A/N: This story is currently being written for the Kink Meme. While posting here, I'll try and iron out a few details that I missed when first uploading this story. If you're interested in knowing what the original prompt was, I've posted it on my profile. Anyway, that's enough explaination from me; I'll let the fic do the talking from here on out instead.
Chapter One: Ghosts
It was a cliché, but young Franziska von Karma saw dead people. Well, to be truly accurate, she didn't see them, but rather experienced their presence in the room when she was trying to sleep at night. Even when she was very tired from poring over the heavy law books all day long, soft ghostly fingertips lay gently on her shoulder once she retired to her bed, and the room smelled faintly of a mother that she could barely remember.
Miles had started to notice the large dark bags underneath his sister's eyes when she woke up in the morning, but apart from a few questioning looks, he had not acknowledged them. He probably realised that she didn't want to talk about what was keeping her up so late at night. Luckily, Papa had been busy lately, going over to the States more and more often to take on important trials, and had not been around to observe the evidence of his daughter's less-than-perfect sleeping habits.
She knew, however, that Miles would not stay silent forever. They went into the library together after breakfast, and sat at their favourite tables. Miles was in the corner next to Papa's dusty books on legal loopholes, a section he seemed to favour perusing when he had free time after completing his main studies for the day.
Franziska, however, took the seat by the window. She loved the summer's warmth and its long days, where she could go outside after she had finished all her tasks and still enjoy reading a book, surrounded by the sunlight.
But this window also allowed her to enjoy the benefits of summer while in the library and she smiled to herself as a beam of sunshine crossed her desk. She closed her eyes and could almost feel the light being absorbed into her eyelids…
The next thing she knew, Miles was shaking her awake. "Franziska," he said, "you dozed off."
She blinked at him, eyes still bleary from her nap. "It's the heat. Thank you for waking me up." She pulled the book she was taking notes from closer to her body, but Miles slammed his hand down atop of it. She twisted her head around his arm, but no matter what angle she surveyed the text from, it was simply too difficult to read with her brother's hand obstructing it.
"What would your father say if he saw you falling asleep during your studies?" It was not an accusation, like it would have been if it was indeed her father who had seen her lapse in concentration, but a genuine, concerned question.
She almost had half a mind to tell him, but she had to be reasonable. Miles was fifteen and had no reason to believe in ghosts. He would laugh at her if she told him that some nights, her mother held her tightly in her arms, which frightened Franziska so thoroughly that it kept her awake until the next morning.
Of course Miles would laugh. Miles would laugh, and tug gently on the end of one of her plaits, and tell her, 'Your mother's dead, Franziska,' while she scowled at him and fixed her hair ribbons to attain their perfect symmetry once more.
And if she were to tell him about the ghosts that visited her on other nights…well, he would be quite right to believe her crazy. Von Karmas came from only the best stock; mental abnormalities would not be tolerated in her father's household.
"I just haven't been sleeping well," she replied. "Then again, neither have you." It was true that Miles often looked as awful as Franziska did these days, but he was well trained enough not to fall asleep in the middle of his studies, and unbidden, a spark of jealously flickered in Franziska's heart. Why did he have to be so good at everything? She was a von Karma, and she was meant to be perfect…but sometimes she felt as though she had difficulty being as perfect as Miles.
Not that she'd ever tell him that, though. There was no time or need to go around flattering her little brother's ego.
Miles froze, fingers tightening where they lay over the material of his pants. "That's none of your business, Franziska."
"I want to help you," she insisted. After all, Papa was coming back soon, and if he returned and saw the two of them struggling to stay awake while they ploughed through legal texts, he would be most displeased. If they were anything less than what he expected them to be, he might even decide that they were not worthy of the Von Karma name! Admittedly, it would not be quite as bad for Miles, as he was an Edgeworth…but if she was not a Von Karma, who would she be? Clearly, they both needed help in solving their respective problems, but Franziska still wasn't going to tell first. "If you tell me, I'll tell you what's been happening to me."
At that, Miles seemed to think for a bit, until he leaned forward towards Franziska, the side of his mouth curling into a small smile and his eyes darting sideways. "Well, if you put it that way…I often spend many hours of the night reading everything I did not get around to studying during the day."
Huh. Maybe Miles wasn't as perfect as she thought he was. But there was something about the way he had said it so calmly, and the answer itself was so simple there would have been no real point in the first place. She bit her lip and looked at her brother, who seemed to be avoiding her eyes. He was lying to her!
"So, Franziska," he asked after the silent moment between them had endured for long enough, "what has been keeping you up so late that you cannot focus on your studies, hmm?"
She was angry at him, for lying so blatantly to her that she almost wanted to kick the fool as hard as she could and storm out of the room, but instead, the words tumbled out of her mouth as though her control of it had disappeared entirely. "I see ghosts!"
Why could she not keep her mouth shut? Papa had often told her off about talking at the wrong times, and she had been learning to be better disciplined lately, but when she let her emotions get the better of her as she had just now, all her hard work just seemed to vanish.
Miles had not been looking directly at her when he had asked his question, but now her eyes were locked onto her face. "You've been having bad dreams?" he asked, and his voice sounded oddly choked—a strange display of emotion for her brother.
It would have been easy to admit them as dreams, as demons haunting her mind, but after letting her secret be blurted out so foolishly, she remained obstinate. "They're not dreams, Miles Edgeworth, they're real."
"I know they can seem that way, when it's really dark at night, but they'll go away when you wake up and everything will be normal."
They wouldn't go away when she woke up, because she never went to sleep in the first place. If everything was meant to be normal when she was awake, did that mean that these…ghosts…were normal too? He was a foolishly foolish fool for foolishly thinking that she would have foolish dreams about foolish ghosts.
She had been staring out the window with her arms crossed; refusing to listen to anything Miles had to say for the last five minutes. That had to be the fifth time he had called out her name.
"Franziska, bad dreams are nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes when you're afraid of things, you try to be strong and pretend they don't exist so they don't interfere with your everyday life. You can't truly forget them, though. Your mind remembers them when you fall asleep, and these fears of yours manifest themselves into nightmares because the only time they can frighten you now is when you're sleeping."
The words sounded nice to Franziska, but she still couldn't be too sure that he wasn't just being kind to her to make up for lying earlier.
Even if these ghosts were bad dreams that somehow invaded her waking hours too, she wouldn't have any reason to be afraid of her own mother, would she? Some of the other ghosts were scary, like the man with the blood splatters covering his chest; white dress shirt stained a deep dark red, but her very own mother was meant to keep her safe. Which, in a way, the ghost did, even though it was still very scary.
"How do you know so much?" she asked, slowly turning around to see the fond expression on his face.
"That depends…can you keep a secret?" he asked.
She nodded slowly. Miles didn't talk about himself often, and she was not about to bypass an opportunity to learn one of his secrets. She wouldn't tell, because Papa wasn't here to tell anyway.
"It's…it's not the books that keep me up all night," he breathed, suddenly looking very interested in the designs carved into the edge of the table, fingers of the hand that had once been forcefully placed onto the book now tracing the intricate stem of a flower.
She thought she understood, but she wasn't entirely sure.
When she went to sleep that night, the now familiar fingertips gripped her shoulder, and a ghostly arm wrapped itself around her back. But this night, she reminded herself that there was no reason to be afraid. She breathed her mother's scent but it did not last too long. It wafted away and the fingertips left too, until she was cold and alone in her own bed.
Alone, that was, until at the end of her bed a man stepped out of the shadows behind her bedroom curtains, his suit jacket hanging undone displaying the prominent blood splatter covering nearly his entire chest.
I am not scared, she told herself, hoping that this ghost would go away, just like the one of her mother had.
The ghost didn't go anywhere and merely stood at the end of her bed, saying nothing. She wondered if the ghosts could speak. Crawling out from underneath her own covers, she forced herself to inch herself towards the ghostly man.
"Who….who are you?" she asked. If this man and her mother were both ghosts, surely she could deal with them both with the method that Miles had taught her?
The man smiled a happy smile as a bullet flew backwards out of his heart.