DISCLAIMER: Ace Attorney/Gyakuten Saiban is the sole property of Capcom. I'm only a fan paying tribute to an amazingly written series.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: From my years of writing, I've discovered dialogue is my forte. Ever since I made that realization, I've been adapting a more dynamic style where it's intentionally less descriptive, so as to let the readers fill in the blanks at their will. Still, it's not my intention to be vague, so if it turns out that way I apologize in advance.
For those interested, this is my first PW fanfic ever, centering on the often unexplored character dynamic between Phoenix and Edgeworth (outside of court obviously). Hopefully it's an enjoyable read.
Read and review, folks! It'd be much appreciated.
In A Courtroom Minute
Miracles had all but died in Phoenix Wright´s heart, sometime in his youth; therefore, all the events that had transpired in the second and final day of Matt Engarde´s trial were a strange, improbable blur in his eyes. Before Franziska Von Karma´s last minute intervention, he had been forced to make a choice based on the plea of his nefarious client, to save either Maya Fey or Adrian Andrews, dooming the other to certain death.
His mind had shifted gears to neutral once he was presented with that pistol, the bellboy uniform and the video tape, all of them pieces of evidence left behind by Shelly de Killer. Rushing forward with the momentum of hope behind him, he presented his final trump card to none other than the assassin himself, causing the greatest turnabout yet of his career, marring his case record and sentencing the Nickel Samurai himself to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Choosing to change the defense´s plea to one of "guilty", given the new evidence, had proven to be far easier than condemning an innocent party; unbeknownst to him, the young defense attorney had treaded very deep into the grayest areas of the concept we know as justice. No overt mentions of this had been made by either the spirit of Mia Fey or longtime rival Miles Edgeworth, and yet it was implicitly clear that this was part of what being a "lawyer" truly meant.
Yet for all the depth of this lesson and the growth it had unknowingly caused in the steel convictions of Phoenix Wright, it all remained a blur still. That court session had somehow stopped, still in time like a terrible memory, or a photograph picturing the mouth of an abyss. The rest of the world moved on, leaving him behind in his silent train of thought.
Meanwhile, one Dick Gumshoe, glowing thanks to the praise of his friends, tried to share his tall tales of police bravery with half a biscuit stuffed in his mouth. Little Pearl Fey listened on as if she were being told a dragon slaying story, but the rest of the group only nodded politely and pretended to listen while taking care of other matters; Miles Edgeworth idly examined the whip belonging to his "big sister", Lotta Hart and Will Powers exchanged juicy celebrity gossip in a corner and Maya Fey, starving thanks to two whole days of captivity, dug in like there wouldn't be a tomorrow. Phoenix stared at her with blank, almost dead eyes, wondering if what he was seeing was no different from a ghost. He rested his chin on the knuckles of both hands and continued to stare.
Around them, a lavish and luxurious dining hall with a big, equally impressive stage served as the place for their celebration, one in the name of a successful trial and a satisfactory conclusion to all parties involved. Food and beverages of all kind were in every table, all of it paid unknowingly out of Phoenix Wright's pocket.
And yet the rest of the world moved on. Phoenix Wright didn't, or rather he couldn't.
He wasn't at the Viola Hall of the Gatewater Hotel, like the rest of his friends; he was still in that dark place, the edge of the chasm in that courtroom, ready to free one angel and strike down the other.
Phoenix recovered the light in his eyes and quirked an eyebrow to his left. Edgeworth sat there, neatly wiping the corners of his mouth with a napkin. He was eating a quite juicy slice of roast beef.
"-Please, Edgeworth." Nick rubbed at his eyes, cutting the Prosecutor off like one of his famous objections. "No more lectures."
Showing disappointment in his eyes, the prosecutor went back to the plate in front of him.
"My. Aren't you the rude one tonight?" he muttered, his tone slightly upset. "I was only going to recommend you have some of this beef. It's quite good, you see."
Edgeworth cut through the meat in one single, perfect stroke and took one more piece into his mouth. Even in his offended state, he managed to look like some kind of proud lion, quietly chewing his meal with shoulders firm in an elegant posture.
Nick felt embarrassed by his outburst and immediately reached out to grab his old friend's wrist, unable to cope a second longer with that disdain of his. He kept his apology simple and clear.
"Think nothing of it." replied Edgeworth in a calm voice. "Although I find it odd that you remain on edge, given the fact that your aide is safe and your client was found guilty, ironic as that may seem to you. You're not quite yourself right now, if you don't mind my saying."
"I don't know…" Nick thought out loud. "Should it be that simple? Really?"
"No. But we have spoken about this before. You learned a very important lesson about justice and law ever since you took Mr. Engarde's case, didn't you?"
Matt Engarde…. his twisted grin, those beastly eyes, the vicious scars and, most of all, his utterly nihilistic view on life. They were all something Phoenix found revolting, considering that his former client hid his true self behind a laid back, airheaded persona.
Will you get me off the hook, lawyer dude?
Phoenix shuddered and crossed his arms over the table. Now that this monster was found guilty, he had something else to think about entirely.
"-By the way." Edgeworth interrupted himself. "Seeing how you defended a clearly guilty man with that kind of zeal, I almost fell for our own charade more than once. It was tough keeping up your insane pace. So, remind me to shoot you if you ever sell out."
"I'll be the one to hand you the gun then." Nick replied, trying to take the dry humor in stride. "I wish I didn't have to think about that -I mean, I'd rather not, but right now it's like it's haunting me. Back then I was feeling like the most miserable man on the planet, having to defend and help acquit a man everyone but the law knew was guilty."
Everyone but the law. Miles Edgeworth thought that was an interesting perspective.
"Guilty men are released on technicalities all over the world, Wright. The system is not perfect," he began, reaching out to take a sip of orange juice. "that's why it needs us to fill in those blanks, and cover those cracks. Justice serves no merit if there is no moral judgment behind it. You discovered that today."
"It's not just black and white." Phoenix mulled to himself, synthesizing that thought.
"Precisely my point." Edgeworth then quirked an eyebrow, listening to himself. "And it appears it's come across perfectly. Thus I can only deduct your current grievance goes beyond today's verdict, or your client."
Always so sharp and always so proper. The young defense attorney often couldn't believe he had outwitted this man in court before.
Edgeworth's brow furrowed momentarily and he glanced away.
"Is it something I'd need to hear? Something… personal, maybe?"
"You make it sound so terrible."
"-N-No. I am only wondering if I am the person you should be talking to, is all."
"Don't worry. It's related to the trial, still."
Edgeworth's whole person was washed by an invisible wave of relief.
"…well, it is and it is not."
"Beg your pardon?"
"…No. It's nothing. As long as I can be of help, I suppose. I'm listening."
Phoenix was the one now looking inquisitively at the prosecutor, but only for a brief moment. His fingers began rapping on the dining table, the noise hardly interrupting the rest of the guests in the small festivity.
The truth was that, although both attorney and prosecutor respected each other's skills and devotion to justice, there didn't exist any rapport between them save for professional matters. Their childhood friendship had been short lived, after all, despite the great change it brought to each other's lives. Nick had no idea why he was about to bare his thoughts to Edgeworth like this, but it figured that it couldn't be just because he was the person sitting closest to him.
Trying to pry his thoughts away from such a weird line of thinking, he began to speak.
"Remember when Franziska came into the courtroom carrying the evidence Gumshoe swiped?"
"That would be hard to forget, even though sudden interruptions appear to be some kind of sick trademark in your trials." Edgeworth observed with his usual mirth.
"Yeah, well…" Phoenix smiled a bit. "We had run out of options at that moment. I had fired my final rounds during that last cross-examination, and now I had to make a choice."
The prosecutor immediately had a good guess of where this was headed, but chose to bide his time instead.
"It was either acquitting Matt Engarde and sending Adrian Andrews to jail, or-"
"-or changing your plea to guilty and forfeiting your friend's life." Edgeworth said involuntarily. He immediately made a face and tapped his fingers once on the edge of the table. "Damnit."
Nick looked worried and immediately asked what was wrong.
"Nothing. Just making a mental note not to get ahead of people." Edgeworth set his fork and knife at the sides of his plate, smiling humbly. "Please go on."
"Well, you said it yourself." Phoenix shrugged. "If I put Engarde behind bars, Maya now would've been…"
"-Don't say it, Wright."
The attorney smiled ironically.
"I thought you wouldn't get ahead of people?"
Edgeworth shook his head. "It's not a train of thought worth pursuing."
"But how can I continue being a lawyer now?" Nick motioned at his friend and then placed his hands on his lap. "How can you? Have you ever sentenced an innocent man?"
The question, meant to be deep, was answered faster than Phoenix could've expected. The answer was decisive.
"As a matter of fact, I don't think I have. It's why I only believe in evidence, and the truth rising from contradictions. A man lies, but evidence does not." Edgeworth said. "I think a judge would be the same way, handing his verdicts. But if I ever am in danger of punishing an innocent person, I know you'll be there to make me see the truth."
Just like I helped you this time. thought Edgeworth, keeping the thought to himself. After all, Phoenix Wright had thoroughly humbled him in People v. Fey and People v. Powers, showing him a burning passion to defend the helpless that changed his entire view on his beloved profession.
But then he was hit out of left field.
"And if the life of somebody outside the courtroom, completely foreign to the case, hung in the balance? Someone dear to you? What then?"
Both men looked at each other in the eyes.
"I begin to understand now." was Edgeworth's answer as he looked away. "I think."
"If Matt Engarde coerced me like this and came this close to succeeding," Nick gestured with his thumb and index. "who guarantees it won't happen again?"
Edgeworth thought about this for what seemed an eternity, soon realizing he had spent far too much time coming up with an obvious answer.
"Nobody." he said fatally. "Nobody can, Wright. But we cooperated and-"
"-we made it. Yeah. This time." Phoenix pointed out. "This time."
Just like in a courtroom battle, the prosecutor was at a loss for words. Nick filled the void of his silence with a whisper.
"Do you want to know what's the choice I would've made back then?" came the rhetorical question.
Edgeworth closed his eyes shut in a hurry, as if somehow this would keep this intimate and very important secret away. Then he held out his hands, as if they would physically keep it at bay.
"Wright, I don't think I'm comfortable listening to this any longer."
"I already told you it's pointless to think about what if!" replied Edgeworth. His voice had also turned into a whisper, a quite irritated one. "What good can come out of thinking about things that didn't come to be?"
The prosecutor remained adamant.
His name. He had heard it loud and clear, the same name only relatives said at ease. His features slowly eased into an image of surprise.
"That's the first time you've ever called me that." he said in disbelief. He had no reason to be offended, so his reaction was that of begrudging gratitude almost.
"I know. This is how important this is to me."
Edgeworth looked away again.
"There's no one else I can tell this to. Do you understand?"
"Yes." the prosecutor nodded slowly. "Yes, I understand."
Not only that. Miles Edgeworth, always ahead, knew exactly what he was about to hear. It only made sense. He trained his gaze back on Phoenix little by little.
"I understand, Wright. So if you must.." he added with uncharacteristic reluctance.
An awkward silence settled between the two.
"I-I would chosen Adrian."
Phoenix met Edgeworth's sudden frustrated, annoyed stare with a quizzical look. It took two blinks to figure out his mistake.
"-NO! -NONONO! Oh, jeez! I meant Maya! Maya!"
Edgeworth grit his teeth, his eyes sinking and growing to be the size of dollar coins.
"You dink! You moron! You-you porcupine piece of-!"
"Whoa whoa! Cut me a break…" Phoenix smirked to hide his embarrassment, ignoring those rivers of sweat his forehead would shed out of the blue. "It was just…. You know, a slip of the tongue! Gosh, I'm a horrible person!"
The prosecutor growled in annoyance, feeling like it was his life's mission -no, his divine duty to just choke the life out of this man at that very moment.
At the other end of the table, the rest of the guests at the party smiled and turned their attention to this rambunctious exchange.
"I think they are getting along even better now, those two." Maya snickered and waggled her eyebrows at the other guests. She hardly looked or acted like a recent kidnap victim, particularly with how savagely she was digging her teeth into the half eaten drumstick she was holding. "There's a very thin line between love and hate! And you know, things."
"I dunno. It looks like Mr. Edgeworth is going to burst a vein, pal."
"Haha! They sure remind me of the production folks at Global, those two. Always trading insults and talking trash back and forth, but in the end always making up to carry on with the show."
"Aww." Maya clasped her hands together, a piece of chicken flying straight onto Detective Gumshoe's shirt and staining it with a big brown blotch. "That's so cute, Mr. Powers! I guess they really love each other, huh?"
"Silly Mystic Maya!" Pearl giggled, bouncing on her feet. "Everyone knows boys do not profess love to other boys!"
The guests went quiet immediately, some of them growing red in the face. Pearly could only tilt her head and wonder what was going on. It was around this time that the reporter woman with the cotton candy hair patted her head with a cryptic, angry face.
"Tell that to my last boyfriend, honey."
Prosecutor and attorney continued arguing in whispers.
"I meant Maya! Maya! Really!"
"Idiot!" spat Edgeworth one last time, finally starting to regain his regal, dignified composure. "Of all the…"
"Look, it's just how important this is for me. I can't think straight."
"And do you ever?"
Phoenix let that slide, although he glared at his rival before continuing. "I would have chosen Maya. I would have chosen Maya before justice. Does that make me some kind of bad, irresponsible person? Unprofessional?"
Edgeworth combed his hair with his fingers. "It makes you human, if you must know. It's very natural to choose to protect those closest to us: our circle, if you wish to call it that. As for the ethical implications of such a choice, I'm afraid it should be judged on a case by case basis."
"Oh yeah?" Wright challenged him almost. "And what would your verdict be, Mr. Edgeworth?"
"See? Argh!" Phoenix buried his hands on his face momentarily. "I'm back to square one…"
The prosecutor reclined, measuring the weight of his next words. "So is that how close you've grown to this friend of yours?"
The attorney narrowed his eyes and lowered them.
"I'm not sure if I should call her a friend anymore."
Edgeworth glanced quickly at the guests, as if somehow it was his secret being divulged. By now they had gone back to having a good time, so the coast was clear. He set his hands on the table and balanced himself forward.
"Is that so?" he asked almost indifferently, careful to maintain discretion.
Phoenix crossed his arms.
"All I know-" he looked at his hands. "all I know is that I felt incredibly hollow and desperate when de Killer told me he had captured Maya. I almost fainted on the spot, losing all the color in my face, I'm sure. It was like I was missing a whole part of me all of a sudden."
"Gumshoe told me more or less the same thing." commented Edgeworth. "I'm afraid it's up to you alone to find the evidence in your heart and seek the truth. But if I were to be a little daringly brash, and a smidge nosey, you should seek to let her know. As soon as possible."
"Let her know what?"
Edgeworth answered with his usual courtroom stare.
"As soon as possible. Take that as you will." Edgeworth cleared his throat, helping himself to another sip of juice to aid in the process. "Perhaps failure to bare your heart to her is the root of your current… state. Every passing moment is becoming a wasted opportunity to let go of that burden. Maybe your subconscious has implanted this fear into you to make you realize you're missing your chances to really say what you feel. Or do you have any proof claiming otherwise?"
Of course. It made so much sense it wasn't funny.
The answer had been under Phoenix's nose all this time: the choice he had made that day was the key to finally solve the tangled riddle in his heart. He wasn't sure if he truly loved Maya, but for all it was worth, he knew he had grown to develop feelings for her that were rooted farther than friendship or a professional partnership. His reluctance to let go of her without sharing this new, perhaps exciting truth was possibly the true culprit behind his current blues.
Still, a question remained.
Nick made a face that painted a clear mixture between shock, awe and great discomfort. He pointed a shaking, uneasy finger at his friend. "When did you ever get to be so good at giving this kind of er… relationship advice? You secretly Tivo Dr. Phil or something?"
Edgeworth's glass stopped halfway, his ears taking in the question whilst his lips twisted into a thoughtful curl. He drank while eyeing Phoenix over the rim of his glass.
"Well, it's clear that to you that I must incapable of genuine human interaction," he commented wryly. "outside of giving orders, using people and partaking in shallow flings. Probably even philandering."
Phoenix grimaced, his head sinking between his shoulders.
"O-oi, Edgeworth. Sheesh. That's not at all what I meant…"
He sighed heavily.
"I'm sorry, alright?"
The prosecutor leaned forward to make eye contact with Nick and smirked, enjoying some kind of wicked, private victory.
Phoenix raced back to a couple minutes when the conversation began, to that angry reply he had given to a man only wishing to help him out of that trance he was in. The attorney rolled his eyes and laughed genuinely. He shook his head.
Somehow, the smile persisted on Phoenix's face, encouraging him to reach out a hand to Edgeworth, offering a shake.
"I… really…" he mumbled, the words struggling to come out. "Thank you, Miles."
Alight with modest joy thanks to the smile of his rival, his trust and his acknowledgement on a new level, Edgeworth shook his head and accepted the handshake.
"Don´t mention it… Phoenix." he said, the familiarity still alien to him. "It's only my job to find the truth after all. It doesn't just exist in crimes, you see."
"Yeah." Nick answered, gifted now with the knowledge that can only be gained from the outer rims of loneliness and heartbreak.
"-Now if you'll excuse me, Mr. Wright," Edgeworth adjusted the lapel of his purple jacket, reaching over to grab another plate of food. His eyes were fixated on this new dish, as if Phoenix had stopped existing. "this is looking quite tasty, and chances are it won't eat itself. There are some of us who can't banter for very long, or at great lengths, unlike yourself."
Nick quirked an eyebrow, taken too much by surprise to properly react.
"Perhaps you'll find the company of your aide more suited for such a line of conversation. You have much to catch up on, after all."
Phoenix glanced back and forth between the prosecutor and Maya.
"Do you not?" Miles asked, a glint of sagacity shining bright in his eyes.
"Y-yes! Yeah!" Phoenix shot up to his feet, fully understanding Edgeworth's intentions while -in the process- resembling one very easily excitable police officer. "Of course! It's not fair to leave the other guests alone."
The attorney exhaled a heavy, nervous sigh and looked in Maya's direction.
"Nope! It's not. No, sir."
"Go get her, tiger." Edgeworth cheered on dryly, going back to dinner. "Whoo-Whoopie."
Nick grit his teeth and groaned through them, spinning on his heels to face his friend.
"H-Hey. You… you don't have to cheer me on like that either. Seriously. It sounds insincere."
"It comes with the package, so deal with it."
Phoenix ran a hand over his face.
"Just… -If you ever call me 'bro', remind you to shoot you, okay?"
The prosecutor smirked as he set down the glass on the table.
"If I ever do that," Edgeworth tapped his right temple and sneered victoriously. "I'll hand you the gun myself!"