Chapter 1: Phoenix
Phoenix can usually tell when he’s having a bad day, and today is no exception. Ever since he woke up this morning, he felt too sensitive to things that never normally bother him, and his emotions are going haywire. In the first ten or so minutes after waking up, his alarm made his ears feel like they were bleeding, brushing his teeth made his gums hurt, and the pain of cutting himself shaving – which normally was no more than a slight stinging sensation – shot pain through his head and left him fighting back tears. So, yeah, he’s pretty certain today is a bad day.
Things only get worse in court. Maya and his client keep talking to him in the waiting area, but it’s almost impossible to keep track of what they are actually saying. All Phoenix knows is that his brain feels like it’s turned into cotton wool. His legs wobble and he stumbles slightly.
“Whoa, you okay, Nick?” Maya says, grabbing his arm. Phoenix appreciates the gesture, despite the horrible tingling pain that shoots up his arm.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” he says, forcing a smile. “But thanks.”
But he knows Maya doesn’t really believe him.
Soon, Phoenix and Maya are entering Courtroom 3. The huge room suddenly seems so daunting, and Phoenix can’t remember the last time seeing all of the people in the viewing galleries caused him such anxiety. Maybe it’s because he knows they will make noise – because he really isn’t in the mood for noise today.
He looks across to where the prosecutor stands. It’s a man Phoenix doesn’t recognise, but he’s sure he’s a jerk. Part of him wishes that he was facing Miles, because at least Miles won’t yell at him if he knows Phoenix is feeling like this. Because Miles goes through this sort of thing too. That’s the good thing about having an autistic boyfriend.
And then the Judge bangs his gavel. Phoenix flinches. This is going to be a long day.
Somehow, Phoenix makes it to the recess without completely breaking down. It hasn’t been the best trial for him, but at least his client hasn’t been found guilty yet.
But he’s feeling even worse than earlier. Even the slightest noise drives spikes of pain through his ears, and the fabric of his suit is rubbing at his sensitive skin. And Phoenix knows it won’t take much for him to burst into tears.
Ignoring Maya and his client, Phoenix rushes into the bathroom. He shuts himself into one of the cubicals and puts his head in his hands, his fingers digging into his spiky hair. Trying to remember all of the relaxation stuff that Miles told him about, Phoenix takes deep, slow breaths to slow his pulse rate, letting his knees bounce up and down; he suppresses his stims in court, so it’s always a good idea to stim freely when no one else can see. And he groans, wishing he could just go home.
The rest of the trial is even worse, with Phoenix forgetting evidence and having to be constantly prompted by Maya. The prosecutor keeps shooting him patronising looks, as though he thinks Phoenix is useless. But he isn’t useless, and he’d happily challenge this guy to do battle in court whilst on the verge of a meltdown; and he bets he couldn’t do it.
Phoenix clenches and unclenches his toes inside his shoes, wishing he could run his fingers through his hair or chew on the stim toy Maya gave him or even flap his hands like he did as a child, because all of these things just help him focus.
He really has to force his brain to focus, because all his brain is telling him right now is ‘RUN AWAY! ESCAPE! HIDE!’ and all the other panicky things that run through his head during moments like this. And, even though it’s actually quite painful, Phoenix manages to force himself to think about the case, recognising contradictions and exposing the truth: that his client is indeed innocent.
And when the Judge hands down the verdict, NOT GUILTY, all Phoenix can do is flinch. Because the people in the viewing stands are applauding and Maya hugs him and the Judge bangs his gavel and Phoenix wonders if his brain is going to explode.
Normally, he talks to his now free client after the trial is over, but he can’t today. As he rushes home, he sends Maya a text that says, Sorry. I have to go. Meltdown.
And, a few seconds later, Maya relies with I understand, Nick. Hope you feel better soon.
So do I, Phoenix thinks.
By the time he gets back to the apartment he shares with Miles, Phoenix feels like he’s about to throw up. He normally takes the stairs (Miles can’t take elevators, so Phoenix tends to avoid them in solidarity), but he’s too wobbly to manage all of those steps right now. So he stumbles into the elevator and slumps against the wall, frantically running his fingers through his hair. He hasn’t had a meltdown in years, but Phoenix still knows this is going to be one of the worse ones.
When the elevator arrives at the eighth floor, making a dinging sound that makes Phoenix jump, he rushes out of the elevator and heads to their apartment, his wobbly knees protesting with every step. Phoenix fumbles with the key, his eyes burning with the effort of suppressing tears, but manages to get inside the apartment.
He crashes into the bathroom and slams the door, sliding to the floor as his tears finally spill over. His emotions and senses are all overloading at once, and Phoenix can do little more than curl up into a ball and cry.
His hands flap and flail, rocking himself back and forth as he curls up, longing for his brain to stop overwhelming him. His breathes are jagged, his throat aching as he sobs. And he just…
And he just lies there in a ball on the bathroom floor, wishing he could’ve just stayed here when he felt so awful. Why did Miles have to leave for work when he was still in bed? If Miles was here when he got up, then he probably would’ve looked after him and insisted he stayed home.
He wishes Miles were here. He wishes this meltdown would end. He wishes…
Nearly two hours after he crashed home in a right state, Phoenix is calming down. His eyes are swollen from crying, his face red and blotchy. Everything aches, as though he ran a marathon earlier. His heart is still pounding, so loud he can hear it in his ears. And his senses are still on high alert, though not nearly as bad as they were earlier.
Phoenix slowly stands up, his wobbly legs nearly giving way, and has to cling to the sink when the room spins. Once steady, he washes his face and smiles weakly at his reflection. He looks a wreck.
He normally spends the afternoons and evenings in the living room, watching TV or reading over notes for his next court case, but Phoenix can’t face it today. So he just goes to bed. without even bothering to get undressed, he simply removes his tie, kicks off his shoes and burrows under the blankets.
Despite all of his muscles trembling and his stinging eyes, Phoenix falls asleep in minutes.
Chapter 2: Miles
When Miles Edgeworth returns home from a repetitive day at work, he finds his apartment looking rather different than normal. He normally gets home to the smell of microwave meals and the sight of his partner sat hunched up on the sofa, watching the television whilst pretending to read his notes for an upcoming court case.
But today, the apartment is oddly silent. Phoenix isn’t in the kitchen or the living room, his two usual haunts, so Miles deduces that he must be in the bedroom. But Phoenix is never found in the bedroom at this time of day. There must be something wrong.
So Miles walks over to the bedroom door and knocks. “Wright? Are you in there?”
“Yeah, ‘m here,” Phoenix says. His voice is weak, as though he has been crying.
There is definitely something wrong. Miles starts chewing his bottom lip.
“Can I enter?” he asks.
There is a pause. But then… “Yeah, come on in.”
Miles opens the door. The room is quite dark, the curtains drawn. Phoenix’s shoes and tie are on the floor; he would normally give Phoenix a lecture about not keeping this place tidy, but he knows this isn’t the time. He can only see a lump under the bedcovers, which must be his partner.
“Wright… Phoenix?” Miles says, sitting down on the end of the bed. “What has happened?”
Briefly, Phoenix pulls the bedcovers down, exposing the top half of his face. Miles doesn’t make eye contact, but he sees Phoenix’s blotchy skin and tired eyes. And then Phoenix covers his head again.
“A meltdown,” is all Phoenix says.
But Miles understands. Like Phoenix, he is autistic. And, like Phoenix, he has meltdowns when put under sensory or emotional stress. They are painful and embarrassing and distressing to experience, and Miles sympathises with anyone who has to experience them.
“I see,” he says. He sighs; comforting people isn’t a skill of his. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I dunno,” Phoenix mumbles. “Maybe a drink of water. Or… I dunno.”
Miles stands up. “Well, then, I shall get you some water.”
As he leaves the room, he hears Phoenix stir under the blankets. He turns around just as Phoenix, his voice weak and hoarse, says, “I love you, Miles.”
Miles smiles slightly. “I love you too.”