When Kristoph arrived, Phoenix was sitting on the bathroom floor - shirtsleeves rolled up, disheveled, head in his hands. He heard Kristoph pause at the door, then enter, leaning down slightly to peer at him. "I apologize for entering without an invitation... ...Are you ill?"
Phoenix shook his head. "Just tired," he mumbled. "Just very, very tired." More than the physical. The physical tiredness was the least of it.
"Then what are you doing on the bathroom floor?" Kristoph inquired.
Phoenix gestured vaguely towards the toilet. "Well, I was trying to fix the toilet... I've given up."
"Is that so...? What seems to be the problem?"
"Trucy was trying out a new magic trick," Phoenix explained. Usually, even her mishaps would make him smile, but not today. "It didn't go so well... She was trying to make a few of my ties disappear - she was trying to set a new record with silk scarves, but we couldn't afford any new ones, so she was using my ties. Not like I have much use for them working in retail..."
He paused, as Kristoph's hand alighted gently on his shoulder. He kind of wished Kristoph wasn't so open about his affection. It made things... confusing. "Do continue," Kristoph suggested.
"...Well, as it turned out, she couldn't get them all to fit in her hat as she planned," Phoenix sighed. "And since she was showing me this trick while I was shaving at the mirror there, she did what seemed like a convenient thing to do to make the trick work anyway, and..."
Kristoph got the picture. "Oh dear."
"You seem to think this is funny," Phoenix complained, looking up to see - yes, Kristoph looked as if he was trying not to laugh. Seeing that, Phoenix couldn't really help himself. "...Okay, so it is sort of funny," he admitted, starting to smile a little as well.
Kristoph allowed himself a chuckle. "I'm glad you agree - I'd be gravely concerned for your wellbeing if you couldn't laugh at a bit of, shall we say, potty humor?"
Phoenix nodded, but the smile faded. "But basically... this means I'm out a couple of ties, and we can't flush the toilet."
"All part of raising a child," Kristoph noted, somewhat ominously. "Just wait until she reaches the teenage years..."
"Oh, dear lord," Phoenix muttered, covering his eyes in exasperation. "I don't even want to think about what you must have gone through with your brother."
"Klavier has always been a good boy," Kristoph clarified. "He's just a bit unusual. No doubt the same will be true of Trucy."
"Absolutely - she's a great kid," Phoenix agreed. "But she's different, and those years are tough when you're different..."
"Indeed..." Kristoph's hand stroked over Phoenix's head lightly. "Perhaps we could continue this discussion somewhere other than your bathroom? I appreciate how clean you've kept it, but it's a bit cramped."
"Oh... yeah." Phoenix glanced around - an office bathroom really wasn't the best place for entertaining guests. Or for use as the sole bathroom for two people, for that matter. He shoved the negative thoughts to the back of his mind and got to his feet, wincing at his sore back muscles. "What brings you by, anyway?" he asked, as they returned to the office proper. "Something I should know about?" Most of the time, when Kristoph stopped by, there was a little glimmer of hope that rose in his chest, the idea that maybe Kristoph had found out something about the incident that had gotten him disbarred, that it could be reversed... Either he'd become jaded after so many false alarms, or his weekend really had been terrible, because he wasn't feeling hopeful at all at the moment.
Kristoph shook his head as they settled on the couch. "Nothing in particular - I found myself with a lighter caseload than I'd expected for a Monday, and thought I'd stop by to see how you were doing."
"Heh... not so well, obviously," Phoenix admitted, running his hands through his hair. He could still kind of feel where Kristoph had touched it, and it was disconcerting. "As well as can be expected, I guess, but it's been one of those days."
"Already?" Kristoph glanced at his watch. "It's hardly noon."
"My day started early." Thinking about it, Phoenix could hardly suppress a yawn. "Trucy had a nightmare, woke up crying about her mommy... I stayed up and talked to her and held her until she fell asleep again."
"Ah..." Kristoph offered a sympathetic nod.
"That's probably why she was trying out that trick earlier - she wanted to make me feel better the way I made her feel better. She really is an amazing kid - you still haven't met her yet, have you?" Phoenix realized abruptly. "You should drop by on the weekend sometime, or in the afternoon, after she's out of school."
"Actually, I did meet her once, briefly," Kristoph replied. "At the courthouse, during the... er, the incident." No need to be more specific than that.
"Ah, right." Kristoph had been in attendance at his brother's first trial, of course.
"A charming little girl, but no doubt a handful. Particularly for a single parent."
The words had precisely the opposite effect that one of Kristoph's visits usually had on Phoenix - his heart felt like it dropped into his stomach. "That's, uh... not exactly the case..." he reminded his friend.
Apparently, the fact that his protest was a little weaker today didn't escape Kristoph's notice. "...Don't tell me you still haven't told him..."
"Uhm... he knows," Phoenix admitted glumly. "But it wasn't me who told him. Someone tipped him off... probably Gumshoe."
"Judging from your expression," Kristoph observed, "I take it that conversation didn't go well."
"I didn't think it would - that's why I didn't tell him."
Kristoph's eyes widened slightly behind the glasses. "He doesn't believe you forged that evidence, does he?"
Phoenix shook his head. "No, but he's mad that he had to find out from someone else. He said he's faced inquiry committees before, and he could have helped if I'd just asked... He doesn't seem to understand that I just couldn't make myself explain to him. I couldn't say the words... so when he called..." Phoenix dropped his head into his hands again. "...I couldn't answer. I knew why he was calling, so I wouldn't pick up. And since I wouldn't pick up, he flew back to see me this weekend - in person, so I couldn't ignore him - and he got another big surprise, in the form of a little girl..."
"Oh, of course." Kristoph seemingly hadn't thought of that part of it. "If you hadn't discussed that trial and its outcome with him, of course he wouldn't know about the adoption. That's a rather big secret to keep from your partner."
"That's pretty much what he had to say about it."
Kristoph sighed, and rested a hand on Phoenix's back consolingly. "Is he still in town?"
Phoenix shook his head. "He flew back to Europe this morning. ...As far as I know." Phoenix willed Kristoph not to ask the obvious question.
Kristoph opted for the secondmost obvious. "So you didn't make up before he left."
"We'll sort through this eventually," Phoenix replied, stubborn. He wished he believed it. He also wished he could ignore the way Kristoph's thumb was rubbing in little circles on his back through his thin shirt, but he couldn't.
"If you're both committed, and willing to work at it, I'm sure you will," Kristoph said mildly.
Which would be the problem. There was another factor that Phoenix hadn't discussed with Miles, which was... well, it mostly boiled down to the fact that he was having trouble ignoring Kristoph's light, fond touches, which were growing more and more frequent. He supposed he really did have to say something. "...Kristoph... I'm not single."
Could he really not see the problem there? "And the way you're touching me is sort of..."
"No more than I would do for any friend," Kristoph assured him, and he didn't stop. "I would do rather more for a friend, in fact, if he allowed it. This tension in your upper back, for example," Kristoph said, and slid closer along the couch to press both thumbs between Phoenix's shoulders, making him wince slightly. "I could relieve it. I've been told that I have good hands."
He did. Phoenix had to admit it. Kristoph's hands were fine and smooth and soft (and if he had that oddly feminine habit of painting his nails, at least he used clear polish, so he wasn't terribly obvious about it). Kristoph's hands were the hands of a scholar, rather than a worker. They were a lot like Miles's hands... except for the part where Kristoph's hands touched him frequently and affectionately - and even when not on another continent, Miles's usually didn't. "You do," Phoenix acknowledged. "But you have to understand - I'm not really used to being touched a lot."
"Do you dislike it?"
"Uhm, no." To be honest, he craved it. It drove him mad, the way Miles kept their interactions so carefully chaste in public, and even in private rarely offered gestures of physical affection casually, for no reason other than to touch. Kristoph was more like Phoenix himself - willing to stroke and pet and take a hand in his own to squeeze it when a friend needed encouragement. "I'm just... I'm not used to it, that's all."
Kristoph made a quiet, reproving sound. "Then Mr. Edgeworth has been neglecting his duties."
"He has ... some issues," Phoenix retorted quickly. Boy, did Miles have issues. "It's all right, I understand."
"Don't get me wrong," Kristoph said. "I can't say anything about the man you've chosen - it's your choice to make. But if his issues with touching keep you from accepting a friend's offer of relief from your aches and pains..." Kristoph's thumbs pressed harder between Phoenix's shoulderblades, making those small circles again, kneading sore muscles.
He paused, as Phoenix turned his head to look at him. "Hmm?"
"I know perfectly well that your feelings towards me are more than friendly."
Kristoph removed his hands with a shrug and a little smile. "What can I say? I've never been very good at keeping secrets. But I ask you," he added more seriously, "have I ever overstepped my boundaries?"
"...Well, no..." Phoenix admitted. Thinking about it logically, Kristoph had never touched him in a way that someone shouldn't touch a friend... in a way that he himself would have felt awkward about touching a friend.
"And do you trust me?"
"Of course I do." The reply came quickly. "You stood up for me when no one else did, you've been supporting me all along." And there was... some sort of answer there, Phoenix thought, but he didn't think he should examine it too closely, especially not when he was upset about Miles.
"Then lie down, will you?" Kristoph suggested, flexing his fingers. "On your stomach. Let me work a few of these knots out." Phoenix hesitated, and Kristoph gave Phoenix a smile that was just barely short of being sly. "I promise - you'll enjoy it at least as much as I."
Still dubious, Phoenix considered. It wasn't like he'd never let Maya rub his back, or vice versa. If that was all Kristoph was intending to do, then what was the problem? Okay, so he knew what the problem was. He just refused to admit it, which meant there was no problem, which meant...
"Excellent," Kristoph murmured, removing his own jacket and moving to kneel as Phoenix settled himself, face down, on the couch. "This may hurt a bit at first, but if you don't fight it, it will start to feel very good."
Refusing to admit it. Yes. Absolutely refusing. But that phrasing, coming while he was laid out face down, wasn't helping Phoenix not acknowledge it. He could feel his pulse quicken - and then he groaned aloud as Kristoph's thumbs pressed into the small of his back, so hard he thought his spine might crack. And then his hands were moving...
Kristoph was right - at first it was painful, but as he continued working, as his taut muscles gradually relaxed under the brute force and determination of Kristoph's hands, the pain melted away into a comfortable ache. Phoenix found himself moaning in relief as the tension he hadn't even been aware of slowly seeped away under Kristoph's fingers. But then, also, there was a different kind of tension creeping in that had nothing to do with the long days he spent working at what he hoped was not going to be his new career, and the nights spent cradling Trucy in his arms until she slept peacefully, and the time he'd spent just that morning working on the toilet.
"Perhaps," Kristoph said lightly, "I should have had you take off your shirt."
"I'm fine," Phoenix said quickly, half-muffled by his arms. Fine, except for the part where being touched so thoroughly and purposefully left his brain a pile of mush even more than his muscles. How else could he explain why... Well, no. That was a disservice to both himself and Kristoph.
The truth was... he'd always been a little attracted to Kristoph, since Kristoph had pulled him aside after the ruling to offer his support. The man was kind and gentle and attentive and believed in him. And now Phoenix knew he had amazing hands, too.
Phoenix was honestly considering saying something about this, in spite of his determination to ignore it, when the hands abruptly withdrew. "How does that feel?" Kristoph asked, sitting back on his heels.
Phoenix's eyes met his, but whatever he had been thinking about saying to Kristoph came out as "Uuuhhhhhnnnn."
Kristoph smiled. "It looks like my work here is done, then."
It didn't have to be, Phoenix thought as Kristoph stood, reaching for his jacket. This wasn't good. He was probably going to have to talk to Miles...
...Then again, since the man had left that morning without a word of farewell, maybe not. Phoenix didn't even know exactly where in Europe he'd been lately.
And on the other hand, he knew exactly where Kristoph was - right there in his office, as Kristoph bent down slightly to look Phoenix in the eye. "I haven't accidentally killed you, have I?"
"Heh. No, but you'll forgive me if I don't want to move. ...Especially," Phoenix added, "when I'm likely to undo everything you just did whenever I do get up." He was not looking forward to going back to working on the toilet.
"Ah, yes. I thought there was something more I should do before I left," Kristoph murmured, pulling the phone book out of the row of reference materials on Phoenix's desk. "Let's see..."
Phoenix did manage to roll onto his side, so he could see as Kristoph reached for the phone on the desk that he had the yellow pages open to the Ps. "...Uh, actually, I can't really afford a-"
"I'll take care of it," Kristoph said dismissively as he dialed. "After all, I've done the 'raising a young child on my own' bit - and now that that young child is self-sufficient, I have something of a surplus when it comes to income."
Somewhat dazed, Phoenix sat up. "...Wow. Kristoph... I don't know wh-"
Kristoph made a quick hushing motion - the phone had been answered, and he swiftly arranged for the visit, offering his card number to be charged when the service was completed. After thanking the receptionist, he hung up. "Well, they should have a plumber here in an hour. I fear I'll not be present for the proceedings, however," he stated, starting towards the door. "I do have an appointment this afternoon. If you run into any trouble, however..."
Kristoph paused, looking mildly surprised, as this time it was Phoenix whose hand caught his, and held it for a moment. Perhaps a moment too long. "...Thanks," Phoenix murmured honestly. "For everything."
Kristoph simply smiled. "It's no trouble at all," he assured Phoenix. "Call me if you need anything."
And as he left, Phoenix tried hard not to think about what it was that he needed.