Adrenaline would pull him through this.
It had taken mere hours to get here, to wake up on the other side of the world and hear what had happened, it had taken phone calls even more frantic than the one he'd recieved from Larry, it had taken sleep and downtime from his schedule, but Miles didn't care.
Suddenly all wrongs were forgotten, time had evaporated, memories were superimposed over memories, and he was back in a hospital once more, back in Japanifornia again, back by Phoenix's side. Three places he'd sworn he'd never return. He was fifteen years old again, inhaling that horrible smell of disinfectant and chicken broth, feeling sterilised white sheets beneath his fingertips, full of regrets and remorse and sadness and that terrible sense of "How bad can this really get?"
Once again, he was trying desperately not to cry. All because of Phoenix.
More than ten years had passed, and that old saying rang true. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Only this time it wasn't him in the hospital bed, and there was a variation on the sadness and regret. He hadn't caused this. The act returning him to hospital, this time as a visitor, wasn't one of selfishness, but one of selflessness, and for that, he could sort of forgive Phoenix. That made it permissible for him to rush like this to see him.
Who the hell am I kidding? he wondered to himself. I was already mentally preparing my trip back here before I knew the full story.
Such a sentimentalist. He gritted his teeth and looked at the body lying on the bed in front of him. He could see the slight rise-and-fall of his chest, and felt vaguely reassured that Phoenix was still breathing with a level of regularity. He checked the monitors at his side, pretending to himself that he could make sense of them, and he'd tucked his hand under the covers when he'd seen him shake.
He was twenty-six years old, brilliant and established, and he'd moved on from this former life. And yet all it took was one phonecall to make it all come crashing down.
He'd been sitting there for three hours. Visiting times had ended long ago, but no one dared disturb him; the staff were either too tired to care about his presence or they suspected there was something between them.
"You hear that, Phoenix?" he murmured to himself. "I must look like family. Not that I really resemble you. Maybe they think I'm a... well, I can't be a brother because we're the same age. Maybe they think I'm..." He laughed, and tears sprang to his eyes again. "A long time companion." That was when he saw his hand tremble, and he grabbed it, to steady him, of course, and pulled the sheet over him with the other. "Oh, the irony." There was a bitterness in his words, but he felt that now he was speaking, he couldn't stop.
"Yes, I came back. I bet you wouldn't have expected that, would you? I don't suppose you'd have done the same for me; I think you made your opinion of me fairly clear the last time we spoke. You weren't ready for anything. You didn't know what you wanted." He sniffed. "You certainly knew what you wanted just after the Engarde trial, didn't you?" The bitterness hadn't left his voice.
"Two weeks, Phoenix, that's all it took, wasn't it? And when I'd left after your little speech about not knowing what you wanted, I realised that it wasn't just two weeks of you being so convincing, sounding so genuine, it was how pathetically weak I was. I don't know why, Phoenix, but all it took you was two weeks to somehow crack through every last one of my defenses which I'd spent probably a good fifteen years securing." He sighed, pulling his hand out from under the covers. "I wanted to hate you," he said quietly, "For leaving me like that. I wanted to convince myself that you were just as insignificant to me as I was to you. That I could take the love 'em and leave 'em thing to a greater level than you did. That I didn't even want your friendship." He sighed. "I truly thought I didn't. But I'm back here, I suppose, aren't I?" And then he smiled to himself. "A foolishly foolish fool, someone we both know might say. I can admit she may have a point in this case."
As if to protest that comment, Phoenix moved. It wasn't the first movement Miles had seen from him, but it was more significant than the slight twitches and shivers which seemed to run through him. Miles noticed the blanket coming loose from one side of the bed and tucked it in firmly.
"They said you were drifting in and out of consciousness when you came in, that you were delirious from trauma and adrenaline and probably shock. They said half the time you were making sense, that sometimes you seemed to make too much sense, like you were back in the courtroom. And they said that you mentioned me." He paused, considering. "I don't know why you would do such a thing, surely in nearly twelve months you've had some maddening and only estimable number of boys and girls to amuse you and indulge in your quirks." He paused, as Phoenix stopped moving again, and his voice dropped to somethign serious and honest and confessional.
"I'd started seeing someone, would you believe? Not long ago... I got sick of meaningless casual encounters and signed up for an online service matching gay professionals with other gay professionals." He sniffed, not with sadness but possibly dismissal. "I suspect that this little situation has probably thrown a spanner in the works, though. Maybe you were fate intervening. Maybe you were pushing me to that point where if I'd stayed back in Germany, I'd have realised that I could make a serious attempt at a relationship with someone else, and that if I came back here, it was an indication that I'd never quite gotten over you."
He withdrew his hand carefully. "I guess you won out. Without even realising it."
He watched as Phoenix's chest rose and felt, and the dim white-grey light in the room seemed to be darkening. "I didn't even book a hotel," he admitted. "I didn't know what I'd be returning to. I was worried, Wright-- worried that some crazy harebrained scheme of yours had gotten you into some serious trouble and left you on death's door." He sighed again, still staring at the body on the bed in front of him. "I don't know what to think. In some ways I suppose I came back for closure with you: you managed to toy with, and utterly trample on whatever was left of my capacity to get close to anyone."
Across the room, he could see a shadow falling on the floor; a nurse walking past doing her rounds. She poked her head into the room and noticed him there; Miles gave her a steady nod, serious and silent, as if to suggest "no change," and he was surprised when she didn't just continue walking on, but entered the room.
"Still here?" she asked.
What a stupid question. One that wouldn't be asked if he wasn't "still here." He nodded, saying nothing, too tired to point out how meaningless the question really was.
"Can I get you anything?"
It was the first touch of kindness he'd been offered since touching down in America. "I should be right, thankyou," he said.
"You sure? Coffee? Tea?"
He reconsidered. "A tea would be wonderful, thankyou." It was then that he realised that he didn't care how terrible the tea was, but that this nurse, this Stacey, was just doing what he was so rarely able to do-- connect with another human being. Why not let her make that connection?
She nodded, and disappeared. Miles remained seated, hands folded in his lap nervously. Phoenix seemed to be in deep sleep; he was snoring slightly, his head turned to the other side.
When Stacey returned with the cup of tea; plain label teabag in a styrofoam cup-- he offered a weak "thankyou" and looked at Phoenix again. "He might need some more blankets," he said. "He seemed to be shivering a bit before."
"I'll see what I can do."
He wakes without ever realising that he'd slept, but he remembers the dream because it's a flashback.
It's the evening following Engarde's trial. Everyone's alert and excited, fuelled on by a sense of relief; it's all over, they can relax. Maya is safe, Engarde is behind bars, everyone is overwhelmingly pleased. They're at that restaurant celebrating, and Wright's been getting steadily tipsier. He's squashed between himself and Maya, and Miles is surprised when he leans towards him and not her, and he tells the prosecutor that it's a crime that he's still single, that anyone worth their weight in anything should be kicking down doors to be with him.
For a moment, he wonders if he's heard correctly, and then he wonders if his heart exploded. And then there's that cheeky, twinkling-eyed expression that hints at something more, that says that somehow that night is different, and suddenly it's hours later and everyone else has faded off to their own homes or taxis and it's just Phoenix and Miles, standing out the front of the restaurant, they've paid the bill, and yet they're still not entirely satisfied.
There's so little said by either of them, and it's not really ever apparent who initiated the kissing, but it feels like a snowglobe moment, suspended in time for those few minutes, like the trial was the hinge this all rested on, and that was its conclusion when they are.
There's another flashforward and they're lying together in Phoenix's bed in his dingy apartment which smells like burnt toast, and Miles knows he'll never forget that feeling of complete, perfect bliss.
He wakes to greying hospital room lighting and tepid tea in a cup near his feet. Phoenix is stirring, shifting around violently, shivering, and Miles instinctively pulls the covers he's pushed aside back over him.
Maybe he wasn't asleep, maybe he was just deep in thought. Maybe his mind had just switched off long enough to make him remember why he returned, despite his conflicted feelings towards the man.
He wished he'd brought a book along. Or a crossword. He wished there was a discarded paper somewhere nearby so he could occupy his mind with mundane activities, that he could comb articles for editing omissions and failures, or read his horoscope or fill in a Sudoku puzzle. He feels selfish for wanting that.
Phoenix stretched, rolled over, and opened one eye. He looked dazed and sore, but then the other eye opened in disbelief.
"Miles?" he asked, his voice groggy.
He was conflicted. Horribly so. It was one thing to be thinking about a scenario like this, another to be actually looking at the one person he never thought he'd want to see again-- in this position.
"...Why?" He couldn't hide the almost-excitement in his voice. It was another unintentional cruelty, Miles thought, the sort of childlike enthusiasm Phoenix couldn't help but do, the kind of thing which made his face light up and you feel like you were the only person in the world for a fleeting moment.
"Because when I hear that something's happened to you, Wright, I automatically suspect the worst. And someone's got to get you out of the messes you seem to find yourself in."
Phoenix's eye shone again and suddenly everything seemed so easily forgotten. "Thankyou," he said. He looked around, trying to sit himself up. "What time is it?"
"About five AM."
"How long have you been here? When did you get here?"
"Not too long ago."
He suspected that Phoenix didn't entirely believe him, but it saved face, at least.
"I've missed you," he said. "You have no idea how much, Miles..."
That was painful. Another unintentional and metaphorical kick in the guts.
"Don't," Miles said softly. "You need your sleep. We'll talk about it later."
Phoenix mumbled something to himself. "I don't want to," he said defiantly. "I want to catch up. It's been nearly a year, Miles..."
And you've forgotten how we fell out of contact since then?
He sighed. "Sleep, Wright. You've been through a lot. You're not going to get better if you're over-exerting yourself and wearing yourself out."
"I'm not," murmured Phoenix. "Promise."
If only I could believe your promises, Miles couldn't help but think bitterly.
His eyes opened and closed slowly. Every time the lids moved open, he seemed surprised, warmly pleased that Miles was still by his bedside. He didn't say anything initially, and Miles didn't want him to. He liked watching Phoenix sleep, noting that he seemed to be growing calmer, that he wasn't prone to shivering as much when he awoke, that the incoherent mumbles had all but stopped.
A doctor and a nurse came in just before breakfast, unhooking one of the monitors he was attached to and wheeling it away. The curtains were drawn around him and Miles sat outside the room, allowing his... friend? some privacy; when they emerged from the room, the doctor merely shook his head and smiled. "Your... friend... is very lucky," he said, hesitating on the word friend, causing Miles' gaze to drop to the floor. "The depth of the river he fell into, and going into shock was probably what saved his life."
Miles nodded. "He is lucky," he said softly.
"He didn't even fracture anything, though we're keeping him in for at least another two days just to observe him."
Miles merely nodded.
"We don't think it's pneumonia but we were a bit concerned about the initial hypothermia."
"What do I say?" Miles asked. "He's done fairly well for someone who's been through all that."
"Yeah," the doctor said. "Your friend's a fighter." He smiled broadly, and Miles seized up at that thought. A fighter, not a lover...
"Have any of his blood relatives been contacted?"
"As far as I'm aware, his parents moved to Florida when they retired," Miles said. "I have no means of contacting them."
"Anyway," the doctor continued. It was an informal means of departure.
"Yes... thankyou, doctor."
"My pleasure." He looked back in the direction of Phoenix's bed. "You should be able to see him now."
When Miles was back by Phoenix's bedside, he was momentarily startled to see his ...friend... sitting up in front of a few stiff hospital pillows, a tired and almost surprised look on his face.
"Wright," he said coolly, unable to stop himself smiling. "You really are lucky, aren't you?"
"I barely remember what happened." There was something in the other man's voice which suggested he wasn't completely mended, there was an unsteadiness, a wooziness, which hinted at him falling asleep sometime soon or passing out.
"I was running across a burning bridge to get to Maya," he said, "And I didn't make it... I fell..."
Remembering that moment seemed to strike fear into his composure, and Miles felt a pang of sympathy. He did the same thing when people asked him about the incident, when an earthquake unexpectedly arouse out of somewhere and when the surprise and the shock of it got at him and he was unable to hide it.
The terror of the event itself mingled with the shame of others realising just how much it had affected him.
"You fell from a great height into freezing, deep, swiftly-running water," Miles said tersely, "After braving fire and a bridge which was falling apart-- in the middle of the night under extreme weather conditions." He paused. "Don't try to play the hero, Wright, of course you're going to be shaken from the experience."
"I--" Phoenix cut off, slightly annoyed. "Who told you?" Still no mention of what had happened nearly a year ago.
"Larry, as well as a few medical professionals. Though Larry-- Laurice, I should say, shouldn't I?-- was rather incoherent and you'll have to fill me in on a few details."
Phoenix nodded, his voice growing weaker and softer. There were so many things he could say to Miles now, or try to say, at least, so much he could try to fix-- but there was an immediate situation at hand. "The girl," he said solemnly and determined. "I need you to defend the girl."
"They took her away as a suspect," Phoenix explained, his voice growing louder and more passionate. They're saying she killed Elise Deauxnim-- you know, the children's author and illustrator..."
"I have no idea what you're talking about." Miles' face hardened.
"Go to the detention centre," Phoenix pleaded. "There was a murder last night up at Hazakura Temple. The girl they took into custody is..." And then his voice stopped, like a tape snapped off suddenly and unexpectedly.
Miles studied his face, unable to work out why he'd frozen like that.
And then a horrible, sick feeling hit him like a tonne of rocks.
The hesitant voice. The pausing.
Somehow, in amongst all the chaos and the drama and his own determination to be a hero-- that practically explained why he'd done that, didn't it?-- Phoenix Wright had fallen in love.
With a girl. With someone else. That was why he wasn't mentioning what had happened before, that was why his first words were about her, that was what was driving him.
She can rot there, Miles' initial thought was. She can stay in that cell and rot.
His face remained still as he mentally pulled himself up. That was entirely unfair. His friend had finally found someone perfect for him, he'd fallen in love, he had feelings for someone, and here he was, wanting her gone, so... what? So he could spend some time with him, get the answer to that question-- which he now knew was I never loved you, Edgeworth, anyway-- and-- what?
Both of them knew Miles was no good at intimacy. Phoenix was no good at the knowing when to say things part, but he still deserved happiness. Wanting the girl gone would be unnecessarily cruel. Not the sort of thought a true friend harboured. He shook his head, however-- what Phoenix was asking for was ridiculous.
"I can't do that!"
"Why not?" He looked down at his friend lying in the bed, looking so battered and sick and tired and for the first time Miles recalled, helpless-- and sighed. "Because I'm not a defense attorney," he said patiently, as though he were explaining to a child. "I can see if I can find a defense who'd be willing to represent her..."
"I would," Phoenix stubbornly protested.
"But you're... well... here." Miles looked around him at the vast whiteness of the hospital room around them.
"That's why I want you to do it, Miles," Phoenix pleaded. "Because I trust you. Because there is no one alive I'd trust more to do this."
Trust. Miles' thumb and index finger curled around his chin and he thought about the notion. It seemed like a funny, roundabout way for Wright to be lying here, all but at his mercy, pleading for assistance. He had the perfect opportunity to rub his face in it and to walk out the door-- and he'd have been lying if he said the thought didn't cross his mind.
But he was a man of integrity. Beyond what he'd learned from von Karma, reaching back into his childhood years, it had been Gregory who'd taught him to do the right thing, to stand up for those who needed it.
He sighed, and looked at Phoenix, trying to do the mental arithmetic to make it work. "Do you really believe she's innocent, Wright?" he asked quietly, resting a hand on the white hospital bed sheets covering his body.
He felt him twitch underneath, uncomfortable. Miles didn't just touch people so casually; hell, he didn't uncasually in situations where touching someone else was perfectly expected-- everything about him was so controlled. Right down to this-- unless something had momentarily removed that instinct to tighten the reins and not reach out--
"Yes," he murmured. His head felt heavy and dizzy, and the sore throat and the fever seemed to be creeping back to him. The pain meds he'd been given earlier were starting to kick in and drowsiness was blotting out the ache running through his body. Edgeworth being so uptight and unwilling to help wasn't helping him feel any less stressed, either.
"I just... do."
He couldn't quite explain it. He'd defended people he'd only just met, he'd taken on cases when he truly wanted to believe in someone's innocence before he'd found out that they actually were-- was this another one of those? He believed in his conviction: she wasn't another Engarde, at least, she lacked the showmanship and appeared almost naive and guarded; there was something wrong with the idea of her killing someone. Murder did not seem to be condoned and encouraged by the spiritual, strict and somewhat spartan lifestyle of the temple. Something was wrong with the idea of her murdering someone. Then there was the fact that she looked like...
Phoenix didn't want to think about that. Selfishlessly, he wanted her to be innocent so he could talk to her, see her up close, realise that she just looked like Dahlia Hawthorne. Seeing the difference would give him closure. Not getting that closure was leaving an old wound open to infection and further damage, and risking making it even more painful.
He reached towards the small chest of drawers next to his bed and tried to open it, slipping slightly.
Without a second thought, Miles had grabbed him and was pushing him up into the bed, lifting the covers and tucking him securely beneath. "What in god's name were you doing?" he asked.
"I was trying to get something for you..."
"Really, Wright-- I'll get it."
He opened the drawer, still looking at Phoenix. "If you fall out of bed and break something, then you're going to be in here for a lot longer, and you're going to wear out your visitors' empathy reserves."
Phoenix chuckled dozily. "You're always so... blunt," he mumbled.
"Someone has to be," Miles said simply, and ran a hand into to the drawer.
His heart stopped when he felt the small brass badge. Wright wasn't just asking for help, if he assumed what the crazy stab-in-the-dark defense attorney was possibly suggesting, he really did want him to defend this girl. As a defense attorney.
"But..." He felt something smooth, polished stone, next to it. "What the hell is this? A lucky charm?" He snorted. "You need that, Wright, I've never relied on superstitions and good luck before." He picked up the strangely shaped stone and the badge and held them up. "I think I know what you're asking me to do with this, at least," he said of the badge, his voice suddenly nervous.
"I have no idea what you want me to do with this" he said of the stone, looking at it suspiciously. "It looks almost... vulgar."
From his position in the bed, Phoenix sniggered. "It's a magatama," he said. "You use it to get to the truth, to help you detect secrets people are guarding."
"You use evidence and effective questioning to do that," Miles said.
"No," Phoenix said, "You use this to see the locks indicating that someone has a secret in their heart. It helps you know how to question them or what evidence you can show in order to break their psychelocks."
"What?" Miles put the green stone down on Phoenix's bedside table. "I never got into that new age foolishness," he said. "And I always wondered why someone as smart as you did." He sighed and looked at the badge, and then back at Phoenix, the realisation having fully dawned upon him. "You're serious about this, aren't you?"
Miles turned the badge over in his hand. It was odd seeing the badge like this, not pinned to Phoenix where it was so small and unnoticeable and close to insignificant against that vivid blue suit. "I wouldn't even know what to do with this..."
"Wear it," Phoenix murmured. "On my behalf."
He looked down at the small brass button. "But I--"
"I need you to do this for me, Miles." Phoenix was pleading, and once again, the unnecessarily sadistic notion of leaving him there, pleading helplessly, flailing about weakly-- all the while knowing his answer would be no occurred to Miles.
It was cruel.
Life was cruel.
He swallowed down hard, the sense of guilt at thinking of something so awful finally being what convinced him. "All right," he said quietly, trying to work out how he was going to manage this.
"You'll be up against Godot," he continued, caught between panic and gratitude. "He's--"
"Godot?" Was Phoenix rambling or had something happened down at the precinct? "Who is Godot?"
Phoenix sighed. "New prosecutor," he mumbled. "Doesn't like me. A complete smart ass with a caffeine addiction. At least he won't recognise you as a prosecutor, though," he rambled on. "I couldn't get anyone else to do this for me and even if I did, there's no one I'd trust but you..." His voice slowed and stopped, like a mechanical wind up toy running out of turns, and his face-- his complexion still pale and his eyes widened yet tired-- turned slightly towards him. He looked exhausted, like he was using the last of his energy to make this plea, and that he was going to fade out sometime soon.
And then he smiled slightly.
"I'm sorry about what happened before."
Was that what he was wanting to hear? Miles wasn't sure any more. Was Phoenix just saying it as a strange kind of payment for his agreeing to help him-- and this girl? Would he have said it even if he'd refused-- and then would it have looked like passive-aggression?
The temptation to draw that out, to make Phoenix admit to his own poor behaviour-- was there, too. But he looked so tired-- it was entirely pointless, anyway. What was done was done; Phoenix had moved on, nastiness for its own sake wouldn't change anything now, and he'd agreed to help his friend, his sort-of-one-time-lover, his confidante, his I-can't-believe-he's-not-a-soulmate.
"I wish you hadn't just disappeared overseas," Phoenix continued. "I missed you."
For some reason, that felt uncomfortable. Not quite hopeful and not really an accusation, but... something. He shouldn't have been able to look so ridiculously helpless and yet cause another person to freeze up like that.
And then he lay back into the pillow, and Miles watched as his gaze faltered, his lips twisted up into a smile, and a vague, faint voice offered a "Thanks, Miles..."
He shifted under the covers, and Miles got the distinct impression that it was time for him to sleep, and time for him to get to work. He watched as Phoenix turned slightly, eyes closed, and wrenching the covers out from the side of the bed. Time to leave.
There seemed to be something painfully symbolic about it, but he tried to push it from his mind. Leaning down to pick up the styrofoam cup from under what had been his chair for the past too-many hours, and adjusting the curtain around Phoenix's bed, allowing him at least some privacy, he looked once again at him. "Why do you do these things to yourself?" he asked aloud, unsure even after the statement if he was talking to himself or the man in the bed in front of him.
He leaned across, tucking in the sheets, noticing that Phoenix had slipped again out of consciousness. At least he'd gotten to speak to him, even if things had just gotten more complicated. And time consuming. And...
He looked down at the sleeping, now-peaceful face of his friend, and brushed his hair back away from his eyes. Phoenix's hair didn't fall like that-- sickness and sleep and sweat had shifted him around, altered his appearance, changed him.
He leaned in and kissed him lightly on the forehead, unsure as to the context of the gesture-- was it friendly, was it platonically loving-- or was it a goodbye?-- he didn't know any more.
Reaching into his pocket, he felt the badge at his fingertips and with a last glance at Wright, and a muttered "Get well soon," he strode from the room.
He had phonecalls to make and a promise to keep.