It was cold in Los Angeles when he got back, which was ridiculous, because it was never cold in the Los Angeles that existed in his memory.
That place, though, was fading around the edges. He'd been there for exactly eight days in seven years, and sometimes its warm, familiar streets got mixed up with Lisbon or London or Prague or some other city on his laundry list of residences. Except for one bright, brief moment, he'd never really felt the urge to settle down.
And yet, here he was coming back like a bad penny.
He navigated his way through the airport with the practiced ease of the world-weary traveller- yes, I'm a citizen; yes, I have my passport; no, I have nothing to declare. He stood at the baggage claim, watching a thousand black Samsonite suitcases that weren't his black Samsonite suitcase tumble down, nearing complete boredom.
He looked down at a tug on his sleeve. Miles had long since become inured to people in strange clothing, but something about this girl's outfit struck an odd chord with him, some very distant memory.
"You can turn it around, Mister Edgeworth," she told him, and his mouth went dry.
With a tip of the hat and a smile, she was gone, before he could even stammer out a question, swallowed up whole by the crowd.
He had meant to cancel his next trip when he got back from his emergency flight to Iris's trial, but somehow, he never really got around to it. It was only two nights, anyway, and he had been looking forward to a proper visit.
They sat in his room at the Gatewater, relaxing over room service, while Phoenix told him all about the next day's trial.
"I won it in a poker game," Phoenix told him, swigging his beer straight from the bottle. "Some new prosecutor. Gavin someone."
"Not Klavier Gavin?" he asked, picking at what had been erroneously billed as a deluxe salad.
"You know him?"
Miles shook his head. "I've heard of him. Another German prodigy."
Phoenix grinned. "I think I've had enough of those for one lifetime."
Later, when they were both sated and sleepy, Phoenix sat up suddenly, pulling the covers around him. "Let's get married."
Miles took his lover's hand into his own. "Who will be our best man?" he asked, humoring him.
"Maya, obviously," he replied, running his thumb over Miles's fingers. "And Gumshoe. He'll be very sad if he's left out."
"I don't know that we're exactly the type to put up a white picket fence," Miles deflected, suddenly aware that the conversation might be serious.
"We'll move into your house, obviously," Phoenix told him. "Just me and you and our kids." Miles covered his shock by pulling him back down to the bed, kissing him for lack of an answer.
He woke up before daylight, kissing his sleeping Phoenix on the head before going off to catch his plane.
When he got back to his apartment in Munich, the news was waiting for him.
He pondered the girl's words all night and into the next day. No doubt she was some wandering lunatic who had seen him in the paper once upon a time. As much as he tried to put her out of his mind, she followed- through his breakfast, through his drive, right up to the courthouse steps.
There were other things to occupy his thoughts, though – new cases, new prosecutors, new rules. The introduction of a new jury system was nothing new to someone schooled in international legal systems, though it intrigued him.
There was something about it, though, something familiar that he couldn't quite place.
As he opened the imposing door, he saw a flash of a blue cape out of the corner of his eye. He knew, somehow, that it was foolish to even look, that the only way to even keep believing it had been there was not to look; but it was no less gone when he turned his head.
When he got off the plane, he went straight to the train station and on to tiny Kurain Village.
"We've tried before, with no success," Maya warned him. He was struck by how much different she was- she was sharper somehow, wearier. Miles supposed that they were all weary now.
"That's a good thing," he reassured her.
After three hours on the cold, hard floor of the Channelling Chamber, Maya reluctantly called the proceedings to a halt.
"I could have Mystic Pearl try," she said, pouring out tea for both of them in a small side room, "but-"
"It wouldn't make a difference," he finished.
"If he's," the words stuck in Maya's throat, "gone, he certainly doesn't want to be called back."
He was back at the airport before twenty four hours were even up.
Gumshoe absolutely insisted on taking him out for a drink- as much for the pleasure of his company as to prove he could finally afford it, it seemed. But it was only a short walk from the hotel, and he'd certainly needed it.
The girl in blue stared at him from a poster outside, the bottom torn off and ragged above her name, mocking him.
He tried to put her out of his mind as he pushed his way into the crowded bar- not that she was making it easy.
Since when did he think she was doing anything deliberate at all?
He fought through the crowd to Gumshoe, who was waving at him with typical exuberance. He pressed a slightly sweaty tumbler into Miles's hand.
They talked, the conversation never coming as easily as it should have with so many years behind them. By the way he was acting, there was something Gumshoe wasn't telling him- something that he very much wanted to, but dreaded letting go. He watched as the other man got more and more nervous, the warning signs so familiar.
"He called, pal," he said, finally, rolling his shoulders like he'd just dropped some great weight.
Miles stared into his glass. For just once in his adult life, just once, he'd like to hear that pronoun spoken without it meaning Phoenix. "What's that got to do with me?"
Gumshoe shrugged. "Just thought you wanted to know."
Miles swallowed. "Unless he wanted to speak to me, then I don't."
Gumshoe's silence told him everything he needed to know.
He spent three full days scouring the city in Larry's horrible old broken down car, the two of them searching every place they could or couldn't think of. The investigator in him whispered that it was hopeless, that a trail three years cold would never lead them anywhere.
He hadn't meant to leave it that long, but it just never worked out before. He had obligations, he had his work- he had many excellent excuses, but that didn't stop him knowing them for what they were.
Miles collapsed into the couch, and Larry pressed a beer into his hand. He drank it without thinking twice, and they sat in exhausted silence.
His cell phone rang out the tinny strains of the Steel Samurai theme, and Miles felt an ache in his chest- Phoenix had done that.
"Edgeworth," he said wearily.
"Hey, pal," the gruff, familiar voice greeted him, with far more cheer in his voice than the situation called for.
"What is it, Detective?" he asked, rubbing at his eyes.
"I got him," Gumshoe told him excitedly. "It wasn't easy, pal, but we got him."
Miles sat up, unconsciously putting his hand to his chest. He swallowed hard, waving away Larry's inquisitive gestures. "Go on."
"He's in LA. Looks like maybe he left town for a while. But anyway, he's back."
Miles found himself unable to speak.
"You still there, pal?"
"There's more. He just filed for adoption."
Something in Edgeworth snapped.
He passed the phone blindly to Larry, standing up to pace the floor. Larry was still talking to Gumshoe, writing something on a piece of paper, but Edgeworth was insensate.
"Calm down," Larry said with uncharacteristic gravity in his voice, catching him by the shoulders. "There's gotta be a good explanation, right?"
Edgeworth wrenched himself away. "He's gone," he snapped, voice flat and angry. "He's left. He's got a new life." Without me hung in the air unspoken, oppressive.
He'd kept it warm and alive in the tiniest corner of his heart these three years- Phoenix was coming back, he could find him, he hadn't run away, please God don't let him have run away, they would be together, come hell or high water.
With one phone call, that little spark, that tiny hope died.
Larry let him cry, patting his shoulder awkwardly and muttering reassurances under his breath.
It crept in around the edges, sometimes. On long nights like these, staring at hotel walls that all looked the same, he replayed those days in his mind so many times that his memories were wearing out, trying to discover any little sign of what was to come. The television was playing, the white noise twittering on the edges of his perception, dull and useless like every other channel.
It was ridiculous- he'd spent barely a tenth of his life with Phoenix, had passed twice as long since without him. There was supposed to be something else for him, wasn't there? He wasn't still supposed to be thinking about the course of his life in terms of When Phoenix Left.
For the briefest moment, he could have sworn there was a girl in a blue cape on the TV screen. He shut it off and threw the remote across the room.
He wasn't going to come back, not ever, never on Phoenix's account. But when Iris of Hazakura Temple- Iris Hawthorne, he supposed he should say- called him, he didn't have much of a choice.
"She needs all the help she can get," he remembered Phoenix telling him once upon a time, his eyes sad- had he been planning to disappear even then? "You need to help her."
Stepping through the gate into the snowy temple grounds, he couldn't help thinking that the two of them had something in common; they'd both lost family- evil, manipulative family though it may have been.
And now, they'd both lost Phoenix.
Maybe that explained why he found himself pressing her down into the soft material of her futon. They were seeking nothing more than the warm, steady comfort of another body, the mindlessness of sex- but Phoenix was there between them, leaden and cold and inescapable.
She had tears in her eyes when she whispered his name, and he was startled to realize that he did, too.
And there she was when he walked out of the day's trial, the apparition finally made flesh again. The defense was telling him something, probably something very important, but it only buzzed in his ears. He answered- he didn't know how, because the sound of his heart pounding drowned everything else out.
She turned then, her cape fluttering softly, the crowd parting for her like water. Miles made his poor excuses and took off after her, desperate to have this out once and for all.
He ran behind her for what felt like decades. Some dim part of his mind registered that his shoes were collapsing, the expensive leather threatening to crease and tear under the strain. His jacket was gone somewhere – had he left it in the car, or had he simply thrown it into the street? It didn't seem to matter, somehow. Nothing mattered except catching up to that swirling blue cape.
She was slowing – were they in a parking garage? It seemed he was running up and up and up. The place seemed deserted though, and that was strange enough on its own. Not for the first time, Edgeworth wondered if all this was really happening.
He stumbled, recovered, kept following her until she finally slowed to a stop, turning to smile at him, holding out a hand in welcome.
Somehow, he had known what would be waiting for him, the climax of this bizarre dream.
He was thinner than Edgeworth remembered, his face hardened with age and lessened with lost weight. He was older, so much older than seven years by themselves could have done to him. The little girl, not so little now that Edgeworth could see her clearly, approached him, taking his hand. Something unspoken passed between them; and with a final smile at Edgeworth, she took her leave, practically skipping back the way they had come.
Edgeworth felt as if he would crack if he so much as breathed.
He stood there, ramrod straight, waiting to see who would make the next move. Phoenix broke first – like he always did – slipping his brightly colored beanie from his head. He ran a hand through the loose mess of spikes, sighing softly. The palms of Edgeworth's own hands itched; he wanted nothing so more than to touch him, to just fall into this dreamworld and push all their myriad troubles away.
He curled his treacherous fingers inward, shoving his fists into his pockets.
"So," Phoenix said. "Nice to see you again."
Miles couldn't agree; it wasn't nice, it was something else entirely, something he didn't have a word for. "I believe your-" he stopped, considered- "daughter must be quite worn out from all of this."
"She doesn't mind." Phoenix grinned, a lazy, cat-like expression. "I told her it'd make her new mommy very happy."
There. That he recognized – that incredibly annoying, incredibly heartening hubris, that sense that Phoenix knew him better than he knew himself.
"Wright, we both know you've always been the woman," he shot back, mostly to ease the incredible tension, though his heart was still threatening to pound right out of his chest.
Phoenix just smiled and shrugged. That was new; his Phoenix – and just when did he start thinking that again? – would never have let that one slide.
"Why now?" Miles finally managed, his mouth uncomfortably dry.
Phoenix tilted his eyes downward, his face somehow sadder, harder. "Things are about to change," he told him. "They're going to- it's going to be different."
"It's been different," he pointed out.
"Come with me," Phoenix said, only the thinnest edge of pleading in his voice. "Come with us."
"It won't be like it was," Miles cautioned, for lack of anything else to say. "It won't be perfect."
"I don't want perfection," he snapped, the old fire back now. "I want you."
Miles wanted nothing more than to scream, to cry that it was Phoenix who marred him in the first place, that there was a day when he was perfect. He licked his dry lips. "Or what?"
He shrugged. "Or I guess I don't have any say in what you do."
Miles took a deep breath. This was the moment he'd been waiting for all these many years. His response to that formerly hypothetical offer had changed so many times that he wasn't even sure what he was supposed to want anymore. He'd spent so long rebuilding the walls around himself – walls that Phoenix had torn down. He'd tried so hard to get away from this, to prove that he really wasn't waiting for Phoenix's return, when all he really wanted was to throw himself into Phoenix's arms. It was so easy, laid out here in front of him, so easy to pick up everything he had left behind, everything that had hurt him so badly.
He closed his eyes and decided.