DISCLAIMER: Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney, et al are propety of Capcom, no copyright infringement intended.

Well, this story will get far more interesting in later chapters that I've already written, but let's set the initial scene in motion, shall we :)


It was inconceivable to Phoenix why he was moping. Maya's been away before, he chided internally, his gaze fixated to the wall. She even said "I'll be back in a month, just you wait!"

Unbidden, the errant thoughts churned to the surface. She wasn't the Master before. She had less pressing matters at Kurain.

Why does it matter? retaliated Phoenix to his paranoid half. Maya has her own life to lead.

His subconscious did not appear to accept this entirely reasonable dismissal.

A distraction. Phoenix grabbed his toilet brush and mauled it around the bowl obsessively. Some explanation was in order, he surrendered.

He thought back to the years he and Maya had spent together. It didn't take much thinking.

"I… I want to protect her," he mused, recalling the times she'd been on trial, the murder attempts, that kidnapping… "I'm scared something will happen to her in Kurain without me there to protect her. That's all."

A renegade part of himself persisted that he was still lying.

"And that's stupid. The danger from Morgan Fey is past." The toilet internals glinted like a mirror, but regardless Phoenix unleashed a second tidal wave of cleaning liquid and scoured frenetically.

"Maya will be back in a month. That's all."

He decisively up-ended the toilet cleaner bottle to cascade a third assault of liquid, but the bottle was revealed to be empty. Thwarted from this delusion facilitator, Phoenix prowled the office. His rapacious gaze seized upon Mia's law books. Mia had 'left', told him she had nothing more to teach him, but maybe she assumed he'd read them? Phoenix detested study and exertion [at least when the motivator of a friend on the line was absent] but he had to numb his insubordinate brain with something deflecting.

He would make himself a better lawyer and blitz the next case. Maya would be so impressed…

No, this track was defeating the purpose of the exercise. Undesired recollections poured stubbornly to the surface. Maya had been so insistent on helping him after that first trial with Morgan that she'd even attempted to read them. She hadn't progressed very far, but she obviously lacked a law degree or.. well probably any kind of mainstream education in anything except spirit channelling and the occult.

All his education appeared to be to little avail as for the fifth time he ungratifyingly re-read the first section of the book he'd randomly grabbed. It was a while before the revelation hit that this was actually about property law, not defending 'criminals' at all.

He flipped to a subsequent section, but it was an unfathomable sea of greyish obfuscation. Squinting as he choked on its foam of obligatory dust, Phoenix lurched resignedly for another volume.

The print progressively daubed into indecipherable stains. Phoenix's glazed eyelids slackened, and his now haphazard spikes ultimately drooped to the desk.

***


It was barely forty minutes before something prematurely roused him, into the unpleasant sensation of his nostrils embedded in the musty page of the law volume.

Oh. The phone was ringing.

"Hello? I'm sorry, Sir, I'm not taking cases at present. No, my assistant is away, we're not… Look, there are other lawyers. Why don't you try Gavin and Co., they're nearby." Something in the 'potential client's manner and insistence about his 'little daughter' had jarred him, though Phoenix was not consciously aware of it. He was aware, however, that his nap had not cured his pressing problem; mentioning his 'assistant was away' had conclusively reinvoked it.

Some TV. That would work. It was supposed to send half your brain to sleep, right?

Unfortunately, tonight's offering proved to be a Nickel Samurai marathon. Contradictory to what could have conceivably been fatal to the series, the producers had merely capitalised on the ex-star Engarde's murder convictions. They had rewritten a dramatic plot twist that the Nickel Samurai was actually a deception instigated by the Evil Magistrate, recently forced to trigger his true malicious identity. The change in actor and related voice was conveniently justified by the physical degradation wrought by the Magistrate's ongoing subsumation of the Samurai's psyche into his evil incarnation. Nickel Samurai was now exponentially more popular due to the blanket media publicity and the unanticipated plot reversal.

And as the screen glinted with the Evil Magistrate's kidnap of some unwitting victim, there was only one thing Phoenix could think of…

He jammed his finger on the remote's 'OFF' switch.

Well, back to the books.

As Phoenix's eyes meandered over the paragraphs for the 8th time, an inconvenient truth jammed into the forefront of his consciousness.

It's not just that I want to protect Maya. I need her, need her here with me.

What are you saying? retaliated another, exasperated segment of himself. You're not a rookie. Your mentor said you no longer needed her.

Aware the tussle was still infuriatingly inconclusive, he continued "It's not like you have to be together all the time. You've taken cases before without her here."

There, totally rational!

"Well, one case at least…."

Doubt surged to awash away his flimsy reasonings of denial.

What was this? He was supposed to be a proficient lawyer. Maya didn't even do any of the technical legal reasoning, he did that.

It was something else, wasn't it.

Phoenix sighed. This was confusing. He'd never had a friend like Maya, who periodically produced such extremes of emotion in him that they even eclipsed his dedication to Edgeworth, catalyst for his adult life's purpose and inherent meaning.

It wasn't anything like the delusion he'd felt for 'Dollie', so he assumed it could not be categorised as 'romantic interest'. Phoenix was perplexed in attempt to conceptualise or define it. It simply bore no precedents to anything which he could orient himself, so he had disregarded it out of necessity.

He consciously suppressed the issue but his subconscious churnings reiterated unabated. 'Love' and 'romance' had almost destroyed him and brought little but pain and torment. If anything, at least he and Maya were genuine. That alone had long marked it as something other than his knowledge of 'romance.' Even now able to put the incident in context after its recent resolution, parts of his maturity regarding romance were… languishing years behind in the past.

Well, Maya will be back in a month, he soothed himself. She's never betrayed me before. In the meantime, I'll see what I can do to improve the legal practice.

Reassured by the security of his continued friendship with Maya, Phoenix spontaneously seized another volume. "Evidence Law,' he mouthed to himself, finally relaxed enough to concentrate. "The presentation of evidence upon.." Phoenix's attention was firmly embedded in his book when he was jarred out of the paragraph by the phone's trill.

The disorientation eliminated its concept from his brain.

"Hello?" Him again. "I'm sorry, Sir, I'm not taking cases at present. My assistant is on leave and… No there are no 'short, easy cases', even if I am a 'proficient lawyer' like you say. There are other lawyers, why don't you try… I'm sure I'm not your 'only hope'. I'm sorry your 'little daughter will be all alone and starve to death…'"

What was he saying? panicked Phoenix as he trailed off.

Disconcertion resurfaced.

Zak smirked. The bleeding heart lawyer had taken the bait perfectly. Now to conjure the final trap…

"Well, okay," Phoenix found himself surrendering to ensnarement in Zak's illusion-veiled wheedles.

"I'll come and discuss your situation, but I am not committing to the case, understand."

***


Mild disorientation gripped Phoenix as he stood behind the defense bench as the trial began its opening formalities. The previous night's events were recalled only as a frenetic hyper-reality. What had happened? He couldn't leave Zak and his poor little daughter all alone to starve. She had no other family. And he was a proficient lawyer, right?

Yes, he remembered now. He'd started feeling really confident somewhere along the line. It was after that drink (what was it, grape juice..?), no that couldn't be it. It was because he'd won that poker game. And, well, now he was supposed to win this case. His client's life was counting on him!

The rest of reality took on a surreal irrelevance to his frenetically surging mental processes.


***

The… the evidence was forged?

The surreality of the glowing edges of the courtroom began to impound and close in on him, surging to crush him in a brutal ache in his skull. He stood, frozen.

Gavin called a witness.

Phoenix was incapable of self-defense. His mouth could only flop open and closed like a dying fish.

Zak had disappeared.

Phoenix merely found this information confusing.

The brilliantly harsh hues began to dull, replaced with a steadily greying atmosphere and an intense nausea.

What had happened?

I am going to throw up, murmured Phoenix distantly, figuring that an illegal dash to the toilets would be better received than a soiling of the courtroom carpets.

He'd barely made it through the restroom doorway when he spewed up the contents of his digestive tract: bile, grape juice and… whatever malicious substance Zak had 'magically' slipped in the grape juice.

One of the bailiffs entered and briskly escorted him out. No longer assigned status of a respected lawyer, it appeared Phoenix was currently regarded with the contempt of a criminal within courtroom protocols. His little restroom incursion had been a mistake. The bailiff permitted him a paper towel, but Phoenix suspected cynically that this was to avoid the bailiff having to contact with Phoenix's stray vomit rather than any respect for his personal dignity.

As he again stood in the courtroom, decisively flanked by bailiffs as the proceedings continued, he floundered to comprehend the revelation. The experience of finding he had presented forged evidence and its connotations was so surreal that Phoenix could barely believe it occurred.

Mercifully, things wrapped up for the session relatively swiftly. Although presenting forged evidence was a criminal offence, it was not of the severity to require immediate police detention. The court allowed him to depart, pending future summons.


***

Hazily dragging himself home, he partially expects to awake from slumber to find his headache cured and that the events of the trial didn't really happen. But when he awakes fretfully a few hours later, the headache has merely increased in intensity and an extraordinary meeting of the Bar Association Review Board is imminently occurring.

Upon their verdict, all Phoenix can manage to do is stumble blindly out and collapse in a vacant corner. He can't move, can't amass the energy to sit up from his sprawled droop. Staring unseeingly into the wall, he vaguely desires that the Earth will swallow him up, that reality will cease to exist, that somehow this isn't true.

After several hours of this, his pained limbs resurface him into some kind of mental coherence. Rationality pours forth to a last-ditch attempt to avert the disintegration of what so much of his adult life has revolved around. He'd been in disasters before. He should just solve this one the same way, by an investigation. He clings to this one hope. Somehow this wasn't true, he didn't forge evidence, so he would merely find the answers and avert this nightmare. Knowledge that if he doesn't move now he may never amass the will to do so again and a last ditch desperation of denial sends a surge of adrenalin through his limbs.

He runs around in a frenzy, attempting to investigate Zak's disappearance and the crime. But soon he reaches the limits of what he can do, and loses both the temporal distraction from his situation and the hope that he can miraculously avert this disaster with the real truth.

He continued roaming the streets, desperate to keep doing something, now devoid of direction, vaguely hoping his feet will carry him away from the nightmare situation. But instead it travels with him, increasingly subsuming and asphyxiating him. So many of the bearings by which he'd set his life had collapsed without warning.

But eventually sheer exhaustion overtakes him, and he drags himself back to the office and collapses on the couch.

Even when he awakes again, the futility renders him incapable of movement. His entire adult identity has somehow been built around the empowerment tied with being a defense attorney. He can barely comprehend what he's supposed to do now in life without it. Going through the motions seems pointless – for what purpose, exactly?

His phone rings several times, plummeting into his murky daze, but Phoenix can't amass the will to pick up. He can't help his friends any more, and he can't expect them to keep supporting him or even to believe him. Associating with him would just unfairly tarnish their reputations anyway – and this mistake was nobody's fault but his own. Sure, he didn't forge the evidence – but he was stupid enough to present it. He had no-one to blame for the situation but himself.

Overwhelming guilt at tarnishing Edgeworth's image, at betraying the legacy of Mia and the future hopes of Maya were literally too painful to deal with at this time, and he descended again into the trackless paralysis of futility.

***

Oh no.. drama. Well, had to make such an unfortunate canon premise interesting.. :) Might rewrite part of this chapter later.