He thought he wanted to know for sure. Now that he did know, he was sure that he didn't want to know. At least now there was absolute resolution.
He tried heading back to the Gatewater after returning from the airport, and found the victory party had apparently broken up somewhat, seeing as there was no one he recognized in sight except for Gumshoe and Lotta. Nothing unexpected, under the circumstances, and a short time later, after a brief discussion with the detective, he found himself knocking on the door of the Wright and Co. Law Office. Softly, of course.
A few seconds later, he heard footsteps - not shuffling sleepily, just walking. This also didn't surprise him. Phoenix didn't look surprised either, when he opened the door to see Miles Edgeworth standing before him. "I thought you might stop by," he murmured.
"Did you, now?"
"Well, if you didn't..." Phoenix's mouth twisted in a little grimace, and he stepped out into the building's hallway, closing the door carefully behind himself. "I suppose you think we need to talk, but Pearl and Maya are asleep in there."
Miles looked him up and down. "Meanwhile, you're not even in pajamas. Or what passes as pajamas for you."
"Like I said." Phoenix's head was turned aside, looking down at the hallway carpet. "I thought you might stop by."
"Yet from what you said a moment ago," Miles observed, "it sounded as if you don't agree that we need to talk."
"We probably do," Phoenix acknowledged. "But I'd rather not."
Miles licked his lips, but his tone remained even. "I suppose I know what your answer is, then. Unless," he added dryly, "your intention is to take me here in the hallway as a reply."
Phoenix flinched visibly. "What do you take me for, Miles?"
"A fool, if you thought I was serious."
"I wouldn't have been surprised." Phoenix's voice sounded strained. "After all, it wasn't like you gave me any assurances before you disappeared. You just suddenly one day decided you wanted to fuck me. And since I liked it, you fucked me some more. And then, after you got tired of fucking me, you left."
"It wasn't like that," Miles began, but Phoenix shook his head and looked up to meet his eyes, furious.
"You tried to make me think you were dead." His voice really was strained now, almost choked. "Do you have any idea what it's been like for me for the last year? Do you have any idea what it was like for me to see you standing there in the police station after all of that?"
"I can't say I do," Miles replied, with an edge of sarcasm. "The most important person in my life who died is actually dead, and never came back." And he'd thought it was his fault. And then he'd found out it was von Karma's.
"At least you knew," Phoenix murmured accusingly. "At least you had closure."
"Would it have been so much easier on you, then, if I'd left a body for you to find?"
"At least then I wouldn't have kept thinking about you for all that time," Phoenix muttered, almost a growl. It was a tone Miles had never heard in his voice before. "I knew you weren't dead - you would have made sure to prove it if you were, rather than doing it in a way that you'd just disappear. So I knew you were still alive, and I kept wondering, all the time - is he just going to show up again one day? What if I'm just walking into the courthouse, and he's standing there in the lobby? What if my phone rings, and it shows his name? What do I do then?"
Miles waited for him to finish before he spoke. "...I apologize."
"Yeah. I guess you do." Phoenix looked away again. "...I just don't know if I can accept. I know that I can't just... pretend it didn't happen."
"I was correct then," Miles supposed, "when I said earlier that I knew your answer."
Phoenix nodded. "I can't. Even seeing your face right now makes me feel sick to my stomach," he whispered. "I can thank you for helping to save Maya... but that's all."
"...I understand," Miles told him, after a moment's pause. A simple enough decision, then. "Goodbye, Phoenix."
Phoenix nodded, but didn't speak. Miles turned away, and didn't look back as he went to the building's stairwell.
Absolute resolution. Seeing his face made Wright sick. Wright didn't want to see him again, obviously. The prosecutor, his execution having been stayed for a year, had no further questions. He would cause no further problems for Wright. Gumshoe's insistence had been wrong - not that this was a surprise.
There was Franziska to consider, he admitted to himself as he opened the drawer in his nightstand. She might say that she hated him, but he knew better - they had been through a great ordeal together, growing up in the von Karma household. Even so, she would be able to get over it easily enough. Surely she would tell anyone who asked that Miles Edgeworth had been a foolish, weak fool of a weakling for taking such a foolishly weak way out.
He smirked a little to himself as he lifted the handgun from its hiding place. She would be right - Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth was neither foolish nor weak, but he was guilty. Guilty, and he had passed his own sentence. But Miles Edgeworth, the man, was little more than a child who had never managed to learn how to cope, even after a year of trying.
The handgun was permissible to him in most countries he'd lived in for the last year, seeing as he worked in law enforcement. It had been a constant presence as he moved from place to place, seeking his answers; it had silently remained an option, in case he never found them. The note he'd left in his office had been entirely serious at the time, and more than once he'd spent the darkest hours of the night staring down the barrel, thinking that it might be the best answer of all. His thoughts went to Wright, and the Fey girl - Maya's cheerful acceptance of him and her determination to make things right, Wright's faith in him, the way his eyes shone up trustingly at him from his own pillow, the way he'd snuggled against his back and sighed with contentment. The realization that Wright had gone through law school just to save him. That was why he had never pulled the trigger, as much as he thought about it.
He'd thought about it so much that it seemed like nothing now to take the gun in hand, retiring to his shower (he'd prefer to make this as simple as possible for everyone, including whoever was given the task of cleaning the mess before the apartment was rented out again), writing a quick note that simply said "I meant what I said" (because of course the department would wonder, and he would prefer that they spent their time investigating actual murders) and signing it "Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth", keeping it in his left hand as he raised the gun in his right.
The sound was familiar - a noise he'd heard thousands of times in his recurring nightmares - but this time, no scream followed.
Closing the door behind him, Phoenix leaned back against it with a tired sigh. That hadn't been easy. But honesty seldom was, it seemed, when you were a lawyer. Or when you were anyone else who had to deal with Miles Edgeworth.
He was startled by a nearby whisper. "Don't you think that was a little harsh, Nick?"
Phoenix's eyes snapped open again to see Maya practically at his elbow. "...Oh, uh. Sorry, Maya," he whispered. "Did we wake you?"
She shook her head, looking sheepish. "I, uh..." She didn't need to finish, as her stomach growled loudly.
Phoenix couldn't quite stop himself from smiling a little. "At least some things never change... Come on, I have some trail mix in my desk."
"You're my hero," she whispered emphatically, following him back to the inner office. "Not that you weren't already."
Pearl was sacked out on the floor next to the couch in a pile of blankets, having insisted that Maya take the couch herself after the ordeal of having been held captive. Phoenix had taken the couch in the office reception, since he figured Edgeworth might show. Now, making sure not to disturb Pearl, he carefully slid the top drawer in the desk open, retrieving a bag. Thankfully, Maya's squeal of delight was a silent one, and she was tearing into it almost before they'd settled down on the reception's couch together. "Thanks so much, Nick," she mumbled around a mouthful of candy and peanuts.
"Don't worry about it... you need to get your strength back." He was actually enjoying the sight of her stuffing her face with his food for a change.
"Anyway, like I was saying," she continued after a few mouthfuls, once she'd slowed down a little. "You're being kind of hard on the guy. I mean, it came off like you wished he really was dead."
"...You know that's not what I meant."
"But did he?"
"Like he'd care even if he didn't," Phoenix muttered. "You saw him at the party... for all of ten minutes. And at the trial. He never once apologized for putting us all through this for the last year, for lying to us, for anything. He doesn't care about how much pain he caused me."
"Or maybe," Maya pointed out, "he knew how much pain he must have caused you, and didn't want to talk about it with other people around? I mean, he did apologize, in the end."
"Only after I practically dragged it out of him."
"You know how he is, though... He's awful at dealing with personal feelings."
"Yeah - and I have too many of them," Phoenix admitted. "It was a problem between us even before he pulled this disappearing act of his." He rested his head in his hands, feeling all the tension returning in the form of a massive headache. "Even I'm having trouble sorting through how I feel about him now. How could he possibly deal with it?"
"You never know unless you try." Maya munched on another handful of trail mix. "And it sure sounded to me like he wanted to try. Didn't you?"
Phoenix never lifted his head as he shook it. "Not now. I just... This has been a difficult enough week without bringing a relationship back into the picture. Maybe after everything's settled down a little and I've had some time to think..." His teeth ground. "It's just like him, not giving me any time to think, just assuming I'll act on my emotions. That's how he used to play it during trials, too."
Maya stopped eating, and looked him over. "You never stopped loving him, did you?"
After a brief hesitation, Phoenix shook his head again, curling a little more into himself. He felt a hand on his back, heard the rustling of plastic as she set the bag of trail mix down, putting an arm around him. "Aww... are you crying, Nick?"
He was, and it made him feel even worse. "Damn it... I hate this," he mumbled. "I meant everything I said - I feel sick just looking at him - but once I do, I can't stop, and all I want to do is just... I'm so furious at him, but..."
Maya sighed, and pulled him closer to her, so he was leaning against her shoulder, and he gladly put an arm around her. "Come on, Nick... if that's how you feel, then that's how you feel. You didn't have to come off like you just hated his guts and that was it. I mean, I bet he thought you were writing him off completely."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because when he said goodbye, he didn't call you 'Wright' - he called you 'Phoenix'."
Phoenix froze. ...He had, hadn't he? Miles never called him by his first name. "...I don't know what I'm supposed to do now," he groaned. "I don't want to see him right now, but... someday..."
"Give him a call?" Maya suggested. "You need to tell him you love him. I'm pretty sure he gets that you're mad because he did something awful to you, but he probably doesn't get the part where you don't hate him."
"Yeah... I guess I'll do that," Phoenix conceded. "I'll give him a call in the morning." He took a deep breath. "Sorry about this... I didn't mean to lay any of this on you."
"Nick, you saved my life and caught the bad guy," Maya reminded him, resting her head against his. "You can lay anything on me that you want."
Phoenix closed his eyes, just enjoying the feeling of being comforted for a change. After the last few days, he'd really needed it. He would have liked for it to be Miles holding him, though...if he could have gone five minutes in the man's presence without kind of wanting to punch him too.
"Awwwww!" His eyes opened again at the gleeful squeal. "Mr. Nick and Mystic Maya cuddling on the couch in the dark! It's so romantic!"
"G-go back to bed, Pearly," Maya stammered, her face turning red.
"Oh, you want your privacy, right?" the little girl said brightly. "I'm sorry - I just wanted to make sure you were all right, Mystic Maya. I'll go back to bed now that you're safely in the arms of your special someone!"
"Uh, I'll come right back too," Maya said quickly, then looked to Phoenix. "As long as you're okay?"
He nodded. "I'll be fine. Thanks."
"No, really," he could hear Pearl insisting as they left, even after the door to the office proper had closed. "If you want to be all snuggly with Mr. Nick, I don't mind sleeping alone."
He tried to block the sound of the girls' discussion out of his mind as he lay back down on the couch. ...In the morning, yes. Until then, he'd try to get some sleep.
Phoenix knew all too well that Miles woke up early most mornings - it had been a minor point of contention on the few occasions he'd spent the night - but he still waited until what he considered nearly a civilized hour (though not too late - he wanted to do this while Maya and Pearl were still safely asleep in the other room) to try calling Miles's cell phone. There was a little fearful tremor of deja vu when he heard the recording saying that the number had been disconnected, but then he remembered that Miles had only just gotten back after having been gone for a year. Even if he did have cell phone service again, he probably didn't have the same number he had back then.
His home phone, on the other hand, had never been disconnected, and Phoenix had always thought that was evidence that the whole suicide thing was a lie. The thought made him a little angry again, which made him hesitant to call it. Besides, Miles was probably already at the prosecutor's office by this time, or en route. Someone else was in his old private office, but there was a general number Phoenix could call... Miles wouldn't appreciate that, Phoenix decided, and tried the home phone number anyway.
It rang three times before there was an answer. A very tired-sounding answer. "Edgeworth residence, who's calling?"
The voice sounded so dejected (and so obviously unlike the voice he'd been expecting) that it took a moment for Phoenix to place it. "...Gumshoe?"
"Look, I asked who's calling," the voice repeated irritably.
"Wow, you didn't even call me 'pal'," Phoenix observed. "This is Phoenix Wright - why are you at Edgeworth's place?"
"Phoenix Wright?" Gumshoe repeated incredulously, and paused. "What's your business with Mr. Edgeworth?"
...Great. Gumshoe was all gung-ho over his Mr. Edgeworth again, probably waiting on him hand and foot. Your tax dollars at work, Phoenix thought sarcastically. "I'd like to speak with him directly, please."
"About what? What do you have to speak with him about that you can't tell a detective about?"
Gumshoe seemed awfully worked up all of a sudden. Phoenix wondered for a second if Edgeworth and Gumshoe might be... nah. "It's personal, okay?"
"What do you mean by that!?" Gumshoe barked, so loudly that Phoenix held the phone away from his ear for a moment. "How personal are we talking about here!?"
Phoenix took a deep breath and reminded himself that Gumshoe had nearly gotten himself killed trying to bring them the decisive evidence yesterday. He had a head wound. Bizarre emotional flareups were hardly unexpected. "Okay, fine. He stopped by my office last night, and we talked briefly. I wanted to clarify some things that we discussed."
"Talked to him last night, huh..." Gumshoe's voice turned suspicious. "What kind of things were you discussing?"
Ugh. Miles would never forgive him if he told Gumshoe they'd been talking about patching up a relationship. "Personal things."
"I'd rather not say."
Gumshoe's tone changed abruptly. "Look, pal - I'm an officer of the law, you can trust me."
"It's not about trust, Gumshoe," Phoenix told him patiently. "It was between Edgeworth and myself, and I don't think he'd want me talking to anyone else about his personal matters either, okay? So can you put him on?"
"I'd like to, but it's not going to happen," Gumshoe told him firmly. "What did the two of you talk about last night?"
"...All right. I guess what it boiled down to was that he wanted to know what I thought of him after that stunt he pulled last year, pretending he was dead," Phoenix explained. Maybe giving Gumshoe the general idea would be enough.
"Oh, really?" Gumshoe's tone abruptly took a turn for the dark. "And what did you tell him?"
"..." This was ridiculous. "I don't think that's any of your business."
"What did you tell him?"
"...That's the problem - I think he got the wrong idea," Phoenix said, finally giving in. "I think he thought I never wanted to see him again, and that's not-"
"So that was it!" Gumshoe practically exploded through the airwaves at him. "That's what happened! You're in big trouble now, pal!"
"It's not what I meant!" Phoenix protested. "I'd like to clear this up with him, if you could just put him-"
"I can't put him on the phone!"
Phoenix was getting entirely fed up, and snapped right back. "Why not?"
"Because last night, about three in the morning-" Gumshoe's voice cracked, and in that moment, Phoenix's heart turned cold. "...Mr. Edgeworth chose death for real."
Phoenix considered the words. They were a lie. They'd always been a lie. They were still a lie. "You mean he left another note?"
"Yeah, yeah, you bet he left another note." Gumshoe sniffed loudly.
Phoenix breathed. "But-"
"Before he shot himself in the head!" Gumshoe bellowed.
These words, Phoenix could not comprehend. He knew what they meant individually, but putting them all together grammatically, they just... they didn't work. Gumshoe wasn't talking right, or maybe he wasn't hearing Gumshoe right, or maybe... "...Did he put you up to this?" That had to be the answer, Phoenix thought, and he found himself shaking with rage. Because he wasn't shaking for any other reason, like fear, because this was a joke. It couldn't be anything else. "I guess he thought it would be funny?"
There was another loud sniffle. "I sure don't think it's funny," Gumshoe said shakily, "watching them scrub Mr. Edgeworth's blood off the wall."
A joke, Phoenix thought calmly. Had to be a joke. Because there was no way that could happen, no way it could be anything other than a joke - a stupid, tasteless joke to get back at him...
The faint sound of Gumshoe crying through the phone told him it wasn't. Phoenix sat there, motionless, silent, listening to those miserable sobs.
He was serious. Miles had really...
The phone slipped from his deadened fingers as his stomach heaved suddenly, violently, and Phoenix lunged for the wastebasket by the desk.
Someone was there with him, then, as he retched, and they were saying something, but he couldn't make it out. Everything had gone fuzzy - everything but the thought of Miles is dead, he's really dead this time, I killed him, it's my fault, blood and brains on the wall, I'm never going to see him again he's dead he's dead - and the next thing he knew he was curled up on the floor, Maya hovering somewhere above him, and he thought she might be crying, but why would she be crying when he had killed Miles and oh he'd killed Miles and Miles was dead, and he managed to sit up enough to bend over the wastebasket again.
Maya was holding his head, saying his name over and over, and she sounded terrified. "Nick, Nick, Nick, what is it, what's going on? Nick, breathe, please, breathe!"
Miles wasn't breathing. Phoenix tried to speak and choked. His eyes were burning, and it wasn't until he squeezed them shut that he realized he was crying. He took a deep breath, and it came out as a sob.
"Oh, Nick..." Maya was holding his head between her hands, carefully. "Can you tell me what's wrong, Nick?" He shook his head a little. Even if he could speak, how could he tell her what he'd done?
"You need to stop crying," a small voice said firmly from nearby. "You're a police officer - and right now someone needs help!"
Pearl - Phoenix turned his head enough to see her kneeling there by the couch with the cell phone he'd dropped. "Mr. Nick's really sick all of a sudden!" she said urgently. "Stop crying, Mr. Scruffy Detective! I know it's scary, but you have to send an ambulance right now!"
"P-Pearls," Phoenix managed to gasp, reaching up to take Maya's hands from his temples so he could turn to the little girl.
"Relax, Mr. Nick," she assured him. "I saw your phone lying here and was going to call 911, but there was a policeman on the phone already, so I'm getting him to-"
"It's okay... n-no ambulance." Phoenix rubbed a hand over his face, collecting himself somewhat. Very somewhat. "Just... I... it's bad news. Something really bad happened, he's busy."
"Oh? Mr. Scruffy Detective, what happened?" Pearl asked, putting the phone to her ear again. "You're upset and Mr. Nick's upset... ...What do you mean you can't tell a kid?"
"Let me handle it, Pearly," Maya suggested shakily, reaching for the phone. "You keep an eye on Nick, okay?"
"Okay..." Pearl's eyes were wide as she handed the phone over and looked to Phoenix where he knelt on the floor. "...Are you feeling better, Mr. Nick? Can I help?"
He shook his head, choked up again. He didn't feel better, and no one could help...
"What!?" Maya exclaimed. "But... he was... last night, he was..." At the shaky sound of her voice, Phoenix abruptly felt sick again.
"Phoenix." An unexpected calm voice spoke, and he looked back to Pearl - to find Mia in her place. "What's happened?"
Pearl must have decided they needed another adult, Phoenix supposed. Having Mia there, concerned but composed, helped him pull himself together a little. "M-Miles Edgeworth... is dead. He shot himself. He's dead." Phoenix pressed a fist against his eyes for a moment. "It's my fault."
Mia's mouth opened in surprise, but before she could reply, there was an outburst from Maya. "You're kidding! He's not dead!?"
"What!?" Phoenix exclaimed.
"Explain, please," Mia ordered the two of them.
"Okay, okay, just hold on a second," Maya told Gumshoe, and turned to Phoenix and Mia. "I guess Mr. Edgeworth did shoot himself in the head, but he's still alive?" Gumshoe could be heard saying something, and Maya paused to listen. "He says it was a clean wound, it didn't... scatter many bone fragments into the brain or something. And it..." she paused again. "Came out the other side?" Now she was starting to look a little green, but Gumshoe was still talking. "He's been in surgery for hours while they try to uh... patch things up, basically, I guess."
"Where?" Mia asked firmly.
"Where?" Maya repeated into the phone, and waited. "The general hospital," she reported after a moment.
"Well?" asked Mia. "Other than changing out of pajamas - and maybe a glass of water," she added, looking to Phoenix, "what are you waiting for?"
What else were they waiting for? As it turned out, the bus; neither Phoenix or Maya could drive. Mia could, but even if she hadn't been using Pearl's body (which might have led to disaster if she had to leave suddenly), they didn't exactly have a vehicle available. Maya was about to call a taxi, but Mia calmed her down, reminding her that Edgeworth was in surgery - even if they got to the hospital right away, they would still have to wait before they could see him, if they were allowed at all.
While they were waiting at the stop, and during the ride, Maya and Phoenix filled her in on what had happened. Mia, ignoring the funny looks she was getting from some of the other passengers, sighed. "Sometimes I think you haven't grown up so much since I first met you, Phoenix. You still have that inexplicable quirk of phrasing a valid point in the worst way possible."
He hadn't quite stopped crying, and he rubbed a hand over his eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't know he... I still don't know why this happened. If he cared that much about whether or not I was going to take him back, why did he leave in the first place?"
"I could guess at his reasoning," Mia replied, "but he's the only one who can truly answer that question for you."
"...And if he doesn't make it..."
"He'll make it," Maya encouraged him. "Don't worry."
Phoenix peered at her. "How do you know...?"
"He just..." Maya frowned stubbornly. "I don't know, he has to - that's all!"
That was not a particularly strong argument, seeing as the man had shot himself in the head with the intent to kill. Perhaps having some idea what he was thinking, Mia nudged him. "One thing's for sure - as of last night, he had no desire to fight for his life. Even if he still doesn't, as long as he makes it through surgery, I'm sure you can make him decide he wants to recover. You can get through to him, Phoenix."
Phoenix wasn't sure at all about that, and said nothing for the rest of the bus ride, just accepting Mia's quiet steadiness and Maya's hand slipping into his.
Maya had gotten some information out of Gumshoe regarding where to go at the hospital, but just as Mia had pointed out, Edgeworth was still in surgery when they arrived, and they were going to have to wait. Looking tired, Maya gratefully sank into one of the waiting room chairs, and Mia considered for a moment. "...I can feel that Pearl's very tired," she informed Phoenix reluctantly. "I shouldn't stay much longer."
"Yeah... she didn't get a lot of sleep the last couple of nights, and it's still early," Phoenix admitted. "...Thanks, Mia. For taking charge just now. I kind of lost it for a second."
"It's understandable," she said with a nod, and gave him a quick hug. "Feel free to have Maya or Pearl call on me again if you need to, okay? I'll help however I can."
"Thanks," he mumbled into her shoulder.
"I guess I probably shouldn't change back right here," she observed, drawing back and glancing around. "But I shouldn't just drop Pearl in a strange place without anyone around, either. Maya?" she asked. "Would you come with me, so Pearl can find her way back?"
"Oh, sure, sis," Maya yawned, getting up again.
As they left, Phoenix found him hating himself even more for having caused all this before Maya and Pearl had even recovered from the De Killer situation. Possibly it wasn't a good idea for them to have left him alone, because he was beginning to wonder if he shouldn't do everyone a favor and shoot himself in the head. He'd been unable to understand how Adrian Andrews could have been driven to attempt suicide, at first, but now...
...Well, no. He still didn't exactly understand her motivations, because at least Adrian hadn't been the one to actually make Ms. Inpax kill herself. Not like him with Edgeworth.
There had been guilt when Miles had disappeared, of course. When Phoenix thought it was because of his perfect record being destroyed, or because it had been proven to him that he'd been tricked by Gant and von Karma - those things were his fault. They were things he'd done. It was just that they were nothing to be so ashamed of that you had to run away, as far as Phoenix was concerned. Certainly nothing to kill himself over, but after all, Phoenix had never believed Miles was dead, except inasmuch as the friend he knew and loved had done something so irrationally cruel to him that their relationship could never be the same, and that made it an awful lot like Miles Edgeworth was dead.
That was what he'd thought at the time, anyway. Hearing Gumshoe give the gruesome details this morning had caused him to realize how very different it was, and how badly he wanted Miles to be alive when it looked as if he truly wasn't this time.
"But... how did he do that?" Pearl was asking Maya in confusion, as the two returned from the bathroom. "Didn't his mother ever tell him not to play with guns? My mother doesn't even want me playing with toy guns - she says I might be careless if I ever find a real one. I guess maybe she's right, if it could happen to Mr. Eh-ji-werth..."
Maya looked thoroughly uncomfortable, and Phoenix dropped his head into his hands, shaking. He couldn't explain this to a little girl...
Luckily, Maya came through. "Um... hey, Pearly? We didn't have breakfast yet, you know... what do you say we go scope out the cafeteria? I'm kind of sleepy, maybe food would wake me up... and we can talk, okay?"
"Shouldn't you stay with Mr. Nick?" Pearl suggested, and reached up to pet his spiky hair. "Mystic Maya explained what happened to Mr. Eh-ji-werth, Mr. Nick... I'm really sorry. He was a really nice man, and really smart, and he helped save Mystic Maya..."
"...Thanks, Pearls," Phoenix murmured. "It's okay... here." He sat up straighter for a moment to get at his wallet, and gave them whatever his hand found when he reached inside, without really looking at it. Not like he had much left anyway. "Go get yourselves some breakfast, okay? I don't want either of you passing out from hunger, even if a hospital's a good place to do it."
"If you're sure it's all right," Pearl said dubiously.
"Want us to bring you back anything?" Maya asked, pocketing the cash.
He shook his head; his stomach was still twisting. "I'm fine."
And then they were gone, and he was alone again. He'd always hated being alone, ever since he was a little kid.
Maybe he could call someone. The first person to come to mind who wasn't already present was Larry, and he latched onto that idea at once - of course he should call Larry! Larry was a friend of Miles too (sort of), and he'd want to be there to lend support...
But then again, Phoenix remembered, he'd never told Larry when he and Miles... well, started sleeping together, at least. Whether or not it had ever been a relationship, Phoenix wasn't sure. And before he could figure that out, Miles up and left, and even though Larry was happy to take Phoenix out to drown his sorrows and cry on his shoulder - Phoenix had provided the same service countless times for him, after all - he'd never been able to bring himself to tell Larry who exactly he was crying over. He'd started avoiding Larry for that reason, and then Larry just sort of disappeared (he had a tendency to do that), and even if Phoenix could get in touch with him now, he'd have to explain all of this...
Fortunately, he wasn't left alone to think too long about whether or not it was worth it, because all of a sudden he was faced with Detective Gumshoe standing before him. The grim look on his face was at odds with the large, brightly-colored bouquet he was carrying. "You've got some nerve showing your face here, pal," the detective growled.
"You shouldn't be surprised, considering you're the one who told us where to go," Phoenix pointed out, but then sighed, defeated. "...And I know I do. I'm sorry."
"'Sorry' doesn't exactly cut it," Gumshoe retorted. "I knew this had to be your fault when I got the call - I saw him at the Gatewater last night, just past midnight."
"...That was just before he came to my office," Phoenix realized.
"Yeah, exactly - he didn't stay long, just said hello, asked if you'd left already... then he kind of hesitated," Gumshoe muttered, looking away. "I'd told him before about how you freaked out when you heard about that note he left last year, and he wanted to know if you were really all that upset, because you weren't looking too happy to see him when he came back. I told him yeah, you were all messed up for a while there, weren't taking cases, weren't answering your phone, no one saw you leave your office. And if he didn't believe me - 'cause he looked like he didn't - he could go ask you," Gumshoe finished glumly. "Should've kept my big mouth shut..."
Gumshoe looked so depressingly miserable. "...It wasn't your fault."
"I know..." Gumshoe abruptly aimed a vicious glare at him. "It's your fault, pal. I don't know what you told him-"
"I'm sorry," Phoenix murmured again, head in his hands.
"-but next thing you know, before I'd even left the Gatewater, I'm getting a call from headquarters, saying there's an incident at Mr. Edgeworth's apartment! His downstairs neighbor heard what sounded like a shot fired, first officers on the scene say they found him in his bathroom, gunshot wound to the head, close-range-"
"I'm sorry..." Phoenix didn't know what else to say. "I'm so sorry..."
"-note clutched in his hand, signed-"
...That's right - Phoenix remembered Gumshoe saying earlier that he'd left a note. As much as he didn't want to know, he had to ask. "...What did it say?"
"Oh, it didn't name you or anything," Gumshoe growled. "Just said that he meant what he said, which made it pretty clear from the start it was a suicide. I didn't want to believe it, but I'd know Mr. Edgeworth's handwriting anywhere."
He shoved a crumpled piece of paper under Phoenix's nose, and Phoenix looked down at it. ...He hadn't even spent enough time around Miles now that they were adults to know what his handwriting looked like, he realized, and the realization made him even more ashamed. And nauseated - there was a little spray of red across one corner. "I'm sorry," he murmured again, squeezing his eyes closed.
"'Sorry' doesn't fix things," Gumshoe snapped. "You think it would've been okay if that Engarde kid just got up on the stand and said 'sorry'? Would you think that was enough?"
"I know," Phoenix began, shakily, but he was cut off by Gumshoe again.
"Listen, pal - if Mr. Edgeworth dies?" Gumshoe shouted. "You bet I'm gonna get you tried for murder!"
Gumshoe was right, he deserved it, he had done something terrible - Phoenix agreed completely. But before he could speak to say so, someone else spoke up. "Unfortunately, he would never be found guilty on such a charge," said a cool voice. "The responsibility for the foolish decision to end one's own life ultimately falls upon the fool who makes that decision. There is precedent."
That didn't make Phoenix feel any better. Except for the part where the voice was one that he associated with pain, which he also deserved at the moment. Sure enough, a few seconds later, there was a sharp crack, and a searing pain across the back of his neck, making him throw his hands over his head instinctively. "However," Franziska continued, cracking the whip over his knuckles a few more times as she spoke, "even if a fool's foolish words are not so foolish as to constitute criminal negligence, it does not make them any less foolish."
"von Karma, sir!" Gumshoe sounded far more surprised than Phoenix was. "Weren't you on your way back to Europe?"
"I took the liberty of checking my voicemail during a layover in Dallas," Franziska informed him. "When I heard your piteous whimpering, I caught the first flight back immediately."
Maybe it was because Phoenix still had his hands over his head and wasn't actually looking at her, but rather than merely sounding intimidating, he could pick out a little tremor in her voice. ...He didn't dare point it out, though, when the sounds of the whip sounded anew - but without pain this time.
"Ow, ow, hey!" Gumshoe was protesting. "What are you hitting me for, sir?"
"How did you let this happen!? I left only a few hours previous, and already you've let my little brother shoot himself?"
Phoenix dared to peek up through his fingers. While she attacked the detective, Franziska had set an even larger bouquet than Gumshoe's beside him on the floor. If Phoenix hadn't already felt like the most terrible person who had ever lived, he would have at least felt a little stupid for not thinking to bring flowers himself.
"It was him, Wright!" Gumshoe insisted. "Mr. Edgeworth thought he never wanted to see him again, and then..."
Franziska's cold glare turned on Phoenix. "Is that so?"
"...Yes." Phoenix found himself unconsciously curling into himself again, in anticipation.
Instead of a crack of the whip, she merely snorted. "Then Miles Edgeworth is a bigger fool than I'd imagined."
Gingerly, slowly, Phoenix tried to make himself stop cringing. "...Is it that obvious?"
"Is what obvious?" Gumshoe asked, suspicious.
Maybe no one had thought to question why Miles seemed to care so much what Phoenix thought. "...Nothing."
"More to the point," Franziska said, tying the whip back at her waist, "he is a fool if he ties all his self-worth to a single person's opinion of him. No one is so important." She looked Phoenix straight in the eye. "Particularly not you."
Phoenix just stared back at her for a moment. "...Thanks," he muttered. And oddly enough, he thought he meant it. "But still..." he admitted. "I did tell him that it would have been easier for everyone if he really had died, instead of making us just hold on and wonder if or when he was coming back. ...I shouldn't have done that."
"Damn right you shouldn't have done that!" Gumshoe growled.
"Enough of this for now," Franziska ordered him. "Tell me what's happened, what his condition is."
"As far as I know, he's still in surgery," Gumshoe told her. "But I just got here, and saw this guy-"
"Yeah, he was still in surgery when I got here," Phoenix confirmed. "It wasn't that long ago."
"He's been there for hours," Gumshoe added, then yelped as Franziska's whip caught him again.
"Start at the beginning, fool!"
Gumshoe and Phoenix looked at each other, and Phoenix supposed Gumshoe was wondering the same thing he was - where was the beginning? "Edgeworth showed up at my office last night," Phoenix said. This was his fault, he'd take the responsibility of explaining it. "He... uh, he wanted to talk, I guess. About what he'd done, making us think he was dead. I told him I knew he had to be alive all along, and that made me even angrier than if he actually had killed himself, because he'd tried to trick us." Phoenix swallowed the lump in his throat. "...And then he left, and apparently went back to his apartment and shot himself."
To his surprise, Gumshoe sat down beside him, slumping in his chair. "...But he talked to me earlier, I was the one who told him to go talk to Mr. Wright..." he mumbled. "I didn't know anything like this would happen."
"Go on," Franziska told them, her voice less harsh than usual. "Tell me what happened."
Gumshoe detailed the call he'd gotten from the police station, the rush to investigate the incident. The orders to close the investigation when all the initial findings led to the conclusion that Edgeworth really had shot himself in the head, and there was no foul play involved. There had been concerns, he said, that it might have been a subtle revenge job by De Killer, but not only would that not have been in line with De Killer's usual rules, there was no card found on the scene.
That was as far as he got before a doctor appeared - one of the surgeons who had been operating on Edgeworth, he said. "The surgery was a success - as much of a success as we could hope for, anyway. Mr. Edgeworth's skull wasn't shattered too terribly, the bullet made a clean exit... we didn't have to do much digging to clean the area up. Stopping the bleeding and controlling the swelling was another matter, but we're confident now that barring complications, he's in no danger of dying."
Gumshoe heaved a heavy sigh, and Phoenix dropped his head into his hands in relief. "Not to say that we're out of the woods yet," the doctor cautioned them. "I hardly need to explain that when a bullet goes all the way through someone's head, there's almost certainly going to be some brain damage. We won't know for sure what kind, or to what extent, until he wakes up. And depending on how severe the damage is, it's possible that it may take some time before he wakes up... or that he may not wake up at all."
Phoenix thought back to what Mia had said on the bus... He was glad his face was already more or less covered, because he could feel the tears coming to his eyes again.
"Is he allowed visitors?" he heard Franziska ask. "Family, at least? I'm his sister."
"Family visitation would be permitted," the doctor agreed. "I can take you, if you'd like. But you should keep in mind that he's still unconscious, and likely to remain so for a while."
Beside him, Phoenix felt Gumshoe nod. "Go to him, Ms. von Karma."
"Very well." The rustling of leaves and petals indicated that Franziska had picked up that ridiculously huge floral arrangement she'd brought. "I'll let my little brother know that there are fools awaiting chastisement, so he'd better hurry and recover."
Phoenix couldn't help but smile a little, and next to him, Gumshoe wheezed faintly in laughter. "Sounds good to me, sir!"
Gumshoe was still chuckling a little after she'd gone, and he hesitated. "Hey..." he began, elbowing Phoenix. "Do you think he'll... I mean... he'll wake up soon, right? He does like to yell at me... And you know, pal, I'd take a dozen pay cuts with a smile right now if he was the one to do it."
Mia had said that Miles didn't have the desire to fight for his own life. ...If it was a struggle, then, Miles wouldn't wake up. "I'd be happy to hear him shout at me for awhile too," Phoenix admitted. "If that's what gets him on his feet. ...I don't know if he would want to, though."
"Yeah... seems more like he wanted to make your life easier," Gumshoe muttered, but this time he didn't sound angry. "How'd you ever get so much influence on Mr. Edgeworth, anyway? There were lots of people down at the station that were glad to see him back, but then you say those things to him..." Though the anger was gone from his voice, the bitterness was still thick. "...And he goes and does this. Why does he care so much more about what you think than anybody else?"
"...I don't know." It was a lie. Phoenix knew why, and he knew because he felt the same way. When Miles had first disappeared and been feared dead, Phoenix hadn't known how he could go on living his own life. He'd been chasing after Miles for years, finally got through to him - and then he was just gone. Even with Maya writing him letters, and Larry dragging him out to cheer him up, and the friends he'd made during those first trials calling him, Phoenix felt like he'd lost part of himself. Even after he'd decided that Miles wasn't dead, that the weeks that had been so wonderful for him had been no more than a game to Miles, and that if he ever saw the man again he was going to punch him, he still felt broken. It was the letters and the phone calls and the spontaneous visits that kept him going during that terrible time - the knowledge that he had friends managed to drag him out of his office and help him rejoin the rest of the world.
...And that was the difference, Phoenix realized. During those weeks when he'd been so close to Miles - spending time at his apartment, catching a ride home from the courthouse, stopping by the office - he'd never once heard Miles introduce someone as anything more than a colleague or acquaintance. He'd never gotten personal phone calls, no one had ever come by the apartment. Hardly anyone spoke to him even at the courthouse, unless they had to, and the conversations were brief. By Miles's choice, mostly. He was the only one who Miles seemed to have any interest in socializing with, and even that was a struggle.
"If he cared so much about how I felt," Phoenix began tiredly, "why did he leave like that? Why did he pretend he was dead?"
"...He never gave me an explanation either," Gumshoe replied, glum, "but I can guess. Mr. Edgeworth doesn't like to admit he's got weaknesses, or that he feels anything - like the earthquakes, you know? He'll say he's fine even while he's curled up in a ball under his desk. I think it just got to the point where he couldn't say he was fine any more. After what happened with Mr. von Karma, and then that business with Mr. Gant and Ms. Skye passing him false evidence..."
Phoenix knew that much - he'd watched, day by day, as Miles looked more and more stressed and exhausted, as he stopped being interested in doing anything but distracting himself from the rest of his life, willing his world to shrink to just the two of them, in his apartment, in his bed... "...I told him I wanted to help," Phoenix murmured.
"Mr. Edgeworth doesn't like admitting he needs help."
There was a pause, and then, to his surprise, he felt a large hand on his back, gripping his shoulder, as Gumshoe hugged him in a loose embrace. "...Sorry about earlier, pal. Any idiot could see you didn't mean for this to happen." He chuckled faintly. "Even this one. I was just..."
"Don't worry about it." Phoenix slipped an arm around him awkwardly for a moment as well. "I understand. I mean... that's why I yelled at him, too - I knew he must be in pain, but I was in pain too, so I wasn't thinking about that." He considered, as they withdrew their arms. "...We're all hurting right now, so... nobody needs any more pain, all right?"
Gumshoe nodded. "Yeah, no need for more of it to be spread around."
The two of them didn't have much else to say to each other, so they sat together mostly in silence in the waiting room. But at least, Phoenix thought, they were sitting together.
Maya and Pearl returned from the cafeteria, and Maya seemed as cheerful as ever, pointing out that at the very least, Edgeworth had made it through the surgery, and that was a good sign. Pearl seemed a little subdued - at least until she spotted Gumshoe's bouquet and declared it "droopy", and immediately ran off to get some water for him to put it in. At Phoenix's questioning glance, Maya admitted that she didn't think Pearl understood, but that was okay. She didn't really want Pearl to ever have to understand how someone could feel so bad that they would try to end their own life. Phoenix nodded in agreement. At least watering plants seemed to make Pearl cope with everything okay, considering her behavior towards Charley earlier.
Pearl had just gotten back, and Gumshoe was still trying to figure out how to fit all the flowers into the cup, when they heard swift, clicking high-heeled footsteps approaching. Her face stern, Franziska pointed a finger at Gumshoe as she returned. "You're to remain on duty here, Detective. Contact me if anything changes."
"B-but, Ms. von Karma, sir..." Gumshoe looked like he didn't know what to ask first. "I, uh, actually I'm expected back at the precinct in..."
"Not anymore you're not," she stated. "I took the liberty of reassigning you for the time being."
"This isn't an assignment!" Gumshoe pointed out. "If I spend the whole day waiting here, I won't get a paycheck, and I only just got back to-"
"I'll compensate you myself."
Gumshoe's eyes widened. So did Phoenix's - Franziska was serious, wasn't she?
"I'll be returning to Papa's apartment here in town," Franziska informed them, turning away and starting for the hospital entrance. "Aside from a few hours on the plane, I haven't slept since yesterday morning."
Which would explain the dark smudges under her eyes, Phoenix thought, except for the part where they hadn't been there before she went to visit Miles. No wonder she wanted to get out of there, fast. "Franziska?" Phoenix called after her, making her stop. "How did he look?"
There was a long pause, and she didn't turn back. "He looked terrible," she replied, and kept walking.
There wasn't much for any of them to say after that. Gumshoe fidgeted with his bouquet and the cup of water, and Pearl eventually leaned over and fell asleep with her head on Maya's lap. Noticing that was what finally made Phoenix say something. "You know, Maya - you could take her back to get some rest. At your place, at the office, whatever you want. I'll be okay here."
The indecision was visible as she looked down at Pearl in her lap, and back up to Phoenix. "...Are you sure?"
"Sure I'm sure." He wasn't, exactly, but he was determined not to be that childish. Especially since he knew Maya needed some rest as well, even if she wasn't going to own up to it. After that ordeal... which might be why she was reluctant. "How about you - will you be all right?"
She shrugged, gave him a brave smile. "Of course, Nick."
The smile was a little too brave; clearly neither of them really wanted her to leave his side, but he knew she would drive herself to exhaustion if she stayed, and there was Pearl to think about... "...Thanks, Maya. I'll call the second anything happens."
Once the two girls were on their way out the door, that left him and Gumshoe, and Gumshoe looked over at Phoenix awkwardly. "...You could go with 'em," he offered. "I'm stuck here on Ms. von Karma's orders anyway - if anything changes, I could give you a call too, right after I call her."
Phoenix shook his head. This was his fault. "I'll stay."
Not to mention, he realized a bit later, as he suddenly found Gumshoe's head lolling on his shoulder - Gumshoe hadn't gotten any sleep at all last night, after an entirely insane day in which he'd saved Maya, and he'd saved the case with that evidence... Despite the snoring, Phoenix was inclined to let the man sleep on his shoulder as long as he wanted.
And so he did. A few hours later, when Gumshoe awakened, slightly embarrassed when he realized where his head had been, Miles still wasn't awake. Hours after that, when Phoenix began to feel himself nodding off, Miles still wasn't awake. Gumshoe tried to get him to go home, but Phoenix had been sleeping on the floor of his office for the past few days anyway - it was no big deal to stay. And he didn't want to not be there if Miles woke up.
Not to worry. The next morning, when he woke with a stiff neck and a cramp in his leg from sleeping curled up on one of the couches, to the sight of a sleepy but steadfast Detective Gumshoe seated across from him, Miles still wasn't awake.
When Maya and Pearl returned, they brought with them a breakfast sandwich, presumably homemade, judging from the gigantic and slightly lumpy biscuit. Sure enough, Pearl said it was her mother's recipe. "And we brought you some hot tea!" Pearl told Phoenix cheerfully. "I thought we should bring you coffee, but Mystic Maya said you liked tea better."
That was true, though at the moment, the thought of tea with breakfast brought back memories of staying over at Miles's apartment, quiet mornings spent awkwardly at the table, with Phoenix wondering if really, maybe he'd better say something, maybe he could come up with something to say that would make Miles tell the truth about that haunted look in his eyes instead of just saying 'I'm fine' over and over... But the tea was hot, and more bitter than the kind Miles favored - and in addition to tasting good, the sandwich reminded Phoenix that he hadn't eaten at all yesterday, and made him feel a lot better.
Gumshoe hadn't exactly taken a break to eat either, and Pearl offered to show him where the cafeteria was - so Mystic Maya could have some time alone with Mr. Nick, supposedly, but Phoenix was too stressed out and exhausted to protest this time. And too busy eating his sandwich.
"You had breakfast too, didn't you?" he asked Maya, his mouth still half-full. "...Wait. Look who I'm talking to."
She grinned. "Of course. Pearly spent so much time napping yesterday, she was up early today fixing breakfast for us. I would've told her she didn't have to, but... you know."
Phoenix nodded. "She looks a lot better today. ...You too."
"Yeah, I'm almost back to normal, I think." She eyed him appreciatively. "You look better too, now that you've eaten something. I hope I didn't look as awful as you after starving for a couple days."
"Thanks so much," Phoenix muttered, brushing the crumbs off his hands. He really did feel a lot better, and was kind of amazed at how awful not eating for a whole day had made him feel.
Or maybe he'd been feeling awful because he'd spent the entire day and all night in the hospital waiting room, hoping for some news that the guy his life had pretty much revolved around for the past few years, the guy he'd fallen madly in love with - the guy he'd been angry enough with that it drove him to attempt suicide - might have woken up. And he hadn't gotten it. That might have had something to do with it. Suddenly, he didn't feel so much better after all.
Pearl and Gumshoe seemed to have been having better luck at cheering each other up; they returned with Pearl riding on Gumshoe's shoulders, giggling, and the detective was smiling too. Better yet, a nurse approached them before Gumshoe had made it all the way across the waiting room to where Phoenix and Maya were sitting.
"Excuse me - you were waiting for Mr. Edgeworth, correct?"
The smile faded from Gumshoe's face at once. "Yeah, I'm with Mr. Edgeworth... Everything okay?"
"I was told to inform you that he's woken up."
Gumshoe's mouth fell open. "He's awake?!"
"Seriously?" Maya exclaimed. "Can we see him?"
The nurse hesitated. "He's been awake for some time, actually, but he's had a therapist with him, trying to determine his condition. They'll still be a little while, but we thought you'd like an update."
"What do you mean, 'determine his condition'?" Phoenix asked. This may have been good news, but it didn't sound entirely good. "I mean, I don't expect him to be in top form or anything, but..."
"Well, there are a lot of factors to consider before the doctor can decide whether or not visitation will be allowed," the nurse admitted. "His emotional state, for one thing, and how severely his functions have been impaired by his injury... He's having a great deal of trouble communicating right now."
Phoenix's heart sank. "How so?"
"He's unable to speak, and he doesn't seem to have a good grasp on the written word either," the nurse explained. "This may be partially due to the heavy medication he's on, or it may be the head injury... or it may be that he simply doesn't care enough to try to communicate with the doctors, given the severe depression that drove him to attempt suicide. They're still trying to work that out, so they can decide whether visitation might be helpful, or just agitate him."
...Phoenix didn't know what to say to that. He looked to Gumshoe, and found that the detective had likely heard nothing of the last part - he was on his cell phone already, talking excitedly. "Yeah, we haven't seen him yet or anything, but it's only a matter of time, sir! ... Uh, me and Mr. Wright. Yeah, he's still here."
"If that's what's going on," Maya put in seriously, "then you've got to let Nick see him. That's sure to help him cheer up."
"...I wouldn't be so sure about that," Phoenix mumbled. "I mean..." He kind of didn't want to say it in front of the nurse, but now she looked curious. "...This is all because we had an argument. He wouldn't have done this to himself if it wasn't for me..."
"Yeah, and that means that making up with him will make him feel better," Maya reasoned, then turned to the nurse. "Please, let Nick go in and see him! He'll perk up in no time!"
"The decision belongs to his doctors," the nurse explained. "And young man - Nick, is it? I assure you, the explanation behind a suicide attempt is never as simple as just an argument - after all, not everyone who has an argument with a friend winds up in the hospital."
"...Thanks." She had a point, but Phoenix still felt he should have known better. "We'll see what happens, I guess. Thanks for the update."
Fifteen minutes later, Franziska had arrived on the scene, and immediately demanded to see her brother. Just then, a doctor arrived to fill them in, and said (reluctantly, given the way she was brandishing her whip) that she would be allowed in, but there were a few things she should know first... Franziska ignored the man and asked the room number.
Once she'd stalked off in a huff, the doctor looked after her with uncertainty, then at the others gathered in the waiting room. "...Considering his sister's mood, it might be a good idea if one of you accompanied her to Mr. Edgeworth's room."
"I'll go," Gumshoe volunteered, picking up his bouquet (once again looking a bit droopy, having spent the night in a too-small cup of water). "Room 116, right?"
"Correct, but I should forewarn you - physically, he looks-"
"Homicide detective, sir," Gumshoe said with a salute. "As long as he's all in one piece, I can guarantee I'm used to seeing people who look a whole lot worse than Mr. Edgeworth." A gruesome way to get the point across, Phoenix thought with a grimace, but the doctor nodded, and off went Gumshoe, whistling through the hallways. Apparently just having Edgeworth wake up was good enough news for him, but Phoenix wasn't yet satisfied. He just wasn't sure he wanted to know what the doctor had tried to warn Gumshoe and Franziska about.
Fortunately, Maya was. "So how is he, really?"
"His condition can't be summed up easily," the doctor admitted. "We'll start with the definites - he's awake, and as alert as can be expected during recovery from a head injury and the application of heavy pain medication. He knows where he is and what happened. There are no signs of complications from the surgery - all of these are good signs that he should recover quickly. However, he seemed to have been awake already for some time when a nurse checked in on him and found his eyes open, but he hadn't bothered to push the call button. This leads us to believe that he has little regard for his well-being, and under the circumstances, we believe that he would rather not have survived."
Phoenix nodded slowly. Nothing unexpected, but it still hurt to hear. "He hasn't said anything to that effect, though?"
"He either isn't able or isn't willing to speak aloud," the doctor explained. "Most likely somewhere in the middle - moving his mouth with his head injury as it is would be painful. This wouldn't be so much of a problem under ordinary circumstances, because we can provide a pad of paper and a pencil for a mute patient to write on. Your friend, though... His written responses were brief and garbled, and soon he refused to respond to our questions with anything but a nod or a shaking of the head. Trying to write is frustrating for him, and we believe the bullet may have damaged the portion of his brain that retains the ability to read and write. There is a chance, given his lack of speech, that his grasp of language altogether has suffered. This isn't necessarily permanent," the doctor added quickly, seeing the dismayed look on Phoenix's and Maya's faces. "The brain is able to reroute itself, in most cases, when a part of it is damaged. However, in all likelihood, he'll mostly have to learn how to read and write again, at the very least."
Phoenix didn't know what to say. "...At least he was always a fast learner, back in school."
"An encouraging thought," the doctor agreed. "And given his refusal to answer our questions, we haven't entirely ruled out the idea that he may simply be so emotionally distraught that his functions are impaired. He certainly was growing more and more agitated as we tried to gather information - this is why we gave up, and decided to see if having some familiar faces with him might improve his mood before we tried again."
"I don't think," Pearl observed thoughtfully, "that having the scary lady with the ruffles around would improve anyone's mood." Phoenix had to admit that he sort of agreed.
Maya, on the other hand, nodded emphatically. "All right - so in that case, what else does Nick need to know before he goes to see Mr. Edgeworth?"
"Wait - Maya!" Phoenix protested. "Seeing me would probably just make it worse!" Plus... he was scared to death of what would happen if it did. And of a hundred other things.
"You'd have to be an improvement over the ruffly lady," Pearl told him. "He'll want to see a friend like you more than her!"
"But what if just seeing me again m..." Phoenix stopped himself from saying it in front of Pearl, then realized that there was really no better way to phrase it. "...What if it brings back everything we said the other night?" he murmured. "What if it makes him want to die again? I don't want to hurt him..."
"If there was some sort of miscommunication between you and the patient," the doctor suggested, "it might do both of you some good to clear it up now that you have the chance. And I assure you," he added, "Mr. Edgeworth is in no condition to inflict further harm on himself at the moment."
"I'm not really talking about physical harm..." Phoenix acknowledged.
As if the mere mention of 'physical harm' had summoned her, he abruptly felt a whipcrack against his back. "Ow!" he exclaimed, turning to face... a stormy-looking but somewhat tear-streaked Franziska von Karma.
"Heaven only knows why," she stated, tossing a crumpled bit of paper at him before turning away, "but he wants to see you."
"...He... Really?" Phoenix bent down to pick up the paper in disbelief.
"Ms. von Karma, sir!" Gumshoe called after Franziska from a few steps behind, only to stop short of following her into the ladies' restroom. He looked helplessly at Maya and Pearl. "Hey - I don't suppose one of you two could..."
"Uh, no way am I going in there," Maya told him, clutching Pearl a little tighter as one woman who had already been in the restroom emerged, looking rather startled, at the sound of a whip cracking inside. "Pearly either."
"Just let her be for now," Phoenix advised, smoothing out the scrap of paper she'd thrown at him. His fingers shook as he squinted at the letters printed there, and managed to decipher them after a moment; even though he didn't know Miles's handwriting very well, the scrawled capital letters looked more like something Pearl might have written than a well-vocabularied, multilingual adult.
LET SE FENIK
The thought of Miles having written this brought tears to his eyes for many reasons.
Unlike Franziska, Phoenix let the doctors tell him what to expect before he started for the room. Unlike Franziska, he let himself be led.
Unlike Franziska, he changed his mind about this whole thing several times during the short walk to Miles's room, and had to be grabbed by the hand after he turned around to leave.
The last time was when the doctor accompanying them opened the door, and Phoenix caught a glimpse of him lying there in the bed, surrounded by machines, needles in his arm. The doctor had warned him that they'd had to shave his head to clear the area for surgery, but it would have been hard to tell with all the bandages wrapped around him, covering most of his head except for eyes and nose and mouth. Seeing this was the last straw, and Phoenix chickened out. "I can't do this," he murmured, backing right back out of the doorway.
And into Maya and Pearl. "Oh no you don't," Maya told him, pushing him forward again. "He wanted to see you, so he's going to see you."
"I can't do this," Phoenix repeated, and it came out almost as a whimper. As much as it terrified him, he couldn't stop staring at the person in the bed, with grey-tinged skin and no grey-tinged hair, who didn't look anything like Miles - except that now that Phoenix was really looking, he could see that mole on his neck where it was bared, and hardly anyone ever got to see Miles's neck bare because of that frilly thing he always wore, and no one else would know or care about that little dark raised bump that he'd found with his tongue a year ago, and that meant it really was Miles lying there... He barely refrained from pushing Maya and Pearl out of the way and fleeing.
"It'll be okay, Nick... he wants to see you, remember?" Maya whispered from behind him. "Pearly and I will be right outside. Okay?"
Phoenix nodded, and was marginally proud of himself for not clinging to her and screaming like he wanted to do. Or getting sick again. Even the sound of the door closing behind him made him flinch.
He couldn't do anything but just stand there for a long time. Finally, something happened - that broken figure shifted awkwardly in the bed, rolling the bare, bandaged head gingerly to the side. Grey eyes were staring at him from between the strips of gauze.
The doctor had said he either couldn't or wouldn't talk. It was up to Phoenix, then, to say something to break the silence. There were a million things he wanted to say, just like there had been a million things he wanted to say during that year that Miles had been gone - and obviously Phoenix had chosen the wrong things out of that million, or they wouldn't be in this mess.
Phoenix told himself he'd start simple. Just his name. Just 'Miles'. He only got the M out before his throat closed up and the only other sound that he could make was a broken, wheezing sob, his hands covering his face. He was right, he really couldn't do this.
This was bad, breaking down like this in front of Miles when he was already in such terrible condition. Phoenix knew he should get out before he upset Miles further, and started to turn around, when he heard a very familiar sound - the sound of Miles clearing his throat, trying to get his attention. It was so... so completely normal, Phoenix couldn't help but look, lowering his hands just far enough for him to see one hand lift, gesturing weakly for him to come closer.
Of course. Miles had wanted to see him. Phoenix wiped his eyes and took a deep breath and steeled himself to step to the side of the bed. He tried to avoid looking too high, kept his eyes below Miles's chest... on the hand that had been raised, and before he realized it, he was holding that hand between his own, and its fingers closed over his palm. "M... Mi-Miles..." he managed, after a moment. There, a real word. Not that he could find any others to follow it. Hadn't the doctors said it was Miles who couldn't talk?
He couldn't just stand there, though. What was the point? He didn't know what he was doing there, what Miles wanted from him... He made himself look up higher, meeting those eyes - and then he broke down again because they were so bright and wet and troubled, just like after those nightmares he used to have (did he still have them, over a year after he'd been proven innocent?), but Miles was awake. And tugging at his hand. Just like he'd done in the middle of the night, while they were still half-asleep, he bent down to rest an arm over Miles's waist, nestling his head against Miles's shoulder, still clasping his hand.
He shouldn't have been surprised when Miles wriggled his hand free, tried to work it between the two of them, but he was. "Sorry," he whispered, backing off. "I'm so sorry. I just... I don't..."
Miles's hand had found his lapel and was gripping it, holding him in place. Slowly, awkwardly, it slipped into the front pocket of his jacket, and then Phoenix understood, as Miles retrieved the small notepad and pencil that Phoenix always kept there, in case he needed to take notes during an investigation or trial. Right... the doctors had mentioned he might be able to communicate through writing, but wasn't.
Miles fixed him with a slightly groggy stare as he managed to flip open the pad, then looked down to the paper as he began to write, laboriously. With his left hand; the doctors had said he was paralyzed on the right side of his body, Phoenix recalled. ...Miles was right-handed, wasn't he? That would explain the terrible handwriting. Or was that something else about Miles he'd forgotten? He felt like such an idiot for not knowing even basic things like this...
The quiet hiss and scratch of pencil on paper ceased, and Phoenix looked down when Miles looked back to him, indicating that he was finished. Once again, the writing was large and awkward. SORE
Phoenix nodded. "...Yeah, I bet you're sore," he said softly. "Sorry, I didn't mean to kind of-"
He was cut off by Miles making a sudden irritated gesture, and looking back down to the notepad. Miles's eyes narrowed, and he crossed out the last letter, wrote something else, and tapped the pencil emphatically on the paper to punctuate the change. SOR
...Oh. Phoenix stared at the childish writing, then back up to Miles. "You're sorry?" Miles nodded. "...No, Miles - I'm the one who needs to apologize."
Miles shook his head, and scribbled something else. DIDT WANT HURT
"I know, Miles." Phoenix was trembling. "I know. You were hurting, and I said the wrong thing and made you hurt worse. That's why I'm sorry..."
Miles just shook his head again, eyes narrowing further in frustration, and he added to what he'd written, underlining the last fragment. DIDT WANT HURT U
Phoenix just stared at the letters, then back up to Miles's eyes (he didn't want to look anywhere else, he'd see the bandages), then back to the letters, until Miles finally scribbled something else. SEY SOMTHG
"...Say something?" Phoenix asked. Miles nodded, and Phoenix rested his head in his hand in exhaustion. "...I don't know what to say," he admitted. "I'm... I'm scared to death that whatever I say will be the wrong thing, just like last time, and... I'll make you want to die again. I don't want that."
The tip of the pencil jabbed him in the arm to get his attention, and Miles circled what he'd written before. DIDT WANT HURT U, and then THAT U NOT CAR, and then below that, larger RUNG
Phoenix puzzled over what Miles had written, trying to make out some of the less legible letters and sort out whether they were supposed to be whatever letter they really were, or something else, and what they meant when put together. The last word... well, unless he was about to have yet another spirited debate about the merits of stepladders versus regular ladders, Phoenix had no idea. The rest made more sense, with some thought. "You thought I didn't care?" Miles nodded. "A-about you?" Another nod, and Miles underlined RUNG. Finally Phoenix got it, because he was thinking the exact same thing. "You were wrong," he murmured, and although it wasn't a question, Miles nodded, and seeing that he was nearly out of space on the small notebook's page, flipped over to a fresh one. C NO - HURT
Phoenix ignored it. "Of course I cared, Miles," Phoenix told him, vehemently. "Why do you think I was so mad at you? It wasn't because you weren't dead - it was because you left. And because you tried to make me think you were dead. That was what made me mad, not your coming back. I just... I couldn't explain to you how mad I was until you got back, and that's why-"
DIDT WNT C, Miles scribbled quickly, and Phoenix paused to try to figure out what he was saying. "To see me? But the note Franziska gave me..." Miles shook his head, pointed to Phoenix, then to himself. "Oh... you mean I didn't want to see you?" Miles nodded, and Phoenix sighed heavily. "Because I was angry, Miles. At that moment. I didn't mean forever."
NO, Miles wrote, and Phoenix just puzzled over it as Miles looked up, questioningly. "...No, I really didn't," Phoenix offered, and Miles shook his head, his mouth growing tighter in frustration. Phoenix couldn't even imagine how frustrating it must be - Miles was obviously able to think with some clarity, but when he couldn't properly express those thoughts...
Phoenix shook his head, placing a hand over Miles's fingers as they clutched the pencil. "...The doctors said this could get better with time," he said carefully. He didn't want to mention what they'd said about partial recovery, or a chance of recovery. "So just... concentrate on getting better right now, ok- what?" Miles had suddenly jerked away, pointing at him and nodding. "What did I say?"
Miles paused, then his hand was on Phoenix's arm suddenly, pushing up his sleeve. Tapping his watch. Miles gestured to it, then to what he'd written. Phoenix tried to connect these incredibly vague dots - it was the least he could do, when Miles was trying so hard. Time... "no"... and whatever had made Miles react a second... Oh. "Oh! Phoenix realized. "Now?" Miles nodded, and underlined what he'd written before. "You think I didn't want to..." Phoenix trailed off, as he figured it out - or at least he thought he did. "...You're asking if I still don't want to see you now?" Miles laid his head back in relief as he nodded.
Phoenix just stared at him. "Miles, no. What I told you that night was stupid, and I didn't mean it the way you took it at all. Seeing you after all that time, that made me upset. Seeing you like this makes me upset, yes. But..." He had to struggle with the words himself all of a sudden, and he bowed his head, knowing he was on the verge of tears. "...Miles, yesterday when Gumshoe told me what happened... I thought I was never going to see you again ever. And that was worse than anything else. I want you here, I can deal with you being gone, maybe even if you don't explain it, but I don't want you to be gone forever," he told Miles earnestly, looking up to meet his eyes again. "I never did."
Miles hesitated, his mouth twisting in disgust, and then he wrote on the notepad again, furiously. SORY
"Miles, I was just as-"
The pencil's tip jabbed him in the arm again, and then retraced itself over the word Miles had just written. "Miles," Phoenix began again, but Miles refused to look up from that word, which he went over again, and underlined. "Miles, it's-" Miles circled it frantically, underlined it repeatedly, traced it it again and again until the paper was tearing and his breath grew ragged.
"Miles, stop it!" Phoenix pleaded, just closing his hand around the pencil himself to make Miles stop writing, and Miles finally looked up. His eyes were red, tears leaking out to wet the gauze bandages. "I understand," Phoenix told him, and brushed a hand over his own wet cheeks. "I know you're sorry. I forgive you. It's okay - I just want you here. I know I shouldn't be talking about what I want, after the way I spoke to you, but that's all I want from you. No more apologies, no more explanations. I want you to be here, with me, and I want you to get better. Okay?"
Miles turned his head away with a grimace, resting his arm over his body limply... It was almost a familiar gesture of his - the way he averted his eyes, hugging himself tightly, when he was confronted with something he didn't want to face. Phoenix had seen it countless times during those few weeks they'd had together, and there was only one way he had ever known how to deal with it - he leaned over to cautiously tilt Miles's face back towards him, so he could kiss him.
The kiss was sloppy and wet, and Miles tasted like blood and disinfectant and now salt too, but Phoenix didn't care. There was a little clattering sound as Miles dropped the pencil and it rolled off the side of the bed, but Phoenix was paying more attention to the way Miles's hand was clenched in his jacket, holding on as tightly as he could manage with only one working arm.
Miles was seemingly more concerned when he lay back, looking exhausted, after they parted - he looked around, then gestured at the notebook tiredly. "...Right," Phoenix murmured to himself, and bent to figure out where the pencil had rolled off to.
DAMDG was the word Miles wrote when it had been retrieved. It took a second for Phoenix to puzzle out, until Miles gestured towards his bandaged head. MIGHT NVR B SAM
It broke Phoenix's heart to acknowledge that... so he decided he wouldn't, and shook his head. "Look, Miles. I can see you're giving it everything you've got right now."
"Yeah. And I appreciate it. And that's why I'm going to give it everything I've got too, for you." Phoenix told him firmly. "I'll work with you and your doctors, and I'll help in whatever way you're willing to let me. We'll work through this, and you'll be able to talk again and write again..."
"Then I'll keep trying," Phoenix stated. "I don't care how long it takes, or if it never happens. If it doesn't, I guess I'll just have to get really good at deciphering your shorthand and body language. ...I do kind of have a head start on that," he observed, a little more slyly.
Miles managed to breathe what sounded like an exasperated sigh, but the edges of his mouth turned up a little. That was an expression Phoenix was already very familiar with, and so he kissed Miles again.
"Please don't leave," he whispered more earnestly when they parted. This was no casual, joking matter to him - he'd never been more serious in his life. "Please stay. Please."
Miles nudged Phoenix's arm to uncover the notepad he'd been leaning on. HURT U AGAN
"I know... I can't say I'll never do anything that hurts you again either," Phoenix told him. "We can't make promises like that - they're impossible. Let's just take it day by day, all right?"
Miles settled back, closing his eyes, and nodded faintly. Phoenix still didn't think he had a clue what Miles was thinking, and under the circumstances, he wasn't sure he ever would. But... like he'd said, day by day. And today was a good day to sit in silence, taking Miles's hand in his own when it relaxed and relinquished his pencil.
It took months of hard work before Miles was finally able to properly articulate to Phoenix what he'd wanted to say that day in the hospital. Phoenix didn't mind waiting at all - as far as he was concerned, he said, he didn't need to know exactly what had happened, as long as it was over and Miles was still alive.
And cooperating. Phoenix's promise that he would be with him during his recovery made Miles begin to think that recovery might not be so terrible after all. He was frequently frustrated, and entertained thoughts of just how much easier everything would have been if he'd managed to die after all, but all he had to do was look at Phoenix, sitting there with him and patiently deciphering his nearly illegible writing, always willing to give him a smile when their eyes met. That was all it took to make him remember that he was lucky to have survived. The psychiatrist he'd been assigned to had not been willing to let it go so easily, and Miles agreed that he did have issues to work through, but he was determined not to be a danger to himself any longer.
They suspected that Franziska might prove difficult - she usually did - when it came to Phoenix playing such a large role in Miles's rehabilitation. After all, she'd tried to take charge from the moment she got to the hospital. To Miles's relief, she took it as meaning that it was time for her to return to Germany. "Let Phoenix Wright do what he can," she stated with a little smirk. "It's hardly something I should be spending my time on. After all, you're no von Karma - if a von Karma was somehow foolish enough to choose death, they could certainly manage to kill themselves with a single gunshot to the head, unlike you."
"H-hey now," Phoenix spoke up nervously. "Let's not turn this into a competition, okay?" Miles smirked right back at her - he remembered how she'd cried at his bedside, and understood what she thought she was doing. It wasn't necessary. He had no desire any longer to prove himself, and hadn't for some time.
As the swelling in his brain went down, he regained most of the functionality he'd lost in the right side of his body, though from time to time he still found himself limping, and had trouble picking up small objects. He could go back to living independently at his own apartment after a few weeks of intense therapy, though Phoenix insisted on hovering around until Miles got fed up and kicked him out for the night, just to prove that he would be fine on his own. He didn't really mind as much as he expected to when Phoenix came back the next morning to check on him - though he did manage to point out, even with his reduced capabilities, that Wright had an office, and that at some point he might like to actually spend some time there, lest he get evicted from it.
Along with his mobility, his English was coming back. His German as well, a little more slowly. As for the other languages he was somewhat acquainted with, well... it was a good thing that he was unlikely to encounter a situation in which he would be required to carry on a conversation in Latin, and that he didn't have as much use for French as he once had. He could have spoken aloud earlier than he did, but for the fact that he tried when alone, and later with his therapist, and found the awkward, broken speech to be humiliating when once he'd been so well-spoken. Though his written language was progressing more slowly than verbal, he kept to it. Much less embarrassing.
Phoenix nagged him constantly to try to speak again regardless. It was irritating. But eventually Miles lost his patience, and before he could stop himself, he was shouting for Phoenix to stop badgering him - and that shout came out more coherent than he'd expected. ...He couldn't exactly be annoyed with Phoenix after that.
He was still skipping words. His sentence structure was atrocious, and sometimes he couldn't manage to get the point across at all. It frequently left him frustrated, wanting to withdraw, but Phoenix wouldn't let him run. Instead, Phoenix was willing to acknowledge the frustration both of them were feeling and... dispel it.
Possibly they should have discussed things before becoming intimately involved again, and in fact he'd even suggested it, awkwardly, in simple words. Phoenix unfortunately saw the same problem with that that Miles had - they couldn't discuss it thoroughly, in Miles's condition. But even with the current disability, the most important part was easy enough to confirm - he wanted to. And Miles wanted him to. There were things he could do for Miles, Phoenix had pointed out, that proved that mouths could be useful even when they weren't being used to speak. The ongoing joke between them was that Phoenix was going to make Miles get used to talking again by making him scream his name - which was particularly silly because Miles had never been loud.
Somehow, Miles found that he really could joke about it, with Phoenix. Possibly because it wasn't so farfetched - in his writing exercises, he found a recurring theme to his inability to spell certain words, as he would refer to "my wright hand" or "learning to wright". Phoenix found this amusing, and asked if he'd really had so much of an impact on Miles. The question was more than amusement, Miles could tell, and so he answered honestly - yes. The smile didn't reach Phoenix's eyes, but Miles didn't have enough words yet that he knew how to reassure him.
Months later, when the two of them were lying in bed, exhausted from their 'celebration' after Miles had thoroughly impressed his speech therapist with his progress that afternoon, Miles found Phoenix watching him. This wasn't unusual, except that Phoenix looked unnaturally serious. "What?" Miles asked.
"...I was just thinking," Phoenix murmured, resting a hand on Miles's waist, "about where I'd be now if you hadn't made it."
Miles frowned, resting his own hand in turn on Phoenix's hip. It was still a slight effort to form a complete sentence when one word could get the point across, but he was keeping at it. "Where would you be?"
"I honestly don't know," Phoenix replied. "That's why I was thinking about it."
"Don't," Miles told him, reaching his hand up to brush Phoenix's cheek. "I'm still here."
That got a little smile out of Phoenix, if a wistful one. "I know... thanks."
"Thank you. I wouldn't still here except for you." Miles could tell from the brief fuzzy confusion in Phoenix's eyes that his words were a little off again, but apparently Phoenix figured out what he meant anyhow.
The smile faded a little, though. "...Why?"
"Why did I make such a big difference?" asked Phoenix. "I mean, I guess I know, because I feel the same way, but... Gumshoe told me that everyone at the precinct was glad to see you back. Then I go and say one thing that makes it sound like I'm not, and you go and..." He shook his head. "I don't know how I got that important. Or if I want to be."
Miles would have had to struggle with his words even in better days to find an answer for that. "...It wasn't you made me shoot myself," he said at last. "When I left the note, I was intending to do it. You know why I didn't?"
Pain flashed through Phoenix's eyes for a moment, but he didn't acknowledge it. "Why?"
"Because I thought you would be hurt if I did. The rest of life was going mad, everyone I thought I could count on had turned against me or disappeared - except you. You stayed."
This time, Phoenix acknowledged the pain. "...And you left."
"I couldn't accept your kindness," Miles admitted. "I felt I was deceiving you, or taking advantage of - that is how I felt," he interrupted himself, seeing Phoenix open his mouth to protest. "I had to run. It was obvious you loved me. I believed that I didn't love you."
Rather than looking hurt, Phoenix looked thoughtful. "Past tense... Was that on purpose, or by accident?"
"Purpose." Miles nodded. "In Europe, I learned otherwise. I would look at the gun in my hand, and I would imagine those I known." Talking about personal matters, which he'd always been poor at expressing, made it harder to find the words, but he did what he could. "I wanted to end pain... not cause. Franziska would angry, but cope. Gumshoe has been through worse. You, though... I was afraid you wouldn't do as well."
Phoenix's eyes were glistening, and he pulled Miles tight against him, winding an arm under his, up to run his fingers through the hair that was beginning to grow back. "I tried to believe you were dead. I really did. And I tried to tell myself I was angry with you. But the part I was angriest about, when you came back, was the fact that it didn't matter how angry I was - I still loved you. I hated that."
Miles nuzzled against Phoenix's ear, just holding him for a moment. "...I can't say I express better than you did. We both got wrong idea... used wrong words..."
Phoenix sighed against his shoulder. "We have it right now, don't we...?" His voice was very small, almost frightened.
Rather than using the words that no longer came so naturally, Miles's response was to kiss the man in his arms, slowly and thoroughly, until they both relaxed. It seemed absurd that Phoenix should still be worried about misinterpreting their relationship now, even if they still hadn't gotten around to actually discussing the matter. Perhaps, he thought with vague amusement, it helped that he'd been unable to speak, and that Phoenix had gotten used to non-verbal communication - they'd been unable to use the wrong words this time around. Phoenix wanted to be with him, even when it hurt - and Miles was willing to let him, even when it was humiliating and frustrating. The message they sent with their actions, with their determination, was clearer than anything they'd managed to say aloud.
And of course, there was no way to misconstrue the message when Miles rolled on top of Phoenix, and Phoenix smiled up at him.