Phoenix followed Larry down the hallway of the prosecutors' building, feeling out of place. His defense attorney's badge might have had something to do with that; he felt like the small golden gleam on the lapel of his blue suit's jacket drew the eyes of everyone they passed by. The raised eyebrows that followed, though, probably had more to do with his friend's ratty yellow jacket - defense attorneys did sometimes visit prosecutors at work, it was true, but they didn't usually do so with someone dressed like Larry.
Probably they think he's a witness, or maybe a defendant, Phoenix thought as he punched the "up" button for the elevator.
An interminably long elevator ride, shared with a woman wearing a beehive hairdo and an icy glare, finally brought them to the twelfth floor. The woman made a disapproving noise as they exited, and another when they stopped outside of Office 1202.
Larry threw the door open and strode into the prosecutor's office without hesitation. Phoenix Wright hung back in the hallway of the prosecutor's office, cringing as he imagined Edgeworth's response to this breach in manners.
"Come on, Edgey, we're going to be late!" Larry announced to the room at large.
Miles Edgeworth looked up from his paperwork with a frown. His desk, normally tidy, was strew with paperwork, and his jacket – burgundy today, a little darker than what he usually wore - was folded over the back of his chair. "Do you not believe in knocking, Larry?"
"Awww, Edgey!" Larry didn't sound particularly ashamed. "You said yesterday you'd have lunch with us. I gotta introduce you to my new girlfriend!"
Edgeworth sighed. "I suppose Wright is there, too?"
Phoenix stepped into the room enough so that the prosecutor could see him, and waved sheepishly. "Hi, Edgeworth."
Edgeworth sighed, rubbing his temples. "I just got back from court. Please allow me to finish my notes before we depart."
"Aw, but Edgey-"
Phoenix took his sandy-haired friend by the arm and tugged. "Let's wait in the hall. He'll get done faster if we aren't distracting him."
Edgeworth appeared from his office twenty minutes later, just as Larry had cajoled Phoenix into trying to make a basket with the basketball hoop someone had placed outside the office next to Edgeworth's.
"Stick to practicing law, Wright," Edgeworth told him as his first shot rebounded embarassingly off the backboard.
Phoenix grinned awkwardly at Edgeworth, who snorted. The prosecutor maybe have left his papers behind, but he hadn't exactly left his work behind, too; his forehead still bore tense creases.
"Rough case?" Phoenix asked him as they made their way down the stairs without Larry ("You guys are crazy, I'm taking the elevator!") to the parking garage below the Prosecutors' Office.
"Very," Edgeworth admitted after a hesitating for half a flight. "Not a murder, thankfully, but it was a pretty brutal assault – a mugging. There's no denying the defendant did it, but the defense is trying everything she can to trivialize the crime and push for a reduced sentence." Edgeworth ran a hand through his hair. "On the first day, she argued that the victim was asking for it, that her client was provoked after the victim..." his voice turned harsh, his lip curled in disgust, "humiliated him by flirting with him. Yesterday morning, she tried what the press has since named the 'Snackoo defense'."
"The Snackoo Defense?"
Edgeworth sighed heavily. "The defense is arguing diminished capacity, as evidenced by the fact that the defendant had eaten ten bags of Snackoos earlier that day."
"Seriously? Because I know those things are bad for you, but... that's ridiculous."
"Indeed. But the judge let the trial go to a third day because of it." Edgeworth made an inarticulate noise of frustration.
They reached the parking level, where an impatient Larry prevented Phoenix from asking what the verdict had been. "Yo, Edgey, can we take your car?"
"You haven't said where you're taking us, Larry," Edgeworth reminded him, his voice tinged with impatience.
"Oh!" Larry scratched the back of his neck. "Right. Um, so, my new girl, she's a waitress at this French restaurant...forget the name...hmm... maybe..."
Phoenix shut his eyes. Please don't say Très Bien, please don't say Très Bien, please don't say Très Bien...
"Oh, I remember. Cafe le France or something."
Phoenix opened his eyes cautiously. "Not Très Bien?"
"Tray Be-in?" Larry tilted his head, considering. "No, don't think so. Anyway, she works the lunch shift there today, and I promised her I'd introduce her to my best buds!" He beamed.
"And where is this restaurant?" Edgeworth prodded.
"Um, it's on Palm Street, about three blocks west of the park, the one with all the fruit..." Larry scratched his head. "Oh, yeah, Vitamin Park."
Phoenix groaned. Edgeworth tilted his head in wordless inquiry.
"I had a case that brought me there in January," Phoenix mumbled. "I'll tell you about it later."
"Is it walking distance?" Edgeworth asked.
"Uh, not really?" Larry said hopefully.
Phoenix shook his head. "It's walkable. I went to that park from the detention center enough times..."
Edgeworth fixed Larry with a stern look.
Larry pouted. "Aw, man, but you have such a nice car..."
"But it's such a nice day for a walk," Edgeworth replied, heading briskly toward the pedestrian exit.
It was a nice day for a walk, Phoenix thought as he walked alongside Larry, Edgeworth half a pace behind them. But then, April was always a particularly good month in Los Angeles – not too hot yet, but the chilly evenings of winter were past. The sun was gently warming on his shoulders, and the air was clear thanks to last night's unseasonable rain. The colors in the shopfronts and passer-bys clothes all seemed bright and cheerful in the sunlight, the bustle of the city around them friendly and welcoming.
As Larry nattered on about his girlfriend's numerous and varied charms (apparently she liked to bake), Phoenix glanced over at Edgeworth. The prosecutor wasn't actually frowning, but the set of his jaw was tight and his eyes, brow furrowed, seemed focused on the sidewalk. Too bad he won't relax enough to enjoy the weather, Phoenix thought to himself. Then again, I'm not sure I could, either, if I had a trial hanging over my head...
They passed a box dispensing the local tabloid, and Edgeworth flinched visibly, wrenching his gaze upwards. He did mention the press before. I wonder... Phoenix broke off the thought as he realized Edgeworth had noticed his gaze. The prosecutor raised an eyebrow, and Phoenix flashed him an awkward grin and turned back to Larry, who was still talking about cookies.
"... and then last week, she put blue sugar sprinkles on them... oh, hey, we're almost there!"
With growing trepidation, Phoenix realized they were approaching the all-too-familiar building that had housed Très Bien. To complete his horror, Larry did not walk past, but instead turned and ambled towards the door.
"Here we are! La Cafe Fransis!" Larry announced with pride. "The fine French restaurant where the love of my life works!"
"That would be Le Café Français," Edgeworth corrected automatically, then stopped, peering at the sign. "Although the sign seems to have the wrong article."
Phoenix looked more carefully at the sign. It read "La Café Français". There was also a sign in the window bearing the comforting words "Under nouveau ownership!"
Larry opened the door, the other two men following behind him. As Phoenix stepped into the restaurant, Edgeworth stopped mid-stride beside him, stiffening. Phoenix couldn't blame him; apparently the new owner hadn't bothered to redecorate, and the interior of the restaurant was still painful to behold. The gaudy pink and yellow floral wallpaper was probably even more of an offense to Edgeworth's sense of aesthetics than to his own.
A glance towards the dining area revealed that – horror of horrors – the new owner had elected to hang a large mirror to separate the two rows of tables. It was bad enough imagining it during the trial. Seeing it in real life... Phoenix shuddered. The horrible thing was suspended from the ceiling by flower-dotted chains and wobbled slightly as a waitress hurried past, making the lacy tablecloths and dotted pink chairs it reflected waver nauseatingly.
"My god, it's hideous," Edgeworth breathed. Then he shook himself and stepped forward, releasing the door to swing shut behind him.
Not wanting to be caught in the closing door, Phoenix stepped forward and promptly barked his shin on a low cabinet painted with pink flowers. There was a clink and a clatter, and he looked down to see a collection of sea-blue bottles rolling off one of the shelves.
Hadn't the cabinet held tacky tchotchkes last time he'd been here? Not that it mattered, and there was something uncomfortably familiar about the small blue bottles. The defense attorney hurriedly bent to return the scattered collection to their rightful place on the shelf. They fit rather awkwardly on the top shelf; the shelf below held an assortment of newspapers. One had been folded open to the local section, where a black-and-white image of Edgeworth glared in the direction of the witness stand. Looks like Edgeworth's getting in the papers again.
Ahead of them, Larry was waving at a waitress. "Yo, baby, it's me!"
The uniform hadn't changed at all, either, Phoenix realized with detached horror as the young woman hurried toward them. Although unlike Maya and Maggey, this waitress wore an astonishing number of necklaces, bracelets, and a single pair of very long, dangley earrings. She was blonde, like most of Larry's girlfriends.
"Larry!" The woman's brown eyes were warm and friendly. "You came! Are these the friends you've been telling me about?"
Larry spread his arms dramatically. "Exactly, baby! These are my friends, Nick and Edgey."
"You two are lawyers, right?" she asked, retrieving three menus from behind the coffee. Her bracelets clanked with the motion. "Please don't sue me if I spill coffee!" she added with a wink.
"I'm, um, a defense attorney, actually," Phoenix said awkwardly. "I only do criminal trials. We don't bring civil suits. I'm Phoenix Wright."
The waitress clapped her hands together, bracelets jangling. "Pleased to meet you!"
Edgeworth stepped forward. "My name is Miles Edgeworth." He bowed. "A pleasure to meet you, Ms...?"
"I'm Donna Baubles! But call me Donna." She curtsied, her jewelry swaying violently with the movement. "I'm glad to finally meet you both, Welcome to La Cafay Fransis!"
"Le Café Français," Edgeworth muttered under his breath.
Larry beamed at her. "Thanks, babe!"
Donna beamed back, her earings winking in the light.
Edgeworth cleared his throat.
"Table for three, right?" Donna asked after an awkward pause. "Let's get you seated!"
"Isn't she great?" Larry asked them, after Donna had seated them at one of the tables against the wall, and promised to return with two coffees and a tea.
Edgeworth made a noncommittal noise and opened his menu.
"She seems to really like you," Phoenix offered cautiously. "How did you meet?"
"Oh, man, it was totally fate!" Larry announced dramatically, and launched into a complicated story involving his most recent ex, three beers, a tank of goldfish, and a very powerful magnet. Used to these sorts of tales, Phoenix listened with half an ear as he studied the menu, offering "mm-hmm" and "ahh" and "too bad" as appropriate when Larry took a breath or paused for a response. The new owner may have kept everything else about the place the same, but the menu was blessedly unfamiliar.
Across from him, Edgeworth glared at the menu and muttered darkly to himself. "What sort of restaurant is this?" the prosecutor asked, exasperated, when Larry had finally concluded his tale.
"Um, French, basically, like I said before," Larry responded, not in the least perturbed.
"This is not a French restaurant," Edgeworth insisted, gesturing at the menu. "I have been in French restaurants before. I have eaten French cuisine many times. And I have to say that I have never run across a dish called 'tamales escargot'."
Phoenix returned to his own study of the menu with growing alarm. He'd been thinking of ordering the filet mignon verde, described in the menu as "an authentic mingling of tender beef and tomatilos" but maybe that was not such a good idea. Jean Armstrong was still in jail for obstruction of justice, so the chef had to be different, but...
"Oh, that! Well, Donna says the chef was experimenting. Trying some French-Korean fusion."
Edgeworth sighed. "Tamales are traditionally Latin and Southern American cuisine."
"Well, it's experimental," Larry responded, sounding hurt. "Give it a chance, Edgey. Donna works her heart out here!"
"My apologies," Edgeworth responded stiffly. "I meant no disrespect to her."
"Hmph, all right, apology accepted," Larry said, then brightened as his girlfriend arrived, bringing their drinks. "Donna-baby, I'll have the lunch special!"
She beamed at him. "Sure! One Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Au Provence with pommes fritz!"
Edgeworth winced noticeably, at the Californiaized French or the the dish, Phoenix wasn't certain.
Donna turned to the others, necklaces swaying. "How about you, Mr. Edgey, Mr. Nick?"
Edgeworth looked horrified at being called "Mr. Edgey", but recovered swiftly and put in an order for une Salade d'Endives, Noix et Roquefort.
Donna looked at him blankly. "I'm sorry, could you repeat that? I don't think there's anything on the menu like that."
The prosecutor repeated his order more slowly, pointing to the item on the menu.
"Oh! You want the salad dever nocksy rockford. I'm sorry, I'll make sure to bring it right away."
Edgeworth's look was one of polite horror. "Yes, thank you," he managed in a strangled tone.
Phoenix ordered a Caesar salad, hoping that even Jean Armstrong couldn't have messed it up. Donna took their menus and hurried to the kitchen, knocking into the hanging mirror again and setting it swinging.
"So, that's my girl!" Larry beamed. "Isn't she something? She's a graphic designer too – made all of the signs for the restaurant!"
"You two seem very... happy together," Phoenix offered awkwardly. "She seems nice."
"Yup! Say, how are things going with you and you-know-who?"
Phoenix rubbed the back of his neck, trying to banish the sudden mental picture of a certain shy nun of the Kurain tradition. "I have no idea who you're talking about, Larry."
"You know. Iris! That babe from Hazukura, who turned out to be your college girlfriend." He waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "How's that going?"
Phoenix felt his face redden."Um, well, she's still in prison, but I've visited a couple times and written her some letters..." He raised his coffee cup to his mouth, an excuse to postpone providing further details.
"Any conjugal visits?"
It was a good thing he hadn't actually taken a sip yet, or the table and Edgeworth across from him would've gotten a coffee shower. "Larry, please!"
"You know I'm just kidding! But I'm glad you two are back together." And Larry did, actually, sound glad.
Phoenix bite back an automatic denial. He and Iris... well, they weren't exactly together, but it wasn't honest to say there was nothing there, either. "It's more complicated than that," he mumbled. I've spent the past five years trying not to think about it, and Iris spent the past five years drowning in guilt. Every time we talk she looks like she wants to apologize.
Larry grinned reassuringly. "It'll work out. She's good for you, Nick." He turned to Edgeworth, who was looking mildly amused at Phoenix's discomfort. "She really is! She was his first girlfriend."
"...no, she wasn't," Phoenix corrected with a sigh, but he didn't mind too much. This was a chance to get them off the subject of Iris, at any rate. "My first girlfriend was Nicole. I know you remember her, we all went to prom together."
"High school doesn't count unless you Did It," Larry asserted smugly, folding his arms. Then he looked worried. "Er... you didn't actually Do It, did you?"
Phoenix gave him a pained look. "We were in high school." When Larry's worried look didn't so much as flicker, he added, "That means no."
"Then it doesn't count," Larry responded with a triumphant gesture. "So! Like I was saying, Dahlia-Iris-whatever was his first girlfriend. His first real girlfriend," he added quickly as Phoenix started to object again. "You shoulda seen them in college, Edgey. Nick was head-over-heels for her, and she for him. It was almost disgusting how cute they were together! It was a lot like at the trial back in February. You saw it, he was totally out of his mind for her."
Phoenix groaned. "I was out of my mind on codeine and a fever. And on just-having-fallen-off-a-bridge, thank you very much."
"Only you, Wright, would have tried to cross a burning bridge in the first place," Edgeworth informed him smugly.
Phoenix folded his arms and fixed each of his friends with a deliberately cross look. Edgeworth smirked in response. So glad my humiliation has put him in a better mood.
Larry apparently decided he hadn't embarrassed Phoenix enough. "So, like I was saying, they're perfect for each other!You know, Edgey, before he dated Iris, Nick actually thought he was gay?"
Edgeworth raised an eyebrow and leaned back in his seat, his arms folded. "Did he now?" His smirk had vanished.
"I did not!" Phoenix objected weakly, feeling like a pit had suddenly opened up in his stomach. "I was -"
Larry shook his head. "Nick, you practically dated that guy in college."
"...I did date that guy in college, Larry." Phoenix ran a hand through his hair in frustration. How many times had he tried to explain to Larry? It didn't look like it was going to be any more successful this time, and he didn't exactly want to get into it in public, no matter how empty the restaurant was. "That's not what I'm-"
Larry elbowed Edgeworth. "See? Nick was totally confused. Thought he was into dudes!"
"I wasn't confused!"
"..and now he's dating the lovely Ms. Hawthorne! See!" Larry beamed. "Straight as an arrow now. You should've seen him macking on Dessy DeLite a few months ago. And she was even married!"
Edgeworth's mouth set into a thin line.
"I wasn't hitting on her!" Phoenix said, embarrassment and frustration giving way to anger. "And for the last time, I wasn't-"
"You totally were, you sly dog!" Larry elbowed him, then turned back to Edgeworth. "He totally was macking on her."
Phoenix buried his face in his hands. "Forget it. I am not having this conversation with you." And definitely not in front of Edgeworth, he added mentally, after a glance at the prosecutor's stoney expression.
Belatedly sensing the tense atmosphere, Larry changed the subject with his usual lack of subtlety. "So, Edgey, watched any good movies lately?"
The "Snackoo Defense" mentioned by Edgeworth has an analog in our world: the "Twinkie Defense". That was the name given by the press to an argument put forth by the defense in the trial of Daniel White for the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. It's usually incorrectly interpreted as "the defense said White committed the crime because he ate too many Twinkies". Edgeworth gets it right here: the defense was arguing that it was a symptom of diminished capacity.
The food arrived, eventually. At least you can call it food, Phoenix reflected, picking unexplained olives out of the limp bed of iceberg lettuce that he supposed was his Caesar salad. I'm still not sure I like paying money for it, though. He glanced over to see how his friends were reacting to their food. Larry had dug in cheerfully and was eating with many appreciative noises and gestures. Edgeworth stared at his plate for a long moment without comment, before picking up a fork and eating mechanically with his usual fastidious manners.
Phoenix was a bit surprised by this. Miles Edgeworth had been very picky about his food back in the fourth grade, and after the man's grousing over the menu, Phoenix was pretty sure this restaurant was not up to the prosecutor's standards. Maybe von Karma had taught him to always eat his vegetables or clean his plate?
The mental image of young Miles and a younger Franziska sulking over their Brussels sprouts while von Karma loomed from the shadows made Phoenix grin with guilty amusement. He probably shouldn't find it so funny, given the history there, but...
"Something amusing, Wright?"
Oops, Edgeworth had caught him again, and the prosecutor looked irritated. "I was just thinking about when I came here with Maya," he fudged, casting about for a story to tell. "She, um, decided she wanted to work as a waitress, and... well..." Out of the side of his vision, he saw a man in white approaching their table, and trailed off in relief at the impending distraction. "Oh, look, is that the chef coming?"
By the white uniform and puffy hat, it was. "Good afternoon! I hope you are enjoying your meal."
Phoenix looked up at the man, and nearly choked on a crouton. "Jean Armstrong?"
The chef looked surprised. "Jean? Oh, you know the previous owner?"
Phoenix stared back, blinking. He certainly looked a lot like Jean, superficially. But a second look told him it was just that - superficial. Sure, there was the carefully-trimmed goatee and mustache and the curled hair, but they were all brown, and his face had no traces of Jean's heavy rouge and eyeshadow. The build was different, too – Jean had been equal parts muscle and plumpness, but from the look of things this chef was far more into sampling his own cooking than bodybuilding.
I hope he's not into aromatherapy as well... Phoenix thought with a mental shudder. "Yes, I knew him. Are you...?"
The chef's eyes flickered across the group, and he grinned suddenly, showing a mouthful of gleaming white teeth. "I am ze new owner, you see," he said, a full octave higher and with a sudden heavy accent. "So, my 'andsome gentlemen, how are you liking la cuisine?"
"I beg your pardon?"
The chef smiled widely and leaned forward. "Oh, where are my manners? Pierre LeBoeuf, at your service." He curtsied. "I am la chef at this restaurant, and la new owner!"
Larry grinned and gave him a thumbs up. "The food's great! I'm Larry, by the way. My girl Donna's the waitress here, you know!"
"Oh, so you are dear Donna's ami of la coeur, n'est-ce pas? I am, how you say, jealous!" He clasped his hands under his chin and fluttered his eyelashes. "Perhaps one of these other 'andsome hommes will fall in love with me?" His eyes turned to Edgeworth and narrowed, the corners of his mouth twitching. "Ohh, M'seur Le Prosecutor! Perhaps you have already fallen for this delicate flower," he simpered. "I am a bad, bad girl, making all the men fall in la amour with me!"
Edgeworth made a strangled noise, quickly suppressed. Phoenix glanced over at his friend. Although the prosecutor's face was impassive, almost bored, he was gripping the edge of the table, his knuckles white. "I do believe you are mistaken."
"La apologies! It is clear you already are having someone else! Although..." he put a hand to his mouth and giggled, then lowered his voice. "If he is ever leaving you, I hope you will give moi a second look, yes?" The look on his face was nothing short of predatory.
"Excuse me." Edgeworth's tone could've frozen boiling water. "I'm not going to put up with this nonsense any longer." He stood up abruptly, his chair falling over behind him.
"Dude! Edgey, chill! You almost knocked me out of my seat!" Larry complained as the furious prosecutor stormed past. "Whoa, where are you going?"
The only response he got was the bang of the door as it swung shut behind the departing prosecutor.
"I'll go talk to him," Phoenix told him, tossing a few tens on the table and hoping that covered the bill. Well, if it didn't, Larry could pay it, since it was his bright idea to bring them here... "Stay here, I'll be back."
He ran to the door, barking his shin on the tchotchkie cabinet again as he passed. From the clatter that followed it seemed the bottles spilled once more, but he didn't so much as pause. Once outside, he looked around until he saw the familiar burgundy suit. The prosecutor was walking rapidly down the sidewalk away from the restaurant.
"Edgeworth! Wait!" Phoenix ran after him, wincing with every step.
Edgeworth's shoulders tightened, but he continued walking. Phoenix caught up, and fell in beside him, limping slightly.
"Edgeworth, what's wrong? That's not like you." You're more one to silence someone with a frosty glare, or a sharp retort... "And you didn't pay your bill."
Edgeworth started walking faster. "Larry can pay. This was his idea, and I refuse to patronize an establishment with such disregard for its customers."
"Oh, come on, the food wasn't that bad..."
"I wasn't talking about the food. I was talking about that display." There was a venom in the prosecutor's voice that shocked Phoenix.
I have a really bad feeling about this. Phoenix swallowed, and pushed back the suspicions forming in the back of his mind. "Um. Well, I guess he was a bit..." Phoenix looked at Edgeworth, searching for an adjective that might redirect the conversation, might disprove his suspicions. "He was a bit French, wasn't he?"
Edgeworth continued to look straight ahead as he walked. "Wright, I have been to France. I am fluent in the language. Believe me, the man was not French."
"How can you be so sure? Maybe he was just from a different part of the country than you visited, maybe he's from Quebec-" Phoenix rationalized rapidly.
"It wasn't just his accent," Edgeworth responded through gritted teeth. "His French wasn't grammatically correct – he repeatedly used the wrong article."
"The wrong what?"
"The wrong definite article. It's the difference between el and la in Spanish. El plátano, la manzana." He gestured curtly ahead of them, where a banana-shaped seesaw sat alongside a looming fiberglass-and-metal apple slide. They'd reached Vitamin Square, which was opposite the way they'd come. Phoenix had just been following Edgeworth; apparently the other man had been too angry to care which way he was going, so long as it got him away from the restaurant.
Recollections from high school Spanish bubbled up belatedly. Banana was masculine, apple was feminine."Oh. Well, so maybe he wasn't actually French." He peered at Edgeworth as their feet shushed over the park's dry brown grass. "Is that really what was bothering you? His grammar?"
Edgeworth stopped short in the shadow of the apple-slide. He stayed facing away from Phoenix, his arms folded. "No, and I believe you know precisely what the problem was. As Larry reminded me," his tone darkened, "you're not so naïve."
Phoenix flinched. Looks like my bad feeling was on the mark. "So he was a little...flamboyant," he allowed, surprisingly calm given the bottom of his stomach had dropped out. He continued coaxingly. "So what? It doesn't do any harm."
"Doesn't do any harm?" Edgeworth's hands tightened convulsively on his sleeve. "The only way he could've packed more stereotypes into five minutes is if he'd... if he'd minced out lisping and wearing a rainbow boa!"
"Calm down! It's... don't let it be a big deal."
Edgeworth rounded on him, furious. "What's it matter to you, Wright? You're not really gay," the prosecutor spat.
"What?" Phoenix felt the world around him shrink, until it was just him and Edgeworth's words ringing deafeningly in his ears, and the truth that he had been dodging, trying to deny all this time. The disapproval in Edgeworth's face when Larry mentioned his college boyfriend, the disgust and anger at the chef's blatant come-ons... And last November, the dismissive response when Phoenix had shared something that shouldn't've been a big deal but somehow still was, even though Stonewall and Harvey Milk were monuments from the previous century, even though Lawrence v. Texas was more than a decade ago.
"...had a boyfriend in college." Phoenix rubbed the back of his head nervously. He probably could've picked a better time and place for this particular revelation than Edgeworth's office and in the middle of an investigation, but once the conversation had gone down this road there was no way to avoid this without feeling like he was lying. He swallowed. "And, um. I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'm bisexual."
Edgeworth stopped writing, but didn't look up. "Is this important, Wright?" he asked impatiently.
"Important?" Phoenix blinked. He wasn't sure what reaction he'd expected, but it wasn't that one. "Well, I guess it came up by accident, but you're my friend, and I thought you should know at some point."
"Then I see no reason to discuss this further." Edgeworth resumed marking the case report on his desk before he even finished speaking. "As I said before, I'm too busy to chitchat. Good luck with your case, Wright."
He'd filed away the incident as another example of Edgeworth's difficulty with personal conversation, but in context of the other events today, it was abundantly clear that the prosecutor's disregard went deeper. Phoenix inhaled, although it was difficult. His heart was thundering in his ears, nausea boiled in his gut, and his chest heaved, lungs expanding and compressing irregularly, like a broken clockwork device. "You're. Saying. That just. Because. I..." He took several deep, shuddering breaths, fighting to regain control of his respiration. "Just because I'm dating a woman, I shouldn't care that you're pitching a homophobic fit?" His voice rose at the end in pitch and volume, like bubbles rising in a boiling pot.
"Homophobic?"Edgeworth reeled back as if he'd been physically struck. "Wright, have you lost your mind? I'm saying that... with the chef... it doesn't affect you!"
"So I'm just supposed to ignore your bigoted tirade? Because it's not aimed at me, but someone else, it doesn't affect me? And anyway, I'm not straight."
"You might as well be! So long as you're with Ms. Hawthorne, no one will ever know otherwise!" Edgeworth thundered, slamming the fiberglass apple with an open palm. The blow echoed throughout the park as the prosecutor continued in frigid tones. "No one's going to be judging you personally or professionally by the conduct of that sorry excuse for a chef! If you're mugged, your attacker's attorney won't cite ridiculous stereotypes as a reason why he should be let off with a slap on the wrist!" He punctuated the last word with another blow against the apple, one that set the metal slide shaking. Deep, fluctuating booms rolled throughout the park as Phoenix stared at the prosecutor.
"Mugger? What the hell are you talking about?" he demanded. "The chef didn't do anything to you, other than make you uncomfortable. He certainly didn't threaten you with violence!"
Edgeworth held his breath and lowered his hand, bringing it across his chest to grasp the other arm in a familiar, defensive gesture. He took three slow, even breaths.
"He was mocking me." Edgeworth turned his back. "We're done talking, Wright."
Phoenix sagged against the slide, feeling his anger peter out, creasing and folding into a general feeling of wretchedness enveloping him like a crumpled suit. "I guess I thought you were better than this, Edgeworth."
The prosecutor didn't move, the back of his jacket and hair forming a burgundy-and-silver wall that shook and shuddered each time he breathed.
Phoenix turned and walked away, stumbling and slightly blinded by the hot blur of tears welling up in the corners of his eyes. His banged shin, forgotten in the argument, was throbbing.
Phoenix made it back to his office, eventually. There was a stack of reports to be sorted, and a few calls from potential clients to follow up on, but he didn't like doing paperwork on the best of days, and taking a case meant he might be seeing Edgeworth in court. Phoenix didn't feel like seeing anyone else, either, so it was just as well that Maya was up in Kurain this week.
He flinched away from the list of phone numbers and instead booted up his computer. He frowned at his web browser's icon and the folder of reports he was typing up.
The rest of the afternoon consisted of losing repeatedly at FreeCell. The phone rang several times, but he let it go to voicemail. Once, around four o'clock, he checked to see what the number was. It wasn't anyone he knew. He turned away from the display, wishing he could just fling the damn thing across the room.
It was just before noon when he stumbled into his office the next day. He'd been up half the night running over what he'd said, what Edgeworth had said, which did nothing but drum in the fact that Edgeworth had a problem with gay people, and somehow believed this shouldn't matter to Phoenix. He engaged in imaginary arguments, laying out impeccable refutations to Edgeworth's real and imagined comments on everything from the chef's behavior at the restaurant to gay rights in the twenty-first century.
It didn't particularly help.
He turned off his alarm clock when it went off, already awake half an hour before and running in mental circles. In the end Phoenix got out of bed and had breakfast in order to have something to do.
Once in the office, he checked his voicemail and took down notes. There were three messages from a terrified college student who'd gotten a parking ticket and thought he needed an attorney for traffic court, a prank call from a giggling girl who sounded like she was in middle school, asking him if he knew Mr. Wrong, and one from an incredibly distraught Larry.
Dude, where did you go? I had to pay the rest of your bill, and I didn't exactly have enough money, so Donna had to spot me! She was totally annoyed with me, she canceled our date for tonight and I'm afraid she's going to break up with me now, and it's all your fau-
Phoenix sighed, and pressed 7. “Message skipped,” the automated voice informed him. “Play next message?”
Sorry, Larry, I'll be there to give you sympathy and a pat on the back, just as soon as I get my own 'break-up' sorted out.
Break-up. Ha. As if Edgeworth would ever date me.
He was seized with a sudden desire to make a profile on some online gay dating site, just to prove to Edgeworth and the world that he wasn't straight, that his history (and tenuous present) with Iris didn't mean he couldn't appreciate an attractive man, either.
He didn't, though. He'd never been very good at the sort of self-promotion that a profile would require, and honestly the thought of any sort of casual relationship made him squirm. And anyway, Edgeworth wasn't the first to accuse him of turning straight. Neither was Larry, although 'accuse' was hardly the word to use there.
After some brooding and three lost games of FreeCell, he returned the college student's call, leaving what he hoped was a reassuring message. He then proceeded to play the next round of phone tag with the prospective clients he'd meant to call yesterday. He'd just finished the last when the phone rang of its own accord.
“Nick!” Larry's voice was amazingly enthusiastic, given how heartbroken he'd sounded the day before.
Maybe he's already found a new girlfriend? Although I think that would be a record, even for Larry. “Hello, Larry. What's up?”
“I figured it out!” The enthusiasm in his voice was at a level usually reserved for reporting on his latest girlfriend or career change, and when the Lakers won. “I figured out why Edgey was so upset!”
So did I. I wish I hadn't. “And that's why you're so happy?” Phoenix asked carefully.
“Well, sure! It means I solved the mystery,” Larry said cheerfully. “You're not gonna believe it, but Edgey went into a tizzy at the restaurant because of that trial the other day!”
Phoenix felt weary. And here I hoped Larry had some big revelation that I'd missed. “You're right, I don't believe it,” he said sourly, and a little unfairly. “Not without evidence.”
“I knew you'd say that.” Larry was smug. “Uh, do you have today's paper?”
“The Times Gazette?” Phoenix asked as he reached across the desk for his copy. “Yeah, I do.”
“Turn to page thirteen. BAM! There's your evidence!”
With a sigh, Phoenix flipped to the specified page, holding the phone between his shoulder and face to free up his hands. It wasn't long before he found what what Larry was almost certainly referring to.
'SNACKOO DEFENSE' FAILS; MUGGING TRIAL ENDS WITH WIN FOR PROSECUTION
April 15, 2019, by M. Hayami
Public prosecutor Miles Edgeworth has won his third consecutive trial after his reinstatement one week ago.
“The article on the Snackoo defense, right? Reinstatement?” Phoenix asked, baffled. “Was Edgeworth suspended from practicing law?”
“No idea! Anyway, it's not important – I mean, Objection!” Larry shouted, then laughed. “Dude, this is fun. Anyway, just keep reading.”
The defendant, Pete E. Thugg, was found guilty on misdemeanor charges of battery. Thugg was initially charged with robbery and felony battery, however, Defense Attorney Gretta Imoff argued persuasively that Thugg had been acting in response to a perceived threat to his safety, and on the second day Judge agreed to consider reduced charges. The victim, Jonathan Dough, was still in the hospital at time of press and could not be reached for comment.
Although not a murder trial, the case drew considerable media attention after Ms. Imoff attempted to employ the 'Snackoo Defense'...
“I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be looking for,” Phoenix said slowly. “I see that the charges got reduced, but that's happened before. Edgeworth still won the trial.”
“Towards the end!”
“Okay, okay...” Phoenix skimmed the article until a name caught his eye. “Wait, LeBoeuf? They called a witness named Lance LeBoeuf?”
“Yeah! And Donna's boss, he's Pierre LeBoeuf!” Larry was audibly grinning. “So I figure, you know how Edgey always has trouble getting witnesses to say their name and job and stuff? I bet the chef's last name reminded him of the witness giving him a hard time in court, and that's why he pitched a fit,” Larry concluded triumphantly. “So, Mr. Attorney, what do you think of my skills of investigative deduction?”
“I'm... speechless, Larry,” Phoenix said, still reading the article. Lance LeBoeuf, a friend of Mr. Thugg, was called as a witness on the first day, and provided key testimony. Although there were several witnesses, Mr. LeBoeuf was the only one who could prove the defense's claim that Mr. Dough was the one who first approached Mr. Thugg, making unwanted romantic overtures. Prosecutor Edgeworth made repeated calls to have Mr. LeBoeuf's testimony dismissed as unreliable and irrelevant, and the witness was held in contempt of court for making personal attacks on the prosecution, but ultimately the judge allowed his testimony to remain on the record.
“Larry, you're... you're actually right,” Phoenix said slowly.
He had a connection, now, between the trial that had been bothering Edgeworth, and the chef. He even had another reason for Edgeworth's reaction, too, although he still needed to be sure... He felt like he so often did in court, right when he was on the verge of solving the case and discovering the real murderer.
“I know! Isn't it awesome? Now I'm starting to think, hey, maybe I should become a lawyer like you and Edgey!”
A lawyer like Edgeworth... The chef had addressed Edgeworth as Monsieur the Prosecutor, even though Larry had introduced them both as lawyers to Donna. Still, there was another possibility... Has Edgeworth been to La Cafe Francais before?
“Nah, if he had, he wouldn't have made such a fuss over the menu,” Larry responded, and Phoenix realized he'd spoken aloud. “So, Nick, whadda you think of becoming partners, once I'm a lawyer like you?”
“I think that maybe you should,” try passing the bar, first, “call Edgeworth, and tell him how impressed I was with your deduction.” And then maybe he won't throw me out of his office if I go over to talk to him.
“Great idea! Hey, maybe I could be a prosecutor like Edgey?”
Phoenix flung up his hand in surrender, although of course the gesture was lost on Larry. “Ask him that too. Why not?”
“I will! Bye, Nick!”
“Goodbye, Larry,” Phoenix said, and hung up the phone.
He was still angry with Edgeworth, a bit, and thinking about the whole thing left him with a bruised feeling in his chest. Even if LeBoeuf were intentionally mocking the prosecutor, even if the whole exchange between the chef and Edgeworth had been about the trial and the chef's brother (or cousin, or whatever), that didn't excuse what else Edgeworth had said later.
But maybe, just maybe, this means that Edgeworth would... that he could...
An apology would be nice. Understanding would be even better.
Many thanks to Red Mage Jerry for correcting the charges leveled against Thugg in my first draft. Any remaining legal errors are my own; corrections are definitely welcome.
Phoenix walked to the Prosecutor's Office. This wasn't remarkable; he walked everywhere, or took public transportation, or a taxi. As he'd once explained to Maya, Los Angeles drivers were the reason he didn't drive in Los Angeles.
Today, he walked, not only because he didn't have a car, but because it made it easier for him to change his mind at any minute and head back to his office with no one the wiser, or to stop and visit Iris down at the Detention Center. And because if things went badly (although, really, could they get worse than they had been yesterday?) he could take out his feelings stomping on cement sidewalks, rather than driving aggressively and putting pedestrians at risk.
He didn't change his mind.
When he got to Edgeworth's office, Phoenix waited out in the hallway for a good fifteen minutes before knocking. This was not due to any uncertainty or internal struggle, but because Detective Gumshoe has disappeared through the door just as Phoenix had exited the elevator.
“Hey, pal!” Gumshoe greeted him as he exited Edgeworth's office. “Good to see you! Sorry I can't stay and chat, but Mr. Edgeworth's got me real busy today. I'm digging up all the records of unsolved muggings from the past year.”
Phoenix rubbed his chin. So Edgeworth was hard at work the day after the trial “Any reason?”
“Well...” Gumshoe looked around, then leaned in to whisper conspiratorially, “I think he's trying to see if any of them were committed by Pete Thugg. I think Mr. Edgeworth figures that if he couldn't get him this time around, maybe he can catch him later.”
“Pete Thugg? The defendant from yesterday's trial?”
Gumshoe's expression darkened. “Yeah. That one.” He sighed. “Him and his friend, the one who said all those things to Mr. Edgeworth in court. Just between you and me, pal, I think Mr. Edgeworth's taking all of this pretty badly.”
So I've discovered. “I'll keep that in mind. Thanks, Detective Gumshoe.”
“No problem, pal. And,” Gumshoe brightened. “I'm sure he'll be happy that a friend stopped by to visit him. He's not good at showing it, but I know he's always cheered up by visitors!”
Cheered up by visitors? Are we talking about the same Miles Edgeworth, Phoenix wondered, but smiled. He waved as the detective proceeded down the hall, leaving him alone staring at Edgeworth's door.
Might as well get this over with, he thought, and wrapped his knuckles on the warm, dark wood of the door. The sliding plate bearing the number “1202” rattled slightly.
“Come in,” Edgeworth called, and Phoenix opened the door. “Gumshoe, did you forget som- Wright!” The prosecutor had been sitting at his desk, and stood up suddenly when he saw that the person entering his office was not the detective. He was wearing a lighter-colored suit than yesterday – closer to pink than yesterday's burgundy – although it was in the same style. As far as Phoenix could tell, the cravat was identical. “Why are you here?” the silver-haired prosecutor asked, carefully.
Phoenix froze in the doorway, jamming his hands into his pockets awkwardly. “I... wanted to talk, Edgeworth. About things from yesterday.” He braced himself for the piercing insult and withering glare typical of an irate Edgeworth.
Instead he got a tired sigh. “You might as well come in.” The prosecutor turned around and busied himself with something Phoenix couldn't see. “Have a seat on the sofa, if you like.”
Phoenix took a few hesitant steps into the room, the tapping of the soles of his shoes painfully loud on the wooden floor of Edgeworth's office. He advanced far enough to close the door, and stayed there, leaning against it. The door was reassuringly solid, and unlike the plush pink upholstery of Edgeworth's sofa, offered a quick escape.
“How do you take your tea, Wright?” Edgeworth asked, awkwardly.
I prefer coffee, Phoenix thought, but recognized that Edgeworth, as bad as ever at interpersonal relations, was trying to be welcoming. “Three sugars, please.”
Edgeworth made a disapproving noise – well, excuse me for not being classy enough – but from the faint clink of a stirring spoon against china, was making the tea to Phoenix's specifications. He turned around, teacup and saucer in hand, and his eyebrows pinched together worriedly when he saw Phoenix was still standing.
Oh, fine. Reluctantly Phoenix crossed over to the sofa, and sat. He'd sat on the sofa before, but even though the cushions were just the right balance between soft and firm, he had never found it comfortable. Sitting on the fine furniture made him feel awkward, like his suit was disheveled and ill-fitting.
But he sat anyway, taking the saucer and cup gingerly from Edgeworth, hoping he wouldn't break them. The prosecutor circled his desk and retrieved his own tea before joining Phoenix on the sofa. They sat side by side, a wide gap between them, looking straight ahead.
“Larry called me,” Edgeworth said without preamble. “It took some work, but I gradually managed to extract the essential facts of the situation from him. I trust you understand better, now, why I was so certain the chef was mocking me?” His eyes flickered worriedly over at Phoenix.
Phoenix nodded. “Yeah.” He sipped his tea, feeling like his hand was too large and clumsy to properly hold fine china. “I do.”
Edgeworth sipped his tea, the cup graceful in his hand, and sighed. “I suppose... I owe you something of an apology,” he continued in halting tones. “I should not have lost my temper, and explained the situation more clearly. I suppose at the time I thought it was abundantly clear, but I hadn't mentioned the troublesome witness, so how could I expect you to know about him? Certainly, if our positions had been reversed.... Ha.” The laugh was short, full of self-mockery. “I should have realized what was wrong when you accused me of being...” there was a long pause, as if Edgeworth had trouble saying the word. “Homophobic.”
Phoenix took another sip of his tea, not really tasting it. “It wasn't just the... with the chef, you know.”
Edgeworth looked away. “I'm aware. I said some things... well, I was furious with the entire world at that point. The chef, of course, and his brother; the defense attorney, for trying to dismiss a premeditated mugging just because the victim happened to be... the judge for buying such bilge-water...” He signed heavily. “And of course myself, for failing to obtain justice for Mr. Dough.”
The victim. Right. Phoenix nodded and took a long swallow of tea. It was disgustingly sweet, and it was all he could do to keep a look of disgust off his face. A verbal expression of disgust, “urgh,” he didn't quite manage to suppress.
Edgeworth raised an eyebrow. “It's your fault for asking for three sugars, you realize.”
“I guess.” Phoenix carefully put the poisonously sweet tea on the floor. He stayed leaning forward, resting his forearms across his knees. “I understand why you were upset. I think you should know something else, though. The chef who used to be at that restaurant, Jean Armstrong... he actually behaved like that.”
Edgeworth blinked, taken aback. “The former chef? The one serving a prison term for obstruction of justice?”
Phoenix nodded. “Yeah, he was like that all the time, pretty much. It was a real pain to cross-examine him. But I don't think he was doing it to mock anyone, I think that's just the way he liked to present himself.” He studied the floor. “I was a theatre arts major, you know. So I've seen a lot of people who were...” He searched for a better word. “Flamboyant. Some of my close friends liked to be 'out, loud and proud'. You know?”
Edgeworth nodded slowly.
“So those stereotypes you were mad about...” Phoenix shifted his weight just so and raised his arm, letting his hand hang limp. “I knew someone who decided to talk like this,” he said, with a pronounced lisp. “For a whole year. Maybe it was dumb, maybe it fed the stereotypes, but... well, it made him happy.” He dropped the affected speech. “So... yeah.”
Edgeworth eyed him, lips pursed in mild disapproval. “You do that far too well.”
Phoenix reddened slightly, rubbing the back of his neck. “I told you, I was a theatre major.”
“Was...” Edgeworth hesitated for a long while. One could practically see him mulling over what he was going to say next, weighing each word carefully. “Was your... boyfriend also in theatre arts?”
Phoenix looked away, nodding slowly. He could feel the memory in the back of his mind, cold and hollow. “Yeah. He was. It made it pretty hard for us to avoid each other, once I started to date Dollie – er, Iris.”
“Bad breakup?” Edgeworth asked, then apparently thought better of it. “My apologies. It's none of my business,” he added quickly.
“No, that wasn't the trouble,” Phoenix said, sighing. “The problem was that I was dating a woman.” He let his voice turn hard on the last word, and saw Edgeworth flinch. Phoenix retrieved his disgusting tea, which had gone cold. He drank it anyway. “Guess he felt I was betraying him, or The Cause, or something.” There was a lump in his throat that the tea wouldn't wash away. “A lot of our friends thought that.”
There was a long silence, broken by a clink of china. Phoenix looked back; Edgeworth had set his teacup on its saucer, and was gazing reflectively up towards the ceiling.
“I believe I owe you a second apology, Wright,” he said eventually. “For the... other things I said yesterday. And thought.”
“I'd appreciate it,” Phoenix said, a little sourly, “If you could be a little more specific about this apology.”
Edgeworth flinched. All right, maybe that was a little much... no, actually, it wasn't.
The prosecutor ran a hand through his platinum hair. “It was... moderately amusing when Larry was teasing you about Ms. Hawthorne. But once he started talking about how you 'used to' be gay, all I could think was of how… of the victim, who doesn't have such a luxury of 'used to'.”
“Oh, god, Larry.” Phoenix buried his face in his hands. “Larry's mostly good about this sort of thing, actually. He's surprisingly nonjudgmental.” That was one of the reasons they were still friends after all these years, after all. “Didn't matter to him whether I was straight or gay. He just doesn't get... well. I've given up trying to explain to him that bisexual doesn't mean bigamous,” he finished with a sigh.
“That's Larry for you,” Edgeworth said reasonably. “And to be fair to him.... well, I know better, but I certainly wasn't letting that stop me from acting...”
“Like a prick?” Phoenix suggested.
Edgeworth rolled his eyes. “I'd put it less crudely, but yes. I let myself believe that you had it easy, that things shouldn't matter because you can pass for straight, but, as you have so clearly illustrated...” He looked to the side, one arm drawn across his chest to grasp the other in that familiar protective stance. “The reality is that it's not necessarily any easier for you than it is for me, is it? Just... different difficulties.”
Phoenix blinked. “For you? Wait, Edgeworth, are you saying...”
“What you think I am? Yes.” Edgeworth crossed his arms and leaned back, his embarrassment betrayed by the impatient tapping of the fingers of one hand on the opposite sleeve. “I never thought to tell you before, because frankly I didn't see it as important. And also, well,” he cleared his throat. “I've been told that it's pretty obvious.”
“Obvious?” Phoenix echoed.
Edgeworth gestured, the sweep of his arm encompassing the fastidiously tidy office, from the fine china tea set sitting shockingly white against deep rose curtains to the pink couch itself, and the whole of the man himself, in his neatly tailored rosy suit and immaculate white cravat.
“Oh. Oh.” Phoenix found himself chuckling, and then laughing outright. It wasn't that funny, but after all of the misery of the past day, the lack of sleep, the long, tense conversation over bad tea... well it was a relief have anything at all to laugh about.
“I really don't see what's so funny, Wright,” Edgeworth said dryly. “Really.”
“It's just... you've been complaining about gay stereotypes, Edgeworth. While wearing a pink suit.”
“It's dusky rose,” Edgeworth retorted. “Your tie is pink.”
Sincere thanks to FoxInTheStars, Suzume, and BobTheMole, all of whom gave greatly appreciated feedback on the first draft.