"Is that a dog?" asked Miles.
Backtracking, Klavier reappeared before the door of the Chief Prosecutor's office. Sure enough, a terrier mix was in Gavin's arms. It had the adoring eyes of puppyhood and gangly legs of adolescence. Miles estimated its age at four and a half months. "Ja," Klavier said after it was clear that he had no way to explain away the animal he was carrying.
"And why do you have a dog at work?" Miles prompted.
"For which case? And why are you holding onto that evidence in your own office?"
Though the puppy nipped and licked at Klavier's fingers, the man still tried to look like the picture of professionalism. "I should say, it was evidence. It's. Ah. Being properly filed, now."
Months earlier, Miles would have snapped at Gavin to stop whatever nonsense he was pulling and get back to work. His nerves were less tightly wound, now, and he only raised an eyebrow at the man who was becoming his friend. "I thought we were committed to the truth, Prosecutor Gavin."
Klavier hesitated. The puppy panted, looking like it was smiling. "It's one of the adoptable dogs from the Lipps case. I drove over to meet Helena on my lunch hour. Justice helped me choose, but I'm still deciding on a name."
"I see. Technically, only service animals are supposed to be in this building." Miles interlaced his fingers and studied Klavier. With the long, formal span of his office between them, Gavin had to feel like a schoolchild being lectured by a particularly picky headmaster. "Although, as you pointed out... prosecutors can also bring in evidence. I suppose that applies to previous evidence, as well. Make sure he doesn't relieve himself inside, and don't make a habit of this."
Though he relaxed, Klavier couldn't hide his confusion as he walked further inside. "You're actually letting this slide? I like this new you."
"And I always liked dogs." Though that could have been the end of their conversation, Miles' gaze stayed firm and thoughtful and Klavier didn't dare move out from under it. "The Paynes are furious that I've brought you in on the scholarship project. They think it's shameless favoritism."
Miles smiled thinly. "You're the talkative one. If you'd be so kind, spread it around the entire building that I would look well on anyone who helps find permanent homes for those animals."
Klavier laughed. "Because you like dogs?"
"Because I like dogs," Miles confirmed. We do have space in that condo.... "And please get me your feedback on the scholarship application by the end of the week."
"Believe it or not, we had the same thoughts about finding homes for these puppies. In other words: will do." Klavier scritched under his puppy's chin. "And I've already come up with some notes. I'll doublecheck for anything else I want to add by Friday."
With perfect timing, another face appeared at the door. "I already got my final feedback in," smirked Ema and walked to join them. The envelopes in her arms were perfectly aligned, like she'd known Klavier would have a squirming armful of puppy for sloppy contrast. "With proper usage of ethical judgment scales from peer-reviewed articles. Very scientific. Lana liked my edits, too."
Miles accepted the files she handed over, then asked mildly, "Would those peer-reviewed articles be from... psychological journals?"
It was a perfect hit. Even a tiny bit of teasing from him made the girl blush. "Uh. Well. Yes." Ema cleared her throat and tugged her jacket. "I talked more with Athena at the New Year's party. Psychology might have more scientific rigor than I gave it credit for."
Klavier was obviously confused at whatever he was missing, as he'd missed the grand Cykes Versus Skye showdown over fields of scientific inquiry. That was fine. Miles had actually enjoyed their one successful Game Night, and agreed with Phoenix that others should be held. They'd induct Klavier soon enough and then he could participate in all the pointless friendly arguments to come.
Still, it was time for Ema to deflect, and she naturally chose her favorite target. With the return of her trademark smirk, she whipped out her phone and held the screen in front of Klavier. "Nice Splash Mountain pic."
Miles tried not to smirk, as well. That picture had already made the rounds at the office.
The hit landed solidly and Klavier grumbled. After adjusting his hold on the puppy, Klavier turned back to Ema. "Fräulein."
"Herr Edgeworth has announced that he'll like anyone who gives one of the shelter puppies a home." Lifting his furry charge for emphasis, Klavier finished, "So I'm sure you'll want to run out and adopt a dozen."
In one smooth succession, Ema reddened again, pelted Klavier with her snack, and stormed toward the door.
"It's probably for the best that I didn't try to get her to like me," Klavier said as Ema left.
"Quite." Miles didn't look up from the files Ema had brought. That scene had been faintly entertaining, but he was still a busy man with a long week ahead of him. Paperwork about tenant agreements had been nothing compared to buying a house himself, and there were more fresh cases to manage. "Considering he helped you choose a dog, I assume your victory dinner with Justice went well. And the benefit at the club."
"Smooth sailing on both, and thanks for the check." Officially, the charity check was under Phoenix's name, but Miles actually funding the donation wasn't much of a secret in their group. Klavier wasn't even bothering to pretend. "You could have come, you know. Trucy would have wanted you there. And one of the ladies in the troupe shares your taste in neckwear. Peggy Legg. She's a pirate."
Miles chose to ignore that, just as Klavier continued to ignore that ridiculous hair spiral hanging next to his head. "The Chief Prosecutor attending a show run by a former defendant, who was aided by the prosecution?" He shook his head and settled his reading glasses on his nose. "That would be terrible optics. Puppy adoptions are one thing, but outright cash donations are quite another. Trucy understands."
"She does understand," confirmed a new voice.
Warmth rushed through Miles and he looked up from his files. Phoenix stood there, his formal blue suit looking as mismatched as ever with his spiky hair and lopsided smile. It was the best sight he'd seen all day. Franziska would call his schoolboy-like reaction foolish, and she was probably right. It did feel lovely to be near each other, though, as comforting as when he'd stepped inside from the Heidelberg blizzards. Foolish, foolish, foolish. He didn't fight it.
"But," Phoenix continued as he walked inside, "we're still going to make you come to another one next week to make up for it. She'll need lots of applause at her school talent show."
Miles brightened. "She got in!" With Trucy transferring schools halfway through the semester, that hadn't been a sure thing. Already, this fresh start seemed like a good thing for all of them.
"She got in, and...." Phoenix frowned at Klavier. "That's a dog."
Klavier held up his puppy for a better view, confirming that yes, it was a dog. An adorable—if scruffy—dog, with brindled brown fur and one ear stubbornly aloft. "I'm still picking a name. And he probably needs a walk before I start discovery on the Lombard case. Tschau," he said airily and left them alone. His puppy squirmed as they left, and licked his chin.
"That's a dog," Phoenix repeated to Miles, bemused. "He got a dog? Are we getting a dog?"
"It was from that nightclub case that he and Justice worked on. There's going to be an adoption drive among my prosecutors and detectives." Miles' brow furrowed as he ran through his mental checklist again. "I'll have to doublecheck that presents no ethical problems, since they were evidence. Obviously there are no formal issues, but as I said to Gavin, I want to avoid even the hint of impropriety. The city needs to be absolutely sure—"
Phoenix's kiss cut him off. "I think your office can have a tiny little bit of impropriety. And seriously, are we going to pick out a puppy, too?"
Miles grumbled. Yes, he missed having a dog, but right now he was a very serious official in his very serious office, talking about very serious things. "Think of all the dark history this city is operating under. All those years of damaging precedent. They're used to the law being twisted into... they're in the habit of...." He squirmed away from the investigation Phoenix's mouth was making of a spot behind his ear. "Stop that."
Phoenix stopped, but didn't look sorry about trying.
"May I help you?" Miles asked tightly. Control would be regained; he just needed another minute. And then he would be a very serious Chief Prosecutor again.
"I was hoping I could use your books."
This again. That brought a quick smile, which Miles tried to fight down. He was a very serious official in his very serious office. This would not work. "You know, you have that rather expensive database subscription."
"I do know." Phoenix plucked a book from the shelves without bothering to look at its spine. "But Athena is using it right now, and I wanted to spend time with you."
Maybe he could give up a little control. "Oh. Well, then." Miles gestured at one of the settees, then stood. "Help yourself. I'll put on some tea."
With that, Phoenix set aside the book he'd used as a cover story and pulled papers from his messenger bag. They quickly took over the low table in front of him. Miles' orderly office became a mess of edit marks and highlighter stripes. "Apollo's already bugging me about some quick changes to the scholarship application. He said he and Klavier had been going through it. I won't complain about them getting along, now, but they want to 'fix' everything the two of us already did."
"I made the mistake of sending it to Franziska," Miles said as he fiddled with the electric kettle. "Not on a formal basis, but just to show how far along we were. She's convinced you've destroyed my productivity. She essentially sent it back with a giant 'prosecutor' stamp on every page that mentioned future career paths. I knew I should have kept this to Lana."
"All we need is for Ema, Athena, and Blackquill to swoop in as a third faction, and we'll have quite a civil war on our hands." Phoenix grinned as Miles handed him a cup, with milk and sugar already added like he preferred. "The Gregory Edgeworth Legal Scholarship is going to be a lot of work."
"It will," Miles agreed. Phoenix looked momentarily surprised as Miles took the seat across from him rather than returning to his desk. The expression faded, replaced by joy.
There were a lot of papers, even for men used to the thick files of government casework. Busy days were ahead, skipped lunches, and late nights in a home that still had boxes to unpack. Fine. The two of them had always been able to tackle the biggest challenges together, and anything meaningful took effort.
It was worth it in the end.