thinner, for one thing, and his cheeks seemed hollow. Even his hair looked thinner.
Phoenix frowned thoughtfully at the photographs. The difference was pretty impressive. How had he not noticed? Maybe Edgeworth's tailored suits had been tailored to account for the change. Maybe it was just that he saw Edgeworth all the time, and the change had been so gradual that it didn't sink in until he was confronted with the beginning and the end. And Edgeworth had never been even remotely heavy to begin with - broader than Phoenix was, maybe, but solid, and he didn't have any extra weight to lose.
Phoenix couldn't really say what this might mean. But now that he'd noticed, he couldn't unnotice it.
He also had no idea how to ask, considering that he'd already gone so long without asking.
Phoenix was never good at standing by, however. The next time they all were talking about going out for burgers, though, Phoenix spoke up. "Hey - why don't we let Edgeworth pick the place tonight? You know he doesn't like burgers."
He'd half expected Maya to complain, but she shrugged. "Why not? If he knows something better than burgers, I'd like to try it."
"Wait, wait," Gumshoe spoke up. "I can live without burgers, but without fries? There will be fries - right, pal?"
"And the real crazy thing," Larry said with a grin. "We might actually get to see Edgey eat something for a change!"
Edgeworth said nothing - he just looked at Phoenix, almost a glare. "...Well?" Phoenix said. "What do you say?"
"I say I'm going straight home tonight." He turned on his heel to go.
"Awesome!" Larry exclaimed. "We're eating at Edgey's place!"
"No you're not," Edgeworth snapped over his shoulder, viciously enough to stop even Larry in his tracks.
Phoenix was taken aback as well, but after a moment's hesitation, he jogged along to catch up with Edgeworth's long, angry strides. "Uhm... sorry?"
"How thoughtful of you," Edgeworth growled, not slowing his pace a bit as he turned into the parking garage, "to start everyone harping on my taste in food."
"That wasn't what I was doing!" Phoenix protested as Edgeworth made for his car. "Hey - wait a second. Edgeworth?"
Edgeworth yanked his car's door open so roughly Phoenix might have expected it to fall off, and glared up at him as he sat. "What?"
Where to even begin? Phoenix stalled, having gotten an idea suddenly. Maybe not the best, but now was a good opportunity to suggest something he'd been thinking about suggesting for awhile "...How about we forget everyone else and just go have dinner somewhere ourselves? Just the two of us."
"Will you lay off?"
That went well. Not. Phoenix decided to be honest. "Don't take this the wrong way," he started, resting his arm against the car's frame, "because I'm really just concerned about you. But-"
"You don't have to be."
"But you haven't been looking so good lately," said Phoenix, ignoring the interruption.
"You've lost an awful lot of weight in the last year-"
"Most people," Edgeworth observed with a scathing look, "would intend that as a compliment."
"Only if they needed to lose weight. Edgeworth... I know you don't like to talk about yourself, but if there's something going on..."
"I assure you, I'm not secretly dying of some fatal illness, if that's what you were thinking."
That had pretty much been what Phoenix was worried about. "...You're really okay?"
"Yes." Edgeworth's voice was firm - as was the slam of his car door when Phoenix took his hand off the frame. Phoenix wasn't quite desperate enough to try yelling through a closed window at him, so he supposed that was the end of that conversation. He did give Edgeworth an apologetic shrug as he stepped back, but Edgeworth averted his eyes as he started the car and took off.
...That was weird. Phoenix had no idea why just offering to let Edgeworth pick the restaurant for the night would make him that furious. He also didn't know what to think of Edgeworth's denial. It seemed pretty clear to him that there was something going on.
Ever since he'd realized something was up with Edgeworth, Phoenix was noticing more and more oddities, to the point where he was wondering how he'd missed them until this point. He was spending less time in trials wagging his finger or pointing accusingly or bowing, instead standing relatively still with his hands on the bench, Phoenix observed - as if it were helping him stay upright. He'd taken to just settling down and resting during a recess, instead of joining everyone else in the lobbies to discuss the latest discrepancies between testimony and evidence. And yet, no one questioned this. No one even seemed to notice, except him.
He asked Gumshoe once, when he happened to run into him alone during an investigation. Gumshoe adored Edgeworth, and they worked together frequently. He had to have noticed. ...Well, if it was anyone other than Gumshoe, he definitely would have noticed, he had to admit. Gumshoe was questionable.
Even Gumshoe had, in this case. "I don't know what to tell you," Gumshoe admitted, scratching his head. "Mr. Edgeworth says he's fine. And he glares when he says it," he added, giving Phoenix that look that made him think of kicked puppies. "...I can't really afford to have my pay docked any more, pal. Especially not for reasons that have nothing to do with the job - I get enough pay cuts from stuff that does relate to the job. He's not talking, so I'm not asking. But hey," he realized abruptly, brightening. "You can ask him! He can't dock your pay!"
"Sorry, I already did," Phoenix told him. "He's not talking to me either."
"Aw, give it another shot," Gumshoe encouraged him. "Press it, like you do in court!"
"I don't want to upset him..."
"But you're worried, right? And so am I! It's for a good cause. I'll... I'll try to find some evidence, so you can object if he denies it."
"Uh... I already do have a couple of photos that show the decline in his health pretty clearly." Gumshoe really was concerned, wasn't he? "I think it's better to just try to talk to him normally, though. ...I just need an excuse to bring it up again, when he's already shot me down once."
Phoenix found one at the end of the next trial, after the verdict had been read. His client was innocent, as he'd expected - there was just a major error in her alibi that had to be cleared up before it was obvious to the judge. Edgeworth no longer took these kinds of things so hard, since they'd mutually decided they were after the truth instead of wins or losses, but he still lingered in the courtroom as everyone else filed out, sinking down in one of the seats. This, after hanging onto the bench for most of the trial. Seriously, Phoenix wondered - why didn't anyone else question this? He had a habit of pushing people away or intimidating them, but... no one at all thought this was strange except for him?
He looked exhausted - and it must be the truth, because he didn't notice Phoenix was still there as well, watching him from across the room. He didn't notice anything at all, in fact, until Phoenix sat down next to him. ...Edgeworth was breathing a little heavily, Phoenix observed, as his eyes opened, his head tilted towards Phoenix. He couldn't possibly say that Phoenix's question wasn't unwarranted. "...What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, Wright," Edgeworth muttered, sitting up a little straighter.
"No, really, Edgeworth. What's wrong?"
"..." Edgeworth rested his head in his hands. "...I suppose I haven't been sleeping as well as I could have."
That at least made some sense, and Phoenix thought he understood. Since they were now basically alone in the courtroom... "The nightmares again?"
"Something like that."
That answer was too vague for Phoenix's liking - too quick. "Or would you agree to whatever I suggest, just to make me go away?"
"Are you trying to accuse me of something?" Edgeworth muttered. "Catch me in a false testimony - is that it?"
"That's not what I'm after," Phoenix replied, slightly injured. "You should know better than anyone - I just want to get to the truth. And I can tell you've been hiding something."
"It's none of your business," Edgeworth stated bluntly, getting to his feet. Once he had, though, he had to reach out for the bench, and he stood there for a moment, steadying himself. "Drop it, Wright."
His breathing had grown heavier, and Phoenix couldn't help but think he was on the verge of something. An explanation, maybe? "I can't drop it, Edgeworth. I want to help. I don't know if you're really sick, or if it's just stress, but you look like you're falling apart. Whatever this secret is," Phoenix insisted, "it's really hurting you."
Edgeworth lifted his head then, and gave him such a glare that even Phoenix was momentarily taken aback. "Damn you," he hissed. "It helps me cope. And so help me, if you get in the way, I..."
Helps him cope? Phoenix was startled by this response, but he kept his surprise to a slight narrowing of the eyes. "...You what?" he asked quietly. "What are you doing to yourself?"
"Don't get me wrong," Edgeworth growled, making himself stand straight, with visible effort. He didn't look at Phoenix at all. "I'm not on drugs, I'm not drinking. I'm not lacking self-control. On the contrary... just the opposite."
With that, he turned away, and only someone who had been watching him as closely as Phoenix would have noticed that his feet dragged a bit despite his quick steps out the door. Fighting the urge to follow, he stayed put for a little while, thinking about Edgeworth and his strange words.
A week later, he was starting to wonder if he might have figured it out. It seemed like all the obvious pieces were in place, and fit together pretty well. He just had no evidence. If this was court, he'd have submitted it as a possible solution - and Edgeworth, undoubtedly, would point out the word 'possible', and that would be the end of that. This wasn't court, but Phoenix suspected that even if he was right, the same thing would happen.
But if he was right... just like in court, someone's life could be at stake. And no one else was fighting for it - even the defendant.
He supposed, with dread, that this meant it may be all in his hands again. Fortunately he didn't have any regular cases at the moment, and could leave the office to Maya while he caught the bus down to the prosecutors office. It was a weekday afternoon - Edgeworth would be there, if he wasn't at the courthouse, which was close enough to walk.
No, Edgeworth was working - Phoenix spotted his car on the way through the parking garage. When he got up to Edgeworth's office, though, there was no one there.
There was a newer prosecutor in the hall that Phoenix had seen around, though. "Oh, Edgeworth? He went home early. I think he was feeling sick."
"But..." Phoenix could have sworn that was his car in the garage. "...Thanks," he told the young woman after a moment, and pulled out his cell phone as he headed back downstairs. Not that he knew what he would say if Edgeworth picked up. Which he didn't, but possibly if he'd gone home sick, he'd already turned his phone off. That didn't exactly make Phoenix any less concerned.
And that really did look like Edgeworth's car. Phoenix wasn't an expert on cars, but he'd spent more time in or around Edgeworth's than just about anyone else's, and he thought he'd know it. Just to be sure, he went over to take a closer look.
Yeah, it was definitely Edgeworth's car, Phoenix realized. How could he be sure? Because Edgeworth was slumped over the steering wheel.
"Miles?!" Phoenix pounded on the window, then thought to try the door, which was unlocked. Panicking? Just a little. "Miles? Uhm... hey, can you hear me?" he asked, kneeling by the open door to look up at him. Edgeworth didn't move, even when Phoenix reached up to shake his shoulder. He tried a wrist next, and found that the pulse was unsteady. "...shit."
He had his cell phone half out to call for an ambulance when he remembered where he was. Calling an ambulance would make a big scene, and everyone in the building would know Edgeworth had been taken to the hospital. Which was only a few blocks away - Phoenix knew where it was. ...If he was right about this, Edgeworth would never forgive him for outing him to everyone he worked with. He really, really wanted to avoid that. And... there was another way to get him there.
He didn't have a license, of course. Edgeworth might also never forgive him for taking his car when he didn't actually know how to drive. But, well, Larry had made him play driving video games sometimes throughout the years, and he was pretty good at them... ...He was crazy for even thinking about this, wasn't he? But driving wasn't too difficult. At least, not as long as... He looked. Okay, whew. No stick shift. Phoenix had no idea what to do with one of those, but if it was just pedals and steering, he could manage. And Edgeworth was likely to be more grateful for avoiding a big scene than he was furious for Phoenix having driven his car.
He stirred a little, as Phoenix awkwardly shifted him into the passenger seat. (He was so light... a grown man should never be that light.) Grey eyes opened just a crack. "Mmm... mmph...ix..."
The guy had to choose now to start calling him by his first name, didn't he? Phoenix blinked, and found the keys in the ignition. "...Don't make it harder for me to see, Miles, or I really will wreck your car."
The pressure of the pedals took a little getting used to, and the car bounced a little as it backed out from the parking spot. Edgeworth lifted a hand to brush over his face. "What're... where...?"
"We're going to the hospital," Phoenix answered automatically. He kind of had to focus more on making sure he was steering straight than on answering questions. "And no, you don't have a choice."
He wasn't sure if Edgeworth fell silent, or passed out again. He hoped that it was the former.
It was a lot simpler to get to the hospital from there on foot, Phoenix thought - stupid one-way streets. But after a detour of a couple blocks, he found a way into the lot. Not that he parked properly - just pulled up in front of the emergency room and started to get Edgeworth out. It was with great dismay that he realized that he could actually carry him inside - but someone spotted him and rushed over with a wheelchair, and then he was trying to explain that he didn't actually know what had happened, and offering as much information as he had, which wasn't much. Unless you counted his suspicions, and this was a hospital - they'd be able to diagnose and treat the symptoms regardless of what might have caused them. He didn't want to be the one to make the suggestion.
At some point, when he'd told them all he knew and filled out what parts of the paperwork he could, and Edgeworth was off somewhere undergoing examination, he could go back to the lot and move Edgeworth's car into a real parking space. It seemed a lot more intimidating to be driving a car - his car, especially - without a license when there wasn't someone unconscious in it who needed his help. Phoenix found that his hands were trembling on the wheel, but that probably wasn't why. And he should call Maya, he realized... Might as well do that while he wasn't inside.
"Yo, Nick!" Phoenix hoped she didn't answer the office phone like that too. "What's up?" His pause must have given her a clue, because she quieted a little. "...Everything okay?"
"Uh... not really," he admitted. "I mean, I'm okay. But I just took Edgeworth to the hospital."
"...I don't know yet what happened." It was true - he only had suspicions. "But I'm going to be here until I find out, so I probably won't be back at the office today. So just... lock up when you leave, I guess. Call if there's anything I need to know."
"Yeah... okay," Maya agreed, though he could hear the confusion in her voice. "Got it, Nick."
"And hey, Maya? Don't tell anyone about Edgeworth. Things are sort of weird right now, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't want anyone to know he's here." He thought about this for a second. "Well, if Gumshoe comes by asking about him, I guess you can tell him. But only him." He'd want to come visit, Phoenix thought. He just hoped Gumshoe would be able to keep it quiet. But then, Gumshoe's competence level generally was a little higher than usual when it came to Edgeworth.
"Sure thing. I'll take care of everything, don't worry."
Phoenix was so glad that Maya was also generally more competent in a crisis than she acted under normal circumstances. "...Thanks, I really appreciate this."
"Nick, I'm your partner, right? This is the kind of thing I'm here for, so you take good care of Mr. Edgeworth. Just... keep me posted, okay?"
After they'd hung up, Phoenix just sat there for awhile, with the car door open and one leg hanging out, with the breeze blowing across the lot. It was more relaxing than sitting in the emergency room, and he closed his eyes for a moment to take advantage of it. Only a moment, though - if there were any developments with Edgeworth's condition, they wouldn't be able to tell him if he was out there.
It was a good thing that he didn't linger too long, since it also didn't take very long for a doctor to return and tell him what they'd found. Not that he was next of kin or anything, and there had been some debate about what exactly he was allowed when he'd been filling out the paperwork - but he had been the one to bring Edgeworth in, and they obviously weren't strangers, so they could tell him. Cardiac arrythmia, extremely low blood pressure, but he was fairly stable, and there was no serious risk at the moment. However, the cause of these irregularities was of more concern under the circumstances...
Yeah, that's what Phoenix had expected them to find - severe malnutrition. With no explanation except one, given that Edgeworth was rather well-off.
Before they could do anything about that, though, they were trying to strengthen him physically, which meant nourishment and rest. Forced, at this point. Phoenix waited around anyway, until someone came hours later to tell him that Edgeworth was awake, and willing to see visitors. Or at least this one.
The light was dim in Edgeworth's room. Not so surprising if he'd been sleeping and there were no windows. There weren't too many machines, thankfully - Phoenix thought that was a good sign - mostly just a single monitor and a stand with a drip bag. As for Edgeworth himself...
It was a shock, seeing him without his layers of tailored clothes, with nothing to hide how thin his neck and wrists were against the rumpled bedsheets. It made the hollowness of his cheeks and eyes even more obvious, and there was a tube in his nose.
Phoenix still thought he was the most beautiful sight in the world at the moment, of course. He tried, and utterly failed, to keep his voice even. "H-hey, Edgeworth."
Edgeworth was staring at the ceiling. "...I think I hate you, Wright."
That hurt. "What was I supposed to do?" he said hotly. "You were unconscious and your pulse was off beat."
"I wasn't in serious danger." His voice was far more calm than Phoenix's, or maybe just weak. "It's happened before, and I'd have pulled out of it eventually."
This was infuriating. "How was I supposed to-"
"Wright," said Edgeworth, more firmly.
"Edgeworth, I don't care why-"
"Shut up, Wright." Wounded, Phoenix obeyed, but then he got a surprise. "...I might hate you at the moment, but I was trying to say... I believe you deserve my thanks."
"...Oh. You're welcome."
Edgeworth's expression grew tight. "I don't quite remember what happened where and when, but I'm sure I hadn't managed to leave work yet when I collapsed. ...I therefore can assume that everyone at the office knows."
Phoenix had been wondering if Edgeworth was aware of the personal liberties he'd taken with his property. Apparently not. "Uh, not really. I kind of tried to cover it up, and the fact that no one else has shown up makes me think it must have worked."
Edgeworth was dubious. "...How did you manage to cover up an ambulance?"
...Crap. "There was no ambulance."
Edgeworth looked at him in bewilderment. "You didn't carry me here, did you?"
"No, of course not." Phoenix supposed that he'd better own up to it before Edgeworth thought of something even worse. "I, uh, found you in your car. So I moved you to the other seat and drove." Edgeworth stared at him. "Hey - I figured you'd be less mad at me for that than if I called an ambulance and alerted everyone, and that was my only alternative."
"You don't have a license."
"True," Phoenix admitted, "but thanks to Larry, I've gotten pretty good at driving in Grand Theft Auto 7, so I figured I'd do all right."
Edgeworth put a hand over his face, but Phoenix could see his shoulders shaking. At the moment, he didn't really care if Edgeworth was laughing at him. Seeing him laugh for any reason was a good thing, and he moved a little closer to the bed, smiling softly. "So are you mad at me?"
"...I'm too exhausted to be properly mad," Edgeworth mumbled. "Unless you crashed it."
"Then I suppose I don't have anything to be mad about in regards to your evasion of unwanted attention. ...I appreciate that," Edgeworth murmured, dropping his hand back to the sheets at his side. "I wouldn't have expected anyone to go to such lengths."
"You've been evasive enough with me." Phoenix couldn't resist the urge to reach down and take his hand, rubbing the back of it gently with his thumb. ...It seemed like he could feel every bone, but he didn't let Edgeworth flinch away entirely. "I thought you'd be less upset with just one person knowing than with all your colleagues knowing."
Edgeworth seemed resigned to letting Phoenix stroke his hand, and he turned away towards the wall. Where a window would have been. "So... what do you know?"
It took a long time for Phoenix to find the way he wanted to phrase it. "I know you have a problem. And talking to you now, I'm pretty sure you know you have a problem too. I also know that's usually the first step to solving the problem."
"Unless I don't care to solve it. I'm not entirely dense - I know what I'm doing. It's my decision, and has been for some time." His voice grew more tense. "I don't want to be here, with them forcing things down my throat and nagging. And I don't want you here either, seeing me like this." He turned his head back to regard Phoenix, and his eyes glittered in the dim light, his mouth tightening. "I don't understand how you can look at me without utter disgust. Why aren't you turning away?"
Phoenix knew how he wanted to answer that, but this was probably not the time to drop something like that in Edgeworth's lap. But then again, it might be the best possible time to at least hint at it. "I c-care a lot about you," Phoenix said quickly, before he could have second thoughts. "And I was scared as hell earlier that you were dying. I just... I'm glad you're alive. Seeing you awake and talking right now is better than any other sight I've seen in months."
Edgeworth, he thought, might have figured out what he really meant by that; the man's brows furrowed a little, and the hand he was holding twitched. It took a moment for him to reply, too. "...I thought I might be dying earlier too. But I've gotten used to that feeling over the years..."
Anytime there was an earthquake, Phoenix supposed. He just nodded, and said nothing.
Edgeworth still looked like he was thinking. "The other part," he said finally. "I can't deal with that right now."
He did figure it out, didn't he? "It's all right," Phoenix told him. "You don't have to deal with anything anytime soon, except what brought you here."
"I don't want to deal with anything right now." Withdrawing his hand, Edgeworth lay back on his pillows, staring up at the ceiling again. "...Go home, Wright. Maybe I'll have sorted through some of this by tomorrow afternoon, but right now I don't know if I mean anything I'm saying, or thinking of saying."
"Understandable." Phoenix nodded a little. "...So you want me to come back tomorrow?"
"Part of me wants to never see your face again," Edgeworth stated, his words slow, uncertain. "And part of me..." He gave up and shook his head. "Do whatever you want. As usual."
Phoenix decided that was more encouraging than discouraging, seeing as Edgeworth had to know what his inclination was. "Thanks, Edgeworth. If you need me before you see me again, call. Any time, day or night. I don't care what sort of problems you have - if there's something I can do to help with them, I will."
"I'm... all too aware of that." The words were almost a sigh. "You're a fool in many ways."
Phoenix knew what he really meant by these kinds of statements by now, of course. "You're welcome."
Phoenix had trouble relaxing enough to sleep, but he spent the early morning hours dozing, half-dreaming of hollow feverish eyes and the smell of disinfectant. It was no sense trying, he decided, and by noon he was back at the hospital, watching through plate glass as a nurse tapped Edgeworth on the shoulder. After a moment, he nodded, and she turned his wheelchair to steer him out of the lounge, back towards his room.
In the daylight - or rather, the bright flourescents that were on during the daytime, Edgeworth looked even worse than he had last night, like he was 55 rather than 25. The baggy scrubs did nothing to camouflage his body, but emphasized how thin he was, almost skeletal, like he belonged in that wheelchair. He seemed to think otherwise. "They won't let me walk," Edgeworth growled, but halfheartedly. "They say it would burn too many calories. Even to the bathroom - and they watch me. To make sure I don't puke up all this nonsense that they're pumping into me," he snarled, gesturing at the bag that hung on a stand attached to the wheelchair, draining into the feeding tube. "It would serve them right if I did."
"...Edgeworth..." Phoenix didn't know what to say. At least all the snarling and glaring made him look more like the Edgeworth he knew, and he definitely wasn't as disoriented as he'd been the night before.
"I can't stand it here," he continued, and shifted restlessly as if he might get up. Phoenix wasn't sure he'd want to stop him if he did. "I... can't deal with this, Wright. I don't want to talk to them. I want to go home."
"Then talk to me."
Edgeworth squinted at him. Phoenix wasn't sure where that had come from either, unless you counted the heart. "Or someone else. But talk to someone, because you can't go on like you have been. You already know yourself that you need to stop this. ...I want to help."
"You can't help, Wright," Edgeworth mumbled, turning his head away. "You couldn't understand any of this."
"You might be surprised." Phoenix paused. "von Karma... he was obsessed with perfection, wasn't he?"
Edgeworth looked up at him. And just kept looking.
"I spent some time in art college before law school," Phoenix related, sitting down on the edge of the hospital bed. "I knew some dancers. There was this one girl - incredibly gifted. Focused, driven, completely dedicated to her art. Everyone thought she'd be talked about someday. Then she had a heart attack - she was twenty years old. ...People started talking about her, all right. And about themselves. It's not so uncommon, especially among perfectionists."
Edgeworth lowered his eyes, seemingly thinking. Phoenix just waited. "...How do you do it, Wright?" Edgeworth finally murmured. "In the courtroom, and here... you ferret out the truth unerringly."
"It's nothing special," Phoenix said honestly. "I just listen."
"My perfect record is gone," Edgeworth muttered, and drew his arms in tight around himself, like a shield. "My perfect facade has been ruined. Even my perfectly justified guilt... I have nothing else to measure myself against, except for these restrictions."
Phoenix stifled the urge to add his own arms. "...So you need to stop measuring yourself at all. You don't need perfection - it's unrealistic."
"I know that... deep down." Edgeworth stared icily at the floor. "It's... impossible to just... rid myself of the things that have been inside my head for fifteen years."
"So let me help," Phoenix began, and it came out before he'd even thought about it. "Come stay with me."
Edgeworth looked up in surprise, his eyes narrowed in almost a glare. Phoenix suspected it may have been just a little too bold... But he meant it. "In my apartment. They can't hold you against your will, so you can sign yourself out, and I'll help you through this - it would be so much harder in your own place. Come stay with me. No one else will have to find out why you were here."
"Wright..." The corners of his mouth were twisted, almost in disgust, and he looked away again. "I've never seen your apartment. But I've seen the state of your wallet. I'm rather sure that wherever you live is what I would classify as a 'dive'."
"Well, yeah, probably," Phoenix admitted, deflated somewhat. "At least it's not as bad as Gumshoe's."
Edgeworth nodded, and hesitated. "...So you should stay at my place instead."
"Yeah, I suppose you're..." Phoenix began, dejected - and then realized what he was agreeing to. "...Wait, me stay at your apartment? Seriously?"
"Yes. You're right - I can't be trusted on my own right now."
Phoenix caught his breath. "So you're willing to give this up?"
"No, I'm not," Edgeworth admitted. "But I've known all along that this wouldn't save me. I don't want to be here now, and I don't want to come back. Meanwhile, you've been prodding me for weeks, and under that onslaught I couldn't help doubting myself. And somehow, you..." He peered up at Phoenix again. "You make me feel that being imperfect may not be such a terrible thing."
"Gee, thanks," Phoenix muttered, but gave Edgeworth a tiny smile. "Uh... where to even start. I'm glad you realized that... And thanks for letting me help."
"I think I'm supposed to be the one thanking you," Edgeworth stated. "We'll... work up to that." He shifted restlessly. "You realize, this isn't going to be quick and easy like one of our trials."
"I didn't expect it to be."
"I'm going to wind up getting frustrated a lot, and taking it out on you."
"I'm willing to accept that," Phoenix agreed. "As long as you'll keep working with me."
"I'll... try." Edgeworth glanced towards the hallway. "The hospital wants to keep me until I'm a bit stronger, but that gives us some time to prepare. My belongings that I had on me last night are at the nurses' station, including my keys. If there's anything you'd want to take over..."
"I should look and see what's there first," Phoenix supposed. "You probably already have most of what I have." And then some. Edgeworth made considerably more money than he did.
"If you fool around with anything you shouldn't, or poke through any of my personal possessions, you're a dead man."
Though delivered with less vehemence than usual, he sounded for a moment just like the old Edgeworth, and Phoenix grinned. "Got it."
The first thing that Phoenix "poked at" after getting the keys was the kitchen. Edgeworth's kitchen was huge. It was also empty. What a waste of space, Phoenix thought as he examined the refrigerator and the cupboards, finding very little aside from some fruit and wilting vegetables, and some brown rice. He tried not to think about this too much, because it was disturbing - instead, he thought about how he was going to have to go shopping before Edgeworth was discharged, so he'd have some real food to give him.
Problem being, with no real food already in the house, and Edgeworth never eating anything in front of him except apples and diet soda, he had no idea what sort of things Edgeworth might like. Phoenix wandered around thoughtfully for awhile, settled on the sofa (in front of a rather impressive television - Maya would've killed to watch her samurai shows on this), and then noticed the phone sitting next to it. With labelled speed dial settings. Hmm...
Unsurprisingly, when he stated his name, Franziska was not pleased. "Phoenix Wright. Why are you calling me? And why are you using Miles Edgeworth's number?"
"Edgeworth... is having a little trouble right now." He wondered if Edgeworth would kill him for telling her what was going on - but she was his sister. She had a right to know. And maybe she could help.
After he'd finished explaining to her, she didn't snap about Edgeworth being a fool as he'd feared. Instead, she was quiet for a very long time. "Franziska?" he asked, tentative.
"...I remember this." Her voice was strangely subdued. "Fourteen years old. No one spoke of it, considering it shameful."
"I don't," Phoenix said. So he'd done this before? No wonder he had been so reluctant to own up to it. "Anyway... I thought you'd be able to offer some advice. What kind of things did he like to eat when he was living with you?"
Another long silence, and then, "I know what you should feed him." Franziska began dictating a list, sharp and quick and in great detail. Daily meal plans, even. Phoenix tried his best to jot it down, though he wasn't sure of the spelling on some of the things she mentioned. Or what they were, being European cuisine. And he definitely didn't know how to make most of the things he did recognize. Even so... "Thanks, Franziska. I appreciate it a lot."
"It was nothing." A pause. "Phoenix Wright?"
Again, her voice was strangely subdued. "Thank you for taking care of my little brother."
This was probably not the time to point out that Miles was several years older than she was. "You're welcome."
After they'd hung up, Phoenix was left staring at a shopping list that was only semi-coherent. Possibly he should start small.
Actually, when he thought back, one thing did come to mind, possibly better than anything Franziska would ever have known about.
Edgeworth looked much better by the time he was released, though a week of forcibly being fed nutrients didn't make up for months of starvation. And not being allowed to get back to his obsessive work downtown right away didn't put him in a good mood.
As for Phoenix's work, he'd asked Maya to check in, water Charley, call if there were any cases that came into the office. He hadn't told her what was wrong with Edgeworth, since Edgeworth didn't want it to get around, so all she knew was that Phoenix was taking care of him because he wasn't feeling well, and that was okay. Depending on how things went, he'd told her, he'd be back at the office regularly soon.
But so far, things were not going so well.
Edgeworth had been relieved to have his own clothes back instead of hospital scrubs, but since his release that afternoon, he'd just been lying around in (expensive silk) pajamas, staring into space, tense and somewhat grouchy. Phoenix had been hanging around, getting him a drink anytime he needed one (he might not be on strict bedrest anymore, but Phoenix needed something to do), but Edgeworth still hadn't shown any interest in eating, and Phoenix had been kind of reluctant to argue the point, afraid it might start a minor war.
But here it was, 8:00 at night, and Edgeworth hadn't had a bite to eat since the feeding tube was removed, except for a couple of apple slices. Phoenix was not going to put up with this for long, and disappeared into the kitchen. He, at least, was hungry, and not afraid to admit it. When he returned, he sat down on the foot of the bed with a tray, and offered it.
Edgeworth peered at the contents of the tray, and then squinted at Phoenix. "...You're trying to entice me into eating, and sandwiches are the best you can do? Cut into triangles, at that?"
"It's what I felt like eating," Phoenix stated. "And I made an extra for you. Do you remember, back when we were kids...?"
"Yes, I do remember being a child once," Edgeworth said dryly.
"There was this one time, just after the class trial," Phoenix continued. "The three of us were eating lunch together - me and you and Larry. We'd all brought our own that day, and we asked what kind of sandwich you had, and it was peanut butter and peach preserves." Edgeworth's face grew strange suddenly, and Phoenix went on. "I'd only ever had strawberry and grape jam, so I wanted to try it, and you traded me half of your sandwich for my string cheese. I gave Larry a taste, and he thought it was too sweet, but after that? I always wanted to trade with you when you brought lunch. Usually you wouldn't trade, though, because you liked the peach preserves too much."
That little movement at the corner of Edgeworth's mouth might have been a smile. "...Why do you remember such stupid things, Wright?"
"Sometimes they come in handy. Like when I went out grocery shopping," Phoenix explained, settling down a little closer with the tray between them. "I'm old enough now to buy my own food, so I thought I'd buy some peach preserves. And we've both got the same sandwich now, so there's no need to trade."
Edgeworth rested his head in his hand for a moment as if it hurt, but it looked to Phoenix like he was trying to hide a smile, which was still there when he took his hand away, and reached for the tray. "...You never cease to amaze," he muttered, and after a moment's silent debate, took a bite.
He ate slowly, frequently hesitating, and Phoenix was done with his own sandwich before Edgeworth had even finished half of his - but he was eating, and that was what was important. And when he was done, he sat back against his pillows, shaking his head slightly. "Well?" Phoenix asked. "How was it?"
"...I kind of feel like I should vomit," Edgeworth muttered, grimacing.
Phoenix's heart sank a little. "Uhm, please don't."
"No, it's just... thinking about all the fat and sugar I've just consumed... More grams of fat than I'd eat in a day. Possibly more than in two weeks - what did you do, Wright, use the entire jar? There was an exorbitant amount of peanut butter on that sandwich."
"Er, I thought I remembered your dad putting a lot of peanut butter on your sandwiches too," Phoenix said sheepishly. "I guess I overdid it, huh?"
Edgeworth shook his head slightly, and looked up to Phoenix, giving him a smile which, from anyone else, Phoenix would have called forcibly brave. "It tasted good. Just like I remembered."
"I'm glad. ...I'll make you another if you want," Phoenix offered.
Edgeworth looked vaguely uncomfortable again. "...Maybe tomorrow."
Best to not let him think about it too long. "You know," Phoenix said. "I rented some movies. Maya's been trying to get me into this stuff, but I'm so far behind... Want to watch some Steel Samurai specials? I've got three through seven."
Edgeworth's lips twisted in reluctant amusement again as he pushed himself up to a sitting position. "I suppose I could use some distraction..."
The stay in the hospital seemed to have done him some good, and Edgeworth was only a little wobbly on his way out to the living room, where Phoenix left him half-sitting, half-lying down on the sofa as he went to put in the video. When he turned around, Edgeworth was eyeing a piece of paper he'd picked up from the coffee table. "...What's this about?"
"Oh, that?" Phoenix hoped he wasn't going to get mad. "Uh, while I was trying to figure out what I should make for you, I... called Franziska, since you had her number on speed dial. I asked her what you liked to eat, since you lived with her longer than I knew you."
Edgeworth's shoulders shook in silent laughter. "Ah, how very like Franziska - Wright, this is a list of her favorite foods. Atrocious spelling, too, I might add."
"Pardon my French - by which I mean I don't know any," Phoenix teased, picking up the remote and settling down on the adjacent chair. "So she figured you'd like what she liked?"
"I suppose. But these are definitely her favorite foods. When I came back on holiday during the time I was at law school, she had the staff making this exact menu on a rotating sched..." The smile abruptly slipped from his face, and he looked at the list again.
Phoenix figured out what the problem was just before he'd opened his mouth to ask. "...I guess... I'm not exactly surprised," Phoenix muttered. "Perfection, and all." He hadn't actually thought that he could be more disgusted with Manfred von Karma than he already was, but apparently he could.
Edgeworth was still staring at the list. "...I was here in America, at university - I had no idea..."
"Maybe you should talk with her."
Edgeworth nodded thoughtfully, and set the paper down again as Phoenix clicked the remote. "...I suppose I will."
Phoenix hadn't initially understood this whole Steel Samurai thing, but oddly enough, after watching enough of it, it became strangely appealing. At its worst, it was cheesy enough to laugh at. Edgeworth wasn't laughing, though, even at the most ridiculous fight scenes. Every time Phoenix looked over to him, he just looked very small and very far away. ...He really couldn't help himself.
Edgeworth looked up in surprise as Phoenix got up from his chair. "Wright...?"
"Let's not think much about it, okay?" Phoenix suggested, sitting down on the couch and sliding in behind him, to drop an arm around his shoulders. "If you don't have any objection, just let it be."
Beside him, Edgeworth considered, then sighed. "Sustained," he murmured, and Phoenix grinned. Apparently he wasn't too far removed from his old self.
Just as they got to the part where the Steel Samurai's villain of the day (well, year, since these were the annual specials) was revealed to be his love interest in disguise, Edgeworth stirred, and settled down against Phoenix, his head resting back on Phoenix's chest. This wasn't quite how Phoenix had envisioned holding him - okay, to be honest, it wasn't anything like how he'd envisioned holding him - and it was far from perfect. But it was a start, and perfection seemed a lot less attractive today than it once had.
Possibly tomorrow, they could do this again. After another sandwich, Phoenix decided. Maybe it would be habit-forming.