Tomorrow. The word repeats itself in my brain, somewhere in the distance, pushing itself further and further forwards, growing louder and worse until it's practically deafening. It reverberates, shaking me, rousing me from sleep-- it now is tomorrow, and lying next to me is the man of my dreams, my knight in shining armour and my prince in the tower, breathing audibly, a contented smile on his face. His forehead is wrinkled, the smile betrayed; he knows how stressful the last week has been.
He doesn't want me to go. He wanted me to join him in the office; he's said he could probably get him to assist with some casework, that influencing the right people might work in my favour if I were to want my badge back.
He's said it like I already do, but I'm not sure.
Edgeworth, dear Edgeworth, kind in a blunt, almost inappropriate I'll-step-in-for-you way. I don't know how much of that kindness is guilt, guilt at disappearing and missing the entire spectacle seven years ago, guilt at finding me as he did, a damaged cynical and broken thing.
"It's not your fault," I'd told him, trying to keep him at a distance, hoping that his stopover in LA was just a stopover. Mysteriously, it hadn't been, and somewhat stupidly, we'd fallen back into that same old pattern of classical Phoenix-Miles interaction; we moved alongside one another, a careful eye out for the other, little said between us in the company of others. In the evenings, we'd share a meal, we'd talk, we'd throw on some old Samurai DVDs, we'd reminisce about old court cases-- Who would have thought Powers would be so unassuming and humble? -- The Supreme Judge of Darkness has nothing on Matt Engarde, hey?-- DVDs would become a shared bottle of wine-- or a few, and we'd fall into shared sleeping situations and we'd fuck.
And we were doing it frequently enough now that it possibly passed for a relationship; it wasn't, it couldn't be, but we'd never talked about it. I hoped that we were on the same page, but I always wondered if this was just another unsaid Edgeworthism, about him cautiously assuming rather than verbalising something because he was afraid of rejection or of looking like an idiot, or if he just didn't know how to.
He cared about me, I could tell, and he wanted me distracted, tomorrow-- today-- he didn't want me going to see him. But I knew, just as I knew something was amiss during those seven years, just as I knew I'd come crawling back to the Borscht Bar every week-- that I'd be there, that I was drawn to him irrecoverably like a mosquito to a bug zapper and with the same stunned enthusiasm to that vivid blue light. I couldn't help it.
The sun was rising, tomorrow being a fading memory and turning into today. In the dim old movie light, I made myself a coffee, rinsing Edgeworth's tea cup and leaving it for him to discover when he woke up-- and I told myself that today was where it ended.
There are three buses which go to the prison, and I've got to be early. One arrives close to dawn, presumably for staff to access the grounds, or relatives from interstate; one's the midday arrival; the other arrives at the prison after dusk. I've already missed the morning one, but my connecting ride will allow me to get the midday bus, all things considered. I wonder if he's awake now; he was an early riser and he liked getting a good start on the day. If New York is the city that doesn't sleep, Kristoph was the mind that didn't sleep; I can lie next to Edgeworth and marvel at his little intricacies, the conflicted expressions and the breathing, the murmurs which sometimes sound terrified and uncertain and the ones which sound undeniably aroused-- but never, once, did I see Kristoph sleeping. I always fell asleep before he did when we shared a bed-- he'd rise early and present me with coffee and eggs and bacon in the morning; or we didn't share a bed, he'd leave my apartment for his own, as though sleep was some deeply personal and intimate act. I became so used to not seeing him sleep that I almost believed it not possible; in the months after his incarceration, I spoke angrily of him-- he was the devil himself, he wasn't human, he didn't need sleep, he probably subsisted on blood, too, I said. I was hurt and furious.
But as Edgeworth had pointed out after one of my rages, the greatest insult was to be indifferent to someone you formerly loved, and I clearly wasn't. I became careful of mentioning him in front of Edgeworth after that.
The lull of the bus' engine, my half-asleep state, and the warmth inside, combined with the inoffensive pop songs on the radio in the morning nearly sent me off to sleep again. I never was like Kristoph, seeing sleep as something private and personal, I was a shameless sleeper who could doze off anywhere. This morning was different, however; I was distracted by thoughts of the day, of what Edgeworth would be thinking when he realised that he was waking alone and that I'd likely done what he was trying to stop me from doing.
I stayed awake in the twilight zone, eyes open and staring blankly in front of me, ears taking in the pop rock melody of an old Gavinner's hit in the background, not really processing any of it. I could have slept, I needed sleep; I'd stayed awake all night and tossed and turned in bed long after I should have been satiated and exhausted enough for slumber, but rest didn't find me easily. Frustrated, Edgeworth had tried, in his own way, to tire me some more, roughly and ruthlessly trying to exorcise the memories, I'd felt as I'd climaxed again. I slept for maybe two hours, having vivid dreams of times passed intermingled with sounds and sights I knew I would be too chickenshit to witness in person which I knew Kristoph would be experiencing tomorrow-- today.
I'd never suspected Kristoph to begin with. I was dazed and shocked at what had happened, rendered virtually speechless at the panel. A blur of faces, more senior than myself, all but unanimously decided that I was no longer an attorney, that my existence for the past four years, not to mention the education behind it, meant nothing. I left the conference room in a daze. I asked a woman smoking out the front of the building if I could have a cigarette; I smoked, remembering with that first breath that I couldn't stand the burning, fetid taste of tobacco, and I forget putting it out. Kristoph Gavin walked past, and I remember seeing him, but he made no eye contact with me then. I remember looking at him sadly and feeling grateful that at least someone was rooting for me.
I'd lost everything, and gained a responsibility. I somehow suspected that Trucy staying with me wasn't going to be a short-term deal, and I was terrified and helpless; she was vulnerable, moreso than me. An old friend had once talked about remaining strong for someone younger and more vulnerable than she was, and I took that with me for Trucy's benefit. I never suspected, though, in amongst that mess, that I was going to gain myself a daughter.
Kristoph appeared in my office-turned-apartment in the week that followed. I was tired and emotional, lack of sleep and too much worry had rendered me a wreck, physically and psychologically; Trucy had been dropped off at school and I remember, when he appeared, sitting on the tan leather sofa next to him, finally giving myself the release I needed, allowing myself to break down. I sobbed into my hands, humiliated and defeated, and I remember Kristoph's arm wrapping itself around me, the way he nuzzled against my face from behind, clutching me and rocking me as I trembled.
"I'm not glad that you fell," he told me, "though I cannot say I'm sorry to be the one catching you."
His voice was low and smooth and had an instantly calming effect on me. "Thankyou," I uttered through sobs, "Just... thankyou."
The bus clattered along noisily as we moved away from the city. I tried to imagine how he'd felt, arriving out this way, unsure whether he'd have seen the remoteness of where he was headed, the blank and empty blocks of drying yellow grass on flat, barren land, fenced off with razorwire and signage with the occasional warnings for high-voltage fences or that trespassers would be prosecuted. I tried to imagine him in that eggshell blue suit, trying to maintain composure after his breakdown, messy tangled hair and a tear-stained, red-cheeked face, arriving here, awaiting prison's indignities and procedures. The second time might have been easier, when he was already convicted, when he knew was that his number would be up sooner rather than later; he'd not spoken of prison beyond the fact that he was treated well by the guards and that he had his own cell. I wondered about the stories I'd heard of prison and which ones were true and which ones weren't-- being locked up for twenty three hours a day and receiving three square meals and time for personal hygiene left little time for the HBO atrocities one heard about. The thought was mildly comforting; they hadn't allowed him to be any more broken than he already was. If he deserved one thing, it was his dignity.
I remember when he admitted that he found me attractive. I was surprised; by this stage, I was no longer high-flying big-name Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney extraordinaire, I was Mr. Wright, Trucy's daddy, welfare recipient and sometimes poker player who tinkled the ivory so I had a respectable story for the other parents and Trucy's school teachers. I'd taken to the role much more easily than I dared admit; all those years of study-- I was going to be an artist, I was going to be a lawyer, I was going to be great-- and I'd been reduced to this. A simple family man, a has-been in a hoodie, and capable, somehow of reducing this elegant blonde creature at the table in front of me to nervous enough to be drinking his third glass of wine and cautiously admitting that his interest in me was no longer purely noble-hearted. There was something dangerous in his voice as I asked for clarification.
"I want you in a most unsavory fashion," he said to me. "I hate myself for it because you're in the process of rebuilding your life, but I want you, Phoenix Wright." His hand had clasped over mine on the table and he looked intently into my eyes. "I hunger for you in a manner that causes me agony," he said in a low undertone. "I think about you constantly, Phoenix." His hand stayed where it was, and I didn't mind. It had been months since anyone had shown interest in me, even longer since I'd felt another person touch me like that. I'd begun to associate touch with something simple and innocent and childlike-- Trucy's hugs-- and the way Kristoph was touching me then, and that tone in his voice-- was wildly exciting.
"Please take your hand off mine and let me finish my dinner," I'd said quietly, unable to hide the smirk on my lips. "We should continue this conversation elsewhere."
We continued it not far from the Borscht Bar, in his apartment. We finalised it in his kitchen, and then on his armchair in the living room, and then against the wall of his bedroom, and then in the shower of his ensuite bathroom. He'd pulled me from the jaws of hopelessness and made me want to live beyond the mundane again.
It wasn't just the sex, I'd tried explaining to Edgeworth years later. He'd eyed me with a sarcastic sort of suspicion over his delicate glasses.
"I'm sure," he'd said dryly. He put down the newspaper he was pretending to be concentrating on. "You were making love like a pair of college students on cocaine and--"
"Making love is describing it a bit too romantically," I'd told him. "I was..." And I'd trailed off awkwardly. "You'd been gone, Edgeworth--"
"So you were just using him for sex?" He'd folded his arms then and sighed. "Really, Wright--"
I wasn't sure if he was trying to force me to admit that I'd loved him, and if he was, I wasn't sure why.
"I wasn't using him for sex."
"He was just exploiting your vulnerability in that area."
"It wasn't just about the sex!" I stood up, suddenly angry. "I had a relationship with him, okay-- it wasn't built on much, and he was using me for the time, but-- there was something there."
That conversation hadn't been long after Edgeworth and I had reconnected, but I'll never forget the look on his face that followed that, the way he carefully pushed his glasses back up his nose, and said quietly, "And it hasn't quite left, has it, Wright?"
I hated Edgeworth for being so observant. I hated him for being able to verbalise it. And I hated myself for my own inability to shake Kristoph from my system.
When we pulled into the prison, I was surprisingly awake. Something about the environment-- its austere simplicity, the high chainlink fences, the razorwire-- this virtual city in the middle of nowhere-- got at me in a way I can't quite describe. I tried imagining Kristoph in amongst it all, locked away from society, held here, captive. I hadn't seen him since that last day in court. I hadn't had a conversation with him that hadn't been in a courtroom for years.
I'd received letters from him, which I'd initially written off as some kind of elaborate, manipulative ploy to worm his way back into my life and to destroy whatever was left of it. But the last one left me haunted. Here was a man, aware of the fact that he was approaching the end of his life, thoughtful and considerate, everything stripped of him, with no reason left to lie.
The letter was in my back pocket, but I didn't need to read it to know what those last words were-- I'll never see you again, Phoenix, but I will remember the good far more vividly than the bad. Pointless and pathetic as this admission is, I love you. And I will take that to my last breath. Thankyou for the good times.
The entrance to the prison loomed over me as I left the bus in the already warming sun, the glare of the light not allowing me any respite or anywhere to hide. I regretted wearing my suit; layered clothing was a bad idea when the heat was unrelenting like this, but I had no choice now. I walked in through the doors, waited in a large foyer, watched the other visitors. I was relieved to see that there was no one else I recognised-- perhaps they would come later, hopefully I could have left by then and would not have to face those whose lives he'd attempted to ruin.
I felt uneasy; perhaps my sweating wasn't entirely from the heat and more poor fashion choice. I waited on a plastic seat until called up by the man at the desk; I signed a slip of paper declaring no contraband, stated his name and my own, and walked through a metal detector. Harmless static.
The man at the desk looked at me with a hint of recognition. "Gavin, eh?" he asked with a raised eyebrow, and that was all he needed to say.
Was he the same person screening his letters and phonecalls? Had he heard my answering machine click on every time I received a call from that number? I wondered if he'd read explicit memories which had somehow been deemed acceptable enough to leave the prison-- I remember seeing your face in the mirror in front of us, I remember the way you gasped as though scandalised and then fell limp, moaning as though in some mystical place between agony and ecstasy. I remember lying on top of you afterwards, Phoenix, and thinking that I was the luckiest man alive to be able to see you like that, beautiful and vulnerable and mine--
"Yes," was all I could manage. "I'm here to see Kristoph Gavin."
I'm lead down a hallway. Other visitors are lead elsewhere by other guards. The way the man in front of me walks makes my insides freeze; he's got a comfortable swagger as though he's used to the place. Curiousity makes me look around at everything; the bland spartan paint job, the doors with nondescript names on them. Chief Warden. Assessment. Social Work 1. Psychology 2. Presumably more social work and psychology doors elsewhere, and I wonder which part of the labyrinth they're hidden in. For a prison, it's quiet, soundproofed like a prosecutor's office or a college laboratory, perfectly designed so no one hears anything screaming in pain.
Most of the men I put away are in here. Manfred von Karma died here, I think to myself, Dahlia was sent here to die because the women's facility didn't have a death chamber.
I can feel beads of sweat on my forehead-- now's not the time to be thinking about Dollie being sent here in a truck overnight like an animal destined for the slaughterhouse. But the more I don't want to think, the more I do-- why is it that my exes seem to have homicidal tendencies anyway?
Now's not the time to be wondering about this, I tell myself mentally as I follow the guard walking the shiny linoleum flooring, hearing the soft perfect tap tap tap of our feet against the surface.
I remember the time he tied me up. It wasn't a usual scenario between us, and in the weeks afterwards, when Spark Brushel was getting his days in the sun following the media fascination with Kristoph, the Coolest Defense in the West turned Coldest Killer in the West, I was terrified someone was going to show up on my doorstep and offer the terrible temptation of much-needed cash if I spilled the beans on my life with Kristoph prior to his conviction. Sleeping With the Enemy, Brushel had suggested one afternoon when I ran into him and his hopeful grin in the Borscht Bowl. When I'd sweetly muttered something about libel, he'd wished me well and wandered off, leaving me to the piano and the wait for poker clients.
Kristoph had suggested the tying-me-up scenario one afternoon when we'd both returned from work. Trucy was at a friend's for the weekend, and there was some crime show or another on the television in his living room. We were sharing the sofa and I wasn't really thinking about the television show, just enjoying the warmth and the time to relax and the way Kristoph was draped against me.
As I'd said to Edgeworth, it wasn't just about the sex, it was about the kaleidescope of moments like this.
"That's what I'd like to try sometime," he'd said, a hand cupping my face and stroking me gently. I looked up at the television. A coroner was talking to her colleagues about a murder victim and the marks left on their skin from ropes.
"You'd like to kill me?" I'd asked.
He'd leaned in towards me and whispered in my ear, his voice moist and low and interested: "No. I'd like to tie you up."
And it was when I agreed to it, and again, when he did, and yet again, when I was only really conscious of the feeling of the wooden headboard against my naked shoulders and the silk binding my wrists and the darkness-- and the lack of his presence in the room, that I realised that I loved him enough to trust him this much.
I remember shuddering in his arms afterwards, the kisses and the sheer tenderness from him, the way he held me to him, whispering into my ear in hot breathy undertones that I was his, and his alone. I'd murmured back agreement, still high and incoherent-- and I'd never felt quite that loved before.
"You'll be in the visitor's room," the guard tells me and I follow him, the prison becoming more real as we leave the corridor and the decor changes; dark greys and stone walls instead of the sanitised hospital off-white paint. There's a room jutting out from it, with a glass panelled door and windows with venetian blinds.
"It's secure," the guard assures me vacantly. "He gets one last unsupervised visit."
There's a lump in my throat and all I can do is nod.
A woman brings him in. She's slight and small, with mousey hair and I'm not deceived by her benign appearance; like the man who brought me here, she wears the uniform of the guards, and a stoic expression on her face.
"I'll be back in an hour," she says as she opens the door, motioning for him to come through. Once he's in, the door shuts behind him and there's a swirl of a clatter of keys in the lock, but I'm not paying attention to that; I'm looking at him in his prison greys with unkempt, straggling blonde strands of hair which he no longer puts effort into maintaining, it seems. His glasses are different; they're no longer the soft, silver-framed ovals I remember him removing before kissing me or putting his book down before he'd retire to bed. There's a severity to them now, they're probably state-issued like everything else he owns.
The look of complete shock on his face when he sees me threatens to break my heart.
He touches his face, perhaps in shock and perhaps because he needs to convince himself that this is real and I am here.
"Phoenix," he says quietly. I can't say anything because the lump's still in my throat.
"I heard you were coming, but up until this moment, I didn't believe it," he tells me. "I had a suspicion that you and Justice would be working together and that he'd visit in your place in order to give me a piece of his mind."
My mouth opens. "No," I tell him. I don't know what Justice, Apollo, his sweet, baby-faced former assistant, is doing with himself. Much less am I in cahoots with him.
"I suspected you'd write my correspondence to you off as some sort of pitiful attempt at manipulation," he says quietly. His eyes are on mine, and there's a deadness to them, and disbelief in his voice. "I never thought that you'd believe me."
"Whether I did or didn't doesn't matter any more, Kristoph. Not after what's happening now."
He doesn't smile when he tells me there's always a chance of a pardon. He doesn't believe in it, he's a man without hope. And he's too clever and wily and practical to invest any in my motivation for seeing him.
I change the subject. "How have you been?" I ask him. It's like visiting someone in a hospital; you're never quite sure what to say to them. Because while you've been living and doing things in the real world, they've been inside, removed from the real world, alone with their agony in an unfamiliar environment and with hundreds of others just like them.
"Would you really like the answer to that, Phoenix?" he asks.
I nod. It's not like we have much to talk about.
"I've missed you," he says finally. "I've longed for some decent company for weeks, now; I have a worker who makes sure I'm not trying to kill myself, and I am in a cell opposite a narcissistic actor who continually avoids the lethal injection by giving himself infections and injuries." He sighs, and I don't care to mention that I suspect that the former actor was also a former client of mine. There's a crack in his voice like he's trying to put on a brave face, trying to hide his surprise at seeing me, and the cracks are growing and the reality is pushed through.
He sighs. "How have you been keeping, Phoenix?" He smiles then, ever-so-slightly. "I remember your face in court that last time I saw you; you looked as though you were planning on killing me if the state wasn't going to."
And I remember seeing black locks crossing your heart, I think uneasily. And remembering thinking that you were unreachable, untouchable, incapable of anything close to what you claimed you felt for me.
He raises an eyebrow, pulling me from my thoughts; it's the first time, in years, that I've seen the old Kristoph, the Kristoph who'd have booked a penthouse suite for the two of us without my knowledge or who'd have murmured lewd suggestions to me during a formal dinner. Kristoph the... well, romantic wasn't quite the word.
I don't know what to say to his assumption. Because it might have been true back then. The point is, it isn't true now, and getting lost in the past isn't going to do either of us any good.
I savour that expression, though. I'm transported in the twist of a smirk, back to a time where I was starting to see the truth, where little things out of place had started adding up; Trucy's distrust of him, his distance with his younger brother, the way he'd shift conversations heading towards my downfall.
But I loved him, so I denied it for as long as I could.
And what I'm remembering in that moment is the ease we had with one another; he was definitely the one in charge of everything, he steered the direction we moved in, but only because I allowed him to-- and we were comfortable with one another in a way I suspect married couples of years are. The only difference, I thought coyly, was that unlike a lot of married couples, we had more than a vague semblance of a sex life.
"What are you thinking about, Phoenix?" he asks, an amused note slipping into his voice and a smirk growing on his face. "You look positively scandalised."
I hadn't brought the magatama with me; I was worried I might have needed to explain it to security staff at the prison-- though in that moment, I regretted it, wondering if I'd see those black locks again or if I'd be privy to a myriad of other secrets he needed to conceal from me.
"We both know that's a lie." There's sadness amongst the vaguely amused tone now. "There is far too much for the both of us to think about, I suspect."
He's right. And we're running out of time.
I always thought a final meeting, if we ever had one, would be more intense than this, heavier, with some sort of confession session happening, final twists in the plot being revealed, some sort of closure. But that's not what this feels like; he just looks tired and sad above all else. I'm starting to regret my arrival; I've got fifty minutes to fill in somehow and there's too much to cover so we'll likely be reduced to casual conversation and avoiding the obvious.
Which is, I suppose, what both of us did all through our relationship. Only it was easier, then, to cover it over with sex and tenderness.
"Are you well?" he asks me again in a roundabout way.
I nod. "I'm doing okay for myself, I guess..." And I can't help but trail off, because to tell him the details would be revealing what still feels like betrayal--
"Did you ever reconnect with Miles Edgeworth?"
It's a rock, dropped down my throat, and sinking, and it makes me tear up. What's worse about it is that he's looking perfectly calm and unaffected by it, as though he knew that was going to happen.
"Does he treat you well?" he asks. "Has he managed his neurosis and realised that there is more to life than a decorated career and to appear flawless?"
That's funny, coming from you.
"He's getting there," I say quietly. "Though we're not in a relationship or anything, not really--" I feel like I'm apologising to him, like I'm making excuses. But the thing is, Edgeworth and I aren't in a relationship. Not really. Not like the relationship the two of us had.
He merely smiles, and there's a little sigh from him. "I'd be lying if I said that your self-destructive streak wasn't captivating in some manner," he tells me. "It's a part of you, Phoenix, as much as the uncontrollable hair and the vicious sarcasm and your irrepressible honesty." His smile changes, like he's desperately trying to maintain it, because to not smile might be to break down. "I always wondered how you managed to be such a good poker player with emotions and a face like yours."
"I always wondered how Zak Grammarye managed to beat you with a face like yours."
He chuckles, shaking nervously, trying to pass it off as condescension. He's dying soon and he's terrified. His head is tilted down and thin messy wisps of pearl blonde hair hang limply over his face and I can't quite see his expression; his hand covers his mouth as though he's about to cough. He made this face a lot before he confessed his attraction towards me, and the only other time I saw it was in court.
"He still got the better of me, Phoenix, as you did." He reaches out a hand over the table. "If you're uncomfortable with this setting, I don't expect you to return the handshake," he says, "But I'll advise you, assuming that the guards did not-- that this is a contact visit."
I must look puzzled, and I shift, not away from him but towards him, because I know that over the tabletop I can't shake his hand, but I might be able to merely brush his fingertips, and that's not a handshake.
"Most of the visits I've had since my arrival here have been strictly no-contact," he tells me. "But when I heard of your possible arrival, I requested a contact visit in lieu of choosing my last meal."
So he'd gambled on me arriving, even though he'd believed Apollo would take my place. My vision is blurred with tears that I don't want to release, and I'm sure he can see that.
I'm not afraid of him touching me, though. There was never any violence from him which I didn't expect or want or couldn't handle from him during the relationship. And I'm not expecting any now.
I shift to the chair on the right angle next to his; we're using a corner of the large plastic table now. And he smiles again, taking my hand, no longer wanting a theatrical handshake, but caressing it carefully with his fingers as though he's imprinting the details in his mind. I'm reminded of that initial confession.
"It's a shame we cannot continue this conversation elsewhere," he says in a strange combination of seductive and regretful.
"It's a shame we can't continue it here." And yes, I'm flirting with him. And the moment the words leave my mouth, I feel guilty, because it seems inappropriate to be flirting with a man who has mere hours to live, and I'm bothered by the thought of Edgeworth, probably awake now and irritated that I'm not alongside him in his office, discussing evidence and telling him how a defense attorney would refute things.
"We could," he says, "But we would be watched by the closed circuit television cameras... and I think video cameras are a contentious issue for the both of us now."
They weren't, always, and I'm feeling guilty about the fact that he probably suspects that I didn't just use my surveillance camera to collect damning evidence. I'd learned quickly that if positioned well enough, I could film some material which, in the months afterwards, I'd think about as considerable leverage for blackmail if I wanted to make his existence even bleaker. I was the hinge which his dignity could swing on. And yet I never truly considered making the videos public.
"Are you afraid of touching me, then?"
He looks down at his hand over mine. "No," he says. "Not like this."
He smiles then, massaging my hand with his own, and that's when the tears start. And I can't stop them, and I'm sitting there next to him, shaking, wanting to scream to someone that I'm sorry-- I'm sorry that Kristoph was behind everything and betraying me all that time, I'm sorry that after he'd been convicted, I found myself furiously hoping he did get sentenced to death, because somehow, wrong as it was, his betrayal of me seemed even more brutal and abominable than the fact that he'd killed two people in cold blood and had engineered the death of a third.
I'm sorry, Edgeworth, that I'm still in love with him.
I don't want him to die any more, but it's too late for that.
He raises his other arm and lifts his hand to my face, brushing away my tears with his fingertips, his touch every bit as gentle and tender as it was in those casually affectionate household moments, or in those intense moments of release after we'd-- lovemaking was too corny and sentimental a description. His touch does nothing to quell the crying.
And when I look up, I can see icy trails of tears running down his face; his hair might be dishevelled, but his complexion is still as perfect as it was the day I last saw him.
"Don't cry," he tells me. There's no sentimentality in his voice; it's an order, though it's perfectly polite. "Both of us knew it was going to come to this."
And I was the one who orchestrated it.
"I just never suspected that I'd see you again."
Never expected, but hoped. Against all hope, possibly in the same way that I sometimes wondered if I was so hellbent on collecting evidence against him in order to find that my suspicions couldn't be confirmed, that everything between us was all right, that his role in the whole mess of my disbarment was merely incidental and he had nothing to do with the forged evidence. I'd clung to that in the early days, I'd been desperate for some sort of assurance that I was crazy, that it wasn't as it was starting to look, that the man I'd been sleeping with and watching television with, the man who took me out to dinner and cheered me up and encouraged me was really what I wanted him to be: not guilty. I'd always striven for that verdict as a defense attorney and I'd wanted it so desperately for him.
I don't respond to his statement; I merely brush my hand against his face, wiping away tears. I'm close enough to smell him; cheap, chemical-laden soap or shampoo, fake cloying mint prison-issue toothpaste. Not the Kristoph I remembered from our days together.
He nuzzles against me, closing his eyes.
"We were playing a dangerous game, Phoenix," he tells me. "The stakes just grew higher when personal feelings entered into things, didn't they?"
He's correct but there's no need to agree with him. He's still crying and so am I.
Time is suspended here; no one barring the prison officers watching the footage on the closed circuit cameras will know what has happened between us at the end of the day-- no one but them-- and me. Maybe that's what causes my face to draw closer to his and to look him in the eye.
I want to kiss him. I want to make the tears and my guilt go away. But I don't want to intrude and to complicate things-- I don't want to complicate things? Things already are complicated.
"Do you really want this?" he asks me. "Or is it going to complicate matters for you later on?" He's thinking about Edgeworth, I presume, and it exacerbates my guilt when I realise that I am not. I just nod, and he moves his face towards mine, his hands rising to cup my face gently; when his lips are against mine, tender and tentative at first and growing more hungry and insistent-- it's probably been over a year since he's kissed anyone-- I realise that he never gave me a moment to clarify what the nod actually was about.
I'm kissing him anyway and I don't care. Regret can come later, I can explain this later. His mouth feels right against my own, even though he tastes different to the Kristoph I remember. The passion is still there buried under prison attire and his unkempt hair.
He breaks away after a moment. "I love you, Phoenix," he says. "I cannot help it; I recall telling you in the early days that I hungered for you in an agonising fashion." The fact that he's capable of remembering details like this is all the assurance that I need. It's devotion, not romance. "It was agonising." He blinks and looks down at his hands, folded over one another. I know why he does that; in case the scar decides to involuntarily appear. It's a humiliation to him, it's him inadvertently showing his cards; his hand-- it's a seventh-grade boner in the library which you can't make go away.
"It still is."
He kisses me again and I allow my hands to move to the back of his neck, caressing that beautiful hair. He places a hand over one of mine, holding me to him. "I want to remember you like this," he says. "As my lover, as someone who still cared despite what I was doing."
I nod, the tears coming back. I don't want to think of him dead. I can't see him in a few hours when he's being viewed like something in a museum, a rope around his neck, a platform waiting to collapse at his feet. He advised me, in one of his letters, that he'd hang; the firing squad is too passive and undignified, and he's never liked needles.
"I love you," I murmur against him. It doesn't matter, never will matter any more beyond this day. Not to anyone else, anyway.
There's a tap on the window and he doesn't look up, but he murmurs against me. "We have five minutes." And I just nod numbly. I don't know what to say any more; have I forgiven or forgotten what went on between us? I don't know any more. Maybe it, like the fact that I still love him, doesn't matter.
He pulls away from me in the moments after this. "Thankyou," he says, and he's every bit as dishevelled as he was that day in court, emotional and ruffled and broken.
"No problem." I wipe a tear from my face and turn slightly, seeing the guard standing at the door.
"I appreciate this more than you will ever know."
My voice is hoarse and somehow I can taste salt in the back of my throat even though that shouldn't be possible. "Me too." I look at him one last time as the door opens. "This is the last time I'll ever see you," I say weakly, the realisation of the finality finally hitting me. "Goodbye, Kristoph."
He nods, but doesn't say anything, and I'm escorted from the room.
It's over, I tell myself in the back of my head through more tears; I haven't been able to stop the crying since I left the room. He watched, helpless, his pale grey eyes on mine as the guard let me out and I was escorted from the building.
A small band of protesters have started gathering outside the entrance, apparently a common occurrence when an execution of a well-publicised criminal is scheduled for the day. I glance at them briefly; their hearts might be in the right place-- I'm still unsure about how I feel about capital punishment in the abstract, when it doesn't involve Kristoph Gavin-- but none of them will know the man that I did. Well, all but one of them, perhaps; in amongst the mass of bodies I see a red suit and intense brown eyes-- Apollo Justice has emerged from the woodwork and made his way here. I'm unsure which side he's on because the protesters all seem to merge together, the people with the Let him FRY! signs are too close to the An eye for an eye and the world goes blind sign-holders.
There's anger on both sides and shouting amongst them; a brawl seems imminent. I walk past sadly, glad they haven't recognised me. I wait for the bus, feeling as though I've done the right thing in seeing him off, that if the last kiss and my presence gave him anything positive, I'm glad. I can deal with what it gave me later on.
I head for Edgeworth's office when I arrive back in the city. He's out, a stony-faced Gumshoe tells me, but he hands me an envelope which had been left for me. I'm frozen; I have bad memories associated with Edgeworth and envelopes.
I thank him and head outside, missing the radio news update in the background advising the public that the death penalty, in this jurisdiction has been declared unconstitutional. It's when I hear the name "Matt Engarde" that I look up and it hits me. The "Save Matt Engarde" group and various others have essentially reshaped the state's legal landscape.
I'm stunned and uncertain about what this means for Kristoph: did he narrowly avoid legislation, or did the change happen possibly a moment too late?
I can't think about him, I swore I would never see him again. Guiltily, I open Edgeworth's letter. I'm still thinking far too much about Kristoph.
Edgeworth's words, in beautiful, elegant cursive, hit me like a tidal wave.
I need to be alone, Wright. It appears that you made your decision this morning and while I don't begrudge you this decision, I realise where your heart will lie after this afternoon. Perhaps this is selfish of me, but I'm not the consolation prize. Please don't seek me out.
Fresh tears spring to the corners of my eyes as I head down the street towards the bus stop, tucking the letter into my back pocket, ironically next to the one from Kristoph.
I could have said, with certainty, this morning, that I didn't regret the relationship with Kristoph because once the rage had subsided, the good times had outweighed the bad, and in some instances, he'd brought me back to the land of the living.
But I'm still not sure if I regret that last date.