Actions

Work Header

Visiting Hours

Work Text:

They say a person's life can be measured in milestone moments – graduating school, getting married, having kids. For Phoenix, he found that the whole of his existence followed an alternate rubric, a different kind of ruler that marked off the most important moments of his life:

Hospital visits.

Specifically, the times when he was on the receiving end of medical services. Each instance he found himself laid up in those starchy sheets was inevitably accompanied by some life changing event. Over time, he found that he could remember any period of his life simply by linking it to a particular hospital stay.

There was a lot of pain in those memories, both physical and emotional. But while hospitals are places for the sick, for the maimed and the abused and the dying, they are also houses of healing. They are the places where loved ones gather, where Phoenix could clearly see the people most precious to him.

And so each memory, each visit, was tinged with the phantom pains of injuries long mended, and the echoes of love both given and received.


Age 9

The first time Phoenix became a hospital patient was during elementary school. A couple of weeks after the class trial, his throat started aching. It hurt to swallow, it hurt to breathe through his mouth, it even hurt to talk.

Larry, sympathetic as always, punched him in the arm, snickering, happy that Phoenix couldn't tell him to shut up any more. Phoenix could only glare silently as Larry scooped up all the action figures and retreated to a corner of the treehouse, setting up an elaborate explosion-slash-rescue mission with the plastic toys.

Miles scooted across the hard wooden boards, his shoulder brushing against Phoenix's, and opened up his book bag. He pulled out his copy of The Wizard of Oz; they were supposed to read the next chapter for homework. He thumbed through the pages until he got to his bookmark, and turned to look at Phoenix.

"Do you want to take turns reading?"

Phoenix started to say no, but the effort produced a searing pain. He cringed, trying his best not to cry, and shook his head.

Miles looked at him for a long moment, his sharp grey eyes darting over his friend in concern. He inched closer, enough so that their sides were flush against each other and they could share the book in their laps. He started reading aloud.

Phoenix followed along, reading each line, but really he just paid attention to Miles's voice. He sounded so grown-up, pronouncing each word so smoothly and carefully, and there was something very comforting about the rhythm of his narration. Eventually he laid his head on Miles's shoulder and closed his eyes, letting that stream of words take his mind off his throat.

He was jolted awake when Larry yelled, making explosion-y type noises as he crashed the figurines together. He throat hitched, trying to let out a sound of surprise, but that just made it hurt more. His whole body stiffened as it tried to ward off the pain.

Miles abruptly stopped reading. "Larry, you idiot," he breathed, shifting so that he could see Phoenix. His eyes widened, and he maneuvered away from Phoenix and headed for the ladder at the entrance.

"I'm going to get your parents."

Phoenix nodded, slowly sliding down the wall of the treehouse until he curled up on the floor.

He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he remembered was lying in a hospital bed, a strange doctor looming over him, and his parents gently trying to explain to him what a "tonsillectomy" was.

The next time he opened his eyes the room was dark. He could see his parents, asleep in uncomfortable-looking chairs by a window, and he could hear footsteps and hushed voices outside the door. His throat still hurt, but it was a different kind of pain, a duller kind of ache.

He spent the next couple of days in the hospital recovering from the surgery. He didn't get many visitors; it was a school week and visiting hours at the hospital were limited. Larry came to see him, of course, and gave him a card and a new Laser-Man comic. Phoenix couldn't say much to his friend – his throat still hurt too much to talk a lot – but Larry made enough noise for the two of them, and it was nice to have someone so boisterous visit him in the sterile room.

But he was happiest when Miles visited, with his father hovering respectfully near the doorway and chatting with Phoenix's parents. Each time he brought that day's schoolwork and went over the lessons with Phoenix, and somehow it was easier learning from a friend than from a teacher.

The third time Miles came to visit he brought an enormous cherry popsicle.

"Father says you'd like something cold, but that you shouldn't have ice cream," he said, explaining his gift matter-of-factly. Phoenix, already tearing into the packaging, just grinned, eager to feel the cold numb his throat. A moment later Miles couldn't help but smile in response.

Miles could stay later that evening, and eventually he clambered onto the large hospital bed to sit beside Phoenix. Once more he pulled out The Wizard of Oz and found where they'd left off last time.

"Want me to read again?"

Phoenix nodded, his lips stained cherry-red. They shared the book in their laps again, and after a while Phoenix let his hand creep into Miles's under the stiff white sheets. He nodded off again, with Miles reading to him, and in that half-asleep state he decided that Miles was his very best friend.


Age 21

The second time Phoenix stayed in a hospital was during his years at Ivy University, after the trial for the murder of Doug Swallow. Once the court session concluded Mia insisted on taking him to the emergency room, leaving a flustered Grossberg to manage the case's fallout for the time being.

They were both quiet during the short drive. Years later, Phoenix would realize Mia had carefully hidden her fear behind a mask of confidence. She had already seen one person hospitalized from Dahlia's poison; she'd be damned if she'd let someone else slip into a coma.

Phoenix, though, was too wrapped up in his own misery to notice much. He was hunched over in the passenger seat, his stomach roiling, though he couldn't tell if his pain was from the glass shards he had foolishly swallowed, or from some remnant of the poison coated on those shards, or if his body was simply rebelling at the thought that Dahlia, his Dollie, had betrayed him so horribly.

He wasn't much better in the emergency room. Distantly, he heard Mia explain what had happened to the attending physician, and soon he was surrounded by a cadre of doctors attracted by the words "pharmaceutical poison."

The doctors held him for observation for the next two days. The glass, they assured him, would pass through his system harmlessly, though there was a small risk of intestinal perforation that would require surgery. Phoenix's stomach clenched at the thought, which made him feel more ill.

But the real reason they wanted to watch him was because of the poison. One of the nurses jabbed a needle into his arm to draw blood for a toxicology screening. She had trouble finding his vein, and each shift of the needle felt like his arm was being branded with a hot iron. In a way, though, he was grateful for the pain – it distracted him from thoughts of his murderous girlfriend. Later that same nurse inserted another needle into him, inflicting more pain on his already purpling bruise, for an intravenous drip. The hours immediately after that were a blur, the heavy antibiotics pumped into him rendering him fuzzy and unable to concentrate.

Eventually he blinked open his eyes, taking in the sunshine streaming through the blinds into his hospital room. To his great surprise, Mia was sitting in a chair by his bed, calmly leafing through a dense-looking law journal and sipping from a cup of dark coffee. She glanced up at him and, seeing that he was awake, she offered him a tight smile.

"How are you feeling?"

Phoenix turned his head, staring at the ceiling. "All right, I guess."

"Really." It was more statement than a question, Mia's voice flat and disbelieving.

He didn't respond. All he could feel was his stomach churning, little bubbling pains that made him feel nauseous. He felt sore in his arm, stiff and aching from the botched needle insertions. His head felt disconnected from the rest of his body, and part of him hoped he could just float away from everything he was feeling at that moment.

Most of all, he hurt. He felt foolish, and stupid, heartsick and heartbroken, and as he silently counted the grey tiles above him he felt hot tears stream from his eyes down his cheeks.

"Why did she do it?" he mumbled, voice low with pain. He sat up, wiping the tears away quickly.

Mia leaned forward, her brown eyes filled with a pain of their own, along with sympathy. "We went through this at the trial."

Phoenix shook his head, feeling traces of the tears he hadn't swept away streak down his skin in sharp angles. "I know, I know." He looked over at Mia. "But… why?" His voice cracked embarrassingly, and a fresh wave of tears threatened to spill. He felt lost and confused, and alone.

And suddenly Mia was next to him, her arms wrapped tightly around his shoulders and holding his head to her chest, murmuring soothing words to him. Normally he would have flushed a bright red to be pressed so intimately against another woman, especially one so well-endowed as his attorney. But he just slid his arms around her waist and let himself be held as he cried in earnest.

He didn't know how long he stayed there, clinging to Mia like his life depended on her, but eventually he leaned back and offered her a small, tentative smile, the corners of his mouth just barely turning up.

"Th-Thank you."

Mia looked at him, her expression filled with a sad understanding, and Phoenix couldn't help but think of how strong and beautiful and wise she looked. He was certain, in that instant, that one day she would take the world by storm.

"You know," he said, letting the words tumble out before he paid too much attention to them, "I've thought about changing my major to pre-law."

"Is that so?" He wasn't certain, but he thought there was a hint of amusement in her tone.

"Yeah. There was a friend, when I was a kid…" He felt his stomach clench again, remembering the newspaper article about the 'Demon Prosecutor' and contrasting it with the memory of the Miles he knew. He missed Miles, terribly, and for an instant he was filled with a sharp longing to see his once-best friend in the doorway, popsicle in hand.

He drew in a sharp breath and met Mia's eyes. "And you've shown me what it's like to be a lawyer." This time he felt his face heat up. "I want to help people like you helped me."

Mia studied him, deciding how much of what he said was genuine and how much was due to the drugs circulating through him. Finally she fished a business card out of her bag and pressed it into his hand.

"In case you lost the one I gave you before," she said, closing his fingers around it.

At that moment, a nurse poked her head into Phoenix's room and announced that visiting hours were ending.

"I should go," Mia said, standing and gathering her things. "I might come by and check on you again."

"I- That'd be-" He paused, collecting himself. "Thank you." He tried to smile again.

Mia grabbed the medical chart off the end of Phoenix's hospital bed and handed it to him. "Your nurse is named Ann and your chief physician is Doctor Roberts."

Phoenix frowned. "Chief?"

She paused in the doorway. "Mmm. There's a lot of doctors interested in you, but she's the one in charge."

As he heard her heels clicking away in the hall, Phoenix mulled over how appropriate that title was for his savior-attorney.


Age 26

A few years later Phoenix found himself in a hospital bed for the third time in his life.

He had no memory of arriving at the hospital, no memory of being carried away down the river, or washing up on a gravelly shore, or being strapped to a gurney and rushed away in an ambulance.

He wasn't sure how long he'd been sedated, or how often he had dropped in and out of consciousness. He vaguely remembered Larry talking to a doctor, sounding loud and panicked; and as he slipped into another fever dream the image of Larry morphed into some kind of crazy bird, flying around the Hazakura grounds with giant paint-splattered wings.

Suddenly the grounds were on fire, the snow turning orange with the flickering flames, except now all the grounds were a bridge, and the timbers were burning, and he had to get to the end, had to get to Maya, had to stop falling

Phoenix jerked awake, and to his horror it felt like his body was on fire, and he threw off the blankets and tried to stand and run. Immediately his vision swam, and he wiped the sweat off his brow, and though his body was warm, too warm, his hand was cold and clammy.

One of the nurses saw him moving and got to his side just in time as he collapsed on his feet, tangled in the monitoring wires. She called for help, and two other nurses arrived to help usher Phoenix back into the bed.

"Maya… have to get to Maya…"

"You have to rest," one of them said. She added something to his drip, probably another sedative.

As he lay back down he spotted his possessions gathered in a haphazard pile on a tray table near the sink: his badge, the magatama, even the hood he received from Sister Iris, that pretty young nun wearing the face of a ghost from his past. He reached for the tray, though it was far beyond his grasp, and a nurse, taking pity, wheeled it over to him.

He slipped the hood around his head, believing that it would make his body cool down from the fire that was still burning in him. And there was a crazy part of him, still feverous, that thought perhaps the hood would make it easier for Maya to sense his presence.

The next time he woke was when Larry burst into the room, explaining that Sister Iris had been arrested for murder. Larry was nearly incoherent, begging Phoenix to defend her, and Phoenix, still only half-way coherent himself, mumbled the only thing he could think of:

"Get Edgeworth."

And like some kind of miracle, when he opened his eyes again there was Edgeworth, sitting stiffly by his bed, staring at Phoenix with a mixture of concern and apprehension and something else that Phoenix wasn't sure he could identify.

Things had been somewhat strained for the two of them for some months now. After Edgeworth had returned from the dead, a tentative relationship had started to bloom between the lawyers; but his frequent departures for Europe left Phoenix wondering just how strongly the prosecutor felt for him.

Edgeworth leaned forward slightly. "You're awake."

Phoenix sighed and rubbed at his temple. "Yeah."

The prosecutor frowned. "What were you thinking, running across a burning bridge like that?"

Phoenix's eyes flew wide and he tried to sit up, which was proving to be quite difficult at the moment. "Maya!"

Edgeworth lifted his arm, trying to keep Phoenix in place. "Wright! Calm down!"

With a noise of resigned frustration Phoenix collapsed back against the pillow. "Miles, you have to save her! Please!" He thrust his arm at the tray and nudged his badge and the magatama toward Edgeworth, his words spilling out in a confused stream.

"Save Maya, and… and Dol- Iris too. I can't… defend… please, you have to…"

Edgeworth gave the objects a dubious look, but placed them in his pocket anyway. "If you promise to stay here and rest, I'll see what I can do to straighten things out."

Phoenix closed his eyes, trying to will his head to stop aching. If only he could stand up without the world spinning, or cool down enough to move around, or get his fever down so he could string more than two coherent thoughts together…

"I thought you were dying."

The words were so quiet, and uttered after so much silence, Phoenix wasn't sure if he had really heard them or if they belonged to yet another fever dream. He turned his head toward Edgeworth and was surprised to see the other man's head bent low, obscuring his face.

"Wha… Why?"

Edgeworth shook his head. "It doesn't matter. But it- I realized that– " He made a strange, strangled noise in his throat, cutting off his words. He finally glanced at Phoenix, and the look in those grey eyes, unusually soft, spoke volumes for him.

With some effort Phoenix moved his hand and touched the side of Edgeworth's face, his fingers tracing through the silvery bangs and brushing against a stubble-strewn cheek. After a moment Edgeworth lifted his own hand and grasped Phoenix's.

Something changed, there in that dark hospital room. The tension in the air shifted, closed around them, morphing from pain and worry to a tentative acceptance, to something neither of them could give voice to just yet.

Phoenix felt a wave of heat wash over him again. He swallowed hard.

"Help them."

Edgeworth stood, holding tightly to Phoenix's hand for one more instant before drawing back.

"I will."

Funny, how much that sounded like a promise.

Phoenix closed his eyes.

"I trust you."

Funny, how much that sounded like I love you.


Age 33

"Are you sure about this?"

Edgeworth's words were low, as though he were trying to keep the conversation as quiet as possible. To anyone else who might have heard his voice, he sounded apprehensive and concerned.

Phoenix, however, had long ago learned to recognize the thoughts, or rather, the emotions in Edgeworth's tone. The prosecutor was worried, of course, but there was also a flicker of reproach hidden in his question. You've worked so hard, and we've both waited so long to make this work. Don't screw it up on a whim was what Phoenix really heard.

He cradled the old cellular phone more tightly against his ear as he shifted in the starchy hospital sheets. For a fourth time Phoenix had landed himself in the hospital, but for the first time he was actually glad be laid up. It gave him the excuse he had been looking for.

"I'm sure."

Seven years, seven long, hard years had passed since the last time he set foot in a courtroom. Just a little while ago he had finally gone through its doors again, though under less than ideal circumstances.

Still, Phoenix had found the chance he needed to have Kristoph put away. Though Edgeworth had disapproved of the method, he had also recognized the opportunity. Once upon a time the prosecutor would have found the faked playing card distasteful but necessary; and later, when he'd regained his idealism, he would have been disgusted; and now, time had circled him around to hold his first opinion again. As Phoenix had so bitterly learned, idealism sometimes had to give way to the realities – and unfairness – of the world.

And Phoenix, meanwhile, had found a unique opportunity in Kristoph's former apprentice.

"I think he's a good fit for the test run."

He heard Edgeworth's sharp inhale, rendered tinny by the phone.

"He has only one trial under his belt. Are you really going to entrust this endeavor to such a greenhorn?"

"Well, hiring him now will give him the chance to get some more experience. I'm right about this, Miles, I know I am." He smirked, unseen in his empty hospital room. "And besides, his horns are brown, not green."

He could practically hear the eye-roll. There was a moment of thoughtful silence on the other end of the line; then:

"Even now, you still choose to see the best in people." The words were weighted with nostalgia, with exasperation and admiration.

Despite his more jaded outlook and the cynical front he put up to hide his disappointment and shame, Phoenix felt an embarrassed smile threaten to creep across his face. "Nah. I'm still just a disgrace with an uncanny ability at cards."

"If you start singing Poker Face again, I'm not coming down to visit."

At that he let out a long, throaty laugh.

"I shouldn't be here too long, anyway. Just a sprained ankle."

He looked down at his feet and rolled his good foot. The other one… not so much. It hurt to even wiggle his toes, and the big bandage wrapped around it made him feel like he had a mutant growth taking over his leg. There was still a lot of pain radiating out from the joint, and he briefly wondered if maybe it would have been better to have broken his ankle completely. At least then he could ask for more morphine.

Truth be told, his head was aching as well. That telephone pole was made out of cement as far as he was concerned. The doctors said he had a light concussion, nothing too serious, and he didn't want to worry Trucy or Miles any further. But he still felt dizzy, lightheaded, and he was pretty sure there was a deep stinging cut on the back of his head, beneath his spikes. Ah well; that's what the beanie was for.

He sighed genially into the phone. "But you know, you could come see me anyway. Bring a cherry popsicle, get in the bed with me…" He let his voice drop lasciviously.

"Phoenix!"

Ah, it was still fun to get a rise out of Edgeworth. He chuckled at his own innuendo.

"Sorry. Watching all these old cartoons Maya sent makes me remember being a kid again."

"I don't think a child would behave quite like that," Edgeworth huffed. He heard the shuffling of papers, the snap of a briefcase. "But I will still see you shortly."

"Really?" He sounded younger than he meant to, like when he first asked Edgeworth to dinner and was astonished to hear the prosecutor agree. Though the years had made him more sarcastic and pessimistic, he still felt a flutter in his stomach when Edgeworth surprised him. He doubted the feeling would ever go away completely.

"Soon." The line clicked off.

His head was still a little fuzzy, and his ankle was definitely sore, but he felt inordinately pleased. If only he'd known years ago that getting hit by a car would get Edgeworth to leave his office early.

He settled back into the pillows, hard and stiff though they were, and thought about Trucy and Apollo, gallivanting around town asking about noodles and panties. He snickered, imagining the look on the poor kid's face, as he hit play on the remote and started up another episode.

And later, when Edgeworth appeared in the doorway, glasses glinting, he couldn't help but grin.

Maybe hospitals weren't so bad after all.


Age 57

It had been nearly two-and-a-half decades since the last time Phoenix was a hospital patient.

The years had been good to him since he earned his badge back and resumed his career as a defense attorney, and the Agency had gained a formidable reputation as the best defense team in the state.

Quite the comeback for a former disgrace.

Phoenix had made a conscious effort to keep the firm small, with only a few trusted associates filling the ranks. Though most of the potential hires were either established attorneys looking to benefit from his reputation, or fresh-faced graduates with little understanding of the real world, every now and then he'd take in someone determined, who had been a little too bruised by the world and had something to prove.

He really was an old softie.

And maybe now he'd be forced to slow down and get old and soft in body, too.

He groaned as he realized Edgeworth – Miles – was going to lay into him for getting into this mess.

Despite his husband's insistence that he get a proper driver's license, Phoenix had stubbornly refused. His bicycle had remained his primary mode of transportation, keeping him in good health and surprisingly good shape. He might not have as much energy as he used to, but he could still pedal around and weave his way through traffic like a teenager.

Until this morning, when an elderly driver lost control of his vehicle and slammed into Phoenix.

The ambulance had thankfully arrived quickly, because he was certain his leg wasn't supposed to bend that way. He hadn't felt much pain, most likely because his body had gone into shock. Only once he was laying on the X-ray table, his trousers hanging in shreds off his broken limb, did the pain finally hit him.

It was almost enough to make him pass out: a sharp, searing throb, dulled only a little by the morphine pills he'd gulped down. He wanted to throw up, but his mouth was too parched and his stomach empty, and the dry heaves and bile left him trembling and dizzy. He nearly bit through his lip waiting for the pain to subside, and he was fairly certain he had lost consciousness at one point.

When Miles finally arrived he was furious – at the driver, at Phoenix, at the city planner who couldn't coordinate traffic, at the officials who wouldn't regulate licensing tests, at anyone who had a remote connection to the accident. But he had stopped fuming by the time Phoenix had been transferred to a hospital bed. When the doctors and nurses left them alone, Miles held onto his hand tightly and brushed back his graying locks of hair, and called him a foolish idiot.

And kissed him, long and frantic and desperate.

Even after all these years, it was still hard for Miles to admit when he was scared.

He had to stay overnight. The doctors were not sure if the break could be healed with a simple cast or if surgical intervention was needed. Trucy had been notified of the accident and his hospital admission, of course, but she was overseas with her show. There was no need for her to fuss over him; she had her own magic to do.

Miles stayed with him the whole night.

In the end, no surgery was needed. He would have a limp though, and might have to start using a cane. And his bicycling days had definitely come to an end.

He'd move more slowly, but perhaps as Maya would say, it was a sign. A sign to slow down in many ways – to think about retirement, to let the Agency run on its own, to see the world with Miles while they were still able.

Or maybe just see more of Miles, and of Trucy and Maya and everyone he cared for.

When he was finally discharged, Miles brought him a slender ebony cane, understated and elegant. Phoenix smiled as he accepted it, laying it over his lap, and Miles wheeled him out of the lobby, threatening him in every language he knew to not get hit by any more cars. He could almost ignore the pain from his leg trapped in the cast.

Outside in the sunshine, Miles's hand came to meet his on top of the cane. The silver bands around their fingers gleamed together.

Even without the cane, Phoenix knew he would always have someone to lean on.


Age 84

Another two-and-a-half decades later, Phoenix Wright found himself in a hospital bed for the last time.

He had grown old. His hair had long ago turned a silvery white, his skin hung more loosely against his frame and held a patchwork map of wrinkles, and his limp had become more severe with each passing year. Sometimes he'd catch a glimpse of his reflection in a mirror and wonder how age had crept up on him, how time had slowly left its mark on his body. But despite his years, he had remained in good health.

Until recently.

He had lived a long life, and for the most part, a happy one. He had a loving daughter, two beautiful grandchildren, and many friends he considered family. The Agency had been ceded to Apollo over a decade ago, with the promise that only those who had no one else on their side receive the firm's representation. The Jurist System had helped to bring back public confidence in the Los Angeles justice system, and he'd even had the opportunity to serve on it and vote 'Not Guilty' – his own creation had come back to him full circle. And once faith had been restored in justice, he'd helped Maya Fey bring the Kurain Channeling tradition back to its old fame and glory.

And throughout out all those years, Miles had been by his side.

Miles, whom he'd chased after since he was nine years old. Who had shared his life for so many years, through so many changes and defeats and soaring triumphs. Who would smile softly at him and catch him with those piercing eyes, and with a single glance would understand all of his thoughts. Who brought out the best in him. Whom he had loved, and been loved by in return, and who made his life whole.

And last year he had passed on.

He remembered Miles as a child, and as a young man, and the Chief Prosecutor, and his crush and his lover and his husband. Though there was still much joy and happiness in Phoenix's life, over the past months it seemed like the fire in his heart had slowly dwindled away.

The last time he'd visited the hospital was to say goodbye.

With a great deal of difficulty, Phoenix opened his eyes.

"You're awake!"

He felt a hand work its way into his own, clasping his fingers gently. He slowly moved his gaze down his arm and saw his daughter looking back at him, eyes bright with unshed tears. In a moment of rare sentimentality, Miles had told him that even if it were not genetically possible, she had somehow inherited Phoenix's eyes. Perhaps she had after all.

He raised his own eyes to hers. "Hey Truce. Don't you have a family to be with, sweetheart?"

"Visiting hours are over. I'm not leaving."

He smiled at his daughter, who refused to let him disappear from her without saying goodbye. He drew in a long, shaky breath.

"Trucy, I- You know what you mean to me, right?" His voice was hoarse, his throat tired.

"I know, Daddy." Her voice was tight, almost hiding the tremble.

"You're my light. My miracle. The best thing that ever happened to me."

"Me and Papa Miles, right?"

He felt a lurch in his chest, an empty pit that gnawed. "Both of you."

He turned his eyes toward the doorway, wishing he could see Miles standing there, coming to visit him, one more time.

"Daddy?"

His heart ached at the sadness and fear in her voice, and he untangled his fingers and with all his effort he reached out for her. She threw her arms around him, like she did when she was a child. "Daddy, I love you."

He dipped his head down, burying his face in her hair. She'd let it grow long, like her mother's.

"I love you too, Trucy. So much."

He closed his eyes once more, and felt the world tilt, and heard her sniffle.

"Say hi to Papa Miles for me, okay?"

It took everything he had left to nod. He was so tired.

Distantly, he felt her press her lips to his forehead; and he heard footsteps shuffle into the room, heard Apollo's low rumble, heard Trucy's voice muffled against her brother's chest.

…Yes, he had lived a good life.

"Are you just going to lie there forever?"

Phoenix looked back toward the hospital doorway again.

Miles was there.

In that moment he saw every Miles he had ever known: the child, the prosecutor, the rival and lover and husband. The images blurred together, shifting into one another, until they finally resolved into just one form: the young man who had stood across from him in court.

Miles raised his eyebrows, amused.

Phoenix stood up, and tugged down his blue suit jacket, and grinned.

They say a person's life can be measured in milestone moments. Phoenix had once considered that his life could instead be measured by hospital stays. But really, his life hadn't been measured in hospital visits or in milestones.

It had been measured in Miles.

He threw his arms around Miles and met his lips, and the feeling of pure happiness, of joy and exultation and bliss as they came together, was overwhelming. It felt like falling forever.

It felt like visiting hours were over, and he was finally coming home.