August 20, 4:01pm
He opted for while-you-wait alteration on one of the suits for a couple of reasons. So he could wear it to the next day's dinner, first of all. I'll be looking good. I hope.
Second of all, so he could keep making the clerks nervous, because that was fun. He wondered if he could get them, without saying anything, to decide out loud what they thought he was going on trial for. (The seamstress, on the other hand, had been completely unintimidated, looking up from her pincushion and tape measure only to say "hm," at him, like she'd seen his type before and he wasn't as clever as he thought he was.)
And thirdly so he could have some time to think. A lawyer again. God. Getting it. Getting it back. The courtroom's going to be...that place I'm supposed to be. Where people want me to be. And not that place I was thrown out of.
I'll be on the front lines again.
What was Trucy's word? Unbelievable.
He had the odd impulse to make a stop at the judge's office, to get the old man's acknowledgement. On the other hand, they'd never been familiar, and he wasn't sure whether he wanted to know, entirely, what the office really looked like. In his mind it was part posh, well-organized workplace, part overstuffed antique store, and part Salvador Dalí. Terrifying if he turned out to be right, disappointing otherwise.
He twitched his fingers, as if he were rolling a pencil, and wished he'd brought his sketchbook along. Part of him wanted to duck out the rear of the store, hail a cab, and just get to the Prosecutor's Office as fast as possible...and another part, the one that understood waiting but had generally been concerned with darker things for the last several years, told him just a little longer wouldn't hurt. Not to stall. Not to hedge. Just to do it properly.
He let the muscles in his chest and shoulders relax, and slumped in the slippery chair. The cool air of the store felt, for some reason, perfect - and then there was the seamstress with his new suit in a bag on a hanger, and he was paying and leaving and squinting at the glitter of the sun on the sidewalk and getting a knowing grin and a thumbs-up from Apollo. Going back in to retrieve Trucy from in front of a display of bow ties. Getting into the car (passenger seat). Happy.
August 20, 4:56pm
When he sat in front of the mirror, the barber said "Where you coming back from?"
The man in the white jacket replied over his shoulder as he lined up scissors and comb and razor on the cart between the chairs. "You're returning to civilization, man? I'm just wondering where from. Peace Corps? My son did that for a few years, said it was the first real good thing he ever did."
"Ah, sorry. Afraid not."
"Prison? I'm kidding, I know how those guys look. You're not one of 'em. Some crazy-ass commune in the desert?"
"That sounds like more fun than what I did."
"Ha! You know, you're right about that. I've had years I coulda spent stoned in the cactus, been better for everybody." Phoenix laughed. "How you want it?"
"The stubble, gone. The hair - well, as soon as you get it short enough, you'll see what it has in mind. There's not much point to trying to talk it into anything else."
"Just full of surprises, huh?" A cape was fastened around his shoulders.
The man started to whistle, and got to work.
Some time later - twenty minutes? an hour? - he was summoned from a dreamlike succession of memories of the courtroom by the barber saying "You weren't kidding, were you!" and spinning the chair back around.
For the first time in years, he saw himself when he looked into a mirror. Nice and spiky...just how I like it.He gave his reflection a goofy grin that to his surprise turned honest.
"How's that? Is the man back?"
"More than you KNOW." He shook the barber's hand, overtipped him, and strode through the door - or rather, TO the door. Upon seeing Polly and Trucy perched on the slatted bench outside, he switched to a tiptoe for his approach.
"What do you think?" They both jumped, Polly looking like he was seeing a somewhat gratifying ghost and Trucy just plain enthusiastic.
"You look awesome! Like a superhero!" She pulled out her phone and snapped his picture, as she had when he'd come out of the dressing room each time to show off a promising suit.
Not quite what I think I was going for, but okay.
"Will you come to my show tonight? Please?" She interrupted their progress towards Sandra to tug on his sleeve. It had actually been months since he'd come to the Wonder Bar to do more than walk her home, now that he thought about it.
"Sure, sweetheart. Do I have to wear the suit?"
"Nah, you can be incognito for one more day. 'Cause incognito's a cool word."
He looked over at their driver. "Polly, you coming?"
"Hey, tonight I'm being your social secretary. I need to try again to reach some of the people who weren't home. And did you want me to call your friend Mr. Butz? I mean, I don't think he'll be able to make it down at such short notice, but he might appreciate getting the news."
Bar, car, that's it so far."Let me tell him...unless you're so proud of me that you don't think you can restrain yourself?"
"I'll keep a lid on it somehow."
"You're never going to get your name on the door if you don't overcome this juvenile tendency towards sarcasm."
"Are you kidding me? From what I've seen of lawyers, it's practically a requirement. Ranked somewhere above literacy." The car stopped. "Out."
"This is a strip mall, Apollo, and we don't actually live here."
"We forgot shoes. Unless you were planning to wear that suit to court with your sandals and basically continue to accessorize like a freak."
"Of course not. Who do you think I am, a prosecutor?"
August 20, 8:37pm
Trucy'd been adding new illusions to her show, and he felt a little guilty for not having seen some of them before, especially since some of the people in the audience already knew them, cheering when she announced certain names or reached for certain props. The paper airplanes out of nowhere appeared in a different context, changing course and flying from table to table as she got people to call out the names of different cities. She plugged in an assortment of desk lamps and table lamps, turned them all on, and then started to move them around - but the shadows they cast in their original configuration didn't move. And, near the end of the show, she went from table to table and performed what sounded like a different trick at each one, up close and with seemingly no way to hide what she was doing.
When she got to his, which he was sharing with a young professional couple and a trio of college students, she didn't give him more acknowledgement than a smile before asking if anyone had any photographs in their wallets that she could borrow for just a moment. One of the students squealed in excitement, a repeat visitor from the sound of it, and dove for her messenger bag. As she rummaged, finally coming up with a group shot of five or six people in novelty sombreros, one of the young professionals handed over a wallet photo of the other one in a suit, the sort of thing that could go in a company directory or a press release, and somebody else contributed a picture of a corgi and two pairs of legs, on a background of grass. He went into his wallet for an old snapshot of Maya outside Global Studios.
Once she had all of the pictures, she stacked them up, then fanned them out and started changing the order they were in like a card dealer doing a trick shuffle (though she was careful not to bend them) or a Spanish dancer opening and closing a fan. After several seconds of this, she stopped and held the pictures out - and he gasped with everyone else when he saw the pictures interact. The corgi ran past Maya, then past the group of partiers. The suit-wearer adjusted a new sombrero. The legs moved aside, making room for a third set in Kurain robes and sandals. And then she gathered them all back into a stack with a loud SNAP, and returned them unaltered to their owners, with a bow. He clapped loudly, though by no means was he the loudest person in the room, when she returned to the stage for the finale.
They talked a little on the way home. "You're amazing, sweetheart. I should come to these more often."
"You wouldn't be so amazed if you weren't seeing all of the new stuff at once."
"I bet I would."
"Plus you're my dad."
She got serious. "I'm going to finish school, don't get me wrong. But I want to go learn how to do this the right way afterwards, you know?"
"The right way? You're the best magician I've ever seen."
"I'm a Gramarye. That comes with being able to do some things other people can't. But most of the REALLY good magicians? They didn't have that, they were just some guys who learned how to do magic WITHOUT it. I want to learn like a normal person would learn. Not taking shortcuts."
"Like an apprenticeship?"
One of these days, she's going to be grown up. He considered the idea. "So long as you study something else besides magic, too...it's okay with me. We'll talk more about it later." She put her arm through his, so it must have been the right answer. "But are you sure you don't want to go to law school?"
"You're crazy. And so is everyone else you know."
"You've got to work on your volume if that's the best you can do. Get Polly to help you."
When they arrived home, there was a note in Polly's handwriting on the table:
- Dinner set. 7:30 tomorrow at the GOOD French place near the Music Center. No one will push you into the fountain.
- Taking Vera home now. Then K's place.
- Come take your oath tomorrow at the Prosecutor's Office. 3:00pm. Teasing rights forever if you're late. Yes, it IS a Saturday. Glad you noticed.
He flicked the television on and found a classic David Suchet Poirot episode just starting, which brought Trucy piling onto the couch because she loved the intro theme with the saxophone so much. Barely twenty minutes later, though, she was having trouble keeping her eyes open, and he sent her off to bed. She went with a minimum of complaint.
That left him alone in the room, and as much as he'd always enjoyed this series when he could catch it, it just wasn't holding his interest on this particular night.
So he picked up his sketchbook from under Polly's note, then remembered that he hadn't left it under Polly's note. Well, of course not, no, but he hadn't left it here. He almost yelled and woke Trucy when he flipped straight to the newest drawings and saw what had been added to those pages.
First a sticky note, in Vera's loopy cursive. I'm very sorry, Mr. Wright, but I won't ever do it again.
He'd been drawing Miles, of course, as he remembered him from different times. Chunks of time easily differentiated, given their history. But these drawings now shared space with a second set, a set he had to admit was quite a bit better even if he wasn't ashamed of his own work. And Vera had to have had Trucy's help in finding source materials, because, of course, these drawings were of him.
There was Miles in fourth grade, with his bangs falling in his face and his knobbly knees and that ridiculous bow tie. And there was fourth-grade Nicky in a printed t-shirt, looking childishly worried.
Then a dark, scratchy image of Edgeworth in his Demon Prosecutor days. He'd been working mostly from memories of old newspaper photos himself for this one, so some of the details were indistinct, but he was sure he'd captured the jawline, the ornate jacket, the arrogant disinterest of the eyes. Vera's addition was outright painful, because there on the other side of the page was the boy who'd been absolutely stupid in love with Dahlia Hawthorne, ugly sweater and earnest, dimwitted gaze and all. The look wasn't a smile, wasn't a stare, wasn't contemplative - it was that vacant space between thoughts and between coherent emotions in which nobody looks very clever, and it was such an apt summation of those times that he wondered whether Vera didn't understand other people quite a bit more shrewdly than he'd thought she had.
When he considered the joint portrait, on the other hand, what came to mind out of context was Goldilocks. This one's too hard, and this one's too soft. Which leaves who for "just right"? Larry? Well, at that point, probably so. Maybe February wasn't the first time he's been the smart one.
He turned the page and felt a bit better, because this had been his favorite of the sketches. This was Miles as he had been during the (shockingly brief, really) space of time during which they'd faced off periodically in court. He was making one of those facetious bows, eyes demurely lowered but lips grinning a delighted, triumphant grin. This was usually right about when someone had connived their way straight into one of his verbal traps. And it was one devastating look, if you already happened to find him attractive.
Vera had added a picture of Phoenix objecting, of course, eyes fierce and one arm outstretched. He didn't look half as suave, maybe, but it was a compelling pose if he did say so himself, and seeing the image kind of made him want to try it out again.
What the hell. Trucy was in bed. He stood in front of the darkened window, looking at his reflection, and pointed. Hard. And nearly woke her a second time laughing.
The last of his drawings had been laid down in the lightest lines, and showed Miles as he was now, face a bit softer and those wire-rimmed glasses perched on his nose. He was pictured from the waist up, behind the barest suggestion of a table or a desk, looking down and reading something.
Vera had outdone herself. The first of her two sketches here was him as, well, the bum Larry had so accurately labelled. Unshaven, in saggy clothes, hat pulled down low. Except for the sideways look the figure was giving, he was shown from the back. But the drawing was partial, having been roughly erased to make room for something newer. An image of him looking straight ahead, with one corner of his mouth quirked up, showing his current age in the deeper-set eyes and the wear on the smile...but with his hair spiked and a suit. Not a suit. THAT suit. Trucy and her cell phone.
Those clever, clever rabbits.
August 21, 2:33pm
The next day was bright and windy. And dry, as he discovered when he emerged from the agency's front door in his new suit, with his new old haircut, new shoes still squeaking around his feet. It was a little early in the year for the Santa Anas, wasn't it?
Oh well. The sidewalk trees tossed their branches as though they were shrugging, and the street was filled with the rustle of tumbling leaves and paper. It felt anticipatory, somehow.
Though I guess I'm not arrogant enough to think the weather is on my side.
Apollo clattered down the stairs, keys jingling, with Trucy right behind. "Ready to go?"
"I guess so."
"Jeez, you could sound a little more enthusiastic."
"I'm excited. It's...too big to get words around." He expected Apollo to tease him for the awkward metaphor, but the younger man just ducked his head in acknowledgement.
"By the way, though, boss, when were you thinking of getting your own car?"
"Honestly, Apollo, one thing at a time."
August 21, 2:52pm
The Prosecutor's Office was never a boisterous place, but the quiet in the halls was still strange to experience. Doors were closed, yellow afternoon sunlight streamed into otherwise shadowy corners, and altogether he was reminded of sneaking into his junior high school with Larry during the summer, with everything smelling of harsh soap and old paper. The ding of the elevator's arrival on the twelfth floor was ridiculously loud.
Miles had the office at the end of the hall - but Apollo headed towards a doorway considerably closer to the elevator than that.
He hissed at Apollo in thoughtless agitation. "Where are you going? I'm not having KLAVIER administer the oath!"
The answer was a mutter. "Don't be a baby. And of course you're not; he's not the DA or the deputy. Yet." Apollo knocked perfunctorily, opened the door, and led the way in.
"Then who IS administering it?"
"Surprise," said Apollo, "I am."
"WHAT?" He followed Apollo into the room in a nervous rush, hoping to see someone who looked more like an authority figure. But the only person inside was Klavier, dressed for the occasion in a button-down shirt. And not hiding his smirk well enough.
"That's right, me."
"Since when are YOU the DA? Or a judge?"
"Never, but I AM a notary."
"A notary public."
"For how long?"
"Since a little after it seemed like you really were going to take the bar. Trucy's idea."
He tried to glare at his daughter, but she was grinning so hard that he couldn't.
"So why did we have to do this here?"
Klavier interrupted, his voice uncharacteristically serious. "Because I have something that belongs to you, for the first thing." He slid a small white box across his desk to Phoenix. Phoenix raised his eyebrows at him, unamused. "I am perfectly in earnest, Herr Wright. Unlike the chocolate, this is nothing but what it purports to be."
He took the box then, removing the lid carefully. It contained a defense attorney's badge. When he lifted it out, the weight and the shape of it were familiar in his hand.
Terribly familiar. The edges seemed a bit worn down, with the faint nicks and lines acquired by any metal object accustomed to use. He looked at the three faces, almost incredulous, almost challenging them, and turned it over: 26381. He swallowed. "Where did you find it?"
Klavier looked at Apollo, but Apollo didn't say anything, so the blond answered after a second. "That was in my brother's desk. We found it when we were looking for his appointment books."
Apollo chimed in then. "You could have had a new one, but...this seemed better."
He lost his voice and found it again. "I feel like I should be handing it to YOU, and YOU should be looking at ME funny."
Apollo tried not to smile too hard. "Yeah. Mr. Edgeworth mentioned that."
"Hey, I was - I was proud of this thing." He looked down at it again, and Trucy bounced forward to attach it to his lapel.
"WAIT!" In the mostly empty building, Apollo's loud voice seemed even louder. "You can do that in just a minute. Oath first."
"Shouldn't...are we the only ones here?" Apollo ignored the question he hadn't quite asked.
"Repeat after me."
I solemnly swear...that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of an attorney and counselor at law to the best of my knowledge and ability.
He'd said those exact words before, in a much larger room with a much less varied set of emotions in his heart. But Trucy kissed him on the cheek after she pinned his badge on, and Apollo shook his hand before signing off on the necessary forms.
He thought about it, then extended a hand to the office's primary occupant, who shook it quite sincerely after an instant of surprise.
"So is it all over?" That was Apollo's voice, and he understood the words - but not the inquiry. He turned towards his apprentice (how was that going to work now?) and gave him a questioning look. "You're a lawyer again."
"I don't think I feel like it's all over...I feel like it's beginning."
Trucy clapped her hands together like someone winning a bet, and he didn't understand that either. But Apollo continued. "He's down the hall. Go on...and don't cry unless you REALLY need to."
His eyes widened, and he nearly repeated Mia's old phrase aloud, but then, they all seemed to know it.
And Klavier had to change the tone by saying, "...and don't slip on the stairs."
Edgeworth's door was open partway, and for the space of one breath he hesitated outside.
He did, and when he reached the spot of floor in front of the desk, feeling proud and self-conscious at once, Miles just smiled, a dazzling lightning bolt of a smile that put Klavier's to shame. "You came back."
"I always...we always do."
He wasn't sure from the response if his statement was being ignored. "Very elegant. But I should be prosecuting again very soon. I won't go easy on you."
"When did you ever? Bring it, gorgeous." He was flirting, seriously, frivolously, in between, hoping for a reaction. But Edgeworth was nervous, looking sideways. He was dressed the way he had been in Sonoma, shirt and vest but no jacket.
"Would you like some tea?"
"I don't have anything else to toast with."
"You mean you never kept a bottle of scotch in the bottom of your desk? My illusions are ruined. And yes, please; I'd love some."
Edgeworth went over to the tea things and took long enough to prepare two cups that Phoenix couldn't tell if he was being meticulous or stalling. Probably both.
He accepted the cup and saucer carefully when his old friend returned, taking a sip and then raising his eyebrows at the temperature before putting it down and watching the steam rise.
Again he couldn't tell if the silver-haired man was reluctant or just waiting for the tea to cool. They sat in silence, not an uncomfortable one, for a minute or two before Edgeworth raised his cup into the air.
"To your return to the courts."
His heart swelled at that, but he drank without speaking.
"And to my sister Franziska. Though this isn't the moment to explain it."
He drank again, then proposed a toast of his own. "To Mia Fey."
"Hear." It was so easy to imagine her in the room, for a moment, leaning against the shelves with her hair hanging down, watching and smiling.
"And to Serra Magnet Elementary School, for putting you and me and Larry all in the same class."
Edgeworth looked taken aback, if softly. "That was lucky, wasn't it."
"Thank the L.A. schools for something."
"...and cheers to the Flopsy Bunnies."
"I didn't even tell you about the last thing they pulled, did I." Or maybe second-to-last. Third-to-last. Sketchbook badge notary. Good grief. He drained his cup. "The tea IS good."
"I'm picky." Phoenix laughed at the understatement, and had to rewind Edgeworth's next words in his brain to really register them, especially as they were prefaced by a sigh. "...so what do we do now?"
"What do we do about what? About the tea?" He knew that he was this close to being told not to play dumb, and saw the other man bite the impulse back. Watched him stand up and go over to the window, silhouetting himself in front of it.
"Wright." This time he bit back his own impulse to tell the prosecutor to hurry up. "Are you content...to go on as we have been? At this...orbit?"
"Showing up for periodic rescues and then disappearing off again? I swear, we should have had medic alert bracelets with each other's names on them made up." The question still hadn't been answered, and he stared at the buttons on his cuffs. "No. I guess I'm not."
"Take a walk with me. Leave your jacket; you'll overheat." Edgeworth led the way to the stairs, and he followed. There was no sign of anyone else in the hall, when turned around to look.
If the building had been quiet, the stairwell was a museum. He felt compelled to speak, and the other man seemed to feel the same way. "Klavier told me not to fall down these."
"He knew you'd be taking them."
"You told them?"
"No." Their footfalls echoed, scuffs becoming a waterfall of whispers in the vertical space.
"Where's the dog?"
"Pess is at home in the yard today. Barking at the neighbors' Lab, probably."
"Not to excess. The neighbors' dog is a remarkably witless creature. I've been tempted to bark at him myself."
"I can't imagine." Scuff.
"I think I have a new bunny for you."
"ANOTHER one? Tell me you're joking. Four is hard enough."
"Did I ever tell you about Kay Faraday?"
"Maybe just a little. The name sounds familiar, but that's about it."
"She's back in the area and she wants to go to law school."
"Prosecution or defense?"
"You know, I didn't ask."
"But you think she has potential."
"As a lawyer, oh yes. And as a bunny, also yes. Though I think she has a year on Klavier."
"Where is she staying now?"
"With Miss Andrews. But I thought she might make a good roommate for Vera."
"Well, introduce them."
"I believe she'll be at dinner tonight - Apollo called me yesterday. But I wanted to warn you."
"Why is she with Adrian now, anyway?"
"Of course, you don't know the story yet. She was, actually, one of the two other people Franziska has been working with secretly since I - since I left."
He processed this information. "Which would make the other-"
"The indispensable Detective Richard Gumshoe. In fact." Phoenix's words failed him, and his mouth was still hanging open as they emerged from the stairwell and then pushed through another door to the tiny park between the city buildings. The winds were blowing, and Edgeworth slowed and stretched his arms out. "I always loved this weather."
"You love the Santa Anas? Nobody likes them. They mean fires and nosebleeds."
"I do. They're warm. Everything feels...vibrant. You can feel the air between your fingers." He splayed his hands out, and Phoenix copied the gesture. It was true. The hot wind slid through his hands.
Edgeworth turned up one of the footpaths. They'd been keeping apace so far, but now Phoenix was falling behind.
The words sounded plaintive, desperate, he couldn't help it. "Does being smarter make up for being older?"
Edgeworth paused by a tree and looked back at him through his glasses. The philosophical turn didn't seem to surprise him. "Being young didn't make up for being wrong. So, yes...I think so."
"I told you that I loved you."
Miles didn't move an inch, but the tension in his pose was suddenly clear. "And I said the same."
"Miles...I've MISSED you longer than I've KNOWN you." He'd come a little closer, so the tree was framed between them now.
And Miles stepped forward, and reached his arms around his back and pressed his hands into the crisp white shirt, and kissed him.
If anything could change the past, that embrace could. All of the past selves Vera had drawn, the boy, the college kid, the young man, the bum - in that moment all of them were retrieved from their abandonment. And he knew without being told, finally, that all of them - even the idiot in the pink sweater - had been loved.
And if anything was going to change the future even more than the badge, than his mad semifamily of bunnies, it was this kiss, and the one who loved him now.
September 1, 8:57am
"Good old failbox."
The mailbox outside the Lake Monster studio was still tilted to one side, although it wasn't the SAME side. Larry, clambering out of the Volvo, noticed a large manila envelope sticking out of the corner. It was too early for an absentee ballot, too early for the catalog proofs for his upcoming show - which meant there was only one thing it could be. "Hey, mysterious."
He retrieved it, and focused his attention when he saw that the return address was the Wright Anything Agency. Forget waiting to take this inside; he opened it leaning against the hood of the car.
It contained a letter and another manila envelope.
The letter read,
Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth regret that they will be unable to accept your invitation for the Thanksgiving weekend.
"Oh, no no no, no no no no no. Tell me you guys didn't screw it up. Don't MAKE me get on a plane and come down there."
This has been a remarkable year, although it obviously has not yet concluded, and the aforementioned attorneys -
"Wait wait, plural as in more than one attorney? Nick, man, you did it!"
- the aforementioned attorneys find themselves with a list of persons deserving of thanks that is so long, and so urgent, that they are unable to be away from Los Angeles at that particular time.
Should you, your fiancée, and/or the bartender Nina wish to travel to Los Angeles in November, however, your presence would be more than welcome.
In regards to our earlier challenge, please see the enclosed.
Sincerely and gratefully,
The second envelope felt like it contained a jumble of things, so he did finally let himself inside, and upended it over one of the counters.
Papers slithered and paper clips jingled, and the first sheet he retrieved was neatly labelled E2 in the upper right corner. The handwriting on the pink stationery, however, was Maya Fey's. And the note detailed the visit of one Prosecutor Edgeworth to Kurain, for the purpose of speaking to the channeled spirit of one Mr. Gregory Edgeworth.
If this was E2, where was E1?
E1 was a billing record from the office of a Doctor Crow, with line items for an ongoing series of individual psychotherapy sessions and the prescription of an antidepressant. Apparently Crow was both a psychologist and a psychiatrist, which meant he was something of a treasure.
E3 was not immediately apparent, but W1 sat next on the stack. A Xerox of a California driver's license issued to one Phoenix Wright, who looked a bit embarrassed in his official photograph.
And then W2, a copy of the letter affirming that Phoenix Wright had passed the state bar exam.
Then a pile of supplemental materials. A scan of a dog license from the County of Los Angeles. An LAPD internal newsletter announcing recent promotions, with "Ema Skye, forensic investigator" highlighted. A couple issues of the Ivy University student paper. A disc labelled Mock Trial, and another just labelled with a capital G. A photo of a smiling pair of young men Larry didn't recognize - at least not personally; he was momentarily stunned to realize that the tall blond one was Klavier Gavin, which might explain the second disc. A typed list of case numbers, otherwise unlabelled. Receipts from a mechanic, a barbershop, and a menswear emporium. A ribbon that smelled of chocolate. And a color copy of a beautiful pastel drawing of a fountain, the spray of the water almost, but not entirely, obscuring two figures on a park bench in the background.
He'd have to ask about this stuff.
When he'd sorted through all of that, the only thing remaining on the counter was a photograph, face down. This wasn't a Xerox. And he paused, fingers outstretched, when he saw E3, W3 written neatly on the back.
He flipped it over.
He couldn't tell where it had been taken, but it didn't matter. Miles stood in front, jacket off, relaxed, smiling as Larry had never seen him smile. And Nick had his arms around his waist and his chin on his shoulder, looking not just happy, but exhilarated.
If Larry's shoulders shook for a minute, or if any visitor to the studio would have heard sniffling sounds over a laugh, it wouldn't have been because he was a complete romantic or anything. Of course not.
The necessary few minutes later, he grabbed a sheet of unlined paper and a soft pencil and composed a reply.
Dear Nick and Edgey -
First things first, screw you both for messing with me like that. Not cool. Even if I can find it in my great big heart to forgive you.
Second, if you're not coming for Thanksgiving, you'd better come up a different weekend. Maybe December before Christmas. Amy still wants to meet you clowns.
Third, I've got a show coming up, so I've got to be up here for Thanksgiving. Wish me luck.
Fourth, who are all these people?
(Here he paused, circled the last word, drew an arrow to one side, and wrote Rethought long engagement. Then another circle and arrow right below the first. Rethought name.)
The signature still seemed to lack something, so he added one more line:
October 31, 8:09pm
It wasn't quite the media blitz that a Gavinners album launch would have been, back in the day, but the Halloween party at the courthouse was no doubt going to provide even better fodder for the entertainment reports the next day, since the band's former frontman was going to be premiering his new material here. For invited guests only. Of course.
"Are you sure this is a good costume?"
"Wright, it's a wonderful costume. And no, you don't look like a ballet dancer. You look delicious."
A few happy weeks of procrastination and a burst of literal-mindedness meant that Phoenix had decided to dress as an actual firebird, with a Russian-looking tunic and trousers embroidered in flamelike oranges and golds and blues, with jagged wings to match. Trucy had outdone herself. And Vera and Klavier had teamed up with a makeup kit to turn his features shining and birdlike. His blue eyes in particular appeared almost unearthly now.
"You don't look too bad yourself." Miles had declared literalism to be a valid theme, and was dressed like a Roman centurion, elaborate sandals and cloak and all, though he'd forgone the helmet. "But I refuse to call you Miles Gloriosus tonight, so don't get your hopes up."
His - you know, there isn't a good word for it- his love's voice dropped. "Why hope? I have what I wanted." They shared a brief, careful kiss, for the sake of the firebird makeup, then stepped out of the side hallway into the courtroom. The first people they recognized were Pearl and Maya Fey. Both were wearing glasses and fake facial hair, of all things, and Maya also had on a beret.
"Maya, I'm really happy you put your foot down to the elders about visiting more often. It's great to see you. But I have no idea what you're supposed to be."
Pearl broke in. "It's like that old TV show! It's a joke, because we're Feys. We're the MythBusters."
Phoenix couldn't help but laugh as he hugged them. "So long as you don't mind doing a lot of explaining."
Maya inhaled for a sharp retort, but then got seriously distracted by something over his shoulder. He turned around and saw Miles already mesmerized by the same thing: an enormous, muscular figure in vaguely Japanese armor, the right half of which shone with a high polish and the left half of which was blackened.
"The Steel Ronin."
He chuckled. "Yes, Miles, I realize that it's incredibly, incredibly cool, but just remember that it's Will in there, okay?"
The two grown-up-I-swear fans intercepted the armor in the hallway, already talking, and Will's blunt, good-natured face appeared when the mask came off. Maya in particular was being verbose. "I can't believe the reboot is actually happening! This is going to be so, so amazing."
Ema went by in a bridal gown and veil, followed by Spencer Langley in a brown suit, a trench coat, and sneakers.
"Pearls, have you seen Trucy yet?"
"No, not yet. She called my phone earlier. I guess they had to dress you up first?"
He felt a little guilty. "Did she tell you what she was going to be?"
"Yup. But she didn't say I could tell YOU."
"Well, did she say NOT to?"
"No, but I won't risk it. Sorry!" The tiny girl grinned, stuck her tongue out, and ran over to Maya, who with Miles was on her way back. "Let's eat something!"
The mediums turned out to be the only ones who were hungry, so a moment later he and Miles were standing alone again. "Shall we?"
"Certainly." They proceeded into the courtroom itself - the adjunct one, at least. None of his trials or Apollo's had been held here, and that was fine with him.
Black and purple banners hung from the railings and the balconies, and to his surprise the judge was sitting at the bench, dressed in his typical black robes and conversing animatedly with a group of people.
"I can't tell if that's really meta or just oblivious."
"It's quantum. Don't change it by asking."
"Edgeworth, do YOU know what they're all dressing up as?"
"Well. I did finally tell them about your nickname for them."
"You did? What would you do THAT for?!"
"Because you can't go around secretly calling them the Flopsy Bunnies forever."
"Miles, so help me, if my teenage daughter shows up dressed as a bunny girl in fishnets, you are going to find me a convent to put her in and then you will get the Prosecutor's Office to pay for some sessions with Dr. Crow for ME."
"Oh, relax. Trucy is perfectly decent. See?" And there she was, hurrying through the crowd toward them.
She was dressed as a magician's rabbit, in white tie and tails plus white bunny ears and a rubber rabbit nose with whiskers. She had bunny slippers on her feet and white gloves over her hands, and was carrying a top hat from which peeked a doll dressed like she normally was.
"Hi, Daddy! Like my costume?"
"It's wonderful. And something of a relief. Where are the others?"
Trucy stuck her tongue out at him the way Pearl had, and pointed at the door. Vera and Kay had just come in, and neither of them had gone the Playboy route either. Vera had painted her face to resemble a real rabbit's, at least if real rabbits came in blue, with wide dark eyes and a velvety nose, and she had on the full-length plush suit that he'd rather expected at least one of them to wear. Kay Faraday was wearing a little black dress and things that looked like shaggy grey mukluks, and had a truly horrible monstrous rabbit mask pulled up onto her forehead.
"Sexy Frank. I don't think I would have come up with that one."
Edgeworth, who of course knew her much better, said, "She has a rather fearless sense of humor."
"She might give me nightmares."
"She's done me the favor of a lifetime, remember...but don't mention nightmares where she can hear you or she'll do it on purpose."
"Thanks for the warning." Trucy had loved Kay instantly, and what's more had finally had found, in her, someone she could teach magic tricks to with respectable results. "Is that Apollo?"
The next set of rabbit ears to catch his attention were white and indeed perched on the head of the short, businesslike attorney. He had on formal gloves like Trucy's, a patterned brocade vest, and a distinctly Victorian suit ("Is that one of your cravats?" "Yes.") and was holding a large pocketwatch whose chain led to his vest pocket.
The young man looked impudent. "Yes, sir. I'm late."
"Bunnies, Polly? Really?"
"Yes, sir. When you think about it, it's certainly a versatile idea."
"Is your boyfriend Alice, then?"
"No, he's - well, there he is."
Oh, for God's sake. I suppose someone had to be the fishnet one. Klavier had on a very tightly fitting, and very loosely woven, black mesh shirt with his black leather jacket and typical black leather pants, and flashed a wicked look from under a pair of fuzzy BLACK bunny ears.
"Herr Wright! Thank you for the marvelous costume idea!"
"Just LOOKING at you is going to corrupt someone."
"Then you had better look at the person you would rather be corrupted by, no?" And Klavier pulled Apollo off into the crowd after the girls.
Gumshoe went by, dressed as a film noir detective with a very snazzy hat. Maggey hung on his arm, in a slinky dress and stockings with seams up the backs, cradling what looked like a bird paperweight with one arm.
Franziska, dressed as a rather shiny and billowy pirate, posed for pictures with Adrian, who was wearing an enormous, low-cut satiny gown with a laced bodice.
"Pirate and wench?"
"The cover of a romance novel."
And then a young woman appeared in front of them in a very familiar orange leather jacket. "Nick? Miles? Remember me?"
He did. "Nina?"
"Someone didn't forget everything over summer break. Good boy, Nicky. Larry deputized me to come down to this thing, since I was visiting my folks anyway. He sent this for you, besides providing the costume." She handed over a more or less flat package wrapped in worn brown paper. "Good to see you guys again. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to see if I can find a decent drink somewhere and if I can talk Ema Skye into being my friend. Total platonic girl crush." And off she went.
They looked at each other. "Do you want to open this now?"
"Do we have anywhere to put it once we do?"
"Do we have anywhere to put it if we don't?"
"Good point." Miles led the way out into the hall and halfway up a flight of stairs, stopping on a landing smoothed by thousands upon thousands of footsteps to gaze out over the wildly dressed crowd. Phoenix joined him at the wooden banister.
"Who's the redhead Will Powers is chatting up? She looks familiar."
"Just a moment, please. Centurions don't wear glasses."
"MINE does." He almost expected Miles to say something acidic, but instead the silver-haired man looked bemused, and touched.
"It is still so surprisingly good to hear you say those things."
"What do you mean, surprisingly?"
"I mean that - that for so long, even the most quotidian elements of being with you were pure fantasy for me. And here you are, dressed like a myth, and it's real. I was so sure we would...never. You remain surprising."
"That's very complicated. I love you."
"Present tense, present company." He let go of the railing and moved behind Miles to put an arm around him. For the space of a minute, they both closed their eyes. Warmth and gratitude.
Then Miles fished his glasses out, put them on, looked down, and laughed. "No wonder she looks familiar. She's my old secretary."
"She seems to like him. And by the way, your old secretary looks fantastic in a snake-print dress."
"If you have time to ogle women ("Woman!"), you have time to assuage my curiosity about this gift from Larry."
"All right here...what's this?" The mass of brown paper contained two flat panels of metal, worked in Larry's memorable style, but he wasn't sure what he was looking at. Vague dark rectangular shapes hung down like curtains over a purple background that grew darker the further down you looked. Tiny red spangles marked the corners of the rectangles, and one side of each panel was bordered with a light surface expertly weathered and stained to resemble wood instead of metal. He looked at them in confusion, and held them out towards Miles.
And Miles seemed equally perplexed, but only for an instant. "What...oh, my. This way." He started up the rest of the stairs.
"You'll understand!" And Miles led him to the large window that looked out at the nearby skyline, and turned the panels upside down - right side up, really - and held one next to the other, and he did.
The black rectangles, now that they were at the bottom of the image, were nothing but the buildings around the courthouse, in precisely the right order and proportions. The red spangles were the aircraft warning lights on the corner of the roofs. And the purple fade was a disappearing sunset. The wooden strips were the frame of this window, and unless they were held side by side, you'd never know it. Half of the view in each, as if two people were standing next to each other.
"He's been to the courthouse enough."
"As if we weren't sufficiently indebted to him as it was."
"I emailed back and forth with him yesterday. We'll go visit in December."
"That seems like a wait."
"It does. But Thalassa wants to tell Trucy and Apollo before Thanksgiving."
"You tell me this now?"
"At least I remembered."
"Is it very wrong of me to enjoy the idea of someone else being subject to bunny plots?"
"You know, not in this case."
At that moment, the building's PA system bonged to announce that the concert was about to begin, and would everyone please gather in the courtroom? They descended the stairs, meeting Maya again in the crush of the hall, and went where they were told. A projection of Vera's design for the album cover now hung in the air above the judge's bench: Klavier's silhouette as he tried to balance on Trucy's slackline, shown as one black shape against another, with a violet outline between. And as the lights dimmed and the room quieted, the singer appeared on the witness stand with an acoustic guitar.
I want to take my shadow off
and send him on his way,
have light around me everywhere -
then maybe I could say...
Since memory is history
and history is sin
I might enjoy amnesia
and perhaps you'd let me in
But I wouldn't be where I could hear you
Innocent, but nowhere near you
So…we're this way, or no way at all
I want to take my shadow off
and hang it in your tree
and wait beneath your window
for the truth to shine on me
But here's what I learned about love
When push came to shove came to shove
We fell down before we could fall
The tools that I use
The stones in your shoes
We were this way or no way at all
December 3, 10:31am
A little red dot appeared at the bottom of the hill. The color looked right, but he waited until he could resolve the shape into the right kind of car before he called to the woman who was reading at the table.
"Is that them?" She'd been sitting crosslegged on top of the chair, and she had to untangle her feet from the long cotton skirt before stepping down and hurrying out onto the deck of the small house.
By now the car was close enough that he could almost make out the figures in the front seat, and Larry raised his arm and waved a few times. He was about to drop his hand to his side again when the car's horn responded in the same rhythm as his wave.
"Hey!" He redoubled his efforts, leaning over the railing, and an arm in a white sleeve reached out of the passenger side window and waved back, as the horn continued to beep. He thought he could see a dog now, bouncing around in the back seat.
In his memory later, it all seemed to be one sensation: the feel of the muscles stretching as he waved, the horn sounding, the sparkle of the sun on the hillside ivy, the peripheral feeling of Amy leaning and waving beside him, and the smile that would not leave his face as his friends drew closer, curve by curve on the narrow road.
OMG. First off, a tremendous thank you to all of you who've been reading. Turnabout Toast is only the second fic I've finished, and I didn't quite have an idea of the volume of this when I began it. KatrinaKaiba, Natalie, ziraulo, Celestine, shugo sora, 6GunSally, LittleDuck, Vee, Lis Rose, marmellow, Jiggywidit, Clemy, WhiteBunny, Nana, Awestruck, Conspectus, Dalmatian, and others, I'm very, very grateful to you all. And if I know nothing of your existence but you've read it too, hey! Nice to meet you! Drop me a line!
A few tidbits, mostly regarding locations, for anyone who might be interested:
- The Sonoma County Airport really is named for Charles M. Schulz, the Peanuts cartoonist, and Snoopy is on the seal.
- Many of the places around Los Angeles are real: Dockweiler Beach, Union Station and its pretzel stand (and its bright blue airport bus), Olvera Street (Trucy's skirt, too), the South Coast Botanic Garden, Canter's, Versailles Cuban Restaurant, the little bakery in the South Bay, Famima!, Caltech, the statue and poem on Figueroa, Little Tokyo, the burger place, and the Music Center.
- And some of the places elsewhere, such as Calipatria State Prison and False Creek.
- The song that Klavier plays, but that Edgeworth can't quite recognize, is Dire Straits' "Private Investigations." Feel free to ignore that if you're appalled by the idea.
- Jarritos are tasty. So is the curry casserole.
- The Halloween costume references are of course out-of-date, given when the series takes place, but I really couldn't resist.
I do have the beginnings of a shorter and fluffier sequel bouncing around in my head, though it's likely to be a few weeks before I can get started with it.
And I typed pretty much this whole thing ON MY PHONE. Just wanted to say that.