Disclaimer: Not my characters etc., written for fun not profit, you all know the drill.

Notes: Yet another kink meme fic, spawned off a prompt that pointed out that Vera had offered to paint Trucy's nails. Before anyone knew about the nail polish. ...Possibly I went a little overboard, but I'll chalk it up to catharsis.
This one's for my Leah-bun, whose sudden loss I was still having trouble coping with when I wrote this, several months after the fact. Like Phoenix and Trucy, we didn't have anywhere near enough time together.

Warnings: Character death... and all the misery that goes with it.

Trucy's Daddy

He was there when it happened, and he still didn't have time to say goodbye.

Chaos erupted when Vera collapsed on the witness stand. He'd made his way from the jurist's chambers to the courtroom immediately, concerned not only for the girl, but for Apollo and Trucy as well. He'd been present at the site of several murders in his time, unlike the two of them, and he knew how terrifying it was. Apollo seemed fairly composed, already having called for an ambulance and then kneeling at Vera's side, just waiting with concern as others more trained than he tried to resuscitate her.

As for Trucy, she was standing behind Apollo, shaking, biting her nails. He went to her immediately, pulling her close as she whimpered a single word, daddy, desperately against his chest, and just held her while she cried. That was his job. Not a lawyer anymore, not a pianist, not an overseer for the jurists - he was Trucy's daddy, and that was all that mattered.

Or so it would have been, if he'd taken the time to really think about it. Instead, as she relaxed, he let go and turned away, talking to Apollo and a few of the others who had been present, asking what they'd seen and when.

He didn't look back to her again until someone shouted, and he turned back just in time to see his little girl's back arch painfully, her face contorted in pain where she had fallen to the floor. He knelt, as quickly as he could manage, and though he was right beside her, he still wasn't fast enough to do anything, or to understand what this meant. She was there, and then...

She managed to gasp that same word again, daddy, as he gripped her hand, cradled her head, and then she breathed out, and did not breathe in.

Supposedly the paramedics arrived only moments later, but they were expecting one victim, not two, and there had been some confusion. Phoenix was confused. She'd been fine. And now... This was impossible. Completely impossible. It wasn't happening.

He didn't even consider the possibility that it was happening until the paramedics turned away, shaking their heads, and started to load Vera onto a stretcher to take her away. And his little girl was still there, on the floor, half in his lap, like she was sleeping with her eyes wide open.

Mr. Wright wasn't talking. He was just staring, the same way he did when Apollo tried to show him something that turned out to be completely irrelevant. Shock, probably.

Which was the same reason that Apollo was able to talk rationally to the police in Mr. Wright's place, probably, while he just sat there and stared. His face hardly looked different than his daughter's. And somehow Apollo didn't find that horrifying. Yeah... had to be shock. And he was grateful for it, because that meant he wasn't freaking out. He could talk, he could move.

When they made Mr. Wright get back, move away from... and even through his disbelief, Apollo couldn't think of someone so vibrant and alive as Trucy as the words they were using, but she was now - but when Mr. Wright didn't seem to hear their instructions, Apollo could reach out and touch him, kneel down by him and try to get through to him. He could put an arm around him when he didn't know what to say, and gently turn him away.

And when Mr. Wright started crying like his heart had just broken, which Apollo supposed it had, whimpering that this couldn't be happening, it just couldn't be happening, Apollo was still too numb to do anything more than sit there with him in the corner, propping him up against the wall and wondering if this was a dream, because Mr. Wright was absolutely right.

The trial isn't over. Apollo can't believe they haven't called it off, considering the defendant is in a coma - and he doesn't add and the defense's aide is dead, and Phoenix is grateful that he doesn't - but Phoenix knows all too well that the legal system waits for no one. His first two trials didn't wait for the grief of his clients, nor did his second wait for his own grief. The courts don't care how people feel, and that's as it should be.

At the moment, he's not sure what he feels, if he feels anything at all.

He's gathered enough information over the years that he has some idea what happened. If his theory is right, Apollo will be able to prove Vera's innocence... but if his theory is right, he's not entirely sure he wants Vera to go free.

Vera's on trial for the murder of her father, he reminds himself. Not for his daughter.

Even knowing that she hadn't done it on purpose doesn't change the way he feels, and he tells Apollo he can't help with this trial anymore. He tells him where the videos are first, though - which directory and what the password is.

And then he gives Apollo his keys and leaves the courthouse. He doesn't know where he's going, but Apollo will almost certainly be going to the office before he will.

Mr. Wright's videos clear everything up, after Apollo's watched them a few times. It's obvious what Mr. Wright was telling him to do by telling Apollo where they were, and so Apollo burns them to a CD. Mr. Wright's old computer can't burn anything else, but at least he can take the files with him, and maybe find a way to put them on a DVD or something, so the court can watch and take them into consideration.

He can't believe Mr. Gavin has really done something so terrible. He's managed to wrap his head around the idea that Mr. Gavin had murdered someone, but that had been a moment of madness, a complete stranger. Or so he'd assumed, until he saw these videos. Perhaps it was still a moment of madness, but there was reason behind it too - and as for what happened today, it was clearly premeditated. Seven years premeditated.

At least, Vera's poisoning was. As for Drew Misham, and Trucy... that hadn't been intentional, but the fact that Mr. Gavin had left openings for accidental casualties in his personal agenda doesn't make Apollo less angry.

Especially when his brain stops working on the actual case in question, and a more personal revelation breaks into his thoughts - the realization that he had a sister. He had a sister. And he hadn't even known, until she wasn't there anymore.

He's taking Gavin down tomorrow. For Trucy, for Vera, for himself, for Mr. Wright - for everyone.

...But he isn't sure he can do it alone.

The office is too quiet, but he stays there late into the evening. Trucy's magic props are still all over the place, and he picks up the plate of plastic spaghetti, and somehow that's what makes him start to cry. The tears are hot and angry and he punches the back of the couch he's sitting on.

And almost starts laughing hysterically when he remembers. Try yelling "Take that!" next time. I find it packs a little more punch.

For what might be the first time, he'd give anything to have Mr. Wright walk through that door and say something. Something insensitive, something cryptic, something stupid, he doesn't care. He just doesn't want to be alone with this, and there's only one person who would understand.

He waits all night, until the windows at the hotel across the street are all lit up and his eyes are dry, until he gives in and curls up on one of the couches to close them. He sleeps through the night and wakes up with a stiff neck, and there's no sign at all that Mr. Wright has come back.

His cell phone's been ringing a lot, starting yesterday evening. There aren't a lot of people in town that still care about him, but word travels fast, and there are enough.

No, that's not right. There's exactly one less than enough.

He isn't sure where he is when he realizes the sun's starting to come up. He's been walking all night, and seems to have gone further than he would on a normal walk. He doesn't even recognize the cross streets. There's a bus stop on the corner, though - one of the nice ones with a little enclosed bench, and he decides to sit down for awhile.

Who's called him? He takes his cell phone out of his pocket and reviews the list of missed calls. No one he wants to talk to, because every one of them is someone who will offer sympathies and condolences, and that'll just remind him of what happened, and he can't think about it now. It's impossible.

The next thing he's aware of is a police officer nudging him awake, telling him to move along, and he supposes he might as well.

He's only gone about a block further when his cell phone rings again, and since everything is perfectly normal right now, he looks at it. The office number. His heart beats for what seems like the first time in nearly a whole day.

It's not Trucy. It's Apollo.

His answers to Apollo's questions are blunt. Actually, he doesn't know where he is. But that's all right, don't get worried - he's a grown man, not a lost little kid. No, he won't be at the courthouse. They can find someone else to handle the jurists. He's not the only one who's been working on this project, after all. Yeah, Kristoph did it. Yeah, Trucy is his sister. Please don't correct him. Yeah, it's okay. Apollo can do this, and needs more faith in himself. He passed the bar and got his badge, didn't he? Maybe Klavier is a genius, and Kristoph's little brother, but Apollo needs more faith in him, too. A prosecutor who is also interested in finding the correct verdict is the most useful partner a defense attorney can have.

Yeah, he's okay. Or he was until Apollo asks that, and Phoenix decides it's time to say goodbye.

A mile or so on, he happens across a park. There are other people sleeping on benches, so maybe the police will be less likely to bother him here.

His phone rings a couple more times after that, but he doesn't look. No one he wants to talk to. And if he just lets it ring, the batteries will wear out faster, and then it won't ring anymore.

He's still not certain where he is the next morning, and only knows it's the next morning because he sees a man get out of a big white van and unlock a newspaper dispenser in front of a store. The man looks up warily as he approaches, and Phoenix can only imagine what he must look like, but he can't manage a smile to put the man at ease, and the man hurries to finish loading the thing and get back in the van. Phoenix pauses, and looks at the headline through the plexiglass.


He does smile then, a little. He knew Apollo would be okay.

He has enough change in his pocket to buy a paper, but then he realizes what else the article will talk about, and decides he doesn't want to buy one after all.

He's not thinking much about where or when he is. Or in fact anything at all. It doesn't register that the car slowing down in the street beside him is a police car until he hears the door open and glances over to see an officer stepping out, asking him to hold on a moment.

Phoenix's reply is tart, sarcastic. Public street, isn't it? Is there a law against walking on the sidewalk nowadays? But then the policeman asks if he's Phoenix Wright, and that gives Phoenix pause.

He does as requested, sitting in the back of the squad car, but it's not going anywhere, and the conversation over the radio explains why he's there. Perhaps ten minutes later, another police car pulls up and squeals to a halt, making him lift his head from where it's resting against the glass and open his eyes. Somehow he's not surprised at who it is opening the door across from him.

The snackoo hits him right between the eyes, and he smiles even as he flinches and she climbs in next to him. At first she's berating him for making everyone worry, but her expression quickly softens. The next snackoo is offered more gently, and he accepts it, though it tastes like ash. He doesn't remember eating anything for awhile, and that's probably why he's dizzy, so he makes himself eat another and another as she pushes the bag into his hands and explains. Apollo had been worried after that phone call, when Phoenix couldn't say where he was. When the phone started going straight to voicemail, and he still hadn't shown up at home, Apollo had filed a missing persons report.

Phoenix laughs aloud. Ema maintains it was a logical thing to do - especially under the circumstances of his disappearance - and Phoenix sobers abruptly as she explains that she instructed people to look for the hat. She knew he'd still be wearing it. And of course he would. As far as Phoenix is concerned, he has no reason not to.

But Ema contradicts that when she quietly tells him they need his okay to proceed with certain things. Preparations. Donations. Phoenix wants to plug his ears, but he knows that she's right, so he makes himself nod, and then they're off.

Apollo's there when they arrive at the - at their destination, and the fury that's so obviously masking his relief is amusing enough to distract Phoenix from exactly where they've come and what's there and what they have to do. He's shouting about how irresponsible it was to run off like that, and it's a good thing that Prosecutor Gavin wasn't like most prosecutors or they'd have been completely screwed over, and then the Chords of Steel crack when Apollo asks how on earth he could leave him to watch those videos alone, knowing what they meant? Phoenix doesn't know what to say besides a mumbled apology, but Apollo's anger seems to have burned itself out, and they go together to take care of what needs to be taken care of.

They're asked first if they want to see her, and Phoenix quickly declines. He doesn't want to see her like that. It's bad enough that he has to remember seeing her in pain during those last moments, and lying there on his lap motionless, and Apollo grabs his arm to prevent him from turning around and leaving. They have to do this. ...But Phoenix doesn't have to see her if he doesn't want to.

The rest is a lot of paperwork, and Phoenix is having trouble actually signing them. Apollo insists that it's what she would have wanted, though, and Phoenix agrees. Trucy was always generous. She would want to give life to others. That's what she did for him, in fact, if not in a physical sense. And right now, it feels like the other way around. Phoenix gave her a vital part of himself, seven years ago, and he has no idea how it's possible for him to go on living if it's gone.

Not that he says any of this aloud. He just keeps his eyes down, on the paper and the pen, and signs parts of his little girl away. He knows that's not how it is - that what's left isn't really Trucy. Trucy isn't there at all anymore, not the parts of Trucy that made her Trucy. But he still can't help thinking it. Especially when they ask what his plans are for the remains.

There are options. Phoenix pictures, unbidden, his daughter in a box, under the ground, worms venturing closer. He takes a deep breath, trying to make the image fade, and decides on cremation. She'd probably like that, disappearing in flames - it's like a magic trick.

His voice breaks off there, and he covers his face. Apollo's hand is on his back as the younger man offers quiet agreement. He hadn't known Trucy for as long, but he thinks she would have liked that too. They can find a good spot, and she can fly away on the wind. It is like a magic trick.

Except that she won't reappear this time, Phoenix thinks.

He sleepwalks through the rest of the preparations, and then they're free to go. Unless they do want to see her? Phoenix declines again, but Apollo says he wants to. Phoenix paces around out front, trying not to pass out, until Apollo appears, red-eyed but mostly composed. He apologizes for his anger earlier, and Phoenix tells him it's fine. Everything's fine.

Ema's still there, and offers them a ride. Phoenix doesn't see any reason not to accept, until they stop and he looks up and sees his office building. He doesn't want to go up there. After a brief discussion, Apollo offers Phoenix a place on his couch for the night.

Apollo's doing his best to try to make him comfortable, bringing out more blankets than Phoenix could possibly need in LA in October, offering him food and drink and the television remote before Phoenix finally just tells him to settle down, and he does. The silence between them as they sit on the couch is painful, but not awkward.

Finally Apollo speaks. Vera woke up that morning. She's going to be okay. Phoenix doesn't know what to say about that, so he says nothing. It's always good for the innocent to prevail against the plots of the wicked, of course, but it only reminds him that there are no guarantees they will. Phoenix just nods, and silence falls once more.

Apollo tries again a little bit later. He thinks they made the right decisions this afternoon. He thinks Trucy would have been pleased. Phoenix does too, or he wouldn't have agreed to it, but he doesn't want to think about any of it anymore.

Apollo hesitates. If anything happened to him... he's already signed his organ donation card, but he doesn't know what he'd want done with the rest. On the one hand, returning to the earth is the natural way of things. But maybe he'd want his ashes put somewhere special to him, he's not sure. On the other hand, he laughs faintly, the courthouse is the most important place in the world to him, the only place he's ever really felt like he mattered. They probably wouldn't let someone scatter his ashes under the defense bench or anything. When Phoenix doesn't laugh, Apollo looks over to him more seriously and asks if there's a place like that for him.

Phoenix nods. If he was cremated, he thinks he'd want his ashes scattered at his old elementary school. Apollo looks at him like he wants to ask if Phoenix is nuts. Same reasoning as Apollo and the courthouse, though - it was the first place where he was really happy. The place where everything started.

Apollo doesn't get it, but Phoenix didn't expect him to. He just turns to lie down, and stares up at the uneven ceiling of Apollo's cheap apartment, thinking of days on the playground and days in the courthouse and wondering if there's anything left worth living for.

Apollo's busier than he expected all of a sudden. People are always calling, wanting to get statements and soundbites, and all he really wants to do is just finish up the paperwork for the case and put it to bed once and for all. And stop in to see Vera in the hospital while she recovers, because she really doesn't have anyone else. He supposes it's good that he's busy, because it means he doesn't have time to think or to feel. He's just taking care of business.

He wishes Mr. Wright had something to do. He's just been sitting on his couch ever since Apollo brought him to his apartment - mostly sleeping, sometimes just lying there. There's never any sign that he's gotten up when Apollo gets home, or that he's eaten anything aside from the times Apollo more or less puts a plate in his lap and silverware in his hand. And even then he doesn't eat much.

A couple of days have gone by, and on the morning they'd chosen for the viewing and memorial service (for which Apollo had handled the preparations, since Mr. Wright seemed completely detached), Mr. Wright still hasn't shaved or showered. Apollo's not sure he intends to go.

That's just not right, and Apollo finally says so.

"I don't want to see her."

The blunt response startles Apollo. He's hardly even heard Mr. Wright speak since the night he arrived. And then he's angry. "She's your daughter. Don't you want to say goodbye?"

"She'd hear me just as well if I said it here as she would if I said it there. Funerals are meaningless to the dead - they only have meaning for the living."

It's true enough, but Apollo can't let it go. "...Yeah, that's right. It's for the living - and that's one reason there'll be so many people there. They're going to be there to remember your daughter, and to comfort her family. That means you."

Mr. Wright's smirk is disturbing. "Apparently the fact that I wasn't answering my phone didn't clue you in."

"Look," Apollo argues, "the least you can do is show up. I... well, not just me, a bunch of people have put a lot of effort into this. And a lot of money."

"...You don't have a lot of money."

"No, I don't. But Prosecutor Gavin... he has control of his brother's bank accounts now, and he thought it was fitting that-"

Mr. Wright cuts him off with a wave of his hand. "I don't want to hear about it."

But at least he's up off the couch, Apollo thinks to himself as he watches Mr. Wright stumble towards the bathroom.

After a couple of minutes, he hears his shower turn on, and he sighs. He wonders if he has any clean clothes that would fit Mr. Wright... probably not. He'll give Prosecutor Gavin a call. He's just a little taller than Mr. Wright... and maybe he has something in his wardrobe that's not either flaming or leather or both. Maybe.

Phoenix isn't sure he's going to be able to stand up long enough to take a shower, let alone shave. But once he's in there, under the water, it feels good. He stands there longer than he really should. After awhile, he remembers he's supposed to be washing himself. There's a part of him that doesn't want to. His arms held her, his chin rested atop her head. It's the last time he felt her touch, the last time he ever will, and he doesn't want to remove any last little remnant of her from his skin.

He's being stupid. He knows it, but he still can't see the washcloth he's using to work the soap over his skin, and he can't make himself believe it's just because of the steam.

As for his chin, he's pretty sure he hasn't shaved for... however long it's been. The way it feels when he raises his hand makes him suspect he's got an actual beard now. He really should shave, and there's a razor on the back of the sink.

He's just standing there staring at it and thinking of things he could do with it other than shaving, things that would prevent him from having to do any of this, when there's a knock on the door, and Apollo asks if he's done yet. He has clean clothes for him, if so. Phoenix sighs and opens the door a crack to accept them.

The plain black suit he's given doesn't quite fit, but he's pretty sure it isn't Apollo's - it's tailored a little too narrow, the pants are a little too long. He gets his answer when he opens the door and sees Klavier standing there, sunglasses on. His greeting is somber, and before things can get too awkward, Apollo reminds them that they have to leave soon, or they'll be late.

In the limo which Klavier invited them to share, Klavier tells them that he won't be singing alone at the memorial service. Lamiroir contacted him, and she wants to sing too. Phoenix didn't know Klavier was singing at all, and he asks, only halfway sarcastic, if there was enough room in the funeral home for the necessary amps and mics and speakers and dramatic lighting rigs. Klavier says nothing for a moment, and Apollo elbows Phoenix hard. Phoenix apologizes; he's not feeling very well. Klavier nods. He understands. He promises he doesn't have anything inappropriate in mind. He wants to say more, Phoenix can tell, but he can't manage it - and Phoenix doesn't really care what it is anyway.

The visitation has already been underway for awhile when they arrive, probably because he took so long in the bathroom. There are a couple dozen people there already - friends of hers from school, friends of his that he has hardly spoken to in years, since he lost his badge. And now that everyone knows why he lost his badge, there are people there he's never spoken to in his life, except for that day seven and a half years ago, two days after he met Trucy. But they're there now, and they're willing and wanting to talk to him. Two-faced, he thinks to himself, and wanders away to find a drinking fountain. Hopefully in the opposite direction from that box over there, because he doesn't want to go near it.

Suddenly he's almost choking on a mouthful of water, because Larry's there, talking a mile a minute like always, griping about how Phoenix wasn't answering his phone, but he didn't care - Nick's been there for him every time, all those years, and now the Butz is going to make up for it. Phoenix's uneasiness is momentarily replaced by a sense of impending doom, but like everything else he's feeling, he decides he should ignore it. It is comforting to have someone there who's known him for so long, since before he lost his badge and even before he had a badge to lose. Someone who knew him when there was no Trucy. He did live without her, once, long ago.

It's comforting, that is, until Larry asks where Edgey is, why he's not there.

Larry's still badgering him for an answer when Apollo comes up and tells them the service is going to begin soon, and they should come and have a seat. His look at Larry is questioning, and Phoenix gives a brief introduction. Since Apollo's a lawyer and everything, Larry reasons, maybe he knows where Edgey is? Apollo has no idea who or what 'Edgey' is.

"Nick's best bud, man! Well, aside from me, of course. Big time prosecutor, you know the dude, right? Wears pink and lots of ruffles? They were rivals and everything, but-"

Phoenix interrupts and puts it simply. Edgeworth has been in Europe for the last seven years, as far as he knows. He's not even sure if Edgeworth is still a prosecutor - but even if he is, there's no way Apollo would know him.

Apollo's looking at him oddly. Phoenix immediately realizes what Apollo's seeing and stuffs his hands in his pockets to keep from rubbing at that knuckle on his finger any longer. Weren't they supposed to go sit down?

It's a sea of black, buffeting him this way and that with condolences and embraces and sympathy. Something of a physical manifestation of what has been going on in his head, to be honest, so he doesn't find it so difficult to take as he expected as long as he doesn't acknowledge it enough to fight it. He even manages to look around a little. The place is decorated with white and blue flowers - really pretty, but at odds with all the dark clothing. And up front, well...

The casket's white, and virtually buried beneath a pile of flowers and stuffed animals and other little trinkets. Half of the cover is propped open, like it was cut in half, like she's in the middle of that trick. Despite his better judgment, he takes a step towards it.

...She's so pretty lying there. She was pretty all the time, of course - when she was running around like a maniac, or even when she was throwing a tantrum, but she looks like she looked when she was little and fell asleep in his arms after a nightmare. The way she looked when he checked in on her at night, to make sure she wasn't reading under the covers.

He closes his eyes for a moment and wills this to be some bizarre trick. He wills her to just sit up and give him a big grin and ask if she surprised him. And he'll be furious, he'll remind her that she's not too big for a spanking if it's really, really well-deserved, and it absolutely is, but he knows all he'll do is just hug her until neither of them can breathe even so.

A tap on his shoulder makes him jump. ...He supposes he should have expected to see Valant here.

To his credit, the magician looks miserable. "I'm terribly sorry," he begins. "I may have wanted Magnifi's miracles, and I suppose they're mine now... but I never wanted it to happen this way."

"Bullshit." Phoenix feels too terrible to put on airs of civility. "You tried to frame her father for murder to get your hands on those secrets."

"Yes, well..." Valant held up his hands, surrendering. "Zak was... Zak. You bore witness to some of his less-than-finest moments too, did you not?" His eyes went to the casket. "His daughter, his and Thalassa's, is another matter entirely."

Phoenix understands, to be honest. He'd gotten certain impressions over the years, of some of the tensions that must have existed within Troupe Gramarye even before the accident. He glances back over his shoulder and sees a graceful figure moving through the crowd, veiled in black. He wonders if Valant knows, and his bitterness makes him speak again. "By the way, even without Trucy... you still don't have the right to the Gramarye miracles."

To Phoenix's surprise, Valant nods. "There's another... isn't there?"

When Phoenix glances back again, Apollo is gesturing to him. "...Two, actually." Valant's eyes narrow, but Phoenix is already turning away.

They have front row seats for the service, of course. Guests of honor. Phoenix wishes he was sitting in the back, so there would be something to look at other than the things he doesn't want to look at. There's a minister he ignores, with flowery words he ignores. There are friends offering memories, which he also ignores. If he listens, he's going to break down. There's a pause, and it doesn't register right away, since he was ignoring everything, that someone had asked him if he'd like to say a few words. He can't even spare the word "no"; he shakes his head. And then a couple seats away, Klavier's standing up in his black silk shirt and his slacks, picking up an acoustic guitar from a stand near the casket, and a cloud of black veils follows, raising a siren's voice as he begins to play.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there - I do not sleep...

Her voice is trembling. Phoenix tries not to listen to the words or the sound, because either one is likely to break him. Klavier's voice joins hers, propping it up in harmony after a few more bars, and it's stronger, harder to ignore.

Phoenix is trying desperately not to hear anything. He tries to find something else to focus on, something else to think about, but to one side is Apollo, face stricken, eyes wet for his new friend and his long-lost sister. To the other side is Larry, openly weeping for the little girl he used to babysit, his partner in crime when it came to finger-painting messes. And in front of him...

Klavier's guitar hits a sour note as Phoenix gets to his feet, but he's recovered from the stumble by the time Phoenix is out the door.

Larry had insisted on being the one to go after Mr. Wright, even though he was far more of a mess than Apollo was. They're old friends, after all. He's known Nick longer than anyone except for Edgey - he'd take care of him. Again with this Edgeworth person... If he was so important to Mr. Wright, Apollo wonders why Mr. Wright's never mentioned him, or introduced them. He and Trucy had mentioned other people from Mr. Wright's lawyer days that he still kept in contact with - Larry Butz included. Come to think of it, Apollo wonders why Maya Fey isn't there...

But after Larry's gone, he turns his attention back to the service. It was like he'd told Mr. Wright - maybe a funeral isn't so much for the dead, but at least it had the capacity to comfort those who remained.

Which number more than he thought, he realizes upon seeing Lamiroir linger by the casket after the song has ended. His bracelet tightens almost painfully, and then as the siren leans over, lifting her veils to place a kiss on Trucy's cheek, Apollo sees it. The twin of the ornament on his wrist, on hers.

His heart is racing through the rest of the service, and afterwards, as the crowd is dispersing, he catches her back in the corner, watching the last of Trucy's friends say their goodbyes by the white casket. She can see, he realizes. He knew she was going to, but... "Lamiroir?" he begins, and she looks at him. So much for Chords of Steel - more like Chords of Spaghetti, his throat is so tight as he continues. "...M... Mom...?"

Her eyes overflow, and then they're in each other's arms. Their embrace isn't a happy one, not in the least, but at least they're together in their shared sadness, for a loss they didn't even know until after it happened.

"Trucy...? Hey, hon... Trucy... Whuh... where are you?"

His shoulder hits the wall, and he hangs on to it gratefully for a second. He's really dizzy.

Can't see anything in the dark, either. Doesn't remember how it got so late. Or coming home, but there he is.

And there she's not. When he pushes the door open, her bed's empty.

A note of urgency creeps into his slurred voice. "Hey, Truce... sweetie, this isn't funny. Daddy had a... a bad dream." But he's awake now. He's awake, if a little confused. Dream's over. He just wants to prove it, that's all.

He stumbles over something on his way to the office proper, but isn't sure what. Maybe it's his own feet. He rubs his eyes and pushes himself up again - why is this so difficult? He remembers finishing half the bottle, but he sure doesn't remember finishing all of it. And maybe the whole thing was part of the dream, because he doesn't normally drink. But he was drinking because he was upset. But it was a dream. He's probably just... really tired. That's all.

Someone's peeking up over the back of the couch when he looks up, and he grins widely. "Hey... there you are. Good. Good... I, uh, know it's kind of dumb," he admitted, "but that dream... Hey, Trucy, remember when you were a kid... and you'd come find me when you had a bad dream? Well, uh..."

She'd sat up straighter to get a good look at him, as well as she could manage in the darkness, and his big grin begins to fade as he gets a better look at her. Then was it really...

His wide grin is accompanied this time by laughter, giddy, as he rolls onto his back. "Turned yourself into Larry, huh? Good one, Trucy... good one."

Because there's no other reason Larry would be there, except in that nightmare he was having. But he's awake, and this is a joke. A stupid one, but he can't stop laughing. It's a joke. It's a joke, it's a joke... oh god he's so wasted.

Somebody's got their arms around him, pulling him up. Somebody... Trucy, Larry, he doesn't know - he doesn't care, and he thinks that maybe he'd better not think too much about it, because the portion of his brain that he hasn't put out for the night is enough to know that Trucy's not strong enough to lift him like this. They lay him out flat, and when his laughter fades off into wheezing, he's all too happy to pass out again. Maybe next time he'll really wake up.

When he does, still not really sober but sober enough to see Larry sprawled out on the floor next to him, he ignores the pounding in his head and steps over the man. This is why he didn't want to come back here.

He's out the door before Larry even manages to turn over.

Apollo hopes, when a wobbly, groggy-looking Larry opens the office door to his knock, that Mr. Wright is just asleep. But no - Larry doesn't have a clue where he's disappeared to.

This is just great. Sitting down at the desk, Apollo presses a finger against his forehead, which aches. Larry sympathizes, his head hurts too, and Apollo snaps at him to go get a drink of water. He's trying to think.

He supposes he's either going to have to file another missing persons report, or wait for Mr. Wright to just reappear. He doesn't much like either idea, but the latter worries him more, because he has no idea how Mr. Wright might reappear, given the feeling he's gotten off Mr. Wright ever since this started. The thought of having to attend another funeral this week doesn't appeal to him.

He's not sure when he started caring. His thoughts about Mr. Wright had always been a little confusing - the man was a courtroom legend, but meeting him in person? He could be a jerk sometimes, and often acted so ridiculous that Apollo felt embarrassed on his behalf. It was only later that he realized the man was a genius, if the genius was a little on the twisted side, and not exactly consistent; mostly he'd put up with it because he had nowhere else to turn, and to an extent for Trucy's sake, too - she'd been working so hard for both herself and her father, even if she was every bit as strange as he was, and there was just something about her that made Apollo incapable of refusing her. Maybe he'd known all along, deep down.

At the memorial service, though, as longtime friends reminisced, he'd come to realize that he hadn't known her for very long, he didn't know her very well. It was the same way with Mr. Wright. He was different than his daughter had been, though - Apollo had to admit that he'd never been able to figure out what made the guy tick. Which was why he was probably going to have to involve the police again if he wanted to find him. He didn't even know where to begin looking.

When Larry returns, bleary-eyed and obediently carrying a tall glass of water, Apollo remembers something. Larry and Mr. Wright have known each other since they were kids, so... maybe Larry knows where that old elementary school is that Mr. Wright mentioned.

Larry brightens at once, seemingly glad to be useful, and offers to show him. A quick change of clothes later (and Apollo's fairly sure that it's Mr. Wright's clothes that he's changed into, but at least he's not stuck running around with a guy in dirty clothes), they're on the bus, heading out into the suburbs.

Waste of time and money. They split up and go all around the building, even looking inside the big concrete tubes and wooden play fort on the playground, but he's not there.

Larry's still roaming around looking, just in case they missed him somehow, but Apollo settles down on one of the swings, dejected. There has to be some way to find him... but even if they do find him, they haven't been able to reach him. Maybe there's nothing more he can do, and that scares him. Maybe he doesn't need Mr. Wright so desperately as he did at first - he and Lamiroir had a long, long talk the night before, and he even stayed with her in the fancy hotel suite, so now he knows he has someone who wants to be there for him - but he hates the idea of anyone going through what they're going through all alone.

His phone rings then, and Apollo fishes it out quickly - but it's just Klavier, calling to see if he'd gotten back the clothes he'd loaned Mr. Wright.

It's then that Apollo gets an idea. "...Out of curiosity... do you know anything about a prosecutor named Edgeworth?"

"Oh, ja - Miles Edgeworth was the youngest to prosecute in this district, in this whole state, until I came along. And he had a perfect record, until Herr Wright began his career. In fact, Herr Wright was the only defense attorney who ever defeated him. Yet there was no jealousy - they were said to have been good friends."

"Hmm..." Larry had said they were rivals, but friends too. And Mr. Wright himself had said something about an honest prosecutor being the best partner a defense attorney could have...

"And then there were the rumors."


"That the two of them were more than just friends."

That's more than Apollo would have expected. More than he really wanted to know, actually. He's stunned for a moment - Mr. Wright? Really? - but manages to clear his thoughts. "Why...? What basis was there?"

"Well, Herr Edgeworth disappeared one day, without a trace. He showed up a year later, when Herr Wright was in the middle of a difficult case, and the two of them together performed brilliantly."

"That doesn't mean anything."

"It's also reported that the following year, after Herr Edgeworth had returned to Europe, he chartered a private jet for an overnight flight back to LA in order to see Herr Wright in the hospital." There's a meaningful pause. "When Herr Wright merely had a very bad cold."

"..." This is harder to rebuff. "Well, it could just be that they're really close friends."

"Do really close friends go shopping at fine jewelry stores together?"

Now Apollo remembers when Larry was asking about Edgeworth at the funeral home, the way Mr. Wright reached over, caressing a knuckle of one finger. His ring finger. ...He has to admit, that's the only reason he could see Mr. Wright in a 'fine jewelry store' at all, but... "...Seriously?"

"It was the talk of the office when I first arrived. One of the secretaries was at the mall one afternoon, and who did she happen to see browsing the men's rings...? Herr Edgeworth reportedly pretended not to know her and they left quickly, but his fashion sense is particularly unique. As is Herr Wright's hair."

Apollo doesn't think he's ever even seen Mr. Wright's hair, thanks to that hat. "...Huh," is all he can think of to say.

"But then a few weeks later, I was matched against Herr Wright in my first trial. You know what happened then... At that point, Herr Edgeworth disappeared unexpectedly again, presumably off to Europe. And though at first everyone expected him to return, the records show that he sent in a formal letter of resignation. As for Herr Wright, he was spending a great deal of time with my brother. It shut down the rumor mill... but now that I think about it, recent events have proven there's another possible explanation, ja?"

Apollo's finding it difficult now to come up with a rebuttal. Everything seems rather clear, except for one thing - is the idea he's gotten a good one, or a bad one?

Well... he's willing to make the first move in good faith, at least. Maybe then he'll know.

"...I don't suppose the prosecutor's office has contact information for Mr. Edgeworth these days, does it?"

"We keep very good records," Klavier assures him. "If something related to one of his past cases should become relevant, we would need to get in touch with him."

Apollo nods to himself; makes sense. "I know I've already asked for a lot of favors in the last week, but..."

Klavier cuts him off. "It's for Herr Wright, isn't it? Because of what my brother did. I'll find it for you."

Taking a deep breath, Apollo sighs gratefully. "...Thanks."

"I'll call you back shortly, Forehead."

It's only after they hang up that Apollo wonders if he should have asked to be transferred to someone who could take care of a missing persons report while Klavier looks for the info.

If the police were to get involved, they wouldn't have far to go to find him. There are several officers within about 50 yards of him. They're all inside the building he's currently standing in front of, staring up at, and he doesn't see them and they don't see him, but they're there. Not that he's thinking overly much about police officers.

He used to think, like Apollo, that the courthouse was his special place. The most important place in the world to him. True that this is where his feet decided to bring him while he wasn't paying any attention to where he was going. But although he can't say that it was unimportant, or that he didn't feel satisfaction and pride for his career when he was a lawyer, he's come to learn that he was wrong. At first, it was painful to know that he would never again stand behind that bench, defending the innocent and helping to ensure that the guilty got what they deserved. But after a while, he came to realize that he was just as content playing poker - and trying to avoid playing the piano. Maybe it wasn't as noble and meaningful a career, and his standing in society certainly was lower than it had been when he was a defense attorney, but he'd found his satisfaction and pride somewhere else.

Because he was Trucy's daddy. Even when everything else was broken, when he was trying to figure out how to avoid getting tossed out on the street, he still had that. Everything he'd done in the last seven years, everything he'd been through, and he couldn't resent the hard times because he'd managed to keep her with him, and she was still happy and healthy and smiling. That was a success he could look at on a daily basis, and know with certainty that he'd won a victory just as impressive as his victories in court.

Which is perhaps why, now that she's gone, it feels like he's lost the most important trial of his life. Like he failed.

He knows, in his head, that there was nothing he could have done under the circumstances, but his heart doesn't listen to his head these days. It's full of things like I should have taken that nail polish away from Vera as soon as I knew who gave it to her and I shouldn't have let her anywhere near this case and if I'd gotten there sooner, she wouldn't have been so scared and she would have had her arms around me and her hands wouldn't go anywhere near her mouth and even, to his shame, why did I let Apollo take this case? And the truth, as he sees it now, is that he gave this case to Apollo because he was selfish, and wanted a defense attorney he could trust to see through Kristoph's charm. Which was difficult, because even he'd been fooled, but Apollo had resources that no one else had.

Kristoph might be before the court today, he observes. He might be right there, in that building.

It's fairly unlikely, he acknowledges. He hasn't been paying attention to what day it is, but he thinks it's been longer than a week. With such clear evidence, and Apollo apparently having shown it during Vera's trial, it wouldn't have taken long to get Kristoph into court and on trial for the murder of Drew Misham. And the attempted murder of Vera Misham, which resulted in...

Anyway, he's probably already been tried, and unless the prosecution was incompetent, been found guilty. He could find out by asking, or by picking up a paper, but he hasn't wanted to chance seeing the details he's been trying so hard to avoid. Odds are that he's already been tried, convicted, and possibly sentenced. At the very least, he'd be back in his cell awaiting sentencing.

...Phoenix wonders if maybe he should pay Kristoph a visit.

He's visited him before, and he's visited others in prison. Iris and Armando, most notably. He knows how visitation works, how visitors are screened. He knows what they look for. He also knows that by now, a lot of the guards know him. They're not as careful with him as they are with people who haven't been on their best behavior there a hundred times before. It would be simple to slip something past their casual security checks. Trucy showed him how - he just has to keep them laughing, keep them feeling at ease, keep their attention elsewhere. They'd never notice if he was hiding a little something. As long as it was a little something, something normal. A box cutter, a bit of wire.

But being honest with himself, he doesn't know if he'd be able to do it. Despite what Kristoph and others had tried to make the courts believe, he's never killed anyone. Even as angry as he is, he doesn't really believe that he could. And Kristoph, on the other hand, had. He could do it again. He's killed at least one person in close quarters, with the weapon that came most easily to hand. Phoenix can see it happening again too easily - in a moment of doubt, Kristoph would turn the tables, take his weapon away and use it against him.

Phoenix thinks that he wouldn't mind so much if that happened. But he knows that it wouldn't end there. His death at Kristoph's hands would be perfectly justifiable self-defense. Kristoph, an experienced defense attorney, would have those representing him open the old cases, point out that Phoenix Wright had been an influence on every one of his trials, that he had a personal vendetta against him. He might be able to get a new trial. He might get the verdicts overturned. And then there would be a killer on the loose, and it would be on his head, separated from his neck though it might be at that time.

He couldn't let that happen. Never let it be said that Phoenix Wright puts his own desires above public safety or the pursuit of justice.

He turns away from the courthouse, and is tempted to just step into the lunch-hour traffic instead. But no - he doesn't feel like ruining anyone else's day. He stops, and waits for the light to change.

Another glance over his shoulder as the cars slow and stop at the intersection. It occurs to him that the courthouse might have still been his most important place after all... if he still had someone waiting there for him. But without that person, he had little reason to return.

Now that no one's waiting for him, anywhere, he's not sure there's anyplace left for him to go at all.

If he were there, Mr. Wright probably would say something about how if you're going to do something crazy that just might work, you'd better do it fast before you have time to realize just how crazy it really is. Once Klavier has the number, Apollo calls at once.

It doesn't occur to him that being an international call, it's rather a different time there than it is in LA, until a slightly puzzled voice states "Edgeworth speaking." In English, thank goodness, because that's another factor he hadn't considered until that moment.

He's not sure where to start. Already Apollo's definitely starting to get the idea that he shouldn't try using Mr. Wright's illogical methods, because he just can't pull it off nearly as well as Mr. Wright can. He tries anyway. "Miles Edgeworth? Prosecutor formerly from Los Angeles?"


"I'm... calling on behalf of Phoenix Wright."

There's a lengthy hesitation; Apollo hears something that might be static, or a hitch in the other man's breath. "On Wright's behalf?"

"...Sort of." Klavier warned him that this guy used to be called the 'demon prosecutor', and even over a phone line, across oceans, the tone of Edgeworth's voice holds that edge. Apollo can feel himself sweating a little already. Just imagine what it would be like facing this man in court. ...No, on second thought, don't imagine it, don't! "You were his friend, right?"

"Who is this?"

Oops. Apollo laughs a little, and it's a nervous laugh. "Sorry, sir. My name's Apollo Justice. I'm a defense attorney with Mr. Wright's group."

"His 'group'?" Edgeworth sounds somewhat incredulous. "The last I'd heard, Wright was no longer practicing law."

"He hasn't, for the last seven years," Apollo confirms. "I guess you know about him having been disbarred... but recent events brought him back to the courtroom. Not as an attorney, but..." Apollo doesn't know how much detail would be a good idea here. If anything at all about this had been a good idea. "To make a really long story short, seven years ago, he was set up. For the last half a year, information has been coming to light, and we were finally able to prove it. He's been cleared of any accusations of forged evidence."

"...Well then." Edgeworth's tone is businesslike, but maybe a little too businesslike. "I see. Congratulations to him - but I don't understand why you're informing me."

Apollo's heart sinks. "...Because it's good news, and reportedly you and he used to be friends?"

"Don't misunderstand - I'm happy to hear it," Edgeworth replies. "However, I don't understand why you're informing me, Mr. Justice, rather than Wright himself."

And Apollo's having trouble with an answer to that, too, but not because he doesn't know what to say or where to start. He knows exactly, but he's afraid of what else he's going to have to say in reply to the inevitable questions. "...Even though his name's been cleared, he's going through a difficult time right now. We all are. During the trial that cleared his name, the same man who framed him for forging evidence..." Apollo's throat still tightens. "He killed Mr. Wright's daughter."

This time, it's clear that the man at the other end of the line is taking a deep breath. Apollo waits, but he doesn't say anything. "Mr. Wright's very upset," Apollo adds. "I mean, obviously he's upset, but he's... beyond just upset. He's, well... I don't know how to say it," Apollo has to confess. "Honestly, I'm starting to wonder if he's lost his mind. He won't go back to the office, he's not eating, he's not talking to anyone. He walked out of Trucy's funeral yesterday, and now no one knows where he is, and I've already had to contact the police once before about him going missing."

Finally Edgeworth asks the question Apollo was afraid he was going to ask. "Why do you think this has anything to do with me?"

"Well, right now it doesn't," Apollo admits. "But I'm out of ideas - no one here seems to be able to get through to him. But Larry Butz mentioned you, and-"

"Butz - I should have known."

Apollo cringes at the disdain in his voice. "Sorry, sir. But after he mentioned you, Mr. Wright seemed a little odd... and..." This is going to be awkward, he knows it. "I'd, er, gotten the impression that the two of you were, well, very close once."

"And what was it that gave you that impression?"

"...Larry said so, for one thing. And, uhm." Is he really going to have to say it outright? "...When Mr. Wright talked about you... I noticed he kept touching his ring finger. And I know someone at the prosecutor's office, who said th-"

"That's enough."

So Edgeworth was aware of the rumors, at least, regardless of whether or not there was any truth to them. "It... honestly doesn't matter to me, sir, one way or the other," Apollo states, only somewhat hesitant. "I'm calling because I'm worried about him. I haven't known him for that long - I don't know how to get through to him. But when your name came up, I just got this feeling, like maybe we had some hope. Like maybe there was someone who he'd respond to." He's being dramatic, and he knows it. But he's also being perfectly honest.

"Justice..." Edgeworth's voice has softened, become bitter rather than cold. "We were close once, Wright and I. It was a long time ago."

"I understand that. But I had to try." Since he's being entirely transparent, "We're getting a little desperate."

But Edgeworth has gone quiet again, and Apollo feels his hope slipping away. "If you don't want any part of this, or if you're just as lost as I am, I'll understand," Apollo tells Edgeworth. "No one else knows I've even contacted you. You won't get any flak for saying no."


Apollo deflates. He'll have to go back to brainstorming, and it's admittedly hard to think when he's feeling so much, so it's no wonder he was clinging to the idea that maybe someone else could do it for him.

He's about to apologize for wasting Edgeworth's time, then Edgeworth speaks again. "No, I'll come." There's a creak in the background, some clicking. Apollo thinks he's typing on a keyboard. "It should take two days, at the longest. Can you hang on until then?"

Apollo wants to say yes, to thank him, and let him get on about his arrangements. But he's being truthful. "I don't know. As I said, no one knows where he is right now, it might already be too late if he's decided to do something terrible..."

"If you have cause to believe he's a danger to himself or others, contact the police." Edgeworth's back to business, clearly. "And if they manage to find him before I arrive, hold on to him. Even if it means keeping him in custody, hold on to him."

Apollo bites his lip. He doesn't want to have to do that to Mr. Wright, but... "Okay. Thank you, sir," he adds. "You have no idea what a relief this is. I-I'm sorry, to have to bother you with all this."

"I won't be so generous as to say it's no bother," Edgeworth acknowledges. "But I owe him."

They exchange contact information, and Apollo agrees to keep Edgeworth posted if there's any new information. But they both have things they have to get to work on now, and after Apollo thanks Edgeworth another half dozen times, they hang up.

Apollo's still not sure, though, if Mr. Wright is actually in danger, and he hates bothering the police with it again. He calls Ema to ask her advice, and she has the same worries and doubts as he does. Rather than a formal report, she says she'll just spread the word among the officers to keep an eye out. If they see Mr. Wright, they'll call her, and she'll call him, and he can handle it. Apollo wonders when and why he's acquired this kind of responsibility.

But he only has to deal with it for two days, at most, before he'll have something else to put into play.

Apollo also wonders when he's started to think like Mr. Wright. He's never been a gambler. But then, as he admitted on the phone, he's getting desperate.

...Come to think of it, he thinks he understands Mr. Wright a little better now. He has to wonder what Mr. Wright was like before Mr. Gavin came into the picture. Maybe before he was desperate enough to gamble, he was more like Apollo. Maybe he was just as terrified.

It's starting to come back, a little, that thing called reality. At first he only recognizes it as moments of pain amidst the nothingness that fills his days and hours - moments when the words in his head register, instead of his mind passing over them in favor of ignorance. It's bliss, after all, and he thinks he prefers it to the sharp stab of remembering what it means that she's dead. He's known that all along - he was there - but he's been unable to comprehend what it means.

Larry's idea was a good one, he has to admit. Rendering himself completely unable to think kept it all at bay, and he's tempted to continue down that road. He's never been able to hold his liquor, but he's already nauseated, disoriented from the truth that's beginning to sink in. Maybe it would be better just to deal with those, and not have to deal with reality.

But he knows reality won't go away forever. Not as long as he's still alive. And he knows that he lived without her in the past, and that people lose their loved ones every day, and life still goes on. His life will still go on. Unless he ends it himself, but he just can't quite bring himself to begin that process. Other people can move on after a loss, so why can't he?

Why can't he...?

Maybe because it's Trucy he lost, not any other person, and Trucy was special. She was his, and he was hers, and unlike friendships and romances which could disappear overnight, they were family. Not by blood, not by chance, but by choice. She had another daddy, and he knew other little girls whose parents were missing or presumed dead, but she chose to call him daddy, and he chose to take her as his daughter. It wasn't always easy, but they'd made a decision, and they stood by it.

Reality intruded again as he passed a pub, poking through his hazy thoughts to inform him that he was never again going to see her perform at the Wonder Bar, that he was never going to hear the audience cheer for his little girl. It occurred to him that he never contacted the Wonder Bar to tell them what happened... well, someone on staff probably read the paper, or watched the evening news. They'd know by now, he didn't have to call them. And thank goodness, because the idea of informing her workplace about the whole thing struck him as far too mundane and reasonable to make any kind of sense in the midst of all this turmoil. Even thinking about it made him feel as if he'd done something wrong.

And it was only one of many mundane, reasonable arrangements that had to be made. He realized he had a funeral to plan - and then realized he'd already gone to one, and he hardly remembered any of it. He wished that he'd paid more attention, and maybe that he'd managed to stay by her side just a little longer, because even if he'd broken down publically, it really wouldn't have mattered so much, would it?

He ends up at the funeral home a few hours later, following that train of thought, and he's almost desperate as he pounds on the door. They closed a few minutes earlier, but there are still lights on inside, shadows moving around. He has to see his daughter, he tells the man who comes to the door. He just has to. One last time.

The man takes his name, and hers, and returns to inform him that her body had been cremated that evening.

Phoenix walks away in the middle of the man telling him when they open in the morning, when he could come back and pick out an urn. To hell with reality. It can wait until some other day.

Or so he says, but the clerk at the nearest liquor store takes one look at him and refuses to sell him any alcohol. It's so perfect that he'd laugh, but that would probably only make it worse.

He wakes up at another bus stop, mildly surprised that there haven't been any police prodding him awake and telling him to get moving. Usually they're rather predictable in that way. Maybe he's just wandered into a particularly bad part of town.

But then again, pretty soon he starts noticing it, despite his current disconnect. There are cops around, and they seem to be watching him. Not engaging him in any way, just... watching him. Every time he sees a police car, the officer inside is looking in his direction, sometimes talking on the radio.

Well, as long as they don't bother him, since he's not doing anything illegal, he doesn't care. Probably someone's idea of watching out for him. He certainly knows enough people with law enforcement connections, just no one he wants to talk to right now (because there's no one he wants to talk to at all), so he ignores it as well as he can manage.

It's getting harder, though, now that he's noticed. They seem to be everywhere.

He's walking along the sidewalk, aimless as usual, when he hears a car slow beside him, sees the shadow edging closer as it pulls to the curb and stops. He's not inclined to stop; he goes on walking.

Until a voice calls out to him, and maybe he'd better stop and talk to one of the nice policemen that have been keeping an eye on him, because he's sure he must be hallucinating. The past can't talk to the present.

He turns, fully expecting to see anyone other than the man who's standing there next to the car. Not a police car - a black sports car.

"Get in, Wright."

Phoenix just stares. He can't do much of anything else; his thoughts and feelings are already all tangled up, endless loops like Moebius strips that lead back to the same place no matter where you start or which direction you travel - and any new additions to the mess, prompted by this man, would be much the same.

He can't deal with this. Any of it.

"You heard me." The passenger side door is opened for him, with a gesture. "Get in."

His mouth opens, and though he doesn't know what he's trying to say, he gets a response anyway. "I don't know, but we'll figure it out. ...We always have, when we've worked together."

Phoenix can't argue with that, because it's the truth. And truth is exactly what they've always sought, the two of them, and it was beautiful once - but recently he hasn't wanted anything to do with truth. Truth is cold and hard now, with sharp edges. Just like the man standing at the curb beside the car, waiting for him.

Cold and hard, yes, but despite the danger he sees in giving in, letting himself approach... Edgeworth is still beautiful, too.

His vision blurs, and he blinks back tears, feeling like a traitor. He couldn't let himself feel enough to cry at her funeral, and all Edgeworth has to do is be there, and...

Phoenix lets himself collapse on the seat. His legs are still hanging out, but Edgeworth doesn't try to coerce Phoenix's uncooperative limbs into a position where the door can be closed. He just kneels down and takes the hand that isn't covering Phoenix's face, and waits until Phoenix can pull himself together. Phoenix wonders if he realizes that he's prolonging the process.

Edgeworth asks questions while he's driving them along, and Phoenix is grateful that so far he's only asking questions he can answer, like "Have you been drinking?" and "When was the last time you ate something?" Never mind that the answers are "No" and "I don't know", respectively. At least he has those answers, and he doesn't have to think about them or feel his way through them.

Likewise, the first question he manages to ask Edgeworth, once he's gathered up enough nerve to speak without being spoken to, is simple and meaningless. "Didn't you have a red car?"

"I sold it years ago. I don't even own a car in this country anymore - this is a rental."

"Oh." A meaningless acknowledgement of a meaningless answer to a meaningless question. Phoenix can deal with that. Much better than he can deal with anything else at the moment.

There's a question preoccupying him, however, and regardless of how meaningless it is not, he can't keep himself from asking forever. "Why are you here?"

Edgeworth doesn't skip a beat, or take his eyes from the road. "Because there was once a defense attorney who had faith in me. No, not once," he corrects himself immediately, "but consistently. His faith in me changed my life."

His eyes do flicker over to Phoenix's then, for a moment. "And then his sudden lack of faith in me changed it again."

That's exactly why Phoenix hasn't dared to ask more questions - he knew that would be a part of any answer he received. Everything is too dulled now for him to feel the shame that he knows he should, however, and he answers bluntly. "No," he says. "It was consistent. Always consistent."

Edgeworth lets their eyes meet again, but not for long. He's driving. Fast, as usual. "We'll save that for another time," he states, and Phoenix is surprised but relieved that he's willing to let something go for once. "Either way, to answer your question, it seems that a second defense attorney has decided to put his faith in me. Since things went rather well the first time it happened, up to a point, I thought I'd entertain the idea that perhaps this second defense attorney's instincts were also correct."

Apollo. Of course. Larry mentioned Edgeworth in front of him, and Apollo was never one to let anything go either. He had Ema to grill for info, besides.

There's a bitterness that's been trying repeatedly to move in on him over the last seven years, and it's gotten its foot in the door during the past days. It wants to say that Apollo's instincts are usually right. Only usually.

But it's impossible to let that bitterness take hold of him when just having Edgeworth there makes him feel like not everything in the world is lost. He knows it's ridiculous, but he knows that a lot of what he thinks and feels is generally considered ridiculous. What's one more ridiculous feeling? Besides, he can't think of anything else - by which he means one particular thing - when he's still boggling over Edgeworth's presence, after all this time.

"And also," Edgeworth adds, almost absently, "regardless of how consistent that first defense attorney's faith may have been, he taught me that it was possible to have faith in someone other than myself. And damn the man - once I had it, I found it impossible to rid myself of the nonsense."

He pulls up to a stoplight, and when he looks at Phoenix this time, he offers a guarded smile, almost experimental. It feels just as experimental when Phoenix attempts to smile in return. He suspects it's lopsided, and maybe more a grimace than a smile, but maybe Edgeworth will see it for what it is.

He manages to look around a little then, once the light turns and Edgeworth looks to the road, and abruptly shakes his head when he realizes the direction they're headed. "I don't want to go back to the office."

Edgeworth nods thoughtfully. "Where would you prefer to go?"

"Anywhere but there." Phoenix isn't picky.

Edgeworth's eyes are distant. "I have a hotel room."

"That works." Maybe it's inappropriate, all things considered, but he fails to care.

A couple of right turns later, and Phoenix is breathing easier. Edgeworth aims another glance at him. "If you don't mind my asking, why are you avoiding your office?"

It's something Phoenix should have minded him asking, because he hasn't wanted to put it into words, once he figured it out. But for Edgeworth, for some reason, he manages. "...I keep thinking that if I go home, I'll see her there."

Edgeworth breathes out faintly, and nods as if the answer makes perfect sense, and doesn't speak again until they're at the hotel.

He goes straight for the room service menu once Phoenix has followed him in. "Pick something," he tells Phoenix, handing it to him as he settles in one of the chairs.

"I'm not really hungry."

Phoenix tries to hand the menu back, but Edgeworth's arms are already folded over his chest. "You are," Edgeworth states. "You just don't recognize it. You can have just dessert for now, if you like."

He's reminded of when he was a little kid, when he'd been sick, and his mother was content to let him eat popsicles and ice cream for lunch. Which led him to remember doing the same for Trucy. Which made him shove the menu back at Edgeworth after all. "I'm serious - I'm not hungry."

"Then I'll pick something out for you. And while we're waiting, you're going to take a shower." This is not spoken in comforting tones.

Phoenix doesn't want to stand up again, and just looks up at him, listless. Edgeworth has his arms crossed, and clearly is not willing to negotiate. Phoenix tries to remind himself that even if he does have to stand up, it felt good the last time he took a shower. He just can't bring himself to stand.

"If you can't or won't take one under your own power," Edgeworth says firmly, "I'll help."

Once, Phoenix would have found the idea appealing. It still has some appeal, but mostly because the thought of just leaning on someone warm and steady under the hot water sounds nicer than hanging onto the towel bar. He closes his eyes.

"Do you need, or want, help?" Edgeworth asks.

Want, yes, but not need. It feels like he'd be taking advantage of Edgeworth somehow. "I don't have any clean clothes."

"Then you can wear some of mine. I brought plenty." Trying to find a rebuttal to this, Phoenix just looks at him, and Edgeworth just looks back. "I know you still have some pride left," Edgeworth acknowledges, "but you're within your rights to set it aside at a time like this."

He still has too much to let Edgeworth help him in the shower, and as a result, he finds the stall a strangely lonely place, thinking of how much nicer it could have been. But he does shower, and finds a burgandy bathrobe on the hook on the back of the door as he's drying off. He hears Edgeworth's voice faintly, probably ordering up that room service, and wonders what he's going to be told to eat.

Borrowing Edgeworth's bathrobe, his voice in the next room, presumably buying him food he could never afford... This should have been the beginnings of a good evening, but all he feels is confusion.

"I have him. He's in the shower now, and I've just ordered up dinner for us both."

Apollo breathes a sigh of relief. "Thank you. ...You really got him to agree to dinner?"

"He didn't agree, but he's going to have dinner nonetheless."

And here Apollo was thinking that maybe having Mr. Edgeworth there had actually improved Mr. Wright's condition. So much for that.

"He'll be out soon - the water just stopped running. But I thought I should let you know."

"Thanks. I appreciate it. I'll pass along the news to Ema, too."

"Good idea." A slight pause. "In all likelihood, Wright will be staying with me for a few days. If you need to get into the office-"

"Actually, it's all taken care of," Apollo put in. "I've got his keys." Apollo had given them back before the funeral, but then Mr. Wright had left them on the desk when he wandered out the next day, still drunk. Or maybe just absent-minded and unlucky, since that was the sort of thing he wouldn't have put past Mr. Wright to do normally.

"All right, then," Edgeworth conceded. "Take care of yourself now, Justice. Wright's in my hands now."

"Thanks, sir. It's a relief." Sort of. Given the no-nonsense tone of Mr. Edgeworth's voice, the steely determination that was audible... Apollo kind of wonders just what he's unleashed on poor Mr. Wright.

But... take care of himself, huh? Apollo muses on that as he hangs up. Inside the room he'd only just stepped out of when his cell phone rang, a girl is regarding him nervously, her hands clenched together to keep them from creeping towards her mouth.

Apollo has too many people to take care of right now to think about taking care of himself. But that's all right by him. The more he's able to comfort other people, the more comfortable he feels.

Room service hasn't arrived by the time he emerges from the bathroom, but Edgeworth has some suggestions of things he could use the extra time for. A shave, for example. Phoenix suspects that it would take longer than a few minutes to properly shave in his current state... but considering that he told Edgeworth before that he didn't want anything to eat anyway, that's not a plausible excuse. And it's not like he has anything against shaving - he just doesn't feel like putting forth the effort.

The stern way Edgeworth is looking at him, though, makes him cave, and he shuffles back to the bathroom. Edgeworth has this way about him that makes Phoenix feel like he's being immature, even though he's positive that his behavior is justified.

He hasn't seen his reflection in a while, and it shows; he looks like he's in his late forties, rather than mid-thirties. Apart from the plush bathrobe, he bears a strong resemblance to the 'hobo' Kristoph jokingly compared his fashion sense to. He'd hardly recognize himself, and can hardly believe Edgeworth did, especially after seven years apart.

But he did, and that should maybe be telling him something.

Anyhow, he doesn't like the idea of looking like that in front of Edgeworth - not so much for his pride, but because it reflects badly on Edgeworth - so he obligingly picks up the razor and gets to work.

He's halfway done before he thinks any thoughts about what he's holding, aside from those that have to do with the razor's intended purpose. And then, it's only a slight falter, not even enough to nick his chin, and mostly because he's surprised by the way his thoughts hadn't even turned in that direction.

Finishing, he splashes his face with water to get rid of the excess shaving cream, and runs a hand over his jaw. He can blame Edgeworth for the fact that he actually did an even job for a change. Even after seven years of trying to make himself believe he didn't care, he's still being thorough, adding the finishing touches. He even rinses the sink out well before he returns to the table.

Edgeworth was looking over one of the tourism brochures - out of boredom, obviously, since he lived here for a good portion of his life and they took class field trips together to most of the places listed in that brochure - but looks up when Phoenix approaches, giving him an approving nod. "Much better. You nearly resemble a suitable dinner companion."

His voice is as stern as ever, but there's something in his eye. Phoenix thinks he recognizes it, and he can't help but tease back. "Only 'nearly'?"

Edgeworth nods, not nearly so soberly as an unknowing observer would have assumed. "Generally, one does not wear a bathrobe to dinner."

"It's a very nice bathrobe, though," Phoenix points out.

"Yet not up to even 'business casual' standards," Edgeworth replies, the corner of his mouth turning up.

It's second-nature, bantering with Edgeworth, but Phoenix tires easily in everything these days, it seems. He can't think of anything more to say, and sinks back down in the same chair he settled in earlier, resting his head in one hand.

Silence falls, but not for long. Eventually Edgeworth speaks again. "For the record, Wright, I've never known how to comfort people. Grief I understand, but... not so much what to do about it."

Phoenix nods vaguely. Edgeworth had always been awkward with emotions. It was a part of what had led him to push the man away when things got complicated.

But he's back now. Phoenix is too afraid to let himself imagine why. He's had enough piled on him lately without adding more false hopes.

It hadn't fully registered how awkward this situation was until Edgeworth implied it, and Phoenix caught the implication. Now the awkwardness is nearly unbearable, and he'd be fidgeting if it didn't require movement of some sort. He's too tired to fidget.

Fortunately it isn't much longer before there's a knock on the door - and to Phoenix's surprise, the food smells good. Apollo was always telling him, when he was staying on his couch, that he'd want some of whatever he was making once it was made, but he didn't. It always tasted like air. But this...

Edgeworth uncovers one of the two trays, sliding it towards Phoenix across the table as Phoenix swivels his chair to face it. "Even if you can't finish it," he instructs Phoenix, "have a little of everything. Protein, carbohydrates..."

What he's ordered for him is essentially a nice breakfast - scrambled eggs with sausage links and toast. ...It is appetizing.

Largely ignoring him, Edgeworth pulls the other tray towards himself and begins unwrapping his own silverware, so Phoenix has no reason to feel silly or self-conscious about digging in right away. It's delicious. And he has no idea why this food can taste good, when he hasn't really tasted anything he's eaten recently.

As good as it is, he's gone so long without eating that he stops halfway through, feeling strangely bloated. At first he thinks he'll just slow down. Then he pushes the tray away - no, he's done. Edgeworth looks up from his own dinner and nods approvingly. He's not finished yet, and then he has some reading to do, if Phoenix would like to make use of his bed for a little while. It sounds like a good idea.

Phoenix has been sleeping in so many strange places and positions over the last several days that the bed feels like heaven, and the lamp across the room and the sound of pages turning are nothing compared to the sounds and flashing lights of LA traffic. When he wakes up the first time, the lamp's still on, and Edgeworth is about halfway through the book he's reading. He's wearing reading glasses, and Phoenix has never seen Miles with glasses before, but he thinks they look good on him.

The second time he wakes up, it's dark, and someone's lying next to him - not too close, because the bed is gigantic, but close enough that he can tell they're there. He can't decide whether this should make him smile or cry, so he just turns over and falls asleep again.

He's alone the next time he wakes, but all he has to do is turn over. Then he knows where the person who had been lying next to him has gotten off to - Edgeworth hasn't gone far at all, and is just sitting by the window, curtains drawn slightly apart so that he has a narrow band of light to read in. At least that's what it looks like he's been doing. The sound of Phoenix turning over caused him to look in Phoenix's direction. "Good morning." When the greeting is met with a faint grumble, Edgeworth ignores it and continues. "Are you ready for breakfast?"

Phoenix shakes his head. It's still fairly obvious to him that he ate more last night than he'd been used to eating.

"Perhaps some fresh air would help your appetite," Edgeworth suggests. Phoenix finds this unlikely, given that he's spent a lot of time in the fresh air lately and hadn't eaten a thing. "We could go out for a walk. The forecast seems promising."

Indeed, it looks very sunny outside. Bright and sunny. Too bright for Phoenix, now that he's found someplace darker and quieter and safer. He has no business with that kind of world. He'd rather stay right here.

Edgeworth's eyes narrow behind the reading glasses. Unlike the Feys, he's never had supernatural powers, but he seems to be reading Phoenix's mind nonetheless. "You can't stay here forever, Wright."

Phoenix gets up - but only to use the bathroom. When he's finished, he comes back and gets in bed again, turning away from the window. Perhaps the novelty's worn off.

Behind him, he hears Edgeworth sigh.

Edgeworth put his cell phone on vibrate, but it still wakes Phoenix up - it's buzzing as Phoenix opens his eyes to see its spastic dance across the table they ate dinner at the night before. Edgeworth grimaces as he stands to retrieve it, just before it falls off the opposite side, and murmurs a quiet greeting into the phone. None of Phoenix's business, so he closes his eyes again.

He's never been able to instantaneously fall asleep, though, so he still hears some of the conversation, quiet though it may be. "Well enough" and "It may take some time" and "...I'm not sure that would be good for him right now" and then "I'll ask him."

Phoenix isn't so far gone as to not have some idea about the topic of that conversation, but he lies silently anyhow until he hears Edgeworth's phone flip shut, and the immediate statement, "I saw your eyes open, Wright."

Ugh. Phoenix doesn't know why he has to deal with anything right now, but seeing as he's been found out, he gives in and rolls onto his back.

"That was Justice on the phone. It seems that something's come up that only you or he can take care of, and he thought he'd leave the choice up to you."

"He can do it," Phoenix replies automatically. And then he can just stay here and sleep.

Not good enough for Edgeworth, so he clarifies. "It's about Trucy's ashes."

Something's all wrong with that. After a moment, Phoenix thinks that he may never have heard Edgeworth say his daughter's name before, and maybe that's it. Her name is so cute, with a sort of childish, energetic spunk to it - and his voice is so proper and dignified. It's almost silly to hear him say it. ...And he definitely shouldn't be saying it under these circumstances, in that context. Yeah... that's what's really wrong.

"The funeral home called," Edgeworth continues. "They told him they'd been trying to reach you, since you came in a few days ago. You still hadn't come back to pick out an urn, or to claim her remains in some other manner. Since Justice was the next on the list of contacts, they called him."

Phoenix can't explain the stiffness that's overcome him, hearing these words, so he keeps his response simple. "I don't want to."

Again, it's not good enough. Edgeworth has drawn confessions out of hardened criminals - he can keep on pressing for a long time. "Because you think Justice should do it? Or because you don't want to ever come into contact with anything that will make you acknowledge your loss?"

Phoenix can almost hear something cracking inside him at the words. He stands up and starts for the bathroom. ...His clothes aren't where he left them, aside from the shoes, but there's a shirt and a pair of pants folded on the counter. He's fine with that, even if they are more dressy than he prefers.

He says not a word as he opens the bathroom door and starts for the one that will take him out into the hallway, but Edgeworth has other ideas. "Where are you going?"

"I don't know."

"In that case..." There's a rustle behind him. "I'm coming with you, and I'll think of someplace for us to go."

Phoenix doesn't look back as he opens the door, but it's caught before it can shut, and Edgeworth steps a little quicker, coming to his side. "Leave me alone," Phoenix mutters.


And then Edgeworth has hold of his hand, and Phoenix looks back before he can stop himself. "I won't," Edgeworth is saying, and though there's still a firm look about him, he's more unguarded than Phoenix has ever seen him - except maybe when they were in bed - and clearly somewhat self-conscious about it. "That was the whole point," he continues. "I don't want you to be left alone."

Phoenix doesn't want to believe him, but he's generally pretty good at telling when he can trust people. Especially people he's known for a long time. And he's known Edgeworth for longer than just about anyone.

He gives up and just turns away, but he doesn't pull his hand free, and Edgeworth doesn't relinquish it. "You don't have to take care of it now," he tells Phoenix. "If you'd rather, we can just go for a walk."

"Fine." Why, Phoenix wonders, does he feel so ashamed?

Not that he doesn't have reasons, which are becoming clearer the longer that he's around Edgeworth, and especially the longer Edgeworth holds onto his hand as they start for the elevators. He wishes he could believe that Edgeworth is still holding his hand because he just hates elevators that much.

Edgeworth lets go as they step out into the lobby, however, and nonchalantly offers a few suggestions of places they might go. A nearby park, a shopping mall. Phoenix tells him he can choose, and is a little surprised when Edgeworth chooses the shopping mall.

It doesn't hurt so bad, he realizes, when he has something else to think about. Even if that something is also painful and confusing, like Edgeworth's words and his behavior. He's acting now as if nothing's wrong, and stops at a coffeeshop in the food court to get a cup of tea and some pastry for a late breakfast. He sets a muffin on the small table between them, and Phoenix obediently picks at it until he's eaten most of the crusty top. He does have to admit he feels a little less drained, when Edgeworth suggests that they move on.

After a little walking around, though, he's beginning to think it was a bad idea, coming here. It's a large enough shopping center, close enough to the office on the bus lines, that he and Trucy had come here a lot, window shopping or buying gifts for people, or (very rarely, given their finances) buying things for themselves. There's her favorite clothing store, mostly trendy but with a unique twist, and there's the toy store where she begged him and begged him for that stuffed rabbit that would fit just perfectly in her hat, and there's the little Japanese import store where she used to get absurdly cute pencils and erasers while they were back-to-school shopping... and they had those vending machines in back that would dispense little toys in capsules. How much of his money had he spent there, trying to get her that raccoon that would complete her collection? Not that it mattered - however much he'd spent, he'd have spent ten times as much if she were only there to ask him now.

He'd stopped to look and to let himself drift with the memories, completely forgetting about the man by his side until he realizes that Edgeworth has stopped to stare at the store too. ...Maybe they carried Steel Samurai merchandise at some point? He never went in there until long after Edgeworth was gone and the Steel Samurai was well into syndication, until he had the excuse of a little girl to go in and have a look around.

"...I wonder when they closed."

It's more than a few moments before Phoenix can find any explanation for Edgeworth's murmur. When he does, he's still not sure he's on the right track. He can't believe it. "...Hey... You mean, that store used to be..."

He almost misses Edgeworth's nod, because he's looking back at the storefront, right on a corner between the mall's main walkway and one of the side wings, facing a bunch of chairs and potted plants. Edgeworth's right, he realizes; if he squints a little, lets the memory return, he can see the darker wallpaper and the glass cases full of silk and velvet and sparkling stones.

He can see the nervous exasperation on Edgeworth's face as he jokingly attempts to try on a ridiculous gaudy setting with a diamond practically the size of his thumbnail.

He can see Edgeworth's look of horror, his face turning as red as his jacket as he stammers a ridiculous explanation and flees, leaving Phoenix face to face with...

He suddenly finds himself snickering.

Edgeworth is looking at him, incredulous. "Really, Edgeworth," Phoenix had to remind him, "how could you try to tell her that she must have mistaken you for someone else?"

Edgeworth's flushing again, his eyes narrow. "The lighting back then was dimmer than it is now," he insists. "If I left quickly enough, she might not have gotten a good-"

"Hannah was your own secretary."

"Yes, well..."

The look on his face brings back even stronger memories of that day; Edgeworth had much the same expression, disgruntled and humiliated, as he peeked between the fronds of the potted palm trees in the middle of the mall, hissing at Phoenix to get out of sight as he tried to see if she was following them. Phoenix can't help it - he cracks up.

He's laughing. Really laughing. It feels good, and it feels like something he never thought he was going to feel again. That realization would be enough to make him stop, except for that look on Edgeworth's face, which makes stopping his laughter impossible.

In fact, it feels like something he never thought he was going to feel again seven years ago, and maybe that should tell him something.

Fortunately Edgeworth doesn't make it any harder to continue - no look of relief crosses his face at the sound. He looks irritated, just as he should. Phoenix shakes his head in amusement and reaches for Edgeworth's hand, moving them along. He feels even a little better when he feels Edgeworth's fingers tighten around his for a moment.

The moment of memory makes the rest of their outing seem less tense, and much less forced, but Phoenix is unconvinced. He knows there's something hanging over his head. He can feel it there, just waiting to pounce.

Although he's trying not to think too hard about it, he's already forging a defense against it, made all that much easier by the shared memory. The danger is still there, but he has something just as dangerous to counter with, and that allows him to at least appear more relaxed, even though he knows that his relaxation is what will make the trap spring.

Sure enough, when they've settled down again in the food court, and Edgeworth has (uncharacteristically) bought lunch at a fast food place, perhaps for the sole purpose of urging Phoenix to share his paper carton of french fries, he starts in on it. "About the phone call I received earlier. Are you feeling up to a trip to the funeral home now?"

Phoenix shakes his head, and hardens his resolve to the point that he can still swallow the french fry he was working on. "Miles..." First name. Normally he wouldn't pull out the wild card this early, but he wants to shut this down fast. "I think right now we should take some time to talk things over."


"You and I," Phoenix finishes. He doesn't want to hear her name at that moment, or think about her. "It's clear that there are some things that are, well, unresolved between us. And it seems like neither of us are exactly unhappy about that."

Edgeworth looks blankly at his lunch. "...The fact that you're able to consciously change the subject, rather than trying to run away again, proves that you're doing better," he observes. "I believe you're ready to deal with the things that must be dealt with."

"Sure. Like the fact that you obviously still have some lingering feelings for me, and-"

"Be that as it may," Edgeworth says firmly. "I would prefer to put off any discussions of what we have been and what we are to each other until the more pressing business has been taken care of."

"I wouldn't."

"You're grieving, Wright. This is not the time to sort through an entirely different set of complicated emotions."

Phoenix sniffs, and he knows he'll regret saying it later, but he's been thinking it ever since Edgeworth started barking orders at him. "I suppose it explains a lot that your experience with grief counseling came from Manfred von Karma."

He already feels bad having said it, but not so bad as he'd expected, because Edgeworth meets his eyes firmly, without any visible pain or rage. "von Karma was not a good man in nearly any sense of the word," he states, "but he did draw me out of my misery after my father's death, and enabled me to move on with my life. For that, though perhaps nothing else, I must give him some credit."

...Phoenix is lost. He can almost hear the judge's gavel bang, see the disapproving frown. Funny, how Edgeworth's presence makes him fall back into courtroom metaphors rather than poker metaphors.

"I'll go with you, if you like," Edgeworth tells him. "Or if you'd prefer, I'll only give you a ride, and stay outside. But you need to move forward. If you stay in one place, you're merely wasting your own time, and that would be a shame."

And the frustrating thing is, Phoenix knows he's right. He just doesn't care. What use does he have for more time?

But then, Edgeworth is here again. Time brought him back, and... well...

"I couldn't help but notice you never denied anything I said about the two of us."

"I'm not interested in simply reliving the past, Phoenix," Edgeworth replies. "The past is gone. If we're going to work things out between us, it needs to be in the present. Which means that first, you must acknowledge that we are not in the past, but the present."

Phoenix very nearly stands up and walks away, like he wanted to earlier. But in his moment of second-guessing, Edgeworth speaks again. "And in the present, I would prefer for you not to be alone."

Instead, Phoenix drops his head into his hands. "...You sound like me."

"Since you're not sounding like yourself at the moment," Edgeworth remarks, reaching across the table to rest a hand on his arm, "someone must."

Phoenix gives up.

Apollo meets them at the funeral home, in a taxi paid for by someone Phoenix wasn't actually expecting to see, but he's not entirely surprised, either. Though it was clear she didn't remember at the start of the trial, he'd watched her, and he'd seen her face change, little by little, because he'd learned how to look for such things. Because of her daughter.

Her daughter, that she'd completely forgotten about. She must remember now, or she probably wouldn't be here. She's still dressed as Lamiroir, not Thalassa Gramarye, and her eyes meet Phoenix's behind the veil as she enters. He expects them to be angry and accusing, like Apollo's were, but all he sees there is pain. A pain much like his own, the loss of a child, but he finds that he almost resents it. It was him that raised Trucy. She called him daddy. She teased him about finding her a mommy. Trucy's his, not hers.

...Phoenix realizes abruptly that there's no need to worry about Trucy's mommy taking her away. Time's run out. Trucy can't... well... she's not going to be anybody's anymore.

Edgeworth's hand is on his knee, where they're sitting together, but Phoenix recognized already that he wasn't going to be able to run away this time.

Her words are fortunately soothing. She knows she wasn't there for so much of her daughter's life, and that he was. She thanks him for all he's done, and says she doesn't want to interfere. If she wants anything at all, it's to know more about her daughter and the life she lived. She missed out on so much, and the short time they knew each other after they met again was not enough.

That is the pain they share, Phoenix realizes. Not having as much time as they wished they had. He wishes he'd adopted Trucy years before, when she was a toddler and he was a clueless college student, if he could just have had more time with her.

Instead, they're faced with dozens of little boxes and jars and more unusually shaped containers. They're all expensive, but Lamiroir whispers that he and Apollo can pick out whichever one they think she would have liked. She'll pay. It's the least she can do.

There's one made of silver and blue metal, the top a round spire like the top of some Arabian building. It makes Phoenix think of stories about a genie in a bottle, or a magic lamp. The last he says aloud, because he realizes that it's appropriate. Apollo looks thoughtful, and nods. Lamiroir is just watching, and Edgeworth is standing back, looking at the containers but giving no input; he knows it's not his place. They look at a few more, but Apollo's eyes keep going back to that one, and Phoenix doesn't find anything else that particularly inspires him.

They're all expensive, and they're all so small. It horrifies him. And when they bring their magic bottle back, it looks like nothing. But he holds it anyway, while Lamiroir deals with the payment. He holds it, and he just... holds it.

When Edgeworth asks what they intend to do with it, Phoenix practically shoves it into Apollo's hands. He can take it back to the office for now.

Which seems to indicate that he's not going back, and Edgeworth suggests his hotel room again. That's fine.

The ride back is near silent, but when they're alone in the room and Phoenix sinks down on the bed, Edgeworth says he's proud of him. He can't imagine how difficult it is to go through this - someone else made the arrangements for his father, since he was so young.

"It's different," Phoenix says, muffled by his hands over his face. "Losing a child. She depended on me for everything, and I couldn't protect her."

"Meanwhile, I depended upon my father for everything," Edgeworth replies, sitting down beside him. "And then he wasn't there. And I thought it was my fault. It is different."

They sit together in silence, and Edgeworth slides his arm around Phoenix's back as he trembles.

Phoenix looks up as Edgeworth moves away from him, and sees that he's going to the table. "I made a deal with you, didn't I?"

"Hmm?" Phoenix has no idea what he's talking about.

"If you dealt with the matter at hand, then perhaps we could deal with other matters."

Oh. Phoenix isn't really in the mood anymore, and says so.

Edgeworth is rummaging through a small toiletries bag that he'd set on the table, and apparently ignoring him. "Filling in some of the blanks would be the first order of business. I can't expect you to have remained single all these years... are you seeing anyone now?"

Phoenix shakes his head, and feels himself bristle. The one person he'd been seeing was responsible for all of this.

"Neither am I," Edgeworth admits. "I've had a few affairs... briefly, I was engaged."

That comes as a surprise; Phoenix can't really comprehend Edgeworth having let himself get close to anyone else, but that's probably arrogant of him. "It didn't work out?"

Edgeworth shakes his head as well, pulls the bag wider open as he seems to spot whatever he's looking for. "I'd talked myself into believing I was in love with her, all the while knowing it didn't feel right. ...Particularly when it came to intimacy."

Phoenix refrains from comment. It doesn't matter to him whether or not Edgeworth finds women unappealing in general, or just one of them. He already knows that Edgeworth finds at least certain men appealing, and that's the only part of Edgeworth's orientation that has anything to do with him.

"As well," Edgeworth adds, palming whatever he'd found and turning away from the bag, "I couldn't let go of the past. And she found evidence of this."

His hand extends towards Phoenix and opens. A small black velvet box, with a hinge top.

Phoenix doesn't need to open it to guess what it is, and he just stares blankly. "You didn't return them?"

"The store closed."

"You didn't find out until today," Phoenix points out automatically.

"I also held out hope that I wouldn't have to return them for a long enough time that it would have been inconvenient, making international flights for the sole purpose of returning them."

Phoenix doesn't know what to say, or what he's expected to say. Edgeworth can't possibly be asking him to put it on again, just like that. It's been seven years. Finally he just says it outright. "Why are you showing me this now?"

Edgeworth closes his hand again, and takes it back to the bag. "I have no intention of pressuring you. But you suggested earlier that there was something left between us, and I thought that you should know that you were correct. I found, time and time again, that I was comparing everyone to you."

Phoenix hadn't done the same. He'd put the whole mess behind him, reveled in the differences and tried to ignore any similarities. Then he'd found out the truth, and the relationship had changed to something entirely unlike the one he'd shared with Edgeworth. There was no comparison, because it was something completely different. But he doesn't feel like telling the whole story.

There's something else he can say, however. "I missed you."

Edgeworth nods, and sits down next to Phoenix again. He's not asking, but Phoenix can tell he wants to, and decides to stop dancing around the subject - he leans over and tilts Edgeworth's face towards his, pressing a light, brief kiss to his lips.

It's the only thing that's felt completely right for the last several days, but he won't let himself get carried away. "It's been a long time," he says, and Edgeworth nods. "But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try again."

"Taking it slow," Edgeworth adds, and Phoenix agrees. Especially right now. But right now...

"...I didn't mind last night, when I woke up and found you lying next to me in the bed."

Edgeworth almost looks a little embarrassed. "I'm glad. I'd wondered if I was-"

He wasn't, so Phoenix cuts him off. "Look, I'm not in the mood to be coy or anything. If you were planning for us to share a bed again tonight, you could get closer and I still wouldn't mind."

And sure enough, when they're getting into bed later that night, Edgeworth is closer. Not very much so, so Phoenix wriggles towards him. This must have encouraged Edgeworth, because he moves a little closer too.

They're not exactly snuggling by the time Phoenix has fallen asleep - there's still a good six inches between them - but it's close enough that his groggy thoughts aren't entirely preoccupied with the things he doesn't want to think about, and instead he can think about the way Edgeworth's hair falls over his face, and how deep his breathing is.

She's right there, right in front of him, and she's burning.

She's not far away at all, maybe ten feet away, but he can't get to her, and it's not because of the fire. He'd jump into the flames to pull her out if he could, but he can't move, no matter how hard he tries. He can smell the charred flesh as her skin blackens and withers, and she's screaming like he's never heard her scream before. At first he wants to save her, but the sound of her torment changes his prayers - please, let it end, let it end, let the pain stop, please.

Then it's done. From flames and smoke to an empty room in moments.

He's standing there, wide-eyed, staring at a dark, shriveled skeletal figure wearing the last few scraps of a blue cape, and somehow now he's right next to her, looking down at her, teeth chattering in his terror. At least it's over, he tells himself as the bile rises in his throat and he falls to his knees beside her. It's over. No more. But his girl, his little girl...

...Reaches out for him. She's still alive.

It's impossible - how could she have survived? Most of her flesh is burned away, the end of her finger is flaking off like ash off the tip of a cigarette as she shakily stretches her hand in his direction, but she's moving. She's speaking, she's begging him for help.

Even if she survived this long, he knows she's not going to live much longer. And there's a gun in his hand.

He knows what the right thing to do is. He prayed for it only seconds ago. But it's his daughter, it's Trucy, and she's sobbing his name over and over in her pain - but not his name, just what she calls him - and he's never fired a gun at anyone in his life, and how can he-

He's screaming now, how could this happen, why does he have to do this, he can't do it, and then she's screaming for him even louder as something grabs him from behind, immobilizing him, pulling him away, and she's going to just be left there, hurting, because he couldn't-

It's Edgeworth's arms immobilizing him, and he isn't being dragged anywhere. In fact, they're preventing him from falling off the side of the bed. He can't hear Trucy anymore, and it's Miles saying his name, really his name, but he thinks he can still smell burnt flesh and smoke.

Now that he knows it's Edgeworth holding him, he doesn't want to try to struggle free anymore, but he does anyhow. Edgeworth wears silk pajamas, and he's about to throw up.

By the time Edgeworth has gotten the idea and let go, he can't make it all the way to the toilet, and instead he's hunched over the wastebasket that had been under the table. Edgeworth keeps his distance, and sounds a little squeamish as he asks Phoenix if he's all right. Phoenix nods, dazed and breathless, trying to banish the dream from his mind. But then Edgeworth asks if he wants to talk about it, and the thought of explaining what he saw means he thinks about what he saw, and he nearly gags all over again.

He doesn't want to go to bed again either, so after shakily taking care of the mess in the wastebasket, he just curls up in one of the chairs by the window, leaning his face against the glass and trying not to think much at all. He looks up when there's a sound behind him, and Edgeworth's getting out of bed now too, coming to sit in the other chair.

They just sit there until the sky starts to get lighter, nearly motionless except for Phoenix's shaking, and the moment when Edgeworth gets up to move his chair closer to Phoenix's. He understands nightmares, Phoenix recalls. Unfortunately, given Edgeworth's experiences, he can't offer any assurances that they'll go away soon.

Maybe he shouldn't have gone with cremation.

The days aren't so bad anymore, just dull. He still doesn't want to go home, because it won't feel like one without her there, but Edgeworth is willing to indulge him. He doesn't want to go out either, so he stays there and wears Edgeworth's bathrobe and watches boring television shows and the occasional less boring movie, while Edgeworth goes over paperwork at the desk or takes care of correspondance via the business center downstairs off the hotel lobby. Sometimes he goes out for something to eat, and sometimes he brings something back. Sometimes Phoenix even eats it.

Edgeworth sits with him on the bed sometimes, in the evenings, and from time to time they talk. Just catching up, telling stories. Neither of them seems inclined to get into certain topics, at least not in detail, and maybe that's a good thing, because they're growing closer regardless. Sometimes, when they're not talking, they're kissing.

Apollo calls from time to time, trying to find out how he's doing, and Phoenix doesn't know what to say except "All right". But it's funny... after awhile, he thinks he means it. He's all right. He's doing as well as can be expected.

There's a balcony off the hotel room, and he and Edgeworth have dinner out there one night as the sun's setting behind the city. It occurs to Phoenix that since the first few days, he hasn't considered jumping off it.

Not even when the nightmares come, and they do still come.

Maybe it wasn't about the cremation after all, because the dreams aren't consistent, except that it's always an accident and he always had the opportunity to prevent it, or at least not to make it worse. Sometimes she drowns, sometimes she walks into traffic, sometimes she falls from a high place. Once she's even lost in the rubble of his parents' house after a hurricane. They still horrify him, but he's getting used to them - which is completely unfair. He can talk to Miles about them, and Miles says that they're textbook guilt dreams. Unfounded, in his case, Miles assures him, and pours him some tea, made with water from the hotel's coffeemaker. Of course he has tea - Miles always has tea at the ready. And when they go back to bed, Miles holds Phoenix the way Phoenix used to hold him, years ago.

Somewhere along the way, Phoenix finds that he's thinking of him as Miles more frequently than he's thinking of him as Edgeworth.

Aside from the nightmares, it seems like he's improving. His grief has gone mostly under the surface, not spilling over like it had been - he can act normal, even if he doesn't feel normal. And though he has to admit that his state of mind has improved enough that he can be bored and restless, he still stays in bed most of the day, he still doesn't talk much. He knows that if things get much more normal, he's going to be expected to do things that will open up the wounds all over again.

Sure enough, one morning Miles gives him an ultimatum. "Though I have no objection to you staying here until you're ready to go home, you need to have some of your own clothes to wear in the meantime."

Which means going back to the office, if only briefly. Phoenix knows that the spark of fear igniting in his brain is ridiculous, but he feels it anyway. He also knows that he's reached some kind of plateau, however, and things are going to stay exactly the same if he does nothing. And unexpectedly, that's not okay with him.

He knows he's not okay, and that he can't be expected to be okay under the circumstances. He thought at first that it would be a betrayal if his life could ever again be acceptable without her. But lately, he's beginning to think that maybe it would be okay to someday be okay.

They head out late in the morning, taking Edgeworth's rental car back to the building, and Phoenix's heart is beating faster just looking up at the building. It's irrational, though, and he pauses only a few seconds before opening the car door. Edgeworth had paused as well in the driver's seat, waiting for Phoenix to make the first move, and he follows close behind as Phoenix climbs the stairs.

Phoenix's steps slow as he approaches the office. It's going to be so quiet in there. Quiet and empty. And her things are still all over the place, probably... and there's going to be that silver-and-blue urn in there, and he doesn't know where so it's going to take him by surprise whenever he does see it. ...Also, less emotional and more humiliating, it's going to be a filthy mess, with no one having been there to keep it clean, and keep the dust from settling. Edgeworth called Apollo before they left, and he was going to meet them there, but he has his own place to live in and keep up. The first time Edgeworth's seen his old office in seven years, and it's going to look awful.

That's if they can even get in, he realizes as he puts his hand on the knob. He doesn't have his keys, and it's awfully quiet in there... But that's because she's not there, and she won't be there, and it'll always be quiet. Apollo must have beaten them there, though, because the door does open.

When it does, the portion of the agency he can see through the open door doesn't look dusty at all. In fact, it looks unusually clean and organized.

"Apollo?" he calls out curiously, as Edgeworth enters behind him and closes the door, and they head for the office proper. He avoids looking at the closed bedroom door as they pass.

There's no answer, except for a faint shuffling sound like footsteps on carpet. Light footsteps. Not Apollo's. Something's not right, and Phoenix peers around as he steps into the office, where the noise seemed to have come from. The place is clean - the desk dust-free and organized, all the pens and pencils upright in the pencil holder, points down in fact. The magic props are piled neatly against a wall, somehow. The floor has been vacuumed. Even the shelves and their books, which were always dusty, aren't.

And because she taught him how to look, he sees the movement out of the corner of his eye and follows it. Slender fingers low on the door frame, and something blue swings away with them as their owner withdraws further into the kitchen.

Whatever he could say comes out as a choked sound, and he freezes, staring at the kitchen entryway. He could not have just seen that. He wants to believe he could, but he couldn't, and he knows it.

Edgeworth didn't see it, but he sees where Phoenix is looking. "What is it?" he murmurs, watching intently as well, and then quickly follows after as Phoenix starts for the kitchen.

There is someone there, small and slender and hugging herself as she backs towards the sink. "You," Phoenix exclaims, before he can stop himself.

Edgeworth steps forward in alarm to catch Vera as she faints dead away.

Naturally, this is when the door opens and Apollo walks in, immediately dropping the bag he's carrying.

Edgeworth carries her to the couch, laying her down with Apollo's help, unneeded though it is. Apollo is hovering, trying to explain a mile a minute; he'd intended to be there when they arrived, to both let Vera know they'd be coming and to head them off and explain why she was there, but he'd forgotten that Edgeworth had a car, that they weren't tied to the bus schedule like Mr. Wright usually was. He'd thought he had time to stop by the Kitakis' bakery and pick up something so they could all have a late breakfast together.

While the two of them are attending to the unconscious girl, Phoenix picks up the bag Apollo dropped and peeks inside. Yep - pastries. Though some of them look like they've been damaged in the fall.

"Mr. Wright."

Apollo's voice is raised, and so is Phoenix's eyebrow as he looks over at the younger man.

"I didn't mean to surprise you like this. Either of you."

Edgeworth wants an explanation - who is this girl? Apollo gives the simple answer, she's Vera Misham. Phoenix gives the more complicated one.

"She's the one who painted Trucy's nails. With poisoned nail polish."

"Unintentionally," Apollo points out. "She's not the one who poisoned it - it was a trap meant for her, and it caught Trucy too."

Phoenix knows this, and he feels bad for his anger, but he can't help it. This is about the time he'd grab his clothes and leave, but Apollo's staring him down. "Why's she here?"

"She's been scared to death," Apollo replies. "Terrified that she's going to get charged for Trucy's death, even though it wasn't her fault. I told her if that happened, I'd defend her."

Phoenix can't believe what he's hearing. Upset as he is and has been, he knows better than to try to... "I wouldn't do that," he says, slightly bitter but honest. "I know it's not her fault. I just..."

"She's been through a lot, just like we have," Apollo continues. "She'd never had people her own age around before, she was trying to be friendly. And then on her first try, this happens. And then you add the part where her father just got killed, and can you blame her for not wanting to go back to his studio alone?"

Phoenix almost says something to that, but... he sees the parallel. Maybe it wasn't even intentional, but he knew all too well why Vera wouldn't want to be in her father's studio.

"I thought it would be kind of, well, sketchy if she stayed at my place." Apollo scratches his head, looking sheepish. "I mean, it's small, and I don't have a lot of room, and I'm her defense attorney. And a guy. But then, no one was staying here right now. And I could come visit every day. And I was the only one who had the keys, so it wasn't like people would be dropping in unexpectedly."

It was the kind of thing Phoenix would have done (and actually had done) in his younger days. Even in his not-so-much-younger days, for that matter. He couldn't really fault Apollo for doing something he would have done, or Vera for her part in the whole thing, regardless of the fact that he didn't really want to see her right now.

"And, well..." Apollo goes on. "She said as a favor, sh-"

"She seems to be coming around," Edgeworth interrupts, and sure enough, her head's tossing a little, groggily.

Apollo abandons his argument and kneels down by her again as she blinks and opens her eyes. "Hey... Vera, how do you feel?"


Phoenix has stayed back, and he still stays back. He doesn't want to scare her again, and he's probably the person she has the most reason to fear right now. He could press charges. If he was a heartless lunatic. He doesn't think he's fallen quite that far.

"Oh, this is Mr. Edgeworth," Apollo explains to her. "He's a prosecutor."

There's a startled gasp, and that's when Phoenix decides that he'd better say something. "Vera," he begins seriously, coming to stand behind the couch to look down at her. "I'm not going to threaten any legal action. Edgeworth is a friend of mine." Her eyes are wide, still frightened. It's more than he intended to say when he started out, but he goes on. "...I've been having a hard time with all this, and he's been helping me through it. That's all. ...I know it wasn't your fault." It's hard to say, when there are so many mixed emotions, but he has to. "...It's okay. You don't have to be afraid of me."

She sits up in a hurry, trying to take up as little space on the couch as possible as Phoenix comes around the end to sit down, and she pulls her hand away from Apollo's to cover her face. "I'm sorry," she whispers, breathing too quickly. "I'm really, really sorry, Mr. Wright, I wanted to be her friend... I just... wanted to share my good luck charm..." Her breath turns to a wheeze, and her mouth twists into an agonized grimace as she fails to stop herself from breaking down in tears.

Everything Phoenix has had to do over the past few weeks, and that's when he feels that dull emotionless bubble he's been living in start to burst, when he sees Vera crying her eyes out in grief and guilt. It's the same as he feels during those dreams, where he wants to save Trucy and can't, and sometimes makes it worse - except Vera's not going to wake up. It's real for her.

Seeing her obvious pain and regret, he has the overwhelming urge to reach out and wrap his arms around her. Unlike every other overwhelming urge he's had lately, he lets himself give in.

It's a measure of how distraught she must be that she doesn't pull back from the touch of a near-stranger, someone she's been afraid of. But no - she leans against him, crying into his shoulder with her mouth wide open, and he squeezes his eyes shut, trying to bury his face in her hair so that Edgeworth and Apollo won't see the tears leaking out from the corners. His voice might just give it away, though, as he shakily tells her it's okay. It's okay, it'll be okay. He knows she didn't mean Trucy any harm. It's okay.

But he's not okay, and rather than staying there and letting everyone see how not okay he is, he gets up abruptly and starts for his own room. He hears the anxious "Mr. Wright-" as Apollo stands to follow, and Edgeworth's soft hushing words - he'll take care of it, and Apollo should stay with Vera. Knowing that Edgeworth is following, Phoenix doesn't close the door behind him, but just collapses on his bed as Edgeworth closes it behind them both.

He's curled into a ball, his fingers raking over his scalp as if searching for something of himself to hold onto as painful sobs wrack his body, and what they find is the stiff letters on the hat he's wearing, and he knows what they say even if he can't read them right now. The hat's pulled off, and he clutches it to his face, muffling the sounds he's making, soaking up the tears. Miles has a hand on his back, then on his head, then both arms wrapped around him and they're just lying there, Miles holding him while he cries. And he appreciates it, he really does, so he tries to turn, and then Miles is kissing his hair and his forehead and his temples, rubbing his back, supporting his head.

By the time his crying has worn itself out, they're entangled on the bed - legs twined together, arms around each other, bodies pressed close - and Miles is breathing heavily too. Though Phoenix hasn't caught his breath yet, and his face feels swollen and disgusting, he kisses Miles harder than he's dared to kiss him since he came back. It doesn't even register that Miles is rolling on top of him, until he blinks and looks up. The look on Miles's face is clear enough, and Phoenix doesn't think he's ever wanted Miles so badly.

But... they can't. Phoenix sighs faintly. "We're not alone here," he murmurs, and he finds himself crying again suddenly because it's not Trucy they have to worry about overhearing them.

"I know." Miles kisses the salt from his cheeks, resting his head against Phoenix's. "...Later." Phoenix nods, and just hangs onto him until he can calm himself again.

He's embarrassed when he finally rolls away, starting to sit up. "...I don't think I ever cried until just now," he admits. "I mean, when it all happened, I cried, but it wasn't even real to me yet. It hadn't registered."

"Evidence that you're beginning to deal with it," Miles tells him, an arm still around his back. "It likely won't be the last time. Especially knowing you."

"...Yeah..." He did have a tendancy to be a bit of a crybaby back in grade school. He looks up at Miles, and smiles. Miles has strangely bright eyes at the moment too, which makes him feel a little better, and when Miles asks, he says yes, he does.

A moment in the bathroom to wash his face, uninterrupted by Apollo or Vera asking if he's all right. In fact, they don't ask at all when Phoenix and Miles find them still on the couch, with the Kitaki bakery bag in front of them, munching away. Vera's face is a little red, but she's smiling, and Apollo offers both of them some pastries as if nothing at all had happened.

Edgeworth looks somewhat disgruntled at the muffin he's offered. "It looks as if it's been damaged."

"Oh, no, that's how it's supposed to look," Apollo assures him. "It's Wocky's invention - the O.G. Cracker. I know it looks kind of gross, but it tastes really good." Vera nods.

Phoenix isn't sure how something that looks like that could be called a cracker, but Apollo's right - it does taste good. He has two.

After all but the last dribbled bits of oozing red jelly have been eaten, Apollo tentatively asks if Phoenix and Edgeworth want to stay a little longer. Vera's been cleaning up the office, in her gratitude for Apollo letting her stay, and she found a bunch of board games, which they've been playing together when he comes to see her. Maybe Apollo doesn't know a whole lot about card games, like Mr. Wright, but he's pretty good at Scrabble, he says with a questioning look at the two older men.

They start to pass out tiles, but Phoenix can't take it and bows out. He used to play Scrabble with Trucy and Kristoph. And Trucy would always try to use words like "alakazam" and "hocus" and "pocus", and they'd get into good-natured arguments about whether or not those words counted, and he'd always give in, and he doesn't want to deal with it. Instead, he'll go get his clothes, and figure out if there's anything else he wants to take to the hotel. And that reminds him, he owes Edgeworth a few toiletries, for what they'd been sharing, so he takes a trip down to the convenience store a few blocks away.

When he returns, he sits down and waits for them to finish. It turns out that Edgeworth is being accused of cheating now - he's using foreign words. He claims he'd forgotten they were foreign, considering that he uses them regularly in his everyday conversations, but Phoenix spots the same thing Apollo's bracelet alerts him to - a little smirk at the corner of Edgeworth's mouth. Edgeworth wins regardless.

They're talking about the game's outcome, and the possibility of a rematch, when Vera mentions that Pictionary is in the pile as well, but she and Apollo couldn't play it with only the two of them. But if there are four of them now... Apollo protests, saying that whoever was paired with Vera would have an unfair advantage, but Edgeworth points out that Phoenix had been an art student himself a long time ago. Not that kind of art student, Phoenix mutters, he was a theatre major - visual arts is Larry's department - but Edgeworth insists. They're going to play Pictionary. Apollo and Vera on one team, himself and Phoenix on the other.

As Phoenix expected, Vera's quick sketches are far beyond his own ability, but he and Edgeworth have a different advantage - they've known each other for years and years, and even after their long separation, they have a pretty good idea of how each other's minds work. Once one figures out the other's sloppy sketch, they can find the association quickly enough, whereas Apollo has trouble if whatever Vera's drawing isn't exactly the words he needs to say. Phoenix laughs as Edgeworth holds up his hand for a sly high-five as they win.

They stay long enough to have a late lunch as well, and Phoenix realizes that it's not quiet here at all, as he'd feared. Not with Vera and Apollo and Miles, playing games together. It's not awkward. It's comfortable. It's nice to feel comfortable again.

The realization is a reminder, however, and suddenly he's subdued again. There was something he's been wanting to ask, since he found out that Vera's been cleaning the apartment, and he's afraid to ask because the answer may make him irrationally angry again. But he finally manages to ask - has she been cleaning Trucy's room too? The tightness in his voice makes Apollo look at him sharply for a moment, but Vera says no - she hasn't touched it. Apollo said they should leave it just as it was, until they got word from him. Apollo adds that they just closed the door, and haven't been in there except once, when he didn't know where else to put the urn after they brought it from the funeral home. That explains why Phoenix hasn't seen it.

Edgeworth asks quietly, even though he's in the middle of eating, if Phoenix wants to go have a look at her room for a little while. He shakes his head. He knows he'll lose it again if he does, and he's mostly had a nice day today. He doesn't want to blow it.

However, hearing that Trucy's room had been declared off-limits begets another question which he'd been trying not to think about the answer to. Where's Vera been sleeping? She says on the couch. It's comfortable enough, and Apollo brought some blankets and pillows.

Phoenix shakes his head. That's no good. But he can't bring himself to let anyone take liberties with his little girl's room yet, so he offers his until he's ready to come home. Apollo looks surprised, but Phoenix shakes his head again. He wants to stay at the hotel a little longer. At the very least, he wants to go back tonight. Miles doesn't look at all surprised.

Before they leave, Phoenix does remember to grab some of his clothes, since that was ostensibly what they came there for; but when Miles's clothes come off him that night, it's not so he can put his own on.

Miles is careful and slow, asking if he's sure it's all right. Phoenix points out that the only reason they didn't do this earlier today was because Apollo and Vera were just a few thin walls away.

"You don't seem so... enthusiastic about it now, however."

"Yeah, it was definitely a heat-of-the-moment sort of thing," Phoenix admits. "But I don't want to relive that moment. Let's just make a new one."

Seven years apart had left a hole in Phoenix, an ache that had been ignored for so long that he barely recognized it was there at all anymore until it was prodded at. It isn't hard now that they're in bed together again to remember how he felt earlier, how badly he wanted Miles, and Miles makes it all too easy for Phoenix to feel all those empty years between them.

He's too exhausted that night to dream.

Apollo's felt as if a great weight has been lifted off his chest ever since Mr. Wright came back. It's not as if all his problems have been solved by any means, but seeing Mr. Wright actually acting like himself again for awhile was something he'd really, really wanted to see. The phone conversations hadn't exactly been clear enough evidence to put his mind at ease.

Now he and Mr. Edgeworth have come by a few more times, and if it hasn't always been pleasant, it's not been worrisome. There's one day that Mr. Wright finally, and completely without warning, gets up from the couch and goes into Trucy's room. Without Mr. Edgeworth, even. Apollo tries not to listen too closely, because the sounds he can hear faintly from inside are ones that he doesn't want to think about a grown man making. It's as if Mr. Wright's being torn apart. He stays in there long enough that he and Mr. Edgeworth exchange awkward glances, both clearly wondering if they should do something, while Vera stares at her hands in her lap, but eventually he does come out without any prompting. He takes a deep breath, half a sniffle, and asks if anyone wants to play a game.

He's developed a taste for Pictionary. Possibly because he and Edgeworth always win. Apollo has to wonder if Trucy taught him some kind of trick that worked in Pictionary as well as it worked in poker, but grudgingly admits that if his bracelet isn't giving him any help, probably not.

It's easier on him, somehow. Maybe because he didn't know her for so long. He still feels the emptiness, and the bracelet on his wrist is a constant reminder, because she was the one who explained to him the meaning of those funny things it did. He wonders if she knew what it meant, as well, and he was the only one who was left in the dark until after her death. Lamiroir (he still can't really think of her as "Mom") realized before, but only shortly. They're talking regularly now, though she decided that she needed to retreat for awhile, and that probably contributes too.

Plus, he's kind of taking over Trucy's duties at the office. He and Vera together, really, since he's not always there. They answer the phone and take messages, they go over the bills, they keep the place clean. Apollo is offered a few cases, and takes them. It's keeping the Anything Agency from going under, and considering how hard Trucy worked at it since she was just a kid, Apollo refuses to let it fall apart now. Vera's brought some of her sketchbooks too, and Apollo sometimes just watches her, amazed. Her Pictionary sketches are impressive enough, but the things she does when she's taking her time... He can't see them as anything other than a miracle.

But, well, he has to admit he may be biased. Which is why he's not staying there with her.

He answers the office phone the same way every day. "Wright and Co. Anything Agency - Apollo Justice speaking." But one day when it rings, it has nothing to do with him, or the courtroom, or someone who mistakenly thinks they can hire a pianist here. It's someone whose name he's heard, but never actually spoken to.

"Mr. Justice! Is Mr. Wright in?"

It's a girl, and she sounds excited. More so than if she's just looking to hire a pianist. "Uh, no he's not... He's probably going to stop by this afternoon, though. Can I take a message?"

"Oh, I really wanted to tell him myself..." the girl says, sounding only a little let down. Well, maybe if he calls back, Mystic Maya can tell him. That would be even better! All right, just tell him to call us when he has a chance."

Apollo's getting the impression that whoever he's talking to hasn't spoken to Mr. Wright for a long time. But he still doesn't know who that is. "Will do, if you tell me who's calling."

"Oh, I'm sorry - Mystic Maya mentioned you, so although I know your name, we've never spoken." There's a quiet laugh that would almost be a giggle, if it didn't sound so proper. "And I'm just so excited I can't think straight. This is Pearl Fey."

"Ohhhh," Apollo realizes. "Yeah, Mr. Wright mentioned you too. You're Maya Fey's little sister, right?"

"Cousin," she corrects him, "but close enough. ...And I guess I'll spare you the lecture about calling Mystic Maya by her proper title, since you're Mr. Wright's friend. And Mr. Wright's friends are Mystic Maya's friends."

Pearl sounds so cheerful, and the Feys seem awfully friendly from that explanation, so Apollo feels more at ease. "Thanks. Are you sure you don't want me to take a message?"

"No, it's all right." But there's that quiet laugh again. "But I'll let you in on the surprise, if you don't tell. I was looking forward to telling someone."

Apollo smiles a little at her barely restrained glee. "Okay, I can keep a secret. What's going on?"

"Maya had her baby!" exclaims Pearl. "It's a girl, just like we hoped for."

"Oh!" ...And then it starts coming together. Why someone who was apparently as important to Mr. Wright as Maya Fey hadn't been at Trucy's funeral. Why Pearl sounds so happy, and hasn't asked how Mr. Wright is doing. "...Oh. Uh-" He struggles to recover. "Tell Ma, er, Mystic Maya congratulations for me! I'll let Mr. Wright know to call you back."

"Thank you so much, Mr. Justice! Maybe we'll meet properly when we come to visit, I know Mystic Maya's been wanting to... Goodbye!"

"Bye!" Apollo's body language isn't anywhere near as cheerful as his voice as he hangs up and sits down on the couch, resting his chin in his hands.

It's easy enough to see why Mr. Wright wouldn't have wanted to tell Maya. News about losing a daughter isn't a good thing to have to hear about when you're expecting one, Apollo supposes. And the way Mr. Wright was avoiding everything for so long, he probably didn't want to be reminded that other people still had their kids safe and unharmed... right? It would just be rubbing it in, what he's lost.

He's still not sure what he should do when Mr. Wright and Mr. Edgeworth show up a couple of hours later, but he did tell Pearl he'd tell Mr. Wright to call, and that he'd keep the secret...

He pulls Mr. Edgeworth into the kitchen to ask his opinion first. Mr. Edgeworth's eyes widen for a moment, and Apollo thinks he hears him mutter something about how long he's been away, but they narrow shrewdly again as the meaning behind the news sinks in.

"...I'd like to believe he'll be happy for her regardless," he murmurs, with a cautious glance towards the living room, where Mr. Wright and Vera are getting out the board games. "But I couldn't say for sure. ...It's absurd, considering how close they were once, that we would have to be concerned about anything either of them says hurting the other."

"Should we let him know? I mean, I was told to keep it a secret so they could tell him, but..."

"I wasn't."

Apollo frowns thoughtfully, but before he can decide what he thinks about that, Mr. Wright walks into the room and asks what they're talking about. Mr. Edgeworth takes the initiative, and gets right to the point. "It seems that Pearl Fey called for you earlier. She and Maya have some news for you."

He doesn't even have to say what it is - Mr. Wright was apparently aware of Maya's condition, because his expression turns to one of surprise without any further elaboration. It looks like the beginning of a smile... but the smile seems to get stuck on the way out. "She had her baby, didn't she?"

Apollo nods. "You didn't hear it from me, though - Pearl told me she wanted to tell you herself. Or have Maya do it."

Mr. Wright nods slowly, and the smile gets itself unstuck, even if it's a bit wistful. "I guess I should give her a call, huh?"

"That's what they wanted, yeah."

"Are you all right?" Mr. Edgeworth asks, seeing the odd look on his face.

"I'm okay. Seriously, don't worry, Maya's like my little sister. When she's happy, I'm happy." He doesn't look happy at all, though, and he swallows. "...But when she gets done talking about her own little bundle of joy, she's going to ask how mine is. This is... I didn't want to tell her before. It would hit too close to home, since she had a baby on the way, and now? It's not the time to tell her about this. She shouldn't have anything to cry about today."

He leans back with his hands on the counter, looking at the floor. Apollo doesn't have a solution to this one, so he keeps quiet. Then Mr. Edgeworth speaks up. "I'll call her back. I can pass along your congratulations, and let her know that you've been going through a rough time, which you will tell her about next week when you call her yourself."

The hints of a smile that remain turn grateful as Mr. Wright looks up. "Thanks, Miles... You know, she's going to be really glad to hear from you too. But really surprised, since last thing she knew, you and I hadn't spoken in years."

Mr. Edgeworth smiles slightly himself, moving to place a hand over one of Mr. Wright's. "I'll just tell her it's a long story, but we've straightened some things out."

The way they're looking at each other makes Apollo feel like he probably shouldn't be listening to them right now, so he goes to see what Vera's up to.

Phoenix does call her the next week, as Miles promised he would. He even charges his cell phone for the occasion, the first time he's done so in a month. Fortunately, the messages on his voicemail seem to have slowed.

He gathers up his nerve while Miles is downstairs faxing a bunch of paperwork, and scribbles a quick note saying he's gone out for a walk. He doesn't feel the need to specify that he'll return of his own volition this time, seeing as he hasn't even thought seriously about disappearing for a few weeks, and he starts for the door.

His hat's hanging there on the hook. ...He decides to take it. It's winter now, and even in southern California, that means it can be a little chilly.

He isn't quite sure why he doesn't want anyone to be around while he makes the call, it's not as if he resents Miles being there for him, or Apollo's awkward attempts to help him through it. There's just something that tells him it should be him and Maya, no one else. Even if they're technically miles apart.

He calls from a bench in People's Park, by the water, and the conversation goes pretty much just as he expected. Pearl answers, polite as always (though she addresses him in a more adult way these days, and he won't admit that he kind of misses the "Mr. Nick" thing), but he can hear her gleeful call for Maya. And when Maya gets on the phone, he lets her tell him, and he pretends to act surprised, and she calls him on it. But really, why else would she be calling after so long? He knew when she was due. He was there when it started - when she walked out into the waiting room and swatted him on the top of the head with the doctor's instructions, for teasing that the procedure must have worked, because she looked bigger already.

She tells him all the things that new mothers talk about. She's so little, but she sure didn't feel little on the way out, and Phoenix cringes - he doesn't need those kinds of details. She has dark hair, and her eyes are blue, but they say most babies start off with blue eyes, so it's hard to say...

"I named her Misty," Maya tells him. "After Mom... I thought about naming her after Sis, but I dunno, it seemed like it would be weird calling someone else Mia. You know? And it's not like I ever called my mom Misty, so it's way less weird. Plus, someday she's going to be the Kurain Master, and Sis never really wanted that for herself. On the other hand, Mom kind of got cheated out of really getting anything out of it..."

Phoenix nods. "So how's Pearl dealing with this?"

"Oh, you know Pearly - she's nothing like her mom. She's not jealous or anything, she's just really happy to have a baby to take care of and fuss over and spoil. She's absolutely as devoted to the next Master of Kurain as she was when it was me."

"That's great." Phoenix does have to smile at all of it. It's good to hear that Maya's happy, and Pearl's happy. "But I'd guessed that much. I meant has she gotten used to the idea yet that you're really, really, not going to marry anyone? Including me."

"Yeah... she's mostly over it. She'd rather I had a traditional family and a husband to lean on, but I just kept pointing out that my mom raised Mia and I just fine alone, and her mother raised her fine alone too - well, except for certain things, but Pearly turned out okay in the end, right? And Bikini raised Iris, and she's fine too... and then you look at Dahlia, who had a father and a stepmother, and she was all messed up. A traditional family isn't always definitely better than a single mom, you see?"

True - especially when you were a Fey, but Phoenix doesn't say it aloud.

"Plus, little Misty's going to have both Pearly and I to take care of her," Maya goes on. "And as far as male role models go, there's guys around the village who like kids - that's why they stay, you know? For their families. And I know other guys - like you. You've even got daddy experience already! And now Mr. Edgeworth's back too - and Nick, I was so glad to hear you're back together, you wouldn't believe it."

And it's just as Phoenix expects, too, when the conversation eventually leads to the one thing he wishes he could avoid. "And I guess he's going to get some daddy experience now, huh? How's Trucy taking it? Is she okay with you giving her another daddy instead of a mommy?"

And though Phoenix has been trying to gather up his courage to make this reply for something like an hour now, he can't say a word.

"...Hey, Nick?" His silence must be as sure a giveaway as anything he might have said, because suddenly Maya sounds concerned. "Everything okay? She's not... taking it badly or anything, is she? Is that what Mr. Edgeworth was talking about?"

He says the words a few times in his mind before he can get them out. "...Maya... I've got some bad news. I know I should have told you sooner, but I didn't want to upset you."

He tells her everything. It feels wrong, saying it aloud. He hasn't really explained it fully to anyone, and he can't believe he's saying the things he's saying. They're things that no parent should ever have to say.

And things that no parent wants to have to hear. When Maya speaks again, her voice is high-pitched and wavery. "Oh, Nick..." she says, almost a whisper. "Nick... Nick, I'm so sorry..."

In his mind, he's seeing her at seventeen again, barely more than a little girl herself. He can almost see her face crumple, her eyes filled with tears. But he's mostly okay - he brushes at his eyes. "Thanks... So, well. That's why Edgeworth came back."

"You called and he came? That's really great of him..."

"Actually, it was Apollo who called him," Phoenix admits. "I was a little messed up for awhile, and I guess Apollo talked to Larry, or something."

"Hmm..." Maya sniffs, and sounds a little more like her usual self. "Sounds like a good guy. ...So what happened to the bad guy? The guy that did that..."

"He's in prison for the rest of his life, which probably won't be long." Yet another thing Phoenix can't quite get his mind around, so instead it occurs to him that Apollo did that too. He owes Apollo a lot.

They talk a little longer, and end with the agreement that they should see each other again sometime soon, whether it's Phoenix going to Kurain, or Maya coming to the city. The latter would be more fun for her, she wants to meet everybody, but she doesn't want to spend hours riding the train with an infant right away if she can help it, and Phoenix points out that everybody could go up there with him. They'll work something out. They always do.

Phoenix still can smile when they say goodbye, to his amazement. He walks back to the hotel, and greets Miles by wrapping his arms around his shoulders from behind and resting his chin atop Miles's head. It tilts up to peer at him curiously, and Miles asks if everything's all right. Phoenix says yes, and that they should go visit Maya and Pearl and little Misty soon. And maybe bring Apollo - he could use a vacation.

"Which would leave Vera in the office alone," Miles points out, and fortunately that's all he points out, of all the things he could point out. "Do you think that's all right?"

"If it's not, I'll just remind her to pack her sketchbooks. It's beautiful up there in the mountains." Phoenix's arms tighten a little around Miles's shoulders, and he rests his cheek against Miles's hair. "...I think we could all use some fresh air."

It takes a little while to get everything arranged when it comes to Edgeworth's job. It didn't take very long to get a telecommute set up, sure, but in Kurain Village, he's going to be completely out of touch. Fortunately, he's done well enough for himself that he can more or less give himself a vacation, as long as he makes sure everyone back in Germany knows what's going on.

Vera claims to be all right with being left alone for a few days, but Apollo insists she come along. He'll pay, even. Phoenix wonders if he saw something in her reply that he didn't, or if it's something more ordinary that prompts Apollo to offer.

Once everything's settled, they're all off on a long train ride, and Vera doesn't look comfortable at all with being so far from home and around so many passengers, but Apollo stays close, keeping her talking and keeping her distracted. Phoenix thinks it'll be good for her, in the end. In the meantime, he's mostly watching the scenery.

It feels funny to come this way without Trucy's excited exclamations and attempts to entertain the bored commuters. Especially when instead, Miles is sitting next to him, quiet as he too watches the city disappear into the distance. Usually they're comfortable enough with each other that they don't need to talk, but Phoenix hates the silence now, so he starts reminiscing about the first time he came to Kurain. And happened to walk right into the middle of a murder plot, so maybe it would be better to talk about other times he came to Kurain.

Miles was overseas most of the times he'd come here, and there was actually only one time they'd taken the train together, Phoenix recalls aloud, and then thinks maybe he shouldn't. They'd come to show Maya those rings, the same ones Miles is still holding onto. He doesn't say that part aloud, but Miles remembers anyway, it seems. He reaches over to take Phoenix's hand, his own bare fingers caressing Phoenix's, and mumbles something about how they might be coming back sometime, if things go well.

Phoenix can't say he dislikes the idea. It's just that so much has changed, and he's not sure he wants anything more to change too soon, even if it's for the better. The scales are just barely balanced now, and tipping them either direction would leave him completely unsettled. Not that he says so, because he knows Miles isn't trying to push - just letting him know the possibility is there. And he's glad that it is.

He expected Pearl to meet them at the bus stop, once they get into Kurain, but instead it's Maya grinning and waving, in traditional robes that hide her body enough that you'd never know she'd just had a child a few weeks back. It certainly doesn't seem to have slowed her down, Phoenix thinks as she practically throws herself at him, hugging him fiercely.

Miles gets a hug too, which seems to surprise him, but then she looks up at him seriously, asks if he's taking good care of Nick, and he nods. Maya puts an arm around both of them. Good.

Introductions are made, and Maya unsuccessfully tries not to laugh when Apollo bows to her.

Pearl's been watching Misty in the Fey Manor, and has to hand her off to her mother before she can give Phoenix a squeeze. She holds him tight for a minute, her face concerned when she looks up and asks how he's doing. He says he's okay. And finally he gives in, because it almost feels like the good old days but not quite, despite all the changes; he tells her that he doesn't mind if she calls him Nick. Or Mr. Nick. She smiles softly and nods. Miles gets a handshake, which is probably preferable for him; both he and Pearl are a little on the formal side, even though Pearl's a little less so than she used to be, having grown through her teenage years with Maya as her guardian. She's introduced to Apollo and Vera too, and then it's time for everyone to really see the baby.

Misty's tiny, and she's a little fussy at the moment, and she grabs onto anything that comes near her - including Vera's hair. But Vera laughs, blushing, and tries to untangle herself gently. Maya asks if Phoenix wants to hold her? He's the godfather, after all.

...Godfather's not as good as Daddy, he thinks, taking Maya's little girl in his arms, smiling as she gurgles at him. But it's not bad.

After he hands her back, he says he thinks he wants to take a walk, have a look around. Miles says he'll come too, and Phoenix can refresh his memory about where things are in the village. It's nice that Miles knows exactly what Phoenix isn't saying, or at least what he's not saying around other people.

He says it when they're a short way from the manor, though. "Why does that bother me?" It does, to the point that he's been blinking away tears. "I never even knew Trucy when she was a baby."

"The mind often does things that make little sense," Miles points out, walking at his side along the mountain path. "I'm no psychologist, Wright. ...If anything, I'm patient material," he adds under his breath, and Phoenix can't help but breathe a shaky laugh.

He also keeps thinking about it, until he comes up with an idea. "...I guess it's just that... having kids is something that's never going to happen to me again. I'm never going to be a father again - I mean, we can't have kids. Trucy was... a completely random whim of fate. It's a chance that won't come twice."

"You could adopt again."

It takes a moment for Phoenix to figure out what's wrong with that. "...If we're serious, about being together again, I couldn't adopt again."

Miles is looking off into the valley, not quite avoiding Phoenix's eyes. "We, then."

Something feels off. Well, a lot of things feel off, but there's one really obvious thing. And that makes him angry, because what if Miles had come back earlier? Would he have decided Trucy was too much baggage? If he'd stuck around long enough for Phoenix to make his decision to adopt her, would Miles have left then? And it's easier to be angry than anything else. "You don't want to be a father, do you?"

The sharp edge of his words makes Miles grimace slightly. "I don't particularly want not to, Wright. I've never been in a position to think that I might be someday, which was fine with me because..." His eyes turn downward. "I've never thought I'd be a very good parent. von Karma was hardly a good role model in that regard, and I hardly remember my own father."

And the last part speaks to the heart of what Phoenix was trying to pick a fight to ignore; people forget. They live, and they forget the dead, because they're not there.

"But I'm not opposed to it," Miles continues. "If the situation arises... I'll have some thinking to do. But I will think about it."

"You don't have to." Phoenix gives up - he can't be angry with Miles. "It's not going to happen. I don't want another daughter, Miles. I don't want a replacement." He takes a deep breath, trying to say it without falling apart. "I just want her back. And I know it won't happen."

He's mostly successful, but he does have to wipe at his eyes again, and Miles puts an arm around his waist.

Pearl's hospitality has made Vera comfortable enough that she's shyly showing Pearl her sketchbooks, and Apollo... Apollo's still trying to figure out what exactly it is that Maya does without sounding disrespectful, since she has an important-sounding title. He wouldn't want to offend her.

"Oh, you know, just taking care of Kurain stuff... training acolytes, making sure that people who need our services are seen to in a timely fashion. Business seems to be picking up lately, but me and Pearly can handle it for the most part."

Apollo's head is starting to spin. "Uh, so... what are your 'services', then?"

"Mostly just using the Kurain technique to reunite people with their lost loved ones."

"So you're like... a detective family?" He's never seen detectives that dress like that - but given a couple detectives he's encountered in the last year, it wouldn't be as shocking as it once would have been.

Maya laughs a little. "No, no - we don't hunt down missing people. The police can do that. No one else can do what the Feys do, though."

"Which is...?"

"Channeling the dead."

Apollo's pretty sure he heard that wrong. "What the what?"

"Channeling the dead." Maya smirks a little. "What, Nick didn't tell you?"

"No, he didn't!" Apollo wonders if they're playing some kind of joke on him, because that's impossible. "He just said you were the one who sent him all those DVDs... that you were a good friend of his, and..."

His voice trails off. After more questioning, Mr. Wright had said something about how she was his assistant back in his lawyer days, kind of like Trucy was Apollo's assistant.


He looks Maya in the eye. "You're serious? You can channel the dead?"

Her amused little smirk fades as she realizes what he's getting at. "...It comes naturally to us... but for most people it probably shouldn't be taken lightly. Apollo..."

He knows what she's trying to say, and the idea intimidates him rather than giving him relief, and there is no urgent business, except saying goodbye. "I..." He can't find the words. "Mr. Wright... is that why he brought me here too?"

Maya frowns thoughtfully. "I don't think so. I think he just wanted to introduce us. I mean, Nick... he has this habit of taking in everyone who doesn't have a place to go. That's what he did for me and Pearly, that's what he did for you and Trucy and Vera."

It was Apollo who did that for Vera, but he doesn't want to interrupt to correct her.

"He just pulls us into his family. So you and I, we're basically family. It's no wonder he wanted us to meet each other."

Family... There's one thing that Apollo really wants to say, one thing he really wants to know. That's enough reason for him. "...Trucy was my sister. I didn't know until the night she died," he explains, as Maya's mouth opens in surprise.

"Sister, huh...?"

"Well, half-sister. I don't know if she even knew."

Maya seems subdued. "Hmm, I kind of know how you feel. There was a lot my sis and I didn't say too."

Right, Mia Fey, Mr. Wright's mentor. ...Suddenly the stories Mr. Wright told about Mia helping him on cases make a lot more sense.

But that's not the foremost thing on Apollo's mind now. It looks like Maya's had something of a change of heart. Sure enough, a moment later she smiles softly. "Do you want to ask her?"

Apollo nods. Maya nods back, in agreement, and gets to her feet. "Pearly, Apollo and I are going to the Channeling Chamber." The smile on the younger girl's face drains away to uncertainty. "Can you watch Misty for me a little longer?"

Pearl nods, rising to take the baby in her arms as Apollo follows Maya to the next room.

Pearl's settled down again with Misty in her lap and Vera's sketchbooks on the floor between them when Phoenix and Miles return. He supposes Maya's off showing Apollo around Kurain... but Pearl gives him an odd look when she looks up. He notices, too, the way her eyes go to the door to the Channeling Chamber. Which is closed. And locked.

His heart tightens. He knows.

He hadn't even thought about it himself, and he isn't sure why not, except that he's not needed Mia's help for so long that he'd almost forgotten about the Fey family's abilities.

"They're in there, aren't they?"

Pearl nods, and Phoenix sinks to the floor, cross-legged, his hands clutching his head through his hat. He was just friends with Pearl and Maya, and that was why he came, and did they have this in mind when they invited him, and is he ready for that, and why didn't he think of that, and why isn't he jumping at the chance now that he realizes he has it?

Miles has no idea what's going on, he's asking questions, and Phoenix can't answer so Pearl is answering instead. Then there's a little knock, and Pearl pulls a key from within her robes to unlock the door, meaning she's gone. Phoenix isn't sure what he feels about her having been channeled when he wasn't there. He's probably not ready anyway, he tells himself.

It's not Maya at the door, but Apollo who opens the door gingerly, a serious expression on his face. "Your daughter wants to talk to you," he says.

There's a girl sitting crosslegged at the far end of the candle-lit room when the door closes behind him. Her hair is too dark and too long, and she'd probably never do it up like that, but the face is, if anything, too perfect.

She smiles up at him, but Phoenix can see that it's a little crooked as she raises one arm and waves. "H-hey, Daddy... I look good in these clothes, don't I? I kinda wish I'd known that sooner - just think about all the doves and flowers and things I could've stuffed in the sleeves for performances, huh?"

And that's so her that he cracks immediately.

She's on her feet at once, saying "Oh, Daddy, Daddy, don't cry, it's okay," as she comes to his side, wrapping her arms around him. He's too frozen to do likewise, huddled into himself, and he just takes in the sound of her voice, the feel of her arms.

After a moment, she pauses. "...Okay, cry if you want to," she tells him, still holding him close, resting her head against his arms over his chest. Her voice wavers a little. "Cause you know, I didn't get to hug you before when you were crying. In the courtroom."

Now she's crying, and Phoenix manages to reach down to hug her after all. She lets him, but tries to brush at her eyes, forcing a laugh. "That's why I thought it was best to talk to Apollo first. He's so straightforward. The questions he asked were gonna be simple. But you're always so complicated... I don't even really know why you're crying, and it's making me cry too."

"Sorry," he manages, and it comes with a broken laugh of his own. "Sorry, honey... I just... miss you."

"Yeah, the whole thing kind of sucked, didn't it?" She's trying so hard to sound like her usual chipper self, but it's the least convincing act he's ever seen out of her. "I'm glad I got the chance to talk to you again - I wanted to tell you thank you."

"...If anything, I wanted to tell you I was sorry."

She sighs in exasperation. "For what? Not saving me? Daddy, you couldn't have. But you did do all that you could do. You stayed with me. You know I didn't even know that until I was dead? I called for you, when it hurt, but it hurt so bad that I couldn't really make sense of anything around me. Then the pain stopped, and I saw you holding me. And I was happy... because it didn't hurt anymore, and you were with me. Until I realized what happened."

"I'm sorry." He knows she doesn't need it, but he does.

"Daddy, I wasn't upset because I was dead. I was upset because you were upset. Okay?" she says firmly. "Being dead really isn't so bad. Not for the dead. It's the ones who stay behind, like you and Apollo, that have it harder. And I couldn't do anything to help - that's the only real bad thing about death. Well, that I've found so far, anyway."

"...That's good, at least." He's not sure how much longer he can stay upright, the only reason he's standing now is because he's leaning on her and she's leaning on him, and he pulls back, keeping his hands on her shoulders. "I think I need to sit down," he murmurs, but doesn't make a move. He's just staring at her, and she's just staring back.

She blinks eventually and looks down, and then he has his chance to settle down on the floor, with her facing him. He kind of wants to pull her into his lap, like he did when she was little, but he supposes that would be ridiculous. ...He doesn't really know what to say, now that he has a chance. He looks at her some more, and she looks at him some more.

Finally she giggles softly, and scoots closer, cuddling up against his side. He shifts on instinct to slip an arm around her shoulders, falling into the position easily. It's a familiar one, one that their couch bore witness to countless times throughout the years. The times that she was home sick from school and miserable, or had had a nightmare, or the time that her first boyfriend (who Phoenix hadn't even known about until that day) broke up with her for being 'too weird', or when they watched scary movies... but also the days when Phoenix caught a cold from the long nights at the Borscht Bowl, and the day he'd figured out that Kristoph wasn't as good for him as he'd thought. He hadn't said a word, was just sitting at the couch not really watching the television, but she'd come home and without a word curled up at his side, wriggling under his arm. Just like she was doing now. He squeezes her lightly, and she sighs again, this time in contentment.

But after a little while, she speaks. "Apollo said you weren't taking this very well."

That's kind of an understatement. It's also not her problem, and he wishes Apollo hadn't said anything.

"I just wanted you to know..." she begins, gingerly, "...I don't want you to be sad. I mean, I guess I'd be kind of freaked out if you were throwing parties or something for the occasion, but you shouldn't be sad forever just because I'm not there. I know I'd have been really upset if it was you and I was left behind too, but... would you want me to spend the rest of my life unhappy?"

"Of course not."

"Right. So when you're ready... let yourself be happy again, okay?" She shifts in his arms, and he looks down to see her grinning up at him. "Polly mentioned a Mr. Edgeworth..."

"...You're okay with that?"

"Well, now I know why you never seemed all that excited about finding me a new mommy."

Though Phoenix is slightly chagrined, Trucy giggles. "It's okay, Daddy. If he makes you as happy as you made me, then I'm all for it."

But Phoenix doesn't know, just yet. "...I don't know if he could ever make me as happy as you made me."

"That's okay, it's not a contest," she tells him, just brushing it off. "And if I was still there to make it one... would you really complain? A contest to see who could make my daddy happiest - I think the winner would be you."

He shakes his head, and has to smile a little at her optimism. He suspects that she really would have made it a contest. "As always, you're one of a kind."

She nods, and snuggles against him some more. "You too. ...You know," she remarks, her voice going softer, more earnest, "you may not be my only daddy, or my first daddy... but you were my favorite daddy. Definitely the best daddy I could have asked for. In fact, if I see my other daddy, I'm going to tell him off for what he put you through."

He presses a kiss against her hair. Having her there is making him feel so much more normal than he's felt for so long, but it reminds him that it can't last. "Sweetie, you're the only little girl I ever had, and the only one I'm ever going to have... because no one else could compare to you. Ever."

"Thanks... But you know, I won't hold you to that. Because you never know, you have a habit of picking up strays. So I'm just happy you feel that way now."

Her arms go around his waist, she's pressing her face against his chest, and he just holds her, and lets her hold him, and savors it, because it can't last. He knows, though, that he's fortunate he got one last chance. Most people don't.

When she releases him and sits back a little, he's more reluctant to let her go, but he must. "...Is there anything you wanted to say to me?" she asks.

"Just that I love you. And I miss you."

She gives him a cocky little smile. "Other than things I already know?"

He shakes his head. "It isn't so much things I want to say to you..." He's lucky, he supposes, that he has that tendancy to wear his heart on his sleeve. She knows, she's always known, what she meant to him. "I just wish you could come home with me. And everything would be back to normal."

"It's not really not normal now," she points out. "Death is a part of life, right? Mine's over, but yours is going to go on. or at least, it should. All right? Do we have a deal, mister?"

He nods, and she makes him shake on it.

"Oh, by the way," she adds suddenly. "Polly told me about all the arrangements you two made. That you kept my ashes in a neat blue bottle that looked all exotic and magical. Good choice, by the way."

"Thanks... It looked like the kind of thing you'd like." Phoenix can hardly believe that he's having this conversation, much less with a smile.

"Yup, I totally approve," she agreed. "He asked, too, if I wanted my ashes spread somewhere special. And you know what I told him?"


"The most special place in the world to me is our office. It's where you and I lived, and where I met my big brother again after all these years..." She pauses, and reaches over to punch him in the arm. "And you didn't even tell me, you big goofball."

"Hey!" He has to laugh, because she's saying it with a laugh herself. "I just wanted to make sure it was all going to work out okay before I dropped any bombshells on you two. Especially with both your parents making appearances."

"Yeah, things were pretty confusing. But anyway," she continues, "that's the place that I was happiest. So I can't really think of anywhere I'd rather be. ...Unless you sent my ashes up in a UFO so I could go all over the universe, or maybe mixed them up with gunpowder and made fireworks so I could explode in the sky. That would be awesome!"

That's his daughter, all right. "...I think I'll leave the making of fireworks to the professionals. I kind of like having somewhere to live that's not a smoking crater."

"Aww..." She doesn't actually look too disappointed. "Anyway, the bottle's fine, the office is fine. And maybe someday when you take it down and polish it, I'll pop out in a blue cloud and start singing about how you ain't never had a friend - never had a friend - like me." She elbows him slyly. "And poof - all the evidence you and Polly need will magically appear!"

Phoenix scratches his head. "If anyone could manage it, it would be you."

"Oh! And one last thing..."

She looks completely at ease, but the word 'last' isn't one Phoenix wants to hear, because he supposes this time it really will be. "What's that, honey?"

"You really don't have to wear that hat all the time."

He frowns vaguely. "But it's special. You made it for me."

"Yeah, when I was like nine," she points out. "Once I got older, it was kind of embarrassing to have you still wearing that thing around all the time."

Phoenix feels his heart sink. "...You never said anything about it..."

"No, I didn't - because even if it was kind of embarrassing to have my daddy walking around all the time with this silly hat that I made when I was a little kid, I knew you were wearing it because you loved me so much you didn't care how silly it was. So every time I thought of telling you to put that old thing away, I felt bad."

And she just smiles at him, sheepish and a little melancholy, and it seems like everything they might have said to each other could all be boiled down just to this.

"I understand, honey," is all he says as he reaches up, hesitant.

"Yeah, go ahead," she assures him, leaning over to squeeze him again. "But... keep it somewhere, okay?"

A few minutes later, when the door opens and Phoenix emerges, slightly dazed and followed closely by a wistful-looking Maya, Miles is there to sit down with him. "What did she say?" he asks.

"A lot of things." Phoenix twists the knit fabric in his hands, fingers caressing the felt letters. "She told me to take the hat off."

He asks Apollo a little later if he got all the answers he wanted, and Apollo says he thinks so. Phoenix has been so out of it ever since the first day of that case, he'd only just realized that he never got around to telling Apollo any of the things that he'd been planning to make clear after the trial, during which he had assumed Apollo and Trucy would figure most of it out together. If Apollo has any questions, he can ask... and Phoenix hopes everything's been going okay with his mom? Apollo nods, and thanks him gruffly before wandering off, muttering something about needing some time alone to process this. But before that, to Phoenix's surprise, Apollo gives him a quick one-armed hug, and tells him it's going to be okay.

He knows this, and is distracted by the fact that he knows it for the rest of the evening. Fortunately, no one pushes it.

There's a mirror in the guest room where he and Miles are staying, and before he gets ready for bed, he takes a long look at himself with the hat off.

Now that it's not hidden, his hair is still doing that thing it always did, though it's a little less backwards and a little more all over the place. He's got that five o'clock shadow again, but at least the dark circles under his eyes are gone and the unfamiliar, bitter creases at the corners of his mouth aren't so harsh. He still looks older than he thinks he should, but maybe that's as it should be, because he's not in his twenties anymore - he just keeps forgetting that as the world changes around him, he's changing too.

But the man staring back at him doesn't look like an idealistic lawyer or like a laid-back dad trying to make ends meet for his little girl, or like anything that Phoenix has ever thought of himself as. Phoenix doesn't know what he looks like anymore.

Then there's another face beside his in the mirror, as Miles comes up behind him. Phoenix sees his own reflection smile, and Miles's smiles slightly as well, bemused. He looks, Phoenix decides, like a man who's been waiting a long time for Miles Edgeworth, and turns to face him.

A few minutes of kisses and murmurs and caresses later, Phoenix opens his eyes to go and shut the sliding door they'd intended to leave open to the garden for the fresh night air, and realizes someone's watching them from it. Vera's frozen there, open-mouthed, her expression bewildered.

Phoenix steps back and clears his throat, causing Miles to whirl and have a look himself, which in turn causes Vera to flinch. "Er, Vera, hi. Do you need something?"

She doesn't say anything for a moment. "I..." she begins, faltering, "I wanted to ask... uhm... didn't mean to interrupt..." She seems more curious then than embarrassed or afraid as she gives up and asks, "What... were you doing?"

Phoenix's eyes narrow, and he exchanges a glance with Miles, who looks far more embarrassed and afraid than Vera. "Uh, what did it look like we were doing?"

"It looked like... you were kissing," she replies, just a little self-conscious. "But... men kiss women, not other men, so-"

She flinches again, abruptly, and Phoenix suspects he knows why; he looks over to see Miles's jaw set, the beginnings of an irritable glare. Knowing more about how she was brought up than Miles does, he decides he better cut that off right away. "Miles, she doesn't mean anything by it. She's hardly seen the world outside her father's studio."

Vera's eyes are growing wider as Miles presses a hand to his head in exasperation, so Phoenix steps forward, hoping to keep her from running. "Yes, usually men like women and vice versa. But not all men. Every so often, there's a man who likes other men. ...And if they're lucky, sometimes two men who like other men will wind up liking each other."

It's as he suspected - she's not disgusted by the idea, she's just surprised. And now she knows to be embarrassed. "Ah... I'm sorry - I didn't mean to interrupt, I thought since your door was open, I... I mean, if it was two men in the room, there wouldn't be anything..." She takes a step back, her face red. "...I'm sorry, I'll leave."

"No, it's all right," Miles assures her, before Phoenix can speak up. Probably feeling bad for his reaction. "We did leave the door open. Did you need something after all?"

Not only red, but her face looks distinctly unhappy as she glances between the two men. "I just... w-wondered, Mr. Wright... you... really talked to Trucy?"

He nods, and her face falls further. "Do you think... m-maybe Pearl and Miss Fey would let me, if it wouldn't be too much trouble... Could I... talk to my f-father...?"

Her voice is so small. Phoenix again feels the urge to put an arm around her, and again he gives in to that urge. "I'm sure they wouldn't say no," he tells her. "Want me to come with you and ask?"

"Mm... but it's so late..."

"It's also not very hard for either of them to channel a spirit," Phoenix assures her. "Trust me, I've seen them do it lots of times. They might go to bed a little later tonight, but that's it. No trouble at all." Unless the spirit didn't want to be channeled, but he can't imagine Drew not wanting to give his daughter the same assurances Trucy had given him. The same assurances he'd have wanted to give Trucy.

...There's something going on in his head now, but he's not sure what it is, or that he should examine it too closely. "Come on," he murmurs, turning her towards the garden. "Let's go see what Maya thinks. Miles, I'll be back in a little while."

Her shoulders are shaking as Phoenix guides her through the moonlit garden back to the manor proper, and when she speaks, her voice is still small. "I'm sorry... I really didn't mean to interrupt anything..."

Phoenix nods. "It's okay, really. Don't worry about it." She's obviously worried about other things at the moment without adding that concern.

And before they reach Maya's room, she voices one of them. "...My father... he died from a trap meant for me. Just like Trucy..." Her voice breaks, and she covers her mouth, barely refraining from biting her nails. "I don't know why I'm still alive, and both of them are dead."

Phoenix thinks he knows what she means. "Speaking as a father, I can't imagine him being mad at you. I'm pretty sure he's just glad that you weren't caught in the trap yourself, even if it meant his own life."

"Do you think so?"

"I'd have given my life for Trucy's in a heartbeat."

Maya nods immediately upon hearing the request, as Phoenix had expected, and she too tells Vera that it's no trouble at all. Vera's shaking so hard as they enter the Channeling Chamber, though, that Phoenix offers to stay with them. Vera says she's all right, but Phoenix isn't convinced. He waits right outside and listens, just in case, but the door is thick.

It seems like he's been waiting forever when the door opens again, and Vera peers out shakily, her cheeks flushed and tear-stained. But when she meets Phoenix's eyes, she smiles. "Was I right?" he asks, and she nods.

After saying good night to Maya, and a few dozen thankyous from Vera, they start back towards the garden and the guest rooms beyond. On the way, she thanks Phoenix as well. "I would have asked Apollo," she admits, "but he said he needed some time to himself, so I didn't want to bother him."

"Yeah... he has a lot to think about. Just like you do now." Not to mention the part where Apollo is far more a skeptic when it came to things like this than Phoenix is, or Vera. He's probably still arguing with himself about whether this was all some kind of trick.

Phoenix doesn't notice how quiet Vera's gotten, until she speaks up again and he realizes it's been awhile. "Mr Wright...?"


"You know how you said... usually men like women?"

Phoenix nods, and she falters a little. "I think... that a man... might like me."

Phoenix thinks of the way that Apollo's acted around her, tried to shelter her and protect her. "I think you might be right about that," he says with a nod.

"I don't... well..." she tries to explain. "I've never been... I mean, I don't have any idea what to do."

"That's a tough one," Phoenix agrees. "But mostly it depends on one thing. Do you think you like this man?"

"...I think so. But I don't know how I'd know for sure."

"I'm not sure anyone knows how to tell for sure. All you can really do is give it a try, see if it feels right."

"...I don't really understand. I've never been around men, except for my father..."

She's so innocent, so naive and timid. Phoenix doesn't even know how much courage it must have taken for her to be able to say this much, and he doesn't want to admit to how much he'd like to give her some assurance, or the thoughts he's beginning to have about why. "Anyone who knows you well enough to like you will understand that. I promise."

He walks Vera back to her own room, but she's trying so hard to talk about how she feels, about the man she doesn't mention by name, and about her father. He stays a little longer, listening and trying to reassure her, and ignores the obvious. But when he's said good night to her, and returned to the room he's sharing with Miles, Miles isn't nearly so shy about voicing his opinions, which seem to mirror Phoenix's.

"If I may be so bold..."

"Hmm?" Phoenix had thought he'd be asleep by now, but he's just been waiting there, in the dark.

"It occurred to me, some time ago. All of us in your office, playing games together around the coffee table..."

It had occurred to Phoenix too, so he isn't surprised enough by it for it to hurt when Miles dares to say it aloud.

"You've just lost a daughter. And Vera's just lost a father."

It's too soon for Phoenix to think like that. The situation is completely different, too. But he still mumbles "I'll think about it, sometime," as he climbs under the blanket and puts an arm over Miles.

During the last half hour of the train ride back to the city, as the skyline begins to take shape in the distance, Miles observes that he'd checked out of his hotel for the duration of their trip to Kurain. He glances then to Phoenix, as he also observes that he has a job overseas that he should return to someday, but the observation is more a question. Phoenix asks him for just a little longer, and he obliges.

They have a different room, with a different view, when Miles checks in again. It's full of his things, though - his clothing, his luggage, his folders full of paperwork and his cell phone charging in the power strip by the desk. And of course, Phoenix is there, trying to realign himself, and there's a hat hanging on the hook on the back of the door that doesn't belong to Miles at all.

Phoenix isn't there all the time, though. Mostly he's there in the evenings, after spending the days at his office. One of the reasons he doesn't want to sleep at the office is because he'd be kicking Vera out of his bed, which he feels would be rude. He doesn't want her to go back to sleeping on the couch, and he doesn't want to tell her she has to go back to her father's lonely studio...

So there's really only one solution, and the two of them work through it together, sometimes with Apollo helping. Each object they find in that room as they're cleaning and sorting through the clothes and props and stuffed animals and everything else brings back memories, and Phoenix tells them stories about his magical little girl. Very little of her magic had to do with the Gramaryes, as far as he's concerned. Sometimes he has to step out of the room, other times he laughs, and the latter seems to become more frequent as the days go by. He thinks they have to be getting tired of his stories by now, but they don't complain. Neither does Miles, when he repeats the best of them at night, before they go to bed; he just listens.

And one night, when they're nearly finished with their project, Miles makes a suggestion.

"I've spoken to several people at the courthouse and with the local bar association," he tells Phoenix as they're lying there in the dark. "You've been excused for your absence at the end of Vera's trial - no one at the courthouse doesn't understand. You could go back to work when you're ready. Or, now that you're cleared, you could take the bar again. It occurred to me, however, that you don't necessarily have to take it in this country."

...It's an intriguing thought. Phoenix has never been to Europe. Or on a plane at all, and though the idea gives him the creeps, he might just be able to make himself do it for Miles. It's just...

"You have no obligations here anymore, after all, to anyone. There's nothing tying you to this city. You could have a fresh start."

And that's true, Phoenix has to admit. He's beholden to no one, for the first time in over a decade. Maya's got her own life to live, he doesn't have to think about how a move would affect Trucy - and though Miles's plans do have some influence on his own, that's all the more reason to go overseas. No one in Germany knows about his amazing record as a defense attorney, or his seven years of disgrace, and - maybe best of all - no one will ever see him after a long absence and ask how his daughter's doing.

But Phoenix can't help thinking of Apollo. He's new to this whole thing. He doesn't make enough to pay the rent on that office, not all by himself. And he doesn't have another law office lined up to work at. And then there's Vera, who doesn't understand how the world works at all, and even if she goes on living there, how could she help with the finances?

When Vera's settled in Trucy's old room, Phoenix moves back too. It's uncomfortable at first, but Miles is there with him. At least for a few days - and then the three of them, Phoenix, Vera, and Apollo, go to see him off at the airport.

Phoenix has been thinking about the other thing Miles said, about him and Vera. He's decided it doesn't make sense. Vera's old enough that she could be out on her own anytime she liked - she didn't need a legal guardian the way Trucy had. He isn't even really old enough to be her father, to be honest. It would be ridiculous for her to call him 'Daddy'.

But he has to admit, even though she's older than Trucy would be, she seems an awful lot younger. Trucy had always been independent, to the point where she was the one who ran the household for the most part, but there are so many things Vera doesn't quite comprehend, things she's never experienced or even heard about. She needs guidance, she needs protection, she needs positive reinforcement when she does things she's always been afraid to do. Phoenix doesn't mind giving her these things, and his reward is getting to watch her grow into a more normal, well-adjusted young woman.

But she's not his daughter. Definitely not. Because it would just have been too weird when Apollo arrives to take her out on their first real date. Apollo's not exactly his son, either, but he is his daughter's brother, and it's already a little weird to see him taking Vera's hand, stammering about how great she looks in that dress.

Phoenix decides to make it just a little weirder, and tells the two kids to have fun, and not to do anything he wouldn't do. And remember, he adds cheerfully - he's gay. Vera doesn't seem to get it, but Apollo turns bright red and tugs her out the door.

That's good enough for Phoenix, who isn't sure which of them he's trying to embarrass. Maybe both.

Apollo isn't entirely sure that the place should still be called 'Wright and Co.', since no one by that name works for the Anything Agency anymore. Mr. Wright's still working with the courts, refining the jurist system to get all the kinks out, reviewing old cases that merited a second look with such a system... As usual, he never gets specific about exactly what he's doing, and Apollo would suspect that he's not even working at all, if not for the cash that appears at the end of every month when they pool the money to pay the rent. And thank goodness it does appear, because Apollo's still not making much as a defense attorney. It seems like every client who approaches him can't pay, but their cases are such that he just can't bring himself to tell them no. He complains about it exactly once in Mr. Wright's hearing, and Mr. Wright laughs.

It's good to hear him laugh, even if it's at Apollo's expense. At least, it's good enough to let him do it once.

Vera had offered to help out however she could, and soon the Anything Agency has two people again: a defense attorney, and an artist. Apollo would be jealous of Vera - she makes at least as much as he does, and each of her jobs seems to be quick and effortless, and she never has to look at dead bodies or bloody knives - but he's too impressed. And grateful, when she pays a little extra towards the rent to make up for his own lack of money some months. It's a little embarrassing, but he's still grateful, and he tries to pay her back in other ways.

He sees his mom a lot these days, too. She's been piecing more of her life together, with his help and the help of Mr. Wright, and Mr. Wright even agreed to give her all of Trucy's old magic props. She was the only one who deserved to have them who had any clue what to do with them. Although Apollo's starting to wish there was someone else after all, because now she's started insisting that he try a few of the tricks for the sake of family tradition. As far as Apollo's concerned, being sawed in half is sort of the opposite of family bonding, but if he's learned anything about family in the last year and a half, it's that families are sometimes really, really weird. ...And he is getting pretty good with those interlocking metal rings. And when his mother's around, they can play Pictionary again, which Mr. Wright still seems to enjoy despite the fact that he and Vera lose to Apollo and his mother every time now. So much for artistic advantage.

Even the two of them can't win against Mr. Wright and Mr. Edgeworth, though, when Mr. Edgeworth comes to visit. Apollo's sure they have to be cheating somehow, because there's no way anyone can guess what some of those scribbles are, let alone on the first or second try.

Though Mr. Wright seems to be back on track, several months later Apollo notices him growing distant and a little melancholy again. His eyes keep wandering to that bottle that's now on the top of the piano, rather than in her old room. Apollo doesn't quite get it, until one day Mr. Wright comes back to the office with a cake and a smile that seems a little forced, and calls everyone to come have a piece.

And when Apollo says 'everyone', he means everyone. Maya and Pearl are in town, amazingly, and Larry naturally shows up. Klavier stops by on his lunch break, Ema just barely avoids bumping into him on his way out. Mr. Eldoon's noodle cart is even parked out front late in the evening.

Though the commotion's died down long ago, Apollo and Vera are in her room just before midnight. Apollo hadn't spent any time in it when it belonged to Trucy, so it's just Vera's room to him, covered with sketches and paintings, barely furnished with anything besides easels and a bed. They're reminiscing now, though, about how it all started, and how amazing it is that they've come to be so content when they met in the middle of such a depressing mess, when there's yet another knock on the office door. Vera gets up to answer it, but Mr. Wright's rushing past in the hallway, telling her not to worry, he'll get it. And it's soon obvious why.

"You're late."

"My apologies - there was a thunderstorm over a large portion of the Midwest. The Chicago stop was diverted to Minneapolis, which complicated things." A sigh, the rustle of a coat being removed. "I know you wanted me here today..."

"It's all right." The voice drops to almost a whisper. "Long as you're here tonight."

There's a soft, slightly wet sound, and Apollo closes Vera's bedroom door not so much so that they'll have privacy, but so that Mr. Wright and Mr. Edgeworth can have theirs. Then again, Vera suggests... maybe they should just go to Apollo's apartment.

She blushes as she says it, and Apollo can hardly believe that she really means what she... really means.

The next morning, when they get back to the office, there's no embarrassing scolding from Mr. Wright as Apollo feared there would be. He seems groggy, or maybe just extremely distracted. Not that Apollo doesn't understand where he's coming from - he feels a little lightheaded himself this morning.

At least he thinks he understands, until after Mr. Edgeworth has, to no one's surprise, appeared from Mr. Wright's bedroom and informed them that he's going over to the courthouse. Mr. Wright answers with a comfortable, lazy smile, but there's something else behind it. Apollo's bracelet tells him so, and he notices that Mr. Wright is rubbing at that knuckle again, just like he had long ago.

This time, there's a ring on it.

Apollo has a feeling that he's never going to win a game of Pictionary or Scrabble again, but he supposes he can deal with that.

It's not so bad, if a little crowded. At least, that's what he keeps telling Miles, and it's not like Miles is spending much time at home anyway, since that's not the office he works from.

Okay, so it's a little hectic when everyone's coming and going. And they really could use a second bathroom, since he told Apollo to give up the pretense and just go ahead and move in with them - it would save him the cost of a separate apartment (and he's not either Apollo's or Vera's father, so why should he be horrified by the idea of them sleeping in the same bed?) - and the walls are a little thin to offer much in the way of privacy. The office-turned-apartment was plenty big enough for two, and is probably okay for three, but four?

Phoenix likes it, though. He likes being able to see everyone at the beginning and end of every day, and several times in between, and challenging the entire household to board games, and just being there for everyone. Even when it's uncomfortable, it's comfortable. Maybe that's why Miles hasn't protested too much, aside from insisting on at least a queen-size bed for their room.

However, it's inevitable that eventually Miles starts printing out real estate information and leaving it on the dresser. But Miles knows him well enough by now to only do so when the houses are modestly sized, and have more than one bedroom, and also more than one bathroom. Not exactly 'empty-nester' houses, though Phoenix knows this arrangement isn't going to last forever.

It's not that that makes him drag his heels, though. It's mostly because of what Trucy told him, the last time they spoke, about the most special place in her world. Where she wants to be forever.

Of course, it's also probably inevitable that the perfect house pops up on the listings. Three bedrooms, one and a half baths, good location, needs enough fixing up that it's affordable as-is. And then Phoenix finds himself feeling rather stupid when he finally tells Miles why he doesn't want to move, and Miles points out that they would still be running the Anything Agency, and thus would still need an office.

After he's given Miles the green light to call the realtor and set up an appointment, Phoenix flops down on the piano bench and laughs, looking up at the bottle. He probably would have given in when it came to the last place they'd seriously considered, despite being concerned about the higher price, if he hadn't been thinking of her. She's still helping him make better decisions.

When moving day arrives, he lingers behind when everyone else carries their last boxes of personal possessions out to the van. He heard her say herself that this was where she wanted to be, and though he knows he'll be coming back, he won't be living or working here. The third bedroom that should have been hers is going to be a guest room. It feels like he's abandoning her.

But he'd come up with an idea that made him feel a little better about it; he left one item unpacked, and he pulls it from the pocket of his jacket. And he stands there, thinking a whole lot of things, and knowing that there's no point in saying them aloud. She's not here. He knows that. Any gesture he makes on her behalf will really be only on his own.

But he can't stand the thought of her magic bottle being all alone at night, so he tucks the knit hat around the base of it, with the same tenderness that he'd once used when tucking her into bed.

He'll be back of course, but if he's being honest with himself, he doesn't have much reason to spend time at the office these days. Except... he's kind of been thinking about doing something she nagged him to do for pretty much the entire seven years they were together here, and take some piano lessons.

...Yeah, that's what he'll do. He sniffs, and then he smiles as he picks up the last of his own boxes, balancing it awkwardly while he locks the door behind him.